By: David Sturt & Todd Nordstrom June 23, 2016
Would you rather have a co-worker or manager who’s a leader in your field, a true expert with great amounts of knowledge and experience—but isn’t much of a people person, and doesn’t get along with the team very well? Or would you rather work side by side with an inexperienced colleague or leader who’s collaborative, curious, friendly, and pleasant? For most people, the answer is a no-brainer: “Give me someone I can work with! The knowledge and skills will come.”
The good news is, if you think you fall into the first category (lots of smarts and experience, but a lack of people skills), you can turn that around. We meet these people all the time. And, it’s often difficult for them to ask for help regarding their “softer skills.” Nevertheless, we’ve found four soft skills you need to make people feel at ease and help them trust you at work—and, by the way, you’ll be making more friends, boosting your productivity, and innovating in no time.
“Listen first, talk later.” “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” “You learn when you listen.” If you’ve heard these—or any other of the myriad of quotes—about listening, you may grasp the importance of this skill. But, if you’re the type of person who finds themselves anxiously planning what you’ll say while others speak, you definitely should understand how important it is to just stop and listen. When a co-worker is communicating with you, give them your full attention. Put your phone down. Make eye contact. Respond only after you’ve heard everything they want to say. When you start making listening a priority, you may just see a lot of previous problems disappear—because listening carefully develops your empathy and understanding in any situation.
We’ve written before about the importance of being a good communicator. As a leader, your communication style sets the tone for the team. It’s important to be clear, concise, and respectful when you speak or write emails, but your nonverbal cues are another crucial part of good communication. Facial expressions, posture, gestures, and eye contact all count—and they say a lot. Make sure to be positive, polite, and respectful in your face-to-face interactions at work. Because when your body language conflicts with your words, people will believe your nonverbal cues, says Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results. So keep the eye rolling and crossed arms to a minimum, lest you come across as disinterested and rude.
Dealing With Change
You know the only constant is change—so why is it so hard to manage when something suddenly shifts at work? Whether it’s a team member leaving or arriving, a change in direction, or even a new office space, change can be tricky to navigate. Our top tips? Keep your head. Ask questions so you understand the situation. Enlist help from friends and colleagues when you feel overwhelmed. And be patient, because adjusting to a new situation will probably take a little time. If you’re a leader who needs to navigate change with the team, check out the do’s and don’ts of leading through change the next time you’re stuck in a transition.
Saying Thank You
Yes, you’ve heard this before. Saying thank you really matters. When you reach out to a team member, a colleague, or even your boss (they deserve a thank you, too!) to appreciate their effort or big win, you’re projecting more than just professionalism. You’re also communicating kindness and team spirit—and boosting co-workers’ motivation to innovate and make a difference. The team grows stronger, people are happier and more satisfied with their jobs, and the whole company benefits. It’s a win-win-win. So if you don’t say thank you nearly enough—and most people don’t, research shows—use these best practices to work more appreciation into your work life.
Hard skills might be what get you the job—but soft skills are what drive friendship, success and happiness at work. So brush up on these simple but crucial people skills to boost your professional success. And don’t be surprised if they help your life outside work either!