It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, you need soft skills to be successful on the job. Technical skills are of course necessary if you plan to rise in the ranks and be taken seriously. But once you have those technical skills, what’s the difference between you and the next person with the same set of expertise?
What makes customers or employers choose to work with you over someone else? What makes them look up to you and consider you someone with good leadership qualities? To be frank, it all comes down to soft skills, like your ability to communicate clearly, build trust and deal with issues efficiently when they arise.
So, to help you figure out where you can invest your time and effort to get an edge over your competition, we’ve broken down three of the most sought-after soft skills.
Being able to get a message across clearly without any misinterpretation is important in any role, which is why communication is the top must-have soft skill, particularly for leaders.
Today, with so much of our communication happening online, it’s much harder to read body language cues like smiles and crossed arms (even during video calls). So, what you say and how you say it is more important than ever before. Here are some tips for good communication:
- Keep it concise. To deliver your message with clarity and impact, stick to the old adage that less is more. This ensures your reader/listener is more likely to understand what you’re saying and remember it later. The more you waffle and circle back to points, the harder it is for people to walk away with a clear idea of what they need to do or be aware of. Just keep in mind that brevity in the written word, can sometimes be viewed as rudeness, so be sure when writing to someone that you keep your intro and close warm and friendly.
- Signpost your key points. When you have important things to say, make it clear what they are at the start of your conversation and summarise them again at the end. If you’re communicating over email then make use of things like bolded text, bullet pointed lists and sub-headings. By communicating this way, your listener/reader will know what information to focus in on (even if they’re skim reading).
- Talk to, not at, the other person. Unless you’re giving a presentation, a conversation should involve a bit of back-and-forth. Pausing to give others an opportunity to speak, clarify and ask questions will help ensure you’re on the same page and that each person feels heard. It also goes a long way in terms of getting their buy in and building trust.
Disagreements are an inevitable part of working with other people, so learning how to effectively manage them is a skill that will carry you through your career, regardless of what industry you’re in. It also helps to paint the picture of you as a strong leader that can navigate through tricky situations tactfully. Here are a few ways you can deal with conflict effectively:
- Practice patience. The way you act has an impact on others. Make a conscious effort to put your own opinions and needs on pause to focus on what the other person is saying. By being patient and hearing someone out, you allow them to feel heard and take the heat out of arguments by remaining objective and calm. In addition, when acting as a mediator by hearing out both sides, you can often identify an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
- Use statements focused on yourself (not the other person). This will allow you to express your issues without stirring up defensiveness or resentment in others. To do this, explain your own feelings about a situation without laying blame. For example, “I’ve noticed there seems to be a bit of conflict in the team lately and it’s affecting morale, can you give me a bit of insight into what’s going on” rather than, “Why have you’ve been fighting with Jim?” or “I’m afraid I wasn’t invited to the meeting with the client, which is going to make quoting difficult” rather than “Why didn’t you invite me to the meeting, how do you expect me to do my job?” By using this approach, you take the sting out of a conversation, show yourself to be reasonable and highlight the impact of a person’s behaviour.
- Be willing to compromise. There are arguments worth dying in a ditch over and there those that aren’t worth the hassle. It pays sometimes to concede, or meet in the middle, so that everyone can move on with their work. This helps to ensure that you’re seen as a leader who is objective and reasonable, and when you need to hold your ground, people will take you more seriously.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in– whether you’re a tradie, a banker, or a Government regulator, having good relationships with others is key to producing positive outcomes on any project. Here are some tips to help build rapport:
- The little things count. There is more to people than just the role they’ve been hired to do. Taking time out to ask about someone’s family, hobbies, other projects they’re working on, and showing an interest in them personally is a great way to build rapport. When people feel listened to and respected, it builds trust, means projects run more smoothly and communication tends to be more open.
- Give credit, where credit is due. Think back to the last time you received a compliment – It felt good didn’t it? All too often when we’re in the thick of things, we take items like projects running smoothly and positive customer feedback for granted. Good leaders understand the importance of letting those who have performed well, know it. Comment’s like ‘Nice work’ or shout-outs among your team can go a long way in terms of improving team morale, encouraging good behaviour, and building positive relationships.
- Give people time. It’s easy to get so focused on a project or deadline that you forget to take the time to reassess and deal with staff/stakeholders that have comments or queries. Taking the time out to talk it through with them may not seem like a priority, but it’s something worth doing. Often, they may have stumbled across issues you weren’t aware of, or a better way of doing something. Sometimes they just need a bit more clarity so that they can get on with their job, or they simply need to vent. Giving your time to someone shows them that they’re valued, that they’re heard and that you’re a leader they can look up to (and not a dictator).
Taking the time to build up your soft skills is worth its weight in gold. These skills can help improve the relationships you have with your team and clients and are also highly appealing to potential employers.
Whilst some soft skills are easier to master than others, having the tools under your belt that you can rely on when under pressure, can make your life significantly easier. If you’re looking to brush up on your leadership style or to gain a few more tools to help you be an effective leader IMNZ’s ELEVATE Course could be a good option for you. It’s designed specifically to help leaders create strong relationships, lead teams and drive performance with confidence and conviction.