Can I fast track the development of soft skills required of a governance professional?

There is increasing discussion amongst governance professionals about the interpersonal and soft skills required to be a great professional.  What is not discussed in detail is how these can be developed rather more quickly than through experience. Sometimes the skills are needed early on in your career. However, as a chartered company secretary who is also an accredited coach (and ICSA mentor) I have successfully worked with clients using a sustained attention and focus method to do just that.

In the Henley Business School/ICSA report “The Company Secretary – Building trust through governance” there are around 80 different words to describe the soft skills required to excel as a governance professional.  To help you access the skills you need more quickly I will be publishing a series of weekly LinkedIn posts explaining how.  Look out for the first one next Friday.

If you’d like to find out more get in touch.

Can I fast track the development of soft skills required of a governance professional?

Goal Setting

Before you take any action, you will need to set yourself a goal so you know what outcome you want to achieve and so that you will know when you have achieved it.

To identify your first goal consider the areas in your work life that you think you would like to develop and pick the one or two that would make the most difference to you and your performance if you were better at them. The ICSA/Henley report “The Company Secretary – Building Trust Through Governance’’ ( gives a really good indication of what sorts of skills are required for the role.  It can help you establish which you think you have and which you need to work on.

Once you have identified the area, decide where you would like to be in a few month’s time – what will people be saying about you and how will it feel when you have made the change.  Having done this you need to turn it into an inspiring goal. This means it should be: –

  • Short and to the point (3 to 7 words is ideal) so you can remember it and it remains at the forefront of your mind.
  • Realistic and achievable in a reasonable timeframe. Three months is a good period of time to concentrate on a goal – long enough to allow you to embed new habits but not so long that you lose interest.
  • Positive and inspiring so that you are moving towards your goal rather than away from something. g. it is better to have a goal of “feeling confident and in control in the boardroom” rather than “feeling less anxious in the boardroom”.  If you read these two example goals out loud now you may even feel the emotional difference it makes to have more positive wording.

Consider sharing your goal with trusted friends, family or colleagues to help you stick to the goal and so they can provide support when you need it.  You may also be able to ask them to help you by providing feedback and suggestions.

More next Friday!

If you need to help forming your goals consider working with a professional coach or an ICSA mentor to do so.  If you’d like to find out more get in touch.


Current Reality

Last week I outlined how to identify and express an inspiring goal.  This week I will look at how to establish where you are now in relation to that goal.  There are several really good ways of doing this:-

  • Keep a diary. How are you spending your time at work, what are you enjoying, what are you not enjoying, what is easy, what is hard, how do you feel and when?  g. if you have set yourself the goal of “feeling confident and in control in the boardroom” notice when you feel confident in the working day and when you don’t and diarise the situations.  From this you might notice some patterns – perhaps there are certain situations which make you particularly comfortable (or uncomfortable) for example?
  • Seek constructive feedback – this can be daunting, but is a really good way of finding out where you are now. Ask a wide range of people you come into contact with for feedback – positive as well as areas where they think you could develop your soft skills.  It is really common to find that others haven’t even noticed something you are acutely aware of e.g. maybe you appear confident on the exterior, irrespective of what is going on inside.  Remember to listen to the feedback and consider it.  Don’t focus only on the negative (which many of us have a tendency to do) and remember to pat yourself on the back for the positive too – there maybe something in the positive which might help you in the areas you need to develop.  If you have a defensive reaction to the negative remember to carefully consider it, particularly if more than one person has said similar things – could there be something to work on here?

Once you know where you are now and where you are going it is then time to take action which I will talk about in my post next Friday.

If you need help identifying your goals and making sense of the data you collect about where you are now, consider working with a professional coach or an ICSA mentor to do so.  If you’d like to find out more get in touch.


Getting into Action

In the last two LinkedIn posts I outlined how to identify and set a goal and how to establish where you are now.  The next thing you need to do is identify what actions you need to take you from your current position to your stated goal.  Brainstorm all the different things you could do and be brave.   Some actions will seem daunting but you will achieve the best results if you are prepared to push yourself out of your comfort zone.   Once you have identified what actions you are going to take, write them down, with deadlines and do them.

The actions you identify will depend on your goal, but good actions can include:-

  • seeking feedback or advice,
  • researching options
  • identifying someone you know who demonstrates the behaviours you want to develop and observing them. What is it about the way they act that you admire?  Consider things like tone of voice, body language, appearance, use of humour etc.  You can use this information to consider how you might incorporate this authentically into your own behaviour;
  • trying out new skills in a safe, low risk environment first, which may require you to fake it for a while (until you make it!)
  • when you try something review what went well and why, what you could have done differently, and try again, in increasingly more complex environments, asking for more feedback.
  • Keep practising. When you are developing a new skill or changing behaviour you have to give it ongoing attention to embed it so it becomes second nature and you maintain the change.

You will need to be prepared for setbacks during this period.  Self-coaching is not easy and setbacks are inevitable.  Keep positive by reminding yourself regularly of your ultimate goal and how things are going to be different when you achieve it.  Be prepared to forgive yourself if you fail, pick yourself up and try again. If you do that you will achieve your goal.

Achieving your goal

When you have achieved your goal, reward yourself with something nice – you will have worked really hard to achieve your goal so don’t just move on, make sure you celebrate.

If this all sounds too challenging then consider working with a mentor or a coach.  A good coach will help you to realise your potential to maximise your own performance by helping you identify your goals and supporting you to achieve them.   If you’d like to find out more get in touch.