Today more than ever, a surplus of talented people exists in virtually every industry around the globe. There is an increase in the average level of education with larger numbers of qualified candidates available for job openings and an increasingly global economy and international presence for many industries. These factors mean you will likely compete against candidates worldwide for positions you apply for. These realities are especially prevalent in many branches of healthcare.
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Because of the growing global economy, it has never been more important to develop skills that can help you secure jobs, keep jobs, and advance your healthcare leadership career. Developing your professional aptitudes and emotional intelligence skills will help you achieve the career path you want. And though “hard” technical skills and knowledge are certainly important, soft skills ultimately prove to be equally valuable whether you are pursuing a new role, already working in a position you enjoy, or seeking advancement.
Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills that Are a Must!
Here are three essential soft skills that can help you move your career aspirations forward and make you a more effective leader within the healthcare landscape.
SOFT SKILL #1: Hone Your Empathy
As a leader or aspiring professional in healthcare, some of the most impactful—and most difficult—decisions you’ll make relate directly to your staff or subordinates. Managing people requires the ability (starting with simply the willingness) to listen, empathize, and have concern for others.
Empathy can be defined as the ability to understand, be aware of, and be sensitive to another’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Many new leaders see empathy inaccurately and, thus, stunt their ability to lead their people and draw out their best performance. Ineffective leaders or autocratic leaders often view empathy as a weakness or leading to ineffective decision-making or wasted time.
In reality, showing empathy as a leader is a substantial investment in creating strong relationships with your subordinates. People naturally reciprocate what they receive in interactions or relationships. If a leader acts authoritatively and callously towards them, they are much more likely to resist or react to this control. This kind of leadership behavior can make ongoing working relationships strained and very difficult.
If, however, a leader demonstrates empathetic listening and care towards their employees, those team members are much more likely to reciprocate in the form of willingness to take on challenges, step up to greater responsibility and ownership, or put in extra effort and time for the leader and for the team. Leading empathetically contributes to better team cohesion, stronger conflict resolution, more buy-in, better work performance, and more general pleasantness for everyone.
In healthcare, there are several concrete ways to use empathetic responses. From conscientious scheduling management to new employee onboarding, empathy is a must in any team-member interaction, especially since it is an ability that supports compassionate service. The more you can put this into practice by listening attentively, showing genuine concern for your team members and their wellbeing, and asking for feedback, the better your leadership performance and experience will be.
SOFT SKILL #2: Become an Expert Communicator
Assertive communication is, and likely always will be, a vital skill in any professional economy. For healthcare leaders, this is especially true. You are responsible for effectively communicating with a diverse group of stakeholders. As a healthcare leader, you are responsible for disseminating information with peers and other medical professionals, hospital administration personnel, team members, subordinates, patients, and stakeholders. Your communication skills are exercised constantly through memos, oral communication, and presentations for team meetings.
Today, proficiency in a wide variety of communication styles is no longer negotiable—it is expected.
Enhancing your communication skills can benefit your professional career both now and in the future. If you are interested in sharpening your communication skills, one effective way of improving is simply putting yourself in situations that require communication with different or new styles than you normally utilize. This action requires stepping out of your comfort zone.
However, there’s no better way to expand your communication skill set than by simply securing opportunities to practice communication areas where you need improvement. Could you ask to write an edition of the staff newsletter? Or volunteer to present the next status update to the board? Possibly, develop the team Christmas card?
Communication happens all around you. Taking opportunities to be involved in new parts of the communication process within your team or workplace can profoundly affect your communication prowess over time.
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SOFT SKILL #3: Remain a Student of Leadership
It can be an easy trap for individuals who have secured a leadership position to assume that they’ve made it. And with the many demands of leadership, they can feel the pressures of time or think they have nothing else to learn about how leadership works. These conclusions are often inaccurate and shortsighted. The best leaders are life-long learners with growth mindsets. They study leadership and engage consciously in perfecting their leadership styles and techniques or hire an executive coach to challenge them to grow.
There are many different types of leaders. Conventional opinions about leadership sometimes teach that each leader is locked into one leadership style, predetermined by their personality and experiences. However, this isn’t (or does not have to be) the case. Different situations, needs, temperaments, and responsibilities might call for the same individual leader to use one leadership style in a certain situation and approach another drastically differently.
These leadership styles can range from authoritative and autocratic to democratic and collaborative. An essential part of growing in leadership capabilities is understanding the differences between various leadership approaches and identifying the most appropriate for a given scenario. This learning curve can be nuanced and takes time.
To grow your leadership sensitivity and knowledge, one of the best practices you can employ in your leadership growth is simply to reflect on situations where your leadership was exercised and learn from those experiences. Think through the factors that affected the situation.
Leadership Questions for Reflection
- Who was involved?
- What were the personality styles represented?
- What were the stakes of the decision? What happened?
- What was the result? Was your leadership effective?
- Did things turn out as you anticipated? What went well? What was difficult?
- Are there things you would definitely do or not do again in a similar situation?
Some leaders take time to write these kinds of observations down. Some debrief these situations with their teams or superiors. Others simply think them through and take a mental note of ways to improve. Whatever strategy works for you, reflection and awareness of your leadership decision-making can help you identify ways to grow and improve.
Soft skills can benefit you no matter what leadership position you hold or aspire to within healthcare. They can be instrumental whether you’re actively seeking a job or happily engaged in a career. Spending just a little time and effort investing in yourself by practicing these skills can benefit you and those you manage immensely in the long run.
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