When I talk about clarity, especially the benefits of clarity such as greater productivity, commitment, and employee effectiveness, some people leap to the conclusion that I am focused on soft skills.
Are you kidding me? I am one of the most direct people my clients have ever met. No one has ever accused me of being touchy-feely. I will never pussy-foot around anything. I’m not sure I know how.
However, I am effective because I create clarity. I listen. I ask questions. Lots of questions. Of lots of people. I ferret out exactly where their concerns lie and what they would like to achieve. When there are multiple people involved, I find common ground. Facts and perceptions both matter and I drive toward both relentlessly. When people experience the honest desire to understand the current state and see that their experience and opinions are important to understanding that state, they are delighted. They don’t need to be handled with kid gloves.
Clarity is based on facts. Experience and opinions, while not immutable facts, are important parts of the reality that an organization faces . When you strive to reveal that reality, you become inclusive and you validate the concerns and desires of individuals. It doesn’t matter if you are direct and relentless. When people see that you really care to understand, you will learn and you will earn their respect, trust, and support.
On the other hand, traditional soft skill training is focused on your behavior. You are supposed to make people “feel” they have been heard. You are supposed to consciously validate their feelings. You are supposed to control your body language and practice echoing back what you’ve heard. Think about that for a moment. When you are focused on your own behavior and trying to follow all of these rules, you are focused on the wrong thing. You are focused on yourself. And that’s why you come across as disingenuous, at best, and manipulative more often than you realize.
Forget soft skills. Concentrate on creating clarity. Embrace the importance of understanding where things stand, both facts and opinions. If you don’t know where you are, you won’t be able to find the shortest path to where you want to go.
Listen. Ask. Learn.
Clarity is not a soft skill; it just feels that way to those on the receiving end!
Oh, and now that you are totally focused on creating clarity, you have my permission to use your soft skills! They aren’t a bad thing, obviously. It’s just that focusing on them can be a distraction and, in many cases, clarity will get the job done faster.