HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strengthening Your Soft Skills: A Book Review by Bob Morris

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strengthening Your Soft Skills
Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (April 2024)

“People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” Theodore Roosevelt

This volume is among the best sources for timeless wisdom and cutting-edge thinking on how to identify your social and emotional strengths and weaknesses, approach them with a learning mindset, and become a more effective leader. Here specifically is what you need to accelerate both your personal growth and professional development.

If you were to purchase the 13 articles in this volume as separate reprints, the total cost would be about $160. Amazon now sells a paperbound edition for only $22. That’s not a bargain; that’s a steal.

Experts on each subject explain HOW TO

o Focus on the C-suite skills that matter most (Raffaella Sadun, Joseph Fuller, Stephen Hansen, and PJ Neal)
o Become a leader with much sharper focus (Daniel Goleman)
o Make empathy central to your company’s workplace culture (Jamil Zaki)
o Learn what you need to learn, unlearn, and relearn without bias (Erika Andersen)
o Get the help you need from those best qualified to provide it (Heidi Grant)
o Sell your ideas up the chain of command (Ethan Burris)
o Manage situations when diversity meets feedback (Erin Meyer)

o Develop stronger relationships by changing the way you listen (Manbir Kaur)
o Respond effectively when diversity meets feedback (Amy Gallo)
o Master the skills needed for coaching for changer (Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith, and Ellen Van Oosten)
o Understand and apply the scientific principles of strong business writing  (Bill Birchard)
o Develop many “leadership voices” for a diversity of challenges (Amy Jen Su)
o Build an ethical career (Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac A. Smith)

In or near the central business district in most major cities, there is a farmer’s market at which some of the merchants offer — at least until COVID — slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that same spirit I now provide brief excerpts from three articles:

“Our study revealed a variety of insights. Chief among them is this: Over the past two decades, companies have significantly redefined the roles of C-suite executives. The traditional capabilities mentioned earlier — notably the management of financial and operational resources — remain highly relevant. But when companies today search for top leaders, especially new CEOs,   they attribute less importance to those capabilities than they used to and instead prioritize one quality above all others: strong social skills.” (Raffaella Sadun, Joseph Fuller, Stephen Hansen, and PJ Neal, Pages 2-3)

When reluctant to ask for help: “Three reinforcements can be incorporated in requests for help:

o In-group: Assure the potential helper that you are on the same team and that the team is important.

o Positive identity: Create or enhance people’s recognition that they are uniquely placed to provide the assistance and                     that they routinely come to others’ aid.

o Effectiveness: Be clear about what you need and about what impact the help will have.” (Heidi Grant, Page 45)

“Discovering and developing your voice as a leader is the work of a lifetime. The key is to stay open to an increasingly wide array of new situations and people. Use each situation as an opportunity to access more parts of your voice, rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach. Bring your voices of character, context, clarity, curiosity, and connection as the moment or situation warrants. Through this kind of learning and growth, not only will you increase your inner confidence and resilience, but you will also inspire the confidence of others around you in a more authentic way.” (Amy Jen Su, Page 117)

If you need to strengthen your soft skills, this book is a must-read.

* * *

Here are two suggestions while reading HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strengthening Your Soft Skills: First, highlight key passages. Also, perhaps in a lined notebook kept near-at- hand, record your comments, questions, action steps (preferably with deadlines), page references, and lessons you have learned as well as your responses to key points posed within the narrative. Also record your responses to specific or major issues or questions addressed, especially at the conclusion of chapters.

These two simple tactics — highlighting and documenting — will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent reviews of key material later.


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