Hard Truths about Soft Skills

A much-overlooked part of commercial success is the use of soft skills.  We all need to harness and fine-tune our soft skills if we want to achieve success.

Soft skills are not just nice-to-have value-adds but are essential within the workplace as well as externally to develop a more client-centric approach. For example, the importance of using empathy to see things from the clients’ perspective and sophisticated selling skills such as the need to add insight and value to all client interactions.

Building transferable soft skills such as resilience, collaboration, confidence, communication and teamwork, is now more important than ever. From simple conversational skills, through reluctance and inability to network effectively and onto other soft skills such as writing, presenting, pitching, selling and relationship management.

Some organisations appear to treat soft skills development as a “tick box” training exercise and many believe that a short training course of a couple of hours can be sufficient to develop the critical and complex soft skills required for their employees.

There is a lack of clarity on what soft skills need to be developed. These include:

Emotional intelligence

A key element to many soft skills – particularly in the area of self-awareness, communication and relationship management.


Communicating effectively with peers, team members and clients.


Learning to ‘not just listen to respond; listen to understand’.


Developing self-confidence enables healthy authority and leadership.

Critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration

Combatting the ‘narrowness’ of the thinking process and the reluctance to collaborate to co-create solutions.


Recognising and managing stress both personally and for team members to support good mental health and well-being.

Conflict management

Managing difficult conversations and difference to navigate conflict and strengthen negotiation skills.

This brings into question whether categorising these skills as ‘soft’ is the right term for something so business-critical. Perhaps they are better referred to now as ‘solid skills’.