Soft Skills are the New Hard Skills

Engaging the heart and humanizing the environment.

HARD SKILLS [hahrd skilz] noun—The ability to carry out the technical and professional requirements of a job.

SOFT SKILLS [sawft, soft skilz] noun (synonym: “people skills”)—The ability to engage and interact effectively with others, obtain acceptance, build consensus, and provide assistance, direction and leadership …

Linda with staff members of the Labor Management Project

Linda with staff members of the Labor Management Project

If 50 is the new 30, (just in case my Dad is reading, 90 is the new 70!) then I would say that soft skills are the new hard skills. Classes, campaigns and initiatives are waged daily to improve customer, patient and employee satisfaction. But people skills without heart is just talk; any kind of campaign to improve relationships that does not address conditions in which people live and work is not going to create lasting change.

I remember when my Dad at 80 years of age underwent open-heart surgery at the Cleveland Heart Center. I could site numerous examples of extraordinary service at this center, but it was the dietary worker in the cafeteria who stopped in the middle of the lunch rush and asked if I was okay (and really meant it) that got me through that day. I can still see her face, and feel the space she held for me to express myself. In that moment it seemed like everyone in the hospital cared for me and the health of my Father.

Recently I was conducting a focus group with employees where the overall labor relations was admittedly poor. Out of the blue, a voice emerges. Shy to speak and afraid to discount others who felt beaten down, she explained that her department was not like that. She described her supervisor as someone who cares for, and respects her staff: “She asks what we think, listens and actually uses our ideas and when needed rolls up her sleeves and chips in.” She went on to say: “It didn’t use to be this way, I like my job for the first time, we actually work like a team, we’re committed like never before.” Her supervisor created the conditions to turn the department around in an otherwise negative environment.

What does it take to transform negative cultures, or people who treat others as sub-human? I think it is a combination of things; skill training for sure, backed up with a culture that holds leaders and staff accountable for the people-side and rewards those that work differently. Dialogues and activities that help breakdown barriers to valuing our fellow human beings are essential.

The minute I judge anyone as ‘less than’ I open the way for negative treatment. Yet the minute I have the opportunity to see sameness at the core of all of us I am more likely to operate human to human. The heart once open does not necessarily need training – it is the heart’s natural ability to reach out and connect and comfort and expand with possibility. If I see you as different or less then I am closed and can justify mistreatment, abuse and even war in its extreme manifestation.

Treating others well needs to be built into the environment and culture. It is the difference between a sterile cold environment, and a warm home with people milling about sharing food, cleaning up together, talking and laughing. Where would you rather be? What if we could have a great time, and get the work done; wouldn’t that be better?

A good place to start: Treat others with compassion and respect; involve people in the improvement of their environment. Level the playing field and come together often as a group. It is culture change, a paradigm shift for sure. Be it a work place, family, or community – leaders of any worthwhile venture will do well to humanize their environment, refine their people skills and back it up with heart!

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4 Responses to “Soft Skills are the New Hard Skills”

  1. Roxanne says:

    L- i am truly moved by this letter..- brilliant .. I am so lucky to have a friend like you who lives in compassion and love and who selflessly wants to make the world a better place. You are a great inspiration to me and if you weren’t my friend at all, I would be bowing at you as I write this!!! l0l.. seriously, I love you with all of my heart – you, oh so beautiful soul xoxoxo

  2. Mary Ann Ciminesi says:

    Hi Linda. Keep up the good work! Hope all is well.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Linda Provenza. Linda Provenza said: Soft Skills are the New Hard Skills – Engaging the heart and humanizing the environment! Check it out: […]

  4. Mimi Fierle says:

    Linda, So beautifully stated and wonderfully written. It’s so true that when the “heart” is in the work, the work gets done from the highest with compassion, efficiency, and certainly with the most creativity and in the moment “best action.” Don’t know why we humans need to learn these lessons over and over again. Thank you for this sublime reminder!

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