Oops! No undo button for soft skill mistakes!

When we finally finished college we were keen to differentiate ourselves from the next candidate but to be honest all we had is a couple of certificates and a bit of work experience, nothing mind blowing. This is exactly why recruiters need to sort those applications by looking at something else – the soft skills. But what…?What make us stand out later in our careers as being ‘leadership material’ and what can we do and say to demonstrate it?

To survive in the corporate or even academic world, technical skills in isolation just aren’t going to cut it. In fact, what we need to nurture is that beautiful blend of hard and soft skills. That’s what singles us out as the  professionals that bosses can rely on to drive a team. Do it and communicate it, I’ll show you how over the next couple of weeks.

But first of all, let’s take a look at the individual skills. Is a strong work ethic enough, or positive attitude? Hell no I say. There are some people who might be wonderful in their own right and actually they usually love their jobs, so they are committed members of the team. However they love what they are doing so much that they get lured into the Devils’s Den of Perfection,  a modern day obsession, fuelled by information overload where attention to detail can become so absorbing that they see or hear little else until they end up in the land of procrastination where their leadership skills are at rock bottom. Not good!

Being dependable is also important, as too is being a team player, but what if your self confidence or the ability to say “No!” is low? That deadly combination could easily mean that you get taken advantage of and used, leaving your colleagues (pronounced col LEAGUES, not collegs) with more time to network, prepare, check and delegate some more. What do you do or say to avoid getting yourself into that miserable situation?

Or whatabout this? Flexibility and organisation skills are both deemed to give you a head start on the career ladder but how many people do you know that genuinely conquer both? Those that like to be organised rarely welcome surprises and relaxed, happy go lucky folk, tend to be a little chaotic don’t they?

So sure it is all about getting that magical happy medium and knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are. Do me a favour though, please promise to spend as much time boosting your strengths as you do working on your weaknesses, that’s a self confidence trick that works wonders.

Oh and please, no put downs. As women we tend to do this way too much and I am not excluding myself on this one.  I recorded a podcast just yesterday and had to edit out a derogatory comment about one of my skills. I am not claiming not to have any faults but it wasn’t an appropriate place to highlight it, actually it just distracted from the point I was trying to make because it simply wasn’t relevant.

The problem is with soft skills is that there is no ‘editing suite’. So if you lose your rag or your communication skills take a nose dive when you are under pressure, the damage is done. I’m sorry, but that is just the way it is. Once you have earned yourself the nickname of “Rumpelstiltskin”, it’s going to stick for a lot longer than your little outburst did, isn’t it? In terms of being seen as a role model, you need to have a handle on these situations.

So time for some preventative measures.

Work out what it is that tends to drive you off the deep end. If you do not suffer fools gladly, do them a favour and make it crystal clear what you expect from them, ideally in writing. That way they can check back if need be and you can update it if you neglected to include something. Likewise, if time management is not one of your strengths, take on less, allow more time, work out exactly where you need to be when, all well in advance. We all have different ‘temper surge’ buttons so identify yours, or ask your partner or (former) colleagues to help you if you are feeling brave, and work back so that you cover your bases. Sounds easy and it is. The truth is though, that very few people take this proactive measure.

So when listening to people, it is important to give them the impression that you have their attention and silence can often make people feel nervous. There are two ways of doing this, using ‘listening noises’ or questions to confirm your understanding.

PayingAttention

At the end of the blog there is a short quiz about Leadership Language. This will give me an idea of the level that you are, that way I can pitch the blog accordingly so I would really appreciate it if you could do the quiz for me, thanks.

So when it comes to the language of leadership, even in your own language, we will need to think about your AAASTT

* Authenticity
* Authority
* Admirability
* Speed of speech
* Tone of voice
* Timing

More about that next week, after all, these blogs are supposed to by BYTE SIZED. We’ll also have examples of terms that you can use, phrases to avoid, body language to think about and much more in the weeks to follow as part of the leadership series.

So now, it’s time to get clever, getting clever together. that’s right, it’s
TIME TO ACTIVATE YOUR ENGLISH!

Do yourself a favour and take 5 minutes to activate your English. Here’s how… Have a think about the leadership language that you have found offensive, destructive or perhaps even down right ridiculous in the past and come and discuss in the facebook group “Professional English for Women in Technology” feel free to use the hashtag #pewtechnology. No need to name and shame but this will give us a good idea of what to avoid and then we can think constructively about how to improve on that, because let’s face it, it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than make your own isn’t it?

So this is the first step to taking your English from passive to active, so be brave, be bold and like always, be brilliant. See you in the facebook group.

Here’s the quiz,  it exposes you to some terminology to help you express diplomacy, understanding and empathy, although sorry,  you’ll have to be on a laptop or desktop I’m afraid until I find an Apple friendly alternative, suggestions VERY welcome.

Anyway over and out, speak to you in the FB group for your leadership language activity to get that English polished off and ready to go.

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