Soft skills – Maintaining Competence at Work

Coach Ville Ojanen 3 September 2018

 

Understanding human behavior and the skills required to influence it (the so-called soft skills) have perhaps become even more important than understanding and influencing things. Soft skills are on the rise for many reasons.  

Employees have even higher demands for workplace culture. We want human-friendly environments based on trust, collaboration, and respect. 

Social media has created a whole new level of transparency, authenticity, and honesty requirements. You can no longer work poorly in the shadows while maintaining a good public image. Exceptional customer service is no longer sufficient. Nowadays, employees have begun sharing their experiences on social media. A bad experience can destroy a company’s reputation within 24 hours. 

Management, supervisors, and employees must work together, take care of each other, and maintain the company’s reputation and results. The essential tools are communication, listening, and humanity.

Another megatrend is rising: automatization and robotization. However, humans cannot be replaced. Humans’ hybrid roles, as interpreters between humans and technology, are increasing. Machines create knowledge, solve problems, provide estimates, and manufacture products, but humans collaborate and decide on how to use these machines. Negotiating skills, interaction, and collaboration skills will become more important than ever.

Management professor Lynda Gratton from the London Business Schools sees significant challenges in the development of soft-skills, it is still insufficient. She attributes this to two interlinked reasons. Firstly, we don’t have a very good understanding of how to develop these skills. Secondly, we live in a world where the dominant opinion and human understanding directs us through schools, homes, and workplaces to act under terms set by things – not humans.

Today’s working life challenges us to develop not only ourselves as learners but also our ability to understand and develop people, primarily ourselves. From the perspective of psychological skills and personal growth, the core of soft-skills has four elements:

1. Mentalization – the ability to understand the mental state. Efficient progression with things often requires excluding useless perspectives, emotions, needs, and expectations. Operating on human terms requires an opposite approach. Mentalization means highlighting and discussing experiences.

2. Assertiveness. Presenting and discussing opinions, perspectives and your limits in a clear yet constructive way. It requires awareness of your limits and subconscious reaction models.

3. Ability to take responsibility. Leadership skills are becoming more critical despite our roles or positions. This requires the ability to accept responsibility and take an active role in progressing with the situation, for example, in resolving conflicts. 

4. Curiosity and playfulness. Attitudes towards the relationship to humans and humanity are often too serious and tense. More regularly, the problem is a conflict between the world and our emotions, requirements, and expectations. People who can efficiently and skillfully manage humanity are most likely curious and playful.

This core surrounds with possibilities for developing skills and important ways of acting, for example, communication skills (writing, storytelling, and presenting), self-leadership (focusing skills, resilience, and recovery skills), negotiating, customer service and interview and assessment skills.