Why I hate the phrase “Soft Skills”

Why I hate the phrase “Soft Skills”

I hate the phrase “soft skills.”

Yesterday, I was at a project site, working with 10 people in 10 hours, and each person had concerns related to CORE business skills.  Nothing ”soft” at all.

Their concerns included:  conflict management, communication, delegation, listening, feedback, role clarity, alignment, engagement, motivating others, self-motivation, maximizing productivity of others, career development, managing work and family and health….

These are CORE Skills.  Essential to their success.   And there is nothing “soft” about developing these skills.

Perhaps it is time to rename skill development into two columns:  Core skills (essential to business, hard to quantify) and technical skills (secondary to success, easy to quantify.)

  1. Consider what is taught in MBA programs?  Or your training department?
  2. Consider what is tied to your employee incentives?  Or promotions?
  3. Consider what has determined your success to date?
  4. Consider what will likely determine your future success?

My hunch is that your answers to questions 1 and 2 included technical skills.  Easy to train, easy to measure, easy to track, yet secondary to your success.

Yesterday, one of my clients talked about his “Success Team.”  He listed 4 influential people, and 3 were on site.  I urged him to develop at least 6 people on his Success Team.  And if he did not know the names of his target Success Team members, I urged him to select “the smartest person in the U.S. who wants this project to succeed.”  He wrote down that phrase, and he will find the people soon.

Thankfully, we can each develop our core business skills when we ask for help.

One of my coaches says, “Individuals do not succeed, despite what history books and company records state.  Teams succeed.”

So, how are you developing your core business success skills?

Who are you asking for help?

1 Comment
  • Doug N.

    As leaders, we are trained over and over to establish specific and measurable objectives which naturally move us toward the technical skills. However, many success driven principles focus on the ability to motivate and cultivate the “soft skills” discussed previously. Often much attention is given to the technical skills while the “core” skills are seen as nice-to-dos, touchy-feely and well…soft. If the two truly are mutually imperative to overall balanced development then, as Doug suggests, at least an equal level of attention must be given to the “core” skills as to the “technical” skills.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:12 am