2 Jan 2020, 12:00 — 9 min read
Background: A new year is here. Time to renew and assess our career and life goals. Shalini Sridhar writes that armed with key soft skills we can put our best foot forward in 2020.
As individuals, the start of a year is a great time for some retrospection and planning on personal goals.
What did I achieve in the last year?
Is there something that I missed?
How can I catch up now?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to still have incomplete items in your list. Perhaps in a way its good indicator that you actually aimed higher! Hopefully the ones you decided to drop or take up later don’t cause any heartburn, but a reminder to keep at it.
The upcoming year 2020 has a remarkable significance with retrospection and forward vision…isn’t it called hindsight 20/20? With proper planning we all can go into 2020 with a 20/20 vision!
Soft skills simply put, are tools that are relevant to every walk of life both at professional and personal level. Could I have done better? Or quicker? Or maybe not done that? Even though these questions seem simple, deciding on each of them takes some time and effort. Funnily, the upcoming year 2020 has a remarkable significance with retrospection and forward vision…isn’t it called hindsight 20/20? With proper planning we all can go into 2020 with a 20/20 vision!
All of this tends to drive us to few key soft-skills that most of us can hone. I am sharing a few common soft skills that we can learn and refine. There is a separate set of skills that may be required to do your job, perhaps specific to your line of work, but we are not going to talk about that here.
Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success. - Paul J. Meyer
In today’s open economy, it should be no surprise to anyone, that we work wider yet closer. Distances don’t mean much when it comes to keeping in touch. Yet, a significant number of us fall into this communication nightmare, primarily due a lot of factors such as language barriers, time differences (especially if you are working on international time zones) etc. So, communication is our fundamental soft skill since it is relevant everywhere.
Communication — written, verbal or visual, is key to success. Even though we try not to judge a book by its cover, a poorly written proposal spells doom no matter how good you may be at your job. It’s one of the key causes of misunderstanding and mistrust that results in sour taste.
Communication is as much about what is said as what is communicated non-verbally. The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life-long quest of the wise. - Shannon L. Alder
Also read : 5 Powerful Ways to Charge your Business Communication Skills
I cannot emphasise more on our second soft skill — time management. Communication may be primary, however, to stand true to what was communicated, we should learn to plan, prioritise and manage time effectively. Better late than never - unfortunately doesn’t cut it anymore.
A key concept in time management is building sufficient headroom. The headroom should be large enough to allow some retooling & small enough that it doesn’t negatively impact the larger project.
In our professional lives where time is money, a simple delay can have a cascading impact. We are not machines, so it’s not practical to plan for every breathing hour. One of the key concepts in time management is building in sufficient headroom. When things don’t move the way we want, we should still have some room for course correction or recovery. The headroom should be large enough to allow some retooling if required and small enough so that it doesn’t impact the schedule of the larger project in a negative manner. Few of the skills that go hand in hand with time management is goal setting, planning and prioritising.
Ah…goal setting – isn’t it where all of this started? As we walk into the new year, it’s a good idea to plan few professional and personal things that are important. For example, if you plan to park your money in mutual-funds or some traditional long-term investments, you need to have a simple goal of saving a few thousand rupees each month, say for higher education like college and university for your kids.
Professionally, if you are planning on applying for a new role, plan and allocate time to familiarise or brush up on relevant skills. It mostly works when we use the strike when the iron is hot rule when it comes to intra-organisational openings.
Or, perhaps plan for that much-needed vacation which you’ve pushed from last year’s list. Once you have your goals outlined, you can jump into planning and prioritizing, which is usually the easier part…I hope!
Also read: Setting measurable goals is the key to driving business success
Leadership is our next soft skill in focus. You do not have to be a manager or even have a job title that remotely says that you are. Having certain leadership qualities can benefit us in every walk of our life. If you are lucky and have the title commonly associated with leadership, or you are just one happy go lucky muggle - make it a priority to teach and guide your peers and subordinates. Teaching others what you do is the best way to go up the ladder. Unfortunately, if you hold on to your position, the position will hold on to you.
If you are someone who doesn’t mind higher responsibility, then think about training and mentoring when possible, as this will help you at a pinch and also act as a step on the ladder.
Make it a priority to teach and guide your peers and subordinates. Teaching others what you do is the best way to go up the ladder. Unfortunately, if you hold on to your position, the position will hold on to you.
If you have the gift of gab, try to anoint yourself as a team builder – not all of us are good at this and many a times you’d be surprised to find people take cover under their desk when it comes to planning or getting the team together for a common cause. Of course, if you are a manager, this is one of the vital skills you should always carry in your kitty.
Delegating work is an art. Successful managers and CEOs have exploited this quality of theirs to shape the organisational direction. Don’t delegate because you are lazy to do your job, instead think of this as a ladder you could go up on - or it could be a chute you may slip into. With reference to our mentoring and training skill, delegate because you want to take a step forward. A manager who is able to successfully delegate and accomplish the goal grows, and so do the peers and subordinates. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Also read: Are you a delegator or micromanager?
As with any skill, acquiring and perfecting these skills may take time, but these are going to be with you forever. Try to be your best and plan well for the new year – there will be bumps along the way, but most of it will be worth it – teaching us one thing at a time.
So, as we close the chapter on 2019 and step into a new and bright year, let’s remember to be the best of ourselves in 2020. Happy New Year!
Shalini Sridhar is a Creative Designer at Innovatus Systems and a freelancer at heart. When she is not building websites or thinking of creative ideas, she dabbles in Photoshop and also offers an online training course for newbies titled - Photoshop for Beginners. Connect with her to learn more.
Image source: shutterstock.com
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