Soft skills are not technical skills and know-how but instead a focus on how you interact and engage interpersonally.

Good soft skills often translate into greater productivity, reliability, loyalty and leadership. It also mitigates conflict, poor performance and lack of motivation.

There are a few soft skills that are crucial. Having a team player attitude and all the little parts that go into that such as being inclusive, respectful and open to new ideas can help you achieve your goals in life. Avoiding the need to be right all the time or walking into a meeting or joining a conversation with a need to take control.

Another soft skill is being open to feedback, both giving and receiving. Soliciting regular feedback will help you to develop greater awareness of the areas you need to work on. When giving feedback you should be kind and do it with an aim to help the other person grow and develop to their fullest capacity.

Adaptability to change and a positive attitude towards change is another soft skill. You have to look at change as an opportunity for growth and solving new and exciting problems. You have to inspire those around you to also view change as exciting rather than something to fear. Active listening, not just listening with the intent to respond but to truly hear and seek to understand the person is a soft skill. Confidence, not to be confused with arrogance, ego or a lack of humility, but the ability to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and lead despite adversity is a soft skill.

Developing soft skills is a very introspective process, you have to engage in self-reflection and experience discomfort in the process. You have to take time to learn more about what soft skills are.

There are books and trainings available depending on your learning style and preferred method of delivery, but this should not merely be one more task on your to-do list. You have to nurture a growth mindset, an openness and eagerness to always learn and grow. With a growth mindset you do not dwell on and internalize failure as a character flaw but see it as an opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as growth goals.

Self-reflection is key in determining what soft skills need to be honed and 360-degree feedback is the perfect tool to help facilitate this. Be intentional about seeking feedback and don’t just pick people you know “like” you but ask people you know are likely to have criticism to share.

Once you have this foundation, the next step is to create an environment where you can practice what you have learned. Be mindful to create opportunities for collaboration, where failure is not frowned upon but truly viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow, and to be flexible to allow the opportunity to shadow with different people and offer contributions if they have creative new ideas.

This system of learning and growing and opportunity for practice would be incomplete if you did not add in a component of feedback. This process should not be rushed since the growth desired is not merely knowledge acquisition but truly a change in the way of being and interacting with others. Old patterns of engaging may have to be unlearned.

For some this may be a gentle process of honing a natural skill set or way of interacting with the world, for others it may take intensive work. A realistic time frame is one year. The process, by design, should never really stop but one year of intensive and intentional work is a great foundation.