|“Being both soft and strong is a combination very few have mastered”|
Why are the words “hard” and “soft” rolled out to describe the skills that a manager needs to possess and execute on to be successful in their day to day job?
How 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”. What is implied by labelling these skills in this particular way; and what is the broader impact by doing so?
I thought the best place to start understanding the words Soft and Hard was to go to the descriptions in various dictionaries of the words and here’s some of what I found:
For the purpose of this Post I have concentrated on the term soft and found some interesting descriptions (those that were printable) including:
Kindness, Gentleness, Tenderness
Given the current focus on all things gender, the next word is a very interesting one to use to describe the word soft. It is unmanly.
This must have been penned many years ago when women “knew their place” as those who looked after the ‘home chores’ whilst their husbands went off to work and did the manly tasks like being in control and providing materially for the family. You know those pictures you see of the 50’ and 60’s household where the man was sitting watching TV, feet comfortably positioned on the leather recliner after being given his slippers by his wife followed being served his dinner! Surely we are making better progress than to continue to use words like unmanly to describe soft?
The next three words are really interesting to describe the term soft: Kindness, gentleness and tenderness and these are endearing human qualities…
Seems funny that we consider them to be soft when in fact they are some of the hardest things to get humans to do to each other on a daily basis: to show real and purposeful kindness when times are tough, to be gentle and to be tender to others.
These three things are lacking in many of today’s organisations.
It’s time for some new terminology or perhaps just a reversal in the application in the words soft and hard to describe the essential skills one needs to flourish as a manager today.
Perhaps describing them as ‘Technical ‘ and ‘Essential Human Skills’ would be appropriate replacements for ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’?
What Say You?
June 2, 2022