Since leaving the Army eight years ago, there are a few things I’ve learnt about the soft skills needed and desired in the commercial defence space. A life in defence and a life in industry can be two different beasts, and require a different set of these skills. As a former warrant officer in the Australian Army, there were a few things for me to acknowledge and to learn before sending that email, having a meeting or making a phone call, which would make all the difference in networking with people or getting the audience on side.
We’ve all seen or know of managers, supervisors or colleagues who aren’t ‘qualified’ in a particular portion of their role but do an excellent job regardless. They might excel under pressure, embrace the challenge in turning doomed projects around or be an expert at change management in challenging circumstances.
When observing these successful people at work, it’s important to note their process and approach to managing different people and situations. Although soft skills aren’t easy to quantify, they are nonetheless essential to your career success. Although they may not come effortlessly to all of us, we can all adopt them to a certain extent.
After learning my lessons and talking to many hiring managers looking for top talent, here are a few desired soft skills that you should develop if you want to get ahead and have the edge when dealing with the ‘human factor’ in any workplace.
BE AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR
Speak clearly and respectfully and always check your grammar and spelling in emails. Read that email again to make sure it’s clear, concise and to the point. Be aware of your phone mannerisms and tone. Be honest and truthful by stating facts, not opinion.
LISTEN AND OBSERVE
Be aware of what’s going on in the workplace. Opening your eyes and ears to the personalities, processes and culture around you is a very worthwhile investment of time and energy. Strengthen your standing by tapping into what makes them tick and gain the trust of employees, customers and other teams. Being able to read between the lines is an important soft skill to master. You’ll be surprised what you learn and where it takes you when you are able to navigate the workplace insightfully.
Listening is a good skill, but being able to empathise with people in different situations is highly effective and can be great when working with or managing teams, clients and customers. Showing you’re human can pay dividends and also allows people to see you as someone they can trust.
GIVE PRAISE AND ENCOURAGEMENT
People at all levels need to know they’re doing a good job or are on the right track. Give credit where credit’s due and recognise major wins for teams and individuals and you’ll reap the rewards of a happier, more motivated and more productive career.
BE AN EFFECTIVE DECISION MAKER
Identifying and considering all relevant factors, understanding the task at hand and being aware of others’ workloads are essential when making decisions. Being a swift but fair decision maker is a key soft skill. Make sure that you have a good grip on what needs to be done and when. There isn’t always someone there to make decisions for you, so you need to be comfortable with making a decision and being able to justify it if needed.
Making yourself approachable is a vital soft skill that will facilitate effective relationships within your workforce and between any stakeholders. The sooner you can resolve issues in the workplace and work closely with colleagues, the more effective your workplace will be.
GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
At times, you may have to have a one-on-one with clients and employees alike. Giving feedback for process, performance and outcome of work may need to be discussed, particularly if there have been issues. Have clearly identifiable examples of situations that need improvement. Don’t be confronting or accusing but use good communication and empathy.
Although this isn’t a definitive list, thinking about each of these and how they apply to your new role and industry will help you reflect on things you can handle differently. Make a note of which of these soft skills you need to develop further and put a plan in place to do that. Adding soft skills to your way of working is essential. It takes time and practice but, it might just be the change you need to move forward.
By Mark Henneberry
Kinexus Aero/Land Sector Lead