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Soft Skills Win in the Race for Job Success!

August 28th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

Think about this: 85% of job success is due to having well-developed soft skills, and only 15% is due to technical, or hard skills.  This is from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Center.

It amazes me that despite this research, organizations (and individuals) still tend to focus on developing hard skills. In 2010, employers spent $171.5 billion on employee training and only 27.6% of those training dollars went toward soft skills, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

It’s time to put more of our dollars and development efforts where they really count. In our increasingly global, dynamic and service-oriented way of working, organizations need leaders, teams and individual contributors who have the personal behaviors and interpersonal skills that will help them grow and thrive.

So what are those skills?  In my work with organizations to create leadership and employee development initiatives, these are the 10 soft skills/behaviors (in alpha order) that leaders most often tell me they need in their people.

Collaboration – the ability to meld ideas and share credit with others.

Creativity – initiating new approaches to projects, solving problems, etc.

Effective communication – clear and concise speaking and writing paired with active listening.

Emotional intelligence – self-aware and sensitive to others, empathetic.

Flexibility – adaptable to change.

Growth mindset – recognizing they don’t know it all. Being willing to learn.

Leadership – the ability to lead, even without the title.

Reliability – do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.

Resilience – the ability to continue pursuing the goal despite roadblocks and challenges.

Teamwork – sharing the work and supporting others toward a common goal.

Organizations who want to remain competitive and individuals who want to increase their marketability would do well to put more emphasis on identifying gaps in these skills and then creating a comprehensive development plan to close those gaps.

One of the best ways to identify gaps is through a behavioral assessment. The one I use with leaders, teams and individuals is Lumina Spark.  Lumina Spark is a state-of-the-art psychometric assessment that provides a framework to help people achieve better self-awareness and learn how to improve their working relationships with others.

Check out the Lumina Spark fact sheet and then contact me to learn how PeopleThink can help your organization build its people capability.

Till next time,

Karen

Career, learning and development, Professional development

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When Opportunity Knocks, Be Ready!

March 29th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan


Imagine this. You've been in the same role and company for some time now. You're ready to move on, but haven't been able to get started looking for a new opportunity. A friend invites you to a networking event and introduces you to a senior leader from a company that you've always wanted to get into. Turns out they're searching for someone with the skills and experience you know you possess.





You chat. She asks, "What would you say are your two greatest accomplishments?"





How do you respond?





Would something quickly come to mind? Would you be able to easily describe your accomplishments in a way that is clear, concise and compelling? Or would you hem and haw while searching your mental database and then say the first thing that pops up? Or, worse, would you simply panic and head for the bar?





My point is, you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself, so you need to be prepared.





In my last blog, Leadership and Learning - An Essential Combination, I talked about keeping your competencies relevant and up to date and continuing to learn. It's also important to periodically pause and take stock of your accomplishments. Write them down. Prioritize them. Categorize them - tie them to relevant competencies so you can use them as specific examples that demonstrate the competency. Having this information in mind and/or easily accessible will help you in situations like the scenario above and in performance conversations, your resume or bio, or other situations where you need to share who you are.





Here's a simple template you can use to capture your accomplishments. Use the Situation-Action-Result (SAR) format to describe the accomplishment and then define the competencies associated with it.





SITUATION: What was the goal or challenge?





ACTION: What was your role? What did you do to address the goal or challenge?





RESULT: What was the result (your accomplishment)?





What COMPETENCIES did you use?





When opportunity comes knocking, be ready to open the door!





Till next time,





Karen


Career planning, Leadership, leadership development, Personal development

Get Real About Getting Ready for What’s Next

January 26th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

ProfDev-4

You’re in a job you like, you can do it almost on autopilot, and your performance reviews are stellar. No need to update your skills, right? Wrong!

Or…you’re in a job you hate, but, “it’s a job” and you are so overworked or busy trying to keep that job that you have no time to even THINK about what’s next, let alone PREPARE for it. There’s just no way, right? Wrong!

Whether you like your job or hate it, keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date and preparing for what’s next is a must. Here’s a “get real” process to help you get started.

Conduct an inventory. Look at your last performance review. Make a list of both strengths and development areas. Then think about what you want to do next. If you are currently working and want to progress on your career path, what skills and knowledge will you need to get to the next level? Add these to your list. If you are looking for a new opportunity, what are the requirements of your target position? Which of those requirements are you lacking? Add these to your list.

Create a personal development plan. Select one or two areas from your inventory that you will focus on in the next three months. Do some research to find resources to help you develop in those areas. Remember, learning doesn’t only occur in the classroom. Create specific development actions for each skill/knowledge area. Don’t forget to include target dates on your plan!

Execute the plan. Post your plan somewhere visible – your calendar, your refrigerator, your desktop. Stay focused! Concentrate on the one or two areas you’ve prioritized – don’t get distracted by the other areas on your inventory list. You can work on them in your next plan. Take a melting pot approach. Keep your eyes and ears open for articles, blogs by experts, presentations, webinars, etc., on your focus areas. Learning comes in many forms, from many places. Capture it! Be accountable and/or enlist someone’s help to keep you accountable. Reward yourself for completing your development goals.

Update your resume/personal “infomercial.” When you have gained proficiency in the skill/knowledge area, add it to your resume, if appropriate. Practice incorporating your new knowledge/skill into your interview discussions. Blend it into the evolving “you.”

Review, revisit, and revise the plan. Spend some time reviewing your plan and how it worked. Did you set reasonable goals? Were the resources worthwhile? Did you find additional/alternate ones you’ll use next time? Revisit your inventory. What are the skills/knowledge areas you’re going to work on next? Create and execute a revised personal development plan that reflects your new focus areas and development goals.

Putting a plan in place to continually add to your abilities and knowledge is an investment that will keep your market value on an upward trend. And…you never know when that golden opportunity will come along. Be prepared!

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” - Chinese proverb

Till next time,
Karen

Career planning, learning and development, Personal development, Professional development

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Women Supporting Women – Getting Real About Your Career

March 27th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

One of the most satisfying aspects of the work I do is helping other women create a strategy to achieve their business or career goals, keeping them accountable, and then seeing them attain those goals. As I like to say, women supporting other women – just as it oughta be.

In my last blog on this topic I talked about tips for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. This time I’d like to share some tips for women who want to grow their careers in the corporate environment. (Men, these tips will work for you, too!)

First of all, it’s important to understand that you are in charge of your own destiny.  You need to keep an open mind, be curious, and get really clear about what YOU want for your life and career, and stop listening to those voices telling what you “should want.” Remember the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.”

Assess where you are. When you’ve decided what you want, take inventory. What skills do you have, what skills do you need? How will you attain those skills? What are your values and interests? What are some internal blocks or other obstacles that have held you back so far in your career?

Understand trends. Bersin by Deloitte recently published a research report about HR and talent in 2017. Here are a few of their predictions based on trends they saw.

-Organizational design will be challenged everywhere. Organizations have to be able to “focus on customer-centric learning, experimentation, and time to market.” Functional groups should be organized into teams that are “smaller, flatter, and more empowered. Leaders should focus more on hands-on leadership, and less on leadership from behind a desk.”

-Culture and engagement will remain top priorities. Deloitte research shows that “86% of business leaders rate “culture” as one of the more urgent talent issues, yet only 14% understand what the right culture is.”

-Human performance and well-being will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership. Employee engagement levels have not improved in the past 10 years, productivity is down, and U.S. workers take 4 to 5 fewer vacation days today than they did in 1998.

What opportunities do you see in these predictions based on your skills, experience and competencies?

Assemble your supporters. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, talks about 3 important people you need to cultivate to help advance your career: an advisor, a mentor, and a sponsor. Their roles are different.

Your advisor is there to help you understand who’s who in the organization, provide context about the way things are done, and answer the “dumb questions” you think you should already know the answer to. Your mentor is the one you share your hopes and dreams with. Maybe they’re already doing what you want to do and can share how they got there. Or maybe they’re in a different organization, but know you well and can give you honest feedback and advice. You can tell your mentor both the good and the bad stuff. The sponsor plays a different role altogether. This is the person – maybe someone on the senior management team – who advocates for you when you are not in the room. This is the person you share only the good stuff with.

Learn continuously. Not just to attain the skills to achieve your current goal, but also so that you are always ready for the next opportunity. As we all know, the world changes at a rapid pace. The job or skill “de jour” may not be needed in a year or two. Keep up to date on technology, pursue new interests, read, network, stay informed about what’s going on in the world around you. Many have watched their careers go adrift because they failed to do this.

Give back.  As you move ahead in your career, never forget how you got there. Be willing to be a mentor or advocate for those in whom you see potential. Give honest productive feedback. Help others avoid the bumps you had along the road. Be willing to give informational interviews.

And, of course, don’t stop believin’.

Till next time,

Karen

Career, Career planning, Development, Learning, The Get Real Guide to Your Career, Women

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Possibilities Abound as Baby Boomers Retire

February 13th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

A few years back, when the first baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) began to reach retirement age, there was much written about the impending brain drain as boomers left the workforce. How would we transfer their knowledge? Who would step up to be leaders? Companies were advised to quickly put succession plans in place. And then…the economy tanked and boomers stayed in place and the crisis seemed averted.  Now, however, another wave of boomers has hit the mark and concern is bubbling up again.

A cover story last month in the San Francisco Business Times entitled, “From Boomers to Bust?” suggested that “the pace of retirements among baby boomers is about to explode, and it has big consequences for the Bay Area Economy and its workforce.” The impact will be felt more in the Bay Area, the article says, because in addition to the population being older in the region than the rest of California, “the area is in the process of adding more than 1 million jobs by 2040, with talent shortages already a factor across a range of industries.”

Nationwide, an estimated 10,000 boomers a day celebrate their 65th birthday.  And according to Gallup, by 2029, 20% of the population will be over 65. Clearly, companies have some serious workforce planning to do, especially those with an older employee base.

That being said, if we look at this situation through the lens of possibilities, I see some real opportunities for both boomers and those who would follow in their footsteps.

While many boomers are anxious to leave the pace and politics of corporate life, not all of them dream of replacing that with more leisurely pursuits. In fact, quite a few plan to keep working in some capacity – either for financial reasons or for a sense of purpose.  If this applies to you, then get busy preparing to capture the possibilities. This might be any of the following or none of them (leisure on!). You’re at a place where it’s entirely up to you. Here are some possibilities:




    • Work with your current employer to reduce hours or create a more flexible schedule

    • Become a mentor to help prepare the next line of leaders

    • Turn your hobby into a side business (e.g., become a small space gardener)

    • Leverage the skills you’ve built over the years and consult

    • Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you




For those who are just starting out or are several years into their career, the exodus of baby boomers can open doors (and windows!) of opportunity, especially in leadership. The key is to have a growth mindset (always be learning) and to leverage some tips from the Year of Possibilities framework:

Pay attention to what’s around you. Where are the opportunities? What do you need to do to get there? Take a personal skill /behavior inventory. Get feedback from others. Use it!

Listen…really listen. Think about a team or department leader you admire. Set up an informational interview to gain knowledge and insight on how to lead successfully in the organization. Listen and take notes. Create an action plan. Implement it.

Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will.  You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.”  Say what you want out loud.  Tell your friends, family and partner.  The more you say it, the more real it becomes.

And whether you’re a boomer or movin’ on up, don’t stop believin’!

Till next time,

Karen

Career planning, Possibilities, Professional development

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If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now

August 15th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve been following my advice about taking some “ME” time this summer, you may have had an opportunity to reflect on your life so far. What have you learned that you wish you’d known 20 years ago? What did you NOT do that you wish you’d done (there’s still time!) And what advice would you give your younger self if you could? We posed this last question to our followers and networks a while back and got some really insightful answers. In case you missed it (or would like a second look) I’m sharing it again. I’d love to hear from you if you have something to add; please comment.

The majority of the responses fell into three major categories. All good advice!

DON’T BE AFRAID.

-It’s all about attitude. Have a great attitude, show up with it and leave with it every day.

-Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. Be yourself and believe in your gut!

-Always take a calculated risk – it will pay off in the long run.

-Every challenge in life builds strength and character.

-Never let fear hold you back from life.

-Be yourself and don’t be afraid to speak your truth!

-Be more assertive and confident. Be more direct, and STOP apologizing!

DARE TO DREAM!

-Listen, observe and learn – be like a sponge and absorb everything you can. Wisdom is precious.

-Be patient. You WILL get everything you aspire to. Calm down!

-Don’t take the easy road, and dare to follow your dreams.

-Have enough faith and confidence in yourself to seize opportunities.

-Don’t worry what other people think about you.

-Carpe diem –seize the day.

-Plan ahead, but still enjoy the moment.

-Live the life that YOU were meant to live.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

-Follow your heart. Have as much fun as possible!

-Treat yourself with kindness and respect and don’t allow yourself to be abused by anyone.

-Take your time. Life goes faster than you could possibly imagine.

-Enjoy the body that you have, it will change quicker than you think.

-Don’t be compelled to accommodate the needs of others.

-Pick a career that you love and not one that your parents think is good for you.

-Turn off that negative recording in your head. See that you truly are beautiful just the way you are.

-Always have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.

-Everything is better after a good bottle of wine with a friend. (I second that!)

Of course, all of this wisdom comes from having learned these things through a variety of ups and downs on the roller coaster of life. And for that, one final piece of wisdom submitted…

Don’t regret decisions you have made. Live with them and get on with life. It is way too short.”

Till next time,

Karen

Learning, Life, wellness

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