The development of people skills, also known as soft skills, is as important to business success as hitting those sales targets.
Cultivating soft skills helps to ground us and direct our energy into supporting colleagues and the business we work for, particularly through potentially challenging periods.
Effective communication, empathy, critical thinking and resilience top the list of people skills and prioritising these characteristics in the workplace can facilitate employees to withstand challenges they face when trying to accomplish their goals, and by doing so, meet the goals set by the organisations they work for.
1. Critical thinking
Problem solving comes easily to critical thinkers who are able to apply analysis, reasoning and creative thinking to a task, first to identify a problem, then to come up with a resolution. Businesses need employees to question the assumptions of others and also their own, and not simply to accept ideas at face value. Enquiring minds are able to analyse problems and find connections between ideas by looking at the the best ways to problem solve and deduce if additional information is required to come up with a solution.
Critical thinkers are more able to act autonomously and see a project through to completion.
2. Mindful communication
Having the necessary tools to communicate mindfully and effectively with others is essential. Conflict sometimes erupts through misinterpretation and is easily avoided.
Being thoughtful when we communicate with colleagues or clients helps prevent conflict in the first instance, but if misinterpretation does occur then the best course of action can be to have a clearing conversation, in order to move forward productively.
The front line of miscommunication disputes can often be managers who require the necessary skills to mediate and resolve challenging situations. These managers require emotional resilience in order to fully digest situations and shift the dynamic away from dispute to cooperation and harmony. Critical thinking skills are essential in this situation, to come up with solutions and take the necessary action to see them through.
3. Relational mastery
Relational mastery begins with facilitating the psychological safety of employees, particularly during challenging periods. It is essential to be transparent in relation to staff expectations and also the state of the organisation, enabling employees to operate from a place of trust rather than fear of the unknown. Employees perform best when free from ambiguity and anxiety, releasing them to innovate, collaborate and create.
Cultivating relational mastery allows employees to form and also maintain healthy relationships, firmly rooted in mutual respect, transparency and trust, which in turn builds internal equanimity, strength and stability. This environment cultivates emotional intelligence where emotions are better managed and care for the emotions of others flourishes.
4. The giving and receiving of feedback
Constructive feedback is usually welcome but critical feedback can be triggering, leading to anxiety, anger or even shutdown, potentially resulting in someone switching off from a task, project or worse still, their whole job. Such reactionary behaviour is clearly counterproductive and to be avoided.
Emotional intelligence can be employed in two ways when it comes to receiving feedback. Enhanced self-awareness leads us to notice signs of any oncoming negativity and request a pause in the conversation. Whoever is giving the feedback may also attune themselves to the reaction of the person receiving it and pause accordingly, perhaps rescheduling the conversation for a time when the feedback will be better received and digested.
Embracing and developing people skills in the workplace generates a feeling of psychological safety for all members of staff, creating a much more harmonious environment in which to work where employees feel secure and valued, all of which can only lead to increased productivity and the achievement of both personal and organisational goals.
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