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Training Needs – Technical Skills v Soft Skills

What skills would most benefit an organization?  Based on research coming from Stanford University, most people view the answer to this question quite differently when considering their own needs versus the needs of say their peers.  More specifically, when asked what they would benefit most from themselves, it tends to be things like time management, finance, strategy, computer skills, etc.  These are normally characterized as left brain or technical skills.  Interestingly when it comes to identifying what others need, the tendency is to advise more towards communication, interpersonal, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, etc all of which typically fall under right brain or “soft” skills categorization.   Even the word “soft” is a misnomer.

So why is there such an anomaly?   The answer to this lies in the fact that technical skills are generally perceived as developmental, something that will make you better.  On the other hand soft skills are often seen as remedial; fixing something that is wrong.  This in turn creates a psychological barrier which forces people to avoid anything that might be perceived as wrong and therefore a weakness.

The reality is that most of the deficiencies that exist in organizations are soft skills related.  This starts when people are hired during which the focus is typically on technical abilities.  The people doing the hiring are often not equipped to have the “soft” skills types of discussions and therefore avoid it.  This in turn creates a situation where the wrong person is hired and the problem just continues to perpetuate itself.

One solution to this lies in facing head on that most organizations have a greater need for “soft” skills development than they think.  It should form the part of every employee’s professional development.  Needs analysis should focus on what the organization needs rather than what you think for yourself.  Otherwise you may end up spending a lot of money fulfilling the perceived needs of the individual but with little value to the organization.

About Bill Sex

Bill Sex is President of New England Coaching and specializes in supporting personal, professional and organizational advancement with specific emphasis on coaching skills, emotional intelligence and employee engagement / motivation.

One Response

Comment from John Roberts
Time: December 2, 2013, 6:28 am

Interesting observation that makes me want to know more about the Stanford research you refer to. How can I learn more? Those sources could provide additional arguments for the business value of coaching.

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