Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

Now that we can answer What Do They Mean by “Soft Skills”?, let’s start building a comparison between Soft Skills and Hard Skills, the impact both types of skills can have in nearly any role, and then we’ll look at how we can ensure any skill development we invest in provides us with a tangible return.

I believe one of the main reasons so many individuals and organizations struggle to tie tangible return on investment is that we rarely even see an accurate comparison. An article I read on Forbes.com recently titled Are Hard Skills or Soft Skills More Important to be an Effective Leader? shared this:

Hard skills are teachable and most often technical skills, such as economic analysis, strategic planning or design. Soft skills fall in the interpersonal realm and include listening, team-building, and leadership development. They are not so much taught as cultivated. 

While that sounds reasonable at face value, I’m going to challenge you to think into...

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An Unexpected Revelation

I closed last time by promising to share what I learned a few years ago about the origin of soft skills so let’s dive right in!

Many of the civilian folks I’ve interacted with for the majority of my life have had the perception that people in the military, especially those in commanding roles, are brash and dictate orders for everyone around them to follow without any consideration for those pesky feelings. I suppose movies like Full Metal Jacket have helped build that perception in many of us who have not served in the military. Truth be told though, I can’t point to a single military veteran that I’ve worked with who’s barked orders to the people reporting to them. In fact, I’ve seen the exact opposite!

The first former military manager I worked with, Terry, was also a West Point graduate. If anyone should have had that command and control approach, it should have been him - right? I mean, West Point has a reputation for being extremely tough on...

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A Solid Framework to Build On

An article I recently read on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website titled In Search of Soft Skills: Why you should teach employees to be more resilient, communicative, and creative opened by stating “Being gifted at performing the technical aspects of a job can take an employee only so far. To become a stellar employee or an admired leader requires an arsenal of skills that are harder to measure but critical to success.”

I agree with most of that statement, kinda… To me, the idea of gifted implies that someone is naturally good at something. While we all know a few folks who seem to pick up on certain technical skills faster than the rest of us, I’ve seen far more people who master their craft through an intense amount of dedication and effort. I’m betting that calling those folks gifted and acting like they didn’t work hard to become great at what they do will piss them off! I do, however, agree that mastering the technical...

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Accountable for Results

Once we’ve been intentional about defining leadership development, our work should be done! Right?

Before you fall completely out of your chair, laughing at that ridiculous statement, I’ll challenge you to show anything of significance that’s truly that simple… If we want to achieve significant results, especially the tangible results that make a measurable impact on our organization’s bottom line, we’ll have to be sure to see it through - not just issue a statement and call it done…

For close to 15 years, I worked for a Human Resource Manager who was always very vocal about what he expected from me anytime I attended any type of class or conference. I was required to report back to him, and often the entire management team, showing I had learned and what steps I would be implementing in the process I led. I was also responsible for seeing this through and for showing a tangible return on the investment that had been made for me to attend...

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Can We Afford Not To…?

I closed the last post by mentioning how many organizations view “soft skills” training as something that’s nice to do when there’s time but far less critical to the day to day operation of the business than any technical training tying directly back to their specific industry. But is that the right decision?

In chapter 16 of Leadership Gold, People Quit People, Not Companies, John Maxwell says “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.” In many cases, these are the same managers that have risen through the ranks of that company as they’ve developed strong technical skills and became some of the organization’s top producers. But as we discussed in the last post with regards to just how that can impact communication, being great at doing doesn’t always translate to being effective in...

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What? How? And Definitely WHY?!

I closed the last blog by referencing something I heard John Maxwell share recently, “Not investing in your team is short-cutting yourself as a leader,” then I challenged you to think about what tasks you’re still hanging onto that could really be passed on to someone on your team AND would serve to empower them in the process.

Once we begin delegating with the intention of developing the people around us, we need to also consider what tools could help those same people most to truly master those assignments we’re handing them. While it’s not quite across the board, most companies tend to have solid systems in place for helping team members improve their technical skills. Those hard skills, as we often call them, apply directly to the task at hand and typically have an immediate and visible impact on the final product we’re working to produce.

But the higher the level of responsibility for leading a team, the more we’ll find ourselves...

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