“We scratch our heads at how someone can be in school for so long and still lack some of the basic skills needed in the industry. We can find intelligent students who have the technical skills. However, they don’t always have the sense of urgency required for business. We are nervous to put them in front of customers because of their lack of confidence and inability to communicate well. And the global marketplace requires collaboration and employees adding value immediately. Is it possible for these recent graduates to learn or change these behaviors?”
HOW WE SOLVED IT
We have addressed this challenge by:
• Coaching employees individually
• Providing strength-based workshops to build soft skills
• Designing and delivering a program that develops their employee pipeline at a university partner
We have worked with smaller businesses and research centers to address specific soft skills gaps using one-on-one coaching sessions and workshops. We use multiple assessment tools, and can improve an employee’s performance in a couple of months. This individualized approach allows us to hone in on specific performance issues and address current and upcoming situations: such as how to prepare for an external meeting or how to handle a difficult personality on a team. A group approach is also possible, such as the half-day strengths workshop that we conducted at the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center.
An example of the individualized approach was working with a new leader at an engineering consulting firm. John was technically sound, but struggled with developing his team. During coaching sessions, he came to understand his strengths and the impact of when he wasn’t willing to exert himself and hold others accountable. He realized the importance of clear expectations and accountability, and that these make a leader fair, not “mean.” We talked through some difficult conversations he needed to have, gave him a way to structure the discussion, and then debriefed after the fact. These before and after sessions built confidence, taught skills, and reinforced continuous improvement. We used his natural warmth to build trust and his ease with processes to make these employee-coaching sessions easier. After a couple of months, he had the confidence and ability to handle these on his own, and his team began contributing at a higher level. He was thrilled that he finally found his sweet spot!
For Monsanto, we developed and implemented a program proven over the past four years to increase the emotional intelligence (EQ) and interpersonal skills of STEM graduate students at the University of Missouri. This is a multi-faceted program tailored to the institution, and it’s unique because it includes a multiplicity of critical interventions needed to change behavior. Many universities have a special class or workshop, but these don’t instill long lasting behavioral change. Ours does because of its innovative approach.
The company’s goal of producing better leaders for the entire Life Sciences industry was achieved. We also succeeded in creating a ripple effect on campus, so those in contact with the grad students (other students and advisors) would have a more accurate and positive view of business, another objective. Positive PR and goodwill were created, and two of the PTLS graduates are now Monsanto scientists.
former Vice President, Monsanto Company (program funder)
Global Contract Coordinator, Dow AgroSciences
Postdoctoral Associate, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center