Soft skills are often what separate good leaders from mediocre leaders. Of course, a leader must understand the business and possess any technical skills necessary for the job, but soft skills are what will help a leader excel.
I’ve often thought a better term for soft skills would be life skills. You start learning soft skills from the time you’re a child. Think back to kindergarten, or when your kids were in kindergarten. They didn’t earn grades yet; they earned marks on a behavior chart. Report cards discussed problem solving skills and the ability to get along with others – things we now call soft skills.
Some of the most important soft skills in the workplace include:
1. Problem Solving – No matter your position, problem solving is a crucial skill necessary for success. High-level employees and leaders are excellent at this. They are able to not only recognize problems but work to solve them. Think about it – do you want the employee that brings problems to you with no solutions or the one who presents a problem with several options for how to solve it? I would choose the latter. I’ve always encouraged my team to bring me solutions, not problems. I want to be aware of the issue, but I also want ways to solve it. Empower your team to be problem solvers.
2. Kindness and Integrity – Be compassionate. Be honest. Be kind. It goes a long way. I read an article recently entitled, The Friendly Factor: The Power of Kindness at Work. I wrote this down so I wouldn’t forget it, “Kindness plus strength gives you superpowers.” Being kind, yet strong is a winning combination. The person that comes to mind when I think of this is Barbara Corcoran from the Shark Tank. She is certainly no pushover, but her kindness shines through. Being kind will help your employees be successful. Employees are more likely to take risks knowing they won’t be judged or put down if the results are not 100%.
3. Going Above and Beyond – I don’t know too many successful people that got to where they are today by putting in the minimum effort necessary to get a job done. “That’s not my job,” is not in their vocabulary. Leaders should always be willing to step in and employees should be encouraged to go above and beyond their job descriptions when appropriate. It’s important to recognize employees who do this, which will encourage them to do so over and over again. The highest performing teams don’t hold each other back; they encourage each other to excel and go beyond their expectations.
Other important soft skills that top my list of importance are empathy, listening skills, and communication skills. What do you look for? How do you encourage your staff to continually improve their soft skills? Do you have an example of when soft skills won out over technical, or hard, skills? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.