A Year Like No Other


Assessing the leadership and soft skills vital for business recovery

By Ingrid Sparrow, PT

Most years, when the Halloween candy hits the grocery shelves I know it is time to update the end-of-the-year meeting agenda, start crunching the numbers, and begin to think about the months to come.

But this year? This year? It was not possible to anticipate or plan for the current pandemic, leaving us to simply react to the realities of the final three quarters of 2020. So how do we assess our performance?

It is crucial that we do our usual end of the year financial analysis, but business experts are stressing that to succeed in the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 environment, empathetic leadership and nimble business organization, as well as the soft skills of you and your staff, may be even more important to your future success.1,2


What are hard and soft skills? Hard skills are “technical knowledge or training … often gained through education or specific training.”3 Hard skills generally relate to a specified task or function and are thus measured by success or failure of these functions. Soft skills “are more often seen as personality traits … (which) are called upon when you manage your time, communicate with other people or confront a difficult situation for the first time.”3,4

In a series of articles by McKinsey and Company titled “Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges,”5 the four qualities critical for business leaders in a time of crisis and recovery are identified as: awareness, vulnerability, empathy, and compassion.1 When under stress, leaders often prioritize meetings and operational issues. But what is vitally needed is the cultivation of these four qualities to support those around them who are reacting to a sense of lost security and normalcy. These losses can trigger grief as well as shock, anger and depression, emotions which impede the creatively and flexibility needed to respond to our current changing environment. As the leader, step back and assess the time you spend on these skills as well as your comfort level with each one, and as helpful, add these to your Vision 2021.


1Chen Nielsen N, D’Auria G, Zolley S. Tuning in, turning outward: Cultivating compassionate leadership in a crisis. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/tuning-in-turning-outward-cultivating-compassionate-leadership-in-a-crisis. Published May 1, 2020.

2Hazenbush M. Companies Need Managers with Soft Skills Now More than Ever. MBA.com. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.mba.com/articles-and-announcements/articles/attending-business-school/rise-in-demand-for-soft-skills/amp. Published June 2, 2020.

3Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills. Indeed.com. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/hard-skills-vs-soft-skills. Published July 30, 2020.

4York J. Hard times demand soft skills. https://www.welcometothejungle.com/en/articles/soft-skills-during-covid. Published June 15, 2020.

5D’Auria G, De Smet A. Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/leadership-in-a-crisis-responding-to-the-coronavirus-outbreak-and-future-challenges. Published March 16, 2020.

Ingrid Sparrow, PT

Ingrid Sparrow, PT, is co-owner of Sound Pt in Seattle, Washington. Her clinic celebrated its 18th anniversary with champagne and chocolate in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic!

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