Is it a Soft Skills Shortage?

I have recently revisited Encouraging the Heart, again, by Kouzes and Posner. One person described it as that “touchy-feely” book. (It isn’t.) Actually, it is a simple step-by-step plan that any leader can and should follow to help people do better and aim for their best. The subtitle says it all: “A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others.”

But what it reminds us of is this: people who are really successful have mastered those “soft skills” that seem so elusive. They like people. They communicate well to people. They are clear, attentive, and observant. They listen. And they expect the best, and help bring out the best.

And they don’t let much fall through the cracks, including, they don’t let a person fall through the cracks.

I recently heard of a person with a Ph.D. in the sciences; and after a few years at a good job, this person’s project “lost its funding.” (or, this person was not able to secure the next round of funding). Why? Apparently although the science expertise was there, the interaction soft skills may have been neglected. Thus, the lack of relational success may have cost the next round of funding.

In the NY Times article It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk, here are some telling portions:

The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job…
Economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market…
because so many people are going to college now, those who do not graduate are often assumed to be unambitious or less capable…

But if you read this article carefully, I think you “hear” this: the degree can get you in for the low-paying job, and then work ethic and the soft skills can get you the promotions.

Now, here’s the problem with the “soft skills” shortage. These skills are hard to teach. Some of them seem to simply be “life traits”. And, trying to help people get better at them seems like a “luxury” training dollar expense.

But they are critical! And working on them is not a luxury, but a necessity.

And I am convinced that they can be taught, brought to front of mind, and real progress can be made.

Maybe we do need to read more of those “touchy-feely” books after all.

Randy Mayeux

Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

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