6 Skills Young Professionals Must Start Developing Today

The 6 skills below may seem simple, but shouldn’t be underestimated. I’ve been working in the leadership development field for more than 10 years, working with senior leadership teams, in a variety of industries, who were all new to many of these skills. Once learned, they immediately saw the tremendous value.

Nearly all of them wished they’d learned these skills earlier in their career.

So, what if you’re not in a leadership position?

According to Abacus Data, only half of young professionals feel they have the soft skills to network effectively, serve client relations adequately, or to collaborate confidently with senior staff members. Yet, a recent study by Ericsson shows that communication skills and networking are still the main reasons individuals succeed in a competitive job market.

Leadership is changing.

Dr. Anne McKee writes: people in business want to work with those they trust and relate to. ‘How’ a leader engages is becoming more important than ‘what’ a leader knows. There’s a different mindset and skill set needed for today’s workforce where information is ubiquitous. Partnering skills and resonant leadership are becoming essential as hierarchy structures erode and collaboration increases within organizations.

“People understand the ‘what’ of leadership; the strategy,
implementation, management, and control. What only
a few understand is the ‘how’ of leadership.”
– Dr. Anne McKee

There’s a way to get ahead of the game. Here are 6 pillars of leadership success you can develop in 2018:

1) Listen

“Leaders who don’t listen will soon be surrounded
by people who have nothing to say.”
– Andy Stanley

You don’t need to learn how to listen. You listen all the time. The question is where are you focusing your attention? Like most people, you’re likely well-developed in the area of internal listening. That is, when other people are talking, you begin problem-solving or scripting your response in your head – not fully taking in the information before responding.

The majority of the population does this, so don’t sweat it.

But if you want to differentiate yourself, start focusing your attention on external listening – really soaking in what others have to say. When you do this, people feel heard, when they feel heard, they feel valued.

2) Expand Others

When someone reaches out to you for help in navigating a challenge, rather than try and fix their problem, support their growth by asking good questions. Learn to use appreciative inquiry and ask powerful questions. People not only love it, but it also expands their awareness, giving them greater insight into how they make decisions and what they value. When leaders bypass problem solving and ask powerful questions they begin to scale their leadership and have a greater impact by expanding the people they work with.

3) Align your Relationships

As a faculty member with the Coaches Training Institute, we teach people how to create a Designed Alliance between the coach and client. As a leader, you can greatly benefit by taking the time to learn other people’s default operating system. What makes them tick? What drives them crazy? Ask them about past work experiences that have brought out their best – it will give you great insight into what they value. It will also help to get all of the assumptions out of the way between the two of you. If you know you turn into a jerk when it’s crunch time, tell them that. You can even enroll them into letting you know so you can develop greater awareness around it. It’s a win-win approach.

Designing a conscious relationship, colleague-to-colleague or manager-to-direct report, will help you create the conditions for success.

4) Direct Feedback

Feedback is an essential development tool, but so few do it well. It’s a foundational element to help athletes improve and yet in business it often gets pushed to mid-year reviews, if at all. If you want to gain the trust of the people you work with, provide good feedback. They will begin to come to you because they know you shoot straight.

Feedback is one of the greatest gifts you can give others. Just make sure you design how they want to receive feedback together, because even though it’s essential, it can still hurt.

5) Evaluate Yourself

Your emotions and behaviors are contagious, so what are you spreading? People make up stories about you, both good and bad. What do they say about you? What mark do you want to make on your business? Or even bigger, your life?

These are some of the questions you need to be visiting on a regular basis. Just like athletes, you will have a far better day if you spend time warming up in the morning and getting clear about both the tasks and more importantly, the impact you want to have. Build an intentional personal brand and develop a system of reflection and evaluation to determine whether or not you are making the impact you want. This will accelerate your leadership path, deepen your learning and allow you to pivot quicker or call on additional resources to help you grow.

6) Recognize Others

I know personally that if you don’t develop this skill early, it’s easy to default to spotting the problem, or what’s not working. As a former national champion athlete, I was taught to constantly find the problem, because problems fixed could mean that critical hundredth of a second to climb higher in the standings. There’s a benefit to isolating problems and finding solutions, however as a people leader, those around you will become quickly demotivated if that’s all you do. Start today to recognize the contributions people make. Flex this muscle now and it gives you an orientation that provides people the opportunity to rise up and you’ll start to see more of it.

Why wait until you are a manager or senior leader to begin mastering these essential skills? The sooner you dive in and start practicing these with those you work with, the sooner you will begin to master them – accelerating your influence, impact and career trajectory.

Which of these skills do you want to grow today?