Soft Skills – required only in agile work or everywhere?

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It’s often been said, especially in a digital and agile working environment, that leaders of today need specific skills.

However, I wonder if soft skills should only be expected from leaders? Or if these soft skills have even been required in past projects?

An article by Computerwoche listed 11 Soft Skills considered as most relevant for HR professionals. This list is a result of a research that had been conducted by the writers Gabriele Peters-Kühlinger and John Friedel while working on their new book "Soft Skills".

It is my opinion that the following soft skills build upon each other – independent of any working environment. Individuals who know their strengths and weaknesses have many attributes. They can empathize with others, are interested in new things, share very openly, enjoy engagement with teams, support others development, deliver constructive criticism for self-development, analyze conflicts for pragmatic solutions, facilitate control of emotions and finally convince others.

Self-confidence

Knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. This enables you to notice strengths and weaknesses of others, leave them as they are without assessing or trying to change them.

Empathy

Empathize with and understand emotions of others, their thoughts and their circumstances only enables sustainable personal interactions. This requires that you know your own emotions and handle them consciously. Empathy can help to find consensus with others.

Reliability

Someone on who you can really rely on in critical and/or confidential situations. A reliable person is taking responsibility, pushes others and is true to his/her words. This is an essential must-have to build a team and develop others.

Interest

Courage to leave old ways and review new methods, being open to all perspectives and interested for others contributions. Interest promotes creativity.

Communication competency

This competence drives clear and targeted communications that should always be respectful and open-minded for the exchange of knowledge and self-development.

Capacity for teamwork

Working in a team always requires constructive engagement, respect, tolerance, motivation and appreciation. The team and the common goal are always the first priorities, however everything can be questioned and explored.

Criticism competence

Criticism – give fair, factual and respectful at all times, ability to accept criticism as well. Often such teams which share feedback and criticism, are really successful and self-developing.

Analytical competence

Fast grasping of situations to react accordingly. This competence helps to quickly react to challenges, identify solutions and together, with the team, adopt the project strategy and goal, if appropriate. The analytical competence can also help to solve emotional situations.

Self-discipline/self control

Control your emotions and keep focus on facts rather than get controlled by feelings. Only those who are self-controlled can negotiate and convince pragmatically.

Conflict competence

Accepting others’ rationales and helping them find compromises to solve conflicts. Team, project and eventually every involved individual will benefit from this competence.

Assertiveness

To be convincing rather than forcing. Reliability, empathy and self-confidence drive innovations, especially for those new ideas that can’t be based on any experiences yet.

 

Let’s now see if the 5 Agile Values (Courage, Respect, Commitment, Openness, Focus), can be derived from these 11 Soft Skills:

  • Self-confidence => Courage
  • Empathy => Respect
  • Reliability => Commitment
  • Interest => Openness
  • Communication competency => Focus
  • Capacity for teamwork => Commitment
  • Criticism competence => Respect
  • Analytical competence => Focus
  • Self-discipline/self control => Respect
  • Conflict competence => Respect
  • Assertiveness => Commitment

Conclusion

Soft Skills consist of all competencies, skills and qualifications that can’t be gathered by any professional education. They rather relate to personal competencies, social competencies and methodical competencies. Plainly, a summation of talents, character, personal education, circumstances and experiences.

Independent of any working environment and/or size of projects or teams – Soft Skills are required everywhere. Teams can only be successful and sustainable when everyone is bringing those Soft Skills – whether in either agile and waterfall projects.

Going back to the initially listed requirements for leaders, it’s pretty clear that only those living such Soft Skills naturally will become the best leaders. What do you think?

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