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Monday, December 21, 2009

A CURRICULUM FOR SOCIAL SKILLS

On more than one occasion you've heard me talk about the deterioration of social skills in the work place, primarily due to the heightened influence of technology. It is not uncommon to find people who have basic problems interacting with customers, vendors, or fellow employees. This fundamental flaw has an adverse effect on teamwork, customer service, and sales.

I recently had a reader call me to task on this and asked what kind of curriculum I would recommend to teach proper social skills to younger workers entering the work force. From my perspective, I can think of three prime areas to concentrate on:

* Communications - both written and oral. It's not simply a matter of mastering the media to be used, but more importantly, the content. Text messaging and the Internet has basically destroyed civil discourse and how to write an effective business letter which, of course, is critical for customer service and sales. Beyond this, people need simple speaking skills, such as how to engage in conversation, the proper way of performing an introduction, how to make a presentation or conduct a meeting. This includes lessons in persuasion, negotiation, and rhetorical thought. In addition to writing and speaking, listening is equally important, after all, it takes two to Tango.

* Ethics - dictates our value system, and is a little more than what is right and what is wrong. It also includes respect for others as well as yourself (a "Do unto others..." philosophy). Ethics plays a significant role in terms of teaching such things as self-worth, dedication, integrity, ambition, and the value of a dollar. Ethics is an expression of the expected code of conduct for everyone to adhere to and abide by.

* Common Courtesy - represents basic manners and how to interact with others. It's a little more than "please" and "thank you", but that's not a bad place to start. It includes how to invite someone to participate in something, how to thank someone for a service performed, and how to include others and make them feel welcome. This also includes how to dress, personal appearances, how to act and conduct themselves with others ("right" versus "wrong"), etiquette and protocol, even the importance of being punctual.

Come to think of it, isn't this what parents are supposed to be teaching their children? Unfortunately, our youth are learning their socialization skills more from Hollywood, video games, and the Internet, as opposed to their parents, which, unfortunately, is doing a lousy job of raising our kids. Instead, I recommend some simple courses to teach these socialization skills, either as a group or, preferably, some one-on-one coaching such as in a mentoring program (of which I'm a big believer). And for God's sake, don't give them a DVD or video on this, have a human-being talk to them instead!

As an aside, something that might help in this regards is my book entitled, "Morphing into the Real World - The Handbook for Entering the Work Force," which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. (And makes for a great graduation present I might add).

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.