August 3, 2008

Hard Truth About Soft Skills

Filed under: Book Reviews, Personal Branding — Robert John Ed @ 5:23 pm

My biggest deficiency (and in my opinion, the most obvious deficiency for near EVERYONE in business) is a lack of soft skills.  Problem is, soft skills aren’t that well defined.  Here’s a wikipedia entry for more background.

To me, soft skills are your ability to get along well with everyone .  That might make me sound like an ogre that can’t get along with people, but that’s not true (if you thought that, I ought to club you and eat your bones!).  I’m actually pretty well off in that department, but I still think it’s the area where we all need to learn and grow as managers and leaders.  If you want to run the place, you better well be able to understand others and work along with them.  Otherwise you’ll end up commander of a ship that everyone wants to jump off of.  Whether we like it or not, we work in competitive environments and are expected to get a maximum output and that takes good people skills.

By contrast, “hard skills” are your ability to do the actual work needing to be done; analyzing reports and developing market research are examples.  Lots of us are impeccable with hard skills.  We are great creators, analysts and copywriters.  We can whip up a presentation that will blow the socks off of people in an hour.  I find that the majority of professionals are geared to kick ass with hard skills.

The problems set in when they have to alter their work tendencies to mesh with others.  It’s difficult for us to change the way we work, because that way is proven.

In steps, The Hard Truth About Soft Skills, a book on how to act and work within office environments.  This book is mostly geared toward working in larger companies where competition is fierce and promotions and raises are dependent on office politics.  For those of you who don’t know, office politics are a reality, an inescapable, terrible reality.  It’s just the way of the world, put thousands of people in the exact same position in a zero sum game and watch what happens.  Sad but true.

This book was quick.  It’s 180 pages or so and reads like half the size.  Most of the advice is pretty good, and could be valuable to a lot of people.  Honestly though, I’m burned out on business books.  The author, Peggy Klaus, seems like she’d be a great consultant and really knows how to handle sticky situations.  Her first, and best, piece of advice is to always be managing your own brand.  I don’t know how many times I can say it, but NO ONE IS WATCHING OUT FOR YOU!  You have to manage your own career, you have to know

what is happening and if you are getting the attention you deserve.

Problem of course, is that a lot of soft skills are self centric, and inherently go against some of the principles in Good to Great (probably one of the best business books of all time).  I need to review that book, but I read it before starting this blog, so not sure that will happen.  One of the big tenets of that book is that the best, most successful leaders are completely committed to the company and don’t worry about personal

accolades.  Sometimes I’m not sure that complete selflessness would be a good strategy, but as a marketer, I subscribe to the idea that you should ALWAYS be doing what’s in the best interest of the company.

At the bottom of it all, this is a good book.  It’s easy to read and has a lot of tips that could prove useful.


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