Tuesday 25 August 2015

Communication – a soft skill?

Bettina Hausmann

Bettina Hausmann helps professionals optimize their business communication and leadership skills for improved results. Bettina has longstanding experience consulting blue chip companies, international organizations, EU officials and associations in their positioning, campaigning, media relations, stakeholder outreach and issues communications. She has also trained hundreds of senior managers including C-level in message development, media and stakeholder relations, and presenting and handling issues. In addition to her communication and leadership expertise, Bettina is also an accredited executive coach and Senior Associate at MCE. Here, she talks about communication skills. 

Often times when I mention I give communication training, I hear: ‘Aha, so you are doing soft skills?’ Indeed, some organisations and trainers put communication training into the category of ‘soft skills’.

We are in communications indeed, and it bothers me when communication is linked to a term that is synonymous of fluffy, blurry and mushy. When you google images for ‘soft’, you’ll get flowers, feathers and marshmallows. For some, ‘soft skills’ seem to stand for easy, secondary and difficult-to-grasp abilities. Hard skills, on the contrary, evoke knowledge, occupational skills and must-haves for your job.
The term ‘soft skills’ and its underlying perceptions undervalue the role and importance of communication. The Holmes report has quantified the cost of miscommunication in companies to dozens of billions of dollars every year. And one does not need to think as far back as the BP oil spill to realize that poor crisis communication can cause huge reputational and financial damage.

Mastering their communications will help professionals achieve tangible business impact and shape their careers. 

Take, for instance, the five areas below:

  1. Presentation: You can learn how to package and deliver your message in a way that your audiences will act on it. Wanting, and even liking to be on stage is possible, and it does marvels.
  2. Media: When running a media interview, you’d better know how to develop, tailor and deliver your messages. And how to move from a victim to an effective spokesperson.
  3. Crisis: We are all prone to crisis, and business leaders better prepare for different crisis scenarios, developing skills and materials to tap into, in case their reputation is at stake one day … and everything goes really, really fast.
  4. Negotiation: Knowing the rules of the game helps mastering it. It enables you to make informed choices, depending on your goals, the situation and the negotiators at the table.
  5. Conflict: When conflict emerges, you will appreciate mastering difficult conversations.

There is so much to learn and enhance. Some of my most interesting clients are already great communicators. They understand the value and power of communication and carve time out of their busy agendas - sometimes in the late evening - to lift their stakeholder outreach skills to another level.
Soft is the contrary of hard, maybe even the contrary of real. Rather than shifting communication to another secondary category of skills, I’d advice putting it centre stage. Communication is business-critical.


  1. There is so much to learn and enhance. Some of my most interesting clients are already great communicators.

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