Education

‘Communication is an underrated skill’

It is important for students to realise the importance of soft skills in their formative years.  

Ronnie Screwvala

Ronnie Screwvala  

Ever wondered why CEOs, leaders and recruiters talk endlessly about soft skills? Find out in Skill It, Kill It, a new book in which entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala shares personal stories and observations from his failures and successes, to give you an insider’s view of the ‘invisible’ skills that can cut years off your learning curve. Excerpts from an interview:

‘Communication is an underrated skill’
We all know Ronnie Screwvala, the businessman. Tell us more about the writer. What prompted you to write this book?

I am an accidental author. The inspiration for this book stemmed from the interactions with learners. I think lifelong learning is an integral element for growth in this era’s hyper-competitive environment. Today, to make a mark, you need to have a strong element of focus. If you want to be in the top 20-25 percentile of your organisation, you have to come out of your comfort zone, upgrade again, specialise and continue this cycle till you have achieved your goal. While talking to students, I saw a serious gap in their soft skills. Now while ‘skill’ means lots of things to a lot of people, it cannot be restricted to a degree, diploma or even certifications. I believe that equipping yourself with the right communication skills is important and, without it, people are often left behind, despite having the right hard skills for the job.

What skills do students need today?

It is important for students to realise the importance of soft skills in their formative years. Through school, we tend to focus on our grades and rank and do not invest any effort in acquiring soft skills like communicating effectively or inculcating the art of storytelling. Communication is a severely underrated skill, especially in this digital remote work era. Most people assume that communication is tethered on oratory skills or command of the language. Actually it is so many things, including listening, absorbing and knowing when to stop. If you acquire the art of communicating through storytelling, you will be able to influence and impact people by shaping their minds. Stories help us connect with the audience and foster empathy. Storytelling is a lifelong skill that ought to be honed.

All your chapters have anecdotes and advice from well-known personalities. Why do you think these will work as motivators for students?

I wrote it thinking about what I would have needed when I was young. Throughout the book, I allude to similar experiences from various personalities and leaders to develop that sense of connectedness for the reader. My hope is that people will realise the importance of being focused and the power of self- conviction.

You’ve coined some new words. Tell us about the new LOL.

This comes from my own experience as a young professional. I would be so excited about putting a point across that I would not allow the person before me to finish what he/she was saying. Not only was it rude but also wrong.

Listening is a skill I have worked very hard to improve through my career. It requires focused thoughts, attention to detail, feedback, and the ability to absorb what another person is speaking in order to decode what they are really saying.

So, for me Listen, Observe, Learn is the new LOL. To truly listen and then act on feedback from others will help us avoid repeating mistakes and accelerate professional growth and change. Moreover, even great ideas and teams can be aligned if you follow the new LOL.

Why is upgrading and future-proofing one’s career important?

This is where the concept of Lifelong Learning comes into play. If you were to believe that your greatest learning and greatest failure are yet to transpire, then you are allowing yourself to keep an open mind. This, in turn, opens your mind to learning and upgrading your skills because it reminds you that you have still got so much to learn.

Why do you debunk the idea of multitasking and emphasise the importance of saying no?

My dog taught me that multitasking is overrated and often counterproductive! To put it simply, multitasking leads to distraction, which leads to all kinds of hazards. Multitasking fosters the habit of distraction from the task at hand, leads to a decline in the quality of your work, and to an eventual decline in productivity overall. Eventually it leads to feeling overwhelmed and disconnected on a daily basis.

The need to be social is a skill that requires a lot of discretion. How much is too much?

My advice would be to keep an open mind and network wherever possible because every piece of communication has the capability of triggering a thought that could catapult your career.


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 6:32:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/in-conversation-with-ronnie-screwvala-on-the-importance-of-lifelong-learning-his-new-book-and-more/article35647708.ece

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