They’re Not The Soft Skills; They are The Essential Skills

Time and again, I hear leaders in organization refer to listening, ethics, patience, humor and understanding (among many others) as the “soft skills”. They are referencing them in comparison to data driven quantifiable skills such as creating a spread sheet, analyzing productions schedules, and tracking sales projections.

While their intent may not be to demean human relations skills, the net result is usually that people see these people skills as less important than the quantitative  skills.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The feedback from the CEO was that one of his team leaders was a great technical leader but that he approached everything in his work with “pointy elbows” and a desire to always get his way. When I asked him about his reputation within the company, he told me that he believed everyone thought he was a great leader. After completing a 360 with his boss, peers and direct reports, the findings revealed that he earned his respect through fear and intimidation. He was viewed as effective but his interpersonal skills was so rough that people mostly responded to stay out of his way.

He was, of course, shocked by these findings and recognized that his ability to influence others as well as his future with the organization hung in his ability to improve these so called “soft skills.” Over the months we worked together, he began to see the benefits of improving his interpersonal and relationship skills and that he became more successful at building his own team along with strengthening other part of the company where his technical skills delivered great value but only because he was able to effectively communicate and relate to others. At the end of our work together, he was the one who told me that these are not soft skills but are essential for his success.

In my corporate consulting work, I see that technical competencies are actually far easier to obtain and/or develop than are the personal and interpersonal skills.  People are prepared to study and focus on technical skills but assume that the interpersonal skills are not that important and are easily developed.

But they soon find out that without the development of these competencies, all the technical expertise is for naught if you cannot get people on your side.Furthermore the importance of the interpersonal skills have become critical in work situations where communication is essential, teamwork is expected and resilience to challenging situations is demanded.

I’m grateful to this reluctant client who nailed the importance of these skills and competencies in becoming a great leader, effective employee and nice person

Lets build a bandwagon around the “Essentials” and make them the operating foundation in the workplace. Don’t let anyone get away with calling them “soft skills” again.

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