Serious Soft Skills
Podcast 1: What Are Soft Skills Anyway?
Hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham explain what soft skills are, using powerful examples from business.
Bob Graham ‘0:22': We’re going to explain what soft skills are in general, and explain them in a way that gives people a better understanding. Let’s start with the big question first. Why soft skills now?
Dr. Tobin Porterfield ‘0:58': We know from our research that soft skills go back almost 50 years. So they are not new. But what is new is, we are in a hyper-competitive market now, where technology and globalization have saturated how we do business. The speed of change if you are working at Apple, SAP or a company like that, is greater. The hyper-competitive world is hitting all of us, from a small business up to a global corporations. The environment we work in is different. Then, within our organizations we are facing a multi-generational workforce; the people we work with and the way we work are different.
Where Soft Skill Are Affecting Small Business
Graham ‘2:03': Give me an example or situation where soft skills are playing a role with a small business?
Porterfield ‘2:09': We know even the term small business can a landmine, because we can be talking about a hardware store or some other business with 3-5 employees up to a small company with 100 or 150 employees. But those soft skills still come into play. We’re in an environment where we have to be able communicate with our customer, we have to be able to listen, we have to be able to respond to changes in the marketplace.
Graham ‘2:47': That makes sense. I have certainly seen that in my own small business. Things change, customers change. You have ownership changes; you have management changes, or even you have companies that change their focus like overnight. One day they are doing A and the next day they are doing B. It’s the soft skills that really allow us to adapt to those things.
Porterfield ‘6:04': I think you make a great point. We are involved in a virtual world.
What Soft Skills Really Are
Porterfield ‘3:23': We are throwing around the term “soft skills” and most people are familiar with it it. Our argument is that soft skills are what make us responsive and allow our organizations to not be complacent in the face of all of these changes going on in our hyper-competitive business world.
Is Soft Skills The Right Phrase?
Porterfield ‘3:43': Soft skills can be a challenging term. We have had people respond to us, Don’t even use that term. Don’t even call them soft skills because it makes them seem second class. IT makes them sound unimportant. Use critical skills, communication skills, managerial skills, and I know there are a lot of other terms out there.
Graham ‘4:14': Non-technical skills is a term we see a lot in literature.
Contrasting Soft Skills with Technical Skills
Porterfield ‘4:19': These soft skills are not your technical skills. For a marketing person, those technical skills might be understanding the message and how to take that message out to the market, how to develop that message.
Graham ‘4:40': The tools that you would use, whether you would send out a press release and other types of specific things that you can put your finger on.
Porterfield ‘4:50': If you were an architect or an engineer, those hard skills or technical skills become more obvious because I need to understand tension strengths and all kinds of other technical details of my work. So then, you might say the soft skills are everything else. But I like to use a working definition that soft skills are the portfolio of skills that allow us to work or operate within the context of an organization. The soft skills are the glue that allows us to move those technical skills into the ...
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