The Koa Club Newsletter (April 2023) – The Magic of “Soft” Skills

Life Musings

Co-written by Susan Seah, CEO & Founder @The Koa Club & Lisa Schmidt, Special Projects @The Koa Club

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming how we live and work. But in this technological storm, our humanity remains crucial for success.” – Benjamin Rosen, Cybersecurity Analyst.

According to Wikipedia, the U.S. Army first came up with the term “soft skills” in the late 1960s to refer to any skill that did not involve the use of machinery. Today, “soft skills” generally refer to a broad set of personal attributes, social cues, communication abilities, and emotional intelligence that enable individuals to effectively navigate their professional and personal lives. Common examples of soft skills include adaptability, teamwork, leadership, communication, problem-solving, time management, conflict resolution, and creativity.

In recent years, however, the words “soft skills” have taken quite a beating. Not about the utility of soft skills, but rather, the use of the word “soft” is thought to be misleading, too touchy-feely or may suggest that they are just “nice to have” optional skills. You may have heard others refer to these types of skills as “interpersonal skills”, “people skills”, “essential skills”, “power skills” and even “human skills”.

On that last reference to “human skills”, it’s fascinating to note that studies have shown social emotional skills will be what sets us apart from AI in the workplace by 2030. Our ability to empathize, and more specifically, to understand and share feelings, will be our most valuable soft skill. It is not too far-fetched, in fact, to believe that companies will be focused on cultivating “soft skills” to keep their employee’s humanity. Yes, humanity!

The magic of “soft skills” include the following:

Build strong relationships: These skills are essential for building and maintaining strong relationships with coworkers, clients, and customers. The ability to communicate clearly, listen actively, and empathize with others can help build trust and rapport, leading to better collaboration and higher productivity.

Enhance career prospects: Employers often seek candidates with strong soft skills, as they are critical for working in diverse teams and adapting to changing work environments. They are thought to be better at handling new responsibilities and are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions.

Improve job performance: Soft skills can help individuals perform better in their current roles. The ability to manage time effectively, work collaboratively, and communicate clearly can lead to higher job satisfaction, better job performance, and a more fulfilling career.

Handle conflicts better: Soft skills are important in managing conflicts and resolving disputes in the workplace. The ability to negotiate, listen actively, and empathize with others can help diffuse tense situations and find mutually beneficial solutions.

No matter what we call these skills, it is well documented that improving these types of skills are of crucial importance to both individuals and the organizations they work for because they facilitate personal and professional development, career growth, and success in the workplace. It was found in a Stanford Research Institute/Carnegie Mellon Foundation study of Fortune 500 CEOs that these CEOs attributed 75% of their long-term success to soft skills and 25% to their hard skills.

That said, we hope you never stop to grow your arsenal of “soft skills” or whatever you may want to call them. We welcome you to join us in the Koa Network under the Collaborate for Success Huddle group to continue this discussion.

Learn. Connect. Lead.

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