“Let’s stop using the term ‘soft skills’. There is nothing soft about them. Let’s call them what they really are — human skills.”
Years ago, my employer held town hall meetings, usually every quarter. At some point, the floor was open for questions to the CEO. Someone asked him what I thought to be an innocuous question about industry pay rates. I watched as the CEO unceremoniously shut this person down without batting an eye. Now, I understand that pay raises are often performance-based, but there wasn’t even a hint of empathy or understanding in the answer.
This was my first glimpse of a top leader who displayed a lack of emotional intelligence, a highly sought-after human skill. Fortunately, it seems the times are changing, and many businesses realizing the true value of soft skills in their employees during COVID. Not only do emotionally intelligent teams have a competitive advantage, but companies actively look for it when hiring.
According to a 2017 report from Deloitte hiring employees with more soft skills could increase revenue by more than $90,000. In a related article from Forbes, soft skills are essential to the future of work. Today, those soft skills are even more important because the traditional workplace and office comradery has been blown apart thanks to COVID-19 as we all work at home. There are several that I have seen in recent years that stand out.
Communication often factors at the top of sought-after soft skills, and for good reason.
In 12+ years, the best leaders I’ve had are also very often amazing, nearly effortless communicators. Despite having days of an “unruly” inbox, they will still answer emails, pick up the phone when you call or display a genuine interest in making sure their teams and people are doing well. They are also excellent writers and know how to say just the right things to nudge someone right direction or deftly guide a conversation.
It’s not just a buzzword. In fact, teamwork is even more important now that so many of us are working remotely without any regular human interaction.
I’d like to believe I know a thing or two about teamwork. With years of playing on successful sports teams or working in the military, I’ve seen what makes teams great—It’s selfless, it’s about looking after the person beside you and getting things done, even when the going is tough. This often has a by-product of building trust. You’re pulling for each other because you all know that together, a team can achieve far more than the individual.
Many of us have been onboarded completely virtually in the last year and a half. When I picked up my company laptop, I didn’t even make it past the lobby!
Fortunately, I have had a very warm and welcoming and team and manager, even though we’ve never met in person.
A favourite Maya Angelou that has stayed with me is: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This holds true in both my personal and professional life. People with understand emotions and care about their coworkers’ welfare are relationship builders.
It’s far too easy to see when someone doesn’t care. We’re all human and have emotions, and empathy can be incredibly powerful in bringing people together. Chances are if someone can connect to others or understand how they’re feeling, they’ll evolve into a solid co-worker and even a great leader.
A Growth Mindset
“Always learning” or “be a sponge,” is something I hear often.
If you’re not learning new skills or adding another “tool” to your work toolbox, you’re simply not moving forward. Of course, we all can get stuck in a rut. It happens, but you’d be surprised at how seeking out new ways to learn and grow can move your career and mindset in the right direction.
These are only a few of the many valuable soft skills that employers look for.
What will you work on next?
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This article was written by one of our talented IABC Calgary volunteers.
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