The path to success can be summed up in a lot of ways. How about this one: develop competency in both the hard skills and the soft skills needed to succeed at the job you choose.
So success is easy. Just become competent at a wide range of skills.
But it turns out that coming up with a definitive list of soft skills is not all that easy. My blogging colleague Cheryl Jensen put it this way: “Soft is a misnomer. These skills are sophisticated and complex, but they are not soft.”
I agree – but since they are not so readily “tangible” (e.g., how to use a spread sheet) they present different kinds of challenges. And as good as we might be at each one, we can always improve. For example, I’m a pretty decent expert at using a calculator for simple math – I am nothing close to an expert at successfully solving problems, or listening.
One job search web site suggested this difference between hard skills and soft skills:
Hard skills are tangible – activities that you do.
Soft skills are the abstract, personal qualities that you possess:
Here is a suggested list of some key soft skills (compiled from an array of sources):
1. Strong Work Ethic.
2. Positive Attitude.
3. Good Communication Skills.
4. Time Management Abilities.
5. Problem-Solving Skills.
6. Acting as a Team Player.
8. Ability to Accept and Learn From Criticism.
10. Working Well Under Pressure.
And add to the list:
ONe way to improve is to read good books that recommend strategies for improvement. So, here is my suggested reading list for some of these (you may have better suggestions – let our readers know in the comments, please). Note: not all of the books are a perfect match, there may really be better choices, and you will note that I did not include all of the soft skills form the list above. Let’s consider this a first attempt at such a list…
|Soft Skill||Suggested Book|
|Strong Work Ethic||Michael Jordan, I Can’t Accept Not TryingMalcolm Gladwell, OutliersGeoff Colvin, Talent is Overrated|
|Good Communication Skills(listening, speaking, writing)||Frank Luntz, Words that WorkChip and Dan Heath, Made to Stick|
|Time Management Abilities||David Allen, Getting Things Done|
|Problem-Solving Skills||James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds|
|Acting as a Team Player||Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team|
|Flexibility/Adaptability||Gary Hamil, The Future of Management|
|Working Well Under Pressure||Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement:|
|Schmoozing/networking||Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat AloneSusan RoAne, How to Work a Room|
|Coaching||Gary Harpst, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution|
|Brainstorming||Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation|
Here’s an update from my blogging colleague, Bob Morris. I requested his feedback, and he sent this:
Re the so-called “soft skills,” I think the most important are:
candor (without cruelty)
sensitivity to others’ feelings (especially vulnerabilities)
unsolicited support and encouragement
Re the list of recommended titles, my recommendations are:
The Book (Alan Watts)
Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman)
The Executive’s Compass (James O’Toole)
The Heart Aroused (David Whyte)
“Letter from Birmingham Jail” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
My response: I have my students read Dr. King’s letter. It is a true masterpiece. I think it should be mandatory reading for all!
And I especially like Bob’s phrase: “candor without cruelty.” Candor is hard enough. Without cruelty takes a near saint to pull off.
To purchase my synopses of many of these suggested books, with audio + handout, visit our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.