Deep skills not soft skills

Something that always makes me wince is the term “soft skills”. gives the following definition of soft:

yielding readily to touch or pressure; easily penetrated, divided, or changed in shape; not hard or stiff:

However, when many people talk of “soft skills”, I get the impression they find little substance or feel they are not well defined.  For some, it implies a lack of importance and are almost dismissive of the “soft skills”.

I find them to be the most critical skills.  A friend of mine, Curtis Michelson, put it best when he said:

“facilitation, communication, listening, negotiating, writing, visualizing, and other relational oriented skills.  Simply how to make friends across various facets of a business, building your network, is a big deal, and a ticket up a floor.”

Add self awareness, balance, empathy (yes, it’s a skill), leadership modeling, story telling (an ancient leadership skill), teaching and continuous personal improvement to that list and another label comes to mind: deep skills.

These are the skills that help you go deeper in your profession; deeper in your leadership; deeper in establishing your personal brand; deeper

So let’s stop calling them soft skills and call them what they are: deep skills

Disagree?  Or see some that I missed?  Please let me know in the comments or social media.


3 responses to “Deep skills not soft skills

  1. Love that you included ’empathy’ in there. These deeps skills are “whole person” skills, not just the head/mind ones. We could even characterize this approach as an attempt to recover and celebrate the whole person despite all the forces (technical and economic) technology that have have specialized and sub-specialized all of us.

    We often forget that that “the Business” does ultimately value folks who can bring multiple skills together, and be a whole person.

    • Agreed Tom. Most people self-edit and are not always willing to tell their stories. After teaching hundreds of agile intro courses, I find that most people appreciate the stories of what worked and what didn’t and why. Getting out there and telling your story is a critical skill to develop. Thanks for that!

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