Does a team need hard skills or soft skills?

Dr. Purushothaman
December 9, 2013

Hard or soft skills?

How do you go about getting the right skills in the right team? This is a perennial problem for managers and business owners.

The solution can be to ask people to choose which project they want to work on.
Look for ways to get people enthusiastic about their job, find out what really interests them, find out what they really want to do and give them as much of that to do as you possibly can.

Hard skills can often be improved relatively easily and quickly, whereas motivation is much harder to promote.

Their hard, or technical, skills are important obviously, it's no good hiring a salesperson who can't close, or a developer who can't code.
But if you hire someone or (even worse) partner with someone who can't or won't work as a team member, the payoff in terms of their skills had better be huge, because they will begin to drag the project in unexpected directions.
What people can do is often not nearly as important as we think it is. How they do what they do is what really adds value to a team.

So what does being a member of a team really mean?
In most peoples minds there is this idea that you have a leader running around getting everybody to work together to get what they want done.

Actually a healthy, productive team is more like an unspoken democracy with a shifting leadership.
By democracy I mean that the ‘leader’ is the one that everybody unconsciously ‘votes’ for at any given time.

This usually remains unspoken as team members recognise that leadership shifts naturally to the person who is currently most appropriate and effective.

To take this further, in a normal hierarchical organisation an effective manager would be one who has the ability and willingness to accept the leadership when no-one else is able to, or wants to. He or she then uses their skills to reframe the question or problem in such a way as to help the team get back on track.

To use a crude analogy, an effective manager is like a flywheel, or a battery, someone who is able to inject energy into a team or project at the moment when it begins to run out of momentum.

Just putting a bunch of smart people together won't create a team; each individual needs to want to be a team player.

Get the team right at the beginning of a project and most obstacles will be dealt with easily and smoothly, it is people that make things happen.

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