It’s a new day, a new year, and I’m wondering, where do you want your career journey to take you? I ask not so much with your “technical” skills in mind, but rather, your human skills.
Yes, we all want to become better and better at our craft—whether it’s science, sales, or finance. But the truth is, if we want to keep growing over a lifetime of work, if we want to achieve and contribute to our highest potential no matter our specialty, we need to lean into our “human power.”
In recent years the corporate executives and learning and development thought leaders I admire most have begun to refer to this human aspect as “power skills.” A year ago I shared some of this thinking in the blog post, The So-Called “Soft Skills” are the Currency of the Future. In brief, power skills are behaviors that often make the difference between success and failure—no matter how good your technical skills might be. In a global survey of over 400 executives, IBM learned that leaders see specific behaviors as the most critical skills in the workplace today, and in the future. Here are the top four they identified:
- Willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change (and was this ever put to the test in 2020!)
- Time management skills and ability to prioritize
- Ability to work effectively in team environments
- Ability to communicate effectively in the business environment
Other desirable characteristics included curiosity, creativity, ethics, and integrity.
For so long, all of these were referred to as “soft skills,” things that were maybe nice to have, but not as important as the “hard,” technical skills that engineer products or deliver services. Because PowerSpeaking, Inc. is in the communication business, we are encouraged to see that the human side of success is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
Take communication. Many research studies have quantified the enormous business and financial impact of poor communication, putting the cost in the millions to billions lost per year. I’ll bet you’ve experienced some of those impacts firsthand. Ever see a critical project go off the rails because the people involved weren’t on the same page from the beginning? Have you seen productivity and innovation tank because management was lousy at communicating goals and/or priorities? Or maybe you just couldn’t sell a great idea to a team because you didn’t know how to “speak their language”?
Clear, powerful, compassionate communication on the other hand, is the stuff of success. It inspires, energizes, and propels progress. It makes people feel better about themselves, coworkers, and management. It’s the human aspect of the workaday world that not only fuels growth, but also, builds trusting and collaborative relationships.
And, it takes a lifetime to do it well. Referring to all of the power skills, global industry analyst, Josh Bersin says, “They are the most important skills we have in our companies, and we have to build them, nourish them, and continuously evolve them with vigor.”
How true it is. At PowerSpeaking, we’ve long seen our purpose as guiding people on a journey, because we know it takes intention, time, and practice to become a great communicator. It’s not “soft” or easy. It’s hard. It’s not just learning to stand in front of a room and deliver a speech. It’s learning a complex set of communication skills that includes understanding your audience, listening deeply, distilling information and messages so they have an impact, learning how to be agile enough to engage in productive and sometimes risky dialogue—and so much more.
So, as you think about where you want to take your career—or better yet, where it can take you—I invite you to think more about your own, your team’s, and your organization’s human power skills. And if you’re ready to make superior communication a part of your learning journey, we’re here for you.
Carrie Beckstrom, CEO