It was only a year ago that the infamous meltdown happened due to a passenger being dragged off of a United Airlines plan forcing them to give up their seat for an employee. It took three tries for the CEO, Oscar Munoz, to demonstrate empathy towards those impacted and apologizing for the way the situation was handled. Unfortunately, three times was two too many. In fact, the incident could’ve been avoided entirely had the staff been proficient in soft skills. The incident combined with the CEO blaming the passenger, characterizing them as belligerent, defiant and disruptive put a sour taste in many people’s mouths causing the airlines to lose nearly $1 billion in market value.
This public meltdown shed light on the lack of recognition soft skills receive. For decades, even centuries, businesses placed emphasis on hard skills completely neglecting soft skills altogether. It’s a problem still faced today with a lack of empathy being the most significant. Businessolver Workplace conducted a survey in 2017 concluding that 85 percent of employees admitted empathy was undervalued by their employer.
Munoz proved this to be true when he took the opportunity to justify the actions of United Airlines instead of understanding the passenger’s emotions, the same passenger who was forced to give up their paid seat to accommodate an employee. Had he chosen to be empathetic from the initial incident he could’ve maintained the respected reputation the airline company had worked hard to build, as well as increase customer loyalty.
A common struggle I see across organizations is understanding how to measure and hire for soft skills during the recruiting process. Soft skills can be measured in various ways:
- Personality assessments
- Situational based questions
- Behavioral based questions
- Cognitive aptitude tests
- Pre-employment screenings
Most employers have a difficult time understanding which measurement is best aligned with their business. This is where having a consultant provides extreme benefit. They can come in without bias, assess and identify the current issues, and develop a strategic solution that will allow companies to thrive and hire the best-suited candidates.
Most companies believe that hard skills are crucial and soft skills come secondary, but in reality, hard skills can be taught on the job and molded through thorough training. You can build off of a candidate’s current foundation of soft skills – if they possess them – but implementing them from scratch is an uphill battle. Recent research states that soft skills can be taught in as little as 8 weeks. I tend to agree, but again, there must be a foundation to build upon or else it can prove to be unsuccessful. Just like leadership, everyone can be given the same information and resources to develop themselves into a leader, but only the ones truly invested and open-minded to the process are the ones who will be successful.
LinkedIn Learning recently surveyed 2,000 business leaders asking them which soft skills they found to be the most important to their success. The survey concluded that 57 percent indicated time management, collaboration, leadership, and communication skills were more important than hard skills.
These skills are instrumental to the success of a business achieving their big-picture vision because they are not strictly focused on the internal relationships but external as well. These 4 skills when combined create an unstoppable unity that leads to massive growth, productivity, and success.
Start taking action today to improve your soft skills as a leader in your business:
- Seek a mentor, coach or consultant to give a fresh perspective along with the tools, resources, and support
- Invest in your personal development through courses and books
- Take tests to understand strengths and areas of improvement
This can prove to be difficult for many, but with the right support, it is possible to cultivate a culture of high-performers with extraordinary soft skills while being respected as a high impact leader. The more superior your soft skills, the higher your productivity is, and the more productive your employees are the more money your business is making.
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