Soft Skills Make for the Best STEM Employees
Google's Project Aristotle uncovered that the best employees had STEM skills featured last in their abilities and what this means for rising in STEM-based careers.
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When it comes to career building, people in STEM focus on their technical abilities above all else. Often scoffing at the notion of building 'soft' skills like better communication, interpersonal skills, negotiation, and so on.
And part of the problem might be in the name. Calling something as complex as managing work politics, motivating a team to work together, and growing in your career while maintaining good work relationships is badly called 'soft.'
While having technical skills is critical, they can only get you so far. Think of it this way: Your technical abilities may get you through the door and a little more. But for you to steadily rise in your career, whether you opt to move up the corporate ladder or start your own business, you need to have other skills.
If there's a convincing argument for building your soft skills, it's the project set up by Google in 2012 and the findings it shared with the world: Project Aristotle.
With 'Excellence' as its benchmark, Google is well-known for striving to create the best. In pursuit of understanding what makes its best teams perform as well as they do, it launched a study into its workgroups and teams to understand what drove the top-performing groups.
They determined the effectiveness of teams based on three perspectives:
- Of team leaders who sought a balance between achieving business goals and individual team members' needs for a good work culture
- That of individuals who care about a good environment
- That of leaders who focused on the overall vision and larger objectives of the company
- Quarterly sales results
Now, let's look at the findings and what it means for people seeking STEM careers, especially for those who want to boost productivity, grow in their companies, and drive results.
The Characteristics of Effective Teams (And What That Means for You)
Interestingly, the researchers of the study could not find any discernable patterns at the beginning of the study. They could not find any relationship between personal characteristics like extroversion, introversion, backgrounds, technical skills, and so on, and team effectiveness.
Instead, what emerged that 'norms' or quietly agreed-upon standards of behavior played a critical role.
For example, avoiding disagreements in meetings could be a silent norm. Or speaking over each other could be a norm. Essentially, norms are practices in groups. They are how people treat each other and are typically unconsciously driven but powerful nevertheless.
Here are the main norms that researchers uncovered that factored into the best teams' performances:
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