Increased Focus on ‘Soft Skills’ at Top MBA Programs

Many top MBA programs are increasing their focus on ‘soft skills.’  Why?

These are critical skills for all professional.  Whether you currently manage a team of 2, 20 or 200 people, skills such as speaking respectfully to subordinates, teamwork, and managing your own stress are all very important and will have a major impact on your success as a manager and a leader.

Traditionally, MBA programs have focused on the technical or ‘hard skills’ such as economics, finance and accounting.  There are a number of reasons for this including the fact that grading students in these subjects is more straightforward and lack of respect for ‘soft skills’ courses on the part of students and employers.  Also, many of the jobs that are filled by new MBAs do require these technical skills, so it becomes a Catch-22.  How far one advances beyond that first job will be largely determined by the ‘soft skills’ or ‘people skills.’

There is good news here for professionals without a business school background. . . many of the interpersonal skills needed to be a successful business manager and a leader of people are not learned in the classroom.

Read the full WSJ.com article by Mellissa Korn and Joe Light.

Thank You Notes Increase Your Chance of Success

This is from a national survey of more than 2,800 U.S. employers, conducted by CareerBuilder.

  • More than one-in-five (22 percent) hiring managers say they are less likely to hire a candidate if they don’t send a thank-you note after an interview;
  • 86 percent say it shows a lack of follow-through;
  • 56 percent say it sends the message that they aren’t really serious about the opportunity;
  • 89 percent of hiring managers say it is OK to send a thank-you note in the form of an e-mail, with half saying it is actually the way they prefer to receive them;
  • IT hiring managers are the most eager to receive e-mail, rather than written thank you notes;
  • The majority of those in the financial services like hand-written and USPS delivered notes better, but say that e-mail is still acceptable.

Thank you notes are not just for interviews.  Invest 5 minutes to stand out from the crowd after meeting a customer, prospect, mentor or business partner.  If speed is critical (i.e., timing is an issue) such as an interview or a competitive sales situation, send an email and a hand written note.  If speed is not critical, always opt for the hand written note.

So what should be included in a thank you note? . . .  Read the full CareerBuilder post here.

Empathy Communicates Trust

When I first started reading Peter Bregman’s blog post on the Harvard Business Review, I appreciated the advice he offered as the father of a 3 year old. I tucked this away in the mental file for the times my son has a similar experience.

As the article continued, I wasn’t sure how Bregman would turn this anecdote about a nine-year old girl who was disqualified from her swim meet into a business lesson which would be applicable to the workplace.  And in two simple sentences he does it:

“Empathy communicates trust. And people perform best when they feel trusted.”

It is that simple.  Leadership is about being authentic and there is nothing more authentic than practicing empathy with others.