From negotiation to leadership, financial management to marketing, you are no doubt already familiar with the essential skills most commonly found in successful business people. However, there are other skills that might not be as well known in the business community, but which, when mastered, can help to greatly increase your chances of business success and respect amongst your industry colleagues. These might, for instance, be underrated soft skills that you can apply in any industry setting, as well as your life as a whole. Read on to find out more about seven less-usual business skills that will help you to progress in your career.
- Active listening
Whether it’s in team meetings and brainstorming sessions, or client consultations and negotiations, the ability to listen is a key skill in the workplace. However, many people struggle to listen to what another person is saying effectively, instead waiting until they have finished speaking so that they can relentlessly return to their own point of view. Active listening—also known as reflective listening—is an essential skill to aid mutual understanding and respect between team members. It involves listening to and being present to what the other person is saying, before asking questions and summarizing key points to ensure that you have fully understood what they have said before respectfully responding. Listening in this way ensures that in discussions everyone’s thoughts and opinions are valued and respected.
- Delegation skills
If you manage a team of people, you are likely to be required to be responsible for their workload and the delegation of certain tasks. However, you will struggle to do this if you are by nature a perfectionist and have difficulty relinquishing control over certain tasks. If this is the case, the result could be that your team does not work as efficiently as possible and you could be seen as micromanaging your colleagues. Effective delegation involves assessing which of your team has the skills required to successfully complete a task that is within their experience level and job description. This ensures that all members of your team are effectively employed and frees your time up to focus more on other important tasks.
Learning is a lifelong process and not one that ends on your high school or college graduation day. Though you might not work in a school or university, education nevertheless plays an important role in the workplace as you seek to grow as a team to become a well-respected group of knowledgeable industry professionals. Education in the workplace might take the form of mentoring programs, staff training, and delivering presentations, and the techniques used can also be successfully applied when presenting new information at client meetings. If you feel that teaching and education does not come naturally to you, why not take a further education course to gain this skillset? A masters in education distance learning at the University of Exeter, for instance, provides an innovative program that is designed to equip you with the educational skills needed to succeed in a variety of educational contexts outside of the traditional classroom setting, the workplace being one of them.
- Time management
Time management is an essential skill to have in a fast-paced and often hectic work environment in order to ensure that your tasks are completed in a timely manner, and to keep on top of your work. This might involve assessing your workload and creating a daily to-do list in order of urgency, and being prepared to adapt to high-priority tasks. Mastering time management is a way of empowering yourself as a business professional, as you will know how to use your time efficiently so that you can achieve more and focus on the activities that bring the most value to your business. Furthermore, effective time management can also massively help you to establish a good work–life balance, leaving you with enough time to properly relax and recharge away from the office.
Like time management, effective organization skills enable you to work more efficiently and complete tasks in a timely manner and to a high standard. You may have had a colleague whose desk is in a perpetual state of disarray, with paperwork strewn everywhere and used mugs balanced on mousepads—you may be this disorganized yourself. However, with such a state of disarray, it is all too easy to lose vital pieces of information, or forget to complete a task. Furthermore, a messy desk does not send out a positive message to visitors to your office and other colleagues. Spend a few minutes each work day to practice good organization skills, such as filing away any loose papers and washing up any used crockery, to ensure that your workspace remains clean and clutter free.
Some people might look upon an attention to detail as being overly fastidious and unimportant in the larger business context—after all, what harm can the odd typo do? However, being detail-oriented is a quality that businesses benefit from, both in terms of creating a good impression and catching minor problems before they snowball into a larger issue. Having good attention to detail means that you are able to closely focus on a task and catch and correct minor issues to prevent them from becoming a major problem. This ensures that all work is completed to a high standard, which will present your business as a highly professional organization.
Assertiveness is a way of communicating that avoids either passive or aggressive interactions; instead, both participants are treated with dignity and respect. Being assertive involves you clearly stating your needs firmly and fairly in order to ensure that your boundaries are respected. A common situation to arise in the workplace that would require assertive communication might involve, for instance, firmly stating when you are at capacity and unable to take on any further pressure in terms of your workload. Communicating in this way will ensure that your needs are met without undermining the other person.