April 24, 2019

No man is an island!

A few thoughts on Networking and Soft Skills.......and some advice!

This old adage couldn’t have been any truer for the present age than it has been ever before. No one can live or function in complete isolation. Man is definitely a social animal and needs the company of others, to live life, enjoy or to make a living. This means that there exists a group or society, within which he survives and sometimes succeeds. If one were to analyze the most common factors that lead to success, then one would find that irrespective of the field of operations, it is a mastery of Soft Skills that contributes largely to success.

What are these “Soft Skills”? Soft skills refer to the cluster of personality traits such as social graces, communication skills, personal habits, friendliness and networking abilities that define a successful individual. Some examples of soft skills that are of the Personal kind can be responsibility, sociability, self-management, integrity/honesty. Soft skills that are of an Interpersonal kind can be participation as a member of the Team, teaching others, serving clients / customers, exercising leadership, negotiating, working with cultural diversity, etc.

Soft skills can also be an important part of the success of an organization. Organizations, particularly those frequently dealing with customers face-to-face, are generally more successful if they train their staff to use these skills. For this very reason, soft skills are increasingly sought out by employers in addition to standard qualifications. The technical and educational qualifications of an individual can be classified as ‘Hard Skills’. These are those, which one acquires thru the educational or vocational stream that one pursues in colleges or professional institutions.

Though these two sets of skills are not mutually exclusive, in the sense that they can be acquired and utilized simultaneously; there is a definite correlation existing between soft skills and success, which is a stronger correlation between that of hard skills and success!2006122805571602_966162gOne of the greatest examples in recent times of the extent of truth of this statement is our  “rustic” but truly successful Politician from Bihar and 34th Railway Minister Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav.
This man who rose from the grass roots, has exceptional soft skills, so much so that despite being beleaguered by legal suites and convictions against him, and at times hostile opponents, he has managed to be successful and keep his detractors at bay  . The story of how he turned the loss making Indian Railways into a profit-making-organization, is the stuff that legends are made of, and was in fact being discussed as a case study in the premier business schools of the country. Delegations from Harvard were also eager to meet him for the very same reason. During his jaunts across the border in Pakistan, he was the undisputed darling of the crowds and an instant hit with them. In fact he can be the secret weapon against our enemy (!!) from across the border! Getting back to the point being made, the one common underlying thread throughout his successes is his agility with soft skills.

So what should a young person, who is aspiring for a job and a career, do to maximize his or her chances of success in his /her chosen career pathway? Well, the answer is pretty clear, isn’t it? Build your soft skills! But how does one do that?  The following should be  a good way to start  and continue (because one never stops learning or building soft skills!): types-of-soft-skills-1-638

  • First of all realize, accept and understand the need for developing soft skills.
  • Take professional help where available.
  • Since communication is a major soft skill, work to improve communication skills. According to A. Barbour, author of Louder Than Words: Nonverbal Communication, the total impact of a message breaks down like this:

7 percent verbal (words)

38 percent vocal (volume, pitch, rhythm, etc)

55 percent body movements (mostly facial expressions)

This breakdown indicates that effective nonverbal communication skills are essential. There is nothing worse than pitching about how good your product is while at the same time, shrugging, frowning and turning away from the prospective customer. You would be sending mixed messages and based on the above scale no one will believe that the product is worth buying!

One shouldn’t miss the point being made here, which is that though language is credited with only 7% impact, it is the area where we can work the most by building up on our ability to express our ideas in words using any language whatsoever. It has to be mentioned in the same breath that since English is the Lingua Franca, or the universally accepted language for business communication, one should focus one’s efforts to learn English. This could be done by consciously working out a program to learn spoken English and then strengthen the same by constantly increasing one’s vocabulary. Again professional help is definitely recommended here since it does help to organize one’s efforts to learn English within the time available to us during a typical working day, after the successful pursuit of our regular curriculum. xsocial-network.jpg.pagespeed.ic.UitFYGSnMA

  • Networking is another way to not only improve one’s chances of success in business but also to improve one’s social skills. The wider and more varied one’s interaction, the faster the growth of one’s social skills! So keep meeting a lot of people and develop a genuine interest in their needs and aspirations. This is what is known as empathy. When you really empathize with your customer, you will be able to give truly customized solutions to their challenges, and ultimately this is just what might get you further customer recommendations.

Ten Things to do to improve your chances of Success in a Very Highly Networked World

  • Read the editorials of Newspapers. These are articles written by experts in communication, Journalism and the world in general. One can pick up not only language but also highly informed and mature opinions upon anything under the sun. This is the best and the cheapest source of information available to mankind today.
  • Read self improvement books
  • Attend Training sessions on Development of Etiquette and body language. biz_hand_shake
  • Join a professional training institute for spoken English.
  • Always keep a good dictionary, thesaurus and word power book, handy for use.
  • Participate in group activities wherever and whenever possible, to improve inter-personal skills
  • Observe experts skilled in their ways and imitate them. Later on you can analyse and evolve your own style. This is the best compliment they can get and the quickest way to start off.
  • Extensively use the greatest resource available today to get information on anything i.e., the internet and the Information Highway!
  • Knowledge is power, so do the background work on anything before actually committing yourself to action.
  • Plan your way forward and then implement your plan to the fullest. If you succeed then your planning was good. Even if you fail, you will at least know what worked and what did not. Be prepared to improvise according to the demands of changing situations. In other words be flexible.

We live in an age, wherein we are connected to every other individual on the planet with only “Six Degrees of Separation” (a must-watch Hollywood movie starring Will Smith). What with all the professional and social networking platforms of the world, and the ubiquitous Internet…. we are very much a humongous mass of human beings in a global embrace with each other and everybody else! Certainly……. No Man is an Island!

Sentient Poet,amateur writer, perennial student and a persistent analyst, the author is a Senior Management Professional in the Indian Microfinance Sector