5 soft skills for business careers

Business skills aren't just hard skills. To succeed, you need people skills like empathy, teamwork, and clear communication.
Written by Matthew Sweeney, Contributing Writer

Strengthening your business skills requires working on both hard and soft skills. 

While hard skills deal with concrete, external abilities, soft skills are more intangible "people skills" that determine how we relate to others. Though harder to measure, soft skills are essential.

Cultivating your soft skills can help you better resolve conflicts, express yourself clearly in writing, and inspire others to do their best.

Read on to learn about the soft business skills essential to any business professional's repertoire.

Why are people skills important in business?

Professionals in all business careers need skills relating to communication, social cohesion, and maintaining mental focus.

If you enhance your people skills as a business professional, your career may benefit. Coworkers or employees may find you easier to:

  • Understand
  • Direct
  • Follow
  • Help
  • Disagree with safely

In outward-facing roles, good people skills may help you land opportunities for your employer. Soft skills make it possible to reach compromises — useful both in your workplace relationships and in making deals on your employer's behalf. 

5 most useful people skills for business

All people skills have potential benefits for business professionals. A few soft skills, such as leadership and collaboration, are especially beneficial for high-paying business careers.

No matter your industry and setting, you should nurture these top five skills to help you thrive and flourish.

1. Leadership

Leadership is the ability to motivate people towards achieving goals. Virtually all business roles involve some leading, influencing, or motivating, but the skill is particularly important for:

  • Project managers
  • Program managers
  • C-level managers and executives

Without leadership skills, C-level executives fail to effectively guide the organizations they head.

You can cultivate leadership skills by taking on more projects. Once you learn to motivate yourself, you can focus on motivating others. Also, try signing up for a leadership training program or volunteering outside of work in a role involving leading others.

2. Written communication

Communication skills, or the ability to translate thoughts and ideas to others, contribute to your success as a business professional. Good written communication skills make it possible to create professional written materials, including:

  • Grants and proposals
  • Training materials
  • Emails
  • Reports
  • Newsletters

For instance, you need good writing skills to summarize your goals for your organization's next quarter in a proposal. 

To meet this need, most online business administration degrees feature writing coursework.

You can cultivate better writing skills by taking an online college course in writing, attending a writing workshop, or spending more time analyzing others' writing in your spare time. You may also trade writing feedback with peers.

3. Collaboration

Collaboration is the ability to reach goals collectively as a team. It encompasses both accepting others' help and contributing to others' work. Forms of collaboration that contribute to a business's overall health include:

  • Team collaboration
  • Cross-brand collaboration
  • Interdepartmental or interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Community collaboration

You need collaboration to bring out the best in others. If you want to create a great product with another department, it is in your best interest to respect and aid them as contributors.

Growing your ability as a collaborator might involve taking on more team projects at work and volunteering outside of work.

4. Mentoring

Mentoring involves your capacity to grow others' abilities and skills by both directly teaching them and offering encouragement. 

Workplaces offer mentorship during onboarding and training and may build formal mentorship programs. Mentorship also happens informally in the work relationships you cultivate. For instance, if you offer assistance to a new hire you aren't directly training, this is a form of mentorship.

You can cultivate mentorship skills by offering help and guidance to people throughout many areas of life, such as friends and younger family members. You can also join a mentorship program or take a mentorship class.

5. Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is the ability to de-escalate and resolve disagreements and arguments between people. 

A key component of emotional intelligence, this skill makes it possible to avoid and neutralize workplace problems ranging from different communication styles to political disagreements. 

For example, conflict resolution skills make it easier to solve a personal dispute over an offhand remark before it disrupts a working relationship.

Develop conflict resolution skills by attending a night class or workshop on conflict resolution offered by your work or local colleges. Practice conflict resolution in your own life by navigating conflicts without escalating or placing blame.

In conclusion

Soft skills are indispensable as part of your business skills toolbox. Trying to build up your people skills can positively impact your whole life, making you a better friend, community member, and better worker.

Check out your local college's offerings for night classes, continuing education, and workshops for soft skills for more information or guidance.

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