In the previous article, we have noted the basics of soft skills and why are they important. Hope it give you an idea of what soft skills are, why you need them to have a successful and amicable career, and anyone can learn soft skills.
In brief, soft skills are your personal capabilities that determine how well you work in a team, problem solving, conflict resolution, communication and all of other things that make you different from every, other expert in your field. Much of the time, these soft skills have to be seen “in action” and can be difficult to objectively measure.
While your hard/technical expertise is very crucial, they are comparatively easier to teach and learn. The more you use your technical skills, the better you get at it. But soft skills are much harder to teach. They can’t be learned just by studying them. They have to be learned through a process of change that can be difficult and uncomfortable at times, but it can have dramatic effects on your company’s bottom line. These can be a deciding factor in making and breaking your dream job. In this post, we’ll outline some ways that you can improve your soft skills.
- Decide which soft skills you need to develop. There is a famous Chinese saying, “you cannot eat a whole cow in a bite”. Keeping with the same concept, you cannot hope to develop all soft skills in one step. So, prioritize.
- Find out skills that are elementary for your success.
- Create a list you need to develop first, second, third and so on.
- Willingness to Change. It might seem inconsequential but it is an important prerequisite. You cannot force people to become self-aware; they must be willing to begin the process of change themselves. If this basic building block is not present, there isn’t much that can be learned through this process. If this is the case in your workspace, there are many good resources available for creating “readiness for change”. Improving soft skills is all about changing one’s perception and approaches.
- Educate. While learning soft skills is beyond “book learning’, there still must be an aspect of education on best practices. Some recommended books are Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There for the basics.
- Self-reflect. You need to learn more about yourself – your strengths, faults, tendencies and such. Then, reflect on what you have learned. Are you humble enough to realize you aren’t perfect? Are you willing to put in the effort to grow even though times may be difficult and uncomfortable? Can you understand your natural tendencies and see how you interact with others?
- Accept & Learn from ALL Criticisms. This can be challenging for some, as it can be difficult to accept criticism. You need to keep in mind that the person giving you their feedback has the best intentions and will help you grow. Listen Carefully. Hold off on sharing your initial thoughts until you had time to reflect. Be optimistic and always keep a positive attitude and try your best to motivate people around you. Remember, nobody wants to befriend or work with a “Debbie Downer”.
- Goal Setting. Have a clear vision for the future. Choose three to five realistic and tangible goals to work toward. These goals should be developed from the information learned through the process (especially from feedbacks), and then should be shared with the supervisors, direct reports or peers so observers are able to notice the changes and hold the employee accountable.
- Practice, practice, practice. Soft skills are not something you can just study in a book to get better. They have to put into practice in “real life” and improvement takes a long period of time.
Improving soft skills is fundamentally about changing your behavior and thought patterns toward yourself and others. So, every next interaction you have with people at work is an opportunity to practice a soft skill. Some failures are inevitable, but growth will come.
This process can be done on an individual basis or in groups; it can be used at work or at home – but the key takeaway is that is a process that requires patience. In the end, you will realize the time invested is be worth it,