Where the (Soft Skills) Rubber Meets the Road

career defining soft skills development employee retention leadership leadership development productivity profitability results soft skills soft skills definition success the importance of soft skills Sep 12, 2021
Soft Skills Definition

Now that we have A Practical Definition We Can Apply Right Away, let’s close this loop by looking at some practical action steps we can put in place to make sure our soft skills are yielding measurable results - just like we’d expect to see from developing new or better technical skills! Last time I tossed some stats from a study that showed what executives saw as the cause of most workplace failure as well as some number showing the cost of downtime due to poor communication. If only that were where it stopped…

In Leadership Gold, John Maxwell shared that “Some sources estimate that as many as 65% of people leaving companies do so because of their managers… The ‘company’ doesn’t do anything negative to them. People do. Sometimes coworkers cause the problems that prompt people to leave. But often the people who alienate employees are their direct supervisors.” I recently read an article from the American Management Association citing research done by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation showing that “75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge.” When we consider both those things, then we throw in Gallup’s study showing that “it’s generally estimated that replacing an employee costs a business one-half to five times that employee’s annual salary,” we can begin to have a clear picture of some real costs that can absolutely be impacted by applying those soft skills!

As I mentioned before, the soft skills that show up in our communication can be seen directly through our behaviors - whether we like it or not! Becoming extremely effective in that area is just as simple as learning to recognize the communication style of the person we’re communicating with and applying The Platinum Rule. I won’t hash that out again here but if you’re not familiar with how simple doing this really is, send me a quick reply so we can make time to talk…

The idea of Leadership is also frequently listed as a soft skill. All too often though, I hear that word used as a title (noun) or as a descriptive word (adjective) tied directly to someone in a certain position. Rather than hashing out that entire fight here and now, I’ll just suggest that real results rarely come from BEING something but that absolutely do come from DOING something. When we’re willing to treat leadership as a verb, by taking specific action to lead the people around us, we can expect to see that action have a tangible impact on each of the numbers we’ve looked at to this point. I’m guessing you have a clear picture of what taking that action looks like by now… But if you could use a refresher, it might serve you well to review my Leading At The Next Level lesson called Defining Servant Leadership - Building Champions of Service. (By the way, I just submitted a chapter for an upcoming book called Voices For Leadership on that same topic! More to come on that…)

I’ve heard things like Drive and Work Ethic referred to as soft skills as well. I believe both of those are very intrinsic things but I also believe that having clear goals for what we want to accomplish and a clear purpose around the impact we hope to make in this thing called life plays a significant part in developing our drive and our work ethic. The fact that you’ve hung with me to this point tells me you have those things, now let’s work to build them in the team members around us so we can recognize an even larger return on our investment into our soft skills!