Wednesday, 21 March 2012

BCM Soft Skills - the dangers of collaboration and how strategic networking is different

Lee Glendon CBCI
Mentioning “soft skills” can prompt a variety of reactions from people, from an enthusiastic nodding of the head to a rather contorted smile.  However, research shows that among Top Management success is 75% about soft skills and only 25% technical ability.  This presents a real challenge for operationally-minded BCM practitioners in achieving and sustaining engagement with senior executives around the benefits of business continuity management programmes.

The C-Level Water Cooler Meeting Toolkit is an attempt to provide practitioners with a framework to support their engagement with senior executives.   The toolkit takes a three-pronged approach to tackling the challenge:  the first part profiles the relevant executives in your organisation – this profiling considers the background, interests, goals, and likely objections from these executives to engaging on BCM; the second part is to consider those elements or aspects of the BCM programme that fit with the interests and goals of the executives; and the third element outlines the soft skills – some 30 different skills - that are required to connect at a personal level with executives.

In Monday’s webinar on the toolkit (click here to replay>>) much of the discussion majored on the usefulness of soft skills. 

The BCI was supported by Phil Carter, a personal development coach, in crafting the content, and Phil shared his experiences of “managing upwards” on the webinar.  Phil explained that opportunities to meet with executives will not be frequent and “asking an executive to wait at the water cooler while you go and get your spreadsheet” needs to be replaced with an approach that gets you a follow up meeting because you are seen as being someone who thinks like them and can help them.  So messages to executives need to be structured, in terms of a short-, medium- and long-term game plan.

In expanding on one of the soft skills, “strategic networking”, Phil added that strategic networking is about being useful and offering value, he contrasted this with talking about “collaboration”, because collaboration could be seen by the other person as an attempt to take over what they do! 

Talking soft skills is a new area for the BCI, so we would welcome your thoughts and experiences to help inform how we develop the toolkit in the future, and as importantly how we should be looking to support the delivery of advice and training in soft skills development – are we looking at signposting, online webinars, 2-day training courses or one-to-one coaching?  The options are explored in the webinar.


  1. I attended the webinar, and I would encourage anybody interested in this aspect of developing the profession to listen to the replay. Good work by Lee and the team.

    The terms "soft and "hard" skills can be deceptive - in many ways the 'soft' skills being talked about here will be much harder to acquire and refine than the generally accepted BC skills.

    The BCI exists to promote both the Art and Science of BCM - good to see we are talking about the art for a change.

    I think BC practitioners should be developing a range of additional skills. They should be doing Sales training - they need to learn how to effectively deal with objections. They need to understand marketing. They need to know how to read and understand their own company's Annual Report.

    In short they need to learn to become managers, not BC Managers.

    The point of this webinar was to develop tools to help with a water cooler pitch, the water cooler is the opportunity - we need to be ready to exploit that opportunity. The webinar offers some useful ideas to improve our relevance to Execs, but ...

    Relevance is in the eye of the beholder - we don't determine what the C-suite think is relevant, we need to change and address what they think is relevant.

    To that end I would encourage everybody to look at Tim Janes comment on the Org Resilience paper post - and to read the report of Dr Robert Kay's research that is referenced there.

    Would love to discuss the issue further, hopefully there will be more comments.

    1. Ken

      I have just read Dr Kays report it is an outstanding piece of work.

      So we are seeking to provide " c-level Perspectives on organisational resilience and how to influence them"


      find the research here