Hard Ice Cream vs. Soft Serve
What’s your preference? I’m a “both” kind of gal. Sometimes I like hard ice cream because some flavors have little bits of surprises (my favorite is peppermint stick) and sometimes I like soft serve because it is smooth and creamy. So why in the world am I talking about ice cream?
Well, in a New York Times interview, Lazlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, discussed the types of attributes they value most and are critical for success in the future.
And it reminded me of ice cream!
Comparatively speaking, an employee – or future employee’s – work experience would be considered their “hard skills”. Things like what their degree and GPA and what they are trained to do all fall into the hard ice cream category. According to Lazlo, these, once thought of as indicators of success, are truly not indicators at all and that “part of the challenge with leadership is that it’s very driven by gut instinct in most cases…” This is both a good thing and not. I wholeheartedly agree that instincts and intuition are truly what separate the connected leaders from the my-way-or-the-highway type of leader.
Enter the “soft skills” (or soft serve ice cream). These are things like attitude, decision making ability, likeability, resourcefulness and flexibility. The type of things that are difficult to ascertain from a static resume or even a traditional interview scenario.
When I first started working, to say I was young and inexperienced would have been an understatement. But learn I did and my boss at the time became my life-long mentor. She was strong AND she had soft skills before they were even called that. I learned by observing her. By seeing how she treated others, how she responded to certain situations and how she valued what was unique in each individual. She made quick and mindful decisions with confidence. And even when she didn’t have the answer, there was just something about her that made you trust that she would figure it out. She was soft skills personified.
In the interview process, Lazlo suggests more of a behavioral interview approach, asking questions that open up the candidate to talk about an actual situation, rather than a contrived “what would you do” scenarios. For instance, ask someone to describe a time when they needed to maneuver a difficult situation. The riches that come out of this type of question will enable you to see into the person’s thought-process, as well as what they deem to be difficult. You can really drill down and learn much more about a person and their ability to lead and thrive in a pressured situation by allowing them to speak of from their personal experiences.
Google values leaders who show consistency and fairness with their people. Not just because it’s a nice thing to do but because it sets others up for success. When someone knows consistent parameters it actually creates a sense of freedom. With freedom comes creativity. With creativity comes innovation. With innovation comes…….well, you get the picture!
And what is the number one attribute that Google predicts will be the most sought after in the near future? Adaptability. Companies need leaders and their teams to be able to morph. The ability to shift gears and re-invent yourself according to the changing needs of business is the SPARK you need for success.
So how do you develop soft skills in others? Many progressive companies are seriously investing in programs, workshops and coaching to help can guide them in this endeavor. Companies like IBM, Motorola, J.P. Morgan, Chase, and Hewlett Packard make leadership development a priority. And according to Fast Company, companies that have spent a mere $680 per employee in coaching, to enhance their “softer side”, improved total stockholder return by 6% per year.
Now that is a double dose of soft serve!
Paula G. Rosario
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