Soft Is Hard And Hard Is Soft

October 11, 2010

Tom Peters is one business guru who does not mince words. I remember attending his seminar many years ago when I saw him and heard him rants about the need to “Innovate or Evaporate.” His background is engineering and therefore logic, analysis, synthesis, mathematics and measurement are important to him. And to read his latest orange colored thick and pricy hard bound book entitled: “Little Big Things” becomes quite of a shocker to me.

Peters says that the one of the most important things for business people to know today is that “Soft is hard and hard is soft.”

For so long soft skills training has been undermined and undervalued by many hard-nosed business executives who stick to hard skills training. And as I have been saying all along, how could anyone invest on training that covers subject matters branded as “soft?”

As I attended the latest World Business Forum held in Radio Music Hall in New York Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, every single speaker extols the virtue of leadership, innovation, teamwork and team play as highest need for business organizations to survive the current atmosphere.

Jim Collins, author of best selling books like Built to Last, Good to Great and his latest “How the Mighty Falls” worked on empirical data and pointed out to the audience that one of the main reasons why businesses fail is that the leader exhibits arrogance due to his successes. The same Collins also mentioned that what his date revealed is that successful companies that have stayed successful through the years exhibited the irrefutable fact that the leader demonstrated humility and that the same virtue carried the companies through prosperous as well as difficult times.

The Illustrious former chairman of GE Jack Welch, evidently older now is like good wine becoming even better with age. Welch is feisty. Welch speaks his mind maybe because he has nothing to prove. Welch says “My main job as a CEO is to develop talent.” He says just like a baseball team, the team with the best players win.

At one point he became serious and quiet and then with a pathos I can identify with, looked straight at the four thousand leaders and executives gathered from 126 countries all over the world and said: It is unbelievable that leadership development is still very low in many company’s priority even today.” And then he cited cases after cases of businesses that are failing and pointed straight to the fact that the same companies do not invest in leadership training on their people.

Rio de Janeiro born Carlo Brito of Anheuser-Busch Indev was emphatic when he said that the success of his companies even after going through five major mergers is to develop and build a performance culture. He says something simple yet profound. “Companies are built by people and he has never heard of great performing companies say, “We are here to hire average people.”

And I have been doing leadership training all over the country and some abroad but what I heard from him made a lot of sense for me. Brito says: “When you have complacent people in your organization, great people walk out of the door.”

Charlene Li, author of the famous book “Ground Swell” talked about the impact of Social Networks today and its effect on business. Li lamented the fact that most businesses still do not know how to mine the potential of social networks while those who do are reaping in the profits.

Martin Lindstrom made a pitch for his book “buyology,” came up with slides after slides and film after film that are cleverly and expensively produced emphasizing the need to understand how the human brain responds to buying and marketing. Bill McDermott, Joseph Grenny, David Gergen completed the line up of the speakers for the first day.

The second day featured Steve Levitt of “Freakonomics” fame, Joseph Stiglitz, former US vice president Al Gore, A.G. Lafley of P&G, Renee Mauborgne, Vijay Govindarajan, Luca Majocchi, Nando Parrado and James Cameron of Avatar fame. I don’t even have enough space to share what I learned from the second day of the seminar.

Filled with fresh and new information and my mind spinning with new ideas, I walked back to my hotel in Manhattan and realized that the money invested in the learning is just too little compared to the benefits of what I have learned. And I just can’t wait to work on the information, process them and apply them to my trainings back home.

Soft is hard and Hard is soft. Things like values, attitude, behavioral, motivation, inspiration and other “soul” issues do count these days and guess what my conclusion is? They have always mattered through the ages.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Bong Galicia

    Hi Mr. Kong. it is indeed closed to depressing that most companies fail to invest on leadership training of their personnel. i am with the LGU of our municipality and it is in a sorry state of sending leaders to junkets than to more enriching leadership seminars.

  2. sub

    did Al Gore became US President?

    same here in our office. as an HR practitioner, i have suggested numerous ways to develop our Human Resource but none of them were approved. the management believed it is through marketing/sales we’ll truly succeed. true. nonetheless, it is still vital, right? afterall, i dont get tired doing things which i know is right. wish to hear from you in person.

    1. Jonathan

      @sub – thank you for pointing out the mistake. I’ve updated the text.

  3. Mighty

    Indeed, values are very important for employees and for the “soul” of the organization yet they are oftentimes neglected in favor of the bottom line.

  4. Francis Kong

    Thanks for the comments. It’s amazing to see how “Values Training” is ignored in many business organizations and institutions. But let us not give up hope.

  5. Francis Kong

    I know how you feel Bong but we should not give up on hope. Have a Great Week Ahead!

  6. Louis

    now a days business have no time to train their people’s other skill due to the downturn thus efforts are focus on bringing back the “numbers” I hope the companies back there in our country wont see trainings on leadership and people communication skills within the company as an expensive expense that should be avoided rather see it as a value adding expense to their personnel’s capacity to contribute to the company

  7. Francis Kong

    Every single business guru who spoke in the recently concluded World Business Forum held in New York emphasized the importance of leadership training as well as soft skills. Something that has been neglected in many companies. It’s not the cost of training that is the issue, it is what cost them if their people are not trained.

  8. Edelito C. Sangco

    Enlightening post Sir. True enough, I myself being the part time CEO of the biggest cooperative in Surigao del Norte, don’t consider training costs as expense but as investment. Recently, I sent my Operations Manager, 4 of my branch managers with their assistants to a training course for Branch Managers, the biggest delegation so far for a single cooperative in the said training. And I reaped the fruits of my decision, they are performing remarkably great after the training. How I wish I could also attend such gathering you have had just attended.

  9. ronnel

    Last year I resigned from a multinational company because of my department head I believe have no values, inspiration and soul.I stood by my sense dignity that it is not always money the reason why we work.I still wonder why his kind of people still roam our workplace.

  10. Melvin Molina

    I am currently engage in a Hotel & Resort Industry, in a merely short stint period of employment, I noticed a lot of loopholes not only with the policies & procedure but with the way people mismanage in handling the company. In short, I decided to resigned and look for a company who gives importance for the level-playing field and equal opportunities, provides training programs and seminars to help someone in developing both personal and career growth.

Leave a Reply