Before I get too far, just so you know, there is no such thing as “soft skills.” It was a term that the U.S. Army coined in 1972 to delineate between the hard skills (using machinery, weaponry, etc.) and those skills that are less defined and measured (supervising, leading, employing judgment, etc.). What they discovered was that those less-definable skills are as important as the technical skills.
Which means that the non-technical skills aren’t soft at all. In fact, they catalyze your technical skills exponentially in terms of the value produced. These skills are PROFESSIONAL SKILLS and are absolutely essential for you to be effective. So lose the “soft skills” terminology. It’s inaccurate and misleading.
If you’re not careful, you, too, can be led to believe that your professional skills are sufficient. For instance, when there is a communication breakdown, it’s certainly because the other party didn’t pay attention and had nothing to do with your inability to convey your expectations. Or when there is relational friction, it’s obviously because the other party is (mostly) at fault and not because you had anything (significant) to do with it. Or when there is error in judgment, it’s most definitely because of things changing and not because your decision process was inadequate. The mindset that says “it’s not my problem” is already a problem—your problem.
Here’s a very simple but common example. Let’s say that your client needs the services of another professional discipline. You call your source and leave a voicemail that you would like to speak with them about the situation. If it takes a couple of days for them to get back to you, how do you take it? Annoyed? Irritated? I’m sure it’s nothing positive. Yet your delays in responding to your colleagues or clients is the same thing. You notice the unprofessionalism when you’re on the receiving end but give yourself a pass when you do it. Not good.
Your professional skills, even simple practices, enhance the value of your technical skills significantly. Take care to commit to developing your professional skills as much as your technical skills, because they both matter. Make it YOUR problem.
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