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February 10, 2020
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March 2, 2020

What’s the Number 1 Soft Skill in 2020?

Soft skills

What’s the Number 1 Soft Skill in 2020?

Scanning my social media feed last week I came across an article about modern trends in ‘soft skills’ training. As someone who specialises in the area, I was bound to click the link. The company behind the soft skill research Udemy, a global online course provider, listed what they labelled as ‘The Top 10 soft skills for 2020 in the workplace.’ You can view the article here.

These are the top ten skills listed in order.

  1. Growth Mindset
  2. Creativity
  3. Focus Mastery
  4. Innovation
  5. Communication Skills
  6. Story-telling
  7. Culture Awareness
  8. Critical Thinking
  9. Leadership
  10. Emotional Intelligence

Of course, all ‘soft skills’ intertwine. For example, you cannot separate communication skills from leadership, nor can you have innovation without creativity. But from the above list, several terms jumped out at me.

Soft Skills Focus

I love the framing of ‘Focus Mastery.’ Like the late pop star Prince, focus mastery was formally known as Time Management and Organisational Skills. In a world where we have drifted from multi-tasking to continuous partial attention, I love the concept of learning to master focus in the midst of all the noise and demands on our time and energy.

Storytelling has been included as a topic within the advanced Presentation Skills workshop I run for several years now and I was delighted to see this recognised as a subject in itself. Storytelling is not just about recounting tales, it’s also about shaping meaning using analogy and describing, in an engaging way, the journey between the way things are and the way they could be. It’s certainly a skill expert communicators and presenters have mastered.

Vast topics such as Communication Skills, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence will always appear on a ‘soft skills’ list, but I wouldn’t have predicted ‘Growth Mindset’ being at the top.

Growth Mindset

When I reflect on growth mindset, at an individual level I think of expanding comfort zone, evolving and reaching for potential. At an organisational level, it is stretch goals around maximising productivity, market share and ultimately sales. It also got me thinking about the work of American psychologist Carol Dweck around growth mindset and in particular the juxtaposition of a growth mindset and fixed mindset.

There are strong parallels with the contrasting perspectives of these two mindsets with what I label, the ‘red’ and ‘green’ lists, a framework I use with clients as handrails towards greater levels of empowerment and fulfilment. Where would you plot yourself on the continuum?

Soft Skills Growth Mindset


Our view of the world is shaped by many factors. I operate from a standpoint, best summarised by Maya Angelou, that everyone ‘does their best based on the knowledge, self-awareness and resources at their disposal.

We all see the world through our own eyes. Our perspective, our habits of thinking (empowering and limiting) is like wearing a pair of glasses that skews our assessment of what we observe, to conform to how we expect (or ‘know’) the world to be. (A fascinating concept in the age of fake news and the polarisation of politics.)

I know that at different times and in different environments I can go from red to green and even a murky brown somewhere in between. But ultimately I know I feel the happiest and that I’m being the best of myself when I’m viewing the world through the green lens of a growth mindset.

As Charles Handy (philosopher specialising in organisational behaviour) famously said ‘organisations are nothing but the people in them,’ so it is the role of people managers and leaders to encourage and educate their people, not only as to what a growth mindset looks like in their organisations but about the personal benefits such an outlook offers.

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