Soft Skills Employers Need – 3 Solid Steps

A recent post at emphasizes once again that people-skills (also known as soft skills) top employers’ lists of desired qualities. []

People-skills or soft skills also top the list of top skills that employers want and new graduates (GEN Y) lack. []

As a 20 year veteran entrepreneur, I can also attest that outstanding people-skills or soft skills top the list for business success.  So whether you are a new graduate (GEN Y) or among the many people changing careers or industries, improving your people-skills (soft skills) is a winning step. What skills specifically? Verbal and written communication, listening, and teamwork.

I will be posting a series of content rich articles with tangible soft skills improvement steps.

In this post, 3 solid steps that improve communication with customers, teammates, suppliers, and definitely with leaders.

Soft Skills Tip #1

Soft Skills Tip #1

  • Speak current and future not past. Our communication is often riddled with references to the past.  Don’t believe me? Spend five to ten minutes being aware of what you say.  You will be very surprised at how often you reference the past.

    Now rethink what you truly want to say and reword it to be focused on the present or future.  Focusing on the present and future minimizes the risk of digging up old problems between people, gets you active on solutions, and increases your value to employers and customers. It changes your image, your relationships, and your career/business success.  Simply put: In business, don’t take people back to the past.

    True story to illustrate: I found a blog article on soft skills and posted it on Twitter.  I liked the main points the author made.  One of my Twitter followers read it and thought the author’s writing skills were poor.  She sent me the following message.  “Did you read it before you posted it?”  Her focus on the past made this a very poor communication. It can cause problems in interpersonal relationships.  After I wrote back to her, she made it clear that her main point was “I don’t like the author’s writing style”.  Her original message communicated something else.

  • Soft Skills Tip #2

    Soft Skills Tip #2

    Speak honestly and positively. Honesty is important in business.  How you deliver the honesty determines how the listener will hear and react to your message. Even during conflict, you can speak with positive tones to speed the healing after the conflict.
    Simple Rules: State facts as facts and opinion as opinion. State what needs to change and what is currently good.

  • Soft Skills Tip #3

    Soft Skills Tip #3

    Skip the sarcasm. Sarcasm can often be misunderstood. It is more a form of anger than a form of humor. Keep it for moments with a close friend who loves your sarcasm or leave it to the stand-up comedians and bloggers whose brand is sarcasm. Customers, teammates, leaders and even suppliers respond much better to positive action oriented messages.

  • I hope you will share these tips with others. I ask only that you credit this site

    Check back frequently for more soft skills tips that strengthen your career and your business success. I welcome your tips, comments, and questions below.
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

    17 Responses to “Soft Skills Employers Need – 3 Solid Steps”

    1. Daniel Pink says:

      This is a great post. And the counsel to bypass the past — as tempting as it sometimes is to revisit it — is wise and effective. The one thing I’d add to your list of how to improve communication is something I’m trying to do myself: To talk less and listen more.

    2. Gary says:

      Great Points Kate,
      These skills will benefit everyone not only in business, but even more so in their personal relationships. When combined with Listening, a most effective communication takes place and everyone wins.

    3. Mike Henry says:

      Kate, this is a great post. I think you have an endless supply of ideas and opportunities to discuss when talking about soft skills. I especially appreciated the comment that we all need to skip the sarcasm. It does create jeopardy early in a relationship. Another I’ve learned (too recently) is that all unsolicited advice is initially received as criticism. I have to make sure and share advice with permission.
      Great post. Thanks.


    4. Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks Daniel. I think #1 tip is perhaps the biggest improvement although Mike — I really like your additional tip that “unsolicited advice is often misinterpreted”.
      Gary – I had someone come up to me on the 2nd day of one of my people-skills workshops and say “I think you may have just saved my marriage!” So maybe these skills really do help personal relationships as much as at work.

    5. Excellent points Kate. I was mentoring a young man just this week about his resume. In our conversation, I shared with him that potential employers are more interested in what you can bring to their organizations than your past activities. By focusing on what you CAN do in the present and in the future combined with how you contribute to bringing solutions to the workplace, you demonstrate your future value as an employee.

    6. Good post, Kate! The section that leaps out at me is the person who ignored the great content and only focused on the writing style. I agree with you, in that she communicated poorly and I would like to add that she missed the boat on the purpose of posting the article. Perhaps we can add that a soft skill would be to focus on the positive content in order to get the job done.
      This doesn’t mean that we ignore coaching and counseling when someone does not meet the standards, however, it seems that we focus all too much on the 3% that can be improved and ignore the 97% that is performed wonderfully.
      Let us recognize the great job that people are doing and then show them how they can improve in certain areas.
      I am looking forward to the next posts!

    7. Joe Williams says:

      Tip #1 is a fabulous awareness item for me, Kate. I will need to check myself on that one 🙂

    8. Kate,
      I totally agree with you. Being forward thinking, concentrating what will help the business where it is at and where it is going, and growing your staff forward (helping them meet their career goals, and strengthening their role in the business and your team) is key.

      Your points 2 and 3 (speaking honestly, postively, and without sarcasm) are critical for removing barriers to communication. And it’s important that when speaking honestly that you are also speaking *positively* as well.

      Not to say that you can’t bring up negatives, but turn them into positives – lessons learned, how we can improve going forward. People respond to praise and encouragement, but when there’s no praise due, we can still encourage by helping others reach for a solution for the solution rather than bashing the past negative. Hopefully that makes sense.

      Great Post Kate. I look forward to reading (and tweeting) more on Soft Skills posts from you. 🙂
      …Shannon (@ITSoftSkills)

    9. Jeff Harbert says:

      Outstanding points. The first serves no problem-solve purpose especially, and is really only useful for assessment to avoid a recurrence of a problem or between a manager and employee should disciplinary action be required.

      I’m a huge proponent of speaking plainly. Customers don’t want jargon, they want their problem fixed. Speaking plainly also serves to out Yes Men, whom usually speak anything but plainly and bring chaos to any situation they’re involved in.

      Sarcasm can be used constructively, as a point of humor to commiserate with a customer you’re going over and above to help. Beyond that it only hinders problem solving, and thus customer satisfaction.

      Great post, Kate.

    10. HelloKate:
      I always love what you write I like your smooth style in writing, I have been folowing you on LI through ReloMary.
      I agree with everything you have on your blog, the only thing I might comment on, if I understood it correctly, is number 1- revisiting the past, I only refer to the past to showcase a study/ event or case that I have handled, so I find revisiting the past helpful sometimes not to dwell on, but to demonstrate credibility, again unless I misunderstood what you meant.
      Body language is also crucial in communications as it might support what we say or totally defeat the purpose.
      Keep up the good work

    11. M. Bruny says:

      Kate, thanks for the post. There’s nothing soft about those skills. Good Blog.

      Your Ambassador,

    12. Thanks, Kate. These are clear, helpful, and to the point. I would add the suggestion to #1 that pausing for a quick second to consider, “what do I want out of this (conversation, meeting, etc), what will that get me and us, and how will we know when we get there?”
      As we say in Syntax, the soft stuff IS the hard stuff! for more on our approach.
      keep up the good work!
      Lucy Freedman

    13. Eric Jacques says:

      Great post Kate!

      I often concentrate on a few principles when I do presentations on soft skills and the first one is always Respect which covers your tips #2 and 3.

      The only thing that I would add is Focus which covers the listening skill mentioned above. We emphasize multi-tasking so much in our society but when it comes to communications, it is so important to stop and focus on the person you’re dealing with. Otherwise, you end up missing so much…

      Finally, tip #1 is one I haven’t noticed before. I will definitely keep an ear open for it and I’m sure that, as you said, I’ll be surprised. I’ve always thought that there is no point in regrets, it’s better to learn from our mistakes and move on to something more positive.
      Thanks again!

    14. Kristen Ann Winslet says:


      The key to a winning interview is indeed how well you score on the soft-skills as you mention.

      Team and Partner are very important areas to be sure you discuss and how you succeeded by doing this.

      How you change a difficult situation at work into a positive result is also high on the list. Perhaps how you navigated a difficult personality and won them over.

      The third area is to provide a great example of how you went above and beyond to deliver.

      By getting a good conversation in an interview with these three areas, you can usually ensure yourself a place on the finalist candidate listing.
      Kristen Ann Winslet

    15. Pattie Roberts says:

      Great post, Kate!! Soft skills are so underappreciated, and underincented – I wonder how many companies make these kinds of critical business skills compensable? I am a big fan of 360 degree feedback, especially for leaders and those who are in the succession planning pipeline. 360 feeback can help to truly measure the extent to which people skills are present, and are being applied consistently across the organization. Thanks for giving this topic some “ink”!

    16. Amol says:

      Dear Kate,

      Thank you for dropping by and leaving your valuable comments. You sure have abundant knowledge to share with & so I have subscribed to your posts.. We shall surely keep in touch..

      Have a lovely year ahead..


    17. Ian Tang says:

      Great advice for employers, they definitely be sensitive & not be mis-interpreted. The employers’ action sets the culture of the employees, if he/she focus on the past for explanations/excuses, then the employees will focus on not being blamed rather than being proactive.

      Also different department/industry have different tolerance, like sarcasm is the base a lot of humor in IT & used to build bonds, while it’s inappropriate for customer services.

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