Why Are Soft Skills So Hard?

Executive Coaching in Pasadena

Using the 3 AAA’s of Change – AWARENESS, ACTION, ACCOUNTABILITY – let’s start with Awareness.

What are soft skills?

The very term “soft skills” sounds like these are easy and maybe not that important and really, anyone can pick them up. Some examples are effective listening, sensing what is not being said, and the ability to influence others. Some people have natural talents that make these seem easy and may not understand how hard it can be for those whose talents lie in other areas and haven’t worked on improving these soft skills. The good news is that you can do both but first comes developing Awareness.

Who needs Soft Skills anyway? EVERYONE!

 I work with a lot of people who have a very high IQ and have achieved much of their success because of their technical skills and subject matter expertise. But as Marshall Goldsmith would say, “What got you here, won’t get you there”! If you’re an engineer or a software developer and you’re running a startup or leading a team of 10 or 20 for the first time, your ability to solve complex technical problems may feel like a cakewalk compared to communicating your vision to others or getting them to work together in the same office or halfway around the world on a Zoom Square.

Whether you call these skills ‘soft’ or think of them as Emotional Intelligence, it doesn’t matter if you are vexed by feeling they could be a lot stronger. The good news is they can. 


It’s helpful to acknowledge where you are and where you need and want to be. What is the gap and what resources do you currently have or need to improve these skills?

There are great assessment tools like EQi 2.0 which will help you understand all the areas of Emotional intelligence and how you score. Or here is a simpler exercise to try –your own mini-360-degree review.

Pick 3 skills you know, or have been told, you need to improve. For example:

  • Listening Effectively
  • Giving Constructive Feedback
  • Communicating Concisely

What score (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most effective) would you give yourself on these three skills? Then, ask a selection of people you know well and who know you (spouse, partner, family members, boss, peers, direct reports, customers, and vendors) what they think.

Whether you ask them directly or set up an anonymous survey in Survey monkey, get them to rank you (1-10). If you gave yourself an 8 on ‘effective listening’ but the average score you get from all the others is a 4, that’s your gap and that’s the place to start.

Now you have some data, you are armed with AWARENESS – self-awareness and accurate self-assessment. The next steps are coming up with a plan of ACTION to work on those skills, practicing them, finetuning and continuing to get Feedback or ACCOUNTABILITY.    

More to come on these….

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