I was recently having a coaching conversation with a client of mine who is in the HR space, and we were discussing challenges that she experiences with business when encouraging the importance of considering soft skills training for employees. We explored various ways of convincing business leaders about the value and way forward.
As I reflected in the evening about the value of soft skills (that are not soft), it occurred to me that perhaps when we recruit and hire human beings, we seem to focus on business experience and qualification – which is relevant, legit and best practice – but we are perhaps forgetting that we are hiring a human being who has lived before the ten years’ experience you are seeking. We are hiring someone who has memories/experience, beliefs, background, etc. which are all contributing factors that have shaped how they view life, as well as their career and future aspirations.
Technical skills versus compatibility?
Can we therefore afford to ignore the need to develop a total human being? It might seem that technical skills are more important, but in my years as a Learning and Development leader you start to see the cracks showing up in team dynamics, in the people engagement space and other key business engagement points.
I remember my early career years where I had all the qualifications but I was not progressing. I kept changing companies – running away from taking courage to grow gaps that were a disability to my career aspirations. I would sit in meetings for two days and not utter a word – not because I did not have something to say – but I was too scared to speak because I thought what I was thinking might not be good enough. I resented how I showed up in these meetings because I knew that they were critical in shaping who I was and how I wanted to be experienced. I was showing up in ways I had no desired to be showing up in. I became uncomfortable, but I was tired of running away from myself.
I decided to change my story, I wanted a different picture and conversation about who I was becoming. I defined how I wanted to show up and be experienced by the world. It was tough but doable, and I was super scared…
Now, I don’t know if this is true for everyone who has made their own mind shifts and I don’t think that a training course on assertiveness is always going to work for everyone (as I have seen from those I have journeyed with), but I do think a good prescription for courage has made a huge impact in facilitating my development, despite assertiveness courses.
I conducted an analysis of about more than 50 managers who had undergone psychometric assessment as part of job recruitment and development and one of the trends that I observed from the reports was that they are their own worst critic! Do we ignore this data and hope that it resolves itself? The impact of a human being that acts as their own worst critic can be negative because that human being tends to shy away from taking risks, is less innovative, second guesses their own decisions ,etc.
The road to courage
In my humble opinion, we are hiring and employing the entire 35 years’-experience-person, and not the 10 years-in-project-management only. Our development practices could therefore seek to respond to the total person’s development needs.
I also think it would be short sighted to assume that soft skills development is not essential for anyone’s development. We are hiring a full person who was something else before the decade experience, and those memories and experiences do show up in ways that positively or negatively affirm your experience with them.
I think that there is an opportunity to invest more in soft skills through training, coaching, mentoring, podcasts, etc.
What are your thoughts ?
Should we not be investing in developing employees in skills like courage, self-belief, emotional awareness, etc.as a business necessity?
Are we hiring human beings for only their technical expertise when we yet require them to connect with other fellow beings?
Isn’t developing the soft skills muscle an after thought that we hope will sort itself out?
I don’t have all the answers, nor do I think that I have an answer. I just reflected on my experiences, but:
Should we not be investing in courage proactively?