Lessons learned during concert performance may seem remote in their application in the financial industry.
But a recent article at bizjournals.com illustrates how three musical bankers utilize soft skills learned outside their day jobs to great effect in the office.
Opera singer and Wells Fargo bank president Michelle Lee says her vocal performances benefit daily interactions.
“You’re communicating through your eyes, expression, the warmth in your voice… body language.” This awareness “has given her the ability to connect with others more easily.”
Professional gospel singer and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley Carla Harris emphasizes “the importance of bringing your authentic self to the office,” to personally relate.
And bassoonist Susan Vismor, head of global business continuity at BNY Mellon says as part of an orchestra “You have to be very collaborative… Everyone has to come in and do their piece.”
Research this week shows these and other soft skills are important for job seekers, recruiters, and managers alike.
Success means more than simply knowing the technology, and a gap in soft skills proves detrimental.
‘Mastering music is more than learning technical skills.’—Yo-Yo Ma, cellist
We need not look far to find evidence of the importance of soft skills and its shortage in the workforce.
“Overwhelming Majority of Companies Say Soft Skills Are Just as Important as Hard Skills,” says CareerBuilder. Seventy-seven percent of employers think personality skills “are just as important as hard skills,” and 16% find them more important.
Soft skills are indicative of employee ability to problem solve, a measure of reliability, and leadership potential. Among the top 10 soft skills sought:
Some elements of professionalism are more important than others depending on the industry, says skillsurvey.com. One might define “professionalism” as a focus on employee safety, another might require professional behavior focus on attention to detail.
There are some universal professional behaviors, though: dependability, ability to follow instructions, and strong work ethic. “Professionalism is something you demonstrate—day in and day out.”
“Most companies are hiring talent based on soft skills like attitude and hard work with the hope that they can train them to be up to par on things like tech skills and industry knowledge,” notes an article reporting on a career readiness survey at software company Instructure.
Eighty-five percent of managers say work ethic and attitude are “the most important considerations in choosing a candidate,” and 85% say this is also “the most important attribute for employee success.
“Prestigious schooling” was a “least important consideration” for 79%.
‘My skills are musical, not lyrical.’—Brian Wilson, musician
“Focusing on a candidate’s softer qualities is better for your company in the long term,” says an article at Inc. Three reasons to “hire for attitude not skill”:
A “Lack of Soft Skills Negatively Impacts Today’s U.S. Workforce,” says an Adecco Staffing survey. “For all the traditional talk about a skills gap in technical and computer skills, 44% of respondents cited soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap.”
The business implication is that 64% of senior execs who detect a skills gap believe U.S. businesses will be threatened as companies may invest in foreign companies. And 34% fear threat to R&D capabilities.
“Educational institutions may overlook these elements in today’s digital age, but schools must integrate both hard and soft skill sets into their curriculums, which in turn will help better prepare candidates and strengthen our country’s workforce.”
Soft skills not always taught in school include careful listening, collaboration, and question asking, says Fast Company. Five critical soft skills identified for new grads are the ability to “manage up” to help the boss, appreciation of transparency, a collaborative attitude rather than a comparative one, respectful listening, and awareness and appreciation of generational differences in the workplace.
‘A leader is one who knows the way, who goes the way, and who shows the way.’—H. Reginald Buckler, writer and philosopher
The importance of good soft skills does not end with job preparation, recruitment, and hiring. Managers and leaders meet success as they apply soft skills in their jobs, too.
“Managers Account for 70% of Variance in Employee Engagement,” notes Gallup. “Companies must demand that every team in their workforce have a great manager. After all, the root of performance variability lies within human nature itself. Teams are composed of individuals with diverging needs related to morale, motivation and clarity… Nothing less than great managers can maximize them.”
Companies fail in hiring good managers 82% of the time, says the article. Those who do not have managerial talent to engage employees, rally them and execute efficiencies “costs companies billions of dollars annually.”
Another Gallup article says “Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers,” including consistent and meaningful communication, performance check-ins and observations outside annual reviews to help set priorities and keep employees accountable, and a “strength-based culture” that helps employees quickly learn their roles with more and better quality work as a consequence.
“Compassion is a Better Managerial Tactic Than Toughness,” for managers when confronting a problem at work, according to Harvard Business Review. Positive outcomes are possible when managers give themselves a time out to control their own emotional reaction, empathize with the employee, and forgive a transgression.
Research shows “The more compassionate response will get you more powerful results” as positive interactions promote loyalty, and “compassion increases our willingness to trust.”
Finally, Fortune suggests “8 Reasons Moms Make Better CEOs” in a Mother’s Day homage that prompts consideration of important soft skills at work. “Being a mom…or a dad…can help.”
Good parenting traits that transfer well on the job include negotiation skills, ability to handle a barrage of inquiries, appreciation of difference of opinion, coaching, role modeling, a focus on what really matters, and awareness that emotional intelligence is as important as IQ.
On the job, it is critical to not underestimate the importance of soft skills.
Remember the ABC’s as described by entrepreneur Gerald Chertavian: “Attitude, behavior, and communication skills.”