A hard look at soft skills 

 

There is nothing “ soft” about a police interrogation in Line of Duty. It’s intense and systematic . There is no shouting, verbal abuse or threats of violence. The aim is to get the individual to talk, to give an account that can be tested out against the evidence. Any inconsistencies will be probed. To do this effectively the officer must demonstrate empathy to gain the suspects confidence, must be able to read their body language, needs to ask the right questions and understand how their behaviour effects others. 

 

It always seemed incongruous to me that the toughest, most determined, steely, challenging, uncompromising , least likely to let you get away with anything manager was considered to be demonstrating “soft skills”. It seems totally inappropriate  to me refer to these people skills as soft skills just because those who use them most effectively do so without raising their voice or acting all angry. An effective negotiator,  persuasive speaker or systematic interrogator needs to have empathy and be good at reading body language, they need to be able to establish a rapport but this does not make them or their skills soft. So when  I read an article arguing that so called ,”soft skills” should be referred  to as ,”Power skills” I was in total agreement. 

 

One of the most influential managers I worked for had so called soft skills by the bucket load. And they used them very effectively to innovate, to develop partnerships, to influence and negotiate both inside and outside the organisation.These are the actions of some one using a range of skills to obtain and exercise power. To get their own way. This individual was a champion of best practice and ruthless at rooting out bad practice. If like me you had witnessed this manager conduct an investigation into serious misconduct, been present at the interviews, sat in on the systematic interrogation of the employee subject of the allegations and subsequent presentation to the disciplinary panel you would not refer to soft skills .

 

Don’t devalue these skills or the people who possess them by referring to them as “soft skills” but instead recognise them for what they are ,”power skills”. 

 

Blair Mcpherson former Director author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 

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