The Hard Truth: Executive Conversation is Not a Soft Skill

The biggest shift an executive can make is to start viewing communication as a strategy rather than a soft skill. Soft skills are viewed as nice to have, while hard-skills are viewed as critical.

Imagine the impact if communication was categorized as critical and strategic rather than soft. We would see less reactive and manipulative conversations and more results-based conversations in our selling, negotiating, collaboration and performance conversations. Leaders would posses the skills and tools to initiate performance conversations that get results instead of avoiding uncomfortable conversations or getting caught in verbal ping pong. 

I once had a CEO say to me, “If it comes to getting results or singing Kum-Ba-Ya, I’ll pick results.”

“Too bad you have neither Kum-Ba-Ya or results, “I said half joking.

This CEO’s statement revealed to me this important insight: When we refer to communication as “soft skills” it is viewed as a nice but not necessary skill. Communication is perceived as a low-level priority, therefore there is no commitment to becoming a strategic communicator. Think about how this mindset affects executive conversation. The mindset is hard-skills versus soft-skills.

How do we change this viewpoint?

A significant shift emerges when top executives view communication as critical and strategic rather than soft and kum-ba-ya.

Let’s face the facts: Top leaders must constantly work with people who communicate poorly; are emotionally immature, and who are very short sighted, impatient, angry, self-serving and less than articulate.

It makes good business sense for executives to become more aware, more articulate, more intentional, and thus use communication as a strategy to drive business results.

Bottom Line:  For the executive, communication is critical, not soft.

To get a copy of The Bottom Line: How Executive Conversation Drives Performance, click here!

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011) and the author of “No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). Visit her website, and connect via LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.