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Ordinary People Taking Action
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When I coach people, I often stress the importance of ‘soft skills’, which I define as empathy, communication, resilience, leadership, stress management, collaboration, teamwork and self-confidence. I believe there is a difference between soft skills and emotional intelligence. I know some use the terms interchangeably, but that is for another post.
Unfortunately, these qualities tend to be grossly undervalued in the workplace relative to ‘hard skills’ such as technical ability. On a more positive note, however, I’m seeing evidence of an overall uptick in awareness about soft skills.
The point is that everyone, it seems, is starting to talk about the necessity and importance of ‘soft skills’ in the workplace. It’s being approached as though it’s a new phenomenon and yet, from my perspective, it’s been a necessity in the workplace for decades.
Stick with me for a moment as I share two thoughts.
In these instances, we could consider “hardware” as subject matter knowledge and “software” as subjective abilities, traits and habits. Both essential. I think of hard skills as fact-based knowledge, subject matter expertise, and technical proficiency. For example, the ability to summarize facts, articulate conclusions, and provide fact-based analysis.
Soft skills and hard skills are completely interdependent. It’s a fact that’s not always recognized by professionals and leaders. I think that is a miss. Because data shows that soft skills are proven to be essential for nearly all successful executives and professionals.
In fact, there is a lot of research showing that soft skills may be more important than hard skills in achieving professional success. Yet, sadly, there is also data to show that companies don’t support soft skills training and development.
I have so much to say on this topic, but to keep my post short and digestible, I will end with this:
If companies don’t start paying attention to the necessity of soft skills AND support development of these skills, their people will leave. Do you want your highest performer to quit because soft skills aren’t valued within your organization? Do you want to miss out on a high-potential because you didn’t invest in training on issues like communication and stress management? Do you want your competitor to attract your top talent because they care about the ‘soft’ stuff more than you?
Soft skills matter. People have so many choices of where to work and who they work with that they no longer have to work for or around jerks. The importance of soft skills should always be on topic – at every meeting, every planning session, and every mission.