You may have been to college. You may have degrees and credentials. You may be the best qualified person in your field. But until you master soft skills, you will never be really on top of your game. In this article we are going to understand the simplicity and complexity of soft skills and why mastering soft skills will accelerate your career.
What are Soft Skills and How Do They Work?
Soft skills are never taught at school. They are hardly referred to in college. However, soft skills are fundamentally the most important needle mover in your career. Soft skills are almost never added to a resume, but as an employer, soft skills are by far the most important asset which I look for in my staff and colleagues.
Soft skills are really how you behave at work.
Here is a list of soft skills that will quickly give you a great idea of what I am talking about here:
• Time Management
• Being able to make a timely decision
• Resolving Conflict
Can Soft Skills Be Learnt?
Unlike hard skills – which are learnt at schools, soft skills are more attributed to the emotional aspect of our lives. These are not skills which are thought in the traditional classroom, but they are skills which are developed over time.
You cannot do tests and earn scores on them as they are hard to measure.
An Employer will probably not ask you directly if you have soft skills. However, a potential employer will be looking out for your body language and will present situations which will require you to react – and that is how soft skills are measured.
But realistically, yes – soft skills can be learnt. For example, can you learn empathy? Empathy is possibly one of the more important character traits that we over-look and which could resolve issues with soft skills.
In the process of Self-Education – you will most certainly find solutions on how to be creative about problem solving rather than complaining about a situation to your boss. That is a soft skill. You turn from being a burden – to making a difficult situation light-weight.
1. Communication – Is Not Just About Verbal Communication
Successful communication entails a lot more than the way you speak. Developing strong communication skills is really important not just for your professional life – but also for your private life.
Here are some communication skills that will really up your game.
• Talking straight and to the point. Given that mostly no one knows what is going on in your mind – the best way to build mutual trust is by talking straight and friendly. This is one way of earning trust.
• Active Listening. Active listening means that you are focusing on the problem of the other person, rather than forming an opinion of your own, or thinking of your smart reply to the problem. Active listeners are the ones who build strong and deep relationships. With careful listening, you will create an environment of safety because the person expressing his thoughts will feel that you are accepting his vision or understanding his problem.
• Non-Verbal Communication. So much is spoken by body language. And how about facial expressions? Have you thought of eye contact, muscle tension and even breathing? The way you look and react imparts signals of your reactions. Therefore, you need to be very mindful of your body language. Did you know that 93% of communication that happens in our life is non-verbal?
2. Adaptability is a Soft Skill that Employers Look for When Hiring
Unusual circumstances are more and more the norm. We have just lived through possibly one of the most complicated and unprecedented times in the workplace – with Covid-19 at the time of writing.
Therefore, having leaders, management and even junior staff who is ready to react to change in a positive manner – is now quintessential. If you have an ability to learn and are not discouraged by failure – you are on your way to acquiring one of the most important soft skills.
If for your failure is just a part of learning and are willing to take risks – you are on your way to develop and grow both personally and professionally.
People who adapt very rarely quit. The challenges are turned into excitement. If you are able to remain dedicated to your job, it means that you will push through even when the going gets tough.
And if you manage to stay positive and be a source of encouragement to other team members, you are definitely qualifying to honing in on your adaptability skills.
3. Soft skills are what will turn you from a follower into a Leader - Teamwork
If you are able to supervise and direct others – you will quickly move up the organizational ladder. If you can cultivate relationships, across all levels, encourage and discipline workers and more important build motivated teams – you definitely have the traits for good leadership.
Teamwork – even if you are not in an official team – is a key soft skill. Knowing how to join forces – even when you work better on your own is a skill to working in partnership and achieving common goals. This means that you are productive and not harnessing and guarding your skills to yourself.
4. Time Management – A Soft Skill that you Need for Every Aspect of your life
Jim Rohn, one of my mentors said this about time management:
“Don’t spend major time on minor things”
“Either you run the day – or – The Day runs you”
“Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time”
If you manage to master time management as a soft skill, you will start working smarter instead of harder. You will get a lot more done in much less time. Failing to manage your time properly will cause you stress and will damage how effective you are.
Time management is how you organize and plan your day. It allows you to prioritize, and reach deadlines.
5. What kind of Decision Maker are You?
• Type 1 – those who make a decision and move on.
• Type 2 – those who make a decision and revisit it several times – change their minds or their decision or regret.
• Type 3 – those who procrastinate and completely miss on the window of opportunity.
Can you attribute which type of decision maker you are?
Type 1 will probably get it right 80% of the time and will deal with the 20% like bumpy ride and brush it off.
Type 2 – is not such a bad place to be in – but will not merit you a badge of honour because you make life hard on yourself.
Type 3 – You can be certain to see your career going sideways and eventually get stuck in the same rut.
All decision types are normal of average human beings – but if you are looking at succeeding in both your work and your personal life – strive to fix your ability to make decisions in a timely manner.
6. Why is Motivation Important in The Workplace?
To be fair motivation is important in every aspect of life – but absolutely essential in the workplace.
To give you an idea of how important motivation is – you can measure the opposite of motivation – and that is lethargy. How do you feel about lethargic co-workers?
The level of commitment, drive and energy which you put to the workplace – make you valuable at any level. It is also critical to the organization’s success or the success of your own business.
It is true that some people are born self-motivated. But to be fair those are rare and in between. Motivation can be learnt. It is an important soft skill that needs to be developed.
It is the responsibility of team leaders and employers to stimulate motivation by giving acknowledgement, rewards and clear direction.
It is proven that employees who are easily stimulated and perform quickly, are those that are usually preferred by employers and managers. It is also true that a motivated employee will be the one who will quickly climb up the ranks.
7. Leadership and Conflict walk hand in hand – Effectively Resolving Problems
Whilst it is ideal to avoid conflict there is no question that you cannot escape it. Conflict in the workplace is a norm and therefore learning how to understand the nature of the problem and find a quick and effective resolution is a skill like no other.
Problems never go away. If a problem is not resolved – it will only feed on itself and grow. When conflict festers, productivity reduces, resentments grow and tensions become tangible.
Conflict is very emotional and needs to be dealt with empathy and more with good dozes of emotions. If you are a good team player and you are not the direct target of conflict, then you are in a position to resolve conflict. Conflict needs to be dealt with like taking a bull by the horns.
Left unattended conflict can poison relationships and kill growth. Resentments are one of the biggest keys that lead to resignations. It is not very different than dealing with arguments at home. It requires tact, empathy and great communication skills.
Soft Skills are Your Personality – They Will Attribute to Your Success on the Job and in Life
Here are the Takeaways
• Soft skills can be learnt but they are hardly ever taught at school
• Self-Education is the best place where to learn soft skills.
• Soft skills are developed with relationships and your work experience
• Be smart and now that you recognize that you probably have one or two soft skills include them in your resume if you are applying for a job.
• Mastering soft skills will accelerate your career.