It’s both a Hard Skill and Soft Skill Era – Do You Have Both?

In this STEM world, success simply requires a wider array of abilities and skills than ever before.

First, you’ve got to have one of/some of those hard skills to succeed. You have to be able to do something. (I just read an article which included much about the role of engineers at Google. Pretty amazing!).

But, once you have those hard skills, you also have to have those “soft skills.” These skills are also about “doing something,” but in a different way. These are all about the interactions needed to work well with others toward a common goal.

I recently received a link to this article from the folks at the SMU Cox School of Business (I am an instructor in their Business Leadership Center, presenting one of my book synopses a few times each year). This is an article worth reading carefully: Execs to B-Schools: Your M.B.A.’s Don’t Have What It Takes to Succeed — C-suite executives are giving failing marks to business schools for not producing quality M.B.A.’s. Digging into the criticism yields plenty of hiring tips for startups, by Eric Sherman. The article is about the skill deficiencies in too many recent graduates with M.B.A.s. Here’s a key paragraph:

There isn’t enough emphasis on 10 critical skills and abilities. Self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses, integrity, understanding of cross-cultural reality, team skills, critical thinking, communication, comfort with inevitable ambiguity and uncertainty, creativity, the ability to execute tasks when first joining an organization, and strong sales skills, including the ability to persuade and influence others, were all sorely lacking in the graduates.

Notice: “communication; team skills; strong sales skills; the ability to persuade and influence others…” In other words, informing others, moving others, working well with others…  Soft skills.

When a person has a great set of “hard skills” and is lacking in “soft skills,” he/she is simply short those skills needed to work well with others.

When a person has a great set of “soft skills,” but is lacking in the “hard skills,” there is likely a deficiency regarding the actual tasks that need to be accomplished in the modern business environment.

But, when a person has those hard skills, and the needed soft skills, the result is… value, progress, success!

And, to state the obvious – to develop both requires some pretty serious investment of time, years, and attention in a good education. You do not develop all of those skills overnight, or very easily…

Which is why the better-educated have such an advantage in this ever-more-complex business era.





One thought on “It’s both a Hard Skill and Soft Skill Era – Do You Have Both?

  1. In 2005 Henry Mintzberg published a book titled “Manager not MBAs”. It is well worth the read to understand this issue. As with anything, it is a complex one. The key buyers of the end product are getting what they seek. The rest, perhaps not so much. There are a lot of good curriculum’s out there. Also, as the hours are cut down to obtain the degree (fast tracked MBA?)or if it is all done over the internet, what tends to get cut out (if it was there to begin with) are the practical/applied leadership pieces.

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