Strategy, Leadership & Development

5 Learnable Skills You Must Master To Succeed In CSR

4 months ago

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5 Learnable Skills You Must Master To Succeed In CSR

If you want to ‘succeed’ in any job, you naturally must develop the necessary skills.

For each individual job, the ‘skill profile’ can look drastically different. A salesperson needs a very different skillset to a construction worker, for example.

Sure, you could argue that for most CSR jobs, a traditional business skillset would be sufficient.

In fact, you’d probably be right.

But, the vast majority of us want to be far more than sufficient. We don’t just want to do our jobs, we want to excel in them.

We want to become highly tuned machines, maximising our effectiveness when confronted with challenging projects.

To do that, I think we need to identify and develop a far more specific skillset, one that, in my view, is slightly unique to CSR.

So, in this post, I’ll look at the 5 skills I think make up that skillset. The good news is, they’re all completely learnable, so you can get better at them with the right resources and a bit of perseverance.

Skills To Succeed In CSR | Jason Wicks

1. Ambition

Now, you might straight away question whether ambition is a learnable skill. Bear with me.

In this context, ambition doesn’t relate to personal ambition (although you probably have that if you’re reading this article).

Rather, it relates to a more communal form of ambition.

In CSR, the benchmark is constantly rising. The companies that will succeed in the long term are the ones breaking new ground. They’re the ones that are leading the way when it comes to certain social and environmental issues.

Therefore, if you want to do well, you need to think big.

Too often I hear that we should ‘underpromise and overdeliver’. I don’t think the market will reward this type of CSR strategy.

Those professionals who dare to be ambitious, who set targets that they’re not entirely sure how they will reach, they are the ones who will prevail.

I personally think this mentality is very learnable. When launching strategies and projects, you must learn to think beyond yourself. You must learn to question your motives. Are you doing this because it’s easy, because it might make you look good, or because it’s right?

Aim for the latter. Every time.

2. Relationship Management

CSR is about partnerships.

Whether it’s internal or external, no CSR team works in isolation.

Because of this, building and maintaining strong relationships is absolutely crucial.

Now, this is obviously the case for many jobs, but for CSR I think there’s another reason why it’s so important.

CSR is a long term concept.

With other jobs, the relationships you build don’t have to last all that long. Maybe a year or two. What that means is that relationships might sometimes be developed superficially, just to ‘get the job done’.

With CSR, it’s quite possible that partnerships and projects can span a decade or more.

Nobody can force a relationship for that long, it has to be real.

Now, some people will naturally be better at this than others, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be learned. There are numerous articles, books and videos about quickly forming rapport and trust with people, so check them out if you think this is an area you could develop.

Side note: This is a great TEDx talk on the very subject.

Skills To Succeed In CSR | Jason Wicks

3. Monotasking

In a recent post, I discussed how CSR professionals need to learn to ‘say no’ to stop their resources from being spread too thin.

Now, I fully stand by the points I made in that article.

However, even if you say no more than you say yes, CSR professionals will still find themselves managing a wide variety of projects simultaneously.

You could go straight from a meeting on environmental compliance to a meeting about charity fundraising.

Typically, people would say that you therefore need to be able to multitask.

I disagree.

Multitasking generally doesn’t work. Our brains aren’t wired to be good at it.

Instead, we should learn to ‘monotask’.

Monotasking is the idea of being completely focussed on one thing at a time, and it’s actually much better for productivity.

In essence, you need to be able to completely ‘switch off’ parts of your brain, and ‘switch on’ others.

If you’re sat in a meeting thinking about another project you’ve got going on, you’re unlikely to be as effective as you could be.

If you can develop the ability to hit the pause button on a project and instantly pick up from where you left off on another, you’ll be more likely to succeed at both.

To do this, try leaving detailed notes and memos for yourself when switching focus.

After you’ve done some work on a project, take a break, prepare yourself for the next project, get into the headspace, and then begin a new block of time on that second project.

Over time, you’ll enjoy far more success at your job as a whole.

Skills To Succeed In CSR | Jason Wicks

4. Values-Driven Resilience

I guess it’s fairly obvious that to work in CSR you need to have strong values.

After all, a key motivation should be that it’s just ‘the right thing to do’.

However, as a development skill, I think it’s a tad more complex.

It’s one thing to be driven by your values, it’s another thing entirely to stand with them under scrutiny.

Due to the collaborative nature of CSR, you’ll frequently be faced with convincing others that the ‘right thing to do’ is worth their time and effort.

With stakeholders all having different agendas, priorities and objectives, conflict is inevitable.

To succeed in CSR though, you need to overcome that.

The natural temptation is to dilute your values to appease the majority. However, this is often a fruitless exercise.

Instead, have the confidence to stand by what is right, and have the persuasive skills necessary to get other people on board.

Of course there is a fine line between resilience and stubbornness, but staying on the right side of it will maximise your chance of success in the long run.

5. Patience

We live in a world of instant gratification, and that is a huge problem.

In many ways, it’s quickly conditioned us to expect results instantly.

With CSR, this is a dangerous situation to find ourselves in, because practically nothing happens overnight.

I’ve seen CSR strategies span 30 years, with ambitious targets for 2050. Sure, that’s broken down into smaller, annual targets, but you can never lose sight of the bigger picture.

By acknowledging and accepting that the impact of your work might not be visible for some time, you can be a much better CSR professional.

Of course, that’s an enormous challenge for many people.

Most employees now want to make ‘an impact’ at work. They want to know that their effort will have a noticeable effect on something. CSR can certainly deliver this, but not in the way many people anticipate.

It takes time.

If you can continually stay conscious of the bigger picture, and where you fit into it, you’ll be much better at your job. By the time all your work comes to fruition, you might not even still be working there, and that’s something you need to come to terms with as early on as possible.

Skills To Succeed In CSR | Jason Wicks

Skills Summary

I get it, this is a long article. For those of you who might have just scrolled straight to the bottom of the page hoping for a summary, you’re in luck. For those that actually read all 1200 words, here’s an unnecessary recap of the 5 key skills:

  • Ambition – Think bigger, break new ground.
  • Relationships – Build sincere, long-lasting relationships.
  • Monotask – Learn to switch focus between projects.
  • Values-Driven Resilience – Don’t dilute your values because it’s easy.
  • Patience – Nothing happens overnight. Come to terms with that.

If you think there are more skills that deserve recognition, pop them in the comments below!

Hi! I’m an author and blogger within the fields of social impact and responsible business. I believe that businesses can be a force for good in the world, and this website contains my thoughts on how that can work.

One Comment
  1. Janet Gervais

    Enjoy your articles and as someone who is interested and have a passion for corporate social responsibility space,these are good tips. Thank you

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