I love all this newfound love for soft skills. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that MBA programs are paying more attention to those less-than business skills that often get short shrift. It´s as if people are finally waking up to the notion that behavior, the ability to listen, and that old-standby, bedside manner, mean something when it comes to succeeding in business.
So now MBA grad schools are asking their students to pay attention to issues like teamwork, leadership, and one of hardest to achieve, communicating. This all makes me laugh (in a bad way), because, honestly, are these skills so much less important than knowing how to strategize or be able to read a profit and loss statement? I´m hearing that business schools are trying their best to respond to the needs of employers who want their recruits to have excellent soft skills. Well, first, I think they should do away with the soft skill/hard skill nomenclature. Who needs it? When you say "soft" skill you´re really minimizing its value in the marketplace. Now, if someone relies on his or her soft skills to the exclusion of their more technical abilities, then, yes, there might be a gap occurring. But I have to believe that both are important.
At MIT´s Sloan School of Management students have to take classes and workshops that are intended to help them develop meaningful professional relationships and lead effective meetings. I can´t help but wonder if any of these students and the people creating the classes have thought about what we all try to learn as kids. You play on a team and learn (hopefully) how to get along with other people. As you get older, you realize (hopefully) that other people´s feeling count, too, not just your own.
At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, first-years must take personality tests (ugh!), take part in teamwork activities (didn´t they learn anything in sixth grade when it came to group projects?!) and become comfortable having others-fellow students, I presume-critique their work (ugh again!). I guess I´m just a little surprised because you´d think that by the time people get to business school they know a thing or two about talking to people with respect, getting along with others, and knowing how to lead a project.
I think those employers who are asking business schools to create and enhance their soft skill curricula should be visiting undergraduates schools, high schools, junior high and middle schools, elementary and grade schools, nursery schools . . . and so on.