Scrolling through Twitter, I ran across a tweet by Alistair Cockburn that honestly left me dumbfounded:

“Trying to find a web site designer local here. Found one says they do agile. I say I need to be able to talk w the designer & programmer. He goes, no, we use an acct rep so designers can work without disturbance…”

What kind of business strategy is that? Where are the soft skills?

What are soft skills?

“Soft skills are the personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others” (What Are Soft Skills, Doyle). The keys to this definition are “communication abilities” and “relationships.” If you are to grow your business and keep your clients, you must be able to communicate with people and be able to maintain relationships. Soft skills are those that are not taught in a classroom anymore, but, rather, are those that are, or should be, instilled as one grows up. Soft skills are developed through relationships with others.

Why are they important to business?

Soft skills are necessary to business, as business is truly about people. If one cannot interact well with others (or simply refuses to talk with others), how is business to be conducted?

Also, soft skills are about being able to read others through social cues. Setting relationships and the less measurable qualities aside, the ability to read social cues is crucial to business, particularly when assessing potential partnerships and deals. When one is in a business meeting, subtle cues and reactions need to be read. If someone is uncomfortable with a certain risk, they will make gestures that exhibit this discomfort. If these nonverbal cues can’t be read, the conversation may soon die out. But, if they can be read, the conversation can change and adapt to best to address any concerns or other important points the client may have.

How can soft skills be “taught”?

Soft skills are primarily learned, or not learned, at an early age. These skills are not typically learned in the textbook way, either. Rather they are traditionally taught by example, instruction, and experience. In the age of “grab and go eating” and fast food dinners over work and homework, family dinners, the tradition “classroom” for soft skills, have gone away. Families are not always together or mentally “present” to interact, teach, and learn these skills. Even friendships facilitated by social media messaging are taking away from soft skill learning. When conversations are supported by Snapchat, where messages disappear and are “forgotten,” the impact of words are no longer focused on or deemed important. Some colleges even are seeing the gap in emotional knowledge and feel the need to incorporate these primary skills at the collegiate level before it becomes a professional problem.

What is needed when one did not gain these skills at a young age? Observation and consideration.

First, you must observe the mannerisms of others – both good and bad – and your own mannerisms. What tends to shut people down? What tends to help them and lift them up? What makes a business deal go south? What keeps a business partnership going? After making these observations, you must adapt to best fit the good motivational qualities and give up the poor ones.

Second, you must consider others. What may not be important to you, may be very important to someone else. If you only focus on yourself or your business, you may offend others or show them that you think you and your business come first. This attitude will certainly cause client dissatisfaction and the potential loss of clients. Also, it is simply not considerate as one person to another. After all, isn’t the Golden Rule about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?

Would you want to do business with someone who “cannot be disturbed” by a potential client?


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