Top 10 Soft Skills to Master in 2011 | Little Things Matter

Soft skills is a term relating to a cluster of personal attributes that characterize relationships with other people, such as social graces, communication, cooperation, honesty, respect, responsibility, friendliness, and optimism.

Because companies are becoming more process and system driven and because job competition has increased at all levels, there has never been a time when soft skills offer more value to the market than they do today.

As a growing number of people with similar talents and education compete for the same jobs, promotions, and clients, soft skills become the differentiating factor separating one person from another. The little things you’ve been learning about in this blog now matter more than ever.

In writing this post I made a list of my top 50 soft skills; I then slowly and painful reduced that list to my top 10. As you read each skill, I challenge you to look in the mirror of truth and do an honest evaluation.

If you have the desire to improve a specific skill, click the title link and learn more about that skill and the benefits of mastering it. Make 2011 the year you take your people skills to a new level.

1.  The
Art of Listening.
If your family, friends, and colleagues were
asked to rank your listening skills, what would they say? Do you
interrupt? Do you try to control the conversation? Do you ask
questions showing a genuine interest in what people are saying?

Being an attentive listener is one of the most important skills you can master, especially in this fast-paced world where everyone wants to talk and few have the patience to listen. Be intentional this next year to listen more and talk less.

2.  Cell
Phone Etiquette
. A friend told me about his colleague, a
Realtor, who landed a $6,900,000 listing. As he was leaving the
seller’s home, he causally asked why he had been selected over the
other four Realtors. The seller said, “You
were the only one who did not check your cell phone during the
The Realtor ended up selling the home, earning over $300K.

Cell phone addiction is out of control. This next year, challenge yourself to show respect when using your phone, both at work and at home.

3.  Show
More Respect
. People’s tolerance for being disrespected is as
low as I have ever seen it. The days of advancing careers by
stepping on the toes of co-workers are over. People deserve to be
treated with respect and are now demanding it.

Look for the little things you can do in 2011 to show more respect to others. This includes the teller at the bank. Treat people as human beings and not as pawns on your chess board. As you treat others with greater respect, they will admire you and so will the people who witness your actions.

4.  Authenticity.
Because many people are less trusting than they have ever been and
others are tired of being around people who are not genuine and
real, there is a powerful trend towards authenticity.

Being authentic is when you are not trying to impress others nor are you acting like someone you are not. The authenticity I am referring to makes people comfortable, relaxed, and enjoy your presence.

5.  Show
Interest in Others
. How frequently do people show a genuine
interest in you, your ideas, or interests? When was the last time a
friend called you (without an agenda) just to see how you are doing?
If your life is like mine, it doesn’t happen frequently.

In 2011 slow down and show an interest in those whose relationship you value. As you do, you will stand out from all the superficial relationships as someone who cares about others.

6.  Verbal
According to a new
research report
by Kelly
the traits individuals identify as the most important
in creating their personal brands were their verbal communication
skills. This includes such things as being friendly, clear, concise,
confident, humble, and positive in the way you speak with others.

How you communicate with others verbally plays a defining role in how you are viewed. Think before you speak in 2011 and take pride in the way you interact with others.

7.  Become
More Responsible
. As the speed of life has accelerated, so has
the number of people are who are neglecting to do the things that
are expected of them, including being late for appointments, failing
to return calls and emails, and not completing projects on time.

Being responsible also includes admitting when you have made a mistake and accepting responsibility for your actions and decisions. Let 2011 be the year that you stop making excuses and start doing the little things that are expected of you.

8.  Make
Your Appearance an Asset
. Very few things are more powerful in
creating your brand than the visual imprint you make in people’s
minds. When you take pride in your appearance, it makes you look
good, it helps you feel good, and it increases your influence with

I have learned that, when it comes to appearance, it’s all about the little things. From the way your hair is combed, to the style of clothes you wear and the shine on your shoes—it all makes an impression on others. Step up your appearance in 2011.

9.  Control
Your Emotional Energy
. Most of what I hear going on today is
negative. It’s like the recession has given everyone a free pass
to find fault with everything. Whining and complaining have become a
part of most conversations.

Leaders and employers know they can’t build a business when their people are focused on negative issues. It only takes one negative person to impact the atmosphere of an entire office; therefore, they are hiring and rewarding people who have a positive influence in their work environment.

Remember, where your attention goes, so goes your energy and attitude. Make 2011 the year you start focusing on positives and avoid the complainers who are dragging you down.

10.  Your
Email Brand
. Every email you send makes a small, but noticeable
impression on others. The accumulation of these impressions forms
your brand. Think about your goals and consider the person you need
to become to achieve your goals. I encourage you to read the Email
Tips Report
focus on improving your email brand in 2011.

George Gurney, a leader in the employment industry since 1976, said, “When it comes to job offers, the soft skills determine who gets the job. After many years of recruiting, I know for a fact that when all the candidates’ work experience, education, and hard skills are equal, the candidate with the best soft skills will win! . . . Soft skills can be best defined as the quality of a person’s charisma. ”

Let me challenge you to take inventory of your own soft skills. Make note of those you need to develop into strong and winning assets and make a New Year’s resolution to work on those in 2011.

Improving your soft skills will have a positive impact on every part of your life.

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

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Danette True open up your connections call me (818)732-9237 follow me on twitter find me on linkedin email me at subscribe to me at visit me at

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