I have a confession to make: I hate the phrase “soft skills.” And I teach them. That’s the job I’ve chosen. I travel all over the world to train people in them. I hate the phrase because soft skills are the hardest ones to build!
There is absolutely nothing soft about the skills of mindset, discipline, trust, courage, or communication. No, they don’t show up on a spreadsheet. No, they’re not always easy to measure or see. But Einstein had it right: “Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters.” He was a pretty smart guy. I think he would hate the phrase too.
Life skills drive job skills. And life skills are the hard ones. The foundation of performance (and a good life) is in exceptional life skills — skills that matter everywhere, all the time, not just at work.
The internal skills of personal management are among the hardest skills for a person to master. It’s easier for you to build accounting skills than emotional skills or run a marathon than control anxiety. You can learn how to play “Stairway to Heaven” on a ukelele faster than you can learn how to build deep, trusting relationships.
I hate the phrase “soft skills” because it misrepresents them as secondary, afterthoughts, & nice-to-haves. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are everything. They are primary. They are must-haves. For example:
- What more do people need to know about dieting or working out?
- What information are managers missing to become exceptional leaders?
- What is the key to a great & lasting marriage?
Millions of people struggle with these things every day. Billions of dollars are spent & lost. Lives are ruined or wasted. Is it because they have absolutely no idea what to do? No. Is it a lack of resources? Very rarely.
The reason is because people continue to invest too little attention, time & energy on the highest value skills: how their mind works, how to build new habits, how to empathize, how to handle stress, how to connect with difficult people, how to respond to adversity. They’ve become conditioned to see these skills as “soft” and therefore not as important.
Just look around your work environment, think about your experience, consider your own life. How often do you deal with these things in other people? How often do they hold you back? How often are results limited or lost because of how people behaved?
But hey, more important to build your understanding of the business than your understanding of yourself, right?