The Importance of So-Called "Soft" Skills

Crysta and Fritzi_May 20213Crysta Pikes and her mother, Fritzi, have been a team since she was a girl. Now that she’s grown up, they’re still a team at Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF), where Fritzi works as President and CEO and Crysta now works as Manager of Marketing and Communications.

Read along as we chat with this dynamic duo about how teamwork, commitment and communication have been an integral part of their lives since before they worked together.


4word: Fritzi, Crysta has told us that when she was younger, the family would meet each week to discuss tradeoffs. Can you explain a bit more about that?

Fritzi: As a working mom, I tried to teach my children the importance of tradeoffs and the power of choice. I chose to be a working mother and that came with tradeoffs.

To help them make choices about what was the most critical for me to participate in, I taught them to rank things on a scale of one to three. One meant, “YOU MUST attend,” two meant, “I’d like to have you there,” and three was really more of a way for Mom to accumulate guilt points.

My motto, which I constantly shared with them, was: “Life is about choices. You get to make choices and then they make you, so make good choices.”

4word: How did you come up with that idea? Was it to help manage schedules?

Fritzi: My parents had 10 children. My mother, the CEO of the home, had weekly meetings to manage our lives. She was a career educator and was fully engaged in all of our ridiculously numerous activities.

She taught us to be responsible by ensuring we had our activities on the calendar to be discussed and planned for the upcoming week. She also taught us the tradeoffs system to help her stay fully engaged in our lives. We kids alternated running the family meeting. That was our first experience of being in control, with responsibility and ownership of something.

4w_wed300x300_070313_b4word: Crysta, how specifically did your mom show you that teamwork, good communication and commitment are essential qualities to nurture?

Crysta: My mother used daily life experiences as our ongoing classroom and was the queen of teachable moments:

·      TEAMWORK: We would wake up Saturday mornings to a list of chores and the promise of a fun outing if we completed them in the allotted time. After watching my failed attempts at trying to boss my brothers around, Mom showed me that leadership was about teamwork. “Let them play to their strengths,” she said. “They like to play in water, so let them clean the showers. Speak kindly, let your team feel good about what they’re accomplishing, and they will perform.”

·      COMMITMENT: After my first ballet recital she said, “Oh sweetie, Mommy is so glad that you’re good at math.” But as painful as it was, she wouldn’t let me quit in the middle of the year. She said I’d made a commitment and needed to follow through and learn poise, grace and the importance of finishing what I started.

·      COMMUNICATION: From a very young age I can hear my mother saying, “Mommy can’t address what Mommy doesn’t know.” My mom’s very demanding professional schedule led her to make sure her time at home was very intentional.

We knew that when we got in the car after school there were going to be very specific questions that we needed to be prepared to answer. “My day was fine,” was not an acceptable answer. She wanted to know every detail from new strategies in long division, to whether or not there was a bully in our class, to any take home assignments that needed parental participation.

She made sure that constant communication with our family was a part of our routine at a young age. As we grew older we knew how important it was to discuss what was going on in our lives so she could support, guide and encourage us.

4word: Now that you’re in the workforce, how have those lessons benefited you?

Crysta: They’ve put me in a position to catapult my professional career because of an awareness of “soft skills” that many people don’t acquire without years of experience in the workplace.

My colleagues would describe me as very organized and committed to action, but what they don’t know is that I am drawing from skills learned at a very young age. The process and planning documents I created for my team mirror my mom’s summer curriculum/chores lists, and my dedication to follow through comes from my mother’s words echoing in my head, “You need to finish what you start… and do it right!”

I also seek feedback from my supervisors and mentors because I learned from my mother how important it is to constantly be aware of ways to get better. Many would describe my mother’s style as “tough” as she has always been very direct and has very high standards. I now realize that her style prepared me to accept criticism and feedback from others in a way that is critical for my professional and personal growth.




What soft skills do you think are the most important in the workplace?