Assessing the ROIS

You’re probably guessing that this post is about ROI’s (Return on Investment), but you’re wrong. It’s about a concept that came to me during a recent leadership keynote I delivered. I was talking about one of my favorite topics – the ways that soft skills (e.g. people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, etc.) are actually impact skills. Skills like these will always have the most significant impact on the team and the organization in terms of engagement and execution. The problem is that we’ve adopted the concept that these skills are “soft,” and therefore they’re the first item to be cut from the budget and the last to be included in the new budget (especially when compared with the so-called hard skills). Enter the ROIS – Return on Impact Skills.

While many organizations and leaders believe that hard skills and hard skills training have a more significant and immediate return on investment, the reality is that impact skills (aka soft skills) are the skills that offer an exponential return on investment and the return is often (if not always) more immediate than the return on hard skills training.

If you provide hard skills training for your team members, they might have an immediate improvement in their skills, but the more likely scenario is that they’ll go through the training, practice what they’ve learned and improve their performance over a period of time. While the hard skills might make them more productive in some way (a form of leverage), it’s highly unlikely that any hard skills training will create a multiplier effect in terms of the return on investment. Thus, the return on hard skills is generally not immediate and is rarely much better than a 1:1 return on the investment.

In contrast, when your team members practice their impact skills, there is an immediate and positive impact. Think about a leader who begins to give his team members consistent and effective feedback, both positive and negative. The leader gets more of what he or she wants (almost immediately) and the team members immediately get more of what they need to be more productive members of the team. The same applies to other impact skills such as listening, asking questions, emotional intelligence, emotional awareness, etc. They have immediate impact on not only the team member that’s involved with the new impact skills, but the entire team. And the return on these impact skills is always exponential – there is not one-to-one return when your team members communicate better, listen better, understand better, engage more, are clearer with expectations and commitments, are more accountable, etc.

Like many concepts that are prevalent in business and leadership today, the idea that soft skills are less important is based upon false or misguided understanding and perceptions. When you look more closely under the hood of core leadership elements, it’s easy to see that an investment in impact skills (formerly known as soft skills) will get your team and your organization a more immediate and exponential return on your investment. If you want to accelerate your leadership, your team and your organization, focus instead on the Return on Impact Skills (ROIS).

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