Secrets of Success: Soft Skills and Slow Work

When I first came across the terms “soft skills” and “slow work,” I was intrigued.

A quick search later and I discovered that the term”soft skills” refers to a set of personal attributes, characteristics, and qualities that enable us to interact effectively and harmoniously with others in various social and (especially) professional contexts. Unlike technical and academic, or “hard skills,” which are specific to a particular industry, soft skills are transferable and can be applied across different positions in various industries.

I realised that in my line of work, soft skills are just as important as hard skills, if not more so. When I decide whether I can work with someone or not, I first look at soft skills. If I have two candidates, one with slightly fewer hard skills but more soft skills, I will choose to work with the one with more advanced and developed soft skills.

Look at the weaknesses of others with compassion, not accusation. It’s not what they’re not doing or should be doing that’s the issue. The issue is your own chosen response to the situation and what you should be doing. If you start to think the problem is “out there,” stop yourself. That thought is the problem. Stephen Covey

“Slow work” emphasises a slower but more deliberate approach to work, prioritising quality over quantity. Slow work is about being fully present and engaged in your work, paying attention to details, focusing on one task at a time, immersing yourself in your work, and avoiding distractions. It emphasises taking time to reflect on the purpose and meaning of your work, understanding the impact of the work being done, and aligning your actions with your personal and professional values.

The term “slow work” draws inspiration from the “slow movement,” which originated with the “slow food” movement in the 1980s, advocating a more conscious and sustainable approach to food production, distribution and consumption. Slow work encourages us to resist the pressure to constantly multitask. It challenges the notion that productivity is solely measured by speed. It encourages us to work at a sustainable pace that supports long-term well-being. It recognises the value of taking breaks, getting enough rest, and scheduling downtime in protecting creativity, preventing burnout, and maintaining overall well-being.

Slow work is not about being inefficient or unproductive; rather, it’s about a more thoughtful and balanced approach to work. By intentionally slowing down, you can cultivate a deeper connection to your work and enhance the quality of your output. While it’s important to note that the concept of slow work may not be suitable for all work environments or tasks, especially those that require time-sensitive responses or have strict deadlines, incorporating elements of slow work can benefit you in finding more meaning, fulfilment, and satisfaction in your work.

Secrets of Longterm Professional Success

Soft Skills and Slow Work can provide you with a unique advantage in today’s fast-paced and competitive world. While academical and technical skills are important, it is the ability to effectively communicate, collaborate, and adapt that sets you apart. Soft skills enable you to build strong relationships, lead with empathy, solve problems creatively, and navigate challenges with resilience. Slow work enables you to prioritise quality, leading to deeper engagement, more meaningful outcomes, and sustained creativity and productivity. By combining, developing and nurturing these two skill sets, you can achieve not only professional success but also personal fulfilment, creating a healthy work-life balance.

Slow work and Soft Skills make life so much easier, at work as well as at home. These skills are essential for building strong personal and professional relationships, collaborating with others, resolving conflicts, and adapting to ever-changing circumstances. Soft skills are highly valued by employers and can significantly impact your career success. These skills complement technical expertise and help you thrive at work, enhance your leadership capabilities, and facilitate positive interpersonal interactions. Some of the soft skills that I particularly value are:

  1. Emotional Intelligence and Resilience: The capacity to acknowledge, understand and manage your own emotions, as well as to recognise and empathise with the emotions of others.
  2. Thoughtful Leadership: The ability to inspire, motivate, and guide others towards achieving common goals.
  3. Efficient Collaboration: The ability to work with others, as a team, to contribute to a team’s success, and to foster and maintain a positive team environment.
  4. Adaptability and Flexibility: The willingness to embrace change, be flexible in different situations, and easily master new skills.
  5. Problem-solving: The aptitude to analyse challenges, identify solutions, and make effective decisions.
  6. Conflict Diffusion and Resolution: The ability to handle conflicts and disagreements constructively, seeking resolutions that benefit all parties involved.
  7. Creativity: The capacity to think innovatively, generate new ideas, and approach problems from unconventional angles.
  8. Networking: The ability to establish and nurture professional relationships, build connections, and leverage social capital.

Business is clear that developing the right attitudes and attributes in people – such as resilience, respect, enthusiasm and creativity – is just as important as academic or technical skills. In an ever more competitive jobs market it is such qualities that will give our young talent a head start and also allow existing employees to progress to higher skilled, better paid roles.  Neil Carberry, Director for Employment and Skills at CBI

What Soft Skills do Employers value most?

While the importance of soft skills may vary depending on the specific industry, there are several key soft skills that employers commonly look for in candidates. These include:

  1. Effective communication is highly valued in the workplace. Employers look for candidates who can express themselves clearly, listen actively, and convey information in a concise and appropriate manner. Conflict is inevitable in any workplace, and employers value candidates who can handle conflicts diplomatically and find constructive resolutions.
  2. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, employers want employees who can readily adjust to new situations, handle unforeseen challenges, and embrace change with a positive attitude.
  3. A variety of problem-solving skills are essential for overcoming obstacles, finding innovative solutions and generating effective strategies to solve problems.
  4. Employers appreciate candidates who can prioritize tasks, manage their time effectively, and meet deadlines. Strong time management skills indicate an individual’s ability to stay organised, remain productive, and handle multiple responsibilities.
  5. Employers value candidates who can think critically, analyse information accurately, and make informed decisions.

Soft skills are taken for granted — they are mostly intangible and not tangible technical stuff that you can pick up from a specific course or qualification. Paradoxically it’s also soft skills that are the most valuable and transferable. Binod Shankar

How do employers determine what Soft Skills potential employees have?

Employers use various methods to assess and determine the soft skills of potential employees. Here are some of the more common approaches:

  1. Resume and cover letter: Employers often review resumes and cover letters to gain initial insights into a candidate’s soft skills. They look for indicators such as effective communication, leadership roles, teamwork experiences, and other relevant achievements.
  2. Application forms and assessments: Some employers include specific questions or assessments in their application process to gauge candidates’ soft skills. These may include scenarios or situational questions that require candidates to demonstrate their problem-solving, communication, or teamwork abilities.
  3. Interviews provide an opportunity for employers to directly assess a candidate’s soft skills. They may ask behavioural or situational questions to evaluate how candidates have demonstrated soft skills in past experiences. Examples may include questions about teamwork, conflict resolution, or handling difficult situations.
  4. Reference checks: Employers often contact references provided by candidates to gain insights into their soft skills. References, such as previous supervisors or colleagues, can provide valuable information about a candidate’s teamwork abilities, communication style, leadership potential, and other relevant soft skills.
  5. Assessment centres or group exercises: Some employers conduct assessment centers or group exercises as part of the hiring process. These activities involve simulations or role-playing exercises that allow candidates to showcase their soft skills in action. Employers observe how candidates interact with others, communicate, solve problems, and collaborate within a group setting.
  6. Work samples or portfolios: For certain roles, employers may request work samples or portfolios to assess a candidate’s soft skills. These samples can demonstrate a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively, think critically, be creative, or showcase other relevant soft skills.
  7. Psychometric assessments: Psychometric tests or assessments are sometimes used to evaluate a candidate’s personality traits, emotional intelligence, and other soft skills. These assessments provide standardized measures that can assist in understanding a candidate’s behavioural tendencies and potential fit within the organisation.
  8. Social Media Profiles, especially LinkedIn. I always look for evidence of charity work or contributions to communities.

It’s important to be prepared to provide examples and evidence of your soft skills throughout the hiring process. Sharing specific experiences, achievements, or projects that highlight your relevant soft skills can leave a positive impression on employers and increase the chances of being recognised for those skills.

While most of today’s jobs do not require great intelligence, they do require greater frustration tolerance, personal discipline, organisation, management, and interpersonal skills than were required two decades and more ago. These are precisely the skills that many of the young people who are staying in school today, as opposed to two decades ago, lack. James P. Comer

How can you put”Slow Work” into practice?

Here are some strategies to help you “work slower:”

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