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Soft Skills for Success

Business Team Investigates What They Are and How They Work

April 6, 2010

By Pamela McLaren

Gerard Beenen, Shaun Pichler and Lori Muse are studying the nature of interpersonal skills and their importance in business.

What “soft” or interpersonal skills are needed to be an effective manager?

A team of Cal State Fullerton management faculty members is delving into the nature of interpersonal skills — and their important for success in managerial settings. The study is funded by a $100,000 Graduate Management Admission Council grant and conducted under the auspices of the university's Center for Leadership in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

“For years, managers have known that soft, or interpersonal, skills are necessary in a strong business leader, but there has been no agreed upon definition of what these skills include or exclude,” explained Gerard Beenen, assistant professor of management. “We’ve reviewed previous research and analyzed data collected by GMAC and are now seeking to conduct interviews of managers to develop not only a greater understanding of what those skills are, but how they actually help in job performance.”

Joining Beenen in the study are Lori A. Muse, associate professor of management, and Shaun M. Pichler, assistant professor of management. Consulting on the project are B. Thomas Mayes, director of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Leadership and emeritus professor of management, and Ronald E. Riggio, Kravis professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

The research team's ultimate goal is to develop a soft skills assessment tool kit that can be of value to both researchers and practicing managers. “The assessment tool kit could be used for employee selection and for evaluating the educational effectiveness of undergraduate business and M.B.A. programs,” according to Pichler.

As part of the project, employers are being invited to participate at no cost. “Participating organizations will benefit by receiving a tailored analysis of their organization’s interpersonal skills and by gaining preferred access to the assessment tools,” said Muse.

For more information about the project or to participate, go to the Soft Skills Project website.

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