Soft Skills in Business: Why Do They Matter?

Top secrets of soft skills that will make your business more effective

Rick Mess       |       Jul 30, 2021

Not long ago I attended a business conference in Ukraine. There I met some of the leaders of successful Ukrainian startups. Listening to their stories, I had a clear realization of what those companies had in common. In our follow-up discussion, we reached some interesting conclusions, which I am happy to share with you.

All successful companies are driven by a huge power source. It’s as powerful as a nuclear reactor that is constantly producing energy through fission chain reactions.

All successful companies work deliberately to keep this power source continuously running.

All successful companies build their teams with a focus on their employees’ soft skills, which are no less important than professionalism — or even more so.

What can we learn from those who have achieved dazzling heights?

The core of the team is the engine of business

Many of those who attend business forums or conferences have felt the amazing energy of successful leaders. They seem to emanate strength. The audience leaves the room recharged and inspired. Full of new hopes, they get back to their work routine only to see their enthusiasm wane. The energy core of their own companies rarely seems to heat up, unless it’s because of some internal conflict. Sound familiar?

Let’s pose a practical question. How can you create such a power core, such an engine of business, within your own team?

First off, we have to understand what this core really is.

The core of the team is not a group of energetic young people who radiate positive attitude. It’s not their personal efficiency that makes them the core, the command center of the operation. These people must burn with a passion for what they do. They sincerely believe in it and make believers out of others. They kindle enthusiasm in others and attract people like magnets. They emanate an aura of power — and that’s what makes them the core.

Such people possess soft skills of the highest level.

Soft skills are crucial to the survival of your business

There’s a reason soft skills have become a buzzword. Judging by the current trends, the growing robotization and automatization will take over the hard skills, mercifully leaving the soft ones to humans. People skills are already a valuable asset, and their value will only keep growing.

Underestimating soft skills has always been a costly mistake, but today they are more crucial than ever. Every businessperson ought to understand the essence of such skills to know which people will be the most beneficial for his or her company. If you grasp this essence, it will save you a lot of time, effort, and money.

You may now be surprised to find out that soft skills are not what you thought they were.

The basis of all soft skills

Imagine a situation: you need a car, so you buy an engine, a gas tank, a body, and a set of wheels. Then you act annoyed when this pile of junk refuses to go anywhere. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But the same kind of absurdity flourishes when it comes to employment.

Few CEOs and HR managers know exactly what to look for in prospective employees. If you ask them to name the most important soft skills, they’ll start blabbering on about sociability, leadership qualities, learning skills, and so on. This is a blatant misunderstanding of the very essence of soft skills. All the above things are particulars, just like the wheels and the gas tank. This is the reason many employers hire the wrong people and launch the wrong processes. This is the reason even the most promising companies fail.

Forget for a minute everything you’ve ever heard about soft skills. However numerous or useful they might be, this isn’t what matters. What matters is the basis they all share.

Soft skills are Power, Control, Passion, and Loyalty.

These essential components are inextricably linked and don’t work without one another, just like auto parts.

Once you understand it you will be able to see the whole picture. It will help you find employees who are really valuable, track negative or positive processes within your company, adjust your qualification requirements, and a lot more. You will see things as they really are.

What will happen if you perceive soft skills through the prism of these four basic components? Metaphorically speaking, you’ll be able to buy a car instead of a wheel. Every time you hire a new employee, you’ll be buying the whole car. They will be different models with different engine power, depending on the task at hand. But all of them will run smoothly. Don’t settle for a wheel!

And now let’s take an analytical scalpel to soft skills.

1. Power

As we all know, power is the capacity to effect your own will by influencing other people. In business, however, power should work to benefit the company rather than inflate egos. Every employee has their own range of influence and impact. However small, it’s his or her personal zone of responsibility. With no power, employees cannot do their jobs, work efficiently, or realize their potential. They have no authority in the eyes of other people.

In the context of soft skills, power is the capacity to manage your business and influence people in the interests of your company without overstepping the bounds.

Every employee should utilize their full power potential.

Power is not about being a strongman. It’s about being a necessary man (or woman). I want to emphasize this point. We all strive to be necessary and valuable, and power is often the perfect way to prove it to the world and to ourselves.

Many people worry that employees will abuse their power, but if they don’t utilize 100% of it, it will make them weak and inefficient — and they will drag others down with them.

Try to build a logical power hierarchy in your team; it’s another key to success that will prevent many problems. An employee’s power must be equal to his or her responsibility.

Look for the people who don’t abuse their power but who are also not too weak to utilize it to the fullest extent.

2. Control

Control, like power, is a management skill. Every employee must control their work and area of responsibility. To be able to effectively manage the processes in their niche, they need to manage themselves as well: their emotions, their energy, and their time.

Look for the people who can control the quality of their work, their own efficiency and the efficiency of the subordinates they are responsible for.

3. Passion

You can call it enthusiasm or love of one’s work. Business is quite a romantic endeavor. Power and control, passion and love — who would have thought? Business is a merciless reflection of our lives.

Look for the people who are in love with what they do and are full of enthusiasm.

Here’s a tip: give your employees their fair share of power and control to keep them motivated and passionate!

Even a qualified professional can lose his or her spark and burn out. Such people are of no benefit to the company, and yet they are the most likely to get hired.

Being passionate implies a willingness to learn new stuff and acquire all the knowledge necessary for the common cause. It’s like love. When you are in love, you want to know everything about your crush.

4. Loyalty

“Our new hire is so good,” the naive businessman thinks happily. “He’s taking a course in communication and personal growth! He’s going to make an excellent manager!”

But once the employee wises up, he leaves to join the competition. Why?

Because the guy was getting all that education for himself. He had power and control, but he wasn’t passionate about the company or loyal to it. Don’t blame him for being selfish. Instead, take a good look at the company’s pay scale and corporate culture.

Knowing how to use your potential, mastering communication and management skills, having a desire to grow — all these things are pointless if the employee is only improving them for his own sake, with no clear goal in mind. And yet, this is the way these things are taught. Nobody teaches people to be loyal to their company. Nobody prepares them for commitment. But loyalty is absolutely essential for any boss, team, or brand.

These things must be explicitly spelled out. Tell your employees how important everyone’s loyalty is to you, how you value it, how you appreciate your staff. Obviously, talk is cheap. What you need is a strategy, a deliberate plan to motivate your most loyal employees.

These are the people who will remain by your side after a meteor strike, a global plague, or a financial collapse. Ask yourself: “Who will stay with me?” Loyal employees don’t just join your team out of the blue like a blessing from above. They are created by the corporate culture and the right set of incentives.

Loyalty is a natural part of love. If your company has no mutual support and constructive cooperation, if you don’t encourage goodwill among the staff, there will be no love and no loyalty. And vice versa. So it’s all up to you.

Outcrowd Corporate Culture: The experience of building a strong cohesive team

Power and Control scale with the job hierarchy, but Passion and Loyalty do not. The higher and more responsible the position, the more important the mastery of soft skills. Here’s a simple visualization:

Look for loyal people and value them.

Natural growth

People are willing to learn when they have the important things: power, control, passion. These basic things are a guarantee that your employees will be enthusiastic about their growth in your company. Show them their area of responsibility, give them enough power, motivate them. Create the conditions in which they will want to be useful to the company, to learn skills that will be of benefit to the common cause and not just to themselves. Unfortunately, most leaders think in terms of “What’s he going to do for us?” rather than “What are we going to do for him?”

Knowledge Sharing: 5 Steps to Productivity

Explicit requirements

As we can see, many people believe that developing soft skills is something akin to improving personal efficiency. If you want to do it — fine, if you don’t — that’s fine, too. They think soft skills are a matter of personal choice, like fitness training. This misconception is what hurts many business leaders. Soft skill requirements must be as strict as professional ones. It’s essential for an employee to be open-minded and sociable, to know how to present the company and its product, to be able to showcase themselves and their work. He or she must adequately respond to emergencies and make the right decisions. These things are often more important than professional skills.

Soft skill requirements must be explicitly stated and documented. Sure, soft skills are not something you can easily measure or test, but it doesn’t mean they cannot be described in words, just like hard skills.

This might be useful: 12 Effective Ways to Assess Candidates’ Soft Skills

Strategic vision

Companies that lack a strategic approach hire people based on vague ideas such as “we need an easygoing person” or “we could do with a quick pair of hands.” Amorphous requirements like “the applicant must be a team player” are no good.

All successful companies have a strategic vision. If you have a clear understanding of how your company will grow in a year, two years, five years, if you anticipate various scenarios, you will know exactly what kind of people you need and what skills they must have. Strategic vision is what helps you organize and structure the requisite skills, prioritizing them for every niche and seeking out the best-suited candidates.

In conclusion

Soft skills are crucial for management. They are key to its survival and progress. People with well-developed soft skills form the power core of the company. Like the sun, they shine their life-giving rays on everyone. So first and foremost you must create this core in your company and keep the fire going. It’s pointless to require soft skills of your employees if your command center is weak. The place to start is the management’s own soft skills.

Power, Control, Passion, and Loyalty are the basis of all soft skills. Build a team of people who can manage the situation, control their work and themselves, take responsibility for their jobs. When you hire a new employee, “buy the whole car”: look at each of the four main factors that power the car. Surround yourself with people who are passionate and enthusiastic about the common cause, not just their own ambition. Those who have achieved great heights in business know this better than anyone else, and we would do well to learn from them.