Work and Leadership: Soft Skills, by Will Saunders
Soft skills are crucial. Don’t get me wrong. The technical competence and academic knowledge of your chosen profession play a pivotal role, no doubt about that. People definitely need the right background. Just look at some of the agency heads throughout the current presidential administration. Some of them aren’t well suited for the positions they hold. You know who I mean. That is true in many public, private, for profit, and non-profit organizations. It happens.
But I think the soft skills are essential too. They are important because they’re skills that you seldom are able to teach others. People generally have them or they don’t. People can grow and self-improve on their own. But the manager can’t make it happen. If the employee isn’t already motivated to do so, it isn’t likely to happen.
The thinking is, getting in the employees’ head and understanding their thought process will be far more meaningful to the manager and to the organization than knowing whether the employee can create a pivot table in Microsoft Excel or if they are experienced using data analytics software applications, such as Sisense. You can always teach people the mechanics of how use Excel or Sisense. But you can’t teach them how to be creative or how to cope well with chaos in the office or how to be agreeable, cordial and engaging or stepping up to take initiative and being proactive or having empathy for others. These things are more innate, and they naturally become a part of a person’s soul.
Many employers focus heavily on these soft skills. That’s why hiring managers ask interview questions that many job seekers find weird or irrelevant to the work (i.e., What is a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how did you deal with it? What is a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work and how did you communicate to your management or peer group that your idea should be considered?). This is also why some employers make applicants take a set of assessments, like a personality inventory or a taleo assessment.
If people better understood this, they would develop themselves and work on honing up those soft skills so they would shine brighter and be a more stellar, valuable employee. Nobody can teach that to you but you. Of course, many people lack the soft skills as well as the technical knowledge to do the job. Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump immediately come to mind. There are many others too. If you suck at both the technical knowledge and the soft skills too, heaven help you.