From technical proficiencies to social capital skills, collective focus in recent years has centered on readying workers to meet rapidly changing demands in the Intelligence Age.
We know interpersonal skills are increasingly important to companies. The World Economic Forum’s 2016 landmark report predicted 35% change in sought-after core skills within the next several years. Top of the list? Soft skills like emotional intelligence, people management, and creative thinking. For the individual professional, this means your unique talent equation – your specific combination of technical proficiencies (hard skills) plus personal and social ability assets (soft skills) – will quickly become vital to safeguarding your professional future.
The growing value of people skills in our technology-driven culture means that “to beat the bot, you need to be more human,” according to Paul Roehrig, coauthor of What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data. Many of us, however, haven’t yet really invested in developing our interpersonal capabilities.
Like hard skills, soft skills can be learned, practiced, and improved over time. Regrettably, the expert-recommended lists of “must-have soft skills” grow seemingly longer and more abstract with each new study. Simply knowing where to start is challenge #1. Here are three great places to begin.
Creativity – Who has time to “be creative” while getting crushed by busywork and information overload? Developing our creativity muscles doesn’t require an epic pilgrimage to the mountaintop. Take one step. Switch up your physical environment by altering your route to work or rearranging your desk. Before beginning a project or making a next-step decision, allow uninterrupted time for brainstorming and free thought-flow. Creativity is cultivated when we have space – physical and mental – to stretch our thinking and envision things differently. Start simply. Small changes can open the space for big ideas.
Teamwork – Good team players are described as those who “work well with others.” What an empty phrase. Effective business teamwork demands more than kindergarten circle time. It takes collaboration – setting aside assumptions, listening with an open mind, learning from others, and adjusting ideas. Teamwork requires tactical and mental synergy – splitting duties appropriately and evenly, optimizing work flow, recognizing when new thinking is needed, and adapting to others’ styles and preferences. And it demands genuine inclusion – inviting others into the effort, sharing in responsibilities, cheering the wins, and facing the losses…together. Real teamwork is hard work. Learn the skills and you’ll prove yourself a valuable member of any team.
Communications – This one doesn’t feel new to us, in part, because just about every job description we read includes “good communications skills”. But effective communication is deceptively harder to achieve than many realize. Communication takes on many forms, and most of us are better at some, less so at others. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. The adage applies not only to face-to-face conversations and meetings (eye contact, hand gestures, body language). It’s directly pertinent to presentations, written reports, documents, emails, phone conversations, voicemail messages, even texts. Work to develop your proficiency across the spectrum of written and oral communications. Ask for feedback. Listen to criticism. Apply suggestions. Learn and adapt.
Your individual talent equation includes both hard and soft skills. From subject expertise and technical competencies to interpersonal communications and imaginative thinking, begin building your skills of tomorrow, today. By recognizing that the only constant is change, you’ll be a step ahead down the path to success.