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March 29, 2010


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

From: Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach
Hi Chuck,
Your post is very valuable because it puts specific around what/how IT needs to evolve for 21st century. My favorite paragraph in your post:
"Finally, "soft skills" are becoming incredibly important as well -- the ability to communicate clearly, to empathize with people who have specific concerns, the ability to foster a sense of confidence that accelerates change. Generally speaking, these are leadership skills, and they're becoming very important these days."

I offer two points:
a)IT would do well to start calling them people-skills instead of soft skills. Many many technical professionals react negatively to the phrase "soft". Moreover, these aren't soft skills. The ability to interact with others for maximum results is as hard as any technical skills around.
b)Unless people can find a career where they work completely alone, every human in the workplace needs great people-skills. It's not just for leadership.

I read one article recently that quoted some technical professionals (IT, engineers, etc...) as saying "We went into technical work so we wouldn't have to use 'soft skills!'". This attitude costs companies a great deal of money. For every team member who doesn't work on his/her communication skills, ability to team with diverse personality types, and ability to deliver honesty without offense -- companies have to hire others to "translate" for and "manage and resolve" the poor communication.

I applaud your post and will RT it on Twitter. Many thanks for sharing your insights.

Here two of my posts that will help all your readers improve their people-skills:

Chuck Hollis

Hi Kate

I wouldn't want to tangle with you, since you obviously have spent a lot of time and effort on this topic. And we have so much we could agree on.

I usually select terms with my target audience in mind. In this case, "soft skills" is meant to be the opposite of "hard skills" -- generally refers to deep technology expertise, rather that difficulty, as in "hard sciences".

Engage with a hard-core technologist, and start talking about "people skills", and they'll generally think about better interaction with people like them, e.g. hard technologists. Shift the conversation to "soft skills", e.g. activities that do not have hard metrics associated with them (there's that word again!), and I usually have found it more productive.

Regardless, there's a need for a more balanced profile in IT leadership going forward -- no matter what we call it!

-- Chuck

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

Hi Chuck,
We actually have one more thing in common - loads of experience with technology professionals. Interestingly, when I have used the phrase "soft skills" with them, they have tuned out. Soft means unimportant to them. I have had much better success with the phrases people-skills and interpersonal skills.
In the end, it's the learning that counts. So here's to our shared mission!
Best -
http://katenasser.com (footage to view)

Chuck Hollis

Hi Kate

You got me to thinking about this again. It struck me that we've seen great success with technical types embracing online interactions: comments, blogging, tweeting, etc.

There's something about the online environment that works for these people, and doesn't involve face-to-face interaction. If you follow EMC's investment in social media proficiency, you'll understand why I'm saying what I'm saying.

Perhaps the answer isn't to force these people into things they're uncomfortable with, and instead give them an online environment that enables them to work on their people skills in a virtual setting.

Thanks again ...

-- Chuck

The comments to this entry are closed.

Chuck Hollis

  • Chuck Hollis
    SVP, Oracle Converged Infrastructure Systems

    Chuck now works for Oracle, and is now deeply embroiled in IT infrastructure.

    Previously, he was with VMware for 2 years, and EMC for 18 years before that, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Vero Beach, FL with his wife and four dogs when he's not traveling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not ever buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.

    Note: these are my personal views, and aren't reviewed or approved by my employer.
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