“Can you imagine what the world would be like if women who constitute almost half of the global population had access to education and opportunities and were allowed to contribute their best? We would achieve prosperity globally in all spheres.” ―Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., #HeForShe
Soft skills are essential for everyone irrespective of rank, position, and gender. They are essential, especially for women to excel as leaders and C-level executives. There is a myth that soft skills are closely connected with gender. The truth is that soft skills are not gender-related.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are the skills, abilities, and traits of your personality, attitude, and behavior. Several skills collectively constitute soft skills such as self-management skills, communication skills, speaking skills, writing skills, reading skills, listening skills, leadership skills, teambuilding skills, decision-making skills, conflict-management skills, problem-solving skills, time management skills, career management skills, critical thinking skills, customer service skills, negotiation skills, networking skills, entrepreneurial skills, analytical skills, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and initiative to name a few.
Soft Skills versus Hard Skills
Soft skills are different from hard skills because hard skills are all about technical skills which are also known as domain skills. Therefore, soft skills are non-domain skills and also known as people skills and interpersonal skills. Soft skills are a polite and pleasing way of communicating with others, whereas hard skills are what you contribute in the workplace. Soft skills complement your hard skills. Succinctly, soft skills are a presentation of your hard skills in the workplace. Soft skills are interpersonal skills whereas hard skills are job-related skills. Soft skills help execute domain activities effectively and efficiently. A judicious blend of both soft and hard skills is essential to achieving professional and career success. The significance of soft skills is felt more in the senior level positions as senior-level leaders focus less on hard skills but more on soft skills such as strategic planning, visioning, and troubleshooting skills.
The Significance of Soft Skills
Soft skills encourage people to come together in pursuit of shared goals in the organizations. They help women become successful and excel as entrepreneurs. Lack of soft skills adversely affects individuals and organizations. Most hiring managers say that soft skills are ‘difficult’ to find in job aspirants. In the future, several workers will be held back by a lack of soft skills.
Both soft and hard skills are essential for organizations to achieve their goals and objectives. Given the choice between the two, it is soft skills that are more important than hard skills. It is easy to teach hard skills but tough to train soft skills to employees. Hence, if organizations find employees with soft skills, they must hold them and engage them effectively to improve the bottom lines.
Women chief executives are often found to be not getting along with the board members leading to their exit. Having soft skills helps them get along well with the board members and stakeholders to excel as successful CEOs.
How to Improve Your Soft Skills?
You can acquire soft skills by various means including observation, reading, training, experience, and practice. Soft skills training equips you with skills, abilities, and knowledge. However, your interaction with others helps acquire soft skills greatly. Since soft skills are behavioral skills, people must learn by trial and method by using their emotional intelligence, and through flexibility and adaptability. You must be practical, realistic, and situational to acquire soft skills. Above all, you must learn from your failures to improve your behavior to get along well with others effectively.
You must develop emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. You must observe and understand people and their behaviors. Travel unknown destinations to understand people. Talk to them to get along with them. Understand their cultures and behaviors. Traveling teaches tolerance and improves soft skills. When you travel to unknown destinations and communicate in the non-native language, you will be able to improve soft skills effectively.
Reading soft skills is one aspect and applying them is another aspect. Attending workshops and training programs help you understand what really are soft skills and how you will be able to acquire them as such programs conduct role-plays to bring out behavioral improvement. Here are some tools and techniques to improve soft skills
- Be self-aware.
- Avoid preconceived notions.
- Adopt the mirroring technique to connect with the speaker.
- Pay attention to the speaker with your positive body language. Don’t offer your judgment during the conversation.
- Maintain eye contact with the speaker. Show authenticity while listening to the speaker.
- Empathize with the speaker.
- Identify a few positive traits in the speaker and appreciate to build chemistry during the conversation.
- Avoid interrupting the speaker. Respect time. Share the authentic information and make your conversation interesting and inspiring.
- Be assertive and tactful. Avoid cutting short the conversation abruptly.
- Be flexible.
- Avoid using the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ sparingly.
- Oppose the ideas, not the individuals.
- Accept criticism graciously.
- Praise publicly and criticize privately.
- Interact with different types of personalities who are introvert, extrovert, assertive, submissive and aggressive.
- Stay calm, cool and composed during conversations. If the conversation is leading to arguments, exit it politely and smoothly.
- Above all, be adaptable.
Since soft skills are behavioral skills, you can acquire soft skills through physical interaction and trial and methods. You must take intrapersonal and interpersonal feedback regularly to improve soft skills. Succinctly, be proactive, be a good listener, improve interpersonal skills and build relationships to acquire soft skills.
The dearth of soft skills will adversely affect services sectors in the future. Therefore, there must be coordinated and integrated efforts from all stakeholders including individuals, organizations, intellectuals, educational institutions, policy-makers, thought leaders, government and nonprofits to promote soft skills in all spheres.