soft skills
Helping Your Employees Understand the Power of Soft Skills
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How can you get your employees to embrace critical soft skills, especially the ones we refer to as “the old-fashioned basics”? Often they simply don’t realize how much mastering soft skills could increase their value as employees—not only right now, but for the remainder of their careers.

Give Them Examples

One of the best ways to help your employees recognize and appreciate soft-skill mastery is by providing examples—little profiles of people, real or fictional, who are truly engaged in their jobs.

For instance, when I’m trying to help people in the retail world understand the power of soft skills, I tell them:

Imagine a cashier who is always early, bright eyed, and cheerful, moving through transactions swiftly and steadily while greeting customers warmly and crisply, up-selling enthusiastically, answering customer questions accurately and concisely, and solving customer problems whenever they arise. When there are no customers waiting, she keeps everything clean and organized behind the counter, jumps in to help others, and always watches the counter in case there is a customer approaching.

When I’m trying to help people in healthcare understand the power of soft skills, I tell them:


Imagine a nurse who not only stays late and takes very few breaks, but whom patients know by name and trust and look forward to seeing. He sees more patients, spends more time with patients, knows more patients by name, and smiles at more patients, and notices subtle changes and recognizes important symptoms even when they are not conspicuous. He can give a patient or a patient’s family a greater feeling of dignity and comfort.

When I’m trying to help people in IT to understand, I tell them:

Imagine the network systems administrator who not only keeps the hardware and software running and updates systems, but tracks recurring user issues, finding root causes and implementing systemic solutions to recurring problems. She doesn’t just maintain storage, but also explores the cloud or other innovations. She’s not a manager in title only, but a highly engaged leader who coaches the other systems administrators and technicians on the team.

And here’s what I tell accountants:

Imagine the accountant who not only knows the rules, follows the rules, and helps his clients follow the rules, but also has the guts and tact to talk clients through the difficult details and the savvy to help them ethically navigate them. He also has the initiative, creativity, and innovation to find a hidden opportunity or invent the next great loophole. 

So many people—at all levels in all organizations—fall for the myth that soft skills are a “nice to have” rather than a “must have.” That is a huge mistake. Don’t let anybody fool you: Soft skills are a necessity. For the vast majority of your workforce, soft skills are the key to your success in the workplace and competitive differentiation in the marketplace. They are the source of a huge amount of power, and a secret weapon for any smart organization, team, leader, or individual performer.

About the Author

Bruce Tulgan is internationally recognized as the leading expert on young people in the workplace and one of the leading experts on leadership and management. Bruce is a best-selling author, an adviser to business leaders all over the world, and a sought-after keynote speaker and management trainer.

Since 1995, Bruce has worked with tens of thousands of leaders and managers in hundreds of organizations ranging from Aetna to Wal-Mart; from the Army to the YMCA.  In recent years, Bruce was named by Management Today as one of the few contemporary figures to stand out as a “management guru” and he was named to the 2009 Thinkers 50 rising star list. On August 13, 2009, Bruce was honored to accept Toastmasters International’s most prestigious honor, the Golden Gavel. This honor is annually presented to a single person who represents excellence in the fields of communication and leadership. Past winners have included Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Ken Blanchard, Tom Peters, Art Linkletter, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Walter Cronkite.

Bruce’s most recent book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Challenges (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2014) was published in September, 2014.  He is also the author of the best-seller It’s Okay to Be the Boss (HarperCollins, 2007) and the classic Managing Generation X (W.W. Norton, 2000; first published in 1995). Bruce’s other books include Winning the Talent Wars (W.W. Norton, 2001), which received widespread acclaim from Fortune 500 CEOs and business journalists; the best-seller Fast Feedback (HRD Press, 1998); Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: Managing Generation Y (Jossey-Bass, 2009); Managing the Generation Mix (HRD Press, 2006) and It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss (Jossey-Bass, 2010).   Many of Bruce’s works have been published around the world in foreign editions.

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