Why are the words “hard” and “soft” rolled out to describe the skills that a manager needs to possess and execute to be successful in their day-to-day job?
Why is it that the more technical skills; the ones usually aligned to competence and easily measured, are labelled as “hard”, whilst the more behavioural skills that are a little more subjective are labelled as “soft”?
In particular, small-businesses managers often get bogged down in the “doing” and overlook the important skills that make us human.
To be human doesn’t mean being soft, hugging everyone and singing Kumbaya. That’s the old school way of looking at things.
The small-business manager who takes the path-building and practising their human skills is hardly being “soft”.
The human manager is being courageous, taking a different pathway and going down a different fork in the road to try and bring about sustainable success in a more human way.
It’s the manager who in their heart and gut knows the right thing to do, and has to be prepared to “hold their nerve”, as the results of their progress are far harder to measure in the short term on a KPI sheet or Performance Management System.
I would, in fact, challenge that premise by saying that the “soft stuff is the hard stuff” because it’s the “human stuff.”
Here are five human skills that will be critical for small-business managers to embrace in order to build sustained success:
- Communication – timely and clear communication will ensure that humans can make sense of what the business vision and strategies are. When we can make sense, we are happier, more engaged and productive.
- Listening – listening to learn trumps the old way of listening to respond with all the answers. This is a critical human skill that will build deeper connection with your team members, and uncover ideas you may never have imagined.
- Acceptence of diversity – with change being a constant and the pace quickening, it will be critical for managers to be open to challenging old norms about issues such as, gender, ageism, cultural nuances and educational qualifications.
- Collaboration – listening instead of telling your employees what to do will encourage innovation and productivity by connecting with employees and getting the best out of them for the company and their own personal development.
- Emotional awareness – starting with knowing yourself will ensure that managers will be tapping into what it is to be human. Focusing then on the individuals within a team and practising the human skills of empathy and vulnerability will encourage others to do the same.
Tapping into the human skills means creating an environment where all humans feel that they belong, contribute, are relevant, cared for, nurtured and developed. Additionally, you practice the art of duality – the skill to be able to hug another human and gently kick them in the backside at the same time!!
So, what is your conclusion? Should we interchange the terms “soft” and “hard” with “human” to better represent the work being done by a small business manager? Or, should we just find a better way of representing the important work necessary to achieve the very best outcome?”
The answer is right in front of us and it doesn’t involve hugs and renditions of Kumbaya. It’s about tapping into our human skills. They’re not “soft”, so stop being hard-headed and move into the future of human management.
A small change in words to have a big impact on small businesses.
What are you waiting for?
Mark LeBusque, Founder and Director, The Human Manager