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How to improve your soft skills at work
Challa S S J Ram Phani
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January 09, 2007

In a previous article we listed 60 soft skills, which if practised at the workplace, could boost your professional life.

Subjects like financial management, marketing management, HR management can be taught in the classroom and can be studied at home. But not soft skills. Soft skills are acquired and experienced on the spot and cannot be developed by merely reading textbooks.

The soft skills you gain will equip you to excel in your professional life and in your personal life. It is a continuous learning process.

The 60 soft skills mentioned can be classified into corporate skills, employability skills and life skills. In some parts of the world like in USA and Australia, soft skills are also known as world skills.

Corporate skills

These are generally CEO level skills, but if you are familiar with them you will be in a position to guide your boss towards success ie working together for a common goal as a team. You can become a courageous follower as mentioned by Ira Chaleff in his award-winning book Courageous Follower: Standing Up To and For Our Leaders

These skills include:
~ Political sensitivity.
~ Business and commercial awareness.
~ Strategic awareness.
~ Understanding funding streams and mechanisms.
~ Information management.
~ Organisation and control.
~ Team building.
~ Communication and persuasion.
~ Networking and public relations.
~ Leading change.

Employability skills

These have to be mastered by employable graduates and freshers include communication, team working, leadership, initiative, problem solving, flexibility and enthusiasm.

Every skill helps us to learn one more as they overlap each other. 

To quote an example, leadership encompasses a number of other skills including cooperating with others, planning and organising, making decisions and verbal communication. Verbal communication itself involves various means of communication, some of which you may find easier than others -- talking over the phone, making a presentation to a group, explaining something to a person with a more limited understanding of the topic for example.

By improving one skill, you may also improve a number of others. In the context of your career planning and development, they are called career management skills

Life skills

These skills are related to the head, heart, hands and health ie highly personal and behavioural skills which reflects our personality and naturally helps in personality development.


We manage and think with our head.  Resilience, keeping records, making wise use of resources, planning/organising and goal setting are 'head' related managerial functions.  Service learning, Critical thinking, problem solving, decision making and learning to learn were related to our thinking processes, which we manage with our head. 

Functions of the heart are relating to people and caring. How do we relate to people? We relate to people by accepting differences, conflict resolutions, social skills, cooperation and communication.  The second function we do through our heart is caring.  We care through nurturing relationships, sharing, empathy and concern for others.

We give and work through our hands. Community service, volunteering, leadership, responsible citizenship and contributions to group effort -- are our way giving back to society.  We work through our marketable skills, teamwork and self-motivation to get the things done. 

Living and being comes under the functions of health. Healthy lifestyle choices, stress management, disease prevention and personal safety are our prime concerns for better living. Self-esteem, self-responsibility, character, managing feelings and self-discipline must be practiced without fail for our well-being. In a nutshell, the essence of life skills is share well, care well and fare well.

Things to do everyday

Follow these ten golden rules and enjoy every moment of living.

~ Greet your family members first thing in the morning. If you are not used to this, they will be surprised with your sudden and nice gesture.

~ Greet your peers, subordinates and boss once you enter the office. Smile at even the 'security' personnel standing at the gate, who takes care of your safety.

~ Greet your friends along the way and do not ignore them.

~ Continously reciprocate to breed communication. If you do not reciprocate at least with a 'thanks' when you get information or a source on your online network or your offline network, you will not be remembered for a long time.  If you are not remembered, you are out of your network. 

~ Be a proactive listener and empathise with others to command respect.

~ While talking to others, your voice, tone and tenor must be audible and soothing. It should not be aggressive or in a shouting mode.

~ Dress well to suit your profession and to create positive vibes in your workplace.  If you are a sales representative, do not go out with printed shirts and jeans, which may turn down your customer. 

~ Political and religious comments must be avoided at all costs in the workplace, when you are in a group.

~ Your communication should not provoke others. 

~ Do not speak ill of others if you can help it.

The author is a career management consultant and corporate trainer, and is currently associated with aimkom consultrainersYou may reach him at 

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