Selling Soft Skills for Tough (ish) Nuts….
Picture the scene. The room full of constructions male finest. The speaker extolling the virtues of soft skills capability for the new generation, for collaborating, for bringing woman into the industry for adding value and cutting costs.
I despair when soft skills are mentioned. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs. Stimulus – response in action. You can see people clocking off in the moment.
But we can’t help our reaction; we’re blokes and we are blokes within a male dominated sector… and all the cultural testosterone that that creates.
Our auto response is to be anything other than soft; why on earth would I want to be getting soft says my reptilian fight or flight brain? It’s programmed into my genes to resist ‘soft’ options.
The fabulous irony of course is that soft skills are the hardest to learn. Hard skills like programming, commercial, tactics, planning can be learnt in 6 months – if you really went for it. To change the habits and programming of a lifetime is a spectacular feat of development and can take a lifetime!
There is nothing soft about the effort in having to unlearn the belief’s and patterns that get in to way of up-skilling in empathy, patience, support, humility, reciprocation, listening, consideration and the other soft skills that have been side-lined in the industries contractual and dog eat dog history.
We need to make soft skills attractive to the male ear. Those skills need to be talked about in hard terms; how they increase bottom line, support innovation, reduce waste. Our speaking needs to acknowledge the auto response that kicks in when we bang on about soft skill development. To do so is being responsible for bringing about change by valuing language as the great change agent.
I noted my buddy from the Royal Marines does not use hard or soft skills in his vocabulary, instead they use linear and non-linear. One is not better or worse than the other, nor is one more attractive or less attractive to the listener – they are just different. To be a more effective operator we need a bit of linear and non-linear savvy.
I’ve noticed the difference in engagement when I talk to engineers, designers, surveyors or planners. When we map out which linear and non-linear skills they need to accomplish their individual and business goals it’s a much easier, less resistant conversation.
The example of the moment.
BIM Software = Linear operator skills.
BIM behaviours = Non Linear Skills to create the conditions for optimisation.
Soft Skills get little respect but will make or break your career – you can count on that insight.
Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/usacehq/