"I don't call them soft skills. I call them essential skills."

5 minutes

The stage was set for a thought-provoking afternoon.

As part of Xander’s Curiosity Training series, consultants took part in a session to bridge the gap between technical prowess and interpersonal excellence, ensuring Xander's consultants, many about to embark on their first Xander placement, were primed for collaborative and productive engagements.

It was a session where vulnerability met ambition. Xander consultants were prompted to explore and articulate their hopes and fears as they stood on the cusp of their first placements. This wasn't just a mere exercise but an opportunity for each consultant to self-reflect and prepare mentally.

Many felt that by making a tangible difference for their clients, their efforts would naturally gain recognition. They also expressed their eagerness to translate theoretical knowledge into understanding real-world industry nuances.

As the discussions deepened, it was clear that every silver lining had its cloud. In response to concerns about becoming overwhelmed by expectations or workload, several consultants explored potential coping strategies, such as peer mentorship, continuous feedback, and setting clear boundaries.

Soon, the topic of inadequacy took centre stage. Would their academic knowledge translate seamlessly into practical expertise? The room resonated with shared concerns about making mistakes, understanding complex client needs, and, of course, the ever-daunting imposter syndrome.

Amid weighty topics and impactful discussions, a rather unexpected, albeit genuine, fear was mentioned - mastering the office coffee machine.

Yes, you read that right.

Amidst apprehensions about decision-making and confidentiality, there was an underlying dread of how to navigate this seemingly complex piece of machinery.

Whilst it might sound trivial, this light-hearted admission underscored a more profound truth. Starting a new role isn't just about the big challenges; it's also about navigating the small, everyday nuances that make up office life.

They were then asked, in groups, to identify potential negative behaviours one might inadvertently bring into the workplace.

Some examples contributed by the group included:

  1. Procrastination: Putting off tasks not only jeopardises projects but can also strain team dynamics.
  2. Lack of Communication: Pitfalls of not communicating clearly or frequently enough can lead to misunderstandings and inefficiencies.
  3. Resisting Feedback: Another shared sentiment was the peril of being defensive or resistant to feedback, stunting personal and project growth.
  4. Micromanagement: Overstepping one's boundaries and micromanaging peers could erode trust and morale.
  5. Lateness: Consistently being tardy, whether for meetings or deadlines, was identified as not just an organisational concern but a mark of disrespect to colleagues' time.

The consultants then faced a new task which was a collective endeavour: to list the antithesis of the negative behaviours discussed – the commendable, positive behaviours that enrich a workplace.

Here’s what they came up with:

  1. Proactivity: Rather than delaying tasks, be proactive and take initiative was highlighted as a cornerstone of effective work.
  2. Open Dialogue: Regular check-ins, transparent conversations, and active listening.
  3. Embracing Constructive Criticism: Seeing feedback as a tool for growth and self-improvement.
  4. Empowerment & Trust: Giving colleagues the space and trust to execute their tasks, while offering support when needed is pivotal
  5. Punctuality: More than just being on time, punctuality is viewed as a symbol of respect and commitment.

The consultants had been through an immersive experience of reflections, discussions, and insights capped off with a heartfelt Q&A session with an external consultant from one of Xander’s clients who had been on a similar journey that Xander consultants were about to embark on.

Possibly the most poignant part of the conversation was the individual’s personal revelation. He confessed, "At first I didn't really speak but I learned to have a voice." It was a profound reminder of the importance of self-assertion in a large corporate setting. His words carried weight as he cautioned, "If you're quiet and not seen, you will be pushed aside."

The value of nurturing relationships and fostering genuine connections came to the forefront during the discussion. Two senior employees from our client, who were present at the workshop, emphasised the long-term benefits of nurturing professional relationships, noting, "The people that you meet years back come back again, and having a positive relationship in the past is 3/4 of the battle done."

In echoing the sentiment, a fresh perspective was added on the conventional terminology of 'soft skills', asserting, "I don't call them soft skills, I call them essential skills," stressing that attributes like adaptability, communication, and relationship-building are indeed fundamental to achieving sustained success in the corporate realm.

The curtains closed on a transformative session at Xander, marking the culmination of a session that had been both an eye-opener and a guide. Our consultants were reminded that success in tech consultancy hinges on a delicate balance of technical prowess and positive working behaviours.