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55. Soft is the New Hard: How to level up your soft skills and improve business communications with Leah Mether

10 July, 2019
The Bean Ninjas Podcast
55. Soft is the New Hard: How to level up your soft skills and improve business communications with Leah Mether

Learn why Soft is the new Hard from communication expert and author Leah Mether.

In Episode 55 of the Bean Ninjas Podcast, Bean Ninjas CEO Meryl Johnston talks to Leah Mether about how soft skills can help your business grow.

Want to improve business communications? Learn the key skills to grow your business from communication expert Leah Mether. #communication #business #management #skills Click To Tweet

Leah Mether on soft skills and what they’re all about

Leah Mether is a speaker, trainer, coach, facilitator and author known for her direct, enthusiastic and relatable style. She lives in Willow Grove, a small town of 350 residents with her husband and three kids.

Leah is experienced in leadership, corporate communications and journalism. She generally works with executives, leaders and employees across Australia, helping them implement better communication, mindset and self-management skills.

She is a firm believer in the idea that soft skills are the future of business. According to Leah, we are our own biggest roadblock to success and everyone should work on improving their communication skills in order to get there.

Her first book Soft is the New Hard: How to Communicate Effectively Under Pressure, is noted as being “a masterclass in communication” and a “personal coaching session for leaders”.

Related: Learn about other books that have helped Meryl launch and grow Bean Ninjas

The idea to write a book was inspired from her experience in the field of journalism and communications.

“I’ve been running my business for about eight years now. I started off as a communications consultant. That was after a career in journalism and corporate communications. About four years ago, I was getting a lot of people asking me for advice on how to have difficult conversations and be more assertive. So I started running workshops and training to help teach those skills. And I’ve always loved writing…So I wanted to capture all of those things I teach in my workshops and training in a book.”

If you want to make a lasting change in how you communicate, you should start with understanding what soft skills are.

Emotional intelligence and communication skills in business

Things like communication, mindset, resilience, adaptability, leadership, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence are absolutely crucial for business and personal success.

Those skills will define you as someone good to work with, aside from just good at what you do.

Focus on employing the right person, just as you do on employing the person with the right experience.

“Deloitte, Australia actually did a study on soft skills for business success in 2017. And they found that by 2032 thirds of all jobs in Australia will have a soft skill focus. And that compares to half of all jobs in the year 2000.”

To improve your soft skills, you must aim at improving your self-awareness. Because you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

In order to do that, you have to ask yourself some really difficult questions, like:

  • What’s it like working with me?
  • What’s it like being around me?
  • How do I communicate when I’m under pressure?
  • Am I consistent?
  • How do I behave?

In terms of your coworkers, please note that there are extroverts and passive communicators among them. You must learn to approach them differently in order to connect with them.

Related: Leadership and communication from management

Remember, it could take 1000 repetitions of something to actually change a habit. Leah’s advice is to get better at managing Yourself.

Practise what you preach and that way, you’ll set an example for others.

Know that communication and improving your soft skills is a process, something that you should constantly work on. Note that no one’s a perfect communicator: everyone can improve.

Having an attitude of curiosity when someone is speaking is also critical for improving your  communication skills, as Leah shared on a recent Facebook Live:

Intro to the Leah Mether model of communication

The model described in Leah’s book is known as the Five C’s in communication.

CHOICE: you really need to ask yourself the tough question of Can I take personal responsibility for the way I communicate?

In this regard, Leah reflects on Victor Frankel’s book Man’s in Search for Meaning. According to this book, you always have the ability to choose your response, in any given circumstance.

CONTROL: it comes down to your emotional intelligence. When you feel angry or frustrated, put a pause between your reaction and your response.

Understand that you have no control over how other people respond to you, their feelings or communication of emotions. The only thing you can control is YOU.

CONSIDERATION: your need to determine the outcome that you want. Also, have consideration for the people that can help you get there.

Learn to adapt and adjust to best communicate with different personality types and you will achieve your goals.

COURAGE: you need to have the courage to have important conversations, even when under pressure.

Ask yourself these three questions.

  •         What’s the worst that can happen if I now have this conversation?
  •         What would be the reality If it did happen?
  •         What steps or plan can I put in place to help mitigate that worst thing from happening?

And the very last C is for COMMUNICATION.

“You need to do those things, founding steps before you get to communication. But the communication is still really important. Because knowing is not doing. Thinking and considering and making a choice, and having control of your emotions and building up the courage still means nothing, if you don’t actually go out there and communicate.”

Try not to communicate in a cold way with strength, forgetting about the warmth. You may be perceived as a strong leader, but the workers won’t feel cared for.

But if you communicate without strength, that’s a problem too. Then you might be that week leader that people don’t look up to.

It’s really important to get the order right when you communicate. When you lead, do it with warmth first, strength second.


Want to become a better leader? Learn the 5 C’s of effective communication #communication #business #management #skills Click To Tweet

Leah Mether on the challenges of written communication

According to Leah, so much of communication is time and body language.

But what should you do when you work with a remote team? In such situations you can’t get any clues from their body language.

“So I’ve got a virtual assistant. And my business manager is remote as well. So these are challenges. And so how do you look for what unsaid in, say, written communication? One, you’ve got to consider the context… Now, even though you’re not listening, in terms of to the words being said to you, you can still listen to an email or Slack message, you do have to be careful, because you can read too much into it, but it’s about looking at it and going: Okay, so I’m reading the words on the page, what’s the broader context? What’s going on in this situation? Who am I dealing with here?”

In those cases avoid making assumptions by all means. The best thing for you to do is have a conversation with that person.

Catch up with them on Zoom or Skype, and make that face-to-face- contact to see what it is all about. This is how you’ll avoid coming up with the wrong conclusions.

Learn more about the strategies that will help you run a remote business, benefiting both you and your employees, from this blog post.

Related: 3 Strategies to Retain Your Remote Team Members

And if you are a remote employee who’s using written communication often, try to avoid sounding apologetic.

“The one thing that I want all listeners to really check themselves on is the use of the word just, typically in written communication. It’s an apology word. It’s a way of talking ourselves down. It’s particularly common with women, and men do it too, absolutely. But a lot of women who are very conscious of not presenting as a bitch, or as you know, too direct, we soften our emails to the point where we apologize for doing our jobs.”a

Remember that no one gets it right all the time. You can improve, as long as you practice self-reflection.

Do better tomorrow than you did today and good results will come inevitably.

Learn more about efficient (business) communication from this infographic:communication-skills_56e149e33041f


Listen in to know more about how to develop communication skills and run your business smoothly.

Meryl and Leah Mether discuss:

  • How she came up with the idea to become an author
  • The model of communication she introduces in her book
  • A way to approach remote workers in terms of communication
  • The downside of written communication and coming off as being apologetic
  • Trusting the process and learning as you go
Learn how you can become a better leader by improving the way you communicate. #communication #business #management #skills Click To Tweet

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