Executive Coaching: Using Soft Skills To Achieve Hard Results

A coach can help you develop your interpersonal and leadership skills that are necessary to create change and growth in your business.

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By Martin Braddock

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In my last article, I offered some tips on how to choose a coach. In this article we move towards the business-end of matters and focus on how (the right) coach can help you achieve measurable results from your coaching program. You may be familiar with the term soft skills. It's a phrase that populates many leadership and management books. But what does it really mean?

Wikipedia's interpretation of soft skills:

Soft skills is a term often associated with a person's "EQ" (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities. They are related to feelings, emotions, insights and (some would say) an 'inner knowing': i.e. they provide an important complement to 'hard skills' and IQ."

You may say that this isn't fresh news. Maybe you hold the view that your IQ and hard skills are two of the primary factors or drivers that influenced your specific entrepreneurial qualities. This may be true, but it's extremely unlikely that you don't recognize (even at a basic level) that handling people as well as you handling investment opportunities is vital to success. So, logically (and dear reader, please stay with me on this), that if you agree that balancing your soft skills with your hard (technical) skills is important, then, you may still ask the question: "How does having a coach help me to develop these, so-called soft-skills"?

Well, a coach can help you develop your interpersonal and leadership skills that are necessary to create change and growth in your business, and enhance your ability to understand, influence or persuade people by gaining a deep understanding of your behaviours. High performance businesses are led by high performance individuals. The success of their leadership is partly intuitive and partly learnt. Understanding your own preferred behaviours, like why you work the way you do (and why other people often work completely differently from you), spans both intuition and can be facilitated by supportive, but challenging leadership coaching. Having a clear understanding of your own and others preferred behaviours enables you to develop a more well-rounded view of yourself and of your unique leadership qualities.

It can really help when you can modify your behaviour to get a result. Have you ever asked yourself the metaphoric question: "Why do I have to keep banging my head against a brick wall to get a result which is easy for me to see, but none of those around me get it?"

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Working with a coach can act as a catalyst for your own ability to understand why a particular strategy isn't working, and how to modify your approach to get results from other – before you cut your head too badly against that wall (or knock yourself out)! One thing that is guaranteed, is that if you continue to bang your head against the wall, the result will be obvious- it is up to you to change your behaviour and/or strategy if you want to change others behaviours around you!

A coach could also utilize a behavioural profiling too; that can act as a "mirror' so you can see what others see in you. One of the many tools available, that helps to facilitate this self-understanding and understanding others is Life Orientations (Lifo®). Lifo® is a practical methodology that describes human behaviour by Identifying four distinct styles with different drivers and motivations that generate different behaviour patterns. It is these behavioural styles that are essentially the key drivers behind your own soft skills and your unique leadership "brand'. Enhancing your brand can be achieved by enhancing your ability to adapt and using different behaviours to get the results you want.

Working with Lifo® accredited coaches can help in developing new behaviours which will lead to better leadership and higher performance. Using Lifo® in conjunction with your own coach can enable you to know when to pull on a different behavioural style to get the desired "hard' results.

In summary, working with a coach on developing your soft skills can help you:

  • Minimize the pain of implementing organizational change
  • Understand and manage the personality clashes that can occur
  • Understand how to reach successful outcomes quickly and effectively
  • Identify why some people seem so difficult to deal with- and how to overcome that
  • Dramatically improve results by applying different behaviours
  • Create high-performance teams by managing people's strengths
So have no doubt: applying soft skills can help you achieve hard results.
Martin Braddock

Associate Director, PDSi

Martin Braddock is an Associate Director of Performance Development Services (PDSi) based in Dubai. He has over 25 years senior management experience within international blue-chip and privately-owned fast growth organizations. He held positions with Land Rover, Rank Xerox, BET, and the RAC, managing mergers and acquisitions across Europe and the U.S., and he has also led the turn-around of two SME businesses as CEO and MD. Braddock coaches throughout the MENA Region across a range of sectors including financial and business services, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, automotive and engineering services, pharmaceutical, and retail. Braddock holds a Diploma in Advanced Executive Coaching accredited by The International Coach Federation.

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