In this Writer's Room blog, Andela community member Chesvic Hilary details his personal experience with 5 key soft skills, their importance in the remote workplace, and how to utilize them to win at virtual meetings!
As a technologist transitioning to remote work, online meetings have had their fair share of quirks and challenges during my career. While the remote workplace has expanded horizons and broken borders, offering remote workers global opportunities never seen before, it takes skill and expertise to successfully navigate online collaboration. For me personally, the limitations of virtual communication became all too apparent one day when an unexpected incident unfolded during a critical meeting at my company. This experience was a turning point that shed light on the importance of honing your soft skills and understanding how to best apply them during online meetings.
The unexpected glitch
The meeting was set to be a significant one — a high-stakes presentation to a potential global client, to secure a million-dollar technology project. My team, comprising talented individuals from across the globe, had prepared diligently. We had researched the required application and programming languages, and we were up to date on the client’s business goals, and wider industry knowledge. I was tasked with delivering the opening remarks, thereby setting the tone for the meeting.
As I began my presentation, it became evident that technology was not on our side that day. My screen froze, and my audio cut out abruptly. I was stuck in a virtual limbo, and the million-dollar project’s future hung in the balance.
How could we turn this around, and overcome the challenge? I had to think fast – and utilize my soft skills.
Soft Skill #1: Active listening
This unexpected glitch taught me the first vital soft skill — active listening. While I was frantically trying to troubleshoot the issue, the other meeting participants listened patiently, showing remarkable empathy, and understanding. They didn’t rush me or let frustration set in. They were genuinely listening, not just to my words, but also to my unspoken anxiety.
Soft Skill #2: Effective communication
The glitch resolved, I had to communicate clearly and with brevity to make up for lost time. To avoid further misunderstandings, I summarized the key points and ensured everyone was back on the same page. This experience emphasized the importance of effective communication in conveying the essence of what we needed to achieve and delivering vital information quickly and concisely.
Soft Skill #3: Empathy and adaptability
Despite the technical hiccup, the team exhibited an astonishing degree of empathy and adaptability. Instead of dwelling on the mishap, we laughed about the unpredictability of technology, lightening the mood. This ability to empathize with my situation and adapt to the unexpected challenges was a game-changer.
Soft Skill #4: Building relationships
Following the meeting, I decided to reach out individually to each team member. I asked how they were doing and shared a bit about my own life. This small effort built stronger, more personal connections with my colleagues. We realized that even in a virtual world, it’s crucial to nurture our work relationships.
Soft Skill #5: Encouraging participation
I realized that during critical moments, every voice counts. Encouraging participation is essential in an online environment. We developed a culture where everyone felt comfortable contributing their thoughts, and I found that the simplest phrases, like “What do you think, [Name]?” spurred discussions.
This incident was a turning point, prompting my team to embrace continual learning in soft skills for our future online meetings. We sought feedback, attended both work-based and external webinars on virtual communication, and honed our skills through practice. The more we met virtually, the stronger our team bond became.
We learned that – despite a few virtual meeting gremlins – remaining professional, courteous, and knowledgeable could still win over our potential client. Gradually, we evolved into a team that not only landed the million-dollar project, but also enjoyed a journey of growth and discovery, together.
In the world of online meetings, soft skills are the compass that helps us navigate unforeseen twists and turns. They have the power to transform challenges into opportunities and to strengthen the bonds that make a team truly exceptional. This eureka moment was a reminder that, in the digital era, the soft skills we bring to our virtual meetings are as important as the technology that facilitates them.