The Hard Skill about mastering The Soft Skills

Andrew Weaver
October 21, 2022

For most of you … the hard skills are hard wired.

Sure, digital trends, innovation, new tech arrives at a dizzying speed but the knowledge and curiosity to explore and understand the technical is a comfort zone and probably embedded in you since you were quite young.

Get into a social scenario with a techie (the pub here in the UK is a favourite spot) and I could be regaled for hours with discussions around data mining and network security.

If I’m really lucky they might even list in chronological order the programming languages they’ve loved and lost over the years.

And to be honest with you … I love that burning passion and expertise around all things tech.

But we know that to achieve an impact in the senior roles, that it’s the soft skills that make the difference.

What do we mean by soft skills?

Put a request into Google and receive 41 million alternative suggestions so we’ve taken advantage of (and credited) this graphic via Indeed Career Guide ….

But It’s Not Always Easy

Stepping into a senior management and leadership role is about removing yourself from the weeds and moving into strategy and leadership.

You won’t get paid the big bucks or the prestigious title by continuing to sit behind that keyboard.

Yet we know that the transition from technical to managerial is challenging and soft skills are hard to master.

Anders Wallgren, CTO at Electric Cloud said …. “It’s funny that we even talk about these skills as ‘soft,’ because they are very hard to master and are frequently the cause of more trouble than lack of ‘hard’ skills.”

But effective leadership requires you to master those softer skills so you can bring people with you – both at peer level but also and crucially leading your teams.

Leadership is all about you and it’s nothing about you.

What does that mean?

Well, you need to understand yourself first before you can effectively lead.
So it’s all about you.

Then you need to understand that leadership is about empowering others.
So it’s nothing about you.

So how to build the softer skills that might not feel natural to you?

  1. Understand your own motivations, strengths and weaknesses. Find your purpose in life and channel your energy towards achieving those life goals. Without this it’s difficult to lead and manage other people. If your mind is muddy about what you want to achieve, it’s difficult to galvanise others on your behalf.

My recommended read on this topic is Flow, a book where author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi investigates the “optimal experience” and reveals that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness and flow

  1. It’s often not the smartest or most technical person in the room who becomes an effective tech leader, it’s often one with a high EQ (Emotional intelligence).

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others and defuse conflict.

Building blocks for EQ are self-management, self-awareness, social awareness and relationship management and it’s important not just to learn them, but to apply them wholeheartedly.

Empathy and communication are the building blocks for EQ and effective leadership so if you do nothing else, you should be studying and working on the improvement of both.

  1. Read and study how others became effective leaders. How did they improve their communication and other key leadership skills? This article highlights a range of books that can help you build your soft skills.
  2. Soft skills are much harder to acquire than hard skills. They don’t come as naturally to IT professionals and they come with emotional consequences so don’t be hard on yourself, but do reach out for support amongst peers, communities like we have at CTO Academy or working with a coach.

What we know for sure is that if you struggle with some of these concepts, you are not alone.

We’ve worked with thousands of tech leaders around the world.
Some brilliant, talented and highly motivated individuals who sometimes struggle to bridge that gap between the technical and the commercial, between the tech team and the executive team.

Mastering those soft skills is likely to be the hardest skill for you to acquire.
But it’s one that will make or break your career at a senior level.

Get in touch with my team at CTO Academy if you think we can help.

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