As we progress through school, it’s all about grades. At a young age, how many we got out of 10 determined the colour star we received, the progression into As, Bs, Cs etc. with a plus or minus next to them through to serious grading which influenced which university we could go to or which job we got. Whilst teachers may have commented about whether we were a nice child, a sociable child or a challenging child at a parents’ evening or on a report, the focus was most definitely on grades, rather than ‘soft’ skills.
Even in our first days of work, the focus is frequently on what you know and how well you can do tasks – ‘hard’ skills. Often, there is a competitive element if a cohort of new recruits comes in. However, as time passes this focus is not enough. Here’s why:
1. As humans, we are not entirely logical beings, so we respond to people, what they are like and how they engage with us. Often, our perception of someone affects whether we engage with them at all and whether we even get to find out about their ‘hard’ skills, unless we are forced to by circumstance.
2. ‘Hard’ skills are very comparable, after a few years at work, people often have very similar levels of ‘hard’ skills, so it is difficult to differentiate yourself based on these alone. ‘Hard’ skills are just expected e.g. an employment lawyer is expected to know how someone can be legally dismissed, what the options are, it will become more about how he or she interacts with the client.
3. There are fewer roles at more senior levels, so differentiation is essential.
4. As our seniority increases, we are leading people and are often more engaged with external people, such as clients. This frequently accounts for more of our time, so ‘hard’ skills are less of a focus, relationship building and influence are key.
5. The challenge of learning how to work with and engage different people is never complete, as individuals are so unique and nuanced. To a degree new knowledge and skills can be assimilated and ticked off (unless you are in a research role). ‘Soft’ skills rarely can be.
So my question to you is, how much have you worked on your non ‘hard’ i.e ‘soft’ skills? Do you prioritise their development for yourself and others, if you manage a team? It really makes the difference to personal career success and business performance.
If you want to discuss what these ‘soft’ skills might mean for you or your team and how they could improve individual career success and business performance, get in touch. Let’s face it, for all of us ‘hard’ skills are often the baseline, we are all bothered about who we interact with day-to-day.
Image courtesy of freeimages.com/RobinNorman