Soft skills are essential skills

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Senior leaders, listen up: soft skills are not soft skills; they are in fact critical. The experts discussed it until nausea, and yet the “heads of” still do not understand. You are responsible for ensuring the future of your business is sustainable. This means planning your future, and planning your future means preparing your team.

Your team is your future. When preparing for your team, yes, technical skills are essential. That said, remember that technical skills are learned, and as a senior manager, you need to surround yourself with people who can get the job done. Your job is to listen, collaborate, plan, innovate, and stay open-minded and humble. These are critical skills. There is nothing sweet about them.

As 2022 approaches, performance reviews will once again become a priority for organizations. How will you balance and, more importantly, understand the symbiotic need as a leader to possess both technical and critical skills?

Related: 4 Soft Skills You Need to Improve Your Career

Let’s first discuss “hard skills” to better understand why many leaders have a critical skills gap. When you do manage to get hired for your first job, technical skills are paramount, whether you’re learning how to fry fries in the right oil, calculating your first margin formula, or handing that important report to a boss.

On the job market par excellence, technical skills are becoming criteria for success. You build on your successes and earn your promotions by developing these technical skills. You even attend conferences to learn more technical skills. Somewhere along the way, maybe someone will tell you, “Being a great leader means being a great listener.” And WHAM! For the first time, perhaps, someone has given you a comment that relates to a critical skill, not a technical skill.

This example may be a bit of a stretch, but for many I don’t believe it’s far off. It is at this point that you could be 10 or more years into your career. That’s why leadership development experts have been pushing for organizations to find ways to start investing earlier (or at the beginning) of their employees’ career paths.

In the world of organizational development and leadership coaching, what most people refer to as “soft skills” are a combination of interpersonal skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, mindsets and career attributes. In other words, fundamentally social and emotional intelligence abilities that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementary “hard skills.” So-called “soft skills” are, in essence, human skills: connecting, engaging, influencing, opening minds and motivating the actions of others. And they are essential, not optional.

True leaders don’t treat these skills as “nice to have.” They treat them as necessary because they relate to the essential work of connecting, supporting and developing partners, peers and employees. In today’s environment, you simply cannot effectively lead teams or thrive as a leader without them.

Let’s share an example of the listening skill. It connects us and allows us to see other perspectives to make more informed and knowledgeable decisions. Listening allows others to feel listened to, valued and included in the team. All of this is nothing short of critical.

Related: 8 Soft Skills That Make You an Even Better Leader

Some other examples of essential skills needed for success:

  • Communication, which is critical to solid, long-term success.

  • Collaboration, which is essential for innovation, inclusion, belonging and strong team alignment.

  • sense of urgency, which is essential for motivating team members to complete the day-to-day tasks and tactics needed to achieve a long-term strategy.

  • Ask Powerful Questions, which is essential for clarifying mission and purpose. Powerful questions ensure that the group moves forward and aligns.

Remember that critical skills must be:

  1. Considered vital, not sweet, to the success of an organization.

  2. Taught, learned and assessed from the beginning of an employee’s journey.

  3. Shown starting at the very top. (If you don’t, why should your team or organization?)

  4. Part of a team member’s performance review.

With the proper assessment of the aforementioned soft skills, success shouldn’t be that hard to come by.

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