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7 skills you need to stand out at work

·5-min read
Excited woman with brown hair in casual shirt and denim jumping celebrating victory.
7 skills you need to stand out at work. Source: Getty

Research has shown that being skilled in social and emotional competencies is strongly correlated with career success.

Individuals who rate high in emotional and social intelligence are typically among the top performing individuals in their workplace.

So, if you want to stand out at work and perform better than everyone else, here are the 7 key skills you need:

1. Emotional self-awareness

Emotional self-awareness is the ability to be aware of the emotions that you are feeling at any given time and how they influence the way you make decisions at that moment.

There are various mindfulness techniques that can be employed to increase emotional self-awareness.

My favourite technique is the body-awareness practice. In this exercise, you will need to pay close attention to your body when feeling various emotions and identify the physiological effects of those emotions in your body. Doing this will help you become more in-tune with your body and will improve your emotional self-awareness.

2. Emotional self-control

Once you have better awareness of your emotions you will be better equipped to manage those emotions.

A person highly skilled in emotional self-control can switch between emotions at will. Again, mindfulness plays a key role in improving this competency.

You can employ various physical cues to switch to your desired emotion. For example, if you are feeling nervous and would like to calm down you could take three deep and slow breaths. Or if you are feeling apathetic and want to become excited, you could rub your hands together quickly and grin.

3. Empathy

Empathy is one’s ability to experience the world through someone else’s reality. Each person has their own distinct personality, life experience, beliefs, and sensations. The same event will therfore be experienced differently depending on who you are.

You can’t simply assume how people feel just by imagining how you would feel in their situation, because you don’t share the same values, motives, and upbringing. To be able to truly empathise with someone, you need to be curious about them, place your full focus on them, and try to understand how they perceive and feel the events.

People skilled at empathy can connect with others better, they are better team players, and can better influence and inspire others.

4. Influence

Influence is built on two pillars: empathy and trust. In order to influence others, we need to appeal to their self-interest. We need to first consider “What’s in it for them?” and then anticipate the questions they may have. Empathy will help us understand what matters to others and to see the world from their perspective.

But empathy on its own is not enough to influence others.

We also need to establish trust. Have you ever worked with someone who made promises that he/she didn’t keep? How did that make you feel? Some people call these tactics Machiavellian – secretly manipulative. It’s why we don’t trust politicians.

Trust is built on integrity. If we want to increase and maintain trust, we need to make sure we stick to our words, we are transparent, and we don’t provide information selectively in a way that implies things that are not true.

5. Systems thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic approach to problem solving.

Systems thinkers look at the big picture and consider the broader ecosystem that their subject is part of (hence the name systems thinking). They understand complexity and are able to identify connections that may be overlooked by others. To be a more effective systems thinker you need to ask yourself:

  • What is the broader ecosystem that your problem is part of?

  • What is the future price we may have to pay across time and space because of our decision?

  • The easy way out usually leads back in. What are some scenarios that may play out because of our decision?

6. Resourcefulness

Resourcefulness is the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties. Resourceful people think outside the box when faced with roadblocks, and instead of giving up, they do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Resourceful people are creative, persistent, and open minded. They persevere towards the end goal but easily and quickly change tactics when they get blocked. One of the greatest assets of resourceful people is their large network and personal relationships.

7. Adaptability

Adaptability is defined as one’s ability to adjust to new conditions. Adaptability can manifest itself in different ways. On short timescales an adaptable person can context switch quickly and easily. On long timescales an adaptable person can change their strategic plans quickly and respond to changing conditions.

Research suggests that among all social and emotional competencies, adaptability is the strongest predictor of career success, career satisfaction, and life satisfaction.

You can become a more adaptable person by shifting your mindset from focusing on output to outcome, reducing stress, and doing more aerobic exercises.

Arash Arabi is a leadership expert, the CEO of Sprint Agile and author of The Wise Enterprise: Reshape your organisation for the age of uncertainty.

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