Our Facilitators: The Soft Skills Expert

Katja Rinkinen

Clear communication between colleagues, partners and the public, as well as the ability to handle conflicts when they arise, are key at every stage of a conservation project management plan.

There is nobody at the Frankfurt Spring School that knows this better than Katja Rinkinen. Katja is our expert soft skills facilitator who today, has shared her rich knowledge and experience with our Frankfurt Spring School participants.

We talked with Katja to understand more about her role, expertise, and experience at the Frankfurt Spring School 2019.

How did you become interested in soft skills and personal communication?

After 20 years of business experience I can conclude all I have learned in one sentence: “Communication is key”. The first time this idea came to my mind was in a conservation project of what was then known as GTZ, and is now GIZ, a German development aid company. As part of this project in an isolated region of Peru, I witnessed first-hand a meeting between keen NGO-workers and a local community living in a buffer zone of one of the county’s national parks. I won’t forget the facial expressions of the local representatives when the project was presented to them. It seemed to me that two worlds without any possibility of understanding each other were clashing here.

I went on from this experience to become a communication consultant and business coach in the finance sectior, looking after clients like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Börse, the German Stock Exchange, ING Diba, and Deutsche Bank. Nowadays I work exclusively with executives on their communication styles and stage performance, and still… Communication is key.

What is the greatest challenge you face in your role, and how do you overcome it?

Personal communication is exactly what it says, personal. How you communicate, act in conflicts and “on-stage” is a result of education, up-bringing and experience. If you decide you want to develop another communication style or behavior it will take a great amount of work, and a lot of psychology is involved. Ensuring sustainable progress and development is very hard work, but for me it is very rewarding to observe the success of my clients.

What is the main message you hope to convey to the Spring School participants during your session?

I hope they will understand that to succeed you have to be excellent in two fields. You must be excellent in the field you are working in, such as conservation, biology, geography or zoology, and you must be excellent at management and leadership. In my experience, you have to be very professional in these areas to get things done. Your message must be convincing or even tempting so that people are urged to follow your ideas, processes and suggestions. In order to do any of this, you must be a communications specialist!

I hope the students will reflect on their communication style and how communications actually “works”. You need to be able to conduct efficient meetings, to know how to discuss delicate issues constructively , and how to avoid pointless conflict while still being able to handle that which is unavoidable or previously existing.

Hopefully I can show and convey that communication and conflict resolution can be a joyful art which makes everyone’s life easier, and which is worth learning and practicing.

Katja Rinkinen is just one of the Frankfurt Spring School’s expert facilitators that form the backbone of our course and experience.