In organizations, entrepreneurial ventures, career, and leadership journeys, we sometimes overlook the soft essentials needed to balance key technical capacities. The process of blending knowledge is the key to creating balance and generating the required impact in any field of life, work and love. Soft skill assets are of as great importance as hard/technical skills. Soft skills have the power to grow our careers in the same way hard skills and talent can.
A soft skill is a personal attribute that supports situational awareness and enhances an individual’s ability to get a job done. The term soft skills is often used as a synonym for people skills or emotional intelligence. Unlike hard skills, which describe a person’s technical ability to perform a specifically defined task, soft skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries. It’s often said that while hard skills might get someone an interview, soft skills will help that person get (and keep) the job. (Mary K. Prat)
Hard skills are that which require technical expertise and may be taught through books and other learning materials such as typing speed and proficiency in a language. Soft skills, often known as people skills on the other hand are skills that require constant and conscious nurturing to enable one to interact with people. A few examples are team management, the art of persuasion and negotiation, building morale and teamwork; just to mention a few.
Bruce Tulgan was not mistaken in his article, ‘Defining the Power of Soft Skills’ when he said, “Soft skills are the source of a huge amount of power that is always right there hiding in plain sight—a tremendous reservoir of often untapped value—a secret weapon for any smart organization, team, leader, or individual performer”.
For any Executive to lead and succeed, he or she must serve as an example. Professionalism is one of the key basics for any leader and employee in this modern cooperate world. The ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions and to understand and influence that of others is the popular term, Emotional Intelligence created by two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. What stands out in one’s ability to be professional is the skill to self-evaluate; regularly assessing one’s own thoughts, words, and actions against clear meaningful standards; and one’s own performance against specific goals, timelines, guidelines, and parameters.
Another soft skill pertinent to the birth and growth of any individual in the working class is the art of Listening. An article by Katherine Noel of the Business Insider explained that the best communicators are not those only skilled in articulating their thoughts, they are also great listeners. Successful leaders should make time to listen to the ideas and thoughts of others. Listening involves giving the speaker undivided attention, taking notes of important points, and being welcoming to their ideas.
As an executive, decision making is a necessity you must have. People respond to change in many ways. In professional settings, employees will often look to their leaders during times of change for reassurance, guidance, and a sense of stability. No matter the choice you make, there is a consequence to it. However, it is vital to have the eye to identifying and consider multiple options, assess the pros and cons of each, and choose the course of action closest to the desired outcome. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change – Charles Darwin”.
Different research studies have shown that the best performing corporates, individuals, and groups are the ones who have been able to combine the hard and soft skills effectively. It is key that as individuals who want to grow our careers, entrepreneurs who want to grow ourselves, and our businesses and organizational leaders that want to make an impact and leave a legacy of greatness; we must start investing in and developing our “soft skills”.
From creating a culture of mentorship to providing multiple opportunities for practicing and organizing dedicated workshops, there are several methods an organization could employ to help its members develop new soft skills and reskill.
Here are 4 well-researched keys to turn this initiative into action:
- Foster Accurate Self-Awareness
Employees must recognize the perception of their traits and attributes. Without self-awareness, they might make jokes that other employees find offensive. They might hold themselves to a higher standard and get angry when others don’t meet their expectations, creating a toxic atmosphere. Studies have shown that it’s unclear whether people generally perceive their skills accurately or inaccurately and only have moderate insight into their abilities. Other studies show that teams lacking self-awareness are less successful.
Less-aware individuals negatively impacted their teams by consistently making poor decisions, lacking team coordination, and engaging in conflict. Soft skill training must include self-reflection and exercise to foster self-awareness. More importantly, tools should be linked to performance. If you can capture and deliver results that predict something of value, employees are more likely to take it seriously.
It’s crucial to communicate the value of learning and developing self-awareness. Why is the feedback relevant? How can the employee use the data to improve? This goes back to the knowing-doing assessment.
2. Make Soft Skills Tangible
Even though studies prove that soft skills are what really differentiate high performers from the rest of the pack, these “talents” have been historically devalued as intangible. Today, we can put numbers on everything, from inclusion to compassion, so investing in the right 360 assessment arms your people with the insights and metrics they need to self-benchmark what real development looks like. – Leeno Karumanchery, PhD, MESH/Diversity. Using the insights from their assessments, tailor made training programs can be designed. Diane Strohfus recommends that to build the muscle of new skills, people need practice time to build that muscle. Continuous feedback, while practicing, allows an employee to course-correct. The answer can be as simple as offering online development courses that help foster soft skills — for example, training that helps managers increase their EQ. But live, interactive workshops are the most compelling and impactful method. Simulate real-world leadership scenarios, observe employee reactions and give a postmortem with actionable feedback. – Kristina Johnson, Okta
3. Culturally Align Soft Skill Development
Taking a step back to understand which soft skills are valued at the organization and how they should be approached culturally is key. Starting by defining which soft skills are appreciated and making it clear how they support the organization’s strategy and address skills gaps aligns both employees and managers alike in the “why” of their development. – Keri Higgins Bigelow, LivingHR, Inc. To support a culture that aligns with soft skill development, organisations can also create a culture of mentorship. This does not mean developing formal one-on-one mentorship programs, however. It’s about instilling it into your culture, so that everyone has a mentorship mindset in helping each other grow. Create an environment and allow tools to help people share their expertise with others. – Lotus Buckner, NCH
Soft skills will always be an important requirement to perform excellently in the workplace. Here is a summary of 3 keys to remember when it comes to image, leadership and high-performance. These soft skills will help you excel.
- When it comes to Image; we require Appearance Behavior and Communication.
- When it comes to Life Leadership; we require Clarity Confidence and Communication
- When it comes to High Performance; we require Energy Courage Influence and Productivity.
Each level, role and path require an aligned skill. It’s time we take action to blend our technical skills with our soft skills to create the perfect blend for Power and Influence!
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