What are Business Soft Skills?

It's not how fast you type.

getting along

 

Many years ago, while in a management role, I was involved in navigating a difficult situation that came up between two employees. Large chunks of time were taken up in meetings with the employees and upper management. Many hours of productivity were lost because of this issue that was almost overwhelming at the time.

Unfortunately, scenarios like this are not isolated. Ask any business leader if they’ve had to spend time coaching or even disciplining an employee who didn’t have the best of people skills, or who couldn’t manage their time well, and many will say a resounding “yes.”

When preparing this article, I asked people on my Facebook list to simply “like” the post if they’d experienced lack of productivity on a team because of an employees lack of people or productivity skills. Over 35 people liked the post and a few added comments. That’s 35 different companies adversely affected by lack of “soft skills,” and I’m sure that’s a small number compared to reality.

Business soft skills are the character traits, attitudes and self-management strategies that you carry with you throughout your career, no matter what position you have. They are measured more in terms of relational success and productivity than with tangible metrics.  Soft skills are not about how many words a minute you type, or how fast you can create an Excel spreadsheet with formulas. It’s about how you get along with others, manage your time, and communicate. Soft skills can have a huge impact on the bottom line because productivity is often very affected by how successful (or not) employees and their bosses are in these areas. Training can be  rewarding and sometimes frustrating because these skills are impacted in a big way by a person’s natural personality, emotions, and life experiences.

There are a number of soft skills that are worthwhile to “brush up on” from time to time. These include:

  • Communication
  • Leadership, Coaching, Mentoring
  • Time Management
  • Teamwork/Teambuilding
  • Emotional Intelligence/Personality Styles (the ability to self-govern and also observe and influence working relationships)
  • Customer service
  • Organizing, planning and productivity

I encourage you to invest in your own soft skills on a regular basis by reading good books and resources, and taking classes, whether through formal training such as what I do as a contract trainer through CCT Business Training, Lunch and Learns, or books and online courses.  

(And a word to bosses…more than one student wishes their supervisor would be made to take the same classes they are sent to. Set the example by continuing to learn yourself.)

PS: I’m currently doing a local series of Lunch and Learns for a company of about 25 employees. They hired me to come in every three weeks during the summer to present a topic related to being more organized and more productive. Contact me if you’d like more information on this service, or online options for those outside upstate South Carolina.

 

Guest Post: 7 Ways to Make Your Home Office Work Better for You

For busy professionals who have the option to work from home sometimes, this helpful photo article from Houszz can give you tips to help you make it more effective. I love the ideas about having nature nearby. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by woods, but this encourages me to think about getting the bird feeder pole outside my office window going again.

If you don’t have the privilege/challenge of working from home, you might be able to incorporate some of these ideas at your place of employment.

Which of these 7 tips are something you’d like to do with your workspace?

Com-MIT to your Most Important Thing

Inspired by #winningwell

Like this? Right click to save and share.

Like this? Right click to save and share.

 

 

Being a generalist is my specialty–people hire me to take care of the little things. As a Virtual Assistant and business owner, I have a myriad of little tasks each week to keep up with, for my clients and myself. Although I help overwhelmed professionals excel, I can feel overwhelmed too.

So what’s a busy pro to do?

Take some advice from the exceptional book, Winning Well, by Karin Hurt & David Dye.* Ask yourself,

What’s the Most Important Thing?

On the day I am writing this, I am booked to teach the first of a summer lunch and learn series for a local company. My comMITment to them is the most important thing for today. Yes, I have a list of other things to do, but my mind needs to be primarly focused on serving that group well.

Since that comMITment is not going to take the entire day, there are other important things I can and should plan for.  Things like:  wrapping up details from another speaking assignment. Investing in some VA client work. Taking some time for myself and a current hobby.  Conveniently some of these can take place in the vicinity of that company, and after I’m finished, so it will be an efficient use of the rest of the day.

So for me, MIT can become “multiple important things.”  (I bet you have those days, too.)

However, the concept of the MOST important thing still applies. The other things I mentioned don’t HAVE to be done today. But my comMITment to that company is priority.  Returning to that focus when I start to feel scatterbrained will help me stay centered. So, now it’s time to go review and make sure I have everything ready. (After I make a cup of coffee.)

Your turn: What is your MIT for today?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

*I am privileged to be the Virtual Assistant for Winning Well and am thrilled they are one of my clients. But having just finished the book, I can tell you without bias that it is excellent. Visit my store for this book and more products I recommend.

Happy Summer (Mindset)

A sabbath moment...

CA-American Flag

Today seems like a good day to give you a sabbath moment instead of a blog post. As Memorial Day is here, first I want to express gratefulness for those who have given their lives to protect us and our freedom.

Next, I hope that many of you were able to carve out a few restful moments this weekend away from your tasks, papers, and emails.

Finally, since the summer mindset has begun, I ask you to think about how to make it great. Ways to relax. A book you might commit to finishing. Some clean up of your files or desk. A self-care goal. Think about how you want to feel at the end of the summer and make a plan now to make it happen.

In the meantime, enjoy a photo my son took to inspire you to carve out those moments of relaxation and reflection. That’s an important discipline in learning to overcome overwhelm!

Relax

 

 

How to Write an Effective Out-Of-Office Reply

Use even small communications well

https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithpr/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithpr/

“I am OOTO until (Date) I will return to you as soon as I can.”

I received an automated reply like this from an employee of major, recognizable company. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one.)

It came across to me as clipped. Casual. Non committal. Unprofessional even.

You probably make use of an out of office responder at some point in the year–maybe regularly. Responders are helpful. They can be a great way to leave a positive impression on the writer every time you use them, so take the C+ approach.

Be clear. State that you are out of the office until a certain date. You do NOT have to say why.  Avoid the use of acronymns. (Did any of you wonder what OOTO meant?)

Provide a contact. Give the writer an alternative contact, if appropriate, especially if you’ll be out for an extended period.

Change it up. If you use out-of-office replies regularly, change the wording so it does not become overly familiar to those who write you.


State your committment to respond. Let people know that you will be reviewing your email and that they should receive a reply by ______. (You are not obligated to respond to every email, so a good way to put this is: “I will be reviewing my email again on Friday April 10. Should your email require a response, you can expect to hear from me by Monday April 13. Otherwise, thank you for the information you provided.”)

+Plus: An out of office reply is a great opportunity to be appropriately clever, and leave a pleasant vibe.  A short motivational quote, or a unique way to say “thanks” for their business is appropriate.

Let’s re-write the example above. Instead of

“I am OOTO until (Date) I will return to you as soon as I can.”

How about:

Thanks for writing! I am out of the office speaking at a conference (near the beach–rough life I know)  and will be reviewing my emails again on Friday, April 10. Should your email require a response, you can expect to hear from me no later than Monday, April 13.  In the meantime, XYZ company appreciates your business very much. Thank you for trusting us with it.

Other pointers:

  • If you choose to be clever, make sure you are appropriate to your industry. (A marketing pro may write differently than a lawyer.)
  • If on a vacation, it can paint a positive image of your company by saying, “XYZ company believes in employee wellness, so I’m currently enjoying a vacation.”
  • Turn the out of office reply OFF upon your return (or set the right on/off dates.)

Every bit of communication you do reflects either positively or negatively on you, and your company. Make even the small, routine ones like these, count!

For another resource with some helpful ideas on crafting out of office messages (some that even oppose what I’ve suggested)  click here.

 

Right click to save and share!

Right click to save and share!

Introducing our new logo!

A subtle rebranding

BB HOPE full LOGO plant on Left 1

 

Not long ago, a billboard that had been present at the entrance to our city for as long as I can remember (turns out it was 14 years or so) was changed. I didn’t see it myself because I don’t travel that route frequently. But a local radio personality pointed it out, and I knew right away which billboard she meant. She felt a void when driving past the billboard now–the familiar smiling face of the realtor featured was a sort of joyful greeting in the morning. Fortunately, the realtor plans to bring it back at some point.

Who would think that something like a billboard would make that much difference to commuters?

In a similar fashion that’s what branding is about. We get used to seeing familiar logos and colors to represent organizations we’ve become comfortable having around. But like a room that needs a fresh coat of paint once in a while, a strategic “re-branding” can bring new life to the familiar. (With that in mind, I look forward to seeing the new billboard.)  It’s a risk. After all there have been re-branding disasters. But many are successful in portraying their foundation while being more relevant to where they are going–and growing.

H.O.P.E. Unlimited is going through a bit of rebranding. Back in the latter part of 2014, I felt it was time to narrow the business focus a bit and specialize in virtual assisting. I also had regular opportunities to teach in the business soft skills niche (non-computer skills like team building, leadership, communication, time management, organization, etc. all in professional contexts.) So I subtly changed my motto from Helping Other People Excel to Helping Overwhelmed Professionals Excel.

Finding this direction to be working, I’ve continued on the path to focusing on helping entrereneurs, NPO’s and individual business execs with their everyday tasks, while also teaching or speaking to groups of employees. This meant reframing some of how I was writing blog posts and what resources I am considering writing or developing.

The most recent step was to do a little freshening of HOPE’s logo and brand palette.

Other than the motto change, H.O.P.E. has had the same logo since I started my business back in 2010.

New.logo.without.white.space cropped

I’ve always liked the bright colors, the leaves representing growth, and the fluid feel. I didn’t want to make a major change. Still, I felt some tightening was in order, and thanks to my graphic design co-hort, Amy of AT Your Design,  (who also serves on HOPE’s team) we made some subtle modifications and are happy to introduce them. (See the new version at the top of the post.)

Here are some points about the re-brand:

  • The change is intentionally subtle and is more of an update than a complete re-do
  • Many of the meanings mentioned below came to mind after the logo was re-done…it was amazing how reflecting on the changes opened my eyes to so many things I want HOPE to portray…it happened very organically and naturally!
  • We maintained some consistency with the past, so that materials branded with the “old” logo are not dramatically different than the new one and there isn’t a need to go back and change everything on which the former logo appears. I see this new logo as one cooperative with the other.
  • We changed the four leaf cluster to something more modern and minimalistic. The potted plant represents:
    • A connection with many professionals who have a plant on their desk or in their office
    • A contained (organized) foundation which acts as roots.  I want to give clients a reliable foundation, and center for their admin work and professional growth
    • Three areas of service: virtual assisting, teaching/speaking, and writing
    • Upward growth: helping others excel and achieve their vision
    • Minimalism: aiming for simple, logical systems that foster results
  • We used three types of fonts:
    • Blocked font represents strong support and a clean, efficient, stable professionalism
    • Script font portrays handwriting, elegance, and friendliness
    • URL font represents creative, standout and solid resources with space to reflect and refresh
  • We maintained most of the color palette used in the past although we have added purple and replaced the black with brown, knowing that black or white can be used when appropriate as classic colors. Each color has meaning that ties in with characteristics I want to be vital parts of what we offer clients and students:
    • Brown – down to earth, stable, having substance
    • Green – growing, natural, refreshing
    • Blue – visionary, dependable, peaceful, committed/loyal
    • Orange – bright, fun, friendly, energetic
    • Purple – elegant, excellent, spiritual/faith centered

All in all, we HOPE all the elements that went into the rebrand achieve the goal of presenting HOPE Unlimited as a vital member of your business team and/or your personal development plan.

BB-HOPE-plant-LOGO

2016 Reader Survey Results

Thanks for the feedback!

Blog SurveyThank you to all that participated in the reader survey in the month of April. The feedback was helpful and I thought I’d share the results and my corresponding conclusions here, as a transition back into the regular educational blogging that will pick up again next Monday.

The following statistics are based on the feedback of the respondents and hopefully may also reflect the feelings of the general readership. I’m also including what I’m considering, based on the feedback and my schedule and thoughts.

How may times a month do you read the blog?

Nearly 60% read the blog posts everytime they come out with 20% reading it at least three times a month. Given that about 80% read it so consistently, I’m planning to continue blogging regularly.

What frequency of content is ideal for you?

While close to 60% like a weekly post, a significant number (33%) would welcome twice a month.  One mentioned that it depends on their workload at the time, which is understandable. This is interesting, and I am thinking that I might take one Monday a month to send something very simple or visual, particularly if it is the week the 5 on the 15th comes out.  I also conclude from this that there is no need to add something separate on a different day of the week, which I had originally tried as an experiment.

Rank the types of content in order of favorite type.

Here’s the order:

  • Blog Posts
  • Quick tips
  • 5 on 15th
  • Hope & Henry
  • Video

Hope & Henry and videos only took about 10% of the votes. This helps me see that this type of content is much less preferred than regular posts and tips. Thus, I’ve decided to table Hope & Henry. I still plan to do a video here and there, but may concentrate that type of thing into other resources like courses.

Do you read/interact with my material on social media?

A little over half of respondents admitted to “not much” interacting on social media. The other almost half do occasionally or even frequently. So it’s about 50/50 whether social media activity is that valuable to my business. I’ve got an active presence on several channels, and since nearly half of people do use it, I will continue to be active. I will be, however, giving thought to reducing the level of activity.  One thing I believe I will do is to put some blog posts directly onto Linked In more often, given the business audience there.

If someone asked what HOPE Unlimited is or what Beth Beutler does, what would you say?

This had interesting responses, includes “help keep us sane” and giving practical tips. The seasoning of faith seemed well appreciated. Notable is that only a few specifically mentioned my services as a Virtual Assistant. Since HOPE Unlimited has moved toward VA and Business Soft Skill education as our main focus, I am feeling the need to be more intentional in helping readers understand what we do to help overwhelmed professionals excel. However, with my faith being very important to me, I believe there will still be a noticeable flavoring of it in my resources and services.

Bonus: How does reading this blog affect your work and your overall life?

Most, if not all, respondents, decided to answer this bonus question, which I greatly appreciate. Some quotes:

 

Reading the blog helps me to slow down and focus on things that matter.

I appreciate the honesty and personal touch.

It is a weekly break to learn new things.

I feel supported in my efforts to be organized and effective in my business.

Gets my mind to think about my work in a more organized manner so I can do it and still be calm enough to look for Jesus along the way and be a blessing to others, too.

Perhaps the most touching feedback of all came from a professional who experienced a major loss in recent years, and was slowly gaining her passion for work again, finding organization to be her biggest issue. She thanked me for doing this and “caring about us.”

That brought tears to my eyes. This is the reason we work folks…not just to make a living, but to impact lives.

Thanks for letting me into your worlds.

 

I’m back…sort of

snorklineHello readers,

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was taking a blogging break during the month of April.

April has been a full month. I turned 50, and we took a birthday cruise, surprised by dear friends that showed up on the cruise itself! I spoke for an Administrative Professionals luncheon, and got booked for a few more training classes.

Honestly, I found it pretty challenging to “re-enter” the routine after vacation, and still don’t feel that I’ve quite fallen into a rhythm yet.  It’s great that business is on a positive trajectory, and it’s requiring wisdom to balance my responsibilities.  The wall of pollen we’ve returned to hasn’t been the most agreeable. (Ah the blessing of sea air!) I realized that April was coming to an end and I didn’t feel like I’d completely rested as I’d hoped.

So while the blog is technically back, I’m extending another week or two to myself before publishing regular educational content again.

I’ll pick up next Monday with a summary of the reader survey results, and the weekly post should resume after that!

In the meantime, thank you to those who took the survey, and if you didn’t get a chance, it’s still open for a few more days.

Blessings,

Beth

Friendly Reminder: 2016 Reader Survey

Let your voice be heard! Please take the survey! Click here if you do not see it on this post or in the email.

Create your own user feedback survey

Create your own user feedback survey CA-forget remember