How would you define “Soft Skills”?

It’s a great question. You’ve got to wonder how this name came about when “soft skills” are the hardest to teach and learn. They are the critical skills that will make you a good leader, a more effective communicator or better able to influence people. Yet, the very name, “soft skills”, can mean they aren’t important or fluffy at best. 

Here are some of great responses to a question about this on LinkedIn. The responses are from the Chief Learning Officer Group. Their explanations and wordsmithing could help you with pitching this type of leadership development training to your boss or recipients: 

  • John Hoskins: “The label does diminish the value of the skills. One might argue that you could have all the ‘technical’ hard skills in the world but be pretty ineffective in working with others if you lack the ‘soft skills.’ ” 
  • Brent Darnell: “I tend to use people skills. Keep in mind that I work exclusively with technical people, mostly contractors and engineers. They seem to accept it fairly well.” 
  • Jerriann Massey: “I always and ONLY use Critical Skills and explain that relationship skills, interpersonal skills and the like are critical in business.” 
  • Adrienne Russ– Chief Consultant:  “Personal Development” 
  • Joshua Holman: “I prefer ‘essential skills’ myself.” 
  • Lefteris Kanavas: “I’ve used several phrases in the past:  
    • Corporate Interdependence Skills
    • Inspirational Skills
    • Acceleration Skills
    • Rapid-Change Skills
    • and the names I selected depended on the recipient audience (I’ve taken the above names from Leadership Development type of audiences)”
  • Darren Levy: “This does bring up a fundamental lack of understanding with many organizations of the difference between management and leadership. The term soft skills is often used to potentially cover up a lack of awareness of what management vs leadership development actually is. I tend to preface it as are we developing management capability, leadership confidence and ability, mindsets and skill-sets.” 
  • Amit Rathi:  “Emotional Intelligence Quotient” 
  • Andy Garlick: “Interpersonal Skills? Management Skills? Life Skills? I have always been fascinated that we screen for ‘technical skills’ and wonder why we end up with people who can’t think out of the box; people who are obnoxious; people who are passive; etc.” 
  • Jim Grossen: “We use ‘Professional Effectiveness’ 
  • Fred Lang, PhD: “Don’t allow anyone to use the phrase ‘Soft Skills’ when you refer to leadership skills. They are ‘Critical Skills’ which enable the enterprise to move forward.” 

Did we miss any?


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