Soft Skills Win In Work And Life
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Soft Skills Win In Work And Life

Soft Skills Win In Work And Life

Have you ever wondered where the term "soft skills" came from? Personally, I often find myself curious of its origin because it seems like a contradiction at best, but worse, a poor use of phrasing. By referencing certain leadership/ownership skills as "soft," doesn't it seem we are devaluing them? Because in a complex business like multi-unit/brand franchising, things that are viewed as soft are often skills or attributes that cannot be measured. But soft skills impact the bottom line, growth, and people development - so there is nothing soft about them, right?

While the term's origin lies somewhere in the imprecise world of business tribal speak, its connotation has been around for quite some time. The Harvard Business Review listed concepts like goal-centric thinking, collaboration skills, communication skills, learning skills, troubleshooting, and playfulness as being vital for achieving success. The Cambridge University Press dictionary defines soft skills as, "people's abilities to communicate with each other and work well together." The unfortunate reality is that our team historically has run into multi-unit franchise owners who don't want to invest in something that sounds "soft."

We are, however, finding more and more business owners are looking beyond their standard reports and metrics and identifying the "real" skills that drive results, retain their people, and develop future leaders. Often, it is the intangible side of a leader's style that brings the most out of people. Consider your own success, and how important the following leadership traits have been to you:

  • Inspiration: the ability to drive the motivation of a person or team
  • Positivity: the ability to help others over the mental hurdles they create for themselves
  • Likeability: which is not about what you think of your team but what your team thinks of you
  • Generosity: acts of deference that win people on the long haul
  • Grace: the practice of treating people better than they deserve
  • Candor: cutting through the communication layers to say it straight and win trust in doing so
  • Training: helping others see that training is better than just trying
  • Self-awareness: knowing how to leverage your strengths and manage your weaknesses
  • Contrition: knowing how to make an honest and humble apology when called for
  • Accountability: not just punishing or disciplining, but measuring and following through
  • Focus: overcoming the weapons of mass distraction

This list, albeit incomplete, forms an example of the kind of inputs that bring the personnel outputs to drive enterprise value through effective mobilization of imperfect people towards brave and ambitious targets. We often talk with our clients about success through the next generation. Understanding the importance of "soft skills" as they relate to "real" leadership skills creates personal leadership development of successors and teams and ensures growth through future generations.

Doug Howe is a partner of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm. Doug specializes in dealing with the issues that must be resolved by multi-unit franchisee owners to implement succession strategies geared towards building business value. For additional information, visit or call 407-578-4455.

Published: June 12th, 2017

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