Learning “Soft Skills” the “Smart Way”

What are soft skills? 

In order to grow continuously and maintain leadership every organization needs to have people who are highly innovative, creative, self-inspired, motivated, and self-driven. Now this calls for a continuous and ever-growing need to train people on Soft Skills apart from Hard Skills. I have heard a joke. A CFO says to his CEO, “What if we train the people and they change the organization?”. To this the CEO replies to the CFO and says, “What if we don’t train the people and they stay with the organization?”. An organization that is not learning continuously is a dead organization. An organization and the people within the organization have to keep learning and growing continuously. The people can come and go but the learning has to be an on-going phenomenon. Learning brings innovation and creativity within the organization and this in turn leads to new breakthroughs and creation of Blue Oceans. When an employee joins an organization for a particular job, the recruiting process of HRM takes note of the Hard Skills based on the qualifications and job experience of the individual but this process can not reveal greatly on the Soft Skills of the prospecting employee. The Hard Skills are job oriented and work specific skills. Whereas, the Soft Skills are more sociological in nature. They are more personal in nature. Thats why they are also called the People Skills. They are relating more to a person’s EQ (Emotional Quotient) and Emotional Intelligence. 

Some examples of Soft Skills are: Coordination, Cooperation, Collaboration, Team Work, Coaching, Training, Learning, Listening, Leadership, etc. A Soft Skill is not a magic pill. There is no such pill available anywhere in the market. All the Soft Skills have to be learnt. And there is no short-cut to this. It is in fact a never ending and an eternal learning curve. It requires a continuous teaching and training to impart Smart Soft Skills. A skill is an ability to use ones knowledge effectively. The simple dictionary meaning of a Skill is, An ability that has been acquired by training. One may be knowledgeable and may possess a domain expertise but may still lack the Soft Skill to impart that knowledge to others effectively. This situation calls for a better and powerful communication skill. And this is the basic difference between Knowledge and Skill. One can become knowledgeable without being skillful, but one can not become skillful without being knowledgeable. A Skill is basically a how-to of imparting this knowledge. It is the ability to impart the knowledge effectively. This is the reason why it is more difficult to learn the Soft Skills. For example, you may be very good in doing some job and you wish to impart the same to others. But you are not able to do the same effectively. What has gone wrong? What is missing? The missing link is that of a Soft Skill. The right soft skill is missing. Consider another example that you wish to become a great communicator. You are making all efforts to communicate better but nobody is in a position to understand what you are saying. May be your communication is very poor. There are always two possibilities: Either you will be understood or you will be misunderstood. The chances are more for the later. You are misunderstood only when your communication is very poor and ineffective. Again the gap is that of a soft skill. Powerful communication can become a great soft skill. Let us consider another example that you may wish to become a great leader but there is nobody to follow you. Everybody wants to become a great leader but there are no followers. This is the paradox. What has gone wrong? Something has utterly gone wrong with your Leadership. Leadership again is a great soft skill. May be your leadership is not effective. May be your leadership qualities are bad and not charismatic and attractive. May be you are a bad leader. May be you are a charlatan in the garb of a leader. Then you are not a leader but a dealer, a trader but not a visionary. This is where a need for a powerful soft skill arises. In comparison, hard skills are more easier to learn that the soft skills. The geeks and nerds understand this better. In the world of computers this difficulty is felt more increasingly. The hardware is much an easier job than the software. It is not a difficult task to fuse two hardwares but it is a daunting task to fuse the software with the hardware. It is not the hardware but the software that is always taking the lead. It is the software that is compelling the hardware to change and not vice versa, nevertheless, they both are changing and undergoing transformation for the better. The software always remains directional. It always emphasizes, "This is how we want go". Our hands and legs work. But somebody from inside gives the instructions. It becomes a guide. May be our higher intellect inside gives us the decision and direction. If our body is the hardware then our Consciousness is the software. 

Consciousness is nothing but the higher and hidden intelligence within our own being and within the being of the whole existence. This is the reason why the CEO has to make a smart decision in this direction. This is what is called effective decision making. Effective decisions lead us to effective results. And effective results make us Effective Leaders. It is a top-down approach and not a bottom-up exercise. Learning needs exist at all levels of the organization. These needs if not identified timely become gaps. These gaps lead us to conflicts. All conflicts breed chaos. The moment chaos and confusion enter the organization they keep clarity and conviction far away. Chaos to Cosmos is the Goal. Cosmos means Harmony. Harmony means health. This is the health of the Organization. Wholeness of the organization means harmony of the organization. Wholeness means synergy within the organization. For the first time the organization has become an organism. For the first time all resources within the organization are in sync. Now the organization can think and feel for its employees, suppliers and customers more effectively. Our body is a composite organ of many parts and billions of cells. If they all fail to sync together or are not in tandem with each other, there is bound to be disharmony and consequential ill-health. Moreover, changes are taking place in both the internal and external environments of the organization more rapidly than ever before because of convergence and globalization. The organizations are fast moving into a common workplace of many more diverse cultures. Hence, there is a need for a continuous training and learning. The biggest objective of the Soft Skills is to bring in lasting changes in the organization and in its people by bringing in positive reinforcements with effective and relevant soft skills. 

Why are soft skills needed? 

Soft skills augment and complement the hard skills. Just like how the software augments and complements the hardware. They both together make a complete system. Hard skills alone can not determine the success of an organization or an individual. Soft skills are as important as the hard skills. They complement and complete each other. Somebody may be very beautiful at the body level. But she has to translate her beauty through effective communication. All our behavioral patterns indicate the level of our soft skills. Our body language and other gestures reflect much on our soft skills. The way we speak and behave with our friends, parents, peers, seniors, suppliers and customers indicate the level of our soft skills. The way we organize things, attend meetings, do negotiations and take decisions, all this indicate a lot about our soft skills. Organizations like BPO, KPO and all those who have strong customer facing require highly rated soft skills. Better soft skills along with better hard skills is a sine qua non for every employee for his personal and professional growth and for the continuous growth of an organization. The ultimate goal of any organization when it comes to its human resources is to develop, implement and propagate highly rated soft skills. 

Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills 

 Hard Skills  Soft Skills
  • Technical and professional in nature. Examples include: machine operation, computer operation, financial accounting, etc. relating to an organization's core business.
  • Personal and social in nature. Also called 'People Skills'. Examples include: team work, communication, coordination, decision making, collaboration, leadership, etc.
  • Intellectual in nature. Relating to person's IQ (Intellectual Quotient). 
  • Emotional in nature. Relating to person's EQ (Emotional Quotient). 
  • Easy to observe, quantify and measure. 
  • Most difficult to observe, quantify and measure.
  • Easy to train and easy to learn.
  • Most difficult to train and learn.
  • No unlearning is needed. Learning on the job is most urgent,  immediate and important.
  • Continuous unlearning is needed. Learning a new skill may mean replacing an old one.
  • Relevant only for the specific work, job and the organization.
  • Needed for everyday life apart from the need for the job, work and the organization.
  • There is a structured system of classroom teaching. 

  • There is no structured system of classroom learning. Each one has his own soft skills or people skills.
  • Very scientific and mechanical in nature.
  • Philosophical and psychological in nature.
  • Classical and traditional in nature.
  • Dynamic and contemporary in nature.
  • Determines relationship with one's own job. It does not extend much beyond one's own job and work. 
  • Determines relationship with the whole ecosystem of the organization and also the ecosystem of the outside world.

This is where I keep on saying: Enlightened Leaders don't do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things in an extraordinary way. This art and science of doing things in a most creative, innovative and artistic way is what is called 'Soft Skills'. Soft skill is more an attitudinal thing. It strongly depends on the attitude and aptitude of an individual. It is more dependent on the attitude of an individual and not on an aptitude. Attitude is first and aptitude is later. Right attitude will eventually lead us to right aptitude. Soft skill is more an art, science and philosophy. And ultimately it will become a way of life.

Enlightened Leadership is one of the greatest soft skills. What is the way then? How to be out of the box? To be creative one has to be out of the box. The box is a metaphor for our mind. The mind has been conditioned and programmed to think in an old fashion. The mind has been conditioned and programmed to think in the past way. The box is a metaphor for an enclosure. The old mind has been encased by the past. The old mind has been conditioned and programmed by the whole past. New life means a new mind and a new consciousness to approach life afresh. One has to come out of the box to think anew. This is the only way. There are three steps to this learning: Learn, Unlearn and Re-learn. Learn the soft skills the smart way and not the hard way. Look, the Goose is out !!