What Are Soft Skills, and How Is It Different From Hard Skills?

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soft skills

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft Skills Definition

Soft skills are non-technical but personal attributes that distinguish an individual from others and help them have a competitive edge in the workplace. Soft skills have more to do with ‘who you are’ and not ‘what you know.’

Soft skills are those attributes that enable you to fit into any workplace. They allow an individual to interact well and respectfully with their colleagues. These generally include your personality, emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, flexibility, work ethic, manners, and teamwork. 

Soft skills are so crucial today that they may become the sole reason employers decide to keep or fire someone.

While hard skills are essential for effective product management, a lack of soft skills can considerably challenge leadership

A good product manager must be capable of effective conflict resolution, patience, good time management, networking, problem-solving, and quick decision-making.

Pro tip: Product managers can use product management software like Chisel to craft great products. 

There is no doubt that hard skills are fundamental. Still, at the same time, soft skills contribute to a stronger product management environment, pushing teams to deliver great results without any hiccups.

Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills

Soft skills are an individual’s personal qualities and general characteristics relevant to their personality traits.

On the other hand, hard skills are also called technical skills. They are job-relevant knowledge and abilities required to perform certain work duties. 

Every position in an organization will require a different set of hard skills. It will vary according to seniority and positions.

For instance, an accountant must know about banking and other financial aspects. In contrast, a developer doesn’t necessarily require it for their job. 

Specific soft skills are essential to every employee, whereas others are job-specific.  

For instance, if collaboration is your motto, hiring employees who are great players and communicate well with others is essential for you.

On the other hand, you may need someone with relationship-building and networking skills for sales and marketing positions. These may not be relevant to your different departments, such as engineering.

You can develop soft skills through the medium of personal experiences. In contrast, you can learn hard skills through education and practice. 

Soft skills are hard to quantify and intangible, and you can measure them with qualitative scales. On the other hand, hard skills are quantifiable, and you can measure them with numerical or other measuring criteria. 

You can evaluate soft skills through behavioral and situational questions. However, leaders can assess hard skills through resumes, assignments related to jobs, portfolios, and so on. 

What Are Some Essential Soft Skills in Product Management?

A product manager must be able to listen to the insights provided by their team members. 

Being a leader must also hear any problems the team faces and offer solutions and support you could give to them.

This skill also makes communication a crucial part of product management. 

From giving an energetic pep talk to well-detailed briefs and roadmaps, all kinds of communication form a major part of a project manager’s domain.

Lastly, a product managers should not focus on their work and problems. To keep track of work, they can use various product manager tools. 

They must put themselves in the other person’s shoes while analyzing their struggles and offering remedies. 

Product managers must have basic soft empathy skills towards the other person to accomplish this task.

Why Are Soft Skills Important in a Workplace?

Today business thrives on positive relationships, presenting your work culture positively to potential employees and the public, and communication.

Having soft skills in the workplace will allow the people and the organization to function effectively with their hard skills. 

Not having the soft skills will hamper the organization’s growth because of interpersonal issues within the teams, poor market perceptions, and so on. 

Therefore, having the right candidates with good soft skills is imperative. 

You must use the strategic approach while interviewing candidates for that very purpose. 

Other reasons why soft skills are essential in a workplace are:

  • To distinguish you from others
  • It helps you to advance in your career
  • Growth of networks
  • Build your company’s reputation
  • You will take initiative
  • Stay organized
  • It enables you to build professional relationships
  • Increase your confidence
  • Improves your workplace productivity
  • Complement your hard skills

What Are Some Good Soft Skills To Have?

  • Yes! problem-solving is a soft skill 
  • Teamwork
  • Work ethic
  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Adaptability
  • Conflict management
  • Openness to criticism
  • Leadership skills
  • Negotiation skills

How To Improve Soft Skills?

If we are self-aware, we will notice the need to improve our soft skills. Following are some strategies you can apply to improve soft skills:

Target your soft skills

Prioritize which skills you want to improve. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, and it is essential to distinguish between them. Once you have a clear set of soft skills you wish to improve, you are ready to go!

Feedback 

Asking for feedback from others regarding the areas you need to improve will help you gain a solid perspective. 

People close to you, like trusted friends, family, and colleagues, will help you show what they think you have a scope for improvement. However, you must begin by making a list of soft skills improvement yourself and follow it up with others.

Critical thinking skills

The next step in improving your soft skills is to work on your critical thinking. Critical thinking is a soft skill at the core of it all. 

Therefore self-awareness and taking feedback from peers and wading through it all require you to have this skill. 

Once you get good at thinking critically before reacting, you will also improve decision-making and communication.

Always use communication

Think of communication as a muscle. The more you use it, the better it gets. You will get more confident speaking if you regularly practice your communication skills.

Get a leadership role

Experience is your greatest teacher. You can learn and learn, but they are of no use until you don’t put your skills into practice. 

Therefore, you must take up a leadership role, however small that might be. 

Finding courses online

Numerous courses will help you better understand soft skills. They will vary in quality, so keep an eye on that.

Emphasize on teamwork

When you collaborate with teams, you have the scope to learn. Allowing every group member to share their views and opinions will boost their confidence.

Observing 

There is a broad scope of learning when you observe your coworkers work and handle day-to-day tasks and work conflicts. Everyone brings a different set of skills- soft and hard to the table, and being open to all is a must.

FAQs

What are examples of soft skills?

Soft skills generally include a good personality, emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, flexibility, work ethic, manners, and teamwork.

Why are soft skills important for product managers?

Soft skills enable product managers to effectively communicate with stakeholders, team members, and customers. They help conduct a smooth running of the entire product development process. Even with strong hard skills, a lack of soft skills can prevent the teams from performing to their full potential.

Is project management a hard or soft skill?

A project management job requires both hard and soft skills. To become perfect, you will have to learn and practice hard skills such as developing a budget, progress recording, and other operations.

On the other hand, soft skills such as time management and organization will come with experience and observational skills.

What are the soft skills of a businesswoman?

Following are certain soft skills of a businesswoman that you can take inspiration from:

  • Don’t constantly ponder about what people might say
  • Be assertive about what you want from the deal
  • Patience top stick around for a long time even when things go topsy turvy
  • Making to-do lists and separating work time from the other times
  • Networking and negotiation skills

 

What is the difference between hard skills and soft skills? (In Short)

Hard skills refer to abilities or skills that leaders can teach for a particular profession. You can learn and measure your abilities.

Soft skills are difficult to measure but are equally important in any professional workplace.

Though you can learn soft skills and incorporate them into someone, they are mostly something that comes from within an individual.

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