Innate abilities, learned skills, and personal growth are all part of the journey towards becoming a successful professional.

Power Skills

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving job market, the distinction between how we categorize vocational skills and “soft skills” has become a topic of much discussion and debate, especially as organizations attempt to identify a potential employee’s value and assess what talents that individual would contribute to a team. The line between the different types of skills has blurred, as organizations realize that their best leaders possess an intertwined set of skills, merging their innate/”soft” leadership skills with their industry’s vocational/”hard” skills into a set of “power skills.”

Moreover, while it might be straightforward to point out a leader who already demonstrates a strong set of developed “power skills,” there is not a simple formula available to hire new employees who possess both the hard skills a job position requires and the soft skills that allow them to be productive, emotionally intelligent team members.

So, how should organizations delineate between and prioritize skillsets when assessing an employee’s “power skill” potential in an interview? Resumes, degrees, and tangible accomplishments are adequate data points for measuring hard skills, but what about the intangible, vital characteristics such as work ethic, interpersonal communication, influence and adaptability?

Defining and Renaming Leadership Soft Skills and Hard Skills

Soft Skills, also known as interpersonal/people skills or “human skills,” as TED talk speaker, best-selling author, and Founder of The Optimism Company Simon Sinek would say, encompass a wide range of attributes that enable individuals to interact effectively with others. These include communication, empathy, teamwork, adaptability, debate, problem-solving, decision-making, and leadership. Soft skills are often called “soft” because they are intangible and difficult to measure quantitatively. They are usually deemed to be innate or learned through leadership development investments and coaching.

On the other hand, Hard Skills are the technical or vocational skills required for specific job roles. These are acquired through education, training, and direct experience. Examples of hard skills include programming, data analysis, mechanical engineering, and medical expertise. Hard skills are called “hard” because they are easily demonstrated and assessed.

However, these two definitions are being discussed and re-analyzed in today’s workforce. Founder of the altMBA and famous TED talk speaker and writer Seth Godin points out that two companies could hire similar employees with identical vocational skillsets and yet have very different results if those employees’ soft skills are not examined in the hiring process. Following this line of reason, Godin suggests in his recent TED article that soft skills be renamed: “Let’s uncomfortably call them Real Skills instead.”

“Real skills,” he explained, “because they work, because they’re at the heart of what we need today. Real because even if you’ve got the vocational skills, you’re no help to us without these human skills, the things that we can’t write down or program a computer to do.”

So, why is this renaming important? In another article on real skills published by Medium, Godin shares that we have done ourselves and our teams a disservice by labeling intangible, human skills as soft, and thereby effectively dismissing their vital impact in leadership development. By breaking down the distinction and renaming these interpersonal traits – whether innate or professionally developed – as real skills, we legitimize their importance again within our hiring processes and leadership development programs.

Plus, as both real skills and vocational skills are necessary, it is to our downfalls if – while on our leadership career tracks – soft or “real” skills are under-developed, as these intangible skills are even more crucial the higher up in leadership you are. These real and hard skills quite literally become quite a power combination.

Evidence Refuting the Misconception that It’s Only the Hard Skills that Matter

It’s essential to dispel the misconception that leadership soft skills are less valuable. Let’s take a look at one leader’s discovery…

In the early days of Churchill Leadership Group, our team partnered with a C-Suite executive of a global entertainment company and his team. The executive was known as a great “people leader,” and we had many opportunities to observe the truth behind his stellar reputation. He was a storyteller. His team respected and trusted him. The vision he shared was built with input from across the company. And, maybe most importantly, people believed in him.

In addition, his communication was clear, and he could facilitate great debate and decision-making. He took the time to support, mentor, and coach others. Yet, he once shared how much he yearned to go back to hands-on game creation. While he recognized that his technical or “hard skills” were outdated and not as important to the leadership role that he held, he still missed creativity, innovation, and customer interaction.

When we drilled down deeper, he discovered ways to spend more time with his creative teams, and, in doing so, he was delighted at the ways that his soft skills could support his designers and remove roadblocks for them, even if he wasn’t directly involved in hands-on creation anymore. These realizations demonstrated the progression of his skillsets from hard to “real” over the years, evolving into his unique “power skillset” combination. He saw how critical the entire spectrum of his skills had been throughout his executive leadership journey, and the difference that his “soft skills” evolution was making when the line between hard and soft skills was blurred.

Pivotal for him was the realization that he didn’t need the tech expertise for personal and company growth: his soft skills could transform employee and customer experiences. After his own eureka moment, he led a team session where everyone told stories of how their “power skills” had developed over the years. Sharing stories of career development successes and mistakes bonded the team further and helped them identify best practices needed within the team to leverage everyone’s talent.
This is real skills at work, impacting an entire organization’s trajectory.

Skills at work

A Look at Globally Gathered Organizational Leadership Data

A Gallup report stated that great managers have the following five talents:

  1. They can motivate every employee to act and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  2. They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  3. They create a culture of clear accountability.
  4. They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and promote full transparency.
  5. They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

Don’t these sound like leadership soft skills? Yes, but very few people can naturally pull off all five of these requirements without training, mentoring, and/or coaching.

Don’t these sound like leadership soft skills? Yes, but very few people can naturally pull off all five of these requirements without training, mentoring, and/or coaching.

Gallup found that one in ten people possess the inherent (aka natural) talent to manage. However, when companies can increase their number of talented managers and double the number of engaged employees, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.

This data makes it safe to say that soft skills or real skills are vital to a team leader’s power skill development and an organization’s productivity and profitability. Plus, as we saw in the example of the C-Suite leader in the entertainment company, the full range of soft skills to hard skills is crucial for professional success. Soft skills are the glue that hold relationships and teams together, fostering collaboration, essential trust, and effective communication. Without these leadership abilities, even the most technically proficient individuals will struggle in a team-based environment to make an impact. On the other hand, hard skills are the foundation for completing tasks and projects. Combined, these “power skills” will propel you and your team toward success.

Next Steps For Leaders Committed to Growth

Harness Your Power Skills

To thrive in the workplace, leaders should harness the full complement of their skills. Here’s are some tips on how to do it effectively:

Acknowledge and Respect Diverse Abilities

Recognize that everyone brings a unique set of skills to the table. You need to slow down and intentionally observe your teams and their skills in action. Then, take the time to explore with your employees the value you observed and encourage the use of the diverse skills and perspectives within your team.

Show Up Authentically

Be true to yourself at work. Authenticity is a real skill that fosters trust and transparency in the workplace. Understand and embrace your natural strengths and potential.

Developing Your Soft or Real Skills

Soft skills are not fixed traits: they can be developed, enhanced, and honed with effort and intention. Here are some ways to strengthen your soft skills:

Self-Assessment

Reflect on your interpersonal strengths and weaknesses. Seek feedback from colleagues and supervisors to better understand which are your areas of strength, where you can use those strengths more, and how you can develop your skills.

Personal Growth

Commit to personal growth by setting goals and practicing self-awareness. Engage in activities that challenge you to expand your comfort zone. Get feedback as you practice.

Training and Coaching

Seek out training opportunities, workshops, or courses focusing on developing your soft, or real skills. These can provide valuable insights and strategies. Ask for coaching, as these are accelerators to help you reflect and think through ideas and new ways of working.

Applying Your Skills

To benefit your organization and strengthen your teams, leverage your power skills. In the workplace, your power skill combination might be put into action through:

Collaboration

Combine your technical expertise with effective communication and teamwork to foster collaboration and innovation.

Problem-Solving

Use your critical thinking, adaptability, and technical skills to tackle complex challenges effectively with others.

Leadership

Employ leadership and interpersonal skills to motivate and inspire your team, creating a positive and productive work environment.

Ready to rock your power skills?

In the workplace, the distinction between soft/real skills and hard skills is artificial and a disservice to you and your team. All skills are essential for personal and organizational success. Soft skills are the building blocks of effective teamwork and communication, while technical skills provide the tools for task completion.

By acknowledging, discussing, developing, and leveraging both types of skills, you grow and perform better, and you can help others do the same to contribute to the growth of your organizations and teams. Remember that innate abilities, learned skills, and personal growth are all part of the journey towards becoming a well-rounded and successful professional. They are your power skills.

At Churchill Leadership Group, we offer customized coaching solutions to help each leader experience their own eureka moment and inspire the deeper development of power skills. We invite you to contact us today to expand your own power skills with Executive Coaching or those of your organization’s leaders with our customized Manager Effectiveness program.

Coach_Jayne

Author:

Jayne Jenkins – CEO, Churhcill Leadership Group

is the founder and CEO of Churchill Leadership Group. After 23 years as a seasoned Fortune 500 leadership veteran, working for AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Aventis, Jayne recognized the need to unleash untapped talent in the corporate world. Through her work in the US and Europe, Jayne observed many leaders and teams struggling to reach their full potential. Jayne’s years of corporate experience included building high-performance sales and operations teams, including an organization delivering annual revenue of $600 million.

In 2012, Jayne’s mission was to build a global coaching organization that could partner with corporate and government clients to maximize the talent they are already paying for! Today, Jayne is a certified Executive, Team, Strengths, and Conversational Intelligence® Coach. She proudly leads Churchill’s global team of over 400 coaches and SMEs in North and Latin America, Europe, The Middle East, and the Asia Pacific.

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