Hard-wiring Your "Soft" Skills

We all know that the secret sauce to success is having the right ingredients of skills, knowledge and abilities. Skills and knowledge can be gained through educational training, work experience and mastery through practice. The abilities often revolve around the “soft” skills you possess. One definition sums it up for me – “Soft skills are the personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others.” (Source: The Balance)

Why are these skills important? Have you met a highly qualified and brilliant person who may be struggling in their career? Well, chances are that their EQ (emotional quotient) may not be as high as their IQ (intelligence quotient). Teamwork, communication, leadership, listening, negotiation, self-promotion, critical thinking, conflict management, innovation, flexibility, emotional regulation, persuasion - the list maybe endless depending upon your professional niche. But these skills help you better utilize your technical skills and be more effective and competent in what you do. Lack of these skills can also be “derailers” to your success. We spend years sharpening our “hard” skills through school and continuing education, certifications etc. But not enough attention is paid to investing in cultivating the soft skills which are much harder to master but can really differentiate you in a highly competitive market. Although some of these abilities maybe innate, most of them can be developed through awareness and deliberate practice.

Through heightened emotional intelligence, you can learn how to balance the rational and limbic systems in your brain and enhance your personal and social competence. The four core skills of emotional intelligence are – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. As you advance through the various domains, the soft skills become easier to master. The first step is to identify key skills that are necessary for success in your chosen field. You can do this by reviewing “job descriptions” for positions like yours, speaking with role models, mentors, industry stalwarts. The next step is a self- evaluation exercise to help you identify which of these skills you possess and how strong they are and, which skills are areas for opportunity. There are several tools out there that can be used like Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Stengthfinders, Hogan Leadership Assessment, Leadership Circle Profile 360. You can also work with a coach on this and the next step. The final step is reviewing the assessment results and laying out an action plan to address the gaps and strategize on improvement. Behavioral change takes time and baby steps will help you get there.

Over a series of blogs, we will explore several of these skills that can magnify your success, both personally and professionally. Stay tuned!

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