In the business world, we hear a lot about technology and disruption, and their many challenges. But we’re also starting to hear more about pitfalls related to the human side of business…gaps in the “soft skills” that are equally critical to successful people and companies. Although many of these skills gaps are nothing new, they are more relevant than ever, and in some cases have been made worse by disruption. Without core professional skills like communication, initiative, leadership, and etiquette, no team can be truly great and no professional can be truly successful. You probably deal with the consequences of “soft skill” deficits every day: communication breakdown, misunderstanding, conflict, and damaged morale – just to name a few.
On May 14, 2013, PMP, Chris Knotts took a look at some of the most common “people problems” in the mainstream business world, and how we can start dealing with them. In this free one hour seminar he explained that these are productivity killers, and the root causes are broad. There are rising cross-generational differences, a growing lack of interpersonal skills, differences in personality and culture, and erosion in consensus about what constitutes professional behavior. The good news is that there are teachable skills to address these challenges, and accessible techniques to overcome them.
Chris covered multiple topics including
- How to communicate effectively
- Overcoming generational and cultural barriers
- Leveraging emotional intelligence in the business environment
- Encouraging self-awareness while building a team mentality
- Keeping action and culture tied to productivity
Although these needs aren’t new in the business world, even seasoned veterans are beginning to see the need for a “reloaded” approach to developing these skills. Chris gave a high-level conversation about how to navigate these soft skills as we face continuing changes in business landscapes and a rising new generation of professionals.
“What about the old adage ‘Communication breaks down 50% when separated by distance greater than 100 feet?’”
In terms of the obvious, the first and literal answer would be that just in a physical sense, let’s say you have two human beings standing out in an open field, communicating through speech. 100 feet is about the right amount of distance for two people shouting at each other to start having difficulty understanding each other.
But secondly, there’s the more meaningful way to look at this question. What does distance really mean to communication? To answer this question, the first thing you have to look at is the fact that when we communicate, the meaning of our words is transmitted in a number of ways. In other words, when we speak to someone we don’t simply use words. We use facial expressions, body language, and inflection of voice. Today, it is well-understood that these aspects of spoken language carry huge portions of the meaning and intention behind our words. In fact, it has been well-established that the words themselves only carry as little as 7-10% of the real intention behind a message.
That means that the moment you’re not in the same room, communicating face to face, you’ve taken a hit in how effectively you can transmit your idea. But obviously, we face these situations all the time, since everybody knows you can’t rally round to the conference room and have a meeting every single time you need to communicate.
So, what to do? Let’s take a page from the world of project management. Project managers are taught that a crude ranking of meaning transmitted by different aspects of face-to-face interaction breaks down like this (see the work of Albert Mehrabian):
- Words: 7%
- Tone of voice/inflection: 38%
- Body language: 55%
- All three work together and rely on each other (separation, and/or emotional content will result in the intention and the message being incongruous to some degree).
To learn more about mastering the framework of successful project management or to learn to manage communication, planning, budgets and more, check out our 2 day course The Fundamentals of Project Management. This course stresses the role of all project documentation as part of a communications strategy that proves all stakeholders with the information they need.