In our first blog post about learning essential soft skills, we discuss the importance of communication skills and teamwork, and provide you with tips on how to improve in these areas.
Today we’re talking about two of the most essential soft skills; communication and teamwork. Soft skills are described as non-technical skills that people have, taking into account qualities such as personality, attitude and motivation. This means that soft skills can be applied to all kinds of different jobs and situations, so all people can benefit from working on them.
Whether you think you’re already a great communicator and team player, or you know you could improve on these skills, this article will be able to provide you with some useful tips and advice. We’ll discuss the importance of communication and teamwork skills, explain how you can improve them and demonstrate where they will be useful.
Why are communication and teamwork skills important?
The use of the word ‘soft’ when referring to ‘soft skills’ makes it sound as if these kinds of skills are not as important as ‘hard’ or technical skills. However, this is a false assumption, as soft skills are neither easier nor less important than hard skills. In fact, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report from 2019 showed that 92% of hiring managers and talent professionals said that soft skills were just as important as hard skills – or even more so.
That’s because soft skills are all about the kind of person you are – to be around, communicate with and work alongside. The director of people at Southwest Airlines, Greg Muccio, even called soft skills “essential skills”, which is perhaps a more appropriate name for them.
In addition, they are both transferable skills. Communication skills are one of the most important soft skills because they have a huge impact on all aspects of life. Teamwork may only seem important if you work in a very collaborative environment, but developing your teamwork skills will help you in all relationships you have with others, making it highly transferable.
How can I improve my communication skills?
Here we’ve put together some great advice and tips on how to develop your communication skills and what to look out for when you’re communicating with others.
Perhaps the most important communication skill, listening properly to people will change your life. Communication is a two-way street, but often we just list issues to the person we’re talking to and don’t listen to their responses properly. Instead of truly listening, we merely plan our next response.
Next time you’re in a conversation, try focusing entirely on what the other person is saying. Techniques such as clarification, reflection & active listening show you’re concentrating on the conversation.
Be aware of body language
Studies by Dr. Albert Mehrabian found that between 55% and 93% of all communication could be non-verbal. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes things like eye contact, posture, facial expressions, gestures, your voice and even how you’re breathing.
Keeping an eye on other people’s body language will help you communicate effectively. You should also try to use open body language, and match your words and meaning to your body language (e.g. nodding your head and smiling while speaking positively).
Think before speaking
Don’t say the first thing that comes into your mind and think about the message you need to communicate. This is especially important in communications with potential clients at work, and it is also crucial to be sensitive to cultural differences.
Be aware of your audience
The ideal way to communicate massively depends on who your audience is. Are you talking to your friend, grandparent or boss? Adjust accordingly, and think about whether you should take a formal or informal approach.
This is related to showing that you’re actively listening in a conversation. Asking questions is crucial to show and develop your understanding of something, and really helps to show that you’re interested.
Don’t immediately judge people in conversations and try to listen more objectively without bias. Oftentimes, it’ll come across in your face and body language if you disapprove of someone, so it helps to keep a truly open mind.
Treat everyone equally
This advice is relevant to everything in life, but is certainly important in communication. Don’t talk about people behind their backs and don’t let social and work hierarchies change how you treat people, e.g. try not to speak to younger colleagues patronisingly.
Be emotionally aware
This includes self-awareness, empathy and emotional intelligence. If you can understand and manage your own emotions, and show empathy to other people’s emotions, you’ll be a better communicator.
Don’t interrupt or hijack a conversation
When you have a lot to say about a topic, it can be tempting to interject with your own ideas and experiences, but you should avoid this. It can come across as hijacking a conversation and trying to make it about you. It’s great to bounce back and forth as long as you listen properly.
This only really applies to things like emails and virtual messages, but it’s always worth double-checking them for grammar, spelling or other mistakes. It’ll make you appear more professional and capable.
Be brief but specific in presentations
When giving a verbal presentation or writing a short report, it’s important to be brief but specific. This is so that you keep your audience’s attention and don’t waste their time with unnecessary information.
Take notes in meetings
Even if you have an excellent memory, you will never remember everything you hear. At work, it can really help to take notes in important meetings, and it’ll show that you care about what’s being said.
Maintain a positive attitude
Attitude is everything when it comes to effective communication. If you radiate positivity, you’re likely to have positive communications with other people.
Take online communication courses
It’s easy to look at a piece of advice and say you’ll use it, but the best way to improve your skills is by proactively working on them, and online courses are a great way to do that. Take a look at our communication courses and our courses related to soft skills.
Don’t rely on visual aids in presentations
If you want to present something with impact, don’t rely on visual aids – PowerPoint presentations have actually been banned at both Apple and Facebook, and we know why. Oftentimes, people will focus more on the visual presentation than what you’re saying, and they may lose focus.
How can I improve my teamwork skills?
Here we’ve put together some great advice and tips on how to develop your teamwork skills and what to look out for when you’re collaborating with others.
Establish ‘team rules’
This is particularly important in the workplace. Different people have different boundaries, and it’s good to establish what kind of environment everyone is comfortable with, regarding both work and personal boundaries.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Not everyone enjoys the same tasks, and the best thing about working in a team is being able to divide work according to people’s strengths and passions. This will make you and your team happy.
Establish clear roles and responsibilities
Similar to the previous point, it’s important to have clear roles and responsibilities so that everyone can set individual goals and there are no conflicts about who does what.
One of the most crucial things you can do to create a positive team environment is to show gratitude and appreciation to your team members, especially if someone has gone above and beyond to help you.
Be open to different perspectives
You won’t always get on with everyone in your team, but it’s important that you don’t ignore, talk over, pick apart or harshly judge others for voicing their opinions and ideas.
Understand your collective goal
The purpose of a team is often to work towards a collective goal, so make sure that everyone fully understands their objectives and works towards it.
Improve time management skills
When you’re part of a team, you want everyone to be pulling their weight. Improving your time management skills will help make sure you don’t waste your own or other people’s time.
Work on your leadership skills
Even if you’re not always leading a team, having good leadership skills can be advantageous in many situations. For example, maybe your team is fairly introverted and you need to get them to communicate with each other.
Give constructive feedback
In order for teams to improve and progress, sometimes they need to provide each other with constructive feedback, so you should feel prepared to offer it. Additionally, you should welcome thoughtful criticisms.
Try teamwork exercises
If you don’t know anyone in your team very well, it might be useful to try some team-building exercises together. Just make sure the activities are fun and don’t end up making everyone feel more uncomfortable!
Take online teamwork courses
If you want to be more proactive in developing your teamwork skills, you should take a look at our courses related to soft skills, including teamwork and leadership.
Where will I use teamwork and communication skills?
Developing your teamwork and communication skills will be beneficial to you in daily life, whether you’re making an important phone call, networking at an event or even playing sports. Below we go into a bit more detail about where you’ll find these soft skills most useful.
If you attend university, you’ll undoubtedly need good communication and teamwork skills. No matter what you study, you’ll definitely need to write an essay, present information and complete a group project at some point.
For many subjects, good written communication will be most essential, as you’ll need to be able to effectively and clearly communicate your ideas on paper. For other subjects, there may be a lot of collaboration opportunities, so you’ll need to thrive in a team environment.
Often, when people work on their communication and teamwork skills, they want to improve their work performance and relationships. Even if your work is fairly solitary, you’ll need to communicate with other teams and departments.
In addition, there are many jobs that require you to communicate and work effectively with colleagues, businesses, clients and customers on a daily basis. Good communication and teamwork often lead to respect from other employees, work opportunities and promotions.
When we have arguments and cause unnecessary conflict within our relationships, this often is due to a lack of communication. Whether we’re talking about familial relationships, friends, partners or colleagues, it’s extremely important to be able to communicate well with others. It will help you empathise with other people, understand different points of view and come to amicable resolutions. At the end of the day, we all just want to be listened to and understood.
Perhaps negotiation is part of your job, but even if it’s not the slightest bit related, negotiation skills are a great thing to have. Having strong communication skills will enable you to negotiate better because you’ll be able to connect more easily with the person you’re negotiating with and assert yourself as someone to be taken seriously.
You may want to negotiate your new salary, the price of a house or the terms of an agreement – either way, improving your communication skills will be advantageous.
Where can I learn more about communication and teamwork?
If you’re looking to actively improve your communication and teamwork skills, we have a variety of fantastic courses related to these important areas. Taking online courses not only enables you to learn vital skills from home but also demonstrates to employers that you’re willing to put time into your own personal development.
- Intercultural Communication by Shanghai International Studies University
- Learning Online: Communicating and Collaborating by the University of Leeds
- Professionalism and Workplace Etiquette: Master Communication and Soft Skills by Central Queensland University
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work by the University of Leeds and Institute of Coding
- Influencing and Communication Skills for Managers by the University of Law
- Communicating with Diverse Audiences by the University of Surrey
- Science Communication and Public Engagement by EIT Food, the University of Turin, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and EIT
- Coaching in Education: Addressing the Need for Deep Communication by Norwegian University of Science and Technology
- Coaching Skills: Team culture by Deakin University
- Leading Teams by the University of Michigan
- Collaborative Working in a Remote Team by the University of Leeds and Institute of Coding
We hope that this guide to communication and teamwork skills has helped you to understand the importance of soft skills such as these, and provided you with useful and practical advice on how to develop and improve them.
There are some skills that you’ll carry with you across all aspects of your life, including different careers and relationships, and communication and teamwork definitely fall into this category.