When Soft Skills Become REAL Skills
All human beings have similar wants and needs. We want honesty, respect, integrity, and trust. We want to belong to something bigger than ourselves and to matter.
The current state of global affairs and their effect on every level of our lives has exacerbated these needs, highlighting their deficit in our personal and professional lives. When we feel a lack of control over our lives in one area, we tend to seek regaining control in another. It is therefore predictable that people’s need for ease, joy and freedom would increase in a world where those things have been curtailed or disrupted. While many businesses have crumbled over the past few years, others have found new ways to provide ease, meet the joy of giving and receiving value, of genuine communication and authentic delivery, and allow people freedom of choice. These are the ones still standing.
Whilst our world may have changed and be changing still, our humanness hasn’t. Life may cycle. It may feel chaotic on one day and apathetic on the next, but our need for honesty, respect, integrity and trust has not changed – and those willing to focus on providing them are those who will always win through.
Focusing on the human element of what we do has, until recently, been described as a “soft” skill, somehow suggesting that it is secondary or less important than the “hard” skills needed to keep our lives and businesses running. To the degree that we’ve ignored the human element of what we do, it has undermined our success at every turn. It truly is faster and stronger to go together, and focus is starting to turn towards just how instrumental understanding the people we work with and for is.
Aviation has understood the criticality of the human factor for decades. Business is starting to realise that “hard lines” like key performance indicators are connected both to the satisfaction of those doing the operating as well as those receiving the product – whatever that might be. Measuring the outcomes of our efforts tells us how effectively those efforts are resulting in satisfaction at either end – both the producing and the receiving ends. And humans must be lured to satisfaction, not coerced.
Never has it been more important to ask people what they need and want. The people we work with. The people we serve. The people who receive what it is we deliver.
Unfortunately, in a world where we all feel a little out of control on some level, our humanness demands that we rebalance that feeling by gaining control back in any area that we can. The more out of control we feel, the more fervently we seek it. Our humanness demands balance, and seeking balance isn’t so much a choice as it is something we subconsciously do. If we can’t find healthy ways to balance our need to feel in control of our lives, we’ll settle for less healthy ways. We may raise our voices. We may drive more “proactively”. We may spend more time telling rather than asking or discussing.
Understanding how instrumental our human skills are to successfully moving forward, we can investigate healthier ways to regain our balance. What were previously described as “soft” skills have now been described as “real” skills as their effect on our success is recognised. When we can figure out how to help not only ourselves, but those around us to balance our need for control in healthy ways that promote honesty, respect, authenticity and trust – now we’re looking at a winning formula.
So how do we do this?
The same way we’ve always needed to do it. In discussion, conversation, and collaboration with the people we work with and for. We act with courage to have conversations distinctly aimed at honesty and respect. We seek to meet peoples’ needs for ease, joy and freedom of choice with integrity and the consistency that builds trust.
We have these conversations using healthy human skills such as clarity on the boundaries, and honest sharing of our own needs too. Often, we steer away from these types of conversations because of the misconception that they will encourage a free-for-all where no decisions are made because everyone wants something different. If we’re prepared to have these conversations with genuine vulnerability that opens up space for others to be honest, they will genuinely choose to build relationships over having a whinge session.
If you want to work in chaos, apathy, and unhealthy control seeking, then you’re free to ignore the human element of our current chapter. If you wish to work cohesively with people who not only want to pull with you in the same direction but who do so by personally investing themselves in a common outcome, then seek understanding through honest conversation about what you’re working towards and how you’ll get there together. Ask the people you serve what they want rather than assuming that what you deliver is enough or right, and recentre often on common value systems.
To ask in a way that invites discussion is respectful. To explain the boundaries you must work within is honest. To move forward in common understanding (even if you don’t agree with each other entirely) is to move with integrity. To move consistently with integrity creates trust.
If you’d like to understand more fully how honesty, respect, integrity and trust are linked together, read this article.
by Christen Killick
August 15th, 2022
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