Successful companies value soft skills over hard skills. The Public Speaker explains why soft skills matter and how to develop them.
Which Soft Skills Are Most Important?
Skill #1: Prioritize Accurately
Schwabel says that most managers rank the ability to prioritize as most important. An average worker might prioritize their projects based the order they were given – first in, first out. Or they’ll skip from project to project, depending on which project leaders scream the loudest.
However, you will enjoy more career success if you’re able to look at your projects and know which are most important as you are moving through thems. This requires understanding how each project maps to the company’s goals. It requires having a good grasp of the business you’re in. It requires the ability to ask the right questions and offer solutions. It requires the ability to manage your manager’s expectations.
You will enjoy more career success if you’re able to look at your projects and know which are most important as you are moving through the projects.
Skill #2: Communicate Effectively
I’m sure you can guess my answer to what soft skill is most important! For me, in-person communication still matters most. An average worker doesn’t think about how his message will be received on the other end. They’ll text or email because it’s faster and more comfortable. They will prepare a presentation at the last minute because they don’t understand its importance.
You will definitely experience more career success if you understand when a face-to-face is needed and how to prepare for in-person communication. For example, if you work from home, do you make regular visits to the main office? Do you know how to communicate with members of different generations? A text might be most effective to communicate with an intern, while a conversation might be better for a baby boomer engineering manager.
Skill #3: Demonstrate Social Savvy
Although the first two skills on this list might be predictable, this next one may not be: social savviness (that’s social media savviness). To be clear, knowing how to post on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are hard skills that nearly everyone entering the job market knows, however, it’s the social savvy that’s important.
For example, do you understand how to manage your online reputation? Do you know how to separate your personal persona from work? Do you know how to use Twitter to start and engage in professional conversations? Do you know how to creatively use social media to engage prospects and customers online? Even if this isn’t your job, your contributions can help you get noticed and promoted.
It was tough to pick just 3 soft skills to highlight because so many of them are critically important to success. Creativity, acccountability, negotiation, feedback, ability to say no, diplomacy...the list goes on and on and each skill is a slightly different tool that you need to master in order to be successful in today's workplace.
How Do I Improve My Soft Skills?
So what’s the best way to develop your soft skills? Practice, practice, practice. Constantly put yourself in situations where you need to use them. Make mistakes learn from them or better yet, buy my book Smart Talk, to keep yourself out of hot water and learn best practices and how to apply them! In the meantime, here are 3 ways to get some practice:
- Network. Go to work events and social events. Interact (cautiously) on social media. Set a goal of meeting at least two people you didn’t know before. Check out my episode on how to network for more tips.
- Find a mentor or be a mentor. Mentoring or being mentored helps with your one-on-one communication skills. Find a mentor or a mentee who will ask you good questions and let you bounce ideas off of them, Get-It-Done Guy has a great episode on mentoring.
- Volunteer. Find ways to get involved in things that you’re most passionate about. If there’s another division in your company you’d love to work in, talk to managers and see if you can do some cross-group work. Volunteer at your local school, library, non-profit, or social organization. Practice asking good questions and sharing your ideas.
Here’s the bottom line: Yes, it’s important to have strong skills in your industry and you need to always continue to develop your craft. But it’s certainly equally important, if not more important, to put effort into developing your soft skills. These are the skills that will separate you from the rest.
Dan is right; average doesn’t cut it anymore.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Helping you maximize sales, manage perceptions, and enhance leadership. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.
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