Archives for Dr. Travis Bradberry

5 Ways to Develop Soft Skills Employers Love

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Have you ever felt like soft skills such as communicating effectively, better managing your time, or building relationships was something you are gifted with, and can not be taught? The belief that soft skills can not be taught is a common misconception and Geek Manager Blogger Meri Williams refers to this belief as the “Soft Skills Fairy.” Many people feel some are blessed with soft skills, while others must languish in their inability to grasp them. The truth is that anyone can learn soft skills, much like learning to program code, cook, or fix a car. These skills can be obtained in a variety of ways including reading books, personal development courses, and life coaching. In “9 Soft Skills Every Employee Needs, Regardless of Technical Skill,” I discussed the skills employers want and how knowledge of these skills are not enough. Honing these skills are vital to your employability and professional growth.

 

  1. Setting Goals

Carli Lloyd, a professional soccer star, did not start out as a winner. She was physically unfit, was not mentally strong enough, and her character needed work. She doubled down and improved herself. Lloyd is now considered one of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in professional soccer, and she is lauded for her character. Carli Lloyd’s coach pointed out to her when she was aspiring to join the national soccer team that athletes at this level work hard to obtain results. They live, breathe, and sleep their big goal. They train mentally and physically from the time they wake up until the time they sleep. It takes extreme discipline, and learning which soft skills to develop also requires discipline. Soft skill development requires awareness at a conscious level, and then to become unconsciously competent requires extreme regimen and consistent awareness, for which external guidance can be pivotal. Becoming unconsciously competent takes place in stages.

Many people have blind spots when it comes to their own soft skills. A skills assessment quiz is one of the best ways to pinpoint where your skills are lacking. Setting goals allows you to track your development. One of your goals can be to identify all of the soft skills gaps that stand to threaten your professional success by either taking a quiz or working with a coach.

 

  1. Self-assessment

After completing the quiz and setting goals, take a moment to sit down and decide which skills you need to develop. Prioritize the skills you will develop first, and create a list reasons why you want to improve these soft skills. The list of reasons can range from “I am having trouble connecting to my co-workers,” to “I want to become a better leader.” Whatever your reasons are, they are personal and unique to you. After you have created your list, share it with a coach, mentor, or friend to help keep you accountable. An accountability partner can keep you on track and serve as support.

All of the planning in the universe is useless without a solid plan of action. Once you know where you need to improve, and you have a method of accountability, it is time to put the task of learning soft skills into motion.

 

  1. Work with a coach

The use of a life coach can be another method to identify the blind spots in your soft skills development. People often need someone else to angle the mirror correctly to see what they cannot see in themselves to improve various aspects of their lives. A coach can provide this mirror, a path to move forward, and the ability to push you harder on that path. The development of soft skills is similar to learning physical skills. Unless you exercise those skills, they will not grow. You can also think of a good coach as a captain helping you to navigate the waters of personal and professional development. You could complete these tasks on your own, but arriving at your destination will take much longer.

 

  1. Reading materials

Reading books on how to improve your soft skills can be a great source of encouragement and insight. Additionally, reading can provide a useful road map on your journey to develop your soft skills. Here are ten great books to help you start the journey:

 

  1. Dr. Travis Bradberry- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  2. Stephen Covey- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  3. Dale Carnegie- How to Win Friends and Influence People
  4. Dale Carnegie – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
  5. Andrea Gardner – Change Your Words, Change Your World
  6. Dan Millman – Peaceful Warrior
  7. Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow
  8. Allyson Lewis – The Seven Minute Difference
  9. Carol S. Dweck – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  10. Susan Cain- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 

  1. Practice, practice, practice

Once you have begun to develop your soft skills, it is time to put them into practice. You would not expect an athlete to go into their first game without practicing, nor would you expect a programmer to release code without extensive testing. In the same manner, you can practice your soft skills. You can join associations or hobby-related clubs. If you really want to put your newly acquired skills to the test, attend a soft skills training workshop. Take and graciously accept feedback, as it will help you keep track of your development progress and help you target areas of weakness. Practicing your soft skills will allow you to sharpen them outside of the workplace. As you continue to put your soft skills to use, recalling them will become easier and will feel more natural.

 

We often think soft skills can not be improved, or are notoriously difficult to develop. In truth, like any area of your professional and personal life worth developing, the development of soft skills is not an easy path. The good news is that anyone can learn and improve these skills if they are willing. As I said in my previous article, technical skills are what employers notice, but soft skills are what help you land and keep you employed. Taking the time to commit to learning soft skills can improve your employment situation by making it easier to land, to constantly grow, and to take your career to new heights.

 

 

Is Work Killing You?

If-you-are-depressed-you

Sound words of advice from Lao Tzu

 

Yoshinori Ono is a producer for Capcom, a Japanese video game development company. After a long and grueling work schedule, Ono suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized for a week. He remembers the morning of his hospitalization very well. Ono woke up to use the bathroom and saw steam everywhere. There was so much steam in the air that it seemed to choke him. He then collapsed on the bathroom floor. Hearing the crash, his wife called for an ambulance and Ono was rushed to the hospital. When Ono regained consciousness, the doctor informed him that his blood acidity level was extremely high. He had the same level of acidity as someone who had just run a marathon. Ono joked he was just using the bathroom, but his wife noted there was never any steam in the room. In reality, the long hours he put in at Capcom had taken a toll on his health. Even though Ono would go on to recover from his illness, he still puts in long hours at work.

Reading Yoshinori Ono’s story may cause you to wince, but have you ever assessed your own employment situation? You may be a workaholic without realizing it. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • When you are with your friends or family, are you thinking about work?
  • Have you been turning down invitations to social events to work more hours?
  • Do you rarely take vacations or find yourself working through your vacation?
  • Do you have trouble delegating work?
  • Do you feel your identity is your work?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a workaholic. A workaholic is defined as a person who works compulsively. Some people work long hours because they LOVE their career. Other people work long hours because they are motivated by fear, anxiety, or pressure. Whether you work long hours because you love your job, or you’re motivated by pressure, long hours at work can cause an imbalance and negatively impact your health.

Dr. Travis Bradberry noted in his article “Is Your Boss Worse Than Cigarettes?” that a bad boss can have serious health effects on workers. While having a bad boss isn’t the sole cause of workaholism, the effects are similar. Worrying about losing your job can make you 50% more likely to experience poor health, while having an overly demanding job makes you 35% more likely to have a physician-diagnosed illness. These illnesses can include depression, heart disease, heart attack, sleep deprivation, strained relationships with family and even death. In the long run, the quality of your work may suffer because of mental exhaustion and burnout.

 

A visual of the statistics from Dr. Travis Bradberry's LinkedIn article.

A visual of the statistics from Dr. Travis Bradberry’s LinkedIn article.

Other studies have concluded that working too many hours can even impair your cognitive functions. In a five-year study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, participants who worked 55 hours per week performed worse than the participants who worked 40 hours per week. Compared to many other cultures, Americans tend to work longer hours and take shorter vacations. People who worked long hours did worse in terms of intelligence, reasoning and verbal recall. In short, working longer hours has a negative impact on productivity, and the overall returns are diminished. Working long hours can also lead to major regrets later in life. Game Designer Jane McGonigal mentions in TED Talk about regrets of the dying that remorse over working long hours and not enjoying life is the first regret of many people.

Admitting you may be a workaholic is the first step in tackling the problem. You may be deep in denial, as many people are. However, the idea of not spending your waking hours being productive, or seeing leisure time as wasteful are big warning signs. If you find yourself working too many hours, stepping back from work is a good way to help combat workaholism.

 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your complete attention to the present moment. It is being fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. You live in and meditate in the moment, instead of thinking about the past, or the future. Mindfulness is also a great way to relax, and can help relieve stress and anxiety. Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, is famous for his timeless nuggets of wisdom. On anxiety Tzu stated, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

 

Find ways to lighten your workload

If you have a heavy work schedule, you may need to let go of some of your work.

  • Don’t accept more work than you can handle.
  • By juggling more tasks, you may feel more productive, but in reality you may not be accomplishing much more. Marcus Buckingham revealed some great research about multi-tasking and the detriments of doing so in his book, Find Your Strongest Life.
  • Manage your energy by completing the most urgent tasks first in your day.
  • Learn to delegate some of your tasks to others, as you may not need to complete each and every task yourself.
  • Learn to stop being a perfectionist and a multi-tasker.
  • Taking on too many tasks at once can cause you to lose focus on what’s important and your work may never seem to end.
  • Take your breaks. If you’re fond of not taking lunch breaks, or eating at your desk, it’s time to kill that bad habit.
  • Take your entire lunch hour and try going for a walk during your breaks.
  • Exercise before you work. Brent Phillips, MIT-trained engineer and founder of Awakening Dynamics- The Formula for Miracles, promotes exercise for increasing blood flow to your brain, increasing your productivity, and your IQ.
  • A few small changes to your day can go a long way.

Businessman and author Tom Peters has stated, “Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.”

Lao Tzu also has a few words of wisdom on leadership, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, they will say: ‘we did it ourselves.’”

A heavy work schedule may also be a matter of the work being allocated to you unfairly. If this is the case, don’t allow this practice to continue. You can do better! Sometimes people take on more because they can’t say “no.” Is this you? There are a ton of articles that teach people how to say “no.” However, we also TRAIN people how to treat us. We think that people “always” treat us unfairly, but really they have learned from us how to treat us, and we condition them, by reinforcing that we will accept and complete the work.

 

Leave work at work

You are more than your job. You are allowed to relax and to enjoy your free time. Think of it this way- anything that runs at 100% all of the time will eventually burnout. The same applies to you. Schedule free time into your day and heed that schedule. During your free time, ignore the temptation to squeeze more work into your day. If you’re with your family, whether it is the weekend or a vacation, dedicate your free time to them. Don’t run to your phone every time it beeps with a new message or e-mail. Save those matters for your working hours, unless it is an emergency. Taking the time to rest and to enjoy that rest will ensure you return to work refreshed and recharged.

 

Think about your future and the legacy you may leave behind. You may enjoy working long hours at work because you love what you do, or you may be fearful of not working hard enough. The short-term bursts of productivity are negated by the long-term detrimental tolls overworking can exact on your mind and body. Learning to let go of long hours can improve your health, your productivity, and your relationships with your family and friends. In the long-term, you will look at your career and smile as you’re able to say you worked hard, but took time to take care of yourself and your family.