How Improving Your Soft Skills Can Boost Your Career

Through countless studies and research, the phrase “soft skills” surfaces time and time again as the “it” factor that links rising employees to success. How can improving your soft skills help you boost your career? Keep reading as we outline how honing these traits can prove to be an executive’s and a future executive’s greatest asset.

Before we dive in, let’s revisit the basics first.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are attributes that don’t come from acquired knowledge. This doesn’t mean you can’t learn soft skills, but they require a different sort of training to develop.

Skills that depend on technical training are known as hard skills. A few of these are graphic design, riding a bike, or navigating through a software program with ease. On the flip side, strategic thinking, confidence, being a good teammate, and congeniality are examples of soft skills.

Daniel Goleman’s Study on Soft Skills in Action

In the 1990s, psychologist Daniel Goleman conducted a now well-known study that brought soft skills to the forefront of leadership training.

Goleman’s study, which debuted in his 1995 bestseller Emotional Intelligence, was the first of its kind, and it surveyed 181 various positions across 121 companies to determine whether success in each job relied more on soft skills or technical/cognitive ability. Of the positions studied, 67% of all job competencies were found to be emotional in nature, meaning they relied more on soft skills than technical knowledge.

Goleman’s study proved that traits like being able to strike up a conversation with others or keep your composure under pressure mattered more than technical knowledge of a trade or occupation, from entry level to executive. Even on the factory floor, an employee who has soft skills will advance more than someone who doesn’t. Soft skills are the difference between being an employee and being a top performer.

Soft Skills at the Top of the Ladder

As someone climbs the corporate chain, soft skills can transform into leadership qualities. These traits become much more important when dealing with fewer widgets and more people. You can’t expect to influence a board of directors or motivate your direct reports solely with your knowledge of how to operate machinery. You need executive presence to convey a sense of authenticity, inspire loyalty within your team, and actively engage with others. Step 1? Developing your soft skills.

Start Shaping Your Soft Skills

Coaxing out our soft skills often requires uprooting the behaviors that we already practice, which is why working on their development definitely calls for a long-term plan of attack. This is where partnering with a coach comes in. Having someone who can provide an objective view and guidance along the way can make a world of difference.

An executive coach is an invaluable partner who can help you pave new pathways of thinking in order to work toward honing the skills that will carry your leadership and your career forward.

Interested in learning more? Download Arden’s executive coaching process guide How Does an Executive Coaching Engagement Work? to get started.