Hardening your soft skills for the workplace
In a world run by algorithms and governed by metrics, it can be easy to lose sight of the soft skills that help us to shape and guide our employees. Soft skills relate more to your behaviours, ways of thinking, personal characteristics and cognitive skills. Teamwork, people skills, communication, problem-solving and, of course, leadership, are all soft skills. They are also all difficult to measure.
Soft skills might not be the skills that got you where you are, but they are the skills that will elevate you above the leadership pack as long as you approach them from a place of practicality.
Get Feedback – Our egos can often prevent the honest feedback of others from sinking in and taking root, particularly when it comes from our employees. The key is in weeding out the irrelevant feedback and focusing on the feedback that will genuinely allow you to grow your soft skill set. Rather than blaming everyone else, a strong leader will be able to use feedback as a learning opportunity without taking it to heart.
Be Authentic – Employees are far more likely to respond well to an authentic leader who is open about what they expect of their team and what they expect of themselves. Authentic leaders don’t hide who they are, but it doesn’t mean they have to share every detail of their lives. Theresa May is an example of a leader utilising soft skills in an inauthentic way. She’s a very pragmatic individual that likes to get things done with minimal fuss, but when she tries to reveal her ‘human side’ everyone sees through it. So why should you be any different?
Be Happy – Self-esteem is important and could in itself be perceived as a vital soft skill. If you’re not happy in your own skin then how can you expect your employees to follow you into the breach (or board room, perhaps) every morning? Small changes can make all the difference here: Learn new skills, work on your personal and working relationships and work on yourself to boost your confidence any way you feel necessary. Even a small thing like getting fresh veneers on your teeth or getting a new hair cut can make the world of difference.
Be Honest – Openness, honesty and transparency have traditionally been seen as weaknesses in business leaders, but they don’t need to be. Just because you’re letting them see a little more of yourself, it doesn’t mean you’re a pushover. Indeed, being more open and honest with your staff can actually be a very powerful tool, if wielded correctly. LRN’s State of Moral Leadership study found that only 17% of employees say their leaders almost always state the truth. The only way this shocking statistic will improve is if leaders at every level implant a more open and honest approach to their leadership strategies.
Just Talk – With the convenience afforded us by modern technology, there is a tendency to throw automation or a preconceived process at a situation when sometimes the most direct thing to do is simply talk to someone. Tech might make avoiding our staff easier, but that doesn’t mean we should be doing it. Let employees know that you are always available to talk. If they have professional or personal problems that are getting in the way of their jobs, lend an ear. Getting to know your employees can also help you learn what motivates and inspires them, which is always beneficial.