“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price we all have to pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” – Vince Lombardi
Imagine that you group together the greatest baseball players of all time - Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Mike Trout.
Now imagine that they all speak different languages and have no idea what the others are saying.
As a communication coach my clients ask me to help with situations like this all the time.
You may be the Babe Ruth of software development , but if you can’t connect with the VP of Sales (the Mike Trout of soft skills), you’re not going to climb very far up the corporate ladder.
Communication skills don’t come naturally to many of my clients.
And while the reasons for that may vary, they all figured out the hard way that to advance, they’d have to study up and invest in their ability to communicate effectively with their bosses, their coworkers, and their clients.
The good news is you don’t have to do it alone.
Using the guidance of a communication coach can help you achieve the success you want to see in your career more quickly and effectively than trying to level up on your own.
1. You Can Walk The Walk - But Can You Talk The Talk?
You’ve got the skills and everyone knows it - congrats on being awesome!
Being technically skilled is a highly prized and marketable skill set that looks fantastic on your resume.
But without the soft skills to sell yourself, it’s going to be difficult to land that promotion or dream job.
Technical skills can only get you so far. Soft skills will get you where you want to be.
Another way to think about it: How far would Lieutenant Commander Data have been able to get without Captain Picard (and vice versa, I would point out!)?
Many of my private coaching clients are technically skilled. But whether they were too busy perfecting those skills or their personality led them to the more technical side naturally - somewhere along the way they neglected to invest in learning soft skills.
And that’s exactly what those soft skills are - an investment in your future. Even the most technical jobs require you to interact with people. You will always have a boss, coworkers, and customers.
Even if you work from home or work as an independent contractor someone is paying you (i.e. a client) - and it’s about 99.9% likely that you’ll have to talk to your clients at some point or another.
And the higher you climb as you advance in your career, the LESS important technical skills become, and the MORE important communication skills become.
This is frustrating for a lot of my clients because they built their work persona and reputation around being a subject matter expert.
But I cannot overstate how important those soft skills are in the corporate world.
Look at this haunting screenshot from Reddit - this person was actually demoted because he lacked those softer skills:
I’m a firm believer that you should give yourself every advantage in your career and life.
If life is a poker game, adding the ability to connect with others, persuade people of ideas, and make effective small talk helps “stack the deck” in your favor.
2. A Communication Coach Can Help Eliminate Social Blind Spots That Are Limiting Your Career
The biggest problem with blind spots is that you can’t see them. You may be rolling your eyes right now or thinking, “Duh!” But stick with me.
How can you fix something if you don’t know it’s a problem?
The answer is - you can’t!
So one thing that I work extensively with my clients on is pinpointing their major professional blindspots.
Maybe you have trouble with eye contact or you use a lot of filler words like “um” or “like.”
Maybe you fidget or talk too fast when you’re nervous.
No matter what you need to work on, it can be difficult to hear from a third party - especially when you didn’t realize you were doing it in the first place.
But remember, the ONLY reason for this exercise is so you can learn to recognize and master your blindspots.
Once you understand what your weak spots are, you can attack them - and keep them from holding back your career’s upward trajectory.
Side-note: A good coach will NEVER make you feel self-conscious about your communication skills blind spots (we ALL have them - including me).
A great coach will ask questions and offer tools that will help you achieve success.
3. A (Good) Communication Coach Will Ask Meaningful Questions
One of the most powerful things I can do as a soft skills coach is to ask you questions. This may seem a little counterintuitive. After all, why would you pay for questions? You want answers, dammit!
But (to risk quoting every movie of all time) - the answers were in you all along.
I could give you exercises (and I definitely will when it’s effective), but they may not be the ones that are going to be most effective for you.
I want to make sure that I’m equipping you with the right tools for the job.
I wouldn’t throw a computer at you and say “build me a program.” I’d take requirements and ask you what language you’re proficient in and whether you specialize in front or back end development.
Giving you a never-ending stream of tactics might feel productive, but it’s not what really moves the needle for people. (Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that many novice coaches make - to the detriment of their clients’ progress.)
Most of my clients are problem solvers by nature, so digging for a solution (with the right guidance from me) ends up being extremely helpful.
All that being said, I will give you tactics if I can see you’re truly stuck.
My ultimate goal as your communication coach is to help you move forward faster.
4. A Communication Coach Will Help You Become More Empathetic
I’m going to tell you a secret.
It’s a big one, so lean in close.
This is the ultimate, number one secret to being great with people.
Are you ready?
People have feelings, and you must communicate with those feelings.
Let me say it again.
People have feelings, and you must communicate with those feelings.
This may sound rudimentary, but it is so, so easy to forget this - and most people do!
We’re all so worried about ourselves and our own feelings that we completely forget that other people are just as wrapped up in their own stuff as we are.
But when you slow down and you remember that other people have feelings - and that those feelings are important to them - you can address those feelings and make them feel good about themselves.
And when you make people feel heard and understood and cared for, they will like you.
Since many of my clients are process-driven and technically skilled, it can be a big switch for them to slow down and consider the situation and how others might feel.
One of the things we’ll work together is how to show empathy and communicate that you can understand other people’s viewpoints.
This will help you build relationships with your coworkers, bosses, and clients.
This is a CRUCIAL step whether you’re trying to get that big promotion, a new job, or you just want to speak up in your next Zoom meeting.
But don’t take my word for it, listen to this case study with on of my coaching clients Alex:
5. A Communication Coach Will Hold You Accountable
If you’ve tried to improve your people skills on your own and not had a lot of success, it's okay! Improving by yourself is HARD!
When you’re building new habits, you’re exercising a new muscle. And at first, it’s new and fun and exciting!
But as the new wears off, and your progress starts to feel slow, you start sliding back into old, comfortable habits.
This is where having a communication coach can help you see better results faster. The most important thing I offer my clients is accountability.
After each call, you’ll have action steps. It may vary depending on the plan we developed together but it will likely look something like this:
If you know that I’ll be expecting to talk about your action steps on our next video call, you’re much more likely to follow through.
So many of my clients have told me that knowing I’ll be checking in with them about their action steps gave them the extra “push” they needed to complete them.
Every week we’ll discuss and track your growth. We’ll learn from any mistakes or major successes and adjust your plan of action accordingly.
Think of it as “leveling up” each session - just like in an RPG. Think of me as your personal “Pathfinder” (heh - sorry, couldn’t help it!).
If you've been thinking about leveling up your soft skills, and you'd like to learn more about my private coaching services click here.
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Over the last 15 years, I’ve learned... (Read More)
• 5 Ways a Communication Coach Can Help You Become a Better Communicator
• The Ultimate Guide To Joining & Enjoying Group Conversations
• How to Never Run Out of Things to Say