“Soft Skills” should be called the “Hard Skills”

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During the Deep Dive I did with Rich Litvin, he coached me around some of my past experiences. I told him I had created a “Soft Skills” workshop for a top business school in France, and lead the team of facilitators. He told me I could write a book:

“The Soft Skills should be called the Hard Skills.”

There are dozens of books on soft skills, and I don’t feel the calling to write another one. But the title seemed intriguing enough for me to write this article.

This workshop that I created almost a decade ago, called Productive Behaviours, was taught to thousands of business students in 15 business schools in France, Lebanon, Singapore, Morocco and Cyprus by a team of 25+ dedicated facilitators. I have been part of the facilitating team from the get go, as I was leading it for the first two years. Then, my remarkable colleague and friend Mathieu Bouchaert generously accepted to lead the team, as I was transitioning to California to study East-West Psychology. The following years, he invited me to come teach in the workshop (and I even became the Honorary President of the Association for Productive Behaviours). The really funny part though, is that each year, as I teach this workshop to a group of 25 students, I have to relearn and retrain these skills myself. I haven’t mastered them yet ! I notice how I could use them in a particular situation, and how the same skills are the ones that I need over and over again. And how much progress I still can make !

Here are the skills we teach in this workshop:

  • Self-knowledge (values, beliefs, needs)
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Assertiveness
  • Creativity
  • Integrity
  • Project Management
  • Time Management

Here are other skills that I would add to the list:

  • Positive Intelligence
  • Negotiation & Conflict Resolution (which I have been teaching and leading trainings for 7 years with the Institute of Research for Negotiation (IRENE) at ESSEC Business School)
  • Problem Solving
  • Ability to Focus (especially in this noisy world. See Cal Newport’s books: Deep Work and Digital Minimalism)
  • Critical Thinking
  • Ability to deal with Complexity and Ambiguity (see my article on How to transform VUCA into an advantage)
  • Leadership and Positive Social Influence
  • Team Work

According to a study made by the Society for Human Resource Management, here are the top 3 missing soft skills:

Each soft skill adds up for more Conscious Leadership.

Why should they be called the “Hard Skills”?

The answer is quite simple:

They are simple in theory, hard in practice.

It takes some effort and persistence because they rewire our brains for more effectiveness, openness, and better understanding. They open our hearts to deeper connection with others, and most importantly, with ourselves (our values, our needs, our beliefs, our emotions).

I believe these skills should also be called the “Hard Skills”, as they constitute the core of being human. A “Hard Core Human” would master these skills.

Humans were not born to be technicians nor executing robots. It is great for them to master their craft, whether it is cooking, painting, marketing, finance, horse riding, … But if they can’t communicate properly and they create hell for those around them, if they secretly hate themselves and resent themselves because they are not aware of their needs and wants, if they can’t create or respond creatively, because they have limiting beliefs about their own infinite capacities, or if they play the victim’s role in conflicts, there is no bright future for Humanity.

Which “soft skills” would you want to develop more?

What is one tiny step you will take?

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