Better Growth Skills = Better Life
“A LinkedIn study has revealed 92% of participating executives believe soft skills have become more important in the business world than technical skills.”
Regardless of your discipline, industry, career goals, or demographic profile, you are guaranteed to grow as both an individual and as a professional by enhancing your personal growth skills.
Developing these skills means an ongoing effort to actively assess your goals and values, building your abilities and qualities to better reach and expand your full potential. Utilizing education, mentorships, and self-help programs is certain to have a positive, cumulative effect on your maturity, success, satisfaction, professional evolution, and bank account.
While these efforts are sure to be productive, working each day to build on yesterday’s incremental successes can be frustrating and exhausting. The forward-thinking executive needs to ask two questions at this juncture:
- Is it worth it? and
- If it’s worth it, how does one move forward?
A LinkedIn study has revealed 92% of participating executives believe soft skills have become more important in the business world than technical skills, with a whopping 89% attributing bad hires to a lack of those same soft skills.
Layer this atop a study conducted jointly by the University of Michigan, Harvard, and Boston College. Their analysis revealed soft skills training in the workplace results in an increase in productivity and staff retention, with this investment in training generating a 256% net ROI.
Bottom line: Soft skills are becoming increasingly critical survival tools in the workplace AND in the job market. Result: More and more companies are allocating funding to soft skill training programs.
Why Spend The Money?
The business community is increasingly aware of the importance of how personal development skills impact both strategic and tactical growth plans. There’s a natural link between an employee’s professional performance and their abilities in communication, time management, interpersonal relations, organization, and problem-solving.
Such soft skills can be indicative of someone’s work ethic, persuasive talents, and problem-solving abilities. As an example, active listening and emotional intelligence are arguably more important than job-specific hard skills. After all, without the ability to build and maintain bridges with co-workers, the capacity for implementing tasks smoothly and efficiently in any position will probably be hampered.
True, some people naturally possess certain soft skills (self-confidence, adaptability, leadership, integrity) due to their personality traits. But those who don’t CAN learn to better work with their associates.
Skills You Can Learn
The types of soft skills most desired in today’s marketplace are both diverse and related. Consider the following areas of importance:
- Communication. Effectively conveying information centers around speaking, writing, and listening, ensuring you understand what others are saying while successfully sharing your own ideas and feelings. Good communicators speak clearly and confidently to ensure they understand what others are saying and feeling, using a tone that’s positive and appropriate for the situation. They also listen attentively to understand others and provide good feedback.Good listening skills include paying attention to visual cues (nodding, eye contact), paraphrasing, remembering information imparted by others, asking appropriate questions, and maintaining a respectful tone. Those with poor communication skills can strengthen them by participating in Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie, and similar organizations.
- Self-confidence. Belief in your abilities, actions, and decisions encourages trying new things while improving chances of success for ambitious goals. People want to be associated with a winner, and someone appearing supremely confident seems to fit the bill. Furthermore, the positive energy radiating from such a person helps motivate and instill confidence in others, encouraging them to better handle challenges and reach their own goals.
- Interpersonal skills. These people (or social) skills are comprised of verbal and nonverbal behaviors and reactions to interactions with others, becoming building blocks for a wide range of professional and interpersonal social situations. They affect your ability to nurture relationships and make impressions on others in social situations. Any veteran of the HR wars will tell you good people skills make you a valued team member, enabling comfortable interaction with colleagues, clients, customers and acquaintances of all types and backgrounds.
- Organizational skills. Good organization saves time, prevents miscommunications, and improves efficiency. People are paying attention to the tidiness of your physical and digital spaces, knowing it’s indicative of your abilities to plan, schedule, prioritize, and pay attention to detail.With only 1,440 minutes in every day, the key to getting more organized is good time management. This ensures you dictate the proper amount of time being spent on specific tasks, without allowing an associate to hijack your schedule by nattering on about something that distracts you from your objective. This strategy virtually assures an employee who manages their time well increases the company’s overall productivity.
Good time management also leads to work/life balance, as someone with strong time management skills can clearly distinguish priorities, be well-organized, can plan ahead, and knows when to take some personal time away from work to recharge the batteries.
- Problem-solving. The ability to think critically; address challenges quickly; calmly, and resiliently deal with stressful or surprising situations; and find viable, creative, lasting solutions to problems is key to any organization’s success. The strongest team members bring their critical thinking to the table and know when to delegate, ask for advice, or willingly explore alternate scenarios. People who can think critically and work through complex problems are more likely to make good decisions both in life and work.
- Leadership. The ability to guide and motivate others improves chances of everyone reaching a shared goal. Good leadership builds confidence, improves morale, and has a strong chance of rising to the top of any given personal or professional communities.
- Adaptability. An ability to adjust quickly and easily to new things may be the key to success or failure within a given organization. People who handle change well often get along with a variety of personalities and thrive in any environment. They’re open-minded, demonstrating an ability to remain calm in surprising situations and a willingness to step outside their normal comfort zone. Employers actively seek this skill when hiring new talent, as it shows someone is flexible, resourceful, willing to take on new tasks, and able to handle pressure. It also shows an openness to new ideas, expectations, strategies, trends, and fluid workplace situations.
- Integrity. Honesty is indicative of moral soundness and the foundation of any positive relationship, bringing respect and personal satisfaction. Yes, we know it sounds corny and old-fashioned, but people do business with those they know, like, and trust. There’s obviously a MUCH higher trust factor for those with a track record of honesty and standing by their values, regardless of the potential consequences (like not being the most popular person in the room). Having a reputation for doing the right thing is sure to burnish one’s reputation, credentials, and opportunities for advancement.
- Work ethic. We’ve said it before – people are paying attention, not only to how hard you work, but also your reliability, responsibility, quality, determination, and discipline. They want to see you’re focused, punctual, and that you stay on task until the work is done. Professional associates understand that a good work ethic is indicative of someone who’s dedicated, productive and has a positive attitude. Such focus tends to inspire others, and is oftentimes rewarded…especially when exhibited by someone with humility.
- Emotional intelligence. Also known as EQ, emotional intelligence focuses on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. It’s the empathy needed to recognize others’ emotions and social cues; build and maintain relationships; work and interact with others; and succeed in both your personal and professional life. It is the foundation upon which all future success rests.
- Creativity. Some call it breaking the rules, others thinking outside the box. The ability to devise new concepts and ideas is a priceless skill and will separate any business from its competition. Given how creativity improves productivity, profitability, and relationships, it’s not surprising that LinkedIn reports this skill is THE most sought after, even though it can be frustratingly elusive at times. For those desiring a boost to their creativity, we’re partial to the book A Whack On The Side Of The Head for shaking the cobwebs loose.
Looking For Next Steps?
Assuming you’re seeking more self-help than Dr. von Oech’s book about creativity, consider the following next steps:
- Stretch. Fear prevents you from growing, so take a class specifically to get you out of your comfort zone. Hate public speaking? Join an improv group. Don’t want to take risks? Find a mentor to help you make good decisions and build your confidence. Shy? Introduce yourself to new people at a reception or workshop.
Push yourself a little…you’ll NEVER regret it!
- Read. Expand your vocabulary. Improve your knowledge base. Become more interesting to talk to. Stimulate your mind. Improve your critical thinking skills. Read more than just the trade papers, while incorporating one educational or motivational article every day and one new book each month.
- Learn something new. Take that dance class or learn about cooking. Study art or another language. Is it time to learn to write computer code? Or enroll in that creative writing class to help you write that novel you’ve always dreamed about. The list is truly endless.
- Get feedback. Sometimes you need outside opinions to gain perspective. An unbiased colleague or mentor can provide feedback on your most recent accomplishment. Use their positive comments and constructive criticism to improve yourself.
- Pay attention. Watch people who inspire you and learn from them. Determine what you admire, then emulate those skills in yourself.
- Network. Each day brings new opportunities for improvement, as you interact with various personality types of people, learning new ideas, and communicating. Networking (conferences, parties, etc.) can lead to friendships and relationships that may change your life for the better one day.
- Meditate. Meditating to gain clarity and awareness reduces stress and anxiety, providing focus on self-development and goals in a healthy, positive, and calm way. Scheduling quiet time for yourself each day will help you relax and focus.
Next step: Personal Growth
There’s no clear path for personal growth and development. You’re unique, with needs and experiences different from everyone else. This will be a very personal journey for you, but ultimately one that has tremendously positive impacts on your home, your health, and your job.
We recognize there’s a lot to unpack in this article and encourage you to take just one step today. Do it every day for the next month, then a second step and so on.
If nothing else, you’ll learn a few things about yourself and your world. However, if you fully commit, a year from now you’ll find yourself in a much more positive place.