Articles, Issues at Work, Leadership

They are Core Skills; not Soft Skills

April 5, 2018, Author: bluesky6478


It is somewhat surprising that, as I work with individuals and management teams I am still frequently asked to look at the soft skills and what we can do in those areas e.g. “we should probably do something around people or leadership.” They are treated as “nice to have” rather than “need to have.”

How often have you heard people, or yourself, refer to someone as good at their job ….But not great with people / not very proactive / not very inspiring? Take a moment to think about this. It says a lot about how we truly see roles and, in particular, management roles.

When we look at how someone is performing we look at the technical aspect of the role – how well do they write code, deliver on a project, produce a report etc. We don’t look at how they contribute to the organisational culture, morale in the office, how they lead and inspire others whether by example or through setting a vision. We don’t look at how they develop others or how well they respond to feedback and learning opportunities.

Yet these are the very skills we need in managers and leaders. They are not soft, peripheral skills; they are Core Skills. They are the skills that enable us to listen to and respond to customers and other stakeholders, that enable us to remain adaptable and agile, that allow us to develop people and best in class products and services.

We hear a lot of talk about a world of VUCU –Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. It is a new buzz word description of the business world in which we are operating. It is closely followed by the phrase “If you are not disrupting you will be the company disrupted.” While these may appear extreme, if not melodramatic, they contain both a warning and an opportunity. We do need to adapt continually (remember Darwin did not talk about the survival of the fittest but the most adaptable) and to do that we need managers and leaders who are adaptable, comfortable with uncertainty, capable of remaining calm and balanced and able to bring people with them.

All this requires the core skills of self-awareness, empathy, vision, leadership, communication and passion. If we do not start to develop and encourage these we will find that when we need them it is too late to develop them.

For those of us who follow sport and rugby in particular we have seen in recent weeks the importance and impact of self-awareness. Whether  it was Conor Murray , in the heat of the battle, realising he knew the rules betters than the officials or Furlong and Ryan looking for and executing pop passes rather than going to ground we saw the impact of clarity, confidence and the ability to identify the correct use of the technical skills. We have seen the Irish teams adapt to conditions and the opposition punished when they found Ireland stifled Plan A and they did not have a Plan B to resort to. It is no coincidence that these Irish players have come up through Academies where an emphasis is placed on rugby skills but also further education. The greater awareness, improved decision making and adaptability comes from the blend of technical and “core” skills.

It is a really useful exercise to look at the roles of managers and leaders and take a good look at what their role is. Look at the technical aspects and also the non-technical – such as the people development, the influencing, the cultural ownership, the setting and communication of a vision. Set this out in a pie chart, table or other visual medium. Then ask how much time, credit or recognition do I, and we, as an organisation give to these?


Let me know how you get on. I am fascinated to hear your reflections.