In an earlier blog I wrote about a father’s special insight. This particular dad understood that the so-called “hard skills” of mathematics, science and history are not as difficult to obtain as the “soft skills” of public speaking, teamwork, and human relationships. This father had recognized that his teenage son would gain many traditional lessons from high school, but he wanted him to have other skills for use in the everyday world.
So, what should we be teaching students – and learning ourselves – in order to live better in the real world?
I certainly applaud that father’s desire that his son take acting lessons. Public speaking is repeatedly cited as the number one fear of Americans (just ahead of snakes). An acting class can go a long way to overcome stage fright for the ordinary speaker.
My consulting partners focus on business strategy. But developing and refining a business strategy is only one step in building your business. Your business strategy must also be sold – peddled to insiders as well as sold to prospective investors, partners and customers. Public speaking, and all the tools of public presentation and persuasion that go with it, are part of every strategy implementation.
In business today, sales and business development are often recognized as more important than more general management skills or even leadership of the enterprise. After all, without sales to generate some revenues, there will be no enterprise to lead. Commissioned sales staff at many large enterprises are the highest paid employees. But business schools today do not teach this simple fundamental skill: sales. Look to any leading MBA program in the country. You will see courses on marketing, marketing strategy, internet marketing, and new product launch. There are seminars on CRM, SEO and MLM. But teaching the S-A-L-E is seen as old fashioned and, frankly, beneath most consultants, trainers and certainly most business school faculty.
One topic which has risen in popular literature in the past 20 years is “emotional intelligence.” Daniel Goleman’s best-selling Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ recognized the need to pay attention to the emotional and psychological aspects of daily life, work in the office, and leadership. While professional psychologists have long recognized the distinction of emotional intelligence from intelligence in the “hard skills,” it was Goleman’s book that made this a popular subject.
Emotional intelligence, as compared to intelligence in the “hard skills,” is defined as the ability to asses – and to manage – the emotions of oneself, others, and of groups. The ability to gauge and respond to the emotional status of a team is and essential skill for leadership.
We don’t say much about emotional intelligence in colleges today. But we should. Emotional intelligence across a wider spectrum of work situations should be explored, in addition to the extensive work on teams and team dynamics found in most business school curriculums.
In my next piece, I will catalogue my “Top Ten” life skills that MBA programs don’t teach. Sort of a “what your MBA never taught you” listing of areas of knowledge essential to increase your chance of success in business, and in life.