Soft Skills (paragraph blogging)

by Zhenya

Recently I wrote a post on Pioneer Consortium blog called ‘Soft Skills in Training and Development‘. I have been thinking about the topic since then, plus reading the readers’ comments on Facebook and Twitter, and then realized that I still need to share my thoughts on this topic. Luckily, there is now a new Blogging Paragraph style (or trend) started by Kate and supported by several more bloggers (Anna, Hana, Sirja, Anthony are those I read, and there might be many more out there!)

This quote from Anna’s post motivated me to get to writing today:

This paragraph blogging style is liberating and infectious. It’s just my hunch that it might help me turn my many drafts into actual paragraphs some day.

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Soft skills support the ‘hard’ or core professional skills. Soft skills can be interpersonal (e.g. communication skills, team work, ability to motivate others, etc.) and intrapersonal (e.g. responsibility, self-confidence, flexibility, initiative, planning, innovation/creativity, critical thinking, reflective competencies, etc.) Soft skills are features and behaviors displayed in interactions among individuals that might have an impact on the outcomes of such interactions.

All the above means (or seems to be true) soft skills that often define if a person can be a mentor (or trainer, team leader, supervisor, etc.) for his/her colleagues. Now, it is the soft skills that are not really trained or practiced at a workplace. An example from my own experience: when I first was offered a position of the Director of Studies (DoS) in the international private school I was working for, I was sent to a two-week course. The interactive sessions there included such topics as Recruitment, Appraisal, Creating a Training Session, and more. What I wish I had been aware of at that time, especially when I started to work as a DoS, were the answers to the ‘ How’- questions like ‘How do I give feedback to more experienced colleagues?’, ‘How do I talk to parents?’, ‘How do I communicate with an unhappy customer? With a new teacher? Senior management?’ etc. –  I can add more and more questions to the list. I remember I was looking for some sort of ‘personality growth’ training courses. All I found at that time was about ‘confidence building’ and ‘developing your negotiation or sales skills’ types of courses. All for business people and managers ‘in general’. All far from my context.

It has been exactly 10 years since the time I describe. Many things changed. As someone working a lot with teachers and trainers internationally, I noticed that soft skills are still not a part of ‘explicit’ training program for teachers. I wonder if I am actually missing something. I wonder if this topic is just not of a high priority for the educational industry at the moment. What has your experience been like? Do those skills come ‘naturally’ with experience in a field?

Some more questions I have about soft skills are below. I am really eager to continue this conversation in comments and/or on your own blogs.

In our job (teaching, training, mentoring), how can we become ‘role models’ for practicing those skills? (do we need to at all?)

How do you work on developing your own soft skills? Who or what helps you? What successes and challenges have you had and would like to share?

Do you/Would you teach soft skills to your students?

What questions have you asked yourself about those skills?

Thank you for reading!