In my consulting business I’ve faced much resistance from clients when I focus on the so-called ‘soft skills’, so I’m delighted when I see that even ‘big names’ like Forbes and McKinsey include them in their lists of essential skills for success. I also feel somewhat vindicated that at last companies are taking cognizance and making the move to including soft skills like critical thinking, emotional intelligence, communication, problem solving and innovation into the ‘hard skills’ mix.
I believe that the ‘hard’ skills of structuring, strategising, leadership, decision-making and information technology can only be successful if driven by the company’s values and culture. It’s not only about what the company says and does, it’s about how it’s done. And that’s where the ‘soft’ skills come in.
All company actions must be in keeping with the company’s values and its specific culture. This applies to even the smallest of companies deemed unaware of or unaffected by corporate governance issues. They too can benefit from developing the ‘soft’ skills in business.
According to McKinsey’s 7-S [Skills] framework for success, the company’s ‘hard’ action elements, those processes used to run the company – their Strategy, Structure, Systems – must reflect the company’s stated goals, values and culture. In addition, the company must utilise the ‘soft skills’ – Shared values, Skills, Styles and Staff – to complement and enhance the ‘hard skills’ effectively to achieve success.
For example, if management’s strategy aims to be a successful, forward-thinking, progressive company, it can’t have a top-down management structure and system in place. Managers must include elements of interactive communication (Skill) between themselves and their team (Staff). Their approach and/or Style must encourage communication, information-Sharing, critical thinking and problem solving, leading to innovation, performance and ultimately to success.
A well thought out and synergistic combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills is what companies need to achieve success. Thus both soft and hard skill types are essential.