Soft Skills, the Other Half of the Equation

In 2013, I will celebrate 20 years of being an entrepreneur. In 1993 when we started our focus was on the recruiting side, but over the years our business has become strictly focused on transition. It was initially only external transition, but now involves internal transition as well as executive coaching. A very wise person once said to me, “since you know so much about why people separate or fail in their careers/jobs, why don't you take that information and also use it to help people stay gainfully employed?” We listened and that's when we started the executive coaching part of the program.

In those years, as I worked with executives and senior managers it became apparent to me why in most cases people separate from their organizations. And when I say separation, I am focusing on individuals that have been on some level asked to leave or left through mutual agreement. Those reasons have little to do with performance and understanding the task at hand or having the technical skills to execute their jobs, but around what I would label “soft skills”. Soft skills would include things such as communication, listening, emotional intelligence, messaging, relationship building, and conflict resolution. In most cases as we tracked back their last 60 to 90 days of employment, it became apparent that, first, this was no surprise and second, it had more to do with key relationships and politics.

My job is all about talking with people and the majority of them, despite rising high in the organization, are very much focused on task. I by no means, am saying that that is not important, but it is only half the equation. The other half is the soft skills. And then the next question becomes: why do we not pay attention? Here are some of my observations over the years; this is by no means a comprehensive list:

  • Do not see it as important
  • Are not comfortable with the soft skills
  • They are difficult to measure
  • They are the first thing to be neglected in a stressful situation

My point is this: life is about balance and one must strike a balance between achievement and mastering the soft skills. If people would do that, they would be in much greater control of their own destiny career-wise. It's time to start paying attention or continue to repeat the past.

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