Dear Reader

Why are so called ‘soft skills' so difficult to use? Some people refer to ‘soft skills' training with a tone that can imply, ‘Well, they are the nice to have, but we need to do the ‘hard skills' training first'. However, from my experience of coaching and training managers it is usually not their technical knowledge and skills that let them down but their so called ‘soft skills', which are often the hardest skills to learn and use effectively.

See right hand column for positive news about ….

  • Wonderful young people
  • Wonderful schools and teachers
  • Investing in people
  • Managing Challenging Interactions workshop – A public workshop on Wednesday 17th June – see right hand column for details and early booking rate for bookings made before Monday 11th May.

Best wishes

Melanie Greene

Why are so called 'soft skills' so difficult to use?

What do we mean by ‘soft skills'? – People normally are referring to the following types of skills:

  • Communication, assertiveness
  • Team working
  • Time management
  • Stress management
  • Decision making, problem solving skills
  • Creative thinking skills
  • Presentation skills

Anything that is not to do with technical skills and knowledge. I've challenged clients in the past for using the term ‘soft skills', as these are actually some of the hardest skills to learn, which they have tended to agree with. It used to be seen that ‘soft skills' training was an optional extra. Thankfully, most people recognise that it is often not people's technical expertise that lets them down but either their ability to communicate effectively, manage and motivate themselves and others, deal with stress, make decisions or work with others that undermines their performance.

What so called soft skills do you find difficult to use? Where do your strengths lie? What skills do you want to develop further?

Why are they so difficult to learn and use? – It can be a mixture of some or all of the following:

  • Changing habits - We often do not learn them early in life at school or in our families (unless we are very lucky), so when we finally get around to developing these skills we are in the position of changing habits of a lifetime … sometimes a 30, 40 or 50 year long lifetime!
  • Human beings are complex - We, and the people we are interacting and working with, are complex. It is not a simple case of do X, then Y and you will get Z result. When dealing with human beings there are lots of options and possible outcomes. Therefore, we need to develop a broad understanding of ourselves and others, and how we interact with each other to become effective in these skill areas.
  • Relapsing is easy when we are busy and under pressure. We can slip back into old habits and it takes more effort and thought to use the new skills and behaviour. Sometimes when people slip back and relapse they think, ‘This is not for me', ‘this is too difficult' or ‘this is not going to work' and give up before they have started. If we behaved like this when learning to drive a car, there would be no-one on the roads. We need to learn from our relapses, apply the learning and keep on practising.

What stops you from further developing these skills?

How do you go about developing these skills?

  • Coaching and or training – Find appropriate training or coaching that will provide you with right insights, models, tools, practise and on-going support. It is amazing how many people book on workshops or buy in training without really making sure that it is going to meet their needs (see right hand column for public workshop on Managing Challenging Interactions in June).
  • Practice – Yes, this might sound obvious but we can get back from workshops into the busyness of work and forget about what we have learned. Identifying opportunities for the week or two after a workshop when you can use the ideas will help to reinforce what you have learned.
  • Review your learning – Put time in your diary each week to review your learning and development and plan what else you can do. If you don't book it in, it won't happen.
  • Support – Find someone else who is either learning the same thing or something different and support each other's development. This could be face to face, on the phone or via email.
  • Feedback – Think about whom you would feel comfortable asking for feedback from and whom you will listen to and take on board their ideas.
  • Overcome internal blocks to change – Are your beliefs about yourself, the situation or other people stopping you from changing your behaviour? Are your thoughts positive and supporting you in changing?
  • Learn from relapses, mistakes – when we learned to walk, cycle and drive a car we made mistakes, learned from them and kept on practising. Therefore, why do we think we can learn to be assertive, manage pressure or think creatively and be perfect first time? People often end up blaming the trainer or thinking that they will never master it, rather than recognising that slip ups are just part of the learning process. Learn from it and move on to apply your new learning.
  • Reminders – I've mentioned setting time aside in your diary to review how your development is going, which is one way of reminding yourself. Other reminders that managers have used include:
    • Using a message on their screen saver to act as a reminder to improve their listening skills each day
    • Setting the alarm on their phone and/or computer to remind them in the morning to sit down and do a to do list, rather than just reacting to work as it occurs through the day
    • Having a Post-It with a word on it to remind them to look up and visualise how they are going to handle the challenges they are facing
    • A postcard of a significant place on their notice board to remind them to take a deep breath and calm down before responding.

What can you use to support you in further developing yourself?

Are there skills that you or your team need to develop further?

  • Communication, assertiveness
  • Team working
  • Time management
  • Stress management
  • Decision making, problem solving skills
  • Creative thinking skills
  • Presentation skills….

….whatever skills training you are interested in call Melanie on 01865 377334 or email by clicking here to arrange a time to speak in confidence. For more information about Grovelands visit our website by clicking here.

Feel free to pass this issue of ‘Inspire' onto others – if you have been forwarded this issue and would like to receive your own copy each month, click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Positive news to pass on

Wonderful young people – young people get such a bad press nowadays that it is easy to think they are all obsessed with celebrity or themselves, or delinquent. Even though I don't have children myself, I am fortunate to come into contact with a lot of young people through both my voluntary work in schools and now doing some paid work with students.

On a new workshop that I am running for sixth formers on Developing Students' Confidence I met a wonderful group of students, all very different personalities who were a delight to work with. During a warm up exercise where they said what their favourite thing was or their pet hate, I was surprised how their pet hates were far more serious that when I do this exercise with adults. They said they hated bullying, prejudice, people blaming the current economic problems on minorities, etc.

We need to remember that the press only publishes bad news about young people and rarely publishes stories about how great they are.

Wonderful schools and teachers - And the same is true of schools and teachers. Through my voluntary and paid work with schools, I've seen them trying to meet targets and jump through hoops while attempting to give students a varied and rich learning environment. Having run some programmes for a number of years I have seen the improvement in students' confidence, team working and presentation skills as different cohorts go through the same programme year after year. Schools are attempting to give them varied opportunities within the constraints of the curriculum, timetables and targets.

Do you know of schools that are undertaking interesting programmes or activities? If so, let me know.

Investing in people – the MD of one of my client organisations has decided that if they experience a downturn in sales, they will use their spare capacity to spend time on education and training. They want to tackle issues that they never have time to do when they are busy. Their aim is that when the upturn happens they will be well trained and ready to seize the moment and provide their clients with good quality products and service.

Do you know of organisations that are being creative during these challenging times? If so let me know.


Managing Challenging Interactions workshop - Wednesday 17th June, Kidlington, Oxon

  • Do you find communicating with some people particularly challenging? They might be colleagues, staff, clients or suppliers.
  • Do you want to learn practical ways of helping you to manage these interactions in a constructive way?
  • Do you want to be able to manage your own reactions to these challenging interactions and minimise the impact that it has on you?

This interactive one day workshop provides practical ideas and techniques to help you to manage these interactions. You will receive two personalised coaching emails to follow up the workshop and encourage you to put the ideas into practice. The usual price is: £100 plus VAT but the early booking rate for bookings made before Monday 11th May is £80 plus VAT. Click here to email for details and a booking form.

Past participants have said:

  • ‘It has been an enlightening and useful day. Easy, simple, clear steps to improving my future interactions with people.'
  • ‘Clear, focussed day with opportunities to discuss personal issues.'
  • ‘Helped me to realise where I was going wrong. It put other people's reactions into perspective and made me feel positive about future interactions.'
  • ‘Content: excellent, easily understood, adapted to our needs.'
  • ‘I would recommend this course to my colleagues.'


To order a copy of my book Master Your Inner Critic, Release Your Inner Wisdom, click here to email me for an order form. £8.99 plus £1.00 UK P&P.


For more details about the work that Grovelands Associates carries out in organisations visit the website by clicking here.


‘If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.' Bruce Barton

‘The soul is healed by being with children.' Fyodor Dostoevsky ‘In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.' Ann Landers

‘Level with your child by being honest. Nobody spots a phoney quicker than a child.' Mary MacCracken


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