Can you “learn” soft skills the way you can learn how to drive or play the guitar? The answer is yes, but don’t expect to learn interpersonal skills at a company-sponsored workshop.
Even though many managers say it takes strong soft skills to move up the company ladder, few firms provide training in this area. In an Accountemps survey of CFOs, only one in five said their organization is likely to invest in soft skills training for accounting and finance staff in the next two years.
So you’re on your own. So what? Well, if you’re like many accountants, you’ve noticed the increasing need for interpersonal skills and abilities in your job. As you collaborate more frequently across the business, you must focus on building solid relationships with non-finance colleagues.
Learn about the Non-Accounting Skills in Demand and How to Build Them.
Here are five ways to upgrade your soft skills:
1. Get out and about
It’s easy to become so preoccupied in the daily demands of your role that you never leave the office. But that’s just what you need to do. Making time to attend association and community group meetings gives you experience in initiating and maintaining conversations with new contacts. And if you drill down a bit more and get involved in committees and teams, you can elevate your communication, tact and diplomacy, and collaborative skills.
2. Keep an open mind in every conversation
Don’t become so intent on getting your way that you fail to acknowledge other points of view. Demonstrate a sincere interest in your colleagues, minimizing interruptions and asking for clarification when necessary. Show your adaptability in the workplace.
3. Ensure good e-etiquette
Soft skills don’t only refer to interpersonal interactions. Maintain a professional tone in all your written communication, from emails to texts, not to mention voicemails and printed memos. Even the most informal communiqué requires common courtesies such as “please” and “thank you.” You never know how far your messages will be forwarded.
4. Check your annoyance quotient
Are you quick to get irritated if people don’t get what you’re saying right away? Patience is also a soft skill. What's obvious to you might not be so clear to the person you’re explaining it to.
5. Stop and listen to the conversation
Yes, you want to hold the floor at times to get your point across, but don’t let this be your single objective when in a group setting. Instead of automatically blurting out something you want to say the minute it occurs to you, stop and listen more carefully to the larger conversation. By becoming a better listener, you’ll not only improve your likeability and ability to influence others, but you’ll also avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.
The bottom line is that soft skills can be learned. But it takes practice.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2014 and updated recently to reflect more current information.
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