Updated: Sep 10, 2020

In this Tweet, Vala Afshar suggests a list of skills that are hard to teach. Upon reading it I wondered if these are behaviours and attributes that can be taught.

I related Afshar’s list to my work as an educator, continuous learner, colleague, partner, friend and corporate professional. It struck me that many of these behaviours are somewhat subjective in nature. For example, ‘positivity’ for some may mean extroverted and upbeat, and to others, a no-nonsense pragmatism in service of ‘getting things done’. Regardless, the question is, can they be taught?

In my experience; yes they can. However, my belief is that imparting these attitudes and behaviours through modelling them is far more engaging than teaching them. What is good behaviour? It is a habit of considering others. For example, instead of trying to force-feed others your belief that punctuality is an attribute of respect and professionalism, never be late yourself, for anything. This example of good manners models an aspect of good behaviour that is valued. Equally, through copying those that inspire us, we become a model ourselves of their behaviour. I believe this is far more compelling than relying on a list of organisational values and hoping that all colleagues will ‘get it’ and ‘live them’.

Significantly, we only copy those who inspire us, and inspiration doesn’t exist without trust. As trust is earned and not assumed, I propose the concept of Model Versus Teach as the placeholder for facilitating the behaviour and attitudes (soft skills) that an organisation or individual values. At a recent Heavy Chef event Luvuyo Rani referred to soft skills as ‘power skills’. ‘Soft’ power facilitates impact and value, as opposed to disproportionate influence based upon hierarchy and bravado. I concur.


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