Emotional Intelligence and Effective Communication are the most important of skills, tells Dr. Mel Bull, Principal Lecturer and Programme Lead for the MBA, Sheffield Hallam University

All students will leave university with ‘knowledge’. But what's equally important is developing skills in emotional intelligence and effective communication which prepare students to respond to different dynamics, challenges and opportunities in their careers, tells Dr. Mel Bull

What are soft skills and how they are useful for the student population?

Soft skills are the organisational behavioural skills that are required in business. These skills include communication, emotional intelligence, understanding the impact of our temperaments and how this influences our behaviour. It's an important skill in any workplace to learn how to flex these skills depending on the situation and context.

All students will leave university with ‘knowledge’. What's equally important is developing skills in emotional intelligence and effective communication. It is these skills which prepare students to respond to different dynamics, challenges and opportunities in their careers.

At Sheffield Hallam, we incorporate these skills into our MBA so our students have the opportunity to explore their current strengths and limitations and recognise where they need to focus their personal and professional development.

Why emotional intelligence is an asset?

Emotional intelligence allows us to understand our own emotions and manage them appropriately. Emotionally intelligent leaders are great at creating strong working relationships with their staff. They encourage their staff to develop and share new ideas. This makes them feel empowered which, ultimately, leads to higher levels of productivity and success for the organisation.

In an increasingly competitive global business world, emotional intelligence can give you the edge in the way you negotiate any business transaction. Whether this is internal or external to your organisation, it's beneficial to have the ability to create meaningful relationships with anyone you come into contact with which are based on respect and trust.

What are the oganisational benefits of developing employees’ emotional intelligence?

Developing emotional intelligence leads to a more motivated, empowered and focused workforce with a greater sense of harmony. Emotionally intelligent people know how to, and will be able to, motivate themselves. They will be self-aware, meaning they are aware of their behaviours and the impact on others. They are more likely to engage in reflective practice to continuously learn and develop themselves. This approach can hugely reduce 'blame culture' within organisations as people take ownership of their behaviours and learn to manage their emotional triggers and responses.

Resistance to change, power struggles, judgment, competition, vision, leadership, success, and much more

Emotional intelligence is a key skill for employees at all levels of an organisation. Understanding your own emotions and how they affect others prepares you for addressing any workplace or business situation – whether that is leading a team through a major change process or offering an individual support with their personal development. It's about understanding the human emotions, interactions and responses which are at the heart of any workplace challenge.

How one can work on their soft skill improvement?

To work on your soft skills, you first need to understand and reflect on where you are now. This is not always a comfortable place to start but it's important to be honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses. You need to be true to yourself, reflect on recent interactions with friends, colleagues, with staff, with management and with external relationships. Analyse your performance from a reflective position, and understand your strengths and limitations. To be truly reflective you do need to really challenge yourself and try to understand where your behaviours have come from, and whether any past experiences are influencing these behaviours. Once you have an idea of these, you can start to understand what areas you need to further develop, and don’t forget it is not just about developing your limitations but also building on your strengths.

How soft skills complement hard skills?

Hard skills are important too. Many of us need to have knowledge and expertise specific to our chosen profession. However, there needs to be a balance between heart and head. This isn’t to say that knowledge or emotional intelligence are more important than each other, but about recognition that in business today, there needs to be a balance of both. We sometimes become so task -focused that we forget that nothing can be achieved without bringing our ‘people’ with us on the journey, and ensuring they are engaged and empowered. It is equally important to ensure our staff have the ‘hard’ knowledge to be able to deliver the task in hand.

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