Don't Let Shaming Stunt Your Soft Skills
Everyone has a collection of overused words that they feel are contributing to the downfall of Western Civilization. One that bothers me to no end is shaming, because it’s typically used to deflect criticism.
We all want to raise children who are proud of who they are and don’t feel limited or insecure because they aren’t as talented, attractive, wealthy or popular as their peers. But at some point, we have to acknowledge that everyone has room for improvement. Rather than spoon feed daily aspirations and deflect criticism, hard work and achievement are required to develop pride and self-confidence.
That’s why so many millennials lack professionalism. They are unable to self-evaluate because they are inundated with the message that assessing one’s thoughts, words and actions against meaningful standards is shaming.
Bruce Tulgan addresses this issue in my new favorite management book, Bridging the Self-Skills Gap. Although his book is geared toward those who manage millennials, particularly Generation Z, the shaming trend has spread well beyond the yung’uns, so these lessons can improve the culture of any workplace.
If you always like what you see in the mirror, and reject any notion of self-improvement as shaming, you’re a narcissist. That line of thinking stunts learning and growth.
Regular, productive, honest self-evaluation against clear standards is a fundamental building block for all self-management skills, which means it’s also fundamental for learning all soft and hard skills. Tulgan wisely began soft skills training with self-evaluation and reinforced the development of that skill throughout his marvelous book.
Where can a manager begin? Tulgan suggested several good, old-fashioned assessment tools like the Myers-Briggs test. Whether you direct your employees to complete several tests at once or spread them out over time so they can soak up the results, multiple assessments will provide them with invaluable insight into what makes them different.
Generation Z already knows they’re special – we’ve been telling them that since day one – but we parents have done a poor job of explaining what makes them special. When everyone gets a trophy, nobody excels at anything. It creates a false sense of pride that can be easily crushed when faced with actual head-to-head competition.
Step two is to teach millennials how to measure their thoughts and actions within their control against their own potential for performance. Tulgan detailed six lesson plans that teach the basics of self-evaluation and how to specifically evaluate skills, motivation, productivity, quality, behavior and key soft skills: Professionalism, critical thinking and followership.
Critical thinking is a soft skill that is in high demand in the field of journalism. Reporters must access valuable, accurate and often hard-to-get information. Increasingly, thanks to the proliferation of information readily available on the Internet, critical thinking skills are rusting in reporters of all ages.
There has been a radical change in the prevailing mindset about how much information a person needs to keep inside his or her head versus what is accessible through the fingertips, Tulgan wrote. We’re all guilty of this. Who memorizes phone numbers anymore? The ability to find multiple competing answers is valuable, but at the same time, it’s at the root of the critical thinking skills gap.
Critical thinkers also keep an open mind. They don’t leap to conclusions, nor do they readily accept what they are told. An open mind and the ability to suspend judgement are two of the most important skills required of a reporter – bias is deadly in our profession. When interviewing a source, the best reporters act like they don’t know anything so they can learn everything. Likewise, credit union executives and managers must keep an open mind about their select employee groups and individual members. Assumptions can kill a credit union, especially in risk management. After all, highly-rated, mortgage-backed securities and taxi medallion loans were once assumed to be as good as gold.
The Internet has polluted research efforts with poorly sourced information. Sometimes it’s flat-out inaccurate. Tulgan devoted a lesson plan to research that we’ll be using here at CU Times. Effective research requires one to ask the right questions, find good sources, distinguish fact from opinion and compare facts to determine what is true.
Teaching these skills to employees isn’t impossible, but it does take time and resources. Those resources will be worth the investment when your credit union transforms into an efficient shop with a true sales and service culture, where everyone takes pride in their work.