Five Ways Entrepreneurs Build Soft Skills
Unlike your IQ which is largely unchanged throughout your life, EQ or Emotional Intelligence can be learned and improved through experience.
I believe the top 5 soft skills every entrepreneur needs to succeed in business are: Leadership; Integrity; Communication and Networking; Emotional Intelligence; and Teamwork. Read more here.
We can build and improve these soft skills every day, step by step, by doing these 5 things:
1 – Set Goals around the skills you want to improve
I’m an advocate of having my own life roadmap that captures what I want to accomplish in key areas of my life – spirituality, relationships, finances, business and more. Within that, I know the key skills I am developing for my personal and professional growth. For each I set personal goals.
Goals are useful benchmarks and targets for me to know what I’m focused on and what progress I’m making.
Goals help keep me motivated.
Goals (accomplished or not) give me feedback for my next steps.
Goals allow me to mark my progress so that I can celebrate my accomplishments.
My advice if you’re struggling to decide what skills to develop, try to ‘reverse engineer’ things so that you get clarity. By this I mean, if you’re seeking to start a business as a financial coach and you have integrity issues, perhaps integrity and loyalty are the skills most relevant for you to nail. Start there. In this way you can identify and address your own gaps and needs.
In addition, if you know you’re a great initiator but you struggle to finish things – you need to be aware of your mindset and limitations, and set your goals accordingly. You could chose a small, achievable goal so that you get to accomplish something everyday. Whatever goals you set, match them to your personality and needs while also being willing to stretch yourself and aim for your personal best and continued growth.
I believe that we all learn best when we’re just outside of our comfort zone!
2 – Find a coach or mentor
A business coach or mentor is essential for every entrepreneur, however as a start-up they can be an expensive luxury. A high quality mentor or coach – paid or voluntary – will expect that you take their advice seriously. They will also focus on your mindset and soft skills far more than the practical aspects of running a business because they understand that the true motor to your entrepreneurial success comes from your heart, mind and soul.
I can’t afford a coach right now, but there are other ways to find the support and accountability I need. I have set up an accountability partnership with another business owner so that we support and hold each other accountable. Another option, but not one I’ve used yet, is to find a Mastermind group of like-minded entrepreneurs. Masterminds are usually paid membership but there are free ones around.
While face to face accountability is best, these days a lot of accountability calls and Mastermind groups take place online using Skype or WhatsApp. Yes, we can hold people accountable even if we’re in different countries. The key is honest expression and feedback, as well as the willingness to follow through on advice and suggestions.
To make accountability work in whatever shape, we need to be able to handle feedback and honest communication. Can we trust someone else enough to discuss the obstacles we face and find solutions together? Can we talk things through and honestly express ourselves? Are we able to accept feedback from others, even when it might make us uncomfortable? Do we have empathy for other’s situations and can we give feedback with tact and understanding?
3 – Practise your soft skills in real life
Everything is easier when it remains a theory! The challenge is when we have to action it in real life. Sometimes I think (wrongly) that it’s just easier if I do things alone and without accountability, so I challenge myself to opt into group or team experiences where I have to interact with a variety of people to accomplish a common objective. When we engage with others, learning becomes a daily reality.
When I’m genuinely seeking to improve my skills I don’t hold back and stay comfortable because I know that I learn by doing. I have to put myself into real situations to practise and improve.
When we engage with others, learning becomes a daily reality.
4 – Find opportunities to lead
While many people run from responsibility because they want a comfortable workload, I believe the best way to learn soft skills is to face obstacles and find creative ways to overcome them. I didn’t start out as the business manager, but I found opportunities to lead in small ways (in church and in my part-time work) throughout my life so that I was ready when the opportunity arose.
Everyone wants to give their opinion but not everyone wants to rise to a challenge or get their hands dirty. There’s probably not much competition to take on the difficult tasks so we can prove ourselves in the small things. For example we can be an encourager, facilitator, enabler, teacher, listener, team-leader and when we prove ourselves capable, often more responsibility will be given to us. There are plenty of roles that we can try out and gain new skills and they’re often time-bound so we know the challenge won’t last forever.
5 – Take a course that teaches soft skills
There are may courses available online and they don’t all cost a fortune. (I recommend that you look on Skillshare or Udemy). There will be online courses related to the soft skills we need to improve. Remember that paying for a good course and completing it is part of skills development – the ability to finish what we start is an important soft skill.
Another benefit of taking an online course is that we have material to refer to and tasks that we can do to practice every day. I always say that whatever I learn is an investment in myself.
There are five valuable ways that we can improve our soft skills. The main message is that we have to decide to improve and then commit to practising a little every day. Remember that what we learn stays with us and it is ours forever – no-one can take that away. If you would like to know more about soft skills don’t hesitate to read more here.