11.13 - Soft Skills and the Bottom Line

In today's organizations, where fewer people have to get more done with fewer resources, it obvious to us that the key to success will be maximizing climate, culture and leadership and management practices that enable those people to operate at their very best. 

The ways people interact with one another is at the heart of high performance:  the quality, precision, frequency and tone of communications is an essential ingredient to success.   These are the soft skills, but, interestingly, for many, they are among the most difficult skills to master.

Do the people in your organization systematically behave in ways that bring out the best in themselves and the best in others? 


Here a few research findings to consider when you are struggling with the proper balance between the impact of people skills vs. technical skills on the bottom line:

  • A host of studies points to the finding that people skill competence is as a reliable an indicator of job performance as technical mastery or years of experience.   
  • One study found that conscientiousness and agreeability were equally accurate indicators of work success as intellectual ability and accuracy.
  • Soft skills are positively correlated with high scores on performance appraisals and contribute heavily to subsequent salary increases.
  • Research conducted by Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation found that 75 percent of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% depends on technical knowledge.

A regional expert on creating positive momentum, progress and innovation. Derick Maggard, Executive Director, The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council

A good friend and mentor, Vinod Chachra, once said "It's not about technology! It is about people." I could not agree more.  The importance of building meaningful relationships is imperative to everyone and every organization.  People skills play a vital role in all aspects of life but especially in business. 

The most important principle of communication is to first, be a good listener.  Actively listen to the person you are talking with and respond when appropriate.  Most people have a pre-planned agenda and this prohibits organic conversation. Instead, the agenda should be shared to build rapport and discover common interests.  Second, be authentic.  Be who you are, be positive, be passionate and bring energy. 

The importance that people skills and communication play in our global economy is huge. Companies are looking for people who are articulate, smart and can build relationships with others.  A cornerstone of companies is their team and in order to have a top tier team they have to have the ability to communicate effectively.

Mary Kay Ash's advice to salespeople rings true.

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, "Make me feel important."  

Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.

A Definition of Soft Skills

Behavioral competencies including communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation, likeabilty, influence, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building, influencing skills and selling skills.  In essence, they are the ability to bring out the best in self and the best in others to get the job done.

Six critical dimensions of organization effectiveness measured by the OD2:

     1.  Marketplace Responsiveness

     2.  Clear Direction

     3.  The Right Structure

     4.  Effective Work Processes

     5.  The Right Metrics

     6.  Effective People Practices