August 2, 2014

Ethics, Principles and Soft Skills

Soft skills are defined as the behavioural skills required to succeed when working with other people. They are the inter-relational skills that ensure that day to day working relationships go smoothly and your team delivers what it commits to.

These skills include things like communication, collaboration, conflict management, decision making and handling stress.

In the financial working environment there are many conflicting demands, time pressures and differences of opinion about how things should be done. It is soft skills that will ensure you can navigate your way through this sea of personal interest and succeed in your role.

It is difficult to quantify soft skills and to see how good you are. I see my soft skills learning as a continuous cycle of improvement, starting with reviewing mentally how I get on in specific day to day scenarios, reviewing to see how I could have done better and then next time trying to improve.

Several key organisations have set a code of ethics for their members to follow. In particular, for working in the city and succeeding in today’s financial environment, I would recommend looking at the following two:

Scrum Alliance Code of ethics

The scrum alliance has defined the following categories of behaviour:

  • Commitment
  • Focus
  • Openness
  • Respect

The advice and description of the behavioural traits contained in each of these sections are relevant to everyday life and specifically for creating software in an agile environment. I strongly recommend reading these as this will put you in the most conducive state of mind for producing quality and relating to others. This will be very important during the interview phase and increasingly so after you start when the project gets under way and under pressure from different areas of the organisation.

I would also recommend reading the principles that come from the Agile Manifesto. You can read about these in my post about Agile principles.

Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming (XP) has a lot to offer in giving us specific soft skills for use in software projects. I recommend reading Kent Beck’s Extreme Programming book which gives a very in detail description of how to build the soft skills in yourself and your team.

CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct

The CFA’s code of ethics is somewhat drier, but specifically related to conduct in financial environments.

The Code of Ethics maintains that you must:

  • Place the integrity of the profession and the interests of clients above your own interests
  • Act with integrity, competence, and respect
  • Maintain and develop your professional competence

The Standards of Professional Conduct cover:

  • Professionalism and integrity of the capital markets
  • Duties to clients and employers
  • Investment analysis and recommendations
  • Conflicts of interest and your responsibilities

There is a handbook  which you can review, and its worth skimming through, however don’t spend too much time on this. The handbook has been created to guide professionals working outside of IT and especially analysts working in financial markets. It is also a part of the CFA exam.

Conclusion

Soft skills are an on-going learning process and they govern how you interact with other people. The better you are with your soft skills the better you will get on in your role and in life. In I.T. as in most jobs, it is a balance of working with other people’s opinions and agendas and keeping your own course true and your integrity intact.

Choose the battles you want to fight and try to resolve all conflict with a solution that is beneficial to both parties. It is better not get into conflict at all but to see these events coming and facilitate a solution before it becomes a problem. This will become easier in I.T. with the more technical knowledge you have and the better you become with your soft skills.

My own experience

I have found yoga and meditation extremely beneficial to my state of wellbeing and my ability to handle conflict in the workplace. Being calm and not caught up in the importance of the moment has given me the ability to remain detached, provide a better solution and see the problem from other’s perspectives. I recommend taking up yoga as a class near your home or in the city.

There a number of classes now specifically designed for city professional. The classes fit into lunch breaks or are at convenient times after or before work.

 

Simon Powers

Simon Powers is an Agile Coach specialising in large scale transformations and agile adoption. He has a background in very large enterprise architecture which has led on to organisational design and agile process refinement. Simon is the founder of Adventures with Agile.