Having professionally been around the block a couple of times now over a 25 year career, I can say with some conviction that soft skills are some of the hardest and most important things that you learn and which you need to succeed both personally and professionally.
Soft skills are often equated with emotional intelligence and interpersonal aptitude.
They includes a broad range of abilities--everything from diplomacy to dependability, social graces to skilled communications, conflict resolution to constructive feedback, and friendliness to relationship-building.
People with soft skills are able to work well with others whether they are influencing, selling, negotiating, strategizing, or problem-solving.
As a manager, soft skills also involve effectively delegating and empowering your people to perform and feel good about their jobs.
While soft skills emphasize relationships, hard skills focus on the task.
One mistake many people make is that in an effort to get a task done in the short-term, they sacrifice important long-term relationships--i.e. people burn their proverbial bridges, which makes getting things done over the long-term much more difficult, if not impossible, and also not very enjoyable--since you've just alienated your most important asset, your team!
Essentially, the key to soft skills is to treat people with respect and goodwill, always!
The Wall Street Journal (5 May 2011) describes how some top business school around the country are "getting it"--providing their students with soft skills business courses.
Schools like Columbia, Stamford, and University of California at Berkeley are teaching their students not only accounting and finance, but also the "soft skills...important in molding future business leaders."
Additionally, in my experience, post-graduate leadership courses such as from Dale Carnegie Training, The Center for Creative Leadership, and others provide solid soft skills training background.
However, in my opinion, the real learning takes place in the classroom of life--when dealing not only with colleagues, but also with family and friends--when you see what works and what doesn't.
We are all connected to one another--as children of G-d and neighbors in the global community, and the way we get along underpins our hard skill successes.
Soft skills should never be equated with being easy, "sissy," or unimportant--the investments you make in people are the most important investments you'll ever make.
(Source Photo: International Academy of Information and Technology)