Wednesday 14 January 2015

The case for soft skills

I was excited to read a BBC news article this morning that said:
"Soft skills" need to be taken much more seriously as factors for business success, says a campaign by employers.
I could write at length about the use of the term 'soft skills' to describe skills such as "communication, initiative, interacting with customers and team working" but that's for another blog. Although I have written a blog for those thinking "but I don't do soft skills".
I can certainly say that when I was first immersed in soft skills training 15 years ago my business life changed for the better. There's isn't a day goes by that I don't use these skills even if it's just to remind myself that how I see the world isn't how others do. Which is why I love the graphic above. A visual reminder that we're all different.
What this appreciation of our different world views does is takes out the tone from our language - the tone that says "I'm right and don't need to listen to you" and replaces it with a tone that says "My understanding of the situation is this - what's yours".
I use the next graphic, and when delivering workshops actually act this out, to demonstrate that if you keep doing what you've always done to someone you may never open the door to mutual understanding ie you don't push someone when they need to be pulled - or more specifically you don't give someone a detailed report if they'd prefer and take more meaning from a one page visual
The reaction I often get when coaching, facilitating or training this subject is "Why do I need to adapt my style to other people".
It's as if people think they'll lose their identity if they don't express themselves exactly as they'd like to.

My response is always the same "you don't need to change anything if what you're doing is working - if you're happy with the current state of affairs then keep doing what you're doing."

Over the 15 years there have been many responses to my use of 'soft skills' in the procurement training we deliver and more generally in my blogs. What I have noticed in the last 6 months is a step change on attitude. A move away from "it's manipulative" towards one that appreciates that its adoption can open many closed doors. Whether those closed doors are to:
  • understanding
  • success
  • change
  • appreciation
  • results
  • collaboration
  • team working
  • and so on
Of course you might just see soft skills as fluffy and not want to go near them with a barge pole in which case you might want to read my blog on my response to "But I don't do soft skills".

Before Christmas I wrote a blog exploring this subject more fully and it has been one of my most popular blogs since starting. This interest provided the inspiration to write more broadly on the subject covering such topics as Trust, Change Management, Taking Responsibility, State Management, Creativity and Kindness. This month I've also covered Values, Goals and even shared a great process involving Standing in the other person's shoes.

Happy for any suggestions for future blogs or questions on the subject of soft skills development - either below in comments or to or +44 (0)7770 538159

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

The coaching and facilitation I offer is specifically aimed at identifying what it holding you or your team back from achieving your objectives including understanding all aspects of these soft skills. More here on the type of coaching I offer, and more specifically when someone else might be the more ideal coach for you.


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