I wish I knew…how to prioritise the topics which matter most for soft skills performance

At the Experience Accelerator, we have been working hard to deliver a new way of delivering more specific facts and analytics in the areas of “soft skills”.

In this second of our three part series, we showcase one way of how we can answer “I wish I knew…how to prioritise the topics which matter most for soft skills performance” with a specific case example.

Time is at a Premium
When I think about this topic, I’m reminded by a regular conversation I have with one of my largest Middle Eastern clients. And I bet I’m not alone in having this conversation. There is always great pressure to optimise the time our front line leaders spend in the classroom, particularly when “soft skills” development is concerned. And this challenge of holding the right amount of tension between the amount of formal instruction vs on the job learning is always tricky.

And yet the tension is real and requires prioritisation. How to know where what topics we should prioritise during our scare formal teaching hours? Or viewed another way, which parts of “Change Leadership” or “Managing Difficult Conversations” seem to matter most in terms of overall performance in these areas?

Correlation not Causality
As we start to gather large data sets of learners who have gone through several of our programs, we can use statistical techniques to analyse where there are positive correlations between sub-skills or behaviours and overall performance. To be clear, it’s not causality. It’s not: “If you do this sub-behaviour well, you will get a good score”. But rather, “managers who perform well on this sub-behaviour more often than not (statistically speaking) also have an overall good performance.”

So let’s get to an example. One of our programs is called Managing Difficult Conversations. We identify and teach a set of 10 sub-skills/behaviours that go into Managing a Difficult Conversation well. And yet, three of these sub-skills/behaviours have much higher positive correlations with the learner’s overall performance score (at high confidence levels) than the rest.

Behaviours that matter when leading Difficult Conversations
Unsurprisingly the first relates to the learner’s performance on sticking to the overall framework for the conversation. Learners that keep to the framework can guide the conversation in a purposeful way and keeps things on track.

The second? Understanding Identity Issues. If the learner can explore their own and the other person’s identity by understanding common emotional triggers as a frame, this has a strong correlation with overall performance.

The third? Neutralising Stance. If the learner or the other person gets emotionally triggered, they are able to navigate the conversation back to a more neutral place.

We’re excited to see how we can use our labelled performance data as an asset to better design time compressed learning experiences. And in turn improve the precision & quality of our up front teaching. Drop me a line in the comments if you’d like to follow up with a 15 min virtual coffee to dig further into the data!