by Tony Vidler
Technical knowledge will only take you so far, but you know that.
Some soft skills need to accompany all that technical smarts if you want to really succeed as a professional. You need a bit more than just a firm handshake and a nice smile in the way of “soft skills” these days if you really want to do well. But you know that too.
What a lot of professionals struggle with is identifying THE essential soft skills that are required for success in todays consumer-focused fast-moving digital environment.
So here they are:
1. THE number 1 skill in the Google-Era I believe is reputation management. Naturally all of the things everyone already knows about building, maintaining and guarding a personal reputation are included, and there is no point repeating them here. Just creating and maintaining a good reputation in itself however is not enough.
You have to learn how to manage a brand. Your professional reputation is a brand. It is essential for today’s professional to become their own reputation manager. It cannot be contracted out entirely, and it cannot be ignored, because any consumer can google your reputation and brand on their smartphones from their car. Any day…. anytime.
Having zero presence online is the same now as having no reputation to speak of, so it is critical to take charge of how your own reputation is presented and perceived. You must manage your personal brand, and that is where reputation management skills become essential.
2. The second of the key skills is managing transparency. This goes beyond mere compliance, or disclosure of conflicts of interest and the likes. Those issues are a part of managing transparency – but only a minor part in reality. Effective transparency is not triggered by customer request or a law…it is an attitude that couples compassion with great ethical behaviour.
It is about being open as a human….being something more than a dry, detached, technical wizard. Being able to show feeling, and passion, and empathy…..being able to connect to other humans at an emotional level is an expectation of most savvy consumers – especially when they are considering working with someone for a decade or more. It is a key element of establishing the “know, like, trust” components of professional relationships.
3. One of the essentials that still sends shivers down the spines of many professionals is the concept of “Persuasiveness”. This is more than having an armoury of great sales techniques; it is the ability to shape thinking and change behaviours in others.
Being persuasive involves being a salesperson as well as a coach as well as a great facilitator. Being able to influence clients to react positively to new information and strategies, and to change behaviour and attitudes requires all of the skills of all 3 of those roles – selling, coaching, & facilitating. Only then can a professional be completely equipped to create the necessary positive changes that clients need.
4. Like the chameleon we must be rapidly adaptable, and able to blend in quickly with the environment we find ourselves in. Embracing new thinking, new technology, new professional standards, new research, new trends in behaviour or society….”new” things are the new normality.
Adaptability is the key to thriving in the new normal.
5. The final one of the 5 essentials is about understanding. Being perceptive is understanding without necessarily needing an explanation. Determining motives and attitudes and personality traits and drivers of behaviour…without needing a 40 page fact-finding document to do so…is a highly developed skill. That is “Perception”….being able to perceive and understand that which is not said or stated overtly.
In addition to all the technical expertise and commercial knowledge that any professional needs today, there is clearly a requirement for strong soft skills as well. Out of all the possible soft skills that a professional might invest effort into developing and enhancing, these are the 5 that will make the biggest difference to success, as they are the essentials.