Soft Skills: your essential tool for leadership

One of the recent topics that I’ve been working on with the people I coach is around Soft Skills and improving their own soft skills. In the people that i’ve been working with, Soft Skills is one area which is often the weakest link in their Professional abilities.

What are soft skills?

Soft Skills are non technical skills related to perform the job you’re doing. These are all of the skills for how you manage and execute your day. Everything from Time Management, Conflict resolution/ negotiation, listening and Teamwork. Soft skills are rarely invested or taught as they tend to develop on their own through social interactions / your life but unfortunately in a business context, they become critical in your ability to manage your team and deliver. Soft skills can really make the difference between success and failure in the workplace as you may have all of the hard skills to be able to perform the role but if you cannot connect and manage others effectively, you will fail in the workplace.

Image copyright of Theresa Chiechi. The Balance

Are they really important?

One of the greatest Managers I ever had told me a very simple fact: your team performs as well as the leadership and support that you can give them. This meant: listening to them when I was being spoken to, actively collaborating, managing mine (and their) time and respecting their boundaries. I have seen very proficient Project Managers fail in their projects because they have not been able to work in a team environment and this is just one example of how you can be technically excellent but socially poor.

How can you improve your soft skills?

Improving soft skills is not the easiest thing to do but there are multiple opportunities for you to be able to improve those skills… and most of them are free!

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • The first thing that I would encourage you do is look in your own “personal toolbox” of skills and identify which ones are your strongest and weakest resources and elements for your success.
  • What’s available within your organisation?
    • Many organisations offer free virtual training for improving your soft skills. This can also include mentoring / shadowing of colleagues. If you are struggling with an aspect of a particular skill (e.g. teamwork/ time management) ask for support or ideas from peers for what has worked for them.
  • Look at your activities outside of work
    • Are you a volunteer? Do you coach your children’s sports team? What activities have you done in school/university where you work with others?
  • Search for opportunities to practice
    • This could be within your own team or outside of work but I’d suggest looking at the possibilities for you to improve and test out a particular skills. For example:
      • Talking to a friend/family member and trying out Active Listening and being engaged
      • Read books on soft skills
      • Brainstorm about different ways that you could work with friends or peers that know your job
      • Play with children to look at creative thinking/ different ways of doing things.

Conclusion:

Soft Skills are a really valuable way to improve your professional toolbox and grow as an individual and leader. If you can harness the ability to be able to perform, collaborate and engage with your team, it’ll help with all aspects of your ability to succeed at work.

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