Hard businesses skills are the ones you use to perform your specific job, such as coding, creating a cash flow statement, editing an article or creating a PowerPoint presentation. However, many young people are unfamiliar with the importance of soft business skills, which are essential for climbing the ladder into management. These skills include things like leadership, communications skills, people skills, team-building, time management and others.
Fear not, though, because, if you want to get that next promotion quicker or move into the C-suite before you have grey hair, we’re here to help you make a plan to learn these soft business skills for career advancement. Class is officially in session.
Some people never seem to miss deadlines, always delivering early or routinely producing great results under pressure. How do they do it? They’ve developed time-management skills. Although there are different techniques to how to achieve this, the successful people usually have two things in common: they have a time-management system or routine, and they get started early.
Time management isn’t just about getting your work done on time. It’s about making sure you have extra free time to give to subordinates. If the people you supervise can’t get a meeting with you or have to wait for long periods to get an answer from you, you won’t be a good leader.
If you want to learn time-management skills, start by understanding the phrase, “Work fills time.”
What this means is, the more time you have available to finish a task, the longer it often takes to finish it. For example, if your boss asks you deliver something tomorrow by noon, you’ll have it to him at 11:30 or 11:45. If your boss asks you to deliver the exact same deliverable by 5:00 pm, you’ll probably turn it in at 4:30 or 4:45. The same goes if you’re given until the end of the week to deliver.
One of the main reasons for this is because the more time you have for work, the more time you also have for other distractions — like visiting with co-workers, surfing the Internet, working on more enjoyable projects or taking several breaks. When you’re given a deliverable, plan on getting it done sooner than later. Get it done and out of the way. Set your deadline as early as realistically possible.
You should also develop time-management tools to help you focus.
The most common is the to-do list. Start using to-do lists that don’t just list things that need to get done. Make sure your lists break projects down into individual tasks. Also, give each task a time deadline, which will put more pressure on you and motivate you to start early.
Another way to better manage your time is to use technology to set reminders, such as a computer calendar that gives you messages at specific times during the day, or reminders when you get in each morning and after you return from lunch.
Here are 17 time-management apps you should review to see which can help you become more organized and capable of leading others.
Finally, build breaks into your day. You’ll get the stress-relief and energy boost you need if you schedule a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon break to chat with co-workers, hit the stairs for some exercise or get a snack. Planned breaks are less likely than random breaks to wander into long, unproductive time wasters.
Enhance Your Communication Skills
Whether it’s a one-on-one lunch, a small team meeting in the conference room or a large group presentation, you’ll need excellent communications skills to convey your message. And, if your ambitions are to become an executive, it is mission critical that you improve how you communicate.
How’s your eye contact? During a confrontation, do you cross your arms over your chest? Do you modulate your voice or speak in a monotone? Do your emails have a beginning, middle and end, or do they wander? Does everyone understand what you just wrote when you send a memo? In all your communications you need to make sure that you have clear action items.
Improve your communications skills by starting with your closest allies. Ask for honest feedback about your written and verbal communications skills. However, when you ask, be conscious of how you respond to Radical Candor. Be open to their suggestions and try to make improvements on 1-2 of their suggestions within a quarter.
Review past business memos, proposals, reports and even informational emails you’ve written. Review these documents as if you were the person who was receiving the document for the first time. Is there a clear objective? Are there actions items to drive business outcomes?
PowerPoint Can Bolster Your Points
Use PowerPoint to effectively communicate with your colleagues. If you are looking to collaborate with your teammates, Google Slides is an effective alternative.
In PowerPoint presentations, you should always aim to include illustrations, data points or bulleted text for your meetings. As a tip, you should never read from slides verbatim or you will lose your audience. You need to keep some mystery in your attentions so your colleagues are paying attention on Zoom!
As you advance in your career, you will be expected to create PowerPoint presentations regularly. To provide the best presentations, you need to record yourself. Review your recording and take notes if you are using the same words frequently. Minimize filler words and use transition phrases between slides.
Lastly, it never hurts to take a business-writing seminar. Ask your People Operations or Human Resources Team if they reimburse professional development expenses. Discuss with your manager how this will improve your skills. Depending on your role, this will help you accomplish organizational goals, drive more revenues or support your colleagues more efficiently!
One way to become an effective leader is to create a leadership style that’s easy for you. Take an online Meyers Briggs personality type to see if you’re more introverted, more inquisitive, a Type A personality or a control freak. Here’s a review of 16 different personality types you probably didn’t know existed.
Once you know your personality traits, you can develop a leadership style. You might use the Command style, which consists of giving orders. You might use the Cooperative style, sharing goals and soliciting ideas from subordinates.
Exude The Qualities of A Leader You Want To Work For
To become an effective leader, you’ll have to get people to want to follow you. You’ll need to know when to motivate with a carrot and when to use a stick. The best leaders add value to their employees careers and command respect. Be thoughtful in your communications to inspire your team and also demonstrate your investment in their career pathing.
It’s important that you make your direct reports feel like team members. Gen Z and Millennials are much more purpose driven and do not want to be treated as busy bees. This generation loves to express their opinion and collaborate with their colleagues. Embrace the Socratic method of teaching, where you ask questions rather than simply give answers. Believe it or not, you’ll help your team by teaching them to critically think if you ask questions vs. providing solutions immediately. Even though it’s your role to guide the organization to success and make the final decision, leaders today need to build consensus.
Every Successful Leader Has Some Ego — But There’s No “I” in Team
Let’s be real, every successful leader has some ego. Your ego should not take up the entire Zoom or conference room. The best leaders recognize the efforts to drive the company’s mission forward is a team of teams. You’ll also need to check your ego and learn how to publicly recognize team members who report into you and others who do great work.
Being a leader doesn’t mean you always have to be the smartest person in the department. Sometimes, giving a little shout-out is all it takes to turn a subordinate into a fan.
Set Boundaries to Command Respect of Your Colleagues And Protect Company Interests
Finally, as a leader, you need to be selective in your team building activities. Be thoughtful in your interactions with your co-workers whether it is going out to lunch or meeting for a drink after work. For example, you might need to end casual individual lunches with direct reports, but a team lunch you organize for a purpose can create camaraderie. You need to celebrate wins whether it is celebrating the finish of a project, securing a new client, ending the year strong. These moments are critical to create a team atmosphere!
Think twice about going to personal parties if your other coworkers are not attending. Remember: you may develop friendships at work but in order to become an executive, you need to always be professional even when you’re having fun or else it can haunt you.
Professionalism Is The First Step To Building Respect
How often are you late for a meeting? Do you respond to emails, slacks and phone calls promptly? Ever gossip or even listen to gossip? You should always redirect conversations when you feel it is gossip and not information in helping you do your job better.
A leader sets an example for his/her subordinates, so don’t complain about the company, even if you’re currently still a staff-level employee. Read the company handbook to learn more about its diversity, harassment, sensitivity and legal policies.
If your field has a professional society or trade association, join! Attend their meetings, get certified, serve on a committee or speak at an event. This shows your commitment to your profession, which is different than just your commitment to your job.
Utilize Your People Operations or Human Resources Department
Part of developing your soft business skills is utilizing the resources you have around you. This includes your company’s HR Department. To leverage your resources effectively, request a HR Business Partner which you should regularly be networking with on the job.
Ask your HR business partner what skills make the most successful employees in the company. Since the HR team touches the entire organization, their perspective is valuable. By networking with this team, you are creating visibility for yourself and it creates opportunities to build your brand. People Operations teams are often responsible for talent acquisition and are usually the first to know when a new position opens which can align with your career ambitions!
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