How can I help participants brainstorm strategies for change plans that are based on soft skills?
Candace Bertotti is a Master Trainer.
As an Influencer trainer, I struggle to help participants with their change plans when they base them on soft skills such as being too direct in communication with their family members or coming across as intimidating to team members. I especially have a hard time coming up with strategies for sources 2, 5, and 6. I’d appreciate some help!
Thanks for the great question! Coming up with strategies for all the sources—particularly for change plans based on soft skills—can take some creativity. Let’s look at each of the sources you listed:
Source 2: Personal Ability
Engage in Deliberate Practice. Since soft skills are still skills, encourage participants to engage in a considerable amount of deliberate practice—using realistic and challenging situations to build confidence that they can handle even the toughest situations. Even with family or team situations, you can practice scripts for when you are triggered; bounce language off a trusted friend or coach; and test alternative words, body language, and actions to see if you get a different response and result.
Participants could also practice mastering their stories—reminding themselves that people do things for more than one reason—and transform their negative emotions (that might lead them to be too direct or intimidating) into curiosity and dialogue.
Learn New Skills with Training. Participants may want to consider attending Crucial Conversations or Crucial Confrontations training, where they can learn and apply new skills for speaking up respectfully to get better results.
Increase Personal Capacity. Don’t forget that it’s hard to use most any skill when we aren’t first taking care of ourselves. For example, when you get hungry or don’t have enough sleep you’re likely to be less able to stay cool in tough situations and more likely to snap or come across as intimidating. A new strategy could be “before my in-laws come over, get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast.”
Source 5: Structural Motivation
Create a Motivating Plan or Game. Challenge participants to develop communication improvement goals—perhaps a seven-day or thirty-day plan. Then they can make this plan into a game or an experiment.
Use Incentives and Loss Aversion. Have the participants name what incentives motivate them and what punishments they want to avoid, and then have them incorporate those into their change plans. Loss aversion works well here—if they don’t meet their goals, they have to donate money to a rival university or sports team.
Source 6: Structural Ability
Use Cues. Have participants consider ways to remind themselves of the behavior they want to enact—a reminder on a post-it note on the bathroom mirror, a summary of the skill they want to employ on a screen saver, a daily reminder on their phone, etc.
Survey the Environment. Encourage participants to take inventory of their environment and determine where they are having trouble. Does the problem come up when they are talking on the phone while driving, in e-mail, or over text? Does it happen when they are multi-tasking, or after they feel icky and crabby from eating unhealthy food just because it was around? Is it after walking into their home greeted by dirty dishes and laundry they didn’t expect, or walking into an office with an overflowing inbox and a new crisis they could have avoided if they’d seen e-mail #214?
Encourage participants to find ways to change their environment to set them up for success. Perhaps they need to limit phone communication and have more face-to-face dialogue. Is their office an inviting space for dialogue—do they have an extra chair for someone to sit and talk? Are healthy snacks (instead of caffeine and sugar) nearby that may help them approach communication challenges with a clear head? Many, many possibilities in this area!
Gather Data and Use Tools. Encourage participants to gather data to increase self-awareness. Participants could create a survey and send it to friends, family, and colleagues. Some examples of simple survey questions are, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how respectful am I when I communicate?” and “On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do I listen to other points of view?” Participants could then use this data to help inform their progress and adapt their change plans.
Encourage participants to think of other tools they might need to set themselves up for success—the Crucial Confrontations audio book to listen to while driving, a smartphone that allows for video calls if a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, etc.