Soft Skills Are Actually Hard

I recently read two articles on soft skills and soft skills came up during a Six Thinking Hats lunch and learn. I’ve come to the conclusion that soft skills are hard skills…I stole that from someone.

Vince Molinaro was recently at a presentation where the CEO of a mid-size technology company said the following to a group of high potential leaders in her company. “Your technical skills generally get you your first management or leadership role,” the CEO said. “But a large part of your success after that will be based on the strength of your soft skills.” Heather Muir in a Mandel blog says that “technical skills or subject matter expertise may no longer be enough” for success.

Molinaro believes that the best leaders are often those that demonstrate a capacity to work closely with people and build teams, all while demonstrating a healthy capacity for self-awareness. He goes on to say that he’s “come to the undeniable conclusion that it’s the strength of your soft skills that will make or break you as a leader.” And, he believes that soft skills are proving to be even more critical today. He refers to a white paper called The Soft Skills Imperative. The authors of the white paper argue “that although technology is quickly taking over all aspects of the world of work, the ability to understand people – largely through soft skills – is a huge competitive advantage.” The white paper includes things such as expressing empathy, communicating persuasively, seeking common ground with stakeholders and engaging people so they feel invested in the company.

A recent LinkedIn study identified the top ten soft skills that companies look for in their job candidates: “communication, organization, teamwork, consistent punctuality, critical thinking, social skills, creativity, interpersonal communication, adaptability, and a friendly personality.” Their study concluded that that almost 60% of companies in the United States cannot find talent with strong soft skills.

As a consultant Molinaro often finds that many failing leaders that he works with were promoted into a leadership role without the appropriate soft skills training. (I agree with Molinaro – people do not get soft skills training when they are promoted. I’ve seen this personally and throughout my 20+ year career in L&D.)

Muir believes that investing in soft skills is a smart move for the following reasons:

1. Soft skills are transferable and evergreen – things like the ability to communicate well and collaborate with others never loses relevancy.

2. Soft skills can improve your ability to learn other skills – learning a new skill requires you to listen, ask questions, and clarify your understanding.

3. Soft skills can bridge generational differences – if you want to bridge generational divides, give people the shared tools and frameworks they need to communicate more effectively with one another.

4. Soft skills can bridge philosophical or personality disagreements – people who work together don’t always agree with or like one another. It is important to have active listening skills and the communication tools needed so that you can respond to colleagues’ concerns and/or comments without getting defensive.

5. Soft skills can lessen the pain of change – while you can never completely eliminate change, you can manage it with clear and purposeful communication.

6. Soft skills can improve performance – poor communication costs companies a lot of money, time, and resources; according to Towers Watson, companies that have highly effective communications practices are 1.7 times more likely to financially outperform their peers.

Soft skills can be hard skills to learn, but they can be learned. All of us can learn how to communicate more clearly, collaborate more effectively, listen actively, deal with change better, resolve conflicts, etc. We just need to be willing to learn and we need to make a commitment to putting them into practice.

Reach out to me personally. I am passionate about helping new and mid-career people managers hone their soft skills. It is why I passionate about learning and development and it is why I am a certified professional coach. Adapted from and

#Leadership #Management

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