Written by Katie McKee.

A new year means a new you — and new skills. The professionals of Women Communicators of Austin are gearing up for the New Year with a different set of resolutions in mind, instead focusing on developing and improving subtle skills that benefit personally and in the workplace.

Join WCA on Wednesday, December 16 for the last luncheon of 2015 — Table Topics: Preparing for the New Year Through Negotiating, Delegating, and Asserting. In a return of WCA’s ever-popular table topics luncheon, six leaders will discuss these subjects at roundtables for a more engaging look at the topics. We caught up with them for a sneak-peek at what they will bring to the table.

How are soft skills—like asserting, negotiating and delegating—important in your professional work?

Kristin Marcum

Kristin Marcum

Kristin Marcum (Elizabeth Christian Public Relations): Soft skills make the difference between a good professional and a great one. We start our careers with a certain knowledge set and particular hard skills, but the people who hone their soft skills are the ones who are going to advance more quickly and sustain that momentum.

Wendy Nolin (Wendy Nolin Worldwide): The majority of the coaching work I do is centered around soft skills. Not only do I need to be highly proficient in the use of these skills, I also need to be able to compel my client to learn how to better employ these skills in both their personal and professional lives to achieve their desired level of success, whether they are an executive, a manager, or a business owner.

Dr. Lana Petru (Center for Performance Learning): Knowing the right amount of assertiveness, negotiating, and delegating are actually an ART. There is often a fine line with these skills. If you are too assertive this can negatively impact your ability to get an initiative or get funding passed. If you are not able to negotiate effectively you can push too hard or not hard enough to gain buy in or approval for resources. If you are not delegating the appropriate tasks to the appropriate people you may not only be putting others in a position to fail but you may also reflect poorly on your judgment and decision making capacity.

Jenifer Sarver (Sarver Strategies): As an entrepreneur these skills are vital. I’m the CEO, middle management and intern all rolled into one. In order for me to be successful I have to have a clear vision and direction for what I want to accomplish, and then be comfortable with getting the tools and resources in place to get it done. It’s not enough to just be a good communicator – I have to be ready, willing and able to put my talents on the line and sell my skills to clients, and that takes guts – and assertiveness. I think of assertiveness as a teeter-totter. On one end is Miss Passive. On the other end is Miss Aggressive. Miss Assertive is right in the middle, balancing the two. Assertiveness involves being confident and direct, while being respectful of others. In order to get business and be successful I have to daily walk that line, ensuring that I am getting what I want and need. But I have to do that without resorting to aggressive behavior that can damage relationships, and hurt my business and my reputation.

Suzyn Barrientos

Suzyn Barrientos

Suzyn Barrientos (Solara): Delegating is mission critical skill to having a successful business and allowing it to become it’s own thriving entity out in the world. I work with business owners and CEOs frequently and one can see the good from the great. The great ones know how to delegate and allow people to make mistakes as they learn. The good ones can delegate, but spend too much time micromanaging and not enough time allowing the person to really take the task. This causes the CEO/business owner to step away from their mission critical items of driving the boat, to be micromanaging a task that now takes 2x-3x as long with a formerly excited team member full of ideas, who now becomes “yes” person just to get the task done and have the boss off their back.

What are some ways you’ve used your soft skills to your professional advantage?

Wendy Nolin

Wendy Nolin

Kristin Marcum: Asserting, negotiating and delegating are key to what I do each day. In my chosen industry, public relations, asserting is essential. Clients look to me for counsel, often in important and delicate situations. If I don’t provide that counsel assertively, a client may not feel confident in my guidance. Negotiating is a significant part of my profession. I often negotiate with potential new clients on behalf of my firm. Additionally, I negotiate with members of the media and community groups on behalf of my clients. When executed properly, negotiation can lead to an outcome that works for all parties. As I have advanced in my career, delegating has become increasingly important. I lead numerous client account teams, so without delegation, I would never be able to meet and exceed the needs of those clients. Also importantly, delegation allows me to provide meaningful experience and training to newer members of my firm.

Wendy Nolin: More of my coaching clients are men, therefore in order to be effective with men, I need to be able to assert myself and negotiate with confidence. When a man senses a woman doesn’t have confidence, they have a tendency to treat them differently, sometimes without realizing it. I have always held a man’s gaze when in conversation or negotiation, and I have always been assertive without being aggressive. As a result, men respect me and are more willing to hire me because they understand that as their coach, I am not going to tell them what they WANT to hear, but what they NEED to hear. They are typically surrounded by “yes men” when what they really want is someone who is going to call it like they see it and be objective. These skills are absolutely paramount to my success as a coach and the success of my clients.

Dr. Lana Petru: I am a huge advocate of emotional intelligence. In doing the EQ Mapping assessment I discovered that I was vulnerable in my ability to show compassion in the workplace. What I discovered from my peers and direct reports is that my “lack of showing compassion” in certain instances actually hindered my ability to support my team in performing at a high level. Working purposely and intentionally on my capacity for compassion in the workplace actually allowed me to grow as an individual and improved my team’s performance drastically.

Louise Phipps Senft

Louise Phipps Senft

Jenifer Sarver: I’m the eldest of four children, so asserting, negotiating and delegating are baked into my DNA. I’ve been the boss for a long time and I’ve learned how to cultivate my leadership tendencies in a way that puts me clearly in charge when it’s appropriate, but also reminds me to work as a team player, letting other voices and ideas into the mix. I often tell people to not let perfect be the enemy of good. As a Type A perfectionist, it is easy to get wrapped up in doing things my way and making sure they are perfect (in my opinion). When working in teams we collaboratively set the goals for what success looks like, and then I delegate and step back to let people achieve success. That means it doesn’t always get done exactly how I would have done it – but it’s done and good, everyone was involved in working together toward a successful outcome.

Suzyn Barrientos: I have used Delegation many ways to my personal advantage. One recent way is in meetings. I am working with a business owner who really goes on way too long in meetings. The team seems uninterested and has checked out. I have asked the business owner to assign different parts of the meeting to different people, as well as time allotted for each part. It was a completely different meeting and very interesting. Everyone did their part and the business owner felt relieved to not have all on their shoulders. Also, the team engagement was so rich and many new ideas and resolutions were brought forth to some challenges. Also, some team members had to step up and learn to understand the financials better so they could communicate them to the group. They, also, experienced firsthand the numbers that drives the boss crazy around financials.

What are the most common mistakes professional women make when it comes to delegating?

Kristin Marcum: I think women often have the misconception that delegating is a sign of professional weakness. They will stay until late in the evening to get a job done before asking for help. I would encourage women to look at delegating as an excellent opportunity to mentor and train others.

Wendy Nolin: With regard to salary negotiation, the first mistake is thinking they don’t have any room to negotiate, and never even asking for more. In salary negotiations especially, women historically have made the mistake of accepting the first offer, or worse, going into a job interview with no idea whatsoever the typical salary for the job. The worst thing a woman can say in a job interview when asked what her salary expectation is, is “I have no idea what this job even pays.” Ugh. NO, NO, NO!!! OMG NO! Shoot me now… For business owners, the most common mistake in negotiating is they negotiate AGAINST THEMSELVES! They think that by lowering their price, their product or service will seem more attractive, when in reality the opposite is true. The higher the price, the higher the perceived value.

Dr. Lana Petru: Asserting: simply being too assertive to the point that it is received as aggressive or

Dr. Lana Petru

Dr. Lana Petru

being too quiet and not “tooting your own horn” enough or not bringing your ideas up when it matters most. It’s a fine line and a balancing act. Know when the right time is to do which is also key.

Jenifer Sarver: They teeter to close to the Miss Passive side. Worried that they will come across as aggressive, they overcompensate and slide toward passivity. They’re afraid to state what they want or need to be successful and as a result, they’re often left with unmet needs – like the right salary for a job, the right fee for a project or the right resources to effectively and efficiently get the job done.

Suzyn Barrientos: Well as a woman, we have had to hold up the ship in many ways—family, healthcare, work, school volunteering, etc., you name it. We are used to doing many things and making sure it gets done right. Our common mistake is holding on to the reins too tightly when it comes to business. There are others that can get it done. It might look a little different; however, it is important to allow them a chance to shine and do what is needed. As business owners, like all human beings we like to stick with what is comfortable and the things we are good at. When it comes to running and growing a business, however, it is important divide and conquer with what there is to do and give some power away—it will return to you in spades. A good leader is always looking to get the others where they want to go. It is important to create mentoring/training ways to pass on the information and continue as business leaders to reach out and grab the uncomfortable and move the business forward in giant steps.

What advice do you have for professionals who want to focus on personal development as they begin the New Year?

Kristin Marcum: Read! The most successful people I know are life-long learners who read a lot on a variety of subjects. Consider downloading a few books now and putting them aside for the New Year. You might even form a book/discussion group among friends or in your office.

Wendy Nolin: The BEST time to start on your personal development was probably a decade ago. The next best time is RIGHT NOW. The very best investment you will EVER make in your life, is investing in yourself and your professional development. The longer you wait, the more you are telling the world, “I’m not worth it.” If you believe you are worth it, start NOW! Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, said the best advice he ever got was to hire a coach. Warren Buffet, one of the best investors of all time, said the best investment you can make, is investing in yourself. Instead of buying that new handbag and matching shoes for yourself for Christmas, buy yourself some coaching sessions and I promise you will be able to buy even MORE handbags and shoes next year! Or, if a loved one wants to buy you something for the holidays, ask for some coaching sessions, and again, that handbag and shoes will be yours before you know it!

Dr. Lana Petru: Be aware and recognize your own shortcomings. In the EQ model that we use we

Jenifer Sarver

Jenifer Sarver

describe these as caution or vulnerable areas. The good news is we all have emotional intelligence. We simply need to exercise it, flex those muscles. I would say the single most important place to start is self-awareness, which will move you into emotional awareness of yourself and those around you.

Jenifer Sarver: Every single day is an opportunity to learn something new personally and professionally. If you keep your eyes, heart and mind open you can take in new ideas all around you, and often from unexpected sources. Also, consider your personal board of directors. Who are the people within your network who provide you counsel, access and resources to build your “brand”, whether personal or professional? If you don’t have a well-rounded group of people who you can quickly access for help, then consider in the New Year how you can expand upon your network, stretch yourself into new and unfamiliar areas, and make sure your personal board of directors is setting you up for long-term success.

Suzyn Barrientos: Get clear about your business goals this year. Also get clear that if you don’t do something different, you will most likely get the same results you had again or worse. It is important for your business to be out there in the world as it’s own “animal” so to speak. It is important that you keep releasing it and allowing it to grow and be that. Bringing in qualified folks and giving them real initiatives and goals within your organization will only help it grow and become better. It is hard to release “your baby” sometimes, but you want “your baby” to become an ingrained part of that target community. It takes a village of doers. Share the wealth—you will still be driving the boat. You are the visionary.

Can you give attendees a sneak-peek at what to expect during your roundtable?

Kristin Marcum: Over the past 16 years in public relations, and as a mom to three young boys, I’ve learned, first hand, the value of delegating. I am looking forward to sharing practical tips for delegating, including how to delegate gracefully and how to use delegation as a training tool.

Wendy Nolin: Negotiating is a skill just like any other you can learn. Artful negotiation is about understanding the psychology and mindset of the parties involved. Preparation is key to gaining and edge, and I will provide 3 tips to help you prepare for the salary negotiation discussion. Once in the negotiation, knowing how to employ any of 4 different tactics that combine both verbal and body language can make the difference in being able to negotiate up to 15 percent more in salary or other compensation.

Dr. Lana Petru: There is not secret sauce. You have to “read the moment”. Know when and when not to be assertive or if you need to take another approach.

Jenifer Sarver: There either will be an opportunity to win a $1 million dollar cash prize or a chance to take a selfie with me. They’ll have to show up to learn which one I end up offering. Oh, and they should expect a lot of fun, practical advice on learning how to embrace assertiveness as a tool for success.

Suzyn Barrientos: Delegation to have or not to have . . .

  • What does it mean in our society – Getting clear on our fears about it . . .
  • What are the common mistakes around Delegation, the main one is ourselves.
  • The most important rule of 3 around Delegation for it to be Successful
  • How to start practicing right now!

Hurry! Early bird rates end this Wednesday, December 9. Register for the WCA December luncheon now!