- It's Time We Give "Soft Skills" Some Hard Respect
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May 9, 2024

"Soft skills" - the term itself feels a bit squishy, doesn't it? It's like calling a lion a "soft" predator. In reality, these skills are the backbone of successful leadership and thriving organizations. They're the secret sauce that helps us navigate complex work environments, promote innovation, and build lasting relationships. So, why do we insist on using a term that doesn't do them justice?

Let's take a step back and look at where this term even came from. Believe it or not, it started in the military. They recognized that commanding and managing troops effectively required more than just technical know-how. It needed skills like communication, strategic thinking, and adaptability. These skills were just as crucial for victory as knowing how to operate a tank or read a map. Skills for hardware were called "hard" and those for interacting with people were called "soft." Did the social scientist at the time not realize that Generals would avoid anything called "soft." As time progressed, "hard" skill won the popularity contest.

Fast forward to today, and these skills are more critical than ever. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that companies that invest in developing these skills see many benefits - engaged employees, higher productivity, and better retention rates. These skills have superpowers!

But here's the thing - calling them "soft skills" makes them sound like they're not as valuable as technical abilities. It's like saying, "Sure, you can inspire a team and solve complex problems, but can you code?" It's time we change the conversation and start giving these skills the recognition they deserve.

That's why leaders like Mary Barra of General Motors and Satya Nadella of Microsoft are putting a spotlight on the importance of skills like empathy, communication, and collaboration. They know that these skills are the key to unlocking innovation, building strong teams, and driving long-term success.

So, what can we do to give these skills the credit they're due? For starters, we can ditch the term "soft skills" and start calling them what they are - human skills, professional skills, or even power skills. These terms capture the essence of what makes these abilities so valuable - they're uniquely human, they're essential for success in any profession, and they give us the power to make a real difference in our work and in the world.

But it's not just about a name change. We also need to put our money where our mouth is and invest in developing these skills in ourselves and our teams. That means providing training, coaching, and opportunities for practice and growth. It means creating a culture that values and rewards these skills just as much as technical expertise.

The future of work is human-centric. The World Economic Forum's "Future of Jobs Report" predicts that skills like critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence will be among the most important for success in the coming years. In a world where machines can handle more and more technical tasks, it's our human skills that will set us apart and help us thrive.

So let's stop calling them "soft skills" and start recognizing them for what they are - the key to opening our full potential as individuals and as organizations. Let's invest in developing these skills, celebrate those who excel at them, and create a world where human-centric abilities are valued and rewarded. 

author avatar
George Morris
I use my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience and training to coach businesses on scaling up rapidly using Verne Harnish's Scaling Up framework. By doing so, my clients are more efficient and profitable, giving them the ability to make bigger impacts in the world. I deeply believe entrepreneurs are the best equipped to be the vehicle for meaningful change, and in the decade ahead, we'll see a substantial shift in how business is done. We'll move to a model where company purpose, impact, curiosity, and team health will be differentiators in overall business success. As Simon Sinek has pointed out, the finite games are the legacy of the past; we're moving to an infinite game.