Nothing Soft about “Soft Skills”

Often when I talk about the work we do at SOS Leadership, C-level executives and HR professionals will reply with something like this, “Oh, your company helps with soft skills.” The fact that “soft skills” has become a common phrase drives me nuts. Why, you ask? Because there is NOTHING SOFT ABOUT SOFT SKILLS!

What’s soft about being able to effectively communicate with people? What’s soft about working well with others? What’s soft about having a positive attitude? What’s soft about being open to learning and change? What’s soft about managing priorities and being efficient? What’s soft about being a leader who makes a difference?

If you’ve ever had people work for you, you know how much time and effort can be expended trying to coach people on these supposed “soft skills.” You know that it costs you cold hard cash in lost productivity when people lack these vital skills. On the flip side, as a follower, you’ve seen leaders flounder with these skills and experienced the incredible frustration and dissatisfaction of following a leader who lacks “soft skills.”

Like me, I’m sure at some point in your career, you’ve pounded your head against a wall in utter despair because of a leader’s weaknesses in these areas. This message needs to be heard loud and clear: There’s nothing soft about soft skills. I wish we could remove this term from our business vocabulary, but unfortunately it’s here to stay.

Experts say that the “hard skills” needed to do particular jobs are easier to teach than many of the soft skills people need in order to be successful. I agree wholeheartedly. Why? Because change is hard, and ultimately these so called “soft skills” can be hard wired into us as part of who we are; they make up our personality, and they come from our conditioning. But we CAN change and become better communicators and stronger leaders. We can learn to work more effectively on teams and manage our priorities.

So the next time I hear this standard line about “soft skills,” I’ll remember that hard skills work is easier, yet we choose to work on the soft skills – the skills that are harder to change and the skills that have the potential to change lives and impact your company’s bottom line!

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