Team of business people in casual clothes sitting around the table with paper dialog boxes, discussing opinion concept

Conversational Intelligence® (or C-IQ®) is being recognized as a crucial skill, which can help build more trusting relationships in work and life. (By A Lot Of People/Shutterstock)

Accounting | The Profession

Research shows “soft” skills will be key to career advancement in the years ahead

Are you a good communicator? Your career success may well depend on it.

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Communication skills used to be considered “soft” and not as important as technical skills. Not anymore. According to a Royal Bank of Canada study on Canada’s skills economy, close to half of Canadian jobs will see a shift in the skills required in the years ahead. And while there will be changes in the technical skills needed, including a need for greater competencies in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), there will also be a much greater emphasis on communication, creativity, collaboration—“soft” skills, in other words.

Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching, has seen this shift happening for some time now. “While professional development has always been important, it’s no longer just about the specific skills of a particular profession. We’re now working in the innovative economy, where career well-being also depends on your skills in communicating and collaborating. With disruption happening in every sector, your ability to adapt, to pivot, to work with different generations is key.”

David King, a district director for Robert Half, agrees that in today’s constantly changing business environment, adaptability and openness to learning are key to professional success. “Individuals with strong interpersonal skills, an inquisitive mindset and the ability to clearly articulate complex information or insights stand out for their collaborative approach and expertise and are more likely to be considered for career advancement or leadership opportunities,” he says.

But what do you do if your communication skills are not your strong suit? According to Chadnick, all is not lost. “The good news is you don’t have to be a natural at these skills—but you do have to commit to learn and develop them. Ignore this at your peril. Those who communicate, relate and adapt well have greater career security and a leg up on in the innovative economy.” (See “Sharpen your communication skills with these 3 tips” for more.)


One way to develop your communication skills is through Conversational Intelligence® (or C-IQ®). The term was coined by Judith E. Glaser, who authored a book called Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results. Since 2016, Glaser has been training large cohorts of coaches from around the world on this emerging area. 

But, what is conversational intelligence? “Much like emotional intelligence took the world by storm in the mid-1990s, Conversational Intelligence® is increasingly recognized as a crucial skill,” says Chadnick, who was trained by Glaser and is a core skills coach in this area. “Conversationally intelligent people can build more trusting relationships and prime for better results at work and in life.”

As Chadnick explains, most people are well meaning; they want to do great work and get along. But when the stakes and pressures escalate, they often default to interaction styles that can be counterproductive and can trigger unintended results, such as misunderstandings and breakdowns in trust.

“Conversations are never simply just an exchange of words,” says Chadnick. “There is a lot under the surface that has the potential to create breakthroughs or breakdowns. Conversational Intelligence brings to light critical blind spots and teaches us how to foster healthier conversational dynamics.”

Glaser gives many examples of blind spots that can trip us up. For example, we don’t realize the impact that trust and distrust have on our neurochemistry, which in turn has an impact on our abilities to connect, listen and relate.

“When we perceive a threat, such as a judgmental remark or some feedback given abruptly, the brain goes into protective mode and gears down on executive functions related to listening, discerning, critical thinking and empathizing,” says Chadnick. “Conversely, conversations that make us feel safe, appreciated and understood have the opposite effect.”


What do you think: are soft skills essential for accountants? Join the CPA Canada Foresight: Reimagining the Profession digital conversation to discuss the future direction of the profession, employment opportunities and regulatory impact.