Blog post

Welcome and let’s get durable.

By Ed Gabrys | February 04, 2020 | 7 Comments

You and I may not know each other – yet. My name is Ed and I’m an analyst at Gartner. My research is focused on areas that you may call, “soft skills.” Politics, storytelling, persuasion, and others related to interpersonal skills. On this blog, I will be sharing tips, tricks, insights and thoughts, that fall outside of Gartner’s published research. This is an opportunity for you and me to hear from each other in a less formal way. So go ahead and share your thoughts. What tips and tricks, and lessons have you learned? What stories do you tell? What questions do you have?

As we begin, here’s something I believe needs our consideration. It’s the term, “soft skills.” After all, what makes some skills hard and some soft? Is a soft skill something that is squishy and malleable? I recently saw  “hard skills,” defined as specific knowledge and abilities required for success in a job. Have I missed something? Aren’t storytelling, politics, and persuasion considered knowledge and abilities? Aren’t they required for success in a job? A recent LinkedIn poll, listed persuasion, collaboration, and emotional intelligence as some of the top skills that organizations value most. Just like “hard skills,” they can be defined. They can be learned. And they can be improved with practice. It appears that soft skills aren’t so soft after all.

I want to suggest a new term – durable skills. It is a term that has begun to appear in articles, blogs, and journals. Here’s why it is better. Hard skills such as web design, accounting, and programming, are not relevant for the majority of positions in any given organization. They have specific and limited uses. I know that may offend a few computer science or finance majors, but you must admit,  not everyone should be coding or doing math. But, everyone could benefit from knowing how to communicate better. Everyone should have to know how to get along with their teams and collaborate better. Furthermore, in the case of web design and programming, those skills must be renewed regularly. Whereas skills like persuasion and storytelling are always relevant, never go out of style, and are increasingly more likely to get you your next job. Not so squishy after all.

I look forward to continuing our conversation about durable-skills and that which it inspires.

Let’s begin.



The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Elisabeth Lim says:

    Having gone through “fire” managing people for 3 years through a lot of trial and errors, I must say the key skill is communication. With Communication, I mean ability to listen and convey the right message. Honesty is a virtue, but it backfired when it is not communicated well.

    Being passionate and always feel strongly about things, create impulsiveness. Coupled with lack of communication skills (to convey the honesty at the right time), My many good intentions (with frustrations) backfired.

    If I could turn back the time, I wish I could have a coach/mentor who would guide me in communicating better. Which again means:1. Listen better, 2. convey better.

    Linking back to your point … convey better, means being able to tell the story right.

    I hope I am making sense.. pardon my still lack of good communication skills!


    PS: How I wish I could attend Symposium again!

    • Ed Gabrys says:

      Hi Elisabeth. Great to hear from you and I appreciate your feedback.

      It’s interesting that you bring up honesty as a virtue, but one that can backfire. There is an idea that honesty must be balanced with warmth. It’s the proverbial, “do these trousers make me look fat,” question. If they do make me look fat, and you say they do, your honesty may not be appreciated even if it was solicited.

      The rule of thumb is if honesty helps people to improve without making them feel defeated, go with honesty. If they will feel defeated, go with warmth.

      As for communications – I couldn’t agree more and great insight. The missing link in great communication is great listening.

  • Hello Ed, Love the blog idea 🙂

    Here is a skill I’d like to get better at.

    During a conversation the ability to use things that are happening in the present moment to illustrate what I am talking about – does this make sense? I guess it’s like improvising, story telling on the spot using the current moment / conversation.

    I met someone that was excellent at this and asked how she did it and a key thing was relaxing, not thinking too much and being very present.

    • Ed Gabrys says:

      Thanks, Cheryl.

      That sounds like a skill I’d like to get better at too.

      Doesn’t that start with good listening? There is a good book by Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference. He was an FBI negotiator and one of the listening techniques he talks about is “mirroring” and “labeling.” It’s a way to get others talking, while you listen. For mirroring, you simply respond by repeating the last few words that they spoke.

      “The last few words?”

      Yes, just like that.

      The one I have found really useful is labeling. The idea is that you label emotions when you hear them. Of course, you wouldn’t say, “You sound upset at me?” You would say something like, “That sounds difficult.”

      I don’t think that is the same thing you were talking about, and I would love to hear what anybody else may have to say about that. Any improvisers out there listening?

      I do have a few friends in the improv business that should expect a call from me. This is a very interesting idea.

      • Good book, I am still practicing my “late night FM DJ voice” when trying to make a point.

        Yes, I believe it starts with good listening and also having general observation skills.

        I’ll give you an example of when I demonstrated the skill I’m talking about. I was leading a session on seeing things from other people’s perspective and rather than using one of my usual stories from the past I used something relevant that i had observed that had happened moments before that the team had also witnessed. It’ll most likely be a more memorable story to them as they were a part of it.

        I look forward to the feedback from your improvisers 🙂

        • Ed Gabrys says:

          Ah yes. I almost forgot about the “late-night FM DJ voice.” I haven’t tried that one yet. It seems like it has many applications.

          That’s a great idea, to use a story from within “the moment.” I can see how people would feel more connected. Great technique.

          If you would like a book on improvisation, you can bypass the business book interpretations and go straight to the source. Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live fame is a co-founder of an NYC based improv group called, The Upright Citizen’s Brigade. They have a book that draws from a lot of their classwork. Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual. You may find some good tips in there.

  • چارتر says:

    “The last few words?”

    Yes, just like that.

    The one I have found really useful is labeling. The idea is that you label emotions when you hear them. Of course, you wouldn’t say, “You sound upset at me?” You would say something like, “That sounds difficult.”