You’ve got the schooling down. You’ve learned the code, mastered front and back-end, can program API’s like they’re candy and squish bugs like a champ. But how are you doing with using empathy at work? Are you helpful, patient and able to explain your feelings comfortably to your team?
If you’ve managed to say hell yeah to each of those questions, then you are on your way! For those who didn’t, I’d suggest to continue reading why soft skills are the other most important things you need to learn about your job….actually, any job that matters.
Soft skills, in short are personal attributes the give you the ability to interact with effectively and in harmony with other people. They could be colleagues, clients, or stakeholders for example.
Let’s look at the key soft skills below to help you out:
It’s a myth to think creativity cant be learned. It can but it comes with practice. The best ideas hit us right at the moment we look at things from a different angle we hadn’t noticed before. This is exactly what separates the creative ones, be them programmers, artists, authors and entrepreneurs from all others.
Read fiction, write, do arts & crafts; even cooking is a way to explore your creativity. The greater the variety of ways you can explore being creative, the greater the chance your approach to problems will enable a creative side you’ve had all along.
2. Problem solving
While we’re on the topic of problem solving, it is inevitable that you will hit a wall and have to face a problem. It could be on occasion but most likely will happen often in your daily work life.
How you handle those problems will define your career and the company you work for. A big impact to say the least.
Problem solving is an important skill that all employers look for in candidates wanted to come aboard. So, it is expected than that the more problems you can speak to with respect to resolving, the better your chances will be to get that job, promotion, raise etc.
When you approach a new problem, take a second out to remind yourself you need to view it objectively. Yes, even if the problem was caused by you accidentally.
Once you’ve done this and know exactly what the issue is, identify the root cause next. Finding the solution is the easy part after that…almost. Whether you have caused the problem or not, it’s important to know that you don’t have to fix it alone. Working with your team or with others outside of the team may help to identify root cause and the solution quicker.
Well since we brought up your team, let’s look at teamwork itself. If there is one thing you can be guaranteed as a developer, it is that eventually you will need to work as a part of a team.
Whether it’s a team of developers, designers or on a project team, you will need to work well with others to see a successful result to the finish.
It goes without saying but we’ll still say it here; working well and playing nice with others makes whatever you’re working on more fun and makes people more likely to help you down the road when you need it.
It’s ok to not always agree with your team members, but having different points of view, explained calmly, respectfully and clearly, helps companies maintain their success or working strongly together.
Ok so since we’re chatting about sharing different points of view, that brings us to communication. I’m sure you know that effective communication is the key to any business, and to doing any business, whether it’s with colleagues, clients etc.
Developers are key members of any project team. It is important they understand that they have a voice in all meetings attended.
Speak clearly and with conviction. Do this even if you feel a bit unsure of yourself. Everybody pays more attention to someone speaking with confidence.
Listen attentively. Only the best communicators listen as often as they speak.
Don’t interrupt someone already speaking. Let them complete their thought, point or view first, then feel free to chime in.
Since we don’t want to interrupt anyone talking right now, let’s look at patience instead.
Not every meeting will be a technical one. You will attend meetings where you will be required to explain your decision or action in a non-technical way. Yes while your colleagues will get it, there will be those in attendance who do not have the technical skill-set to understand what you did or how you did it. They will obviously need a bit more time to understand. Being aware of and patient at moments like these are crucial for groups to work better together.
Understand that not everyone understand code, the length of time it takes to write, or the scope of any change request brought up. This can lead to frustration initially but take the time out to explain why it may not be as simple as they think. Over time, you will see future meetings run a bit smoother regarding this area of discussion.
6. Approachability and Helpfulness
Speaking of being asked interesting questions that sometimes frustrate you, now is as good a time as any to chat about being approachable and helpful.
You will be approached one day, and it will happen. You may get sked about your tasks that day, an issue that came up, a bug that defies logic, maybe even your plans for the weekend. The point is you will need to be aware that being approachable is an important soft skill. If people don’t find you approachable, they will be less likely to ask for help. This could mean a small issue could grow huge over time. It could also mean people won’t as quick to help you should you need it.
Rapport is the key here. It doesn’t mean sitting around the campfire sharing stories and feelings all day, but it does mean being genuinely kind and sincere to your colleagues.
Sometimes, all it takes is you wearing headphones or earbuds to let people know you’re focused right now. if you do get interrupted, simply tell them politely that you would like to help and to schedule that time right away so you can get back to your current task.
7. Time management
Speaking of scheduling, let’s talk about time management. When you’ve got lots on your plate, you have got no choice but to manage your time as it is now crucial to each of your tasks.
How much time will you a lot for each task? Is it coding or a meeting? Is it working with the team on new ideas or a project already on the go?
Time management allows you to focus on the priorities first and work out the best way to effectively complete all the tasks in a particular order.
Pomodoro works for some, where you work for a set time on one task, then move on then come back to it, or maybe its Kanban, where visualizing your tasks works better. Both are great ways to build yourself a routine or help with focus if you are prone to multitasking.
Speaking of multitasking, don’t kid yourself, it’s really not a thing. While you may feel better doing it, more than a few studies show it’s bad for productivity. To be blunt, not giving anything
one hundred percent attention means the task will take longer to complete and the odds of errors popping up are greater.
That said, if you really truly want to stick to multitasking, then prioritize your to-do list and use one of the techniques above to help you focus. You will be surprised at how much quicker you’ll be accomplishing your work.
You are accountable for your work, plain and simple. It will hurt to have to admit something you did caused a problem, especially the first time, but it know that in the long term, both you and your company will be better off for it. Accountability is all about taking ownership.
Hiding from mistakes only means that at some point, you or a colleague will eventually make the same mistake again in the future.
Don’t run from it. Put your hand straight up and admit to it and show responsibility for it. This is an awesome opportunity to analyze what went wrong and how best can it be resolved. With a bit of luck, you and your team will have learned something new.
Opening up your mind means you are more than willing to accept new ideas, especially if they aren’t your own. It’s not only the best ideas you need to be open to, even the worst ones have sparked incredible solutions as they came by a different perspective.
The more ideas you have, the more open you are to other ideas, the more projects you will have the potential to work on.
Okay so we know not every idea will turn into something solid. The point is you won’t know until you’ve seen them through in your head and discussed with your team. Keeping an open mind with your team, stakeholders, or other employees will always benefit you one way or another. Take clients for example, they are the ones who are most in-tune with your product and as such, are the best ones to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
Saving what we think is the best for last. All the above soft skills are underscored by empathy.
Being able to empathize with any of your team members allows you to fully understand the issues they face and how best to find a way to make the project work for all involved.
Team huddles, where there is an understanding between all members, that there won’t be any negative feedback on ideas or suggestions, no matter how someone feels about an idea is using empathy.
Empathy allows us to feel how someone will likely react to what we say. This gives us the ability to not only understand our audience, but also how best we can communicate to those who need to understand what we need to explain.
Ask yourself why, the next time you don’t like someone’s idea. Before you jump to feedback, start by saying something positive about their suggestion. Now explain why you do not like it and finish it off with another positive point. This is called a ‘sandwich’ approach which basically means that he person you are giving feedback to won’t dwell on the negatives but will understand the both pros and cons of their idea.
Using this empathy approach with your user, meanwhile, gives you the opportunity to see things from their point of view. They will be the ones using your product, so it is important for you to always, always try to see things from their perspective before your own. Just because you like how something looks and feels doesn’t mean your users will.
Empathy also means that decision-making should be more than just personal preference.
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Band of Coders Show is a podcast dedicated to helping software developers problem-solve their biggest leadership challenges. We talk leadership, productivity, team building, effectiveness, and much more.