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Some things in life are easy to measure, while others are a bit trickier. We’re not talking room dimensions or sales targets; we’re talking about the ‘soft’ skills in your arsenal and how to use them effectively.

How do some people manage to progress in their careers with a never-wavering focus on the ‘hard’ traits of business success, while others walk a path less obvious and still manage to achieve it?

Learn from the best

We’ve all watched managers and colleagues who aren’t traditionally ‘qualified’ do an excellent job. They might excel at turning doomed projects around, or be adept at change management in challenging circumstances. And who hasn’t seen such mavericks win over even the most resistant and unsuspecting of colleagues, unifying teams and maximising resources in the process?

When observing these successful people at work, it’s important to note their bag of tricks. Although soft skills aren’t easy to quantify, they are nonetheless essential to your workplace success. And although they may not come effortlessly to all of us, we can all adopt them to a certain extent. Here are a few top tips to get you going:

Focus, determination and drive – setting your sights on a goal and pursuing it with unwavering drive and determination will always facilitate career success.

Conflict resolution – if there are underlying tensions, bring everyone together to face them head-on, but make sure you maintain enough distance to remain neutral and diplomatic.

Clarity – being clear about what you expect from your team and each individual member will save no end of misunderstanding and disappointment. Give them targets and deadlines to help them meet your expectations.

Listening and observing – opening your eyes and ears to the personalities, processes and culture around you is a very worthwhile investment of time and energy. You’ll be surprised what you learn and where it takes you.

Self-expression and leadership – empathy and understanding are important, but there’s also a lot to be said for setting your own agenda. Lay down your objectives, your reasoning and your expected outcomes, so everyone knows where they stand and how they should proceed. Being a strong leader ensures that everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Emotional intelligence – no matter how established and effective your team, there will always be an element of human nature and weakness, so reading between the lines is an important soft skill to master. Strengthen your standing by tapping into what makes them tick.

Praise and encouragement – people at all levels need to know they’re doing a good job. Give credit where credit’s due and you’ll reap the rewards of a happier, more motivated and more productive workforce.

Effective decision-making – Considering all relevant factors, understanding the task in hand and being aware of others’ workloads and commitments are essential when making decisions. Being a swift but fair decision maker is a key soft skill.

Integrity – be honest and truthful, stating fact not opinion.