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Are You Up To Speed On Soft Skills?

Are You Up To Speed On Soft Skills?

By Mary Verstraete

Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center has concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills). 

While soft skills are increasingly becoming the hard skills of today’s workforce, many people continue to come to organizations without them. 

The National Careers Service advocates the following soft skills that employers want:  

  • Communication

What makes it important? Skilled communicators get along well with colleagues, listen and understand instructions, and put their point across without being aggressive. They can change their style of communication to suit the task in hand, whether it's handling conflict or collaborating with a client. Good communicators should be able develop constructive working relationships with colleagues and be able to learn from constructive criticism.


  • Team Player

Have the ability to work with a team to achieve goals and have the qualities of being open, honest, and listen to others.


  • Compassionate, empathetic, sensitive, and human, creating a safe psychological space.

Did you know that this combination is sought after by companies like Google? Google recently commissioned a three-year study called Project Aristotle that attempted to determine the factors of a productive team. Findings were:

High-performing teams had high social sensitivity characterized by trust, mutual respect, and real connections.


Additional soft skills listed include:

  • Personal accountability
  • Teamwork
  • Negotiation skills
  • Conflict resolution
  • Flexibility
  • Problem solving
  • Interpersonal relations (mentoring, coaching, etc.)


Since soft skills are important for your personal fulfillment, professional development and success, the step of assessing your soft skills is an ideal place to begin identifying the areas that would be beneficial in your personal and professional development. 

Next, take steps to fill the gap in your soft skills. Did you know that coach training is an ideal step in the direction of developing soft skills? A high standard of coach training will help you develop understanding of:

  • The nature and structure of a conversation to help you navigate in collaboration, conflict, and decision making situations.
  • Questions to avoid that will prevent rapport and defensiveness.
  • How to establish trust that creates an environment of openness and honest dialogue.
  • The tools to build team synergy that promote innovation.
  • Giving constructive feedback that is received with appreciation.
  • Values that envelope and create a compassionate, empathetic, sensitive, and a safe psychological space for conversation.

Key phrase in this suggestion is, "a high standard of in-depth coach training." As with any profession mastery is developed over time and is fostered through skilled trainers facilitating information, application, guidance, and investment in your personal and professional development.

Your future is important and pursing the development of your soft skills will serve you well in your future endeavors, not only professionally, but also personally.

Mary is a professional leadership consultant and coach. She works with ambitious business professionals who want to leverage their leadership.

As a business consultant, Mary works with organizations to establish a culture of synergistic teams, systems and processes for greater employee engagement, employee loyalty, and communication effectiveness. 

Mary is President and Cofounder of the Center for Coaching Excellence, a distinctive training organization that focuses on developing highly competent coaches through a mentor-training approach and a training model of coaching that easily transitions into professional and personal conversations. She continues to expanded coaching into diverse industries by developing customized coach training used in companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and MJ Senior Housing.

To contact Mary, call: 612.246.4787

Emotional Connection and Leadership

Emotional Connection and Leadership

Everything in leadership involves developing strong and trusting relationships.

By Mary Verstraete

 Scott Edinger, founder of the Edinger Consulting Group in Tampa, Florida tells the story of when he first started working in the Coopers & Lybrand consulting firm. Scott was assigned to Chris Abramson, who had an enormous scale of responsibility. Yet whenever Chris talked with him, he gave him undivided attention: "He talked with me about my goals and my development opportunities. He shared stories about life (both his and mine) outside the office. Even in our short conversations, in which he frequently was directing me do do something, he injected some kind of personal remark or comment."

Scott goes on to say: "Leadership has everything to do with how you relate to others and the quality and texture of those relationships. The higher up you go in an organization, the less important your technical skills become and the more your interpersonal skills matter. Chris Abramson excelled in one of the most important—and most misunderstood—of leadership skills: making an emotional connection.

The ability to make an emotional connection is so often misunderstood because it’s not about being emotional or showing emotion. It’s about making a human connection—one person to another. Chris Abramson had the ability to connect on that level with me, with teams, with an entire office of over 600 associates—to show us how important we all were to him and that there was more to our relationship than just the job at hand."

Let's face it, emotion isn’t often a word you see in business books. Yet business illustrates it's importance. In Gallup's article, "Customer Satisfaction Doesn't Count," they declare that "If you don't make an emotional connection with customers, then satisfaction is worthless." Their research proved that customers don't buy strictly for rational reasons—much more important is engaging them on an emotional level. And, businesses that optimize this connection outperform competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth.

What happens in an organizations without emotional connection? Employees become disengaged from their jobs, their leaders, and the company they work for. They have no motivation to put forth more than the minimum amount of effort required of them and no motivation to stay when better opportunities come along. Today’s leaders need to work to ensure that emotional connection is there.

What is the bottom line of this blog?

  • Emotional connection builds involvement and engagement

  • Emotional connection can determine the strength of a relationship

  • Emotional connection drives loyalty and advocacy

  • Emotional connection is an experience

This reminds me of the familiar quote by Maya Angelou, American autobiographer and poet:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

People will leave a conversation experiencing

an emotional connection with you or a disconnection with you.

Let's look at three intentional actions to help forge the kind of connection Scott experienced:

  1. Put people first. This sounds simple, but unless we are intentional in making people most important, ringing phones, emails by the dozens, and tasks staring at us, will be what wins our attention. When you unfailingly engage with people, you can expect engagement and loyalty.

  2. Develop your ability to engage with others. As a leader, develop the ability to reach out to others and engage them in conversation. Leaders, by definition, do their work through other people, and yet how easy it is to lose sight of that and to focus on the amount of work—the tasks, the output, the jobs to be completed. The irony is, the more you focus on the quality of your connections, the greater your quantity of output is likely to be.

  3. Listen. Really listen. Listening helps people feel important in every interaction, whether it's a phone call, face-to-face, email or chat. Regularly listen and respond to the people around you. Take the time to understand their concerns and needs.

Connecting is a learned skill. I believe coaching skills are one of the most effective means for leaders to learn how to genuinely and authentically connect with those they lead.

If you've never had coach training, I encourage you do so, and if you've had coach training, continue mastering your coaching skills.

 I couldn't be happier with the training. As a professional coach, I’m now involved in living my vision of being an agent for positive change in people's lives.

Alan Smith
CBMC Northland Area Associate Director