Through Guy’s Eyes
Winston Churchill – the big ‘softy’
Running a business is costly. That’s something we can all agree on. Usually, it takes substantial investment in IT, buildings, infrastructure, plant and equipment, and a business model based on research, along with other ‘hardware’, to be a success – which is why protecting these assets should be your first priority.
Actually, no! Protecting the software – the so-called ‘soft issues’ – should be what concerns you most. And if it doesn’t – well, then, I’m afraid you might well be heading for extinction.
If you’re shaking your head in doubt (or disagreement), I’ll concede that yours is not the first organisation to deride the value of having high business EQ. But most of those doubting businesses will be shutting down as they fail to get to grips with an era where consciousness and emotional intelligence are proving to be major factors in an organisation’s ability to thrive.
To put it in perspective, when it comes to CEOs and effective leadership, high EQ is increasingly recognised as more important than high IQ. So why shouldn’t organisations have high EQ too? It’s not what you do – that always commoditises over time – but how you do it that differentiates your business most decisively.
Yes; it’s fashionable to pooh-pooh ‘soft issues’. Personally, I think that’s because companies don’t really understand them, and we have a tendency to undermine the things we fear. Of course, the reason we don’t understand them is because we can’t see them; they’re the intangible assets and liabilities on your invisible balance sheet. But that doesn’t mean that they can be ignored. After all, you wouldn’t feel comfortable neglecting your tangible assets and liabilities. And your invisible balance sheet has an even greater future effect on your business than what’s reflected on your historical financials.
To use an analogy, computer manufacturers commonly believed that hardware would always trump software in prominence – that is, until Microsoft came along. Now, we understand that what goes inside a machine is of far greater importance than the commoditised computer itself.
‘Soft issues’ speak strongly to the character of an organisation. And as we know, organisations – just like people – flourish when they have a strong constitution. That’s why I think that calling these issues ‘soft’ is a complete misnomer. No one would have dreamed of accusing Winston Churchill of being soft when he called upon the Brits to “fight them on the beaches” – but this very successful appeal was, in fact, an example of ‘soft skills’ in action. (Interestingly, the Brits, at this time, had way less military hardware than Hitler’s arsenal – but character won through in the end!) The same could be said for top sports people. Their skill and ability being equal, their triumphs are attributable more to an iron mentality than anything else.
It’s this steely perseverance; this determination; this take-no-prisoners approach that we are referring to when we discuss ‘soft skills’, rather than some nebulous concept that, vaguely, has something to do with warm, fuzzy feelings and hugs. And, as I am sure you will agree, those are the very characteristics that will help you get ahead of your competitors, especially when we consider the sea of sameness that characterises today’s marketplace.
Watch out for my next blog, where I’ll show you just how to put ‘soft skills’ into play and give form and substance to your invisible balance sheet.
Guy Martin is the founder & Managing Director of Blueprints: assisting CEOs to drive growth by increasing the alignment of their people to business goals by 50% within an 18 month period.