I had a very informative “informational interview” with an IU Kelley Alum, now a senior exec for a Big 3 (McK, Bain, BCG) firm. I asked him if he could name the single biggest business skill that has helped him reach where he is in a very short period, a skill that any aspiring leader (i.e. myself and most MBA students) needs to practice and master.
He said,”You have to be lucky, and know that you have been lucky”, followed by,”Relationships: building and maintaining relationships with your clients and customers.” As an example he said that when he started out at this company as an entry-level consultant, he worked on projects with Sr. Managers and Directors. Now the same folks on the client side are Sr. VP and C-Level executives. The ability to establish and flourish strong professional relationships facilitated his firm’s growth and his career growth.
Another IU Kelley Alum I had the privilege to speak with over the past summer, said something on the same lines. He became President of a $2B+ division at 40 or 41. According to him, he found people who trusted him and took a calculated risk of putting more and more responsibility on his shoulders. That was one of his ingredients for career growth.
Hard skills are important, and arguably a pre-requisite for career success, but as one very senior corporate executive, when asked to breakdown importance of soft and hard skills in corporate success, said the ratio is 85:15 for soft skills vs. hard skills, skills that contribute to you taking the next step and differentiating yourself among your very competent peers.
Which one or two skills do you think a business leader cannot do without?