There is an ongoing conversation about what skills people need to fulfill themselves and support their companies – but what these needed skills are is often ambiguous. Some say soft skills (e.g., emotional intelligence, communication and change management) are the most important, and others say hard skills (e.g., technology, customer service and basic work skills) take priority to enter and thrive in the workforce. We talk a lot about what differentiates hard skills from soft skills. The real question is, “Why do they have to be different at all?”
When it comes to talent management and training, it’s common to put labels on things. We have learning for entry-level employees, tactical training for specific teams, leadership development and so on. We define the types of learning we offer before we understand the learner themselves. Much like how we like to box ourselves into categories based on appearance and thought, we build boxes and apply labels that categorize us based on agility and ability. Let us break out of those boxes and redefine our potential together so that we can help, coach and develop another. Let’s remove labels and open our eyes to opportunities.
When you invest in others, they invest in you. When you create a training program that embraces diversity of experience, thought and learning preference, it brings significant opportunity to your organization. When organizations provide space for their employees to learn, there is a sense of safety and empowerment to grow. Diverse learning eliminates prejudices and instead ignites thought, creativity, innovation and inclusion. It provokes a real conversation that becomes less opinionated “think piece” and more diverse thought that creates space for people to grow and thrive.
The way to really assess potential and accelerate innovation is through data and intuition. We know what is right and wrong, and we balance that knowledge with data to keep us confident in our decision-making. It starts with the skills that enable us to pause and evaluate but still make quick decisions with long-term aspirations. We all fail; it is how we learn from those failures that matters.
The soft skills that involve knowing your authenticity and how it impacts others will help you learn hard skills and progress on the path of continuous education. Learning “hard skills” is easy; it is how you apply them that matters. Your emotional intelligence (EQ), along with your ability to infer and communicate, are the key soft skills that turn helpful tactics into useable lessons. The intention behind what you learn and how you apply it is what matters.
To know how to apply what you learn, you just need others, who know things you don’t know, to believe in you and help you. The three soft skills below, which are inherent to learning, will help you lead, prosper and advance others.
The ability to communicate effectively isn’t typically considered a skill on par with coding, math or analytics. But when employees have a well-developed ability to communicate, companies can unlock their potential in a way that creates inclusiveness and innovation. Opinions may vary, but clear and direct communication helps you lead with authenticity and intention.
Projects fall behind, relationships are tense, turnover happens – and the repercussions are ongoing – but when you talk in a proactive way and look toward the future, anything is possible, and engagement, retention and culture flourish.
If there were only “doers” in the world, we wouldn’t get far, because we wouldn’t have understanding. There were a lot of decisions in the tech industry, for example, that led to questionable decisions about privacy and data use. As a leader, it’s important to see the bigger picture of decisions, set strategic direction and ensure that what you do helps the organization go where it needs to go. Not everyone is a born leader, but there are many of ways to learn how to be one. Leadership is why EQ is such an important skill – and why it’s a hard skill to learn. It’s a skill that’s required to finish the job. It is meeting people where they are to educate them for the future.
Everyone needs to evolve and change; in fact, we are constantly in evolution and transformation. To ensure no one is left behind in this insta-quick world, we need to build a bridge for each other, because together, we are stronger. Change is tough and drives fear of the unknown. We need to plan for the unknown and educate others to gain a full, diverse perspective of the vision for the future. We cannot fear change but, instead, embrace it as an educational experience to help each other grow. Understand the “why” behind change and how it impacts you, and develop a plan to embrace it and evolve. This process is what drives inclusion.
These soft skills not only drive further education of ourselves and others but also the diversity and inclusion of our path forward. Let’s box in, instead of boxing out, our potential. Our potential is how we treat each other and learn from each other. Our soft skills evolved us, and our hard skills come to life with our diversity and evolution of the soft side. If you want inclusion, begin here. It is our path.