Measuring Soft Skills


By Maren Perry, MA, PCC

Arden Executive Coaching | Measuring Soft Skills

As coaches, working with clients to measure, track and improve their soft skills is a huge part of our job. Many of our Executive Coaching clients are working on their emotional intelligence and increasing their soft skill effectiveness with people. The higher one goes in an organization, the less likely you are to work with widgets and the more likely it is that your effectiveness turns on how good you are at working with others: how well you motivate them, inspire them, hold them accountable and collaborate with them in teams. So soft skills – those dealing with how you are in relationships — are essential. In fact, Daniel Goleman (the guru of Emotional Intelligence) did a study across many indistries where he discovered that at the top levels, nearly ALL of one’s success relies on these skills as opposed to technical ability.

We all know that if you can measure something, it’s something that you can pay attention to and impact more easily, somehow it’s easier to hold onto the idea of something we can watch grow and track the improvement of. So how do we do that with soft skills that are by definition, not something as measurable as say, numbers, or color gradient, or volume?
One way of course, is to use one of the great assessment tools out there for such purposes. Contact us here to discuss which of the many options might serve your particular purposes.

But for most of us, we want to be able to track these skills ongoingly and may not have the need for a formal analysis, but something more hands-on and day-to-day. For that, let’s use another method. Much like we cannot see the wind, but we can see its impact on things, we can measure the impact our soft skills, or lack thereof, are having on our environment.

According to Wikipedia, Soft Skills are:

“the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, interpersonal skills, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.”

Say for instance you decide you want to track your level of skill at “setting clear expectations with my team.” Ask yourself the following:

If my expectation setting were at a level 10 out of 10, the very best it could get, what would it look like? Take a few minutes to write (yes, actually write versus think about… it makes a difference!) some of the things you think would be true. List at least five items. These might include things like:

  • My team would complete projects on time and to my specifications
  • There would be few unnecessary/repetitive questions after an initial conversation about a project
  • I would not have to step in to help my team with things they know how to do

For each of the items you listed in the first step, rate the current state of things:

  • “My team would complete projects on time and to my specifications:” currently a 5 (out of 10
  • “There would be few unnecessary/repetitive questions after an initial conversation about a project:” currently a 6
  • “I would not have to step in to help my team with things they know how to do:” currently a 4

Of course, it’s arguable that there are other factors that contribute to each of the specific measurable above. But if you want to find a place to start, start with these. You can design experiments to see your impact on these areas. Make a list of at least three specific actions you could take to advance each of the bullets you came up with.

For example, three actions you could take to advance the cause of “There would be few questions after an initial conversation about a project” might be:
1. When presenting a project to someone initially, I will ask what questions they have up front
2. I will set up a way for them to give me updates and ask for assistance throughout the project form the beginning.
3. I will encourage each team member to make a list of the training they think would serve them in their roles so that they can keep increasing their expertise and need less assistance

Now, check in with your original goal, to measure your skill at “setting clear expectations with my team.” Does your list of actions seem like it would impact that intention? Great! Now go experiment!

Improving our soft skills is a life-long game. Measuring and tracking these skills can be useful in that quest. This is where a coach can be useful, since when we’re working on developing new habits or skills, we’re generally pretty bad at seeing our current level of ability. This is why we all have golf coaches, yoga teachers and personal trainers: they can see what we can’t and help us design a way to get to the next level. It’s the same with executive coaches and leadership development.
Regardless of if you have a coach or a mentor assisting you, we encourage you to get out there and keep looking to improve your soft skills in relationships. It can make all the difference in your success as a leader!

For more on soft skills and how improved emotional intelligence can significantly improve your results, contact us for a complimentary consultation.