Soft skills are extremely valuable in businesses; many recruiters are more inclined to hire candidates with required soft skills even if they don’t match all technical requisites. To value soft skills correctly, Arts and Humanities professor, Andy Wible, proposes calling them CAP skills—Critical, Artistic, and Personality skills.
Key soft skills for the corporate world include, but are not limited to, the ability to—work in a team, communicate well with peers, avoid or resolve conflicts, lead, be personable and empathetic, manage time, and be creative.
Here are 5 must-have soft skills and how to develop them:
1. Articulate, tactful, and persuasive communication.Communication is both speaking and listening, involves verbal and non-verbal cues, and can be spoken or written. And all these forms of communication play a vital role in successful business collaboration. Before you begin (or delegate) any task, it is important to understand what to do, know (and be able to explain to co-workers) how to do it, and ask for more information if you need. Without articulate, tactful, and persuasive communication skills, there is no guarantee of projects being completed successfully and in time. Leading a team means inspiring your people to bond with the company, each other, and above all, you. This requires impeccable communication skills along with the ability to stir positive emotions that drive teamwork and collaboration. Things to remember when communicating at work include being empathetic and friendly, open-minded, receptive of and attentive to others, cohesive and clear, confident, and respectful.
How to communicate articulately and tactfully to be persuasive:
- Practice listening more than speaking. When you speak, avoid sentences with a period. Ask questions instead and inquire into people’s ideas, opinions, needs, etc.
- Think about what you want the other person to know and understand as you plan what to say.
- Learn to read between the lines. Seek clarifications when you have any doubts—incomplete or incorrect information can cause disasters.
- Practice the art of storytelling. Just facts and stats cannot do what a well-crafted story can. You can inspire, motivate, create urgency, and calm people with a good story.
- Accept feedback positively, without being defensive. Then, pick feedback you want to address, work on it, and ignore the rest. Learn to give feedback constructively and positively, too.
- Practice your public speaking skills both on and off the stage. It’s okay to be anxious when talking to a large crowd. Take a deep-breath and relax. Acknowledging the problem prepares you to deal with it more effectively. Remember, you practiced it.
2. Quick and effective conflict resolution.High-calibre individual contributors often find it difficult to work together as a team. Many cling to their ideas and judgements, often causing conflicts that are hard and uncomfortable to deal with. Your average person tends to choose the fight, flight, or freeze method to deal with a conflict. Or they try to diffuse it. But not solve it. This might not be the best solution for you, your team, the project, or your company.
At work and in life, conflicts rarely erupt because of the problem at hand. Often, an experience or problem hidden deep in our conscience surfaces causing the conflict. Other times, we tend to justify our problems and end up dragging it out. Teams are formed on cordial relationships, which are easily hampered by conflicts. Ergo, conflict resolution is an essential soft skill to possess.
How to resolve conflicts and use them to unleash creativity and imagination:
- Stop treating conflicts as a comment on your personal self. Keep them professional.
- Identify the cause of your conflict. Where does it stem from?
- Identify the point you find yourself coming back to. This is the reason you can’t move ahead; you’re stuck because of this reason.
- Allow others to speak. When it’s your turn, be respectful and empathetic. Ask questions that will help you identify how the other person feels and needs. Let them give you the best solution to their problem.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Keep in mind, vulnerable doesn’t mean weak. It just means you’re willing to share how you really feel, who you are deep-down, your failures, etc. This helps you stop justifying your mistakes or problems and be open to connections.
- Accept that you can’t control everything. Letting go will help you deal with situations you have no control over.
- Set rules and boundaries for conversations. Agree to avoid certain words or expressions that tick you and other people off. Often, we lose track of the problem at hand and end up discussing irrelevant stuff. And this happens when something in the conversation triggers unpleasant feelings and memories.
- Lead with curiosity and an open mind, so you can learn and accept perspectives you didn’t know existed.
3. Using creativity to engage teams and deliver new ideas.Creativity is an essential skill, whether you’re an employee or a leader. Organisations depend on creative employees to grow their business and sustain that growth. Creativity means being able to create something. In business, this translates to being able to think analytically, be open-minded, follow a problem-solving approach, structure your thoughts and ideas, and communicate effectively. Thinking creatively helps you spend less time fussing about a problem, and you are quick to jump into a problem-solving mindset. This makes you more adaptable in tough situations.
How to be creative at work:
- Never jump into problem-solving mode. Spend time with the question. Dig deep to understand exactly what needs to change about a situation. Then give your mind a little time to work its magic. It’s difficult to be creative on demand, so feeding your subconscious the relevant information and waiting for creativity to strike is a great way to start.
- Build up a repository of inspiring ideas from or outside your field. Read books, highlight interesting paragraphs, and organise them in an easily accessible format. Building a swipe file might seem like a lot of work, but it’s easier and more effective than trying to remember what you read a decade ago.
- Always notice things outside your field of expertise. Even if they are boring or irrelevant, inspiration can come from the most unexpected of places.
- Work alongside your team, engaging in healthy dialogue and exchange of ideas. Brainstorming is one of the best ways to solicit varied ideas and opinions that would not come to you naturally.
- Accept your failures and learn from them. No great idea was conceived perfectly. Several failures, persistence, and hundreds of iterations are why the world has progressed from calculators to human-like robots.
- Accept that your idea might not be the best or at the final stage. This way you will strive to improve and allow yourself to be inspired.
- Continue conversations, even if they are uncomfortable or with people you don’t like. Think of these interactions as an opportunity to experience a hundred different lives and gain invaluable knowledge and perspectives.
- Sometimes creative ideas can come to you on demand. But often, they show up when you’re not looking for them. At this moment, set everything else aside and spend some time thinking about the idea. Muse over it before you lose it. And document it.
4. Effective collaboration and teamwork.Many modern teams and individual contributors alike struggle with the “us vs them” mindset, making it difficult to join forces. It creates a work environment ripe for misinformation, communication breakdowns, and one that is hostile to teamwork. Working in a team or setting up the right conditions for teamwork is important if you wish to propel your organisation towards success. Teamwork helps you grow, makes you happier, sparks creativity and inspiration, allows you to take risks, and often shares the load. Put simply, teamwork is an essential soft skill in any business. Employees who value the larger organisational goals more than their individual contributions are the ones recruiters and managers seek.
How to develop effective collaboration and teamwork skills:
- Cultivating a spirit of teamwork requires that managers lead by example. Create conditions that enable teamwork—be vocal about goals, objectives, and the direction you expect your team to follow.
- Recognise and reward team members who consistently share information, support co-workers, and forge good cross-functional relationships.
- Develop a shared mindset; even if your team works remotely. Collaboration apps like Slack, Trello, Flock, etc. help bridge the distance and ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Acknowledge and reward contributions employees make in achieving team goals. Make them feel valued and they will dedicate more time and energy to the team.
- To be a great team player, pick projects according to your strengths and not importance. This ensures best results from each task and the benefit is seen in the larger goal.
- Share constructive and positive feedback with team members that helps them achieve their respective individual goals. Be equally open to feedback from your team.
5. Interpersonal skills.How you treat people and how they feel around you depends largely on your interpersonal skills. These are a set of essential soft skills that ensure great conversations, strong professional relationships, and fewer conflicts. A high Interpersonal Quotient helps you negotiate better, read between the lines, and lead your team to success.
How to improve your interpersonal skills
- Interpersonal skills involve both verbal and non-verbal communication. Pay as much attention to how you say things as you do to what you say.
- Practice communication skills that help people understand your point. Avoid technical jargon and complex words. The trick is to keep it simple and easy to understand.
- Work on your facial expressions and body language. Practice a stance that makes you feel warm and welcoming.
- Think about other people’s problems before you jump to find a solution. By being empathetic, you build strong relations, people open up to you, and support you in your tasks.
- Take interest in what others are saying and feeling. Make them feel special. Remember to acknowledge the small things people do for you with a thank you or a smile.
- Be confident and assertive in your demeanour. People love a person who knows their value and isn’t afraid to show it.
Business Storytelling IndiaAnd there you have it! Make it a point to work on these 5 soft skills and see yourself growing exponentially in your career.