Chasing a white ball around a golf course can often provide enough challenge for even the best golfers. But golf also gives players many opportunities to work on their soft skills.

golf coursePracticing Persistence

First, as any golfer knows, being persistent is the name of the game. Good rounds and many bad rounds are going to occur. Being able to adapt to those ups and downs is critical — from shot to shot, hole to hole and round to round.

Adapting to Change

Being able to adapt to change is another important soft skill that golfers employ. Rarely does a course say the same for 18 holes. The temperature, wind speed, wind direction and speed of the greens can vary over the course of a round. The ability to identify the changes quickly and adapt to them often separates a round with a score in the 80s from one in the 90s or 100s.

Being a Good Teammate

Even though playing golf isn’t really a team sport, knowing what the people with you are playing with want in your company is another important soft skill. This skill is built on a player’s ability to listen, to make critical evaluations and to be empathetic. Some people like to joke throughout; others will talk in the cart, but not once they approach their ball; some people expect seriousness throughout the round. Identifying what your playing partners want and need is a good practice for dealing with people in a variety of work situations.

Being a Better Teammate

Good golfers know how to provide the right encouragement when another player is not playing well. Some people welcome advice on how to improve; some do not. Some people want to make fun of it; others don’t want to talk about it at all. Knowing the difference on the first hole where someone struggles on the course can make or break your day — and the day of your cart mate.

Thinking more about the soft skills being employed on a golf course might be a good distraction if you are having a bad round. Paying attention to these skills on the golf course could also translate into success in your other endeavors.


Where Most Resumes Fail

This LifeHack piece is dead on about the often missing component of resumes.

The list offered of soft skills is a great starting point if you are trying to spruce up your resume or need to jumpstart your job search.

Check the article out.

(Thanks, Larry Fiorino, for pointing this piece out.)


Collaboration, an important soft skill, takes many forms, and each form it often enables us to rise above the challenges we face in life. The old adage that two hears are better than one is valid.

Collaboration imageTo obtain survey responses from the widest possible group of people for some research we are doing, we sent it to our LinkedIn and Facebook friends. Some responded and some did not. We also sent the survey (you can complete the survey yourself or share it from here) to some of our networks’ best connectors, hoping that they would spread the survey on soft skills in the workplace beyond our limited networks. (Our networks aren’t small. Collectively our LinkedIn numbers exceed 3,000 connections.)

But reaching beyond our networks enables us to obtain a broader cross-section of respondents. Our network, while diverse and broad, is limited in some ways, as we each have a lot of former students and academic world colleagues on our lists. One of our lists skews toward insurance brokers, owing to a past position as an insurance publication editor.

The people with whom we shared our lists have their own networks. Those networks represent different segments of the working population.

We could have spent a lot of time and money trying to reach a broader network, but in the most effective and obvious method of reaching more people was to collaborate with others. They were happy to help, as in each case, we have provided value to them in various ways, never seeking compensation. We just helped when it was needed.

And now, when we need help, they rise to the occasion, ensuring that we can achieve greater results than if we had only spread word of the survey to our own networks. That collaboration is just one demonstration of where soft skills improve our work.


Our mind is constantly evaluating the angles, possibilities, benefits and drawbacks of countless decisions, though we rarely think much about what is going on in our minds.

Woman looking at manIf I ask my boss for a day off next week, will I miss out on an opportunity? Should I tell HR that someone has been reporting his arrival time at work as far earlier than the reality? Should I tell my boss I am looking for a new job or should I keep her in the dark until I have one in place?

Each of these questions – and a million others that come up each day – requires a careful analysis of the situation. Consider the list of soft skills necessary for each of the questions raised above:

  • Listening – Paying attention to what others did in similar situations to learn the rules of the road.
  • Critical Thinking – Using the information obtained from listening and other stimuli to formulate an appropriate response to the situation.
  • Presentation – Evaluating other people’s words and actions through their presentation of information, and preparing a possible presentation of the information regarding the situation. Also, being able to talk coherently so that the people involved understand and appreciate your concerns and interests.
  • Negotiating – Determining what should be done and how to handle it with others involved.
  • Conflict Management – Being able to deal with any negatives outcomes or consequences that arise from your choices.
  • Adaptability – Being able to alter your actions as the situation evolves. For instance, if your boss seems distracted when you enter her office, recognizing the signals and putting off the discussion for later in the day.
  • Responsibility – Taking responsibility for your career and your success and for the requirements of your job.
  • Proactivity – Being proactive about your career and situation
  • Loyalty – Weighing the requirements of loyalty against what you need to succeed for yourself.
  • Confident – Having the confidence to admit to yourself that you are ready for a new job.
  • Ethical – Deciding what is best to do to meet your own ethical standards.

Most of us take action without much thought. We might do what someone else told us to do. We might just do what feels right. We might follow our instinct or our gut.

But breaking down the individual skills at play gets at one of the core realities of soft skills. They rarely, if ever, operate in isolation. One soft skill is dependent on other soft skills. Notice how many of the ones listed above play off of one or another of them.

Even though soft skills usually operate in concert with one another, we often cannot identify areas for improvement unless we look at them individually. And as we work on one soft skill, it influences and affects the others. Further complicating matters is that some soft skills are more in use than others, and some work more closely with others.


No one likes to be wrong. And even worse is when that thing we are wrong about is personal. We all have an ego that has to be protected.

Often, effectively developing our soft skills necessitates checking our ego at the door.

Take, for instance, the situation involving a team leader who gave a bad presentation that we talked about last time.

To improve on his presentation would require him to first and foremost admit that something wasn’t right about his presentation. None of us like to work hard on something only to see it fail, especially when it is something as personal as a presentation. We struggle to separate the mechanics of the presentation from what it says about us as a person.

We see this problem occur in our students all the time. Their presentation has some problems, but they internalize the feedback, whether from other students or their instructor, as an indictment of who they are inside.

That inability to separate Presentation Me from Real Me often lead them to become defensive, which in turn discourages people from giving them the feedback they need to become better. If you think for a second, you can probably come up with a similar situation in your own life. We all do it.

Until we realize that good, honest feedback isn’t a bad thing, but the thing to help us get better. When we check our ego at the door, our soft skills, no matter what they are, will begin to improve exponentially.

Critics of the role soft skills play in people’s and organization’s success often argue that soft skills cannot be taught. We disagree, and not just because we both get paid to help students develop their soft skills in our classrooms.

Soft skills cannot be taught like Microsoft Excel or organic chemistry. No textbook can give you lessons, formulas and practice questions to develop soft skills. (If only, they could.)

Soft skills are developed through experience. You learn by doing.

But doing is only part of the equation. Self-reflection and analysis of what worked and didn’t work are keys to developing these skills. The challenge is that the self-reflection doesn’t often yield as easy a result as reflecting on a missed math question. In the case of math, you check the formula against what you used and make sure your actual math is correct. The problem has to be one or the other of those things.

With soft skills, the list of why something went wrong could be endless. Take for instance a 5-minute presentation a team leader gives to his team. They are bored, unengaged and eager to get on with their day. What went wrong?

Here are some of the possibilities:

  • The introduction didn’t capture their attention.
  • The team leader didn’t speak loudly enough or with variances in his voice (monotone never works).
  • The room was too hot or too cold, seats were too close together or the room was too big.
  • The information could have been better communicated in writing or one-on-one.
  • The team leader didn’t believe in what he was saying — and the audience could tell because of his body language.
  • The team leader was giving a message that conflicted with his prior statements on the topic.
  • The audience didn’t need to know the information.
  • The audience had heard it all before from the last leader and the leader before her.
  • The technology (slides, projector, clicker, screen) didn’t work correctly.

These are but some of the many possible causes for a bad presentation. And, of course, some are outside the control of the speaker, although most are not.

Becoming an effective speaker requires learning from every experience of speaking. What worked? What didn’t work? And why or why not? Only with this careful introspection, coupled with the evaluation of honest feedback from people in the audience, can someone become a better speaker.

But so often our ability to accept that feedback is challenged by our ego. But we’ll talk about that next time.




In the midst of all the big issues facing the world right now, one issue that can easily be put to bed is whether to call all skills not encompassed as technical skills either “soft skills” or “non-technical skills.”

Non-Technical vs. Soft Skills SignAcademics generally seem to favor non-technical skills, which does give a good contrast to the technical skills that most colleges and universities are primarily teaching. We have published several articles focused on “non-technical skills,” a phrase which outside of academia seems to have even less traction than “soft skills.”

“Soft skills” suggests a key factor in their use; these skills are fluid and sometimes difficult to pinpoint.

Soft skills can be likened to air. We know it exists because we are breathing it, but we really cannot see it or put our finger on it.

Soft skills can be like air, essential to our success in jobs and relationships, but impossible to put your finger on.

If you asked 10 people who worked for someone if she was a good boss, not everyone would agree that she was. Nor would they agree on why.

Each of us responds to soft skills differently. Some of us respond well to those who can talk about anything easily and engagingly, while others might find that verbal person annoying. Others might prefer someone who is a great listener, a man of few words. Which is right?

In both cases, soft skills of communication and listening and interpersonal skills are being employed.

Of course, critics will charge that if you have “soft skills,” then “technical skills” must be called “hard skills.” The term “hard skills” in many ways fits the rigid nature of the aptitudes and testable knowledge on which they are built. But it feels weaker and less reflective of the reality of what it describes.

We favor soft skills because it just feels right. We hope you agree? But if not, feel free to explain why not.