5 ways soft skills can be learned
Soft skills cement personal relationships. They suggest character and attitude. Many people don’t understand that soft skills can be learned and they are innate . But they can.
Maya is a Strategy Manager in a heavy engineering company. She graduated top of her MBA class and has made stellar progress working her way through the ranks. She is now going through a hi-po assessment process within her company. The feedback is she needs to work on her soft skills. Now some of this could be gender blow back, as assertive and forceful women are viewed more harshly than their male counterparts. “But shouldn’t this be innate?” she asked. “Can I really learn all that stuff?” The answer is that yes, those skills that can accelerate a career or hold it back can indeed be learned.
Some people are blessed with people skills, but for those who are less naturally gifted, it’s still possible to improve and even excel with the right coaching. Soft skills can be learned and also enhanced.
Here are 5 ways soft skills can be learned
The most important element of responding to a need to improve on soft skills is to ask questions. Very often this phrase is used as a catch-all cop-out by weak managers. Ask questions to drill down to the nature of the specific problem and if possible for named instances. Maya learned that her co-workers found her “abrupt” and “wrapped up in herself” and “isolated.”
Once again women who don’t exhibit the level of soft social skills associated and expected from women, are viewed more harshly than their male colleagues. Never the less, Maya saw that the feedback was wide and specific enough, that she wanted to work on these issues. The perception was holding back her career progression.
The reality is despite what people think – soft skills can be learned.
Become an active listener
Listening is the top soft skill. The old saying is that we have two ears and one mouth exists for a reason. When we allow the other person to speak, it frees us up to observe, especially the non-verbal cues that might be important.
- Ask the first question – everyone loves to feel important.
- Paraphrase and dig deeper to learn more about what someone is telling you. This demonstrates interest and focus. It also helps you better understand the situation.
- Take short notes when appropriate. This shows that the subject matter is important to you. Make sure they are one word memory joggers and you don’t have your head down the whole time.
- Don’t interrupt. Respect the other person by letting them finish saying what they are saying.
- Pay attention to the other person’s body language. Observe their posture, tone of voice, eye contact (or lack thereof), gestures, and facial expressions.
Enhance your communication skills
Clear communication whether written, oral, or nonverbal communication is vital to master. An excellent starting point is by developing an awareness of what is going on around you and simply observing.
- Smile and make eye contact. This is a good way to create a strong first impression or develop an existing one. Focus on the individual and engage them in the conversation by asking questions about them.
- Develop an awareness of body language. Mirror the body language of the person you are talking to. Lean in and take a collaborative rather than authoritative stance, by standing or sitting next to them, not opposite.
- Gain confidence in speaking up – whether in meetings or conferences. If you are nervous invest in a coach.
- Improve written communication – develop a concise, accurate and business like style.
Strengthen your relationships
You maybe shy or introverted, but still it is vital that you have a strong support network and people know who you are. Make sure you develop your relationships with peers, bosses as well as co-workers in other locations.
- Invite colleagues for lunch and drinks, even those in other departments .
- Communicate constructively. If there are any conflict issues then shoot for a win/win with empathetic but assertive communication. If this is challenging – look for a coach.
- Stay away from gossip. It is toxic for you and the organisation and reflects well on no one.
- Network externally – become a resource for your sector or profession to develop a top reputation.
Leadership is simply influencing other people. As such, leadership skills can be used by any employee at any level in the organization.
- Volunteer to lead projects or work groups. Start small and always remember to run an inclusive meeting.
- Display a positive attitude in challenging situations. Remain calm in moments of crisis and poise under pressure .
Demonstrate leadership skills
Leadership is about presenting your best self in every situation. It is showing you are consistently reliable and people can trust you.
- Take initiative and propose ideas.
- Engage in departmental discussions
- Be consistent in terms of delivery of your own work.
If you want to improve the soft skills of your employees book a Lunch and Learn Online Coaching program