People think that being a good multi-tasker, something research says is impossible, means you are able to manage multiple projects. Most employees need to be able to manage different projects at the same time, meeting deadlines and working with others, to be effective.

Among the many topics Cohosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham cover in this important episode on an often-overlooked soft skill are:

  • Differences between multi-tasking and managing multiple projects
  • Why we seem to believe multi-tasking works
  • Technology’s role in this soft skill
  • Are we using our time more effectively?
  • How to get ahead of multiple projects
  • What to do when things are not being well managed
  • Why looking at the Big Picture too much hurts being able to manage multiple projects.
  • A real example of managing a project to ensure it can be managed with other projects
  • How computers switch better than humans
  • Blocking out your day to ensure projects are managed well
  • More tips for ensuring you can juggle multiple projects
  • The other soft skills incorporated into managing multiple projects
  • Addressing the fact that things may go wrong once in a while

Next week

We will be looking at the role of storytelling. While not a soft skill, storytelling plays a huge role in being effective in a job search and in being successful in work situations.

Being responsive is a soft skill that can spark creativity, trust and innovation in teams big and small. Learn how and why in this week’s episode of Serious Soft Skills.

Cohosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham explain how the soft skill of being responsive sets teams up to succeed.

Among the topics they discuss in this episode:

  • Being responsive from a supply chain perspective
  • How the best responses are complete, accurate and timely answers
  • Realistic responses and how they improve our work experience
  • When emails actually hurt, not help, responsiveness
  • How being unresponsive can hurt teams and careers
  • Why being responsive is a core issue for any successful employee
  • Getting back quickly isn’t enough. It’s the value of the response.
  • Phone calls and face-to-face meetings accelerate responsiveness

Next week

We will dig into another of the 55 soft skills or how to apply one of them to help you in your career.

The decision on when to escalate a situation to a boss or supervisor is an important one, for which rules are rarely clear.  In today’s episode, cohosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham are going to explain this soft skill and how and when we should be escalating a situation to a higher-up, and why successfully using this soft skill can help an organization’s culture and trust.

Porterfield and Graham explore the idea of escalating situations from the manager and employee perspective and how this soft skill really comes down to determining the right people to provide the right information to at the right time.

Among the topics they discuss are:

  • Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, and its application to escalating a situation
  • Two sides of the coin: one where the situation does not escalate and the other where escalation occurs
  • Our natural desire to avoid problems
  • Why managers need to know about problems early
  • The nuance of determining when to escalate a situation and when to handle things on their own
  • Determining when escalation should occur: immediately or at the next update
  • Why creating a list of when to escalate can never work
  • How the unique nature of each organization makes it impossible to determine exactly when to escalate
  • Where accepting criticism, another soft skill, fits into being able to escalate
  • Helping a boss to avoid problems later
  • A powerful example of when not escalating hurt a leader
  • When the ability to escalate helps build a stronger organizational culture with transparency
  • The responsibility that everyone in an organization has to ensure proper escalation
  • How escalation when properly handled creates confidence in an organization and builds trust

Next week

We will explore another soft skill, being responsive, in an episode to be released next Wednesday.

Organizations covet employees who are mature. But what is being mature and how to we identify it and look for it in people. Co-hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham take on another of the complicated soft skills in this episode.

Among the topics they will address:

  • Immaturity versus maturity
  • Experience versus maturity
  • How application is at the core of being mature
  • Admitting our own faults with maturity
  • How we develop maturity
  • Choosing when to fight for something
  • Teasing out maturity in job searches
  • How maturity leads to better outcomes over time
  • Developing maturity through asking questions of mentors

Next week

We will be looking into how and when to escalate an issue, what it means and how to be good at it, and more importantly, why it as a soft skill is important to an organization’s success.

Being focused on the client, whoever that is — both internal and external to the organization — is a critical component of any successful business and a soft skill that we need to understand and incorporate into any business.

Co-hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham explore client focus from two different perspectives — one looking at external customers and the other looking at internal customers.

Among the topics they address:

  • What threats come to from poor customer service
  • How customer service leads to strengthening relationships
  • How language plays into good customer service
  • Sour experiences foretelling of bad reputations
  • Failing to think through what matters to the customers, even if it conflicts with what employees want
  • Collaboration versus siloing as customer service problems
  • Setting shared objectives to deal with a strong client focus
  • Why companies should be looking more closely at external and internal clients
  • Exploring what clients truly need from the organization and how to deliver it
  • Why focus is a key

Next week

We will be exploring the soft skill of being mature, which isn’t about being experienced. They’ll figure it out — or at least attempt to next week on the Serious Soft Skills podcast.

Cohosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham will tackle the soft skill of complying with standards. Sounds boring, right? Well, they’re going to make it interesting. We promise.

Among the topics they will discuss this week are:

  • Why complying with standards is a soft skill
  • The difference between internal and external standards
  • Written and unwritten standards
  • How the subprime mortgage industry breaking key rules caused a financial collapse
  • When standards need to be challenged or questioned
  • How time can require the need to evaluate old standards
  • When to question standards
  • The expectations that organizations have about complying with standards
  • How organizational culture can help with complying with standards

Next week

We will be talking about an important soft skill that forms a foundation for lots of organizational success: client focus.

Co-hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham talk about setting goals and prioritizing, which together make an important soft skills for managers, leaders and any employee.

Setting goals, as in organizing and prioritizing your work, is critical for team success. To make sure everyone is working toward the same overall goal, we need to assign tasks. Those tasks have to be completed on time or else others will be waiting.

Among the topics they address:

  • Examples of where setting goals and prioritizing are critical to achieving results.
  • How most of us have deadlines each day, week or month.
  • Why these goals have to be in sync
  • Tips for setting goals
  • Being SMART

We can set our own priorities in a day, evaluating what needs to be done, what others might need from us, what we need from others. The best employees are updating their priorities as situations change throughout the day. They don’t write a list in pen, but rather in pencil, with an eraser.

Good leaders and managers set realistic priorities and goals for their staff, ideally with their consent and buy-in. Rather than telling people what to do, they work with people to align personal and organizational goals to be the same. This shared vision can be powerful, especially when things go wrong. And they will.

No matter how much we prioritize, things go wrong. How we deal with it — by readjusting — can make or break us and our organizations.

Responding to listeners questions the co-hosts explain why people don’t talk much about soft skills and how often we call on our soft skills, often without even being aware of it.

Co-hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham answer questions about soft skills from some of their listeners in this episode.

Among the topics they discuss:

  • How soft skills tend to be overlooked
  • Why people fail to recognize the role of soft skills
  • How combining soft skills with technical skills makes employees and organizations better

Don’t miss our free ebook offer for our ebook, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, using a special coupon code that we mention in the middle of this episode.

Next Week

We will be exploring the soft skill of adapting to change and prioritizing and how it helps people be more successful in their jobs.

Enthusiasm is not just a soft skills; it’s an attitude, a choice we make that is often heavily influenced by our workplace culture, but more importantly, success. We’ll discuss how and why enthusiasm is important in every workplace.

Co-hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham discuss the following:

  • The value of enthusiasm and why it’s a soft skill
  • The Fake It Till You Make It reality
  • Enthusiasm is a form of professionalism
  • How optimism fuels enthusiasm
  • Tips for how to look enthusiastic, even when you aren’t
  • Why enthusiasm is infectious and how the opposite is cancerous
  • How team members can help a person who lacks enthusiasm
  • Winston Churchill’s view of enthusiasm and its effect on success
  • Why managers and leaders have to bring the enthusiasm
  • Where journaling and daily reflection can help you retain the enthusiasm
  • Making sure failures don;’t pile up
  • Portraying things to encourage enthusiasm
  • Avoiding manufactured enthusiasm

Next week

We will answer more questions from our listeners on soft skills in their workplace.

More than four-in-five jobs come from connections, making networking a critical piece of any job search or path toward promotion. And at its core, any kind of networking calls on our soft skills.

Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham discuss:

  • Why focusing on the perfect customer during networking can ruin any event
  • How every contact you make could be a vitally important one someday
  • How networking differs from speed dating
  • Building value through networking is the name of the game
  • Some examples of good and bad networking
  • How natural discussion can do more for networking than anything contrived.
  • Opening doors to discovery
  • The serendipity of networking
  • How you can’t make a customer from networking
  • The art of graceful exits from discussions and how to do it without seeming like a jerk
  • The do’s and don’ts of networking
  • Bob’s Three-Card Rule
  • Toby’s rules for giving out business cards
  • Methods to manage any followup
  • The Rule of Threes

Next week

We’ll explore the soft skill of enthusiasm and how it makes a major contribution to any business.