Communication & Soft Skills

Kenji Matsushita


Interviewer: So we’re here with Kenji Matsushita talking about leadership and communication. Kenji what communication skills over the years have you developed to be a more effective leader?

Kenji: I think the biggest one for me is listening. I really try to listen and understand people or ask questions so that I really do understand. I was talking to a young engineer we have just met today. Um he’s from India and he’s only been here short term and he’s trying to explain some of the challenges he’s having and it was really listening skills that helped me understand what he was really trying to get at and not just assume that I knew what he was talking about. There’s a term that, “Your tongue can make you deaf.” If you’re talking then you’re not listening to the issue. Also, my mother was a good social worker and that rubbed off on me. She taught me how to get people to open up and really get to the true feelings and underlying issues that are easy to miss. So, that’s been a pretty good skill as well. I don’t let people fester problems either. I just say, “Let’s get to the bottom of this.” I think that’s been a big one too.

Interviewer: Well, Kenji thank you very much for your time today. We’ve gained a lot of important insights into leadership and communication. Thank you.

Kenji: Pleasure.

Michelle Price


Interviewer: So we’re here with Michelle Price, who is a Vice President with one of Alberta’s leading Oil and Gas companies, and she’s agreed to talk to us a little bit about communication and leadership today so thank you for coming, Michelle.

Michelle: Oh, you’re very welcome.

Interviewer: So could you tell us a bit about how communication has impacted your work?

Michelle: I believe that over time I’ve become hopefully more patient and improved on my listening skills so that I am more responsive to the wide diversity of people that I interact with and communicate with. You have to be sincere in your interactions. So you need to let people know you’re interested in what they’re saying. And that generally means that if you’re speaking to someone one-on-one, you have appropriate eye contact with them, that you allow enough time for individuals to answer questions you have, or to give input. That will vary with individuals. Some will speak very freely and some will not. You have to adapt to the individual you are talking to. You may need to ask probing questions. You may need to repeat points that have been made so you can confirm your understanding of what’s been said. And it depends as well what type of interaction you’re having. If it’s a social interaction, or if it’s a technical interaction, you have to adjust your listening skills.

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s a great point. And speaking of technical skills and soft skills, so do you think that throughout your career it has been more the soft skills side of your skills set that has given you more leadership opportunities or do you think it’s more the technical side or are they equal?

Michelle: It wouldn’t necessarily be the technical side because my technical expertise doesn’t align with the role that I have right now. I have a commerce degree and I’m a chartered accountant but right now I’m leading safety culture and operational reliability for our company. But there are a lot of leadership skills that are directly transferable as you manage people, set goals, plan and implement. To me, I think it’s a combination of having the ability to deliver results, but the only way you can be effective and deliver results is if you have those strong communication skills and the ability to be adaptive.

Interviewer: Great stuff. Thank you very much for your time today, Michelle.

Michelle: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you very much.

Soft Skills

Agnes Mxolisi

Interviewer: So I’d like to say a very special thank you to Agnes Mxolisi who has agreed to join us today and talk about her experience in the workplace in Canada and becoming a leader here, and the importance of not only community building but also soft skills and communication, so thank you.

Agnes: Thank you for having me.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about your success in Canada and maybe how soft skills have impacted your level of success?

Agnes: Well, being flexible, having an open mind is important. It breaks my heart when I hear an immigrant, an internationally-trained professional say, “Well yeah Canadians are like this or like that.” “Well they prefer, you know, people that are born here,” or “Yeah I’m not getting that job because of where I’m coming from or because of my accent.” And I hear it often enough that I have to give it credit. Capable people that are coming here to make Canada their home and workplace, and they cannot get ahead because of these restraints. It hasn’t been my case, I have been very fortunate to find very supportive people. I may have come here with a higher level of English than other people, and that might have made my work easier, so I think soft skills are critical. The ability to look past just technical skills, to have an open mind, to be able to ask a person, you know, very honestly, “What do you think in this presentation I did; what did I do wrong; what can I improve on?” And I’m not sure if everybody comes prepared with that mentality. Because we are highly qualified, we still may need to prove ourselves not as much technically but in the soft skills area.

Interviewer: Yes, thank you very much, Agnes. And I think, you know, even there are quite a few Canadians who could probably tell us stories about how getting promoted for them was challenging as well because they didn’t have the soft skills. So I think it’s a big part of Canadian workplace culture. Thanks for spending time with us today.

Agnes: Ok. Thank you.


Interviewer: So today, Kenji Matsushita is joining us for a discussion about leadership and communication so thanks for coming today, Kenji.

Kenji: Thanks for having me.

Interviewer: Could you tell me a little bit about why you think soft skills are so important for a leader?

Kenji: Sure. Um I’ve been the president of a multimillion dollar company and I’ve done a lot of self-schooling and studying after hours, but it’s always been the people skills that have gotten me the success because I’ve been able to organize and communicate with people.

Interviewer: And can you give our listeners an example of a time when you felt that your communication had an impact on people?

Kenji: Yeah, so I had to close a company down before and lay people off and, in the end, they were apologizing to me for letting me down and I started thinking, “Jeez you know, I do have an effect on people.” And you try to work with that skill to the advantage of both yourself and the people you’re working with to get the best for them and get the best for you.