Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham, co-hosts of the Serious Soft Skills Podcast, have written the first book that explores all 55 soft skills.

Drawn from academic research and their business experience, this book provides employees and organizations with the first comprehensive list of the 55 soft skills that guide them toward growth and innovation.

The book, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, is an outgrowth of the authors’ extensive research into soft skills, those hard-to-teach skills that are better developed through experience and mentoring. Soft skills are developed through interacting with other people and include written and oral communication, emotional/social intelligence, good listening, being able to delegate effectively, leading change and teamwork.

The authors developed the list of 55 soft skills after reviewing hundreds of articles in academic journals.

Each soft skills is the focus of a chapter in the book.

Kindle eBook version

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Non-Kindle eBook version

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An Excerpt from The Introduction

If you don’t know what soft skills are, you aren’t alone. People ask us that question all the time.

Let’s start there. Soft skills are not technical skills the aptitude, knowledge and expertise that enable you to perform work. Colleges and universities, and even high schools, focus most of their attention on teaching technical skills, which can easily be assessed. Think about things like an algebraic formula, the rules for using commas, preparing a financial statement or tax form. The steps are clear; the outcome is clear.

Soft skills are different. They are somewhat nebulous. The situations in which they are applied greatly influence how they are used and which ones to use. What works in one situation probably won’t work in the next situation. Think of the skills you need to use to be an effective team member or colleague, skills like listening, empathy, being persuasive, being a leader and leading change in an organization, to name a few. How to lead a team on a project changes from project to project. With one group, you have to offer constant reminders; with another, it might be constant feedback or praise. And you wont know until you get into the situation and try things.

Surprise, Surprise

Over the last two years, we have uncovered a list of  55 soft skills. Yes, the number surprised us, too. We even find it difficult, even as the creators of the comprehensive list of soft skills, to remember them all.

We fell into our study of soft skills after noticing and talking frequently about how the effective use of these skills helped us. (Okay, in some cases, we would discuss how weaknesses in some soft skills hurt us.) We started to study them more closely, watching for them in our lives and the people around us. In 2016, we set out to uncover a complete list of soft skills. We expected to find 10 or 15. But we identified 55 of them from scouring research dating back to the 1970s. We originally had closer to 75, but some researchers used different words to say the same thing. For instance, we agreed that managing people and being a good manager are the same thing.

To say we were gobsmacked by our discovery would be to put it mildly.

Don’t Be Scared

This book is our way of sharing that comprehensive list and how each might appear in the workplace. If you are like we are, you will like knowing the full spectrum of soft skills.

Don’t let this list scare you off. Soft skills when blended with technical skills are the key to success for employees and organizations. That blending is what employers crave because it provides the impetus for true innovation and collaboration.

Dig into the List

Unfortunately, not a lot of options exist to help your understanding and development of your soft skills or those of your team. We are building an array of tools as we write this introduction. Keep visiting our website and podcasts to learn more.

But whatever you do, don’t walk away from soft skills. Employees and organizations that fail to see the growing value of soft skills and their blending with technical skills to achieve greater results are putting themselves at a huge disadvantage. Don’t fall into that trap. We have now warned you.

The Bones and a Bit of Meat

This book is not intended to be a feast of soft skills. Rather, this book is designed to whet your appetite and open your eyes to the breadth of soft skills. The following pages offer our list of 55 different soft skills, along with a bit of context so you can appreciate how and why they made our list of 55.

If we have done our job well, then you should walk away from this book with a deeper understanding and appreciation of how soft skills fit into your career and the success of organizations.

As we say at the end of each of our Serious Soft Skills podcasts, good soft skills!

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Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham, co-hosts of the Serious Soft Skills Podcast, have written the first book that explores all 55 soft skills. Drawn from academic research and their business experience, this book provides employees and organizations with the first comprehensive list of the 55 soft skills that guide them toward growth and innovation.

The book lists all 55 soft skills, developed from research spanning more than 40 years. In separate chapters, the book gives workplace examples of each soft skill’s application in workplaces.

The book offers employees and leaders of organizations with a springboard for greater career success, organizational growth and innovation.


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Self-Reflection Tip Sheet

Please click on any of the links below to access important resources that can help you better understand and develop your soft skills or those of your team. Serious Soft Skills Self-Reflection Tipsheet This tipsheet provides 10 important tips to help you start your journey to effective self-reflection. (If you are looking for more details on self-reflection, check out the Serious Soft Skills Podcast Episode 14.)

Just give us your name and email address to the form below, and we will send the link to your email. (We will never sell or share your information, or send you spam. Promise!)

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Serious Soft Skills offers a variety of resources for people interested in learning how they can use soft skills to improve their careers and their organizations. Our research and experience with soft skills ensures that our resources provide actionable information and updates that you can use to propel your career growth and/or your organization’s growth and innovation.

You can obtain a copy of our first soft skills book, The 55 Soft Skills That Guide Employee and Organizational Success.


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Click on any of the links below to watch our Serious Soft Skills podcast videos or our other videos, all designed to help you better understand the important role soft skills can play in your work and your workplace.


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Get Insights

We want to help you stay on top of the world of soft skills. Our Insights Newsletter keeps you informed of our latest blog posts, podcasts, special offers and other important information that will help you and your organization benefit from soft skills. Best of all, it’s free.

Just complete the following form to join our Insights list. (Your privacy means the world to us. We will never share or sell your email address.)

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Latest Soft Skills Insights

What Are Soft Skills Anyway?

Soft skills encompass all of the skills we use beyond technical skills, which are best described as the aptitudes, competencies and skills necessary to perform a job. Technical skills can be taught and tested. By contrast, soft skills are best developed through experience.

The list of soft skills in academic literature numbers more than 50; some of the big ones are communication, listening, problem-solving, time management, self-reflection, teamwork, leadership and life-long learning.

The fast-paced and varied workplace of today, spurred by increased reliance on technology and globalization, make these soft skills of increasing interest to employers, who say time and again that workers are deficient in their soft skills development. The effective integration and cultivation of soft skills — no easy task — could make the difference in your organization between failure and success. They are that important.

Yet many people overlook them or dismiss them since they are not as easy to identify or teach. Do you fall in that group? If so, our work may be of vital importance to you now and for the coming years. Get Our Insights! Don’t you think you should at least join our Insights list now?

Why Serious Soft Skills?

Soft skills are making a difference in countless organizations, yet the attention being paid to them by organizations and their workers is minimal.

Just calling them soft skills seems to suggest that they are less important than technical skills. But soft skills like communication, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving are helping organizations in all sectors find new ways to perform well.

Looking for an example. How about T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, two companies outperforming big boys like Nordstrom and J.C. Penney because they are relying on employees’ instincts rather than big data to choose what they will sell?

Here’s how it is working. When retailers of all sizes are struggling, the corporate parent of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, TJI Cos., has reported an increase in same-store sales for 33 consecutive quarters (that’s more than eight years). TJI Cos. annual sales beat Nordstrom and J.C. Penney combined.  The magic: The roughly 1,000 buyers for these companies are trained on what a good value would be, then allowed to practice — under the watchful eye of a mentor — for three years, according to a Wall Street Journal article. During that time they are taught what has sold in the past, the latest trends and other important factors in making good buying decisions so when they are on their own, they can draw on all that knowledge to properly interpret the current situation. The buyers then have the soft skills make on-the-spot decisions about what their customers will want to buy. The reliance on instinct allows the companies to move faster to get merchandise on its racks where customers can buy it.

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Technical Skills Aren’t Enough

A successful organization looks different today than it did 20 or 30 years ago. Organizations need workers who have mastered the technical skills (the aptitudes, competencies and skills necessary oto perform work tasks). But they also need workers who have strong soft skills, those hard-to-teach skills that help you overcome the increasingly complex set of challenges. Innovation, lightning-fast communication and globalization are but a few of the challenges must of us face at work each day.

Getting Serious About Soft Skills

Serious Soft Skills, as the name implies, is dedicated to improving people’s understanding of the role of these soft skills, how they can be enhanced and what you can achieve with them.

We have been studying these matters in workplaces and in academia, and we have published and presented academic journal papers addressing some aspects of this topics. We continue to publish and present, seeking to better understand these areas and to present that information in ways that people can relate and react favorably. Look for additional research on soft skills, including a book in late 2017.

You also can access our podcasts and our video podcasts.

Take a look and tell us what you think. If you want our insights, please join our Updates list.

Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham

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