(This post written by Niamh Ollerton on November 19, 2018, was share by TopMBA.)
It’s important to get the most out of your MBA experience, and furthermore, in your post-MBA career, having a well-rounded skillset is imperative. MBA students who ensure their portfolio of soft skills is well-rounded and highly-developed will be invaluable when it comes to making a business successful.
Introduction to soft skills
Soft skills are personally-developed attributes that are usually picked up through life and work experiences – so thankfully, no training is required to build them up.
These skills are transferable and can be applied to many different roles. Because of this, soft skills are sought after in a wide range of industries.
Soft skills are a mixture of things, including social skills, character traits and employment qualities.
Common examples of soft skills include:
- Interpersonal skills
- Project management
- Problem solving
- Good work ethic
- Communication skills
- Learning from criticism
- Working under pressure
Important soft skills
As MBA professionals graduate and continue in business, there are some soft skills that are highly important to be a good leader.
Clear verbal skills
It’s common knowledge that people don’t always listen attentively. Therefore, as a leader it’s important to speak clearly and effectively.
Use words that are understood by everyone, otherwise your message could be lost – or there’s the possibility of coming off as arrogant. Clear communication is the goal here.
There’s also no harm in preparing conversations in advance. When you know you’re going to have an important discussion, take as much time as you need to get ready. Preparation pays off.
To quote Steven DeKrey, associate dean of HKUST Business School: “The earlier leadership style – the talker, the teller, the demander – is long gone. Now it’s the listener, the facilitator, the team leader, the person who gets along with others and pays attention.”
This is important, as you need to demonstrate you’re a team player. One of the things you’ll always hear employers looking for is a team player. Teamwork is a very important skill because not only does it show that you work well with others, it also produces better results. Some ways to improve this skill include:
- Split up work evenly
- Keep an open mind
- Never make assumptions and always praise when possible
- Make everyone feel important
Positivity is a crucial element when it comes to turning a company or department around. Positive attitudes can also be contagious, and so it’s important for employers to see that kind of energy in the workplace.
Strong work ethic
Employers admit a strong work ethic is the key to success and hiring people that possess this trait is the winning ticket. A strong work ethic can’t be taught – when new employees start at an organization, they either have it or they don’t. This attribute develops from a person’s determination to do an excellent job.
Communication and interpersonal skills
The importance of a good communicator can’t be understated. To successfully progress within business, employees need to communicate and listen well in order to work efficiently with supervisors, co-workers, and clients.
Problem solving skills
Naturally, problems will arise in the workplace from time to time. To ensure the organization runs smoothly, employees must be able to find solutions to challenges to ensure they’re valued members of the team. Even if employees aren’t able to find solutions, taking the initiative to ask advice from others also make competent, trusted team players.
Accept and learn from criticism
Many people will find this challenging, as it can be quite difficult to take criticism. Remember, the person giving you feedback wants to help you improve your work and has the best intentions. You can improve this skill by:
- Listening carefully
- Reflect on the criticism before sharing what you think
- Turn any negatives into a positive
- Learn from the person sharing their feedback
Importance of soft skills
- Hard skills and soft skills complement each other
In many jobs, technical skills alone aren’t enough to get the job done effectively. Even if a salesperson has unrivalled knowledge of their product, it’ll be hard to close deals and keep clients if they don’t have adequate interpersonal skills.
Similarly, a business manager needs to be able to listen to employees, have good speaking skills and think creatively. Soft skills are required in all careers to make hard skills valuable.
- Soft skills are harder to learn
Hard skills can be taught, learned and perfected over time. In comparison, soft skills are more challenging to develop as they’re more linked towards a person’s character, rather than knowledge or expertise.
To enhance soft skills, it takes conscious effort, ongoing practice, and commitment to improve your soft skills through self-development. Although hard skills may look impressive on your CV, it’s the soft skills that will set you apart from fellow candidates.
- The modern workplace is interpersonal
When it comes to the modern workplace, skills like collaborating with others, listening, communicating with team members, and presenting ideas are all highly valued. Strong soft skills ensure a productive, collaborative and healthy work environment, all vital attributes for organisations in an increasingly competitive world.
- Customers demand soft skills
The modern market offers consumers an unlimited number of choices through technologies such as the internet and smartphones. For these consumers, convenience and low prices are easy to come by, so customer service is often what influences the choice to use a particular business.
The ability to communicate efficiently and effectively with customers is therefore a vital factor in an organisation’s success.
- Future workplaces will need soft skills
As technological advances continue to boom in the modern workplace – including automation and artificial intelligence – eventually there will be a higher proportion of jobs relying on soft skills. Tasks that require hard skills are declining thanks to cutting-edge technology, meaning soft skills are key differentiators in the workplace.
Soft skills development
Recognizing and acknowledging the areas you need to improve is a good place to start when thinking about developing soft skills. You can reflect on your own characteristics, evaluate your business’ performance deficiencies, or ask for feedback from trusted colleagues or friends.
Once you’ve established where your strengths and weaknesses lie, the next effective step could be creating an action plan on how to make improvement to your soft skills, which will further compliment your business plan.
Some ways to develop or enhance your soft skills include:
- Working with a mentor will allow you to gain feedback and discuss how to improve appropriate skills for both you and the organization
- If you wanted to improve communication skills for example, you could look into joining groups, or even try public speaking courses to help with confidence and verbal style
- Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of positivity and optimism
Remember, the majority of soft skills are aligned with confidence and enthusiasm, so trying to remove or minimalize your levels of anxiety, insecurity, and negativity will greatly benefit you in your career. Keeping a positive mindset will help you develop skills and flourish in your role.