Yes, it is true; I am a fan, a believer, a devotee of the soft skills. If it were up to me, we would update school curriculums to include the art of speaking, the skill of writing, and the science of how to engage and connect with people. Organizations and companies would have at least one-half of their training budgets devoted to leadership, networking, building relationships and communication. The result, I believe, would be less stress, more engaged students and employees; and, most importantly, hard, tangible and positive results.
Why am I such a fan of the soft skills? Well, there are a number of reasons. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy working and engaging with someone who understands how to hold a two-way conversation? Who doesn’t benefit from reading a well-written article, or from working for organizations where you understand your role and how you can contribute? But, if I had to keep my answer short and simple, I would say I am a fan because I believe the soft skills are the fastest route to profitability.
In fact, in today’s world, I believe the soft skills are the only real competitive advantage in business that we have. You all have heard me say it so many times – this economy is not down; it is changed, it is radically different, and it is never, I mean never, going back to the way that it was. Think about it – globalization, advancements in technology, increased competition. We could all sit around in our underwear for weeks on end and google until our hearts are content; and have everything we want, need and desire delivered right to our front doors – everything. We can order food, products, services. We can meet new people, date, get married, get divorced. We can do almost anything we want without ever talking to or engaging with another individual, without ever having a conversation. That fact, right there, changes everything – everything. It makes what we sell or offer a commodity; but how we sell or offer it, that is our competitive advantage. And how we offer it – that is all about the soft skills.
If you want to succeed in this economy, in the Trust and Value Economy, then you need to invest in getting yourself, your team and your entire organization up-to-date on the soft skills!
So, what are the top “must-have soft skills” for the Trust and Value Economy?
Flexibility – how stretchy are you? How willing are you to bend to accommodate a customer, a co-worker or the market place? Yes, the hard skills tell us exactly the rules, policies and procedures we need to follow to be successful. And while those serve as a good guide, success in this economy is all about your ability to stretch, bend and change.
Communication – the person who can communicate in a way that ensures understanding, buy-in and then ultimately action, is the one who wins in the Trust & Value Economy. The true master of communication in today’s economy is our GPS guide – the woman or man who helps us find the restaurants, gas stations and addresses we are looking for. Why? Because when we screw up, he or she simply recalculates; and tries again and again until success is achieved.
Connection – the ability to emotionally engage with other individuals, build bridges and create cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships. Connection in this economy is everything. It is how we establish trust, and win permission to take the relationship to the next level; whether that means getting a customer to buy a product or service, or an employee to truly engage with our organization. Lack of ability to connect severely decreases your chances to win customers and retain talented employees.
Attitude – this economy is tough enough; no-one and I mean no-one (most of all a consumer with a lot of choices) wants to be around anyone with a negative, defeated, or just plain rude attitude. Consumers who are willing to do business, spend money, are looking for companies and individuals that are a pleasure to be around, fun to engage with, and who leave them feeling good about the experience.
Team Player – The more people who succeed in your organization the better off it will be – for employees and customers alike. Yours needs to be an organization that values, trains and rewards a team player. A team player being someone who is collaborative and who works to put the success of the whole ahead of the individual win.
Yes, you can Win in the Trust & Value Economy, but you have to get in touch with your touchy-feely side. You have to invest in soft skills development, understanding that what you offer in this economy is not nearly as important as how you offer it. And how you offer it has everything to do with how well you and your team are executing on the soft skills.