Let’s Stop Calling Them ‘Soft Skills’


They might be skills, but they’re not soft

Are you good at your job? Different, easier question: Was Ty Cobb good at baseball?

It’s generally understood that Ty Cobb was a jerk. His teammates didn’t like him very much. But he’s still in the Hall of Fame. That’s because baseball keeps score… of hits, of runs and of catches.

What about your job? It’s probably a bit more complex.

There are linchpins, people who don’t shirk responsibility when the chips are down. And, among others, there are connectors, people with insights, folks who never seem to lose hope. Your company is staffed with people who can’t possibly be rated on a linear scale, because you’re not baseball players. You are managers and inventors and leaders and promise-makers and supporters and bureaucrats and detail-oriented factotums.

And yet…

And yet we persist in hiring and training as if we’re a baseball team, as if easily defined skills are all that matter.

What causes successful organizations to fail? Stocks to fade, innovations to slow, customers to jump ship?

We can agree that certain focused skills are essential. That hiring coders who can’t code, salespeople who can’t sell or architects who can’t architect is a short road to failure.

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