A Powerful Life Lesson: Business is Built on Relationships

After graduating from college, I accepted a position in the Corporate Marketing department for a large regional bank. Soon after that, I was promoted to Marketing Officer.

During one of my reviews, Doug, the Director of Marketing, said something to the effect of:

"Starla, the executive team values and appreciates the quality of your work as well as your work ethic. That said, you're a little rough around the edges. You may not realize this, but you can be quite abrasive at times and somewhat difficult to work with. Therefore, we think you could benefit from some soft skills training."

Those probably weren't his exact words, but that's what I remember hearing. I thought to myself:

"Soft skills? What is he talking about? No one mentioned anything about that in college. I was taught to work hard and produce great work. So now you're telling me I need to worry about soft skills? I don't even know what those are."

Doug said the bank was willing to pay for Dale Carnegie Training. I, of course, had no idea what it was, but I eagerly accepted his offer because I was smart enough to know that if the bank was willing to pay for it, it must be necessary for my continued success.

At the time, I had no idea this would be a pivotal moment in my career because this was when I learned that my education, experience, and work ethic would only take me so far without excellent soft skills.

You can be the brightest, most talented, and hardest working person in the room, but if you don't know how to establish and nurture relationships built on a solid understanding of human behavior and how to navigate it, it will always be an uphill battle.

From Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friendships & Influence People:

This was, in essence, my first exposure to the concept of Emotional Intelligence (although, at the time, they weren't calling it that yet). I quickly became obsessed with mastering it and helping others do the same.

I am eternally grateful that Doug was willing to acknowledge my gap areas and provide the training I needed to address them. May you rest in peace, my friend. I miss you and think of you often.

Douglas Hanks
1946 - 2011


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