As the world gets more complicated, soft skills – the general people-oriented and behavioral ones that are important in every job, as opposed to the specific ones required to do well at a specific job – become more and more crucial to productivity and success.
I’ve previously offered some advice and suggestions on these soft skills here and here. Now I’d like to revisit the topic yet again, and continue fleshing out the list of important soft skills you should cultivate.
This time, let’s start with:
You don’t need me to tell you the world is steadily changing. That’s why the abilities to learn, to make do with available resources, to convert adversity into advantage, and to quickly seize opportunities as they arise are more valuable than ever before.
One important component of adaptability is technological, involving both hardware and software. Today’s internet and digital devices are not the same ones your father used: they’re much more sophisticated, capable, and imbedded in everyday life. They greatly increase your ability to communicate, as well as track and analyze information. You gain a big advantage when you become familiar with today’s technology and make use of it where appropriate.
Another aspect of adaptability is more social: understanding in depth the people with whom you work – what they value, how they expect to interact and be treated, and where they derive their motivations.
Although people the world over have much in common, there are cultural, national, and generational differences you can learn to recognize and respect.
A willingness to work hard has always been valued and appreciated, but never more so than today. As technology makes “remote” work more commonplace, physically commuting to work is being replaced, to a large extent, by working at home (or as some people call it: “living at work”).
This creates a situation where you may have a hard time juggling all the obligations and demands on your time – both personal and work-related.
As a result, the old-time “work ethic” that simply required putting in long hours of hard work before going home is now evolving into a situation where:
- You may be called upon to work even longer hours, and
- It may be up to you to establish and enforce the limits and boundaries of your work-related obligations.
This requires you to find and maintain a very delicate balance between doing all that’s required to be a well-regarded “team player” and sustaining yourself with the personal and family relationships, activities of daily living, and free time all of us want and need.
If this balance were easy to sustain, it wouldn’t be so common a struggle.
In other contexts, I’ve talked before about the importance of listening, so I won’t go deeply into it here. But among the most important soft skill is the willingness and the effort to listen carefully to others.
Done well, listening allows you to build stronger relationships and gain more enthusiastic cooperation. It also helps you learn more about the people you’re listening to, as well as their ideas, suggestions, and input regarding the activities, projects, and goals you’re trying to accomplish.
Don’t fall into the pattern of merely waiting for another person to finish speaking so you can talk again. Instead, use your intelligence and emotions to gain as much information as possible from what others say.
You’re probably well aware that it’s rare for anyone to be productive and successful all alone. Most of us recognize that we rely on others, at least to some extent. That’s why working well with others is so crucial.
Fortunately generating this feeling of mutual reliance, cooperation, and striving is fairly easy. Start by respecting the other people in your work and your life. Continue by recognizing each person’s contribution to your productivity and success, and your contribution to theirs.
An important element of teamwork is steadily making efforts to increase this mutuality of effort and purpose. You can do this by asking others how you can help them, asking for the help you need, and regularly reviewing past efforts to see where cooperation went wrong and where it went right.
Teamwork gets even stronger when people are willing to accept well-intentioned feedback and make appropriate adjustments to accommodate and support the others on whom they rely.
Each of the “soft” skills I’ve been writing about is well worth developing, if only because individually and together they greatly enhance your ability to accomplish whatever tasks, projects, and goals you have – now and in the future – on your plate.
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