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Business

Hard or soft enough

BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

Google has long been considered the benchmark for HR policies and practices. Suppose you were to trace the development of open-work spaces, gourmet pantries, 20 percent off your regular time to do something completely different from your regular job, amusing games, and facilities for their employee’s enjoyment. You will have to admit that many of our current BPOs and call centers emulate this company’s initiatives, as I am sure many business organizations worldwide do.

The world admires Google’s creativity and initiatives to make working in the company a dream job for many young people. Good pay and great perks, no wonder this giant tech company attracts the best talents from all over the world. So famous is this company that a movie was made inside their campus. Although the last time I was there, some of my friends said they did not like the movie because it did not capture the essence of what their company truly stands for. The last time I was there I saw that famous “slide” that connects the ground floor to the next floor up was out of commission. To land a job at Google is many a young person’s dream. It still is today. And so, shelve this thought for a moment as I will connect this to the sentiments and expressions of my favorite business guru, Tom Peters, as he reflects in his latest book: “Excellence Now-Extreme Humanism.”

Peters referred to Project Oxygen. The research, dubbed “Project Oxygen,” was intended as a business strategy to train future business leaders to institute best performance practices and drive continuous improvement among Google’s management team. Google surveyed its employees about the qualities of good managers for more than a decade. Peters says, “Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Those traits sound more like what one gets as an English or Theater major than as a programmer.” Peters concluded.

And then, he talks about another research project conducted by Google named: “Project Aristotle.” And Peters says, “Its data analysis revealed, however, that the company’s most important and productive ideas come from B-teams comprised of employees that don’t always have to be the smartest people in the room.

Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying.”

This should be a clarion call to action for every leader. From Tom Peters comes this famous phrase: “Soft is Hard and Hard is Soft.” And evidently, the more technology becomes pervasive and ubiquitous, the more HR practitioners and leaders realize the importance of soft skills training they need to equip their people with. But here is the challenge, soft skills are harder to teach and train compared to hard skills. But there is no getting away from these hard facts and evidence staring business people in the face.

The 78-year-old Tom Peters is still as dynamic as he was when he was a young man. His book, co-written with Robert Waterman, “In Search for Excellence” propelled him to fame. Peters popularized the phrase “Personal Branding,” which is a concept that has been abused, misused, and misunderstood by many modern-day “motivational speakers” who do not have enough entrepreneurial nor corporate work experience. Peters also popularized the “Wowing” and “Delighting” the customer movement that became famous buzzwords for many years.

Tom Peters says that his new book “Excellence Now-Extreme Humanism” will be the last book he writes. I wish he will eventually change his mind. However, it is a must-read book for anyone serious about developing their leadership skills that matter. And one last personal note. If you still belong to the old school of “leaders” who believe that “soft skills” are all cheesy, mushy, and do not contribute to business growth and profitability, then I would highly recommend that you read the book and learn more about it. Perhaps you may have a change of mind. So, is this hard or soft enough for you?

 

 

(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class online runs will be held from Aug. 25 to 27. Develop your leadership skills that translate into personal, career, and business growth. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)

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