Soft skills are personal attributes that allow us to effectively relate to others. Applying these skills helps us build stronger work relationships, work more productively, and maximize our career prospects. Often we place the focus of our career development efforts on hard skills – technology skills, knowledge, and other skills that specifically relate to our ability to get work-related tasks done. This means we neglect to develop our soft skills. However, soft skills are directly transferrable to any job, organization, or industry. As a result, they are an investment worth making.
What are some examples of soft skills?
One of the most important soft skills we can develop for better interpersonal interactions. Empathy is the ability to identify with another person’s experience. You can apply empathy in a variety of situations. Developing empathy allows us to imagine ourselves in another person’s shoes, to respond to others, and even to vicariously experience others’ feelings of emotions. When we demonstrate empathy, we create connections with others, which can help to build teamwork or otherwise create shared goals. Empathy also helps to forge stronger interpersonal connections between team members and colleagues, which is as important as shared goals or complementary skills when it comes to accomplishing work.
Professionalism is simply the ability to conduct yourself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence. Acting with professionalism also means seeking to communicate effectively with others and finding a way to be productive. Professionalism involves what may seem to be small acts, such as:
– Always reporting to work on time and returning promptly from breaks
– Dressing appropriately
– Being clean and neat
– Speaking clearly and politely to colleagues, customers, and clients
Communication is the most important soft skill, because all other soft skills are built on the ability to communicate clearly and professionally. Communication is more than just sending a message – it is also the ability to receive messages, listen actively, and “hear” what isn’t being said. Many times we focus on learning to speak or write clearly, but this is only one component of communication – and perhaps not even the most important!
Listening – The ability to receive messages is as important, if not more important, than the ability to send them. Listening is more than just hearing the words someone speaks. It is a total way of receiving verbal and nonverbal messages, processing them, and communicating that understanding back to the speaker.
Openness and honesty – Open, honest communication is the key to building workplace relationships and demonstrating professionalism. While you do not need to discuss personal or private topics in the workplace, being transparent and honest about work matters and generally being willing to communicate with others is vital.
Teamwork can help you accomplish what needs to be done in the most efficient and accurate manner. Teamwork is often challenging, especially when bringing together team members with diverse sets of hard and soft skills. There are some basic techniques you can use when building, or working with, a team to help create a cohesive unit that leverages everyone’s talents and ensures that each person contributes
Identifying capabilities – When you build or join a team, take the time at the outset to ask each member what he or she brings to the team. What skills, abilities, and relationships does each team member have that can enhance the project? What does each person feel he or she does well? How can the team use all these talents and capabilities to achieve the best outcome?
Get into your role – When you are given a role on a team, it’s important to get into it! Be sure you know what is expected of you, and what you can expect of others. Even if the role is a new one or a stretch for you, it is key to step into it. This also means stepping out of others’ roles, even if they are roles you have played before.
Learn the whole process – , it’s important not to get isolated in your own piece of the project. Learning the whole process not only ensures that you understand your own role and accountabilities, but helps you know what to expect of and from others. When you take the time to learn the whole process, it puts your work and your relationships with team members into a larger context.
The Power of Flow – We are most likely to achieve flow when we are engaged in a task to which our skills are well matched – another reason to identify the capabilities of each person on a team. Flow also comes about more easily when we have clear goals and can focus on the process rather than the end product. Perhaps the most important key to achieving flow is to minimize interruptions when you are working.
Problem Solving Skills
The problems you encounter are big or small, you solve problems every day. Learning how to apply problem-solving skills helps not only to enhance productivity, but also helps to cultivate relationships by focusing on shared goals and solutions.
Identify the problem – . Figuring out what the problem is exactly and clearly defining it means you can move forward with solutions that will actually solve it, rather than just resolve the symptoms or temporarily stop the chaos. Taking time to define the problem is especially important if emotions are running high or interactions are getting heated – it puts the focus back on shared goals and allows for everyone to be heard.
Generate Alternative Plans – Take the time to generate alternative solutions. Ask the others involved what ideas they have for solving the problem. Discuss the ways in which the alternative solutions might play out, problems they might encounter, and how any obstacles can be overcome. Apply active listening and clear communication throughout. When the group has generated many solutions, discuss which one(s) you would all like to move forward with.
Evaluate the Plans – Give all alternative solutions equally fair treatment. Ask the group to brainstorm potential benefits to each alternative solution or plan. Then work with the group to anticipate potential obstacles or problems with each plan. Based on these discussions, evaluate which plan or plans seem to offer the greatest benefit with the fewest drawbacks. Also consider whether the necessary resources – people, time, materials, funding – are available for each proposed plan. As the plans are evaluated, it will quickly become clear which are entirely unworkable. Narrow the list until the most workable plans are found.
Implementation and Re-evaluation – Once the most workable plan has been chosen, it’s time to implement it. It is important to communicate clearly about how the plan will be implemented, what each person’s role will be, and what the goals and expected outcomes are. The other soft skills you are developing – communication and teamwork – are vital here. People must feel as though they are part of the solution if you want them to buy in to it. Also provide a timeline for the plan, including the point at which the plan will be re-evaluated.
Re-evaluation of the plan is a step that often gets missed. Sometimes what appears to be the most workable plan on paper does not play out when put into action. It is important to take the time to re-evaluate the plan once it has been implemented so you can gauge how well it’s working. Depending on the results, you may need to make some changes to the plan, or implement a new plan altogether. Re-evaluation helps to determine whether the original problem has, in fact, been 0solved!
The River Street Consultant
Source: 10 Soft Skills You Need workshop