I was well established in my career when the realization came to me that the skills that I downplayed or underutilized in my career were actually the ones that mattered.
I spent my professional career focusing on ‘Hard Skills.’ Getting better at improving the bottom line, understanding P&L’s, sourcing and managing inventory, meeting KPI’s, determining ROI’s. I did this because this is what I knew to be true: The more hard skills I had, the better I would be at my job, and the bigger my career could be.
But when a career transition happened, and I had some time to think about what I really wanted my next step to be, I did something I’d never done before. I did some self-reflection, took some online evaluations, and met with a career coach.
What I got out of that time was invaluable. I realized that while yes, hard skills are valuable, it was my ‘soft skills’ that set me apart. The ability to empathize, have compassion and care about my staff and their careers was what made me a good boss. One of the people who I worked with a few years ago, once told me I make a great sh*t sandwich. She understood what I wanted, or wanted to change and was actually motivated to make the changes. I took that as a compliment.
Understanding the emerging importance of values and good leadership in business, lead me to pursue my professional coaching designation and now, a few years later, I’ve started People Lab, a company dedicated to kindness, compassion, and the bottom line. I’ve taken what I used to not perceive as having value in the workplace and turned it into a business and a personal mission.
What I’m excited about is the shift that thought leaders are making in the discussion of ‘soft skills.’ Why call them soft skills — aren’t they essential skills? Aren’t they human skills? Emotional intelligence, empathy, kindness, self-awareness are all powerful tools that create connection and real value to your organization.
The good news is that if these essential skills aren’t currently developed, they can be, just like any skill. Try this out: Next time you are watching a news piece, take a moment to consider two things: what might have transpired to get that person to that moment in time and is it possible that they are making the best decision they can with the information they have? Practicing this regularly will help you to develop more empathy. Just like any hard skill, practice works.