It’s highly probable that somewhere in your career you might have heard of the word “soft skills”. Soft skills are a buzz word in the corporate world today. So what exactly are soft skills? Let’s understand by giving it a context.
Be it your girl, your boss, your mother, your watchman, your enemy… today they all want you to be a softie! But well, all in vastly different ways.
The softie your girl wants is the one who is sensitive, caring, notices little things about her. A mother always feels that her child is malnourished and so she’ll stuff the child with food and turn him/her into a soft little ball of fat, literally a softie! Your watchman hopes you are a softie who is kind and considerate and would readily give him a generous bakshish on every Holi, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Gudi Padwa, your promotion, your birthday, your son’s birthday, his son’s birthday and… Your enemy just wants you to be a softie because… he’s your enemy? And finally, after a whole lot of beating around the bush, what does your boss expect from the softie in you?
The skills! ‘Soft Skills’ today is a buzz word that you would hear being mentioned in every job interview, Job Description, and in the ‘areas of improvement’ section in your boss’ feedback email. These are the skills that are going to ensure your bonuses and promotions. Thus, I have dedicated this article to various types of soft skills and factors for you to consider to develop them.
So, What is this skill set exactly?
What are soft skills? Soft skills are the set of personality and character traits that govern one’s interpersonal skills and interactions and relationships at work and otherwise.
These are the kind of skills that one cannot validate stating verbally or putting it down on the resume. One can only display them through actions and the other must experience them to judge one’s soft skills.
One can’t learn soft skills through textbooks or teach them in a classroom. They are either innate to a person’s nature or can be developed over time with practice.
Soft skills are the skill set that sets one apart from the rest. Students can easily learn Technical and knowledge-based skills in universities, or today even YouTube. It is the softer skills of an individual and the nuances of his interaction with others, his little personality traits which may not matter looking at the bigger picture, but do not go unnoticed. That is the differentiating factor that gives one an edge over other professionals.
Hard vs Soft
|Hard skills||Soft skills|
|They are specific to a particular role and industry||They are useful across job roles, domains, and industries.|
|Can be taught and learned||One can develop them over with practice|
|Acquired skillset||Many times one’s innate natural traits|
|Deals with technical and domain knowledge||Deals with Emotional Intelligence|
|Can be similar/same across individuals||Varies for different individuals|
|Can be started and seen explicitly||One can only display and experience it|
When your hard and soft skills complement each other, you can sell yourself like hotcakes. It is a combination of both that employers today are looking for in a ‘complete package recruit’. Well-honed hard skills might land you a decent job, but cleverly used soft skills will accelerate you up the hierarchical ladder.
How to be a corporate softie 101: Top 10 soft skills decoded
Kya aap apni kathorta se pareshaan hai? Kya aap ki gaadi safalta ke highway par dhakke maar maar ke chal rahi hai? Par ab chinta ki koi baat nahi. Ab waqt hai zara Naazuk ban ne ka. Komalta se apni mulayam gaadi highway par makkhan ki tarah daudane ka!
Sorry, you had to read that… just a lame attempt to lighten the mood before the heavy stuff starts because now the fit’s about to get real!
Humans are ‘social animals’. Communication is the attribute that puts the word ‘social’ in that term; else we would have just been isolated savages who would stand to soon be extinct. Communication is the basis of all human development in every domain through the ages, because, transfer of knowledge. Communication is an innate part of your soft skills.
It took several generations for the early man to discover fire. If there were no means of communication discovered and developed to pass this knowledge down the generations to ensure continuous development, then men would have just spiraled around one discovery, generations after generations and ultimately stagnate. Communication with others can be either oral, written or through gestures.
Communication skills to keep in mind to ensure your thoughts are conveyed efficiently and effectively
Clarity of thought is the clarity in the message one conveys. The last thing you want to do while communicating especially in a professional setup is to blurt something out and later realize that it had a completely different connotation which you never meant and receive those awkward stares from the people around, or worse, become the laughing stock of the group.
To nurture your soft skills at the best always first gather your thoughts, put them into a sentence, say it out in your mind, judge yourself before giving a chance to others and only then pass it on to your tongue or the pen.
It seems like a long process to follow to just speak and communicate, yes, but with practice over time, it would come naturally without you having to put a conscious effort. Anyway, people who speak with pauses, we perceive them to be wise and composed. Doesn’t hurt, right?
In most likelihood, you have done enough Google searches and seen enough men screaming at you through the screen about ‘How to be confident’. So, I presume knowledge-wise, you are well versed with the subject. Confidence comes at the core of your soft skills.
Coming to its impact on your communication. Simply put, people tend to take you more seriously. Confidence is predominantly a parameter of oral communication, aided by the usage of appropriate gestures.
A confident speaker with average content is going to raise more ears than a speaker delivering great content with a trembling voice and jelly legs. That’s exactly how I am planning to keep you glued to this blog with mediocre content. Lol, just kidding! I promise there’s a lot of insightful info with occasional failed attempts at humor (again a part of soft skills). Please don’t stop scrolling…
Confident communication stems from your level of comfort with your content. Prepare content that you would be able to comfortably deliver, rather than choosing what would please the listeners. Nothing more pleases listeners than a person who understands the message he is conveying and delivers it with conviction and belief in his own words. A person with strong soft skills always understands what he speaks and why he speaks.
Contrary to popular belief, being respectful doesn’t always mean to be very formal and choosing the most sophisticated words. ‘Respect,’ again an integral part of your soft skills, is completely audience/listener driven.
Drafting a mail to the college dean or the CEO of a company that starts with ‘Hey Mr. Ranganathan!’ would, even though not derogatory, be deemed as disrespectful. On the other hand, while making a speech to your chaddi-buddy on his bachelor’s party, the use of an occasional mild cuss word would rather be seen as gehri dosti ki nishaani! So it all depends upon Hum Aapke Hai Kaun…
Being perceived as respectful or not also depends upon other factors like mode of communication: tone cannot be understood in written communication, setup: the way you talk to your colleague in person and during a group meeting may be very different, culture: raising two fingers shaped in a V means Victory to most people, but the Japanese see it as… well censorship issues, Google it!
As a part of your soft skills, this is the most common way of explaining Empathy, and I cannot do it any better. ‘Putting yourself into the other person’s shoes’. Simple. How would you feel if the same message was addressed to you in the same way from a person you share a similar relationship with as you do with your intended receiver?
The only catch to this is that you cannot always be knowing the thought process of your receiver. Something you feel is okay, might not be for him. Well, that is the reason this article is HUGE! I have a whole lot of other things for you to consider, to be the best professional softie ever! *Tries to justify his problem of verbosity. *
Communication is a two-way process. While most of the time in a conversation our focus is on what to speak next, but even to respond to something that makes sense and is coherent, you must listen. Just like speaking, soft skills are incomplete without listening.
Also, listening intently shows that you are interested in the conversation and thus it puts your counterpart at ease and comfort.
And finally, the core function of communicating is the sharing of information and knowledge. So if not wiser, listening to others speak is at least going to make you more informed.
A song that helped me climb the rung, another took my neck and got me hung… Oh, what irony! They were both sung by the mighty tongue.
That fluttering little piece of flesh in our mouths which in tandem with the vocal cords, creating the constant chatter, a little bitter, a little sweet, some words of praise, some of the blazing heat.
I suppose we are all reasonably clear as to what Verbal Communication is. So I would rather go on and talk about its merits and demerits.
- It explicitly specifies the tone of the content, which is not the case in other forms of communication.
- In any sort of interaction with people, several senses involved the better. The sense of hearing is a very strong sense with the potential of stirring up various emotions in the listener.
- It cannot be documented, obviously unless recorded, but it is impossible, impractical and unethical to record all your verbal communication with everyone.
- Just like Nazar hati, durghatna ghati… also Dhyaan bata, patta kata. Verbal Communication demands undivided attention of the listener. As in case of written communication, one can’t scroll and go back and refer to the previous line in case of some distraction.
‘Action speaks louder than words.’ Although originally this idiom has a different connotation, it does hold good in case of non-verbal communication skills too.
In a conversation or interpersonal interaction, your soft skills are speaking even while you are not. Speaking and expressing through those tiny movements of your eyes, that frown on your forehead, the grin on your face, through sweaty palms and shaky legs or a straight posture and a confident stance.
Recruiters today give major importance to a candidate’s non-verbal skills like the way he sits, uses his hands, his facial expressions, the way he dresses, his hygiene, etc.
Behavioral scientists suggest that non-verbal aspects of a person are far more accurate in determining a person’s personality and if a person is speaking the truth or lying, because it is easy to mince words and portray a false image of yourself, but not so much in case of forging your body language or the nuances of your facial expression.
However, the drawback of non-verbal communication is conclusions drawn through observing a person’s non-verbals may not always be true.
*Pro Tip: Amongst the people, we are closest to, the least we visually observe is our self. So the best way to first analyze your non-verbal skills and then attempt to improve them is by practicing a speech or an important conversation you intend to have, in front of a mirror and observe yourself.
Any message conveyed using texts, pictures, symbols, etc.
Information or message conveyed through a thousand pager book as well a symbol of a canceled ‘P’ on the road signifying ‘No Parking”, both constitute a part of written communication skills.
Since the advent of mobile phones, communication through a written mode by typing is on an exponential boom, especially with very affordable data plans.
|Can be documented||One cannot understand the tone correctly|
|Can be revisited and referred again||More impersonal|
|Pictures and symbols can be used for better description and understanding||Difficult to maintain secrecy|
Constructive is the word here. Feedback should be such that it adds value and highlights the scope of improvement for the person.
Feedback given can truly be constructive when it free from all biases, positive as well as negative. For instance, a mother watching her son give a speech. Irrespective of how good or bad the son’s performance was, in most cases the mother would feel her son has done a great job and wouldn’t stop praising him. Yes, it does depict the unconditional Maa ka Pyaar, but is that adding value for the son’s future performances or helping him understand aspects which he needs to work upon? This could have a rather negative impact, and thus it is quite possible that positively biased feedback could prove to be a deterrent.
Now let’s consider a father in the same scenario that is extremely critical of his son. Again, irrespective of how good or bad the son’s performance was, the father would never seem to be satisfied or proud, let alone praising and pointing out things that worked and should be retained for further performances. Thus, overly critical or negatively biased feedback might not depict the true picture and could often leave the person demotivated.
Uh… isn’t it obvious? No one wants to talk to a rude or unfriendly person.
Even in a professional setup where it is still important to talk to such a person to get work done, people would tend to avoid or delay the conversation, ultimately affecting overall work efficiency.
Hereby being ‘Friendly’ it doesn’t mean that you start making party plans with each and everyone around you and try and be the best buddy to everyone you talk to. ‘Friendliness’ here is more a matter of attitude and portrayal of yourself.
Be amicable, wear that beautiful smile of you and make sure you don’t bruise someone’s ego or sentiments even while being critical.
We will keep going back to the phrase ‘Humans are social animals’ because that’s who we are. Sometimes inhuman, but still, humans… So, being ‘social’ animals, we have a natural tendency to form associations usually with other like-minded people. These associations satiate our innate urge for belongingness and having a social identity. Groups.
Unlike all groups in general, teams are formed with a specific purpose to fulfill, and the team strives to function as a unit to achieve its purpose.
A team is transactional. You might not be fond of every member of the team, even detest a few, but when it comes to getting the business done, ideally differences are kept aside, and the work is done. Thus working in teams is not always a smooth sail.
However, to reach the shore and reap the bounty, the ship must maneuver itself through rough seas and violent storms. Today, as businesses expand and ‘around the globe’ is almost akin to ‘around the corner’, it is impossible to carry out business functions by working as individuals. People from diverse backgrounds having expertise in different domains, come together to form a single unit and strive for the business to thrive in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world.
Working in teams can thus be a complex affair, but still crucial for a thriving business. So, let’s try and hack the complex art of interpersonal skills and working in teams and get the boat sailing!
Straight away addressing the elephant in the room, how to deal with all the mental differences, ego clashes, personal drama, the mail wars, the shrill banter and sometimes even ugly brawls… or sophisticatedly put together conflicts.
A mix of people, when put together to work towards a shared goal, is bound to create friction. There are tons of frameworks laid down by many competent corporate pundits on conflict management. But I suppose after reading through (honestly just skimming through, I know) some odd 2500 plus words by now, you probably know that I am neither so competent, nor a pundit, definitely not a fan of frameworks.
So as I see it, conflict management in teams boils down to a single factor, Leadership. Strong and effective, considerate yet logical.
It is the differences in ideas and points of view of team members that lead to brainstorming, breaking the mediocrity and creating something that would rather have not been possible with purely amicable discussions. Thus, if an until in the leader’s judgment a conflict is a ‘healthy argument’ and can potentially lead to better team performance, his task is to monitor the events and ensure escalation is only to a point where the conflict is still healthy.
However, personal conflicts are seldom going to have a positive impact and thus it is important to curb them as soon as suspected. It is best to allow the conflicting members to settle differences within a time frame, and if nothing more, reach a level of professional truce ensuring the team is always headed towards fulfilling its core purpose.
It is the leader’s responsibility to intervene, but it is a good idea to involve other members and leverage their relationship with the conflicting members to reinstate equilibrium.
Main hi Raja, Main hi Mantri, a widely watched and enjoyed Telugu film. However, like most South Indian films, this one too pampers the ego of the hero in you, who can sing, dance, pick girls, make a 100 goons fly in the air, drive an airplane, cook with one hand and perform surgery with other… but the fact remains, it is unrealistic.
In a working setup, many of us have an attitude of ‘I can handle everything, I need no one’. Well, that is only going to leave you burdened and exhausted with work, colleagues with a bruised ego, unutilized human resource, and in the attempt of trying to do everything, getting nothing done.
It may be due to ego and a sense of impressing superiors, but in more than most cases, it is due to the lack of trust in the team members to do the job well, that we are unable to delegate work and keep everything to ourselves.
But, isn’t the sole purpose of forming teams is to enable delegation of work and shared effort? Delegation of work enables quicker execution, discovering different ways of getting a job done, and make the remuneration of other team members’ worth.
So understand that everyone else is on the team because probably they are competent to handle their work, and just let go. Waise bhi bade buzurg keh gaye hai ki Dene Se hi Tarakki Hoti Hai… exactly my point!
Active listening vs Passive listening
Now if you were listening to that little voice in your head narrating, as you read the ‘Listening’ section that appeared a few thousand words back, you should be well-versed with the concept Listening. If not, well this article is a form of written communication, so you can always go revisit concepts! So let’s add a feather more to your cap of communication skills and explore Listening in further depth.
|Active Listening||Passive Listening|
|The listener is well attentive towards the content spoken, and tries to comprehend and makes sense of it.||Words spoken are just falling on the listener’s deaf ears and there is no attempt to make sense of it. Visualizing yourself in a boring meeting/class?|
|It is a two-way process where the listener to interacts and the dialogue leads to a conversation.||A listener is just there, sitting, like a zombie, with no active efforts whatsoever. You again?|
|Process of the addition of value||Process of the addition of time wasted|
Collaboration & Co-operation
For you to take me seriously, here’s some theoretical gyaan. There are different styles in which a team can function together. Namely: Collaboration, Competition, Compromise, Co-operation, and Avoidance. Of these, teams that adopt the collaborative and co-operative styles of functioning have been observed to be the highest performing and least conflicting.
A basic pre-requisite for a team to be able to adopt either of the two, or a mix of both social skills is ‘Mutual respect despite existing differences’. Members need to learn to Agree to Disagree but with respect for others’ opinions. A Leader can most effectively instill such a culture in a team using the concept of leading by example.
Collaboration essentially is coming together of the team members, putting down their opinions and point of view, brainstorm and evaluate each alternative and finally come up with the most optimum solution using the best fitting suggestion or an amalgamation of various thoughts.
The co-operative style of functioning is when members of the team believe in and back the leader or another team member and the course of action set by him and work in tandem and co-operation to ensure successful execution of the plan.
Is baat pe Lagaan ke bhuvan babu ki kahi kuch panktiyaan yaad aati hai, ‘Paanch ungli jab ban jaye mutthi, kar denge hum sabki chhutti…’ A collaboration of people overthrew the British Raj. I am sure it can tackle your month-end targets!
Whenever a Black and White exist, there is always a possibility of creating a grey, and Negotiation is the process of achieving that grey. A person with strong soft skills is always a good negotiator.
Negotiation is a process is a part of the broader process of brainstorming and evaluation of alternatives. Members bring to table different ideas and opinions which in most cases tend to be conflicting in nature, a mutual consensus is aimed to reach by evaluation of most fitting solutions by negotiating their pros and cons.
The loudest mouth need not necessarily have the best solution. So if you believe your proposal adds more value, stand up for it and negotiate.
Glaciers are melting, cars are orbiting the planet, people are screaming during roller coaster rides sitting on the couch and wearing headgear, vegetables are being grown artificially… if that hasn’t raised your eyebrows, there are people out there copulating with rubber dolls!
Today’s world is a VUCA world in all its extremities, and it is changing, stabilizing, getting better, getting weirder, getting safer, getting vulnerable, and all at once. With the rapidly advancing technology and humans’ obsession with exploiting it, the world is changing every day.
The ones who would survive, let alone thrive in this world-changing at an unforgivable rate, are the ones who adapt and evolve. Evolving is still a matter of thriving, but adaptability is a matter of survival and that makes it next to our soft skills list.
The gigantic horrifying reptiles, dinosaurs, were wiped off the face of this earth because they lacked the ability to adapt, while a microscopic organism, algae, not even visible to the naked eye, has been surviving numerous environmental adversities since hundreds of years and has mange to thrive today as well, only because it was able to adapt to whatever nature threw it at.
‘What’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ are the three questions which gave birth to every innovation, discovery, business idea, political strategies, and almost everything that mankind has developed till day. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the genesis of every human thought and action is curiosity.
The maximum spoon-feeding that can be done to someone is to enable access to the repository of knowledge available out in the world, and we are being spoon-fed extensively by the internet today.
It is is the inquisitive nature of man wanting to know things and decode the world, which has led us to bring humanity where it is. Thus, curiosity, in my opinion, is one of the best traits to possess to gather knowledge and facilitate quicker and more organic learning.
Yes, it may have killed the cat, but it has also won many humans the noble prize, so you decide… Putting into context, a curious man is always inquisitive to know about things, and unless you know what are the changing trends in the world, how are you going to adapt to them?
‘I dream. I dream to be the best version of myself, give Ted Talks and share my success story, provide the best for my family and make my parents proud. Yes, I dream to build a Fortune 500 company that not only has an ever-expanding bottom line but one which cares for its employees serves the society and make my nation proud. And yes, I dream of contributing towards solving the climate change issue, curb world hunger, solve the energy crisis, and make the world proud!… Just that, uh, I can’t wake up before 10 in the morning…’
We all want to conquer the world in our ways, but have we conquered our self? They say that people don’t have time to think about what you do. Well, yes true, but they surely have all the time and interest to ‘notice’ what you do, and that’s how the world perceives you. Thus, the first step to conquer the world outside always falls on the inside.
Life is the choices you make, your choices depend upon the decision you take. Every second in life is a conscious decision.
If you are looking for how to make a decision, you are probably reading the wrong guy. I can never tell you with guarantee what to decide for yourself, neither can your parents, teachers, lawyers, management pundits, and in most cases nor can you.
Yet every moment you exist, you are making decisions. Even if you are just sitting idle not making any decisions, that itself is a decision. Decision making is a skill that cannot exactly be learned but developed with practice over time. For making strategic decisions, one could very well use logical frameworks available in many training and development modules, but on a broader level, decision making in life mostly tends to be intuitive.
Word of caution: Weak decision makers are best at deciding to procrastinate decisions.
When the surrounding is VUCA, you can’t be VUCA too. Likes repel remember… Being calm inside and out is a pre-requisite for a whole lot of important things.
This is a soft skill that helps to make sound decisions, ensures clarity of thought, enables a flow of creative thoughts, better conflict resolution, aids to negotiate effectively and most importantly maintains peace of mind.
Practicing basic breathing exercises and daily meditation can help in developing calmness of mind and body.
The grass is greener on the other side because my garden is filled with beautiful colored flowers!
Optimism… the art of finding something positive even in every negative. Very difficult, but very inspiring, very reassuring, very empowering and very much fun.
It is not going to come naturally initially because we are hard-wired to pick the negatives first and brace ourselves all these years. Initially, it would require a conscious effort. You will have to force your brain to somehow find something positive in a situation, event, person, while the brain is convinced that it can’t get any worse. With time almost becomes like second nature, to first spot the good and positive in everything.
Think positive and good things will follow. This, however, is a subject for a separate blog but says, even if you don’t believe it to be true… What is it worth to anticipate the bad and end up crushing your spirits and mood even before the bad has occurred. If something is bound to happen, it will. So crib about it then, but until then, why waste any moment in life when you can be hopeful, happy and full of unchartered possibilities.
Jab aakhri ball pe 13 run chahiye, toh optimist who jo nakhun chabate kahega, arey Dhoni batting pe hai! No ball pe six aur free hit pe ek aur six pel dega humara finisher!
Observation is leisure but putting it into context and making sense out if it is analysis.
We’ve been stressing over the fact that the ability to adapt to changing surroundings is not going to be possible when you do not know what to adapt to. Analysis of a situation is the most important exercise because the entire course of action then depends upon the analysis done and the conclusion drawn from it.
Analysis of past trends can also be useful in forecasting future trends.
Jiska koi nahi uska Bhgwaan hota hai. God helps those who helps themselves. Cooking up English and Hindi together, it’s just you for yourself. Law of transitivity!
As kids we used to hate school as it gave us homework, had set syllabus, teachers always told us what to do and what not, silliest mistakes resulted in being made class ka murga… torturous! Well, the school’s over, we are out in the open. No set syllabus in life, no one’s giving us problems from the textbook to be practiced at home, guess what no one to tell us what’s right and what’s not, and punishment has been upgraded from murga to gully ka Kutta… free from torture, are we? Or now tortured and lost as well!
Responsibility towards family, work, and society first demands responsibility towards yourself. Every person in your life to supports you is an added boon and not a necessary presence. So pull yourself out of the bed every morning, push your butt to go further every day, pick yourself by the collar when life beats you down, and pat yourself on the back and treat yourself with occasional ice cream when you beat the hell out of life.
4. Problem Solving
The society has trained us to be problem solvers since childhood. School taught us to solve math problems, college taught us to solve pocket money problems, relationships taught us to solve the problem of being a problem to someone else, life taught us that no matter how many problems we solve, people are always going to view life in terms of fewer problems/ more problems/ adverse problems/ problems you could live with… instead of less happiness/ more happiness or exhilarating happiness/ happiness in little things of life.
Well, corporates are no different. Recruiters today are looking for people with stronger soft skills in terms of problem-solving instead of keyboard soldiers and protocol followers. Are you one?
You cannot afford to have unidimensional thinking when Christopher Nolan is exposing people to the fifth dimension. Business problems, or that matter any problems in life aren’t unit factorial problems.
Businesses today getting bigger and complex and so are its problems. Attempting to deal with a single business roadblock involves tackling several different factors in various facets, involving multiple stakeholders, not forgetting to still operate within permissible and acceptable professional boundaries.
Thus, one of the most important traits of a problem solver as a part of his/her soft skills is to be able to think tangentially factoring in various variables and having an ability to process all information from various domains and considering them all, come up with the most efficient way to deal with the problem at hand.
If you are someone who has appeared for competitive entrance tests ever in life, then probably this topic suddenly flashed the image of number series and circular arrangements, adherence, and coherence of sentences, etc. That’s logical reasoning for all you marks hungry individuals trying to quantify everything in terms of numbers and diagrams.
In a broader perspective, Logical Reasoning boils down to analysis which is fair and true, rational arguments and sound judgment. An unprejudiced and rationally sound viewpoint thus becomes a crucial part of your soft skills while solving any kind of business issue or even otherwise.
Vivekananda said ‘try till you succeed’ adding to it I would say ‘Keep trying harder to keep your success intact.’
Papa always told me beta in life, always aims to be a marathon runner and not a 100m sprinter. In the long run, it doesn’t matter as to who does it better with efforts put into the best of his abilities, as much as who does it persistently with an equal amount of effort put in every time. So a person with strong soft skills believes in the process, trusts life and keeps going at it again and again.
Stop reading this blog, catch hold of any toddler and just observe. They are the best original softies ever with naturally evolved soft skills that could melt anyone’s heart. Haven’t there been numerous instances when you were in the worst of your moods and suddenly your cousin’s chhotu or the next-door toddler walks in and asks you for chocolate, and you end up giving him ten.
Kids are the best persuaders, and it is time we learn a thing or two from them. Well, you can’t make that cute baby face, because come on let’s face it, you would end up looking stupid. What is behind that face that gets us every single time? I don’t know why, but it is something that we simply cannot resist.
Wow! Godfather hacked it years back… You make them an offer they cannot resist! Toning it down and cutting the drama out, you can only persuade someone to do something if there is something in it for them. So before you approach, do your homework. Figure out as to what is it that you can offer them that would add value.
Other points of consideration include:
- Decision making
Again…Written communication, go back and refer to my detailed thoughts about the topics, and if you too lazy to do that, work on your memory duh…
Machines can follow protocols, set patterns and carry out the same task in the same fashion over and over again. Then what better are we over the machines? We as humans are superior over not only machines but also other species because of our ability to think out of the routine, to innovate, to create.
Many times we wrongly associate Creativity as a term only with works related to art. The word is simply ‘Create’. It does not specify whether to create a painting or a dance form or a poem or a product promotional strategy or a computer algorithm or filling of books of accounts. Creativity simply refers to finding new ways to the same things differently such that most people haven’t thought of before. Thus, one can be creative in any line of work, as long as the idea is to attempt to constantly reinvent himself and break the mundane.
One of the major reasons corporates are willing to shell out hefty pay packages to fresh management graduates is in anticipation that they would probably bring a fresher perspective and come up with innovative ideas and methods which existing veterans who have been dead-locked in set patterns are unable to think of. Employers today value the ability to try and attempt to do things differently, and that was creativity is essential. Enhancing your approach creatively enhances your soft skills.
Inspiration & Imagination
Generally, creativity stems from either inspiration or imagination.
Creativity from inspiration is when someone does a piece of work in a way that inspires you, and you decide to further build on it and come up with something having your essence to it, making it further innovative and creative.
Creativity from imagination stems when a person can’t keep doing things the usual mediocre way. The brain keeps churning ideas and thoughts, imagination runs wild and there is an innate need to do things differently.
Not many are aware of this fantastic technique of creating possibilities. Mind mapping is taking up an idea/thought and backtracking your thought process to the thought that led to the genesis of the idea.
Nature designed our thought process in a way such that our thoughts are linked to each other called the stream of consciousness. It is not always that we are completely conscious of every thought of ours. Our brain generally weeds out the line of thoughts leading to the idea and the central focus remains on the main idea.
Mind mapping a great idea can potentially surface other equally good or even better ideas. It helps you understand the thinking pattern and gives you access to the stream of thoughts that led to the manifestation of the idea.
Potentially each thought can be a unique idea in itself. Thus, mind mapping is an extraordinary technique that helps you build a repository of ideas steaming from a single one of those.
Didn’t your English teacher always, while solving a reading comprehension, stress that not all the information would be given explicitly. You need to read between the lines.
Well, technically speaking the area between the lines is just empty, plain white. It is how one decides to fill that plain gap, open to interpretation, with his understanding of the lines. Different thought processes, different sensibilities, different experiences to relate to and thus a variety of different ways to fill in the gaps between the lines… and isn’t creativity all about differentiation!
Drawing insights is the broader spectrum of reading between the lines. It is reading between the lines, situations, words spoken, the behavior displayed, information gathered, etc. It is going far and beyond explicitly given facts and trying to use your sensibilities to draw meaning out of it. Data given is common to all but drawing insights from it and making its application worthy, is where lies the scope for creativity to bloom.
Do not expect different results when you are doing the same thing over and over again, or even different things the same old way. Unless you dare to break the norm and get out of the line, there isn’t a scope for you to stand out.
Either of the two ways makes all innovations, big or small, possible: 1. Experimentation, 2. By chance…followed by experimentation to confirm that it wasn’t a one-time fluke.
So trust your gut, take the risk and experiment. You’ll either end up screaming Eureka! or end up in failure. But as I said earlier, always fail with a smile, because his plans are always better than yours…
We are all seeking the right answers, but are we asking the right questions? Or we even asking?
Why, When, Where, What, How. The ‘4 Ws 1H’ is the most comprehensive framework to force the human brain to go above and beyond. Every successful business plan, piece of art, breakthrough policy, or life-altering innovation roots its genesis in the attempt to answer one of those 5 most basic questions.
Questions create a demand for answers, and it is in the attempt to answer those questions, that magic is created.
Yes, not all questions are going to lead to uncharted territories, in fact, most won’t, and in all possibilities, you would be ridiculed and labeled stupid…but remember Edison isn’t revered and remembered for those 1000 failed attempts at answering the question HOW can I light this bulb up, and being deemed stupid every single time to even think of such a possibility, but for that 1001th time when the bulb did light up, and is lighting up the dark spaces of our lives ever since.
6. Work Ethics
Eh, what…? Planning to skip through this bit? Well then, all the time and effort you invested in hopping and skipping through these couple of thousand words are all in vain.
Of what use are you to anyone if, you are a great communicator but don’t reach to meetings on time to deliver your pitch, you are bubbling with creative ideas but too lazy to pick up a pen and a notebook and put them on paper, you are a great persuader but have no tolerance to listen…
All your learned, developed, or natural soft skills become useless if you fail to prove yourself to be responsible, sensitive, committed, reliable and professional. Work ethics is a matter of your attitude towards work and life as a whole, and attitude can neither be learned or developed. It is either in your nature or introspection and realization of areas of improvement can alter it.
Jo apna na ho saka who kisi aur ka kya hoga! Filmy, I know, but that’s essentially what integrity is. Before anybody else, be true to yourself.
Integrity is, in essence, an umbrella term for honesty, punctuality, adhering to deadlines, keeping commitments… to sum it up all, being a man of your words. (English is a sexist language, don’t blame me).
Very frankly, Sab chhod do, bas ise pakad lo, aapka uddhar ho jayega.
Spiderman ke tauji keh gaye, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, but honestly, with mediocre power too comes great responsibility, and guess what, with no power also comes great responsibility, and that’s the least rewarding and most frustrating.
But if there is one character trait that everyone looks for in anyone one, it would hand down be, responsibility!
The company looks for it in the management, management looks for it in the employees, and the employees, well they don’t have anyone down the hierarchy… No matter if you are at the top or the bottom of the ladder if, for nothing else, you are at least going to be held responsible for your self. So better man up! (…again, blame it on the language).
No one likes a couch potato whom one has to push, poke and remind for getting everything done.
Organizations are now moving from micromanagement to giving autonomy to their employees in terms of decision-making. And well, lacking initiative, the autonomy is going to be a bane rather than a boon, as organizations would expect much of you and no one is going to be behind your back to hit you with the cane and ask you to start working.
Also Initiative = Visibility. Someone who does things without being asked for is the one who catches the eye first, and Bhaiya jo dikhta hai, who bikta hai.
The initiative presents you with leadership opportunities too.
Back in the 90s, when in a cricket test match wickets were going down the drain and holding ground was the need of the hour, the entire nation turned to The Wall, Mr. Rahul Dravid, and ever since he has earned the title of Mr. Dependable.
Any team would always want a leader who, when things go south, they can fall back upon. In all certainty, it is going to be last or even non-existent on your superior’s list to babysit you and check every hour if the work is going as it should be.
One of the best things to hear about yourself is Usko bola hai, ho jayega.
Guys, uh we hate commitment, we just can’t take it. Beware, as much that attitude of your drives girls away, it also does the recruiters. Rishi-Muni keh gaye ki Pran jaye, par vachan na jaye… Recruiters may not be from the mythological era, but they surely expect you to abide by the philosophy. Yes, I agree that staying committed to a single task for a long time can be difficult, but as for any committed relationship, it is not always a bed of roses. There surely are days when you just want to give it all up, but you got to shrug it down your shoulder and put in constant, meticulous efforts to make it work. Aur Rishi-Muni ki baate palle na padi ho, Bhai se hi kuch seekh lo, ve bhi kehte hai ‘Ek baar jo maine commitment kar di, fir toh main apne aap ki bhi nahi sunta…’
- Professionalism, Teamwork, Time management, Self Discipline are some other factors that affect work ethics.
7. Interpersonal skills
Chai pe Charcha, Conversations over a coffee, Sutte pe tuta sannata or Whining over a glass of wine… These and numerous other setups like these. We have all been here. Interpersonal communications (Interpersonal skills are sometimes used synonymously to soft skills). Be it formal or informal, irrespective of us being gregarious or anti-social, interpersonal communication is a necessary blessing, evil, however, you may want to put it, but still necessary.
If you are still here, reading this blog, trust me it is only the humor, or should I say, my lame attempt at it. Mild humor is the magic tool that you can use almost anywhere. Less informal the setup gets, more could be the intensity of the humor you use.
Humour (as a part of your soft skills) can make the boring better, and the better the best. Orators across domains use humor as a resort to break the monotony and to resurrect a sinking talk.
Humour isn’t everyone’s strong point, I agree, but it is the key to delivering impressive talks. So you better get your hands on a ‘how to develop a sense of humor’ book and ghor tapasya mein lag jao vats!
It is the buzz word of the town these days! Networking simply put is a pool of contacts that you can leverage when in need.
The one most important thing in top business schools, demanding lacs of rupees, teach is networking skills. Networking happens at networking lunches, networking teas, networking parties social parties, birthday parties, marriages, funerals… at any and every gathering of professionals.
It may get a little awkward, even embarrassing for a few in the beginning, but once you understand that it is completely normal to reach up to a random stranger or a group of strangers at a networking event and hand out your card to them, networking becomes one of the most fun yet productive activity. Stronger soft skills lead to better networking.
Patience and Tolerance
Beta dheeraj se kaam lo. Oye thand rakh paaji! Be patient as it is the mother of all virtues. Different languages, different cultures, one teaching.
Patience makes you seem amicable and approachable. To be able to be patient and calm is one of the best conflict management tools.
Patience and tolerance go hand in hand with your soft skills. To be tolerant, you need to be patient. We have talked of many skills and characteristics one must have to excel in a professional setup and even otherwise, but if there was a list of ‘must-have’s’, tolerance is sure to secure a place in it.
Honesty is the best policy they taught us, but for the sake of not being devoured in the corporate food chain, let’s tweak it a little to… Honest in the right amounts, at the right times, at the right places and in front of the right people, is the best policy!
Okay, don’t get me wrong, but the corporate world is a jungle filled with junglier than jungly creatures. Corporate politics has well managed to suppress the brightest but naïve talents. So, as a part of your soft skills, it won’t hurt, rather only benefit to be diplomatic in conversations where necessary.
A team is only as strong, focused, motivated and headed in the right direction as its leader.
Gyaan baantney se hi badhta hai, they said. Mentoring is a skill that can give you a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that no other can.
An effective leader with strong soft skills is an even better mentor. Leaders that are bosses, command respect, but leaders that are mentors, earn respect. Moreover mentoring a subordinate is almost like a refresher course for you. There is nothing better than brushing up your basics every once a while.
The Responsibility and onus of a project, while is of the entire team, but in the end, management holds the leader accountable. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure his team successfully executes a project.
A leader with strong soft skills must ensure timely completion of the project deliverables. He/She must ensure the efficiency of the project progression. Not letting quality compromised is of utmost importance, instead of sticking to deadlines.
Diversity. Employee Diversity is one of the major focus areas for companies today. Although diversity can be in various forms, cultural diversity is what the leader is most concerned with.
Different people from different parts of the nation with varied experiences surely bring several ideas along with conflicting viewpoints. Cultural intelligence thus becomes important for the leader’s soft skills in order to maintain coherence amongst the team.
An important soft skill the leader should develop is Cultural Sensitivity and try and instill amongst other members of the team too.
- Empathy & Selflessness are other consideration worthy traits for effective leadership
9. Time Management
Ever felt like you have been doing so much, but got nothing done? Time management is the most simplistic part of your soft skills which most people lack or haven’t consciously worked upon.
Every one of us has the same number of hours, yet some accomplish wonders and rest struggle. People are never ‘too busy’, they just haven’t figured out how to manage and allocate their time.
Without much verbosity…
- Time management: Prioritise. Abide
- Goal setting: Journeys have destinations, else it is just wandering
- Planning your day: Wake up to steer, not to sway.
- Introspect: Look within and wake up, every night before you sleep.
- Kaizen: Propagate, not stagnate
10. Attention to Detail
Devil is in the details they say…
Things may not always be the way they seem, and thus it is important to develop an eye for detail. The details are usually where the catch lies, and most skip or skim through them. Having an eye for details ensures thoroughly proofread proposals provided, and dupe proof proposals received.
For strong soft skills, attention to detail is the key to various complex problems that seem unsolvable at a general glance. Domain-specific problems generally go undetected at a broader view.
I know it seemed like it never would… but here we come to the end. Topics discussed in the blog are timeless, and surely you have heard of or read about most of them before. I hope I at least marginally succeeded in my attempt to bring a fresher perspective about soft skills.
It is easy and common to be the tough guy/girl honing your hard skills. Contrary to that it is the soft skills who today grab eyeballs, respect, and heftier paychecks. You decide…
Naman Khurana, one of our team members, has written a poem on the same lines.
The poem says how Soft Skills of a Cab Driver made someone comfortable & happy. There are some set of skills that matters a lot, which takes you from a totally different place to a place which you feel like you know this already.
I was waiting,
Waiting for a cab.
It was raining,
Raining like an open tap.
It was a new place,
I was a total stranger for it.
After a long waiting hour,
Saw a cab rushing,
Boarded it to go to this stranger area,
An area like a totally blank slate in my mind,
As I was new there,
Wanted someone to talk to,
To know this place.
He was staring at me like I was an alien,
But had this vibe as he knew me already.
I asked his name to break the ice,
He had this gentleness in his voice.
We talked and talked,
Through the hustle-bustle of the roads,
Didn’t realize how an hour got passed so fast.
He told how he has to stay here,
Away from his family and those adorable kids,
To earn for their living,
And give them a life he never had.
And here, had to bear some rude passengers,
Not to lose his temper,
Being the kind one.
I boarded off at a familiar place now,
Gave him extra cash,
For the knowledge, he provided through the way.
That smile and happiness,
I’ll never forget.
His smile gave me a sense of belongingness.
The kindness in his talk,
The aura that is built,
Brought me from a stranger area to a known one.
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