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Podcast: Those ‘soft’ skills aren’t soft; they’re your future

On this week’s episode of “Future-Proof,” we’re talking about soft skills – you know, the easy stuff. Why else would we call them soft? That name implies that they’re easy, not as important, and take a back burner to the harder, technical skills we need to do our jobs.

And you know what? That’s a load of crap. Soft skills are actually the hard skills. There’s nothing easy at all about mastering them.

These skills will set us apart from our competition going forward. They’ll help us communicate better, deal with people more effectively, foster trust, and build relationships.

The fact is, these skills are more crucial to the future of our profession than any other, and no one is more passionate about promoting these skills than this week’s guest, Jeff Nischwitz.

Jeff is the founder of The Nischwitz Group, a leadership speaker, an author, a coach, and a Business Learning Institute thought leader devoted to the idea that our future success depends on our ability to master these so-called “soft” skills.

In this conversation, we cover:

Listen to this week’s episode here.


The robots are coming

Here’s what caught my eye this week.

In a report from Blackline titled “6 Skills Accountants Need to Survive the Robot Uprising,” Shannon Arnold identified the competencies that accounting and finance professionals will need to survive our dystopian future.

Here they are:

  1. Data analysis. “For the finance function, providing leadership with historical data used to be quite sufficient,” Arnold writes. “Yet today, companies also expect to have access to predictive data. For today’s accountants, this requires knowing how to turn Big Data into concise, decision-driving insights.”
  2. Effective communication. This is on everyone’s list, frankly. If you can’t talk a good game these days, you’re lost. Or, as Blackline puts it, “All this information is just noise if it’s not shared effectively.”
  3. Relationship building.The exceptional accountant of the future will know how to manage numbers and people,” Arnold writes. “That requires cultivating a broader range of relationship skills today, such as how to work in a team, how to motivate and engage employees, and how to deliver bad news — without making somebody cry.”
  4. Creativity. What does that mean from an accounting point of view? Writes Arnold: “In an era when businesses must quickly identify opportunities while simultaneously mitigating risk, a finance professional who can think outside of the proverbial box is a strategic asset.”
  5. Overall business acumen. Put another way, it’s about becoming that trusted business advisor we talk so much about. You need a holistic view of the organizations you work with, as well as the ability to communicate your insights to leadership.
  6. Being tech-savvy. What does that mean? There’s the obvious: You need a basic understanding of how technology works. But you also need “the ongoing cultivation of flexibility and adaptability,” Arnold writes.

Jeff probably wouldn’t argue with the need for any of those skills, but there is one prerequisite to acquiring them that he might point to: “It starts with a fundamental – and in many cases, significant – shift in how we see what we do and what is required,” he says.

He might also argue that learning to effectively communicate and build relationships is more important than anything else on this list. If people trust us more than the robots, we just might hold onto our jobs in this changing and complex world.

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