By Fiona Dent, Associate Faculty, and Alex Davda, Organisational Psychologist and Consultant, Ashridge Business School
In today’s complex and competitive global workplace it is increasingly important for employees to have well-developed ‘people skills’ or ‘soft skills’ as well as well-honed technical expertise.
Strategically network: Be thoughtful and deliberate about where you put your networking energy. Be focused and tactical in your networking strategy, ensuring that your network includes people you enjoy being with, can learn from, find challenging, or will be beneficial to your career success. Join professional organisations and social groups outside of work to expand both your network and knowledge of your industry and profession.
Make and create opportunities: Gain an early opportunity to take on ‘stretch’ assignments, work internationally or join a challenging project team in an area outside your professional comfort zone. Don’t wait to be asked but look for opportunities and put yourself forward for tough, challenging projects to help get noticed within your organisation.
Be confident and prepare: If you are in a situation where you do not feel particularly confident, it is important to focus on your strengths and think positively. Preparation, planning and rehearsal will help. If you are set to deliver a presentation think about your audience, who is involved, what’s in it for them, how will you influence them and what style and processes you will use. Ask a trusted mentor to help you prepare by simulating an event audience, and ask for tips afterwards on ways to boost your confidence and influencing skills.
Get more face time: Employees, especially Generation Y, tend to use email, instant messaging, and video to communicate, yet face time is still extremely important when interacting with management. The more your manager sees you and knows what you’re capable of, the more you’ll be viewed as a future leader. It’s of paramount importance for you to develop face-to-face relationships with those who have power and influence over decisions that impact your career. Building relationships of trust and aligning yourself with these people is critical for your success.
Develop your soft skills: Good rapport can contribute to creating the right impression with senior stakeholders as it helps to create trust and openness. You can often tell if you haverapport with others as your body language will be matching and your pace and energy will be similar. Watch and observe how people react to you and to others. Note what works and does not work and adjust your behaviour. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are unable to influence someone, ask for feedback and guidance from others.
Finally, your voice is a very important tool in effectively communicating and influencing. Think about the pace you speak at and the tone, projection, intonation and words you use – vary your pace to add colour and emphasis to what you are saying.