Self-awareness is a blessing… especially when assessing your strengths and weaknesses and in what areas you need to improve. A candidate with the right technical skills, who lacks soft skills, may not survive and thrive in today’s workplace. As a result, we are seeing an increasing focus on honing soft skills for everyone in the organization, no matter their role or title.
Soft skills are characterized as personal qualities and attributes that can help you succeed in the workplace and beyond. They are non-technical and include how you creatively think, how you communicate, how you manage difficult or stressful situations, how you lead, how and if you listen with intent and the way you solve problems.
So what are the soft skills you really need to have?
Every workplace and career is different. For starters, research your industry and company, and figure out what is needed for you to grow and connect better with others. Take a look at the performance review criteria and see to which soft skills are valued, and to what degree they count. If there is a leader within your organization that inspires you, think about why. What soft skills and qualities do they have?
Here is a list of soft skills for today’s workplace, to get you thinking:
- Knowing how to communicate effectively: Each of us communicates on a daily basis, whether in person, on calls or in writing. The way you express your ideas can influence if and how they resonate with others. Do you communicate your ideas concisely? Are you able to persuade others to buy into an idea or project that you are pitching? Are the people in the room (or on the call) awake, by the time you are done speaking?
With written communication, draft what is it that you want to express, then leave it aside. Revisit it, read it out loud, see if it makes sense. If it is a complex document, ask for a fresh pair of eyes to review it.
- Being a team player: Collaborating effectively with others requires a team player mindset. In today’s world, working solo is no longer an option in the majority of companies and roles. Companies are shifting towards more collaborative models, as the diversity of backgrounds, ideas and skills has proven to have a beneficial impact on outcomes. Assess if you can build relationships easily in the workplace and if you have the ability to maintain these relationships. Do you need to be in the office to bridge relationships? Or can you foster strong connections remotely?
- Solving complex problems and critical thinking: Problem solving is an integral skill, allowing team members to efficiently address an issue and move on. This entails thinking out of the box, and adopting a solution-oriented mindset. It also requires being able to identify the root cause and seeing the bigger picture. In addition, critical thinking is key, to gather the needed information and process it, to achieve an intended result.
- Being flexible and agile: The world is continuously transforming, and company strategies need to adapt in parallel. More and more, leaders are expected to adopt a flexible and agile mindset, to adjust to local and global shifts, and remain innovative. This quality also allows for opportunities to be spotted.
- Emotional intelligence: What do emotions have to do with the workplace? Everything. The way emotions are understood and expressed by an individual can have a great impact on their careers. From being able to read the non-verbal cues of someone seated before you, to the ability to read a room and adapt your approach accordingly, how you navigate difficult conversations, to how you work with others under stress… having emotional intelligence is paramount in this day and age.
How should you start developing your soft skills?
Firstly, assess where you need to improve. Take a look at the different areas of your life and how you function in the workplace. What comes naturally do you? Where do you struggle? Where do you feel you need to exert more influence? Do you withhold from speaking up in team meetings? Also, ask friends and colleagues that you trust, on where they believe you can improve. Constructive feedback is always very useful.
Based on what you uncover, there are many tools and resources that can help you get started. There are numerous online courses you can enroll in (check out Coursera, Linkedin, or your company portals). There are also hundreds of books tailored to support you strengthen a certain skillset. In addition, check out articles, TED Talks and podcasts… there is no excuse to have weak soft skills.
And once you have found the resources that you need, put your soft skills to practice. Thy only way to develop them and grow, is to challenge yourself. Staying in your comfort zone is simply that – stuck in the same place. Growth requires discomfort, adaptability and practice.