THE IDEA: “Children enter school as question marks,” writes author and educator Neil Postman, “and leave as periods.” We enter the world like a sponge, voraciously soaking information provided to us by teachers, parents, and other authority figures. The more information we glean, the more assured we feel in our grasp of the world; yet true wisdom occurs when we connect divergent dots, reassess our views, and critically evaluate the viewpoints of others. We are building a culture that struggles to self-critique and rewards blindly confident behavior. Most leaders are rewarded for parroting back “bite-sized” pieces of information instead of asking thoughtful questions and acknowledging that their viewpoint is ultimately a cog in a bigger machine. Have you lost the art of the question?


According to research by psychologist and executive coach Dr. Tasha Eurich, 95% of people think they are very self-aware. Her research shows that it’s closer to 10-15%. None of us see ourselves as clearly as we believe, setting us up for a communication failure.

Soft skills matter more now than ever before. You want to be known as a truthteller, where your words are beyond reproach.

This reality has been acknowledged at the highest levels of business, including digital giants like Google. Google’s “Project Oxygen” reported that among the most important qualities of Google’s top employees, science, Technology, Engineering & Math – or technical expertise – came in dead last.

The top seven characteristics of success at Google are soft skills:

  • Coaching
  • Listening
  • Perception
  • Empathy
  • Supportive skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking

Additionally, Google’s “Project Aristotle” analyzed data on creative and productive teams within their organization. The highest performing teams exhibited strong soft skills including:

  • Equality
  • Generosity
  • Curiosity
  • Emotional safety

Empathy and personal connection have been pushed to the wayside for far too long in lieu of overconfidence and left-brain analytics. The best partners are holistic and build personal relationships based on forward-thinking insights and mutually beneficial agreements. Soft skills matter now more than ever before. If you want to be a better partner you must be a better communicator, collaborator, facilitator, listener, and critical thinker. Be more human.


The difference between success and failure is an expectation. You can be doing great work, but if your partner expects something different, setting higher or altogether different bars of success, then the outcome can feel like a failure. It is important to create a mutual benefit in enterprise-to-enterprise relationships. One where both parties (up and down the organization) discuss and agree on limited yet compelling expectations. According to the productivity tracking company I Done This, 4-of-10 activities on a to-do list are never completed. When you set up a laundry list of goals and priorities, you will undoubtedly get lost in the weeds and miss the most important expectations. Are you setting crisp expectations on critical priorities? Are you checking in with all parties involved, be they peers, managers, or customers, to verify everyone has level-set expectations and clearly outlined goals?


On a personal level, what is one new skill you should embrace and deliberately start practicing? Are you investing enough time reflecting, reading, and challenging your own thinking each week? Are you thinking like the owner of a family business? Are you thinking broadly, holistically, and curiously about your operation? Today’s most effective leaders (at all levels) are bigger picture thinkers, zoom out and view the field with objectivity, pinpointing which aspect of an organization or relationship flows fluidly and which areas may be obstructed; they embrace a General Manager Mindset.

All customers are looking for companies who are more holistic, entrepreneurial, and creative in their approach to problems. It is a mindset and behavioral shift. The winning organizations have a GM mindset. They want to collaborate with leaders that think like a general manager and constantly connect dots.

A GM mindset means sales are now multi-faceted. It’s a hybrid role and you play many positions. We must become broader thinkers because we are asked to do more. The old models of who you are looking for in sales and marketing has changed. You must be a facilitator and a moderator, not a presenter. You must be gifted at managing an ecosystem of resources and relationships, none of which is in a vacuum and all of which influence one another.

The GM Mindset focuses on fast learning. Instead of designing a perfect business plan, think about changing your plan in real-time. It’s all about fast adaptation and strategic pivoting. A successful GM is comfortable being wrong and then course correcting quickly.

How do you hope to show up this year and are you committed to deliberate practice with your coach?