Soft skills are some of the most important skills for professionals, and they can’t always be taught online or in the classroom. Mastering a certain hard skill amounts to very little if you don’t work well with colleagues or can’t communicate effectively with your co-workers.
Improving your communication, collaboration and other soft skills are key in becoming a strong team member. Based on advice from the members of Forbes Coaches Council, here are some effective strategies for honing your soft skills and making yourself indispensable to any employer.
1. Leverage Technology
Leveraging technology to drive mastery in the areas of communication, leadership and problem-solving is key. Platforms like Coursera and edX offer free courses to amplify leadership and problem-solving skills. VirtualSpeech and Orai use VR, sentiment and voice analysis to improve communication skills. This is a powerful strategy that enables mobile, continuous learning for busy professionals. – Dr. Terri Horton EdD, MBA, MA, SHRM-CP, PHR, HCS, SWP, FuturePath: Consulting, Training, Speaking- Future of Work Strategy, Learning, Careers, Leadership Development
2. Assess Your Emotional Intelligence
According to research, emotional intelligence is the most essential soft skill or people skill required for professional and personal success. Having your emotional intelligence properly assessed will give you a valid reading of your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your results will empower you to develop in the desired areas based on your professional goals through coaching and practice. – Jamelle Lindo, PARADIGM People Development
3. Practice Outside Of Work
Soft skills equate to people-facing or people-centric skills. Rather than risk cutting your teeth in your work, find a cause you believe in and take a role that allows you to make a difference and hone your soft skills. Counseling? Empathy? Intuition? Decision-making? All of these skills play very well in charitable roles. Serve in your community, learn and grow all at the same time! – John Hittler, Evoking Genius
4. Focus On Creating The Right Habits
There is a big difference between learning and doing. Creating new habits that infuse your desired soft skills into your behavior is the only path to change. If you cannot hire a coach to help you with this, focus on shifting habits yourself. For example, if your goal is to listen actively in meetings, consider first the habit of not bringing your device into the conference room. – Shefali Raina, Alpha Lane Partners
5. Build More Reason Into Your Emotions
With social media and cell phones invading our personal lives more than ever, it’s easy to strike out emotionally, without thinking. I hear people explain responses by saying things like, “I felt so upset because…” or “This felt so intimidating because…” Emotions are fleeting. Distrust emotional responses and find out ways you can use reason to improve responses. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
6. Understand Why You Want To Improve
Articulating your “why” by visualizing the person you will become and the impact you will create with added or improved skills will provide you with true motivation to improve your identified soft skills. Then make it work by identifying implementation intention to facilitate action, such as setting a rule of not responding to a provoking email right away so you can better regulate your emotion. – Amy Nguyen, Happiness Infinity LLC
7. Look At The ‘Flip Side’ Of Your Strengths
Your strengths are often where you have great capacity and muscle power (e.g. details, influence, leading). Sometimes we don’t realize when we overuse a strength and it becomes a liability. Often what we love and hate about a person is the flip side of the same coin. Look at your strengths and then consider the flip side—this is a great area for development. – Christy Geiger MCC, CPCC, Synergy Strategies Coaching & Training
8. Quiet Your Mind
When we quiet our mind for at least 20 minutes a day for 30 days, we can connect better with ourselves and others. According to Dr. Sara Lazar of the University of Massachusetts, this practice can change our brain and improve our social skills because it shrinks the amygdala in our brain—the fight or flight response. Being less reactive, and more mindful, is key to improving one’s social skills. – Susan K. Wehrley, BIZremedies
9. Ask For And Accept Honest Feedback
Given the choice, most employers would prefer to hire someone with good soft skills and fewer hard skills. Professionals can improve their soft skills through training and practice and a willingness to ask for and accept honest feedback. This strategy is effective as it gives them a peek into how they are perceived by others and how they can adjust their behavior to become successful. – Daisy Wright, The Wright Career Solution
10. Focus On Helping Others
By stepping into a team leadership role and listening to what others want, you have the opportunity to maximize soft skills—like teamwork, communication, and problem solving—to positively impact others. As a business and leadership coach, I teach the importance of focusing on helping others become more successful because you grow your own leadership skills, which is the No. 1 soft skill set. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.
11. Practice The Art Of Listening
It doesn’t matter how intelligent we are if we don’t practice how to listen. Listening is energy intensive and requires a level of humility. As professionals, it’s critical to learn how to listen to people without interrupting them. Also, when we listen, we learn more about the person and gather the information that could help foster healthy relationships in the workplace. – J. Ibeh Agbanyim, Focused Vision Consulting, LLC
12. Find A Role Model Or Mentor
The soft skills are usually the hardest to master, but finding role models can help. Learn from watching others, and emulating their positive behaviors in a way that is authentic for you. If you can, elicit their support and guidance. For example, if you see that someone is skilled at networking, ask them to share their best tips for keeping in touch with others or attending cocktail events. – Jessica Glazer, Center for Creative Leadership
13. Seek Out A Volunteer Leadership Position
Active volunteer leadership on a committee or board of directors provides individuals with real experience leading a team, coordinating events, solving organizational challenges or simply communicating with members. Get involved as a leader and do something you are passionate about. There’s no better way than actually doing the job to master a skill; no class or certification beats doing the work. – Maureen Orey, Workplace Learning & Performance Group