We form committees and devote a considerable amount of time to decide on the purchase of computers ...and then rush through selecting the people who will use those computers.
Guess which one is the more expensive decision.
We quickly correct the employee who mishandles a piece of machinery but postpone confronting patterns of rude or abusive behavior. The effects of the first behavior may be limited to an individual. The latter behavior can pull down the morale and effectiveness of the entire team.
Just as we've learned the difference between working harder and working smarter, we are often reminded of the need to emphasize and re-emphasize the importance of the so-called soft skills. Technical problems are quickly and relatively easily resolved. The problems sparked by soft skill deficiencies churn the stomach acid of many a manager and keep HR directors up at night.
Why do we neglect their importance? Perhaps because of a skewed sense of supply and demand. We know that certain technical skills are in short supply but everyone is presumed to be "people savvy." After all, we reason, unless the person crawled out of a cave, he or she has to have obtained extensive experience dealing with people.
We soon learn the fallacy of that conclusion. Just as there are people who are lonely in crowds, there are those who can swim through masses of contacts without expanding their knowledge. They don't have ten years of experience but instead have simply absorbed one year of experience over and over again.
They won't change until we make them.