Category Archives: stakeholder perceptions

You say hard, I say soft – Combined Skills Best for Success

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.

Keep learning, combining skill types for better performance

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.

Skills for 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.

Nike’s Campaign: We need companies and brands to take a stand


Communicators, marketers and advertisers are continually being told to create ‘stories’ that resonate with their target market. They are also urged to engage with social issues and to tackle activist projects of resistance, to develop as ethical brands, to stand out from the crowd.
Most brands are quite terrified of negative stakeholder perceptions, especially when it comes to expressing controversial views. So they tread the safe path and remain the same.
Not Nike. In keeping with its Just Do it slogan and its fearless philosophy of facing sporting challenges, Nike launched its 30th Campaign by featuring brave sports celebrities in its ads.
The most recent Nike ad features the face of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL super star-turned-activist against racism and police violence, with the text “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing something.” And boy, did it cause outrage amongst critics and conservatives, #justburnit became their slogan, urging people not to support Nike, not to buy Nike sport products, to even burn the ones they had.

Just in case you missed the background story: In the USA it is common practice for players in The National Football League to stand and sing the national anthem before an important match. However, following the spate of police violence against black youths and other racial incidents in 2016, some of the NFL players decided to mark their protest by not standing with fists on hearts, but rather to bend-a-knee during the anthem. The purpose was to highlight the racial injustice in the country. President Trump weighed in, calling the players disrespectful and unpatriotic, even suggesting punishment and non-payment of player-activists.
Yes, perhaps Nike shares did drop a little initially, due to the raging debates, but within two weeks they were up again and Nike recorded 31% increase in online sales.
So Nike’s corporate activism – mixing politics with sport – has been vindicated, showing that taking a stand or doing good is good for business. A host of recent surveys and reports proves Nike’s controversial move makes total business sense. Marketing lecturer, Williams says, “Nike wants to be on the right side of history and the right side of its core consumers.” And these happen to be mainly sport enthusiasts and millennials.
A 2017 Edelman poll found “The majority of Millennials (60 percent) are belief-driven buyers,” – they want their brands to take a stand on social issues.
So companies – Just do it! Take a stand.