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January 26, 2015 -

Empathy: An Invaluable Asset for Startups

Excerpted with permission from Chris McDemus’ blog, VC Deal Lawyer

It’s interesting to me that so many blog posts, books and other media nowadays focus on the hard skills (e.g., selling, coding, etc.) required to build a company, or to otherwise scale a successful startup.  Most companies today have figured out how to hire for hard skills.  Hard skills are readily ascertainable, verifiable by former employers and can, in many cases, be tested as part of the hiring process.  At my firm, we typically require new potential hires to review and markup certain documents that a lawyer practicing in our space would typically encounter.  We are testing hard skills.  But I don’t think great hires end with great hard skills.  There’s really more at work in a successful startup than just great hard skills and if you want to have successful employees in your startup, then I truly believe you need to hire for more than just great hard skills.  You need to hire for soft skills as well.

I would argue that soft skills (e.g., ability to relate to people, to form connections, to understand body language, to know how to effectively communicate, etc.) are equally, if not more, important than hard skills.  This goes for both employees and leadership.  Collectively, soft skills coupled with hard skills make execution more likely.  And, let’s be honest, execution is the real genesis of success in startups.

I think one of the most under-rated soft skills is empathy.

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