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Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills – Which is More Important?

D o you remember that one special teacher from back in your school days? Mine was a math teacher who somehow was able to make math class a real joy. It certainly was not because algebra or the Pythagorean theorem were so much fun, it was because something magic happened whenever she was teaching. Her flair, passion and outside-the-box presentation skills made math class just fly by. She is a great example of someone well developed in both hard and soft skills.

I also remember the opposite: teachers who were really competent in the subject they taught, but who lacked the empathy, leadership and ability to motivate. That made classes boring at best, and frustrating and demotivating at worst. While the hard skills were certainly present, the lack of soft skills blocked them from making a real connection with their students. They just ‘taught’ us a subject, instead of inspiring us to learn.

What’s the difference between hard and soft skills? Are soft skills more important than hard skills, or is it the other way around?

This brings us to a very valid question: what’s the difference between hard and soft skills? Are soft skills more important than hard skills, or is it the other way around? And, if soft skills are so important, is there hope if you lack somewhat in that department?

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are measurable, functional or technical skills. Examples include calculating, reading, writing, typing, accounting, working with technical devices and computer programming, to name a few. Specific professional knowledge such as knowledge of human anatomy or Chinese economy would also qualify. Hard skills are skills that you can verify through individual exams, tests or assignments. Results can be compared to a set of predefined, hard criteria.

 

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are “soft” due to their being hard to measure objectively. Often, we call them personal skills. When we say soft skills, think about skills such as leadership qualities, working together with your teammates, listening to others or inspiring an audience. Soft skills are not all about others, they can also be applied to the self.

Think about self-care, the ability to focus or showing resilience in the face of setbacks. The hard thing about soft skills is that one cannot measure them on the basis of criteria-based tests. The absence or presence of a soft skill will only show itself in response to a series of different and varying situations.

Which is more important?

Both types of skills are important. Certain professions require very specific and well-developed hard skills. Without them you would fail instantly. But even then, soft skills will assist you to develop and use your hard skills successfully.

Imagine what happens if you are a brilliant neurosurgeon (hard skills) but you have a short temper (soft skills). Or as a fireman you can swim very fast (hard skills), but you cannot cooperate with your teammates (soft skills). Or you are a certified TTISI trainer or coach (hard skills) but you have difficulty listening to others (soft skills). It’s not so hard to predict you may struggle to save the lives you intend to save, or to help your clients to develop themselves.

Soft skills enable the neurosurgeon to keep severing blood vessels precisely even when that operating room nurse keeps annoying him.

Soft skills enable the neurosurgeon to keep severing blood vessels precisely even when that operating room nurse keeps annoying him.

Soft skills allow the fireman to work together with his teammates to get a victim out of the vehicle in the water. They also enable a certified trainer to respond to the individual needs of his/her clients. Soft skills are the key to success!

 

Why soft skills now?

Only a few decades ago, a customer was mainly dependent on what was on supply. These days, a customer has so many options that the customer journey has become a key concept in the boardroom. Whoever delivers the most flexible, attractive, trustworthy and innovative product and/or support wins over the customer.

Today, you can buy advice, counsel, coaching, mediation, search, or support in all areas of work and life, delivered by entrepreneurial professionals. Since service is a less tangible product, soft skills are vital to make a difference in a market full of well-informed and assertive buyers. How to handle stress, or how to address the modern customer, may spell the difference between success and failure.

 

Both skills are necessary to succeed

There is absolutely still need for hard skills in a changing marketplace. It’s still crucial that a bus driver owns a license, a judge knows the law and a pilot can fly a plane. And it’s certainly helpful if a math teacher can continue to tell us what the Pythagorean theorem actually means.

In the age of the customer, soft skills become more important than ever. Soft skills will make your hard skills more valuable. They are like oil that makes an engine run smoothly.

Soft skills will make your hard skills more valuable. They are like oil that makes an engine run smoothly.

Like Dr. Watson next to Sherlock Holmes. If they grow together symbiotically, they both become a unique buying point for your customers.

 

Conclusion

The good news is that, just like hard skills, soft skills can definitely be developed. However, they do require a different learning approach. It all starts with getting to know yourself, such as how you tend to do things, what drives you, and how you respond to feedback. With a fair amount of introspection, some patience and a will to improve, you can develop soft skills which can help bring out the best in all of those hard skills you’ve learned over the years.

Article written by Rieke Geerlings, Customer Care Professional at TTI Success Insights Benelux.

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How Your Commute Can Impact Your Entire Day

R oad rage hardly needs an introduction. We know what it looks and feels like, and if you’ve never experienced it, you may be part of a rare 20% of our population. As for the rest of us, we report experiencing significant anger, aggression, or road rage at least once a year. If you happen to live in Arizona as I do, that number may be significantly higher.

Egregious acts of lawlessness on the roads can be extremely frustrating, especially when the other person’s disregard causes a near accident. In a split second, you may go from calmly cruising along to wanting to pull someone out of their car and teach them a thing or two about the importance of roadway courtesy. How we deal with road rage really comes down to our level of emotional intelligence (EQ), specifically the self-regulation component of EQ.

How we deal with road rage really comes down to our level of emotional intelligence (EQ), specifically the self-regulation component of EQ.

Origin of road rage

I’d like to consider myself a calm and patient person, yet when I get behind the steering wheel in my giant box of metal, I become confident and fearless. That increases when I feel that I’m on the defensive. One study shows that personal factors such as age, gender, beliefs, or your mood can determine the level of anger and road rage you experience.

Additionally, we often “personalize” incidents that happen on the road. Close calls may simply be due to the fact that other drivers aren’t paying attention, yet we often react as if they did something to us intentionally. Judgment and decision-making go out the window and we turn from Jekyll to Hyde in the blink of an eye. This is when it’s most important to tap into our EQ and realize that, regardless of why they are driving poorly, it has nothing to do with us. We shouldn’t take any ownership of the situation. Instead, just let it go.

5 tips for improving your commute (and by extension, your day)

What can we do on the road to ensure we have a better day at work? Try incorporating at least one of these things into your commute each week. After five weeks, revisit how you feel after your morning commute. Chances are, it will have improved and what previously seemed like a chore may have evolved into something you actually enjoy.

  1. Leave earlier! Rushing around is more likely to intensify your irritation with other drivers. Leaving 10-15 minutes earlier than you normally would will help you feel calm, cool and collected.
  2. Drive mindfully. When you drive, just drive. Distracted driving is still an increasing issue. Despite technology advances, 49% of drivers are still holding cell phones in their hands.
  3. Get more sleep. When our children are cranky and fussy, we put them down for a nap. It’s amazing how pleasant they are to be around after some extra rest! That goes for us too – while a nap at work may not be feasible, taking responsibility for your sleep at night could make a big difference on your morning commute.
  4. Don’t respond. We tend to feed off of road rage behaviors. By participating in the rage, we continue to pass this along to other drivers which then carries on with us throughout the day. Instead, try to resist. If another person cuts you off or tailgates, just slow down or change lanes and move away from them.
  5. Breathe. Take a few deep breaths in and out, perhaps even letting out a very intense sigh. If somebody cuts you off, instead of honking or yelling, take a deep breath and say aloud, “I hope they arrive to their destination safely” and then just keep on keepin’ on.

Recovering from road rage

So, how does this relate to the rest of our day at the office? As we cross paths with hundreds of drivers on our morning commute, it’s almost impossible to leave the emotion of negative road experiences behind as we lock our cars and walk toward the office. The intensity lingers as we check our inboxes and begin firing off emails and messages to coworkers. The negativity carries over into other aspects of our day turning minute issues into problems that feel much worse than they really are. Why does this darn coffee machine take so long to brew a cup of coffee?!

The commute is often overlooked as an opportunity to ensure your day runs smoothly and positively.

The commute is often overlooked as an opportunity to ensure your day runs smoothly and positively.

If you drive a vehicle, you play a small part in the complicated dynamic of traffic patterns and commuting. Are you someone who contributes to making the commute a pleasant relaxing experience or might you be the cause of other people’s frustrations? Your small part could have a big impact on the overall commute if we all work together on improving our personal driving experience.

 

The road to a better commute

When a person encounters a highly stressful situation, it can take 3-4 hours to recover from that stressful event.

When a person encounters a highly stressful situation, it can take 3-4 hours to recover from that stressful event.

During that time, everything is affected, including interactions with coworkers and the quality of work performed. Learning to raise your self-regulation will help limit the instances of falling victim to these situations, leading to more peace and harmony in your life.

When you feel good, you perform better. Momentum builds and you accomplish so much more. Whether or not we realize it, so much of that starts with our morning commute. Put the phone down and pick a lane. When someone around you drives discourteously or flat-out breaks the law, let karma be that person’s judge and jury while you relax and enjoy the ride.

Article written by Sarah Merkle, Vice President of People at TTI Success Insights.

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How Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Succeed in Work and in Life

E Q, or Emotional Quotient, was once known and understood by only the most savvy business executives who understood its importance in the marketplace. Those in the know knew that having a high EQ was often as important, or maybe more so, than possessing a high IQ. There was a time when EQ had a modest, at best, following. Not anymore.

There was a time when EQ had a modest, at best, following. Not anymore.

Much in the way that a band may enjoy nothing more than a cult-following before being thrust into mainstream stardom with a hit record, there was a time when EQ was generally unknown and often misunderstood. The select few who did understand the importance of EQ were small in numbers and their beliefs and management tactics may have been considered against the grain by mainstream’s thinkers of the time. Not anymore.

 

EQ goes mainstream

Today, EQ has gone mainstream. Less and less hiring managers are focusing on skill sets, extensive experience or IQ, instead focusing on candidates who possess a high EQ and appear to be a solid culture fit.

Savvy leaders understand the true value provided by a person possessing high emotional intelligence.

Savvy leaders understand the true value provided by a person possessing high emotional intelligence. EQ has reached the big time.

 

The importance of EQ

EQ is short for Emotional Quotient, also known as emotional intelligence. A foremost expert in the field, Daniel Goleman says that EQ refers to being aware of how our emotions drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively) and being able to manage those emotions, especially when under pressure.

Everyone has high EQ when things are going right. It’s easy to get along with people, have positive conversations and be an upstanding member of the organization, or society as a whole. What sets those with high EQ apart from the rest is how they operate under pressure.

 

Challenges to EQ

EQ can be challenged in a number of ways, and it can happen in an instant. For example, maybe you received some negative feedback. Your first impulse may be to get on the defensive and fight to protect your reputation. Do you act on that impulse? Do you tell that person exactly how you feel, for better or worse, or do you accept the feedback? Accepting and learning from negative feedback is a sign of higher EQ.

What happens when you are close to a deadline and have more work to do than time left to do it? Are you able to stay calm and systematically knock out the necessary tasks? Or, do you panic, begin to freak out and lash out at the first person you see because your world is coming unraveled? Staying calm is a sign of higher EQ.

Certain people can be a huge challenge to EQ. Some people are simply hard to get along with and can be a source of continuous conflict. How do you handle that coworker, customer or family member with whom you regularly clash?

If you are able to stay calm, keep the peace and show restraint, even when they push your buttons to red alert, you probably have high EQ.

If you are able to stay calm, keep the peace and show restraint, even when they push your buttons to red alert, you probably have high EQ.

 

EQ is not engrained

The good news is that EQ can continuously be improvedEmotional Intelligence should be looked at more as a journey than a destination. Every single day we can be a little better than we were yesterday, and it all starts with becoming more aware. The more aware we can be of our own emotions and the emotions of those around us, the more in control we will remain, and the more respect we will gain.

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10 Ways to Get Out of Your Own Way and Achieve the Success You Deserve

I t may be easy to cite someone we consider to be successful, but it’s not always as easy to figure out exactly how that person became successful in the first place. Most of the time, success or failure is staring us in the mirror. If we fall into bad habits, including filling our heads with negative thoughts, we may find ways to self-sabotage our own endeavors that can lead to our own undoing.

Inspired by an article written by Larry Kim of Inc., being aware of your pitfalls is the first step in overcoming them. If you have an important goal you’d like to achieve, it’s best to avoid doing these ten things:

 

1. Comparing yourself to others

There are over seven billion people in the world. You’ll be better than some, just as easily as some will be better than you. If you are judging your value solely on how you stack up against others, you will be fighting a battle you likely won’t win. There are very few people who are the absolute best in the world at what they do, and the odds are stacked against you that you are one of those people.

If you are judging your value solely on how you stack up against others, you will be fighting a battle you likely won’t win.

The key isn’t necessarily to be the best; the goal should be to do the best you possibly can and to be better than you were yesterday. If your progress is consistently moving forward, chances are you will be successful.

2. Being afraid to fail (excessive risk mitigation)

I had a friend who wanted to open a brewery. He was an amazing brewer who made better beers than most commercial operations. He had tons of experience on the amateur level and was well schooled, graduating from the esteemed Siebel Brewing Academy. He had every tool needed to be a successful brewery business owner, except one. He was a professional risk mitigator.

Instead of moving his project forward, he’d continuously review his business plan, tweaking and tinkering, always trying to mitigate risk. While due diligence is important, there is such thing as too much thinking. In trying to mitigate risk, he mitigated his entire brewery concept because it never opened. So consumed with what could go wrong, the project never got off the ground. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself and go for it.

3. Becoming complacent

When you feel like you’ve reached a place where you just can’t improve any more and have nothing further to learn, an alarm should sound, flashing lights should go off and a mechanical punching bag should activate. The world is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn. While there’s nothing wrong with being confident in one’s abilities, complacency is the place where the world passes you by.

4. Losing faith in yourself and your abilities

Having doubts is a normal part of life and entirely natural. Doubts can be the fuel we need to double down on our efforts to accomplish a goal. However, continuously second-guessing yourself can be unhealthy and can retard forward progress on goals, if not sabotage them altogether.

“It is human nature to feel confident about yourself one moment, and doubt yourself the next. Some of that has to do with life experiences while other times it can be caused by a shift in chemicals within the brain. Regardless of the cause, maintaining a steadfast belief in yourself and your abilities is what will power you through, day in and day out.”

5. Surrounding yourself with negative people

The reggae artist Lloyd Brown shares wisdom in his song Know Yourself when he says “You need to fly with eagles and no walk with chickens.” It’s much harder to aspire to greatness when you hang out with mediocrity or less.

In no way is this referencing someone’s socioeconomic status. The negative in the term “negative people” refers to people who do very little to better their own lives while spending time denigrating others for attempting to better theirs.

Energy exists in the world. The more you surround yourself with positive energy, including positive people, the more energized you’ll feel. You are much more likely to achieve greatness if you are operating out of a positive energy state more often than not.

6. Thinking you’re not good enough; having “perfectionist” theory

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with trying to improve. If you are passionate about something, your goal may be to try to become the best you can possibly be. Sometimes being good, or even excellent, needs to be good enough. If you don’t understand this, you may forget to enjoy the ride.

It doesn’t matter what you do or the scale of that particular endeavor. Maybe you make donuts for a living or maybe you are a garbage collector. Perhaps you’re a major league ballplayer or a fiction writer. Regardless of the endeavor, the key is to do your best, but not get hung up on trying to be perfect.

Even the greatest in the world have off days. The seemingly unhittable pitcher Nolan Ryan, author of seven no-hitters, found a way to lose 292 games during his career. I have yet to find anyone that would consider Ryan to be anything close to a failure.

7. Basing success solely on finances

When do you know that you have “made it?” How do you judge your own success? While it’s understandable that entrepreneurs will often judge their success or failure by their bottom line, there are so many other factors that go into whether or not a person or a business is truly successful.

Money generated is one factor, but other factors include: how many jobs has your company created for others? How much revenue has your company generated for your community? Have you created a product that has made the lives of people in your neighborhood better? Certainly, money can be one area where one judges success, but it should never be the sole consideration.

8. Wasting time on regrets

Maybe we tried something and failed. Maybe we failed to try something we should have. Whatever the case; it’s time to move on. Living life in the past, dwelling on things that went wrong, or didn’t happen at all, is neither productive nor inspiring.

Living life in the past, dwelling on things that went wrong, or didn’t happen at all, is neither productive nor inspiring.

Everyone gets five minutes to feel sorry for themselves. Then it’s time to get off the mat, believe in yourself again and start making forward progress.

9. Using words that lack action

On their 1983 blockbuster album Pyromania, Def Leppard declared, “Give me action, not words.” A perfect theme for an album that is the soundtrack for the 80s big hair generation, it also applies to life in the everyday world. What good is talking about doing something if you don’t actually do it?

It’s great to visualize an idea, and part of that visualization often includes verbalizing your ideas. Verbalizing your intentions to do something brings that idea to life. However, ideas without action behind them are meaningless. Picture your idea in your mind, verbalize it, then begin immediately to put that idea into action.

Picture your idea in your mind, verbalize it, then begin immediately to put that idea into action.

10. Envying success of others

There is nothing wrong with admiring people who have achieved success. In fact, having role models can be a great way to help you visualize what your ideal situation looks like.

For example, as a musician and a bit of an aspiring entrepreneur, I completely admire Sammy Hagar. Not only is he a fantastic songwriter and performer, he’s capitalized on his celebrity by creating multiple, highly successful brands, including his Cabo Wabo Tequila and his Sammy’s Beach Bar restaurant locations.

The key is to admire, and not to envy, those who have found success. I view Hagar as an inspiration who earned what he has by putting every ounce of passion into his craft. Now he gets to bask in the rewards of all his hard work. Rather than waste a moment being envious, I envision myself being similarly successful, and maybe one day celebrating that success over some of that Cabo Wabo with the man himself.

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