Essential soft skills to develop your career
What are the top 12 soft skills and how to improve them
Without question the number one change you can make to help your career blossom, get the job you are hoping for, be most productive and, if you are in a management or leadership role, retain and engage a high performance team, is to develop yours and your team’s soft skills.
Soft skills play a crucial role in improving productivity in the workplace by fostering effective communication, collaboration, leadership, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.
Enabling you to interact effectively with others, both inside and outside your organisation, can be the difference between an average job and a highly successful career. With developed soft skills, you will be more effective in your work and most likely have a more enjoyable work life.
If you ask any recruitment consultant or business manager what they are looking for in the perfect candidate beyond the basic requisite requirements, the answer will be soft skills.
Given that these skills are the magic wand to get the job of your dreams or the future you hope for, let’s take a look at what they are and how these skills can be developed.
2. Active listening
Possibly one of the most overlooked of the soft skills, the ability to hear and understand what others are saying, both verbally and non-verbally. It's a critical skill for professionals who need to build rapport, communicate effectively, and collaborate with others.
How can I improve my active listening skills?
To get better at active listening, pay attention to what others are saying and ask open-ended questions to understand them better. Don't interrupt or jump to conclusions, instead, stay present and focused on the speaker. Avoid any distractions and be patient. Maintain eye contact and summarize what you've heard to confirm your understanding. Practicing these techniques will help you improve your active listening skills.
How can active listening skills improve my team?
Active listening is a vital skill for team productivity. It promotes better understanding, problem-solving, reduced conflicts, improved relationships, and better communication among team members. By fostering a culture of active listening, you can improve your team's productivity and achieve better results.
3. Time management
The ability to manage one's time efficiently to complete tasks within deadlines.
How can I improve my time management?
Managing time effectively is critical for completing tasks and achieving goals within deadlines. To improve time management skills, create a to-do list, prioritize tasks, avoid multitasking, and set realistic deadlines. Using time-tracking tools, delegating tasks, and avoiding distractions can also be helpful in improving time management.
How can effective time management bring positive change to my team?
Good time management skills enable team members to prioritise their work and focus on the most important tasks. By effectively managing their time, they can avoid getting bogged down by minor tasks and instead concentrate on the critical ones that will have the most significant impact.
It helps team members work more efficiently, enabling them to complete more work in less time. This can lead to higher productivity levels and increased output from the team.
When each team member is responsible for managing their time effectively, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and be accountable for their own productivity. This, in turn, can lead to greater team accountability as a whole.
Improves wellbeing: Good time management practices can help reduce stress levels by providing team members with a clear sense of direction and control over their work. By knowing what tasks need to be completed and when to complete them, avoiding feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Being a great leader requires the ability to motivate and guide others towards a common goal.
How can I build on my leadership skills?
Leadership skills can be developed through a combination of training, experience, and personal development. Here are some ways to improve your leadership skills:
Seek out leadership opportunities: Take on leadership roles in your personal and professional life. This could include volunteering for leadership positions in community organizations or taking on leadership roles at work.
Learn from others: Seek out mentors and study the leadership styles of successful leaders. Identify the traits and behaviours that make them effective and try to emulate them.
Develop your communication skills: Effective communication is a key component of leadership. Practice active listening and work on your public speaking skills.
Learn to delegate: Effective leaders know how to delegate tasks to their team members. Learn to trust others to take on responsibilities and focus on the big picture.
Embrace feedback: Seek out feedback from others and be open to constructive criticism. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement.
Continuously learn and develop: Read books, attend workshops and conferences, and pursue further education to continuously develop your skills as a leader.
Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, effort, and dedication to become an effective leader.
5. Critical thinking
Strategic thinking and complex problem-solving skills are critical for professionals who need to make effective decisions in today's fast-paced business environment. These skills involve the ability to analyse and evaluate complex information, identify patterns, and make decisions that can achieve long-term goals.
Critical thinking involves the ability to analyse and evaluate information and ideas to form logical conclusions.
How can I improve my problem solving and critical thinking?
To develop skills when approaching a problem, step back taking time to identify and really understand the problem.
Start by breaking down complex issues into smaller, manageable parts. Try brainstorming to present a variety of potential solutions, then analyse and evaluate each part systematically to find the best outcome. You can enhance your skills by staying up to date on industry trends, gathering data and insights, seeking out advice from others and learning from past mistakes.
Practice questioning assumptions, analysing arguments, and weighing evidence. Additionally, seeking multiple perspectives, being open-minded, and avoiding biases to help enhance critical thinking.
How will developing problem solving skills get better results for my team?
Developing problem-solving skills can bring many advantages to your team. With these skills, team members can make informed decisions by assessing risks and evaluating potential outcomes, which results in better decision-making based on logic and critical thinking.
Effective communication and idea-sharing become essential when solving problems, leading to better collaboration and relationships within the team, reducing conflicts. Efficient and productive work are achieved when the team members can solve problems more effectively.
These skills help identify and address issues before they turn into major problems, leading to higher quality work, staying ahead of competitors, continuously improving and producing better outcomes for the team and wider organisation.
6. Team work
Collaborating and working effectively with others to achieve a common goal.
How can I improve my teamwork?
To improve teamwork skills, practice active listening, give constructive feedback, and be open to diverse perspectives. Setting clear goals, assigning tasks based on strengths, delivering on agreed actions and providing recognition can improve teamwork.
How to encourage teamwork?
Foster a sense of shared purpose: Make sure that everyone on the team is clear about the team's goals, and how their individual work contributes to those goals. Encourage team members to see themselves as part of a larger whole, and to take pride in the team's accomplishments.
Promote open communication: Encourage team members to share their ideas, opinions, and feedback with one another. Create opportunities for open dialogue, such as regular team meetings or brainstorming sessions. Encourage respectful and constructive communication, and make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard.
Create opportunities for team members to work together on projects or tasks. Assign roles and responsibilities based on each person's strengths and expertise, and encourage team members to support and help one another.
Celebrate successes: When the team achieves a goal or completes a project, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishment. This can help build morale and foster a sense of camaraderie among team members.
Address conflicts promptly: If there is conflict or tension within the team, it's important to address it promptly and constructively. Encourage team members to resolve conflicts through open communication and problem-solving, and intervene if necessary to help mediate the situation.
Lead by example: As a leader, model the behaviour you want to see in your team. Be supportive, communicative, and collaborative, and encourage a positive and constructive team culture.
The ability to generate new ideas and innovative solutions to problems. One of the greatest challenges to developing creativity skills is allowing the time to think creatively.
How can I improve my creativity?
Try to approach problems from different perspectives, stay curious and consider alternative solutions. It’s great to bounce ideas off other stakeholders, practice brainstorming, seeking inspiration from different sources, and experimenting with new approaches. Free thinking creativity is best achieved by being open-minded, taking risks, and embracing failure.
How can creativity improve the performance of my team?
Creative thinking can help team members to approach problems in new and innovative ways. By encouraging your team to think outside of the box, you may be able to identify solutions that would not have been otherwise apparent.
Being creative can inspire team members, leading to an increase in productivity. When people are engaged and motivated, they are more likely to take risks and be productive.
Creative thinking often leads to new and innovative ideas, which can help your team stay ahead of your competitors. By encouraging your team to think creatively, you may be able to develop new products or services that set your team apart.
Working creatively in groups can foster collaboration and teamwork, improve morale, with the team feeling more valued and satisfied in their work.
The ability to adapt to changing situations and environments. To improve adaptability skills, one can practice flexibility, seeking feedback, and being open to change. Additionally, being proactive, staying up-to-date with industry trends, and seeking new experiences can also enhance adaptability.
How can I become more adaptable?
There are several approaches you can take to become more adaptable at work.
One of the most important things you can do to become more adaptable is to develop a positive attitude towards change. Instead of resisting change, try to embrace it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
Being adaptable often requires you to learn new skills and knowledge. Take the initiative to learn about new technologies, tools, and methods that can help you to be more effective in your job.
Keep up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your field. This can help you to anticipate changes and be better prepared to adapt to new situations.
Feedback is an important tool for learning and growth. Be open to receiving feedback from your colleagues and manager, and use it to improve your performance.
A growth mindset involves believing that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This mindset can help you to approach challenges with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.
Being adaptable often requires you to juggle multiple tasks and priorities. Stay organized and focused by using tools like calendars, to-do lists, and project management software.
Developing strong relationships with your colleagues and supervisors can help you to navigate changes and challenges in the workplace. Invest time in building strong relationships and communicating effectively with your team.
By adopting these approaches, you can become more adaptable and better prepared to handle change and uncertainty in the workplace.
How can adaptability improve the performance of my team?
Adaptability is a crucial skill for teams to perform effectively, especially in today's rapidly changing business environment. Here are some ways adaptability can improve your team's performance:
Being adaptable allows your team to respond quickly to changes in the market, customer demands, or internal factors. A team that can adjust to new circumstances quickly and efficiently is more likely to succeed than a team that resists change.
Teams that are adaptable are more creative and innovative in their approach to problem-solving, being able to come up with new ideas and solutions to complex challenges.
Providing your team members with opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge can help them to be more adaptable. This can include training programs, conferences, and mentorship opportunities.
Encourage your team members to think creatively and share new ideas. Provide opportunities for brainstorming and collaboration, and recognize and reward innovative thinking.
Open communication is key to building trust and fostering adaptability within your team. Encourage your team members to express their thoughts and ideas, and be responsive to their feedback.
As a leader, you can model adaptability by being open to change and demonstrating a positive attitude towards new challenges. Encourage your team members to follow your lead, and provide support and guidance as they navigate new situations.
Celebrating successes can help to build momentum and motivate your team to continue pushing forward. Acknowledge your team's accomplishments and celebrate their hard work and achievements.
By implementing these strategies, you can help to improve the adaptability of your team and create a more dynamic and resilient work environment.
9. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence, or EI, is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions and those of others. It involves the capacity to regulate emotions, perceive social cues, and manage relationships effectively. EI can impact every aspect of a person's life, from work to personal relationships.
How can I improve my Emotional Intelligence?
To improve your EI, start by becoming more aware of your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues. Also, try to control your emotions by taking a deep breath, counting to 10, or stepping back from a situation. You can develop your EI by practicing mindfulness, empathy, and self-reflection.
How can improved emotional intelligence enhance my team?
Developing emotional intelligence within your team can have a positive impact on their performance and overall success. Here are some ways emotional intelligence can improve team performance:
Provide Training: Provide your team with emotional intelligence training to help them understand the key concepts and develop their skills.
Foster a positive work environment, lead by example, encourage self-reflection and provide opportunities for growth.
Emotionally intelligent individuals are better communicators because they are able to understand the emotions and perspectives of others, which helps them to communicate more effectively and avoid misunderstandings.
Teams with high emotional intelligence tend to work better together because they are better at resolving conflicts, building relationships, and supporting a positive work environment.
Emotionally intelligent individuals are better at decision-making because they are able to consider the emotions and needs of others as well as their own, which leads to better decisions and more successful outcomes.
10. Conflict resolution
Conflict resolution involves the ability to resolve disagreements and conflicts in a constructive and positive manner.
How can I develop my conflict management skills?
A number of soft skills can be adopted to reach better outcomes when resolving conflict.
Active listening involves giving your full attention to the person speaking and seeking to understand their point of view. This can help you better understand the root of the conflict and find a mutually beneficial solution.
In any conflict situation, it's important to remain calm and composed. This can help you avoid escalating the situation and make it easier to find a resolution.
Put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand their perspective. This can help you find common ground and build rapport.
When you communicate, be clear and concise. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and avoid blaming or accusing the other person.
Look for a solution that works for both parties. Finding a compromise can help you resolve the conflict and build a stronger relationship with the other person.
If you're having trouble resolving a conflict, consider seeking the help of a mediator or a supervisor who can help facilitate a resolution.
Conflict resolution skills take practice, so be patient with yourself as you work on improving them. With time and effort, you can become a more effective conflict resolver and create a more harmonious work environment.
How will developing conflict resolution skills improve the performance of my team?
Developing conflict resolution skills can have a positive impact on the performance of your team in several ways:
Conflict resolution skills help team members communicate effectively and respectfully, leading to fewer misunderstandings and a more positive work environment. When team members can communicate well with one another, they are better able to collaborate and work towards common goals.
Conflict is a major source of distraction and can cause team members to lose focus on their work. By developing conflict resolution skills, team members can learn how to address conflicts quickly and effectively, minimising disruptions to the team's productivity.
When team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions without fear of conflict, they are more likely to contribute new and innovative ideas. A team that is able to manage conflict well can leverage diverse perspectives to come up with creative solutions to problems.
A team that is able to resolve conflicts in a positive and productive manner is likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction and morale. This can lead to greater engagement and commitment to the team's goals.
Overall, developing conflict resolution skills can lead to a more positive and productive work environment, and can help your team to achieve its goals more effectively.
The ability to build and maintain relationships with others in order to achieve personal and professional goals.
Building a network of contacts can be a valuable asset in both personal and professional life. Here are some tips on how to build a network of contacts and become better at networking:
How can I improve my networking skills?
Before starting to network, it's important to identify your goals and the people who can help you achieve them. You can start by identifying people in your field of interest or industry who can offer valuable insights.
Networking can be a great way to build relationships, gain visibility, and create opportunities for professional growth. Here are some tips for networking within your company and externally:
Attend company events such as meetings, social gatherings, and team-building activities. This can help you meet new people and build relationships.
Volunteering for cross-functional projects can help you work with colleagues from different departments and build new relationships.
Request a meeting with colleagues in different departments or roles to learn more about their work and expertise. This can help you build new relationships and gain a better understanding of your company.
Attending industry events and conferences related to your field of interest or industry provides an opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded people and make connections.
For broader networking objectives, use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with people in your field of interest. Share relevant content, engage with other users, and join online groups and communities related to the network you’d like to develop.
Ask your existing network for introductions to people who can help you achieve your goals. This is a great way to expand your network and meet new people.
Networking is all about building relationships. Be authentic and genuine in your interactions with people. Focus on building meaningful relationships instead of just collecting contacts.
Follow up with people you meet to maintain the relationship. Send a thank-you note or an email, invite them for coffee or lunch, or suggest a collaboration project.
Be a resource: Networking is a two-way street. Offer help and support to others in your network. Be a resource for others and you will likely receive the same in return.
Becoming better at networking requires practice and consistency. It's important to have a positive attitude and be proactive in building relationships. Remember to focus on building genuine connections, be respectful of others' time, and always follow up. By putting these tips into practice, you can become a better networker and expand your network of contacts.
How can I encourage my team to network both within the organisation and externally and what benefits will this bring to their performance?>
Encouraging your team to network within the organization can bring numerous benefits to their performance, such as increased collaboration, knowledge sharing, and opportunities for professional growth. Here are some tips on how to encourage your team to network within the organization:
Be an example for your team by actively networking with other colleagues and departments. Share stories of successful collaborations that you have been a part of through networking.
Explain the benefits of networking to your team and how it can help them in their role, their professional development, and their career growth.
Organise events or meetings that bring employees from different departments together, such as team-building activities or cross-functional projects.
Provide your team with resources and tools that can help them network within the organization, such as internal social media platforms, employee directories, or networking events.
Acknowledge and celebrate successful collaborations and partnerships that result from networking efforts. This can motivate your team to continue networking and collaborating.
Encouraging your team to network within the organization can improve their communication skills, enhance their knowledge and expertise, and promote a culture of collaboration and innovation. This can ultimately lead to improved performance, better problem-solving, and increased job satisfaction.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It's a critical skill for professionals who need to build trust and establish strong relationships with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders.
How can I improve my Empathy?
Start by practicing active listening and putting yourself in other people's shoes. Try to understand their perspectives, experiences, and emotions. Be patient, attentive, and respectful.
It's important to let others know that their feelings are valid. You don't have to agree with everything they say, but it's important to acknowledge that their feelings are real.
Practice self-reflection: Try to reflect on your own feelings and how they might be affecting your interactions with your colleagues. Think about how you can adjust your approach to be more empathetic.
Remember, empathy is not something that can be learned overnight. It takes time and practice to develop this skill, so be patient with yourself and keep working on it.
How will encouraging an empathetic approach to working together within my team improve their performance?
Encouraging empathy within your team can have a number of positive effects on team performance, including:
Improved communication: When team members are empathetic, they are better able to understand one another's perspectives and feelings, which can lead to clearer and more effective communication.
Empathetic team members are more likely to work together and support one another, which can lead to greater collaboration and teamwork.
When team members are able to see things from one another's perspectives, they are better equipped to work together to find solutions to problems and challenges.
Empathy can help team members to understand and appreciate one another's differences, which can reduce conflicts and misunderstandings.
When team members feel understood and supported by their colleagues, they are more likely to feel motivated and satisfied in their work.
Overall, encouraging empathy within your team can lead to a more positive and supportive work environment, which can improve team performance and outcomes.
THE most important soft skill to develop - the ability to convey information effectively and efficiently. It's a critical skill for professionals who need to share ideas, persuade others, and work collaboratively.
How can I develop my communication skills?
Effective communication, both verbal and in writing is an essential skill that’s highly valued in today's workplace. Improving communication skills can be achieved by practicing active listening, asking clarifying questions, and structuring clear and concise messages. Using appropriate body language, tone, and vocabulary can also enhance one's ability to communicate effectively.
How can developing communications skills in others improve productivity in my team?
When team members communicate effectively, they can share information, clarify doubts, and provide feedback more easily. This means that everyone understands what they are supposed to do, and how to do it, reducing the chances of misunderstandings and errors that can waste time and resources.
Good communication skills enable team members to express their ideas clearly and listen attentively to others' perspectives. This can lead to more efficient problem-solving and decision-making processes, as everyone is working together to find the best solution.
Communicating well encourages collaboration, essential for team success. When team members communicate effectively, they can work together seamlessly, sharing ideas and knowledge that can lead to better outcomes.
Effective communication creates a positive team dynamic, as everyone feels heard, valued, and part of the team. This can increase morale, job satisfaction, and motivation, leading to higher productivity.
Poor communication is often the root cause of conflicts and misunderstandings within teams. When team members have strong communication skills, they can resolve conflicts more easily, reducing tension and allowing everyone to focus on the work at hand.
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