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Balancing Hard and Soft Skills in Business

If you were launching a business right now, and wanted help with your social media marketing, would you go for an expert in Facebook, TikTok or LinkedIn?

Or would you go for the person who already has an eye on the next big thing and has proven they have the ability to adapt to new platforms?

Let’s jump forward a few years. Your business is flying and you decide to take on a new manager to look after the production side of things. Who do you choose?

  • The person with the best project management qualifications and years of experience at a top firm, but a reputation for being hard to please?
  • Or the person with fewer qualifications and less experience, but who has demonstrated the ability to slot into new teams and get others to perform without ruffling too many feathers?


It’s a hypothetical scenario and reality is rarely so black and white, but these rhetorical questions do highlight the need to balance hard and soft skills in business.

Hard and soft

On the one hand, there will always be the hard, technical skills and expertise needed to perform the role, demonstrated by job-specific experience and qualifications.

On the other, are the soft skills essential for a cohesive, well-performing team of people who thrive when they work together. Depending on the context, this may be communication, flexibility, creativity, leadership, and teamwork skills, for example.

Soft skills and sliding scales

Many of these soft skills exist on a spectrum. A great team worker who struggles to work solo would be at the opposite end of the scale to an amazing solo worker who struggles within a team. It might seem the ideal employee would sit at the halfway point, with all soft skill attributes set at 50%.

There are two problems with this:

  1. There probably isn’t a ‘perfect’ average worker with completely balanced soft skills, so you might never find them.
  2. A team of people with identical characteristics is going to miss out on the wonderful creative spark and expanded range of thinking that comes from bringing different people together.


There’s a lot of talk about critical thinking being limited by echo chambers. If we get our news from one source, only connect online with people who share our opinions, and move within one homogenous group of friends, then we only hear the voices that sound like our own. Our world view narrows, we miss out on the good stuff we don’t know about, and lack understanding of people who are experiencing life in a different way to us.

Echo, echo, echo…

The same is true of the workplace, where an echo chamber of skills and experience can exist alongside an echo chamber of ideas and opinions. This can lead to entrenched ideas that are never questioned, uninspired design, and a lack of growth or evolution.

It also builds in unnecessary risk. If everyone in a team has the same skill set, it is difficult to react effectively should an unexpected event occur that requires a different approach. A balanced team, with a wide range of skills, experiences and personalities will be better placed to adapt to whatever problems or opportunities come its way.

Know and grow

The first step to building a balanced team is to understand where you are currently. Map out the skills and experience already in your team and identify where the gaps are. It doesn’t need to be a difficult task: A catch-up coffee chat with each of your colleagues can tell you what you need to know. This can guide future recruitment or help determine what training different team members should focus on.

Of course, a team made up of a range of very different individuals is going to require a range of different management styles and communication methods to get the best out of them. For example, Andy might require regular contact, but Bob does better with a bit more free rein. Understanding different personality types can be tricky, but there are tools to help, including the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile® (EMP).

The EMP tool

I’ve mentioned the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile® (EMP) in a previous post, but to summarise:

  • It maps an individual against seven Personality Scales and seven Skills Scales.
  • It was developed by Mark Davis, Jennifer Hall, and Pam Meyer at Eckerd College’s Leadership Development Institute;
  • It is reinforced by academic research, supported by international partner universities, and used by businesses across the world;


The EMP was originally developed to help people identify how they compare to successful entrepreneurs and corporate senior managers, but is a valuable tool at all levels of an organisation. By answering the EMP questions, and interpreting them with the aid of a certified EMP practitioner, you can understand the different personality types within your team, how those personalities might interact with and complement each other, and where people can improve.

Embrace your uniqueness

It’s worth remembering that no matter how well you try and understand your team and recruit accordingly, it’s unlikely you’re ever going to have the perfect team consisting of people with optimised soft skills, i.e: The perfect balance of introvert and extrovert, thinker and doer, team player and solo performer.

That’s OK, because as long as you understand the limitations of yourself and others, you can compensate accordingly. Embracing your positive traits and making them your unique selling point is how you can play to your strengths.

Soloists

The above points are still valid considerations even if you’re a sole trader doing your own thing, rather than trying to grow a large company. To support your work, there will always be people who become part of your team, even if just for a brief moment. You may use a website designer, a social media expert, an accountant, a mechanic to service your van, a printer, or a coach. On top of this are the friends and family members who form your emotional and personal support team outside of working hours.

For each of these relationships, the balance of hard and soft skills, plus personalities will be just as important as if you were all in one office working together for the same organisation.

Make use of others’ hard skills

Your soft skills may transfer across to new opportunities, but if you’re lacking the required hard skills, you may struggle to thrive. This is where it’s so important to surround yourself with the right people.

This is a lesson I’ve been reminded of recently when preparing to launch the Viscosity podcast. I spent around five hours editing the first episode before handing it over to a professional podcast editor who completed the job far quicker and to a much higher standard than I ever could.

Not only that, the editor had so much valuable advice and insight, gained from years of working in the podcast world, that I would never have known about otherwise. If I’d persisted with doing it myself, I would have missed out on all this knowledge.

Let’s explore your soft skills together

I’d love to talk to you about your goals. As a coach and certified EMP Master Trainer, I can help you recognise your soft skills, highlight your strengths, and leverage them to achieve escape velocity in business and in your life.

Just get in touch

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