Article by Louise Raeside, Engagement Lead at DRIVE Engagement
We’ve all heard of the term ‘soft skills’ or ‘power skills’ as they’ve also been coined.
They are the essential being and thinking (or social and emotional) behaviours we should all be developing in our workforce to improve future capability alongside the ‘hard’, doing, technical skills too.
Simon Sinek recently said, that “…skills like effective confrontation, empathy, and patience are not soft skills. They are human skills, and they must be learned.” And, of course, he is right. These, and other recognised ‘soft/power skills’ are so inherently human. Ultimately, it’s these ‘human skills’ that impact our well-being, productivity and culture in work and also drive engagement. Yet they so often go under the radar or aren’t valued in the same way as ‘hard skills’.
Here are five ‘human skills’ that add value in our workplaces and that we need to acknowledge, nurture and develop in our teams:
- Trust: There are varying schools of thought about where trust fits in to the soft skills armoury, but arguably I think it’s the top and most important human metric as to how people engage and work together. Ultimately, if people don’t trust those they work with, they are less likely to work well with them, invest in them, or pursue shared goals. Equally, if they don’t feel trusted themselves, they are less likely to invest discretionary effort in their work, may become disengaged in their role and with colleagues, and at the end of the day will leave the organisation.
Evidence suggests that if you take the time to build trust with your colleagues and teams (and indeed build it with clients), everyone will thrive. To achieve this, encourage a culture of open communication and active listening; seek ways for individuals to fully learn and understand each other’s roles; and make time for employees to connect and have fun through social and team-building activities – it will all help.
- Diligence: I’ve listed this next as I do feel it an important human skill – particularly when it comes to teamwork – and one that often gets overlooked. Those who are diligent are rarely recognised, but we trust them (or as is often the case, take them for granted!). They’re ‘just doing their job’ after all. But diligence is so crucial to ensuring a task is completed to the required standard every time and on time, no matter how many times it has to be done. It enables the remainder of a process to be equally completed and with confidence.
Do make sure you regularly instil in your teams your organisational purpose and the value their individual roles and responsibilities have within this. Discuss why what they do on a daily basis matters, and what the impact is if not done fully. The aim is to give ownership, but also listen to feedback and trust that your teams know their jobs best. I suggest taking time to acknowledge diligent contribution too. The ability to self-motivate and accomplish a task/project with concern for the detail involved, no matter how small, is a great capability and hard to ‘just learn’. Rather we should nourish and appreciate it more in team members when we spot it.
We all want to progress in our careers. But it can be hard to pinpoint exactly how we can progress, especially when we get so bogged down with busy schedules and deadlines.
Outlining your soft skills is one of the easiest ways to self-develop and to track your career progression.
I have always worked on the basic principle that if you want to boost your team’s performance, the best place to start is by making people feel good about themselves.
For me, the most effective way of doing this is by using what I call TNTs.
TNTs are Tiny Noticeable Things. They are all the little things that we don’t need to do, but when we do do them, they can have a seismic impact on those around us.
- Empathy: Empathy is arguably (and increasingly recognised as) one of the most vital human skills in the workplace, as part of a team and indeed as a leader. Richard Branson once commented, “Great things can be achieved by leading through wisdom, empathy, and integrity – with no other agenda than humanity.” Being able to see another person’s motives and actions from their point of view is crucial for an organisation’s overall success, both for maintaining a healthy work culture for employees and for ‘getting in the head’ of your organisation’s end-user/customer.
To some – the Myers Briggs ‘Feelers’ amongst us – empathy and the ability to see things from another’s perspective comes quite naturally, but for others it is a skill that organisations would be wise to invest time and money in developing and nurturing (as is the acceptance with developing technical skills). Likewise, being able to listen – I mean really listen – is such a key part of empathy. Taking the time to really ‘see’ people by acknowledging and listening to them is so important to well-being, motivation, trust and ultimately earning engagement.
- Resilience: There’s a lot of talk about building resilience within organisations right now and there’s no question that some people (and teams!) are naturally more resilient than others. Being able to remain proactive, positive, determined, and adaptable despite unanticipated challenges is a fantastic skill to have and is often a capability we develop through experience.
It is important to help individuals and teams learn resilience and to embrace change as an opportunity to grow. Team resilience comes from confidence in the strength of the ‘team’ to overcome difficulty – it’s therefore important to facilitate opportunities for your team(s) to strengthen their bonds. Team problem-solving activities are a great way of doing this (as well as developing other ‘soft skills’), especially where teams are given the autonomy to identify a problem, resolve it fully and implement their solution themselves. The problem-solving process not only builds resilience and develops trust and belief; but also fosters pride and accountability for their implemented solution; capability to innovate and an improvement mindset.
- Communication: This may be last on my list, but it’s by far the least! As humans we learn from an early age how to communicate our needs, but being able to communicate effectively at work both verbally and non-verbally is a vital skill for high-performing teams. Communication is how a team member expresses their thoughts, ideas and feelings to others, as well as actively listening to and understanding the feelings of those that they interact with. Through honest, open, ‘human’ communication one can influence others, provide positivity, show compassion and drive team energy forward. It should never be underestimated.
Thankfully the benefits of being a good communicator and the importance of communications skills for effective teamwork are widely recognised and as such, the marketplace abounds with learning and development offerings. However, I believe there is a tendency in many organisations to focus investment on upskilling graduates and leadership teams in this area as part of their personal development programmes, and more rarely on providing communications skills training and coaching to the broader employee population, regardless of function or ‘level’. If looking to improve culture and striving for a high-performing, productive and engaged workforce it would be wise to make it a priority and more accessible for all employees.
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