Seven essential people skills for 2019 and beyond

25 January 2019 Consultancy.uk

In today’s fast-paced and uncertain business landscape, the role of human capital is becoming more important than ever. Emma-Sue Prince, a soft skills and effective behaviours consultant and expert, shares seven skills that are key for success in 2019 and beyond, and how employees can get them into their life.

Adaptability

Imagine responding to change and unfamiliar challenges with grace and ease? We all like to think we are adaptable and flexible – indeed we are hard-wired to be – yet we resist change and over react to even the smallest problems. Get more adaptable by saying “yes” more when you might naturally say “no”, trying out new things and choosing experiences and opportunities that are just a little outside of your comfort zone. The more you do this with smaller things, the more adaptable you will be when it comes to bigger changes. 

When it comes to behaviour changes we need to make them part of our muscle memory in small ways so that we know how to tap into that behaviour when it matters most.

Critical thinking

Engage with your amazing brain much more. Thinking critically is all about questioning your own (and other’s) assumptions. It’s also about managing your technology – that includes becoming more mindful about how you engage with social media, what information you choose to read (and when) and absorb and how often you just give yourself space to actually thinkRoutinise some of your everyday decisions too (like what you will wear or eat) and plan your day the night before so you can free up your brain for higher-order cognitive skills like creativity and problem-solving.

Seven essential people skills for 2019 and beyond

Empathy

Relationships are key to our happiness and success, whether personal or professional. Empathy is the ability to put yourself into someone’s shoes – really hard to do but again, surprisingly or not, we are also hard-wired to be empathetic! Tap into this skill by paying attention to the person you are with – whether that is during a meeting, conversation or presentation. Paying attention is just that and you pay by being present. Being present only happens when we quieten our minds, unitask and put our phones away. The practice of mindfulness not only encourages presence but has been proven to strengthen the neurons in our brains that link with empathy. 

Integrity

Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you honour commitments and are you accountable for your actions? You might automatically answer yes but these days it is easier and easier to cancel things or come up with a reason for not doing something. Build trust by keeping promises and commitments – you’ll notice an immediate impact!

Being proactive

We’re natural procrastinators so we need to consciously take actions towards our goals. Every day, however small that step might be, take it. Break things down into chunks. Do whatever you need to make that process possible – whether that is by keeping a daily planner, creating a great morning routine for yourself (did you know that the most successful people have strong, purposeful morning routines) or refraining from multi-tasking. As tempting as it is to multi-task it is largely ineffective. If you can focus on one thing at a time, work on one item at a time you will get so much more done. Your productivity levels will soar.

Optimism

This is a skill that can be nurtured and developed. Of all seven skills optimism, being proactive and resilience are the three that overlap the most. Strengthen any one of these three, and the other two automatically get a boost too. Optimism is created by actions rather than feelings. You can also strengthen it daily through writing down what you are grateful for and reflecting, at the end of your day, the positive experiences within it. 

Resilience

Get better at dealing with setbacks by allowing yourself to fail more and take more risks. That may sound counter-intuitive but in the midst of uncertainty and change we need to embrace innovation and become solution-seekers and that only happens through being willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Being resilient is also about looking after yourself – getting enough sleep, the right food, making time for things you enjoy as well as making sure you are surrounded by a strong support network.

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.