Last time I suggested that the only real difference between soft skills and hard skills is that most hard skills only tie to certain fields where soft skills have the power of impacting nearly any type of work we’ll ever engage in. None of us come out of the womb being amazingly equipped with either type of skill; they ALL require cultivation throughout our lives if we ever hope to master them. And we should absolutely be seeing measurable results from the action steps we take in applying what we learn as we study any new skill!
The most common disconnect I’ve seen with this over the last twenty years has been that most of us have learned how to measure technical tasks; it’s fairly simple to track how many widgets can be produced in an hour or how many procedures can be completed each day. Measuring the effectiveness of what most people refer to as soft skills isn’t quite as straightforward because it rarely produces a stack of something at the end of an assembly line. But that DOES NOT mean we can’t measure it with a high degree of accuracy. We just need to pay attention to different data; data that’s just as quantifiable for those of us who understand what we’re looking at and are willing to do the work to dig deeper than the average Joe…
Another disconnect ties to what we expect to achieve when we attend any type of training. When I took shop class in middle school, I practiced the skills I was learning and built a little wooden tool box that I still have today. Applying those skills produced something I could touch, feel, and show off to my parents. With the image of that toolbox in your mind, I want you to consider what you expect to see, touch, or feel as a result of applying any of the soft skills you’ve learned to this point in your career…
That’s a bit harder to wrap our heads around, huh…
Hard? Yes. Impossible? NO!!!
When Cindy and I share lesson 2 in our Emerging Leader Development course on the Critical Principles of Effective Communication, I always share a statistic showing the cost of poor communication; “According to an SIS International Research study, the cumulative cost per year due to productivity losses resulting from communication barriers is more than $26,000 per employee. Not only that, the study found that a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communications. Translated into dollars, that’s more than $530,000 a year.”
Can we SEE poor communication? Well, kind of… But we can definitely SEE productivity losses and downtime!
It’s fairly easy to apply, or expect our team members to apply, something we can see immediately and have been trained to look for. I’ve rarely seen executives maintain that same kind of expectation for themselves or their team members when it comes to immediately applying what they learn in any soft skills training - and I believe it ties back to not knowing exactly what to look for! When we dig deeper and develop a clear picture of the specific impact soft skills can have on our results, we can change our expectations and watch for tangible results! Then we can start measuring the true impact each of those types of skills can have on our entire career, and we’ll look at that more next time!
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