Many careers in today’s marketplace rely on soft rather than hard skills — especially when leadership and management are concerned. Today, we will explore a few examples of soft skills that can prove useful for career progress because they boost your problem-solving ability.
They are essential not only for top-management positions — they are vital in practically every job as long as it’s not overly technical, like operating heavy machinery or developing space rockets. Whenever interaction with people is concerned, soft skills usually take the lead.
Here, a lot of attention is given to problem-solving. Almost every job description will mention problem-solving as a necessary skill. The catch is that problem solving, that is, the ability to solve problems as they arise, is not a single skill.
It is a combination of different soft skills that, if practiced enough, results in the ability to solve problems and overcome challenges.
Sure, a lot depends on one’s natural temperament and personality traits. But not everything! With enough motivation and determination, practically anyone can master the art of problem-solving.
And here are a few examples of soft skills you will need to nurture to become good at problem-solving — with actionable tips on how you can practice those.
9 Examples of Soft Skills That Will Help You Solve Problems at Work
1. Critical thinking
According to industry experts, the ability to think critically is half the way to solve any problem. Understanding how to evaluate a problematic situation objectively is one of the surest ways to find practical solutions.
Without the ability to think critically, making informed decisions is impossible, which is also very important for handling problems.
2. Open mind
Keeping an open mind is another example of a soft skill that helps resolve problems as they arise. Open-mindedness is very important in solving personal conflicts, too — something that may always happen at work, especially under tight deadlines and other stressful factors.
Keeping an open mind is essential to avoid finger-pointing and placing the blame on the closest convenient scapegoat.
3. Ability to listen
In a busy workplace, many people listen to others without actually hearing them. However, listening to one’s colleagues and coming up with solutions to challenges before they become massive problems is one of the most critical skills for a leader.
It is crucial to master active listening skills instead of waiting for your turn to speak, too — something that sadly happens in many workplaces.
4. Ability to communicate
Listening is very important, but so is communicating your ideas and making sure that they are understood correctly. You may have noticed already that the soft skills, making up the larger problem-solving ability, go hand in hand with each other.
Effective communication would not be possible without an open mind, critical thinking, and the ability to hear what others are saying.
Analysis is fundamental, but not everything can be brought down to bare facts and numbers. Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to look at it from a different, more creative angle.
Creativity is a skill that heavily relies on one’s ability to keep an open mind. So, once again, we have an example of a soft skill supported and enhanced by another soft skill.
6. Analytical skills
The ability to analyze information is vital in many professional areas. Analytical skills are as important for leading small teams of people as they are for assuming the role of a business analyst or a top management position.
It is only possible to critically evaluate situations and find solutions to problems by first analyzing the source of those problems.
Another great skill that should be helpful not only professionally but also in personal life. The ability to adapt to change is something we all need in the constantly changing world.
Professionally speaking, adaptability as part of larger problem-solving is about determining which solutions and approaches are no longer effective and what is the best way to replace them with other, more functional solutions.
So, one’s adaptability is usually supported by critical thinking and analytical skills.
8. Emotional resilience
Emotional, aka psychological resilience, is a vast concept that includes many different aspects, but mostly, it’s about reacting to conflicts and operating under stress — something that happens quite often in a competitive business environment.
It’s also closely connected to emotional intelligence and one’s ability to bounce off difficult situations — and often — inspiring others to do the same.
Finally, problem-solving often depends on how good of a team player someone is. Working with others is not always easy, but successful projects are usually the result of teamwork.
Learning to collaborate effectively with people on a team is an essential building block for anyone who wants to become good at problem-solving.
How to Improve Your Soft Skills?
You practice — the more, the better! But jokes aside, some of these tips should help, with enough persistence on your part:
1. Read a lot
It does not necessarily have to be all professional, even though this is a good idea, too. Reading is an excellent way to power up critical thinking, especially if you read something that highlights the same information from different perspectives.
You can start with news from various sources or even fiction — that’s great, too — as long as you are interested and do not give up on your daily reads.
2. Don’t stop asking questions
Solving problems is about asking the right questions, so don’t stop doing that. Besides, this tip goes well with regular reading. If you come across an issue you don’t understand, keep researching until you do.
3. Ask for feedback
Asking for feedback is a great way to practice communication skills and learn something in the process. You can consult with anyone you trust — either in a professional or personal circle. Or even both!
Ask others how they would handle similar situations, which approaches to solving problems people use in other professional niches, and how they handle colleagues under stress — any topic can be up for discussion.
4. Attend workshops & seminars
This is another excellent way to stay updated on the latest industry trends, meet new people, and learn something new. You don’t necessarily have to look for seminars that deal with problem-solving. Any professional event interesting to you is a unique opportunity to learn new, valuable things.
5. Seek fellowship outside work
You definitely are not the only person who wants to grow professionally. Make friends with people in similar industries — attending seminars should help with that — and talk to them about everything necessary.
You do not necessarily need to look for a mentor (even though it would be nice, too), but having a friend to talk to when things get a bit rough at work is a great way to unload some stress and maybe even get some actionable tips.
6. Accept failure as a lesson
No one can be 100% successful 24/7, so learn from mistakes on the go. It’s absolutely normal to fail now and then — especially if you are prepared to learn from mistakes and do better next time.
Takeaway: What Do You Have to Gain?
So, assuming that you master all of those, what’s in it for you? Apart from simply checking the ‘problem-solving’ box on your next job application, you will develop qualities that will help you lead and inspire others.
Even if you are not looking for a new job, showing the ability to solve problems can offer you unique career opportunities with your current employer. Not to mention, the above examples of soft skills are a nice bonus in personal life, too!
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