Why Soft Skills Are More In Demand Than Ever

It used to be that hard skills were valued more than soft skills in the workplace. But that has changed significantly over the last several years. According to Rohan Rajiv, Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, “Foundational soft skills have become even more important given the rise of remote and autonomous work, and are growing in importance across industries, levels and work environments. In fact, these soft skills were featured in 78% of jobs posted globally over the last three months.”

But it’s not just about recruiting employees with the right transferable skills. Companies are also focusing on upskilling workers to address the social and emotional skills that are in high demand. As reported in a McKinsey survey, the proportion of companies addressing empathy and interpersonal skills doubled in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, skills like leadership and management became a much bigger priority for most companies, jumping ten percentage points year over year, from 40% to 50%.

Soft skills generally refer to categories like leadership, communication and problem-solving. On the other hand, hard skills are the technical capabilities that can be quantified and measured. Typically, workers can acquire this knowledge through formal coursework, on-the-job training and real-world experiences. Based on recent LinkedIn data, “Hard skills can help you get a recruiter’s attention, but soft skills can help you land the job.”

In fact, 45% of all LinkedIn Premium jobs posted within the past three months mention the importance of communication skills. And more than 61% of professionals say soft skills in the workplace are just as important as hard skills. Clearly, soft skills are more in demand than ever. Let’s take a closer look at why and how you can leverage them to future-proof your career.

Soft skills provide career longevity

Technical capabilities can only take you so far in your career. To really soar, you need skills that are harder to measure but critical to success. In LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 89% of recruiters say that when a hire doesn’t work out, it usually comes down to a lack of soft skills. While most people are hired for their technical abilities, their soft skills give them “career durability,” says Alexandra Levit, author of Humanity Works:

Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future. Levit defines that term as the ability to acquire the skills, knowledge and mindset needed to be an engaged and productive team member. “For someone to be successful ten years down the road, they need to be resilient and be able to reinvent themselves in different learning environments,” she adds.

Soft skills are highly transferable

Technical skills constantly change, but soft skills remain with you throughout your career. That’s because they are relevant, transferable and keep an individual highly employable. In addition, soft skills are desirable because if you already have them, your employer doesn’t have to train you on them. As a result, you can more easily hit the ground running and make valuable contributions.

Rajiv adds, “While companies often offer training in required hard skills, soft skills provide the foundation on which to keep building other skills, which is why they’re so in demand now.” Because of their transferability, soft skills also make it easier to change careers, no matter what industry or company you want to pivot to.

 With companies shifting to hybrid or remote work models, soft skills have become just as important as technical knowledge. For example, effectively communicating and collaborating have become a top priority because those skills are vital to succeed in a virtual world. Also, with remote positions in high demand, the talent pool is increasingly crowded.

Many job applicants will have similar qualifications and technical skills. By highlighting your soft skills, you’ll have a competitive edge so you can land the job you really want. Since the pandemic, soft skills are no longer optional. Instead, they are essential to get hired and succeed in today’s workplace. By keeping them sharp, you’ll be able to stand out, remain competitive, and ultimately future-proof your career.

I’m a career and life coach who helps people go from soul-sucking job to career fulfillment. As the founder of Corporate Escape Artist, I made the leap

Source: Why Soft Skills Are More In Demand Than Ever

Critics by Helen Colman

When we think about training in the workplace, soft skills can often be overlooked because they’re not as tangible as ‘hard skills’ like coding or advanced Excel skills. But developing soft skill training for employees is just as important as technical skills.

One study by MIT Sloan found that a controlled, 12-month soft skills training trial in five different factories yielded a 250% ROI in just eight months. Their training in soft skills like problem solving and decision making increased productivity, made complex tasks more efficient, and improved employee attendance. 

Stanford Research Institute International determined that 75% of the long-term success in a given job role is based on a mastery of soft skills, and only 25% of that job success comes from technical skills. As you can see, the results from soft skills training are impressive. So let’s take a closer look at how it all works.

What Are Soft Skills? 

Soft skills tend to be more personality-focused, as opposed to being based on qualifications, technical skills, or vocational experience. That includes things like people skills, social skills, interpersonal skills, and transferable skills. 

In contrast, hard skills are technical skills that are often job specific. They come from certification programs, employee training, and work experience and can be taught, measured, and tested through exams and practical assignments or quizzes. 

Hard skills tend to relate to the core business of an organization, such as writing skills, computer networking skills, machine operation, business analysis, design, and construction. Soft skills deal more with interpersonal relationships and involve things like conflict resolution, communication, listening, and problem-solving.

As mentioned, soft skill development is often underestimated and not given due importance. Plus, while hard skills can be learned and mastered over time and with repetition, soft skills can be harder to develop and more difficult to accurately evaluate and measure. These are the reasons for a huge shortage of soft skills in 2020. LinkedIn carried out a study in 2018 covering 100 metropolitan cities in the United States and discovered a communication skills shortage in 1.4 million people. 

But does addressing this gap really make sense? Why do soft skills in the workplace matter?

How Soft Skills Training Can Benefit Any Business

Competencies like communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving underpin almost every facet of business operations. Across your organization, in every business unit and employee role, soft skills are crucial for gaining new clients, improving customer service metrics, and building a stronger team dynamic. 

There are many other organizational benefits to be gained from soft skills programs, and here are our top three:

1. Improve customer service

This could be considered the most obvious benefit of improving soft skills in the workplace. Your employees will be able to actively listen more effectively to establish your customers’ needs, identify problems, and help them resolve it. They are also likely to have more compassion and empathy after enhancement of soft skills, which can have a large positive impact on customer service. 

2. Increase sales

Improving soft skills can benefit your sales team during the sales negotiation process. Employees can use their competencies to engage with the client on a more personal level, without breaching the all-important professional boundaries, and your customers will definitely appreciate this. When employees take additional time to discuss the pain points that your clients experience and match them with the right solution, the sale will result by itself.

3. Improve employee retention

Your organization will retain more talent because you’ve invested in their professional growth, and this pays off. You will reduce the need to hire and train replacement staff, thus reducing organizational costs. 

Additionally, soft skills improve knowledge retention and equip employees to take ownership of their personal development. 

Top Soft Skills That Will Improve Your Employees’ Performance

That list showed you some significant benefits of soft skills training, but what competencies should you concentrate on with your employees to actually achieve all of those gains?

LinkedIn recently published a list of the most in-demand soft skills, and leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management came out as the ones employers were actively seeking. Now let’s take a closer look at the specific skills you should consider training your employees in.

If you identify an employee who has a development need for a specific soft skill like leadership, you can consider bringing in a mentor or coach and tailor a learning approach that’s specific and targeted. The coaching process in the workplace typically implies collaboration with the employee to identify, target, and plan for better performance.

This is how it works: A coach defines the employee’s goals, existing skill sets, strengths, and, of course, weaknesses. For example: the employee finds out that he/she is not good enough at communicating with the staff supervised, so a coach creates a development strategy and provides him/her with a clear pathway to improve their communication skills. When an employee is on their way to implement this strategy, a trainer supports them and provides them with actionable feedback.

Coaching/mentoring is especially effective in imparting soft skills, such as communication and leadership…..

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5 Mindset Blocks That Stop You From Learning From Your Mistakes

Way back in 2014 I wrote about a growing movement among entrepreneurs. In 42 cities across the world founders would meet for “F***Up Nights,” which are just what they sound like — an opportunity for those on the difficult path of starting a business to share their biggest flops and failures. Since that story, these nights have spread to 185 cities.

Sharing your most embarrassing stumbles doesn’t immediately sound like buckets of fun, so what’s behind the unlikely popularity of these events? Community is certainly part of it. Failure feels worse when you think you’re uniquely prone to it. But so is learning. There are few better ways to learn than trying, falling on your face, and vowing to never do that particular thing again.

The unexpected popularity of F***Up Nights demonstrates the immense potential to learn from failure. But science shows that most of us miss out on a big part of the benefit of our inevitable screw-ups. Research from Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach of University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has shown that, even when the incentives are high, people have a tendency to put their heads in the sand and not learn from their mistakes.

Thankfully, the pair’s work also highlights ways to avoid letting your ego and emotions get in the way of learning from failure. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center recently dug deep into these findings, which show both what blocks people from making the most of their missteps and how to overcome these common mental blocks.

1. You make it all about you.

Ego is the enemy of learning. Admitting you’re wrong hurts your sense of yourself as competent and smart, but it helps you correct false beliefs, seek out novel information, and expand your horizons. So how do you ensure you don’t let your ego get in the way of self-improvement? One technique is to try and put some mental distance between yourself and the error you’re trying to learn from.

“This involves thinking of your personal experience from the outside perspective of a neutral third party, asking, ‘Why did Jeremy fail?’ instead of ‘Why did I fail?’ While that might sound cheesy, it seems to work,” explains Greater Good. You can read more about the science behind this strange but effective technique here and here.

2. You keep them to yourself.

“People tend to hide their own failures, out of a sense of shame,” observes Greater Good. But one of the best ways to learn from your mistakes is to turn them into inspirational stories for the benefit of others.

Just like inspirational speakers spin past mistakes into motivational gold, framing your errors this way turns miscalculations into useful life lessons, research shows. “High school students who shared failures with middle school students went on to get better grades than those who didn’t reframe their failures; middle schoolers who gave advice to elementary school students later spent more time on homework,” reports Greater Good.

You don’t have to be a formerly struggling student to put this insight to use. Events like F****Up Nights formalize the process, but even just informally sharing your hard-earned lessons with entrepreneur friends (or online) will help you tease out and solidify the lessons learned from some of your most challenging experiences.

3. You repress your feelings.

Does failing feeling good?  No, it feels awful. That’s not fun, but it is necessary. Pain is nature’s way of encouraging us to learn not to do something. So when you repress the pain, you also repress the learning. Letting yourself really feel your failures is essential if you want them to make you wiser in the long run. So no running away from your feelings or dulling them with substances or distractions.

“Sadness seems to improve memory and judgment, which can help us to succeed in the future; regret can actually sharpen motivation,” Greater Good points out.

4. You forget your why.

When you make a mistake, it’s easy to get caught up in a loop of beating yourself up and second-guessing each step you took. Reflection and unhappiness is part of the process of coping with failure (see above), but an obsessive focus on the details of your screw-up doesn’t actually help you pick yourself up and apply whatever you’ve learned from the experience.

What does? Focusing on why you put yourself in a position to fail in the first place. “Holding a clear long-term goal in mind — such as becoming a doctor or learning to sail — can help us to tolerate short-term failure and override information-avoidance,” explains Greater Good. As Simon Sinek might remind us, understanding your why is a great way to increase your resilience in the face of life’s many inescapable setbacks.

5. You beat yourself up.

Again, failure isn’t supposed to feel great. But as explained above, beating yourself up about your missteps is demotivating and distracts you from extracting valuable lessons from failure. Sure you should reflect on what went wrong, but you shouldn’t waste energy ruminating endlessly on your shortcomings.

Instead, research suggests you should try some self-compassion. “Many recent studies suggest that you’re more likely to grow if you speak kindly to yourself, as a loved one might speak to you, in the wake of failure,” claims Greater Good.

Also, rather than viewing failure as a testament to your personal weaknesses, remind yourself that error is a human universal. “It’s not a question of if you’ll fail — it’s when. The only real question you need to answer is what you can learn from the experience,” the article sagely notes.

A F****Up Night is designed to transform failure from an isolating and shameful instance of personal weakness into a community-building learning opportunity. But you don’t need a group of like-minded (and equally fallible) founders to view failure this way. You just need the research-backed mindset adjustments and simple techniques mentioned above. After all, failure is a terrible thing to waste.

By Jessica Stillman

Source: 5 Mindset Blocks That Stop You From Learning From Your Mistakes | Inc.com

Critics by Francesca Gino  and Bradley Staats

Failure can trigger a torrent of painful emotions—hurt, anger, shame, even depression. As a result, most of us try to avoid mistakes; when they do happen, we try to sweep them under the rug. This natural tendency is heightened in companies whose leaders have, often unconsciously, institutionalized a fear of failure. They structure projects so that no time or money is available for experimentation, and they award bonuses and promotions to those who deliver according to plan.

But organizations don’t develop new capabilities—or take appropriate risks—unless managers tolerate failure and insist that it be openly discussed. The psychologist Carol Dweck identified two basic mindsets with which people approach their lives: “fixed” and “growth.” People who have a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and talents are largely a matter of genetics; you either have them or you don’t. They aim to appear smart at all costs and see failure as something to be avoided, fearing it will make them seem incompetent.

A fixed mindset limits the ability to learn because it makes individuals focus too much on performing well. By contrast, people who have a growth mindset seek challenges and learning opportunities. They believe that no matter how good you are, you can always get better through effort and practice. They don’t see failure as a sign of inadequacy and are happy to take risks. When making hiring and promotion decisions, leaders often put too much emphasis on performance and not enough on the potential to learn.

Over time, Egon Zehnder, a global executive search firm, had developed a sophisticated means of evaluating candidates that considered not only their past achievements but also their competencies. However, it found that in numerous instances, candidates who looked equally good on paper performed differently on the job. Why? A partner at the firm, Karena Strella, and her team believed the answer was individuals’ potential for improvement.

After a two-year project that drew on academic research and interviews, they identified four elements that make up potential: curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. They developed interview questions to get at these elements, along with psychometric measures applied via questionnaires. This new model now plays a key role in the search firm’s assessments of job candidates. Egon Zehnder has found that high-potential candidates perform better than their peers with less potential, thanks to their openness to acquiring new skills and their thirst for learning.

It is common for people to ascribe their successes to hard work, brilliance, and skill rather than luck; however, they blame their failures on bad fortune. This phenomenon, known as the attribution bias, hinders learning (see “Why Leaders Don’t Learn from Success,” HBR, April 2011). In fact, unless people recognize that failure resulted from their own actions, they do not learn from their mistakes. In a study we conducted with Chris Myers, we asked participants to work on two different decision-making tasks spaced one week apart.

Each task had a correct solution, but only a few people were able to identify it. We found that participants who took responsibility for doing poorly on the first activity were almost three times as likely to succeed on the second one. They learned from their failure and made better decisions as a result. Leaders can use the following methods to encourage others to find the silver lining in failures, adopt a growth mindset, focus on potential, and overcome the attribution bias.

.

Related contents:

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The Power of Believing In People

Self-doubt is one of the causes of failure in people’s lives. Many people are unsure of themselves, and often need the belief of others to pull through. “Believe in yourself” is easier said than done – generally, when the rubber meets the road, people struggle with it.

You would think that money, success, or fame would stop people from doubting themselves, but this is not quite the case. Many successful people and leaders are insecure and crippled by self-doubt. My point is: there is a huge significant need for belief support. Often, we need someone to believe in us for success to happen. So, what does belief in people do for them? Here are three benefits.

It Gives Unusual Courage: I have seen this work in my coaching practice. My clients do not doubt that I strongly believe in them – I communicate it. Consequently, they get the boost to achieve phenomenal results. I have witnessed the unusual courage that people get when they are certain that someone truly believes in them – it’s magical. Self-belief is one thing, but another’s belief gives you extra strength to keep going.

In life, it is important to believe in yourself, but equally vital when someone believes in you and is willing to give you a chance. How many teams now suffer because the leader did not believe in the team members? How many children now live dysfunctional lives because their primary caregivers didn’t express belief in them? Our lives are interconnected, and self-belief alone isn’t enough. Unusual courage grows when someone (or group) truly sees you, believes in you, and is willing to bet on you.

It Restores Self-Esteem: Self-doubt means that you don’t believe you are enough in certain areas – your self-worth is under siege. Here, someone who believes in you would help you to see yourself differently, and gradually, you would move from “I am not enough” to “I am good enough”. When you believe in people, you help to heal inner wounds that made them think less of themselves. It restores and reaffirms their self-worth.

It Inspires Growth: True belief in people gives them clarity of purpose, which in turn, creates the desire for continuous growth and improvement. In this case, people become excited about the next level and take steps to achieve it. The fact that they know that you are rooting for them gives strength to move forward. Belief in people gives them the emotional anchor and stability required for sustainable success in life.

Source: The power of believing in people

Critics by Mark Goulston

Before you say anything, you need to know that I live on the top floor of my building and there’s no access to the roof,” Jack said, then gave me a “gotcha” smile, as if to test me on what I was going to say. At that point, I asked Jack what prior psychiatrists had said. He told me that they had said such things as “That sounds frustrating,” “Perhaps that’s part of your condition that I’d like to help you with” and “That may be something we can treat and make better.”

I then thought to myself, do I want to help him? Or do I want to continue to offer him a sympathetic, compassionate and yet clinical reality check, which it seemed the other psychiatrists had offered? Yet, here he was with me. I decided on the former and looked him in his challenging eyes and replied, “Jack,” to which he responded, “Yes?” I then calmly said, “I believe you.”

He paused for a moment, stopped smiling and began to cry, then sob almost like a feral cat. I thought to myself, “Great, you just unleashed a flood of paranoid delusions.” I waited patiently, believing he would eventually finish, which he did after five minutes. When he stopped, I asked him, “What was that about, Jack?” He gathered himself, and with completely bloodshot eyes and a different smile said, “It does sound frickin’ crazy!”

I then smiled in recognition of his realizing this, and we went on to have a productive psychotherapeutic relationship. What had happened? Daniel Goleman, who’s credited with identifying and explaining the importance of emotional intelligence, as well as others, identified three types or levels of empathy: cognitive, emotional and compassionate. Cognitive empathy can be described as “knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking.”

Having emotional empathy is “when you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious.” Finally, compassionate empathy is when “we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, but are spontaneously moved to help.” I believe that I exhibited validational empathy with Jack, which went beyond the other three levels by telling him that I believed him.

You may think that I was taking a chance by doing that — not to mention being dishonest if another part of me had heard Jack refute his own belief disguised as a challenge prior to my response. I thought that as well. And I’m not suggesting or advocating that any of you state untruths in an effort to connect with people who say things that you don’t believe.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that telling Jack I believed him appeared to be a level of empathy that got through to him, causing him to feel less alone in his paranoid delusion and to get a sense of relief because of that. This, in turn, enabled him to self-identify and accept that he was being delusional.

Therefore, I’ll leave it to you whether there might be occasions when you’re at a standstill with another person and any of the conventional levels of empathy — cognitive, emotional or compassionate — might not be effective. If that’s the case, could using validational empathy be an instance of the end justifying the means — of breaking through to that person?

One approach that you might be comfortable with is called mediated catharsis, by which you don’t exactly tell the person you believe what they’re saying. Instead, you align with it and exaggerate it for empathic emphasis, saying something like, “If I were you, I’d be really upset and it would make me nuts. What do you think you should do about it?” When you do that, they feel you’re not judging or disagreeing with them but instead are validating what they’re feeling — without telling them whether you believe them or not — and then moving them toward solutions.

Here’s a taste of it. If I were you, reading this article, I might be saying to myself, “Yeah, many times when I’ve tried to be empathic, it didn’t work. So, I’ve stopped trying. But I need to do something because the situation with a person is getting worse. Oh, well, maybe validating what they’re going through in the way you suggested might work.” Why not give it a try?

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Thinking Strategically Will Help You Get Ahead and Stay Ahead

Strategic thinking is a critical skill in life. Interestingly, a lot of us hear about it for the first time in our lives through our managers “You are great at execution, but you need to start thinking strategically.” Previously considered a blatant corporate mumbo jumbo term, strategic thinking wasn’t a popular concept in the early years of my career. I kind of assumed that strategic thinking was reserved for corporates and people higher up in the company who needed to make crucial decisions around the future of an organization. It never occurred to me that thinking strategically isn’t a skill you acquire when you reach a certain position, it’s a skill you build to get to a certain position.

Strategic thinking is a critical skill in life.

Interestingly, a lot of us hear about it for the first time in our lives through our managers “You are great at execution, but you need to start thinking strategically.” Previously considered a blatant corporate mumbo jumbo term,strategic thinking wasn’t a popular concept in the early years of my career. I kind of assumed that strategic thinking was reserved for corporates and people higher up in the company who needed to make crucial decisions around the future of an organization.It never occurred to me that thinking strategically isn’t a skill you acquire when you reach a certain position, it’s a skill you build to get to a certain position.

I also believed that when I was ready to climb the corporate ladder, my manager would give me the training to help me build my strategic thinking skills and the opportunities to practice those skills. Call me naive, but that was the corporate world I lived in back then. Much has changed since, but one thing has remained constant: Strategic thinking is as important now (and may be even more) as it was many years ago.While universally, everyone is expected to have strategic thinking skills at some point in their career, no one is taught to think strategically at work, in college, or at school. Much of our education system is structured around a curriculum and how to fit our minds within a box.At school, we are praised for sticking to conventional wisdom and not asking too many questions. The trend continues in college.

In the early years of our career, we are rewarded so much for our speed of execution that we fail to realize that our journey ahead is less about doing things and more about deciding the right thing to do.When a large part of our life is spent executing someone else’s idea, it isn’t easy to break out of that mold and rewire our brain to think above and beyond. But strategic thinking is not a skill you can develop without practice.

Strategic thinking is a muscle that we all need to build because using it right at work can be a strategic advantage in your career growth as an individual. Much like a rubber band, you need to stretch and exercise your thinking. It requires crossing the boundary of the comfort zone to think about an idea to its extreme without mental guardrails to put it down. It requires uncovering new insights that moderate thinking would never surface.

Getting started on the strategic thinking mindset

Before we jump to the strategies to embrace a strategic thinking mindset, here are a few questions to kick-off your thinking. You need to ask yourself these questions from time to time. Write them down if you want them to be more effective:

  • Where do you stand right now?
  • Where do you want to be next year and the year after that?
  • What skills do you need to get there?
  • How can you practice those skills?
  • How can you increase your chances of success?
  • How can you use your time effectively and maximize it for impact?
  • Who can help you validate your ideas and give you feedback to expand your thinking?

Once you are able to spend some time thinking deep and hard about these questions, you are ready to embrace a strategic thinking mindset. Follow these 4 key strategies:

  1. Challenge and Question Assumptions

Many parents and even teachers are annoyed with kids who ask too many questions: “Why do I have to go to school?” “Why do I have to sleep early when you can be awake till late?” “Why can’t I play video games?” “Why do I have to finish my homework?” You may have not gotten all these answers as a kid. None of us did. But not getting these answers as a child shouldn’t stop you from asking questions as an adult. Curiosity and the ability to express that curiosity constructively is a great skill to have at work.

One of the biggest problems I see in organizations is how people do certain things because they have always been done that way. Emailing a report every morning to hundreds of employees that no one cares to open. Spending hours and hours of meeting time in planning discussions when no one cares about those plans a few months down the line. Far too many inefficiencies creep into the corporate system over a long period of time.

One big component of building a strategic thinking mindset is to challenge how certain things are done in your organization – not with the intent to put someone down or establish your superiority, but to identify ways to do them better. Ask targeted questions on specific problems within your organization or your line of work. Learn from how others respond or think about these problems. Different points of view on these problems will not only expand your own thinking, they will give you a direction on the areas that are worth investing your time in.

  1. Observe, Interact and Draw Connections

The hustle and bustle of getting things done, moving faster, quicker and making things happen can prevent you from noticing and investing in activities, ideas and projects that are more important in the long-term, but need your attention right now. We have all fallen for the lure of attending to the urgent while pushing the important stuff to the side. The instant gratification from solving the problem in the short-term is always more alluring than the prudent decision. We may optimize for a small gain in the moment without analyzing the potential impacts of our decision in the future. Building a strategic thinking mindset requires delaying that gratification. It requires living with a small, unimportant problem and putting all your energy and focus on other important ideas and activities that require long-term planning and execution.

Create mental space for new ideas to kick-in. Without the quiet time to sit with your thoughts, facing the uncomfortable silence, and letting your mind wander away, you cannot draw useful connections. It will not happen the first time around and probably not even the second time. But if you are persistent in your efforts, without digital and other distractions of daily life, you will start to notice new patterns of thinking. New ideas that you never thought about before will start to surface.Another great strategy is to not restrict yourself to knowledge within your current scope of work.

Spend time learning about your business and industry. Meet with other functions within your organization to understand how they operate, what their challenges are and how they make decisions. All of this knowledge will enable you to apply different mental models to connect ideas from different domains thereby expanding your circle of competence and building your strategic thinking skills.Remember, building strategic thinking skills involves looking beyond the obvious and now to prodding and shaping the uncertain future. You can’t do that without the willingness to face a little discomfort in the present to build the skills you need in the future.

  1. Put it Into Action

Now, to the most important part. I have discussed this before. In any organization, both big picture thinking and nitty-gritty details are important. Strategic thinking requires the right balance of thinking ahead while actioning in the now. It’s the perfect amalgamation of what the future holds to what must be done now in the present to make that future possible. Strategic thinking not only involves the long-term view into the future, it also involves the choices you need to make to make that future possible. It requires determining which path to take and which to abandon. It requires evaluating the cost and making the trade-offs. Doing something will always come at the cost of not doing something else.While a good strategy is important to get started, a strategy by itself won’t get you anywhere.

You need both strategy “the intent” and tactics “putting that intent to action.” Break down your strategy into the specific things you need to do.Plan what day of the week, and what specific time of the day you are actually going to give life to your strategy. To make sure you don’t let things slip by, or fail to grab the right opportunities, plan these activities on your calendar. Don’t let lack of time or other excuses be the reason for inaction. Plan your time to make things happen.

  1. Craft and Communicate

Finally, to embrace a strategic thinking mindset, don’t work in silos. Find people around you that you can trust, respect or admire. Exchange your ideas with them, request them to challenge your thinking, enable them to ask you tough and uncomfortable questions.By answering these questions, you will not only expand your thinking, you will open your mind to consider new possibilities. Instead of sticking with your original conclusions, you will be willing to challenge your assumptions.

Strategic Thinking is an Ongoing Process

You can’t build a strategic thinking muscle unless you audit your outcomes, inquire about other opinions and adapt to the changes around you. The world is changing very fast and you need to adapt your thinking to the demands of the tomorrow and not the expectations from the past.

To adapt your thinking, follow these 3 practices:

  1. Audit:

Make it a habit to review how you are doing against your goals. Typically a brief review every month and a quarterly deep dive should be sufficient to get a handle on your state of affairs. Examine your strategy from time to time and audit it to ensure you are still leaning against the right wall.When things are going well, put your strategic thinking hat to determine how you can do better:

  • Does an area seem more promising than you originally envisioned?
  • Does it make sense to invest more resources in that area?
  • What kind of changes can you foresee based on market shifts or other industry trends?
  • How can you make sure you aren’t biased in your thinking by relying only on confirming pieces of evidence while rejecting data that contradicts it.

When things aren’t working out as expected, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it a specific tactic that’s causing your strategy to not work. Should you reconsider another tactic?
  • If the tactic is not a problem, do you need to reconsider the strategy itself?
  • Is it possible that external circumstances beyond your control are causing your strategy to not work?
  • Has something changed since you implemented this strategy that you have not considered yet? Is it possible that change is making your strategy ineffective?
  • Is your ego getting in the way and making you invest in a failed cause? Can you look past the sunk costs into other better opportunities?
  1. Inquire

It’s easy to get muddled up in our own thinking and assume we are making the right decision even when we are not. Others can clearly see what we are sometimes not able to see ourselves.Seeking an outside opinion and encouraging different perspectives that challenge our viewpoint is a great way to uncover our blind spots. Strategy for your personal life? Seek feedback from close family and friends. Strategy for an organization? Seek inputs from colleagues and other coworkers.Don’t stay with your opinion unless you have solid data and people to back up your thinking. Ask others these questions:

  • What’s the one thing wrong with my strategy?
  • What’s the one thing I can do better with my strategy?
  • What would you do if you were in my place?
  • What would you not do if you were in my place?
  • What circumstances or events would cause you to evaluate other options?
  1. Adapt

Finally, use the inputs from your audit and inquiry to adjust your strategy. Adapt your future strategy based on the learning from your past. What worked? What didn’t work? What mistakes did you make? Strategic thinking is as much about the future as it’s about learning from your past. Visualize your future. Look at your past. Adjust the gap with the changes you need to make to build that future for yourself and others. You don’t need a breakthrough idea, just the simple choices that will move you forward one step at a time in the direction of your goals.

Many people make the mistake and assume they aren’t thinking strategically if they don’t come up with an innovative idea. Strategic thinking is less about innovation and more about the ability to make the right connections.

Summary

  1. Strategic thinking: The ability to visualize the long-term while planning the short-term to align with the long-term is a critical skill in life.
  2. Much like other things in life, strategic thinking is a muscle that gets better with repetition and practice.
  3. To get started on your strategic thinking journey, start with challenging and questioning assumptions. Identify new ways to do small things at work.
  4. Make time and space to allow your brain to form new connections. Learn about your industry, business and other functions in the organization to expand your thinking beyond your current scope of work.
  5. Give life to your strategy by putting it into action. Break down your strategy into tactics, the specific things you need to do to implement your strategy.
  6. Don’t be rigid in your thinking. Open your brain to new possibilities by seeking others’ opinions and encouraging them to challenge your assumptions.
  7. Finally, strategic thinking is an on-going process. You need to audit, inquire and adjust your strategy based on your learning from the past and the demands of tomorrow.

By Vinita Bansal

Source: Thinking Strategically Will Help You Get Ahead and Stay Ahead | HackerNoon

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With Empathy on The Decline, AI Is Helping Brands Connect With Customers In An Empathic Way

Emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect of customer communication, and key to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect of customer communication, and key to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Today, leveraging automation in the sales, marketing and customer service arena while balancing the need for empathy is critical.

While empathy is seen as a uniquely human trait, developments in artificial intelligence (AI) to help brands recognize and respond in an empathetic manner are on the rise and come at a critical time. Studies show that human empathy is on the decline – a deficit costing the average brand $300 million in lost revenue every year.

For brands to truly connect with their customers to effectively market, sell and serve, they need to really understand the customer mindset. This is where empathic AI solutions are coming into the picture to complement and empower sales, marketing, and service professionals on the customer front lines to detect the customer’s emotional state and intent and deliver a better customer experience.

Empathic AI capabilities have great potential to augment human empathy. As such, AI is becoming fundamental in the customer experience realm to boost customer satisfaction and improve the bottom line. We know that emotional intelligence can vary from one employee to the next; empathic AI can help level up employees that might otherwise miss the emotional cues from customers.

The importance of emotional intelligence in business

Customers seek easy, effortless experiences that satisfy their existing and future needs; some 86 percent will pay more for a great customer experience. How customers feel drives their purchasing habits. This is where brand emotional intelligence plays a critical role.

McKinsey recently referenced a study that evaluated 170 publicly traded companies on their empathic abilities and found that businesses with empathy within their culture, and toward the customer, will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. The top ten leaders in empathy outperformed the bottom ten by two times on the stock market.

Gartner agrees that companies that deploy empathy significantly outperform those that don’t, in terms of sales and profit. Designing an emotionally aware organization is increasingly becoming a topic at the top of the board room agendas. The truth is, people staff organizations and people have feelings. This goes well beyond the employees of a company; it also extends to its customers.

Empathy: The new frontier for CX success

Empathy is critical yet elusive. According to Forrester, consumers are gravitating toward the brands that prioritize people over profits. While nearly all businesses know the importance of showing customer empathy, most struggle to deliver it on a consistent basis.

Using AI to identify how customers feel, so customer-facing professionals can understand and respond in real-time, has many organizations prioritizing humans and bots working together to bring out each other’s best capabilities. Today, AI-driven sentiment analysis capabilities are supercharging CRM functions such as sales, marketing, and service interactions with the power of knowing each customer’s and prospect’s emotional state and intent.

Paul Greenberg, President of the 56 Group, LLC and author of The Commonwealth of Self Interest: Business Success Through Customer Engagement, has written extensively about the business empathy imperative – the ability to understand what customers and employees are going through, along with the relevant context, and act accordingly.

He states, “One of the highest callings of customer experience professionals and enabling technology platforms is helping customers via an understanding of their struggles and aspirations.”

Empathic AI solutions are becoming increasingly good at using sentiment analysis capabilities to understand the customer better, leveraging a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI to surface next-level or next-best-action for empathic customer engagement.

Greenberg says, “AI-powered sentiment analysis weds customer voice and text to business action, providing every sales and service interaction with the means to account for customers’ emotional tone and attitude – context indispensable to supporting exceptional experiences.”

In addition, business professionals can review sentiment data to evaluate overall customer experience and journey effectiveness – providing the means for continuous improvement in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Human empathy augmented by empathic AI solutions is helping front-line employees who work directly with customers better understand and respond in context to the range and depth of customer behaviors and emotions to ultimately serve them better.

The winning formula

CX is a journey, and businesses need to enable their workforce to deliver something more than a frictionless experience – a human experience that recognizes human emotional needs. On many occasions, customers will desire a self-serve interaction that is quick, easy and makes the best use of their time.

However, at other times when there is a problem or they are wanting to understand how a product or service will best meet their needs, they will want a human to recognize and deliver the requisite emotional quotient for that customer to be truly understood, felt, and heard.

Today, organizations are focusing on harnessing AI to better understand and deliver on customer needs. Empathic AI solutions can empower customer-facing professionals to produce the right answers and outcomes quickly and confidently, commanding greater customer satisfaction and loyalty by detecting customer intent and emotional state.

By identifying and solving the emotions behind the “why,” companies can better serve the needs of their customers. Leveraging AI-powered solutions using sentiment analysis capabilities provides the predictive insights businesses need to recognize customer emotions and intent with accuracy and precision at scale.

By Chief Customer Officer, SugarCRM

Source: With empathy on the decline, AI is helping brands connect with customers in an empathic way | ITProPortal

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