Category Archives: Soft Skills

Can You Sell Yourself Like Hines Ward?

This year’s Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) winner, Hines Ward, demonstrated just how far you can get, by being good with people.

It wasn’t just his great dancing skills that gave the recent Super Bowl MVP, the Mirror Ball Trophy. Hines did it by selling his confident and relaxed way of being, showing off his absolutely phenomenal people skills.

Hines was the best at selling us on the idea that he is the best. Here is what we can all learn about great people skills from Hines.

  • He was confident. He made errors, but wasn’t thrown off by them. He took on his dances like he was playing a football game to get to the Super Bowl.
  • He showed his ability to lead. He effortlessly lifted his partner high in the air, and took the lead in dances with his partner (though she was the professional dancer).
  • He worked hard to do what it took to win. He took risks, relished in practising long and hard, and persuaded us that he deserved to win.
  • He demonstrated an inviting personality. His smile seemed to brighten up the room, making many of us look forward to seeing him on camera, and the magical friendship he seemed to have with his partner.
  • He was inspiring and caring. He shed joyful tears for his partner, Kym, when she came back from a potentially very serious shoulder injury.
  • He effectively spoke his message. He clearly and eloquently communicated to the world. He expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to compete, the constructive criticism from the judges, the teaching of his partner, winning the trophy,  and the support from fans.

He totally sold me, and it looks like he sold a lot of others. He proved that we can be great at anything, but it is the ability to communicate effectively, to sell others on what we have to offer, that can reap the greatest rewards.

Who am I?

This morning, I reluctantly went to see my business manager. I slowly sauntered into her office, my head lower than usual, expecting a well deserved lecture and a kick in the ass. Afterall, I am being paid by the government to develop a business, which would provide live web-based training on soft skills or people skills. The problem is, I have been focusing on everything but live web-based training.

“What is your pitch,” she asked? I stuttered. My speech slurred as I gave her some feeble response that seemed to focus on web development, with slight mention of live web-based training. She knew she caught me. I felt a little embarrassed as she pointed out what I already knew.

I was losing my focus on the talent and training that makes me unique. I was losing my focus on the inspiration, the interpersonal skills, the positive attitudes, the networking skills; all which would be the center of my on-line interactive training. I was losing me.

The truth is, I was starting to fear the passion within me was not good enough to develop a successful business. I was going where I was before my stroke; a time when I would not, cold not, risk embracing the uniqueness within me. I was being swayed by the voice within me that always seem to be whispering:

“You have to go where the money is being offered, even if you have to bury the diva within. You really aren’t all that. Not now.”

I was beginning to listen again. Even though year after year, that God-less voice is still saying, “not now”.

Those self-defeating thoughts almost killed me and was beginning to affect me now. But today, I had to remind myself a six figure income is not my goal especially if it drains the very life out of me. Our focus has to be on what gives us purpose, what is our unique talent, and why we are still here. It is working fully in this area of giftedness that we find joy, purpose and fulfillment.

I don’t need an image make over. I am who I am, even if that means you see the unfocused and sometimes confused me. I just need to focus on allowing the me, that I am here to be, to dominate my life; the me that passionately lives to impact the world by inspiring people to be the best of themselves (at least most of the time).

I make every effort to walk my talk. Therefore, on June 6, at 7 p.m., I am doing an
interactive session on Social Skills and Networking on the Web. This session will include expert guest speakers. So, if you have a webcam and a headset, and would like to participate, let me know. Please note, I will only take a limited number of people.

My image is not one dimensional. Web development is a small part of my image, which you will see sometimes. To that end, I recommend CrownCore Technologies for good quality, cost-effective web design, content development, logo design and graphic design. The focus here is also on positive image development, and being the best of ourselves on the web.

So, who am I? Who do you think I am?

Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

"Randy" Pausch (October 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008). At his last lecture, he looked his impending death in the face and joyous spoke of accomplishing our dreams.

A friend sent me a  great link to 12 Dozen Places to Educate Yourself for Free. This site has some good resources from a host of top-notch sources, including some of America’s best universities. It is filled with lectures and other post-secondary resources, which is particularly good for the academics among us. Me, I am particularly interested in gut-wrenching resources that push us to work hard to be the best of ourselves; and I found that too.

I came upon iTunes U (university), and found some real gems. In particular, my heart exploded as I watched the last lecture by the late Randy Pausch, several months before he was to die of Pancreatic Cancer. He was funny, he was explosive and he powerfully demonstrated what it meant to really live. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In the lecture, he used his life as an example of what it is to not only go after and achieve our dreams, but also to help others achieve theirs. If you haven’t already seen this impactful video, I invite you to watch it now.

Much gratitude for the memory of Randy Pausch, and the privilege of being touched by his dreams. He demonstrated what it is to live powerfully in the moment – not focusing on yesterday’s pains or tomorrow’s gains. He reminded me that my energy and joy is not an expression of denial of any reality (his cancer or the effects of my stroke). It is instead a celebration of living in my dream, and contributing to the dreams of others. Life is not infinite for any of us. Yet if we live each day, focusing on each moment as an opportunity to add to our gift to the world, then a part of us becomes immortal.

Do You Have a Can Do Attitude?

Are you a ‘can do’ or a ‘can’t do’ type of person? Do you believe you can achieve everything that life places in front of you, and go after it with a vengeance?

Habstritt, a world-renowned Canadian entrepreneur, gives us cause to say yes! He shares some powerful information that reinforces the fact that we can all be “can do” people, if we choose.  I watched his 5 Engaged Entrepreneur videos, and I knew I had found recipes that aid in overcoming struggle and being a successful business person. I was reminded of life and leadership strategies I had all but forgotten, and even learned new ones.

Maybe it’s the stroke that opened me up to his message. Maybe I was drawn to him because of his success, or the fact that he is a commanding presenter. Regardless, I am compelled, without thought of recompense, to share these powerful resources including: an overview of the engaged entrepreneur’s blueprint, right mindset, managing your time and your team, and attracting the money you want.  

For any of these training tools to work, we must believe, with confidence, that we can be successful, and work hard to apply what we are being given. To get the information, yet not to apply it or integrate it in our life, is to accept that we will not achieve the success that is ours to have.

A “can do” attitude saved my life. After being in the hospital for 5 months, following the stroke, I was told it was time to go home. “My can’t do mind” feared that I had to leave my protected environment and re-enter a world where I believed I would be seen as a cripple. I heard no encouragement, no hope from the doctors and therapist, that I would regain the ability to walk with some degree of strength or ever work again. I made up that I would be reduced to nothing, by the sorrowful, pitiful, eyes of the outside world. In my mind’s eye, I had lost my power to be independent, to move at will, to achieve my dreams.  I went home and cried for a week.

Then, God must have knocked some sense into my head, because I got that I can do. I declared then that I will heal again and I will work again. At that moment, I believed that I could do anything I set my mind to. I knew I could achieve any dream that God has placed in my heart.

I have since undergone significant healing. Furthermore, despite my doctor’s assessment of my permanent disability and inability to work, I am back to work with a renewed and wonderful vengeance. Will I always get things right? Absolutely not! Will I keep going as long as I have breath? Absolutely! Even with the inevitable hiccups, I know I can do.

Can do people believe they can achieve what they want, work hard to get it, and grab hold of helpful resources, which are there to help us go where they want to go. How are you showing the universe you can do?

When Working Hard Isn’t Enough

Before I had the stroke, I believed that I achieved professional success and physical health because I worked hard. I prided myself on putting exceptional effort into watching what I eat, exercising to keep fit, updating my knowledge, and meeting the needs of the employees or clients I served. Whenever something bad happened, I knew what to do. I would work hard to make it a temporary setback. Then came the stroke, and it became clear that working hard wasn’t enough.

My brain accident was a miraculous eye opener. It showed me that my success in life was not all about me working hard. I was forced to be still, quieten my racing mind, accept what other people are offering (not necessarily what I am working hard for), and understand who people are. I have had to really learn how to listen to others, in order to truly understand them. As a result, I now have access to more minds, more connections, more interdependence than ever before.

One of the first steps I had to take, to better connect with others, was to focus on eliminating the things which prevented me from hearing and knowing others. What really helped was categorization of the 12 roadblocks that inhibit communications, outlined by Bolton in his book, People Skills.   

The characteristics listed under “Judging, Sending Solutions and Avoiding Other’s Concerns” kept me from connecting with or really listening to others. Focusing only on the good I thought I was doing, I would never have thought that actions, intended to be harmless or even loving, could be taken in a negative way. Therefore it is important to study all the 12 roadblocks, as seen in the post on Communication Spoilers,  and see how they can unintentionally prevent all of us from connecting with valuable clients, colleagues or the special people in our lives.

The intention of this post is to suggest that perhaps even more than working hard for ourselves, success comes from understanding, connecting with, and developing a true relationship with others. As such, we have to move away from what we think we know, away from our own perceptions, which are often the source of our roadblocks.

Once we are able to avoid the roadblocks, how does it help us to listen? What are some strategies for active and effective listening? What strategies have worked for you? In the next post on this topic of People Skills, I will share some strategies suggested by Robert Bolton, and based on my own professional experience.

Copyright © 2011 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Hitting Hard with Soft Skills

As a Human Resource Development professional, who have been involved in numerous hirings, I will say what I have said many times before. Our soft skills or people skills are often the key to getting the job, the client or the support we want. Usually, a lot of people have technical skills, but do they have interpersonal finesse, such as powerful listening, assertiveness, conflict resolution and problem solving; skills that will have employers, clients and colleague stick to them like bees to honey? Most people don’t have it and that may include you. More times than I would like to admit, it certainly includes me.

I have used my interpersonal communication skills to get great positions and clients. When I was being hired for my previous job, I remember the Vice President commenting on what she perceived as my calming nature. Great! But there are also certain roadblocks that can derails these soft skills; these roadblocks at times certainly undermined my calming nature. Robert Bolton outlined one such roadblock, ‘reassuring’, that I could certainly relate to.

Yes I like to reassure folks, like telling my colleague, who gets a little depressed about business this time of year, that everything will be ok. I was avoiding his concerns. What were his main concerns, I didn’t really ask. I was too busy reassuring.

After going over Robert Bolton’s roadblocks, presented in People Skills, I know now that  my constant reassuring means that I need to take my listening skills up a notch. With this recognition, I progressed on Maslow’s 4 Stages of Learning, from Unconscious Incompetence (you don’t know what you don’t know) to Conscious Incompetence (you know what you don’t know). I believe I am at the level of Conscious Competence with most aspects of my listening skills (I have learned the required skill but it is still a conscious effort to remember and apply them).

We can strive to reach Unconscious Competence (the knowledge and skill is so deeply within us, we don’t have to think for it to show up in our lives). An example of Unconscious competence, for many of us, is riding a bike.

Identifying our roadblock will make us more aware of what it takes to develop great interpersonal skills, that influence and impact people. However, before identifying our roadblocks, it is useful to answer the following question.  When it comes to your interpersonal communication skills (soft skills or people skills), where would you place yourself on Maslow’s 4 Stages of Learning? Choose from the following:

  • Unconscious Incompetence – don’t know what you don’t know
  • Conscious Incompetence – know what you don’t know
  • Conscious Competence – know what you know, but have to work to remember and apply
  • Unconscious Competence – know it all so well, that you are completely unaware of all you know.

Please enter your answer or comments in the comments section below. Visit Wikipedia for further information on Maslow’s 4 Stages of Learning.


Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

People Skills for Success in Today’s Economy

As described by Wikipedia, people skills are “the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language habits, friendliness and optimism that characterizes relationships with other people.”

With the few success profiles that I have posted thus far, it is clear that people skills are critical to success, despite whatever else may be missing in our life. But how does one develop people skills such as optimism, problem solving, relationship building and networking? Employers highly value and measure such skills; skills which have become even more important in the era of technology. For example, if we put in our job application that we have good interpersonal skills, an employer today may measure if we know how to communicate effectively on the internet.

With the internet included, it’s a different ball game, and many of us will likely strike out. I personally don’t like striking out, and do all I can to help myself and others get a home run. Given that people learn best when learning is in a multi-media format, I am developing a series of people skills courses to be launched on this blog by next Monday.

To enable me to make this change, there will be a short interruption in posts. Other than a new success profile to be posted by Friday, no additional post will be made until Monday. During this time, further changes will be made to the blog to strengthen its focus. Though I love the topic of healthy bodies, its inclusion in this blog makes the focus too broad. Therefore it will be discontinued.

Look out next Monday for the first module of the course “People Skills for Success in Today’s Economy”.

If you think hard skills are the key to success – think again

The other day I was speaking to a colleague from my Stroke Survivors group. I mentioned that I was developing a web-based business in basic compter and soft skills training. I noted that I am focusing on soft skills or people skills, since these are generally the most important aspect of getting and keeping a job. He said he didn’t need any training. He is a highly skilled computer programming professional. However, he is having problems getting a job becauseof his Aphasia, which blurs and slows down his speech; and he believes employers perceive him to be less capable as a result.

Could brushing up on people skills such as confidence building, relationship building, and communications help my colleague? I think so. He can prove he is brilliant at his trade. Now, perhaps he should work on proving that despite his disability, he is brilliant with people.

I learned how important this was years ago,when I worked as a senior training officer in Ottawa. One of my responsibilities was hiring. On one particular occasion, a colleague and I were conducting an  interview for 2 new training officers. After going through a whole bunch of candidates, we settled on 2 people, a young man in his 20’s and a lady in her 30’s. The young man was barely out of school, and had less than one year experience in training. But he won us over with his personality. He listened with interest, he was great at problem solving, he was excellent at engaging us in dialogue, and he had a keen interest in learning. The lady had more experience than I had. She passed every technical test we gave her. Yet, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I didn’t want to hire her. She was not at all engaging and did not seem to offer more than her technical abilities. Not having any concrete information to put my finger on, I allowed myself to be over-ruled, and she was hired.

The young man became a flourishing part of our team for several years. The lady barely lasted a month. she was brilliant but her personality stunk. She was horrible at:

  • interpersonal communication
  • engaging in dialogue with her colleague and seminar participants
  • building relationships with others in the workplace
  • dealing with conflict (if things went wrong, she went crazy)

As is the Canadian way, everyone was nice to her, but no one seemed to enjoy being around her. If I knew then what I know now, I would advise her to get some training in conflict management and relationship building, or just work on these people skills in some way.

To my colleague, I say, yes employers discriminate against the disabled. You can fight this or you can help change it. If you really want to be hired, plan on blowing employers away with your people skills. You don’t have to attend classroom training, or live web-based training, such as the ones I will be offering. There are plenty of other options. The one I would suggest for now is BNET, discussed on the Top Talent page. Sign up and access their library. Such a move could change your life.

Stop Stopping yourself – Get into Action

 I was talking to a friend the other day, and she complained for the millionth time about her need to get a better paying, less-demanding job. She said her greatest passion was to develop her own business. I asked her, what have you done about it? She had more excuses than Tiger Woods had indiscretions.

 Many of us can’t seem to get into the action needed to achieve our desires. We claim we are praying to God, waiting for him to perform some miracle and take us out of our misery. I don’t think God works that way. He didn’t work that way for me. As per the popular saying ‘God helps those who help themselves’, we must learn to do for ourselves. Once we get into action, the universe moves with us, and make something happen.

 When I was hospitalized, I was not given much hope that I would be able to survive without a wheelchair or be able to work again. To me, that didn’t seem what the universe wanted for me. I know that God can make things happen if we believe. I therefore choose to get past the sometimes discouraging thoughts in my mind, and commit myself to doing whatever I could to improve my mobility and my health. With determination, I made myself walk, and keep-walking, with my quad-cane. With each passing month, I learned to walk a little better and a little further. Now I have accomplished my dream of picking my little girl up from school once again, with just the help of a regular cane.  And I won’t stop there. I wrote a proposal for starting my own business. I did not meet some of the qualifications, yet miraculously, it was accepted and I am at work once again. I got into action, and miracles came.

 Whether it is getting a new job, starting our own business or losing weight, we have got to do something to show commitment, sincerity, and passion. God can make us lift 100 pounds, when we normally can only lift 1 pound. But we have got to lift something. And we have got to lift consistently, knowing God is working with us, until we see results. It is all about producing divine energy for what we want.

My recommendation to my friend and all those who keep stopping themselves through inaction, check out the resource profiled each week on Choose To Be More’s Top Talent page, or another resource focused on your development. Just do something at least 5 days a week towards finding the information, knowledge and motivation needed to get in action. Make yourself a top talent, who can be counted on to achieve your goals with excellence. Do the work!

Building A Successful Business

Yesterday we had Thanksgiving dinner at my home. I spent a good part of the evening in an interesting conversation with my cousin’s husband, George. He is a brilliant computer programmer.

A few years ago George got a big buyout from a top corporation. Finally, in his early fifties, he didn’t have to work for anyone. He felt he was finally able to live the life he wanted.

He had a great idea for an e-commerce business. With his programming expertise, he started to build his e-commerce website. He tried to negotiate a deal with a website host, who had the large server capacity he needed. However, the potential host thought the idea was so good, he asked for a large percentage of the business. George was so put off by this request, he stopped building his site. I listened to what seemed like a million and one reasons why he has not completed and pursued his business idea.

It was fascinating and frustrating to listen to George. He often used the statement “let me bore you a little,” almost apologizing as he went into his fervent discourse about his business idea. He said “it would have worked.” Interestingly, he never said “it will work”.  I pictured him sitting under a tree reminiscing about the brilliance of what he sees, and why this would have been his most lucrative accomplishments.

I kept trying to bring him into the present, showing that all that he sees is not somewhere back there. It is still here. I had to say this a few times. He got it. However, trying to keep him in the present seemed almost like trying to out-talk a politician.

In my sweet chastising way, I finally said to him “the only thing that bores me, is when people talk endlessly about great ideas and never act on them.” He got the message.

The conversation seemed to leave George in an excited mood, ready to act on his idea. He made a commitment to complete his web-commerce site by the end of the month. The date doesn’t matter much to me. What is most important is that he continues to be excited and makes serious progress towards his business launch.

We (and I say we because this is not just about George) must be aware that most small businesses fail. I believe the main reason is our inability to believe in our success, and vigilantly move forward on every aspect of our business (planning, marketing, managing, laws, staff, etc.). Therefore, this week I am going to focus on highlighting reputable sites, which promote small business success.

For George, me, and others like us who envision entry into the internet business, I recommend perusing the resources at the Industry Canada’s web page ebiz.enable. The site covers various subjects, such as competitive intelligence, e-payments and selling on-line, and sales and marketing. A site like this is a definite must, if we are really serious about being all we can be in the internet market place.

It is one thing to say that we are not George. It is another thing to show that we are not George.

Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.