Mastering Soft Skills: The First Step is Self-Awareness

When you consider all the soft skills, it’s unlikely that you’ll find one person who can boast about being a master at each one of them. In fact, the opposite scenario is more likely. That is, most people won’t even be cued into the existence of soft skills, let alone be dialed into the fact that they are good at some and need improvement in others. And therein lies today’s theme: self-awareness.

That’s right. Most people lack this critical soft skill. Without self-awareness, people will be seriously challenged in their ability to grow personally and professionally to develop any of the other soft skills.

The Top Soft Skills for 2020: Is Self-Awareness Missing from the List?

Which soft skill (or skills) is the most important as a question will likely generate robust discussion – and a different answer – depending on who you ask. Linkedin, in their Annual Report on Most in Demand Skills, highlighted creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence (EQ) as their Top 5 for 2020. It’s the first time that EQ made the list and it’s unlikely to be its last appearance. 

Rounding out the Top 5, the following soft skills frequently make an appearance on the list of skills (or behaviors) most wanted by employers. They are: communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking and social skills; also commonly referenced as relationship management skills. Monster, the job board, adds conflict resolution, leadership, critical observation, and problem-solving to that list. 

Self-Awareness: The Foundational Aspect of Emotional Intelligence

Although there isn’t clear agreement on the Top 10 Soft Skills or which ones are most important in which jobs or industries, there is a growing consensus that self-awareness, which doesn’t even get mentioned on the “most wanted” lists generated by employers, may be the core skill upon which everything else can be built. The WHO recognizes self-awareness as one of the most critical skills that students around the globe should develop. Self-awareness may arguably not be a soft skill in itself, but it’s a foundational aspect of EQ which has finally made the radar of most hiring managers. 

I asked Sally Williamson, coach, founder and podcast host of, “What’s Your Story?” the question, “Is self-awareness lacking today?” Her response was an emphatic, “YES!” Asking other coaches the same question yields the same response.

Why is self-awareness so visibly absent in today’s students and young leaders? The answer may surprise you. People believe they are highly self-aware, however, a research study by Tasha Eurich suggests that fewer than 10-15% of thousands of people surveyed are truly self-aware. So, what’s the disconnect?

Perhaps people don’t take the time to be intentional and to reflect on their behaviors and actions. The world moves at an insane pace – even in the shadows of COVID – which did force many people to slow down and re-examine their lives, but that didn’t happen universally. Another potential reason is that the workplace is generally an unforgiving environment where it is unwise – and, in some cases, unsafe – to give another colleague or a boss feedback on their behavior. Rather than surface the behavior observed in others, people try to tolerate it in person then gripe about it behind the other person’s back. 

Coaching for Self-Awareness: Unlocking the Potential for Soft Skills Development

Enter coaching. If more people had access to coaches and coaching, these fundamental behaviors related to soft skills and leadership, beginning with the exam question, “Are you truly self-aware?” would have the potential to be developed. And yes, dare I say it, they could even be mastered with enough attention, intention and practice.

 Photo by Ichad Windhiagiri from Pexels 

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