How the soft stuff enables the hard stuff

The work I’ve spent 25 doing often, quite dismissively, gets called ‘the soft stuff’. It’s as bad as being called ‘a motivational speaker’ which is another one I get a fair bit!

It’s understandable because my work is about behaviours, feelings, habits and growth, which certainly is softer than spreadsheets, project plans and income statements. But, ultimately, this point of view sells the ‘soft stuff’ short. It’s a mistake to be caught in this mindset because once AI starts to do its thing, the soft stuff is what we humans will rely on as we find our relevance in this new world of fast-moving tech.

The key to appreciating the impact and value of the soft stuff is understanding the relationship between the hard stuff and the soft stuff. Form a coherent understanding of this relationship and you’ll put yourself in a great position to get the best out of your business.

The hard stuff is just that: hard. It’s crucial to business performance but doesn’t make the heart sing. It’s procedural and process-driven, full of detail and is held to a high bar of accuracy. Taken as a whole, this is not very compelling to human beings who, fundamentally, value connection, community, inspiration, joy and purpose. 

So if you want the hard stuff to be done well, then the tone and form of the hard stuff needs to be integrated with the soft stuff. Absent of the soft stuff, it becomes a route mark of sameness that will gradually lose its efficacy as the novelty of doing the task wears thin. 

This belief is the underpinning of the work we do at Lockstep: integrating performance with humanity. We think this is the central skill that modern business leaders need to build. Every action of a leader falls under the spell of this belief, which will continue to accelerate over the coming years.

Take ‘Relevance’ as an example (which is one of the 7 Performance Lenses that sit at the core of our product The Performance Delta). Relevance refers to how in sync a business is with society and it matters to the modern worker. Relevance is like a business superpower in that it energises, permanently, every action every one of your people is responsible for, regardless of the ‘hardness’ of the task. Relevance generates generosity, hard work, care and hope amongst people, the upside benefits of which are clear and obvious. 

And that’s the hard/soft relationship playing out. 

This belief that I articulate in these words is really important. Crucial. So I hope that this missive provides some food for thought and contemplation. 

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