As leaders and managers field today’s ever-changing economy, it’s more important than ever to develop their skills (including intrapersonal skills) and those of their team. But what skills make someone successful at work?
Let’s look at some examples of intrapersonal skills. Notice how these skills apply to how you face challenges, pursue your goals, and self-regulate.
Self-awareness is the ability to be mindful and conscious of your actions and reactions and how they affect others. When life gets tough, it’s easy to slip into a subconscious state to cope with pain or discomfort. Practicing self-awareness helps you heal, build healthy habits, and initiate behavioral change that aligns with your internal values.
Self-confidence is the ability to respect yourself and trust your abilities, knowledge, and judgment. This sense of confidence allows you to welcome challenges and place your self-worth in your abilities and effort, not your outcomes.
Moreover, self-confident people celebrate others’ wins and learn from their successes (another element of the growth mindset).
A well-known Japanese proverb reads “Nana korobi ya oki.” It can be translated to mean “if you fall seven times, stand up eight” and represents the concept of resilience. Every time life knocks you down, what matters is that you get back up and try again.
Resilience also applies to the attitude you have when you pick yourself up. Truly resilient people face challenges with a smile on their face, knowing that true growth happens on the upward climb. As technology, the economy, and the world of business continue to change, resilience is becoming one of the most in-demand skills for employers.
Optimism is the ability to hold onto a positive attitude throughout life’s ups and downs. Optimism doesn’t negate the times you feel sad, angry, or fearful; it means that as you process those emotions, you maintain a positive outlook and hope for the best.
In 2014, the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, wrote a memo saying, “The true scarce commodity of the near future will be human attention.”
It’s more critical than ever to stay focused, complete tasks, and follow through on important commitments, both at work and in your personal life. Being able to manage your attention span, combat daily distractions, generate self-motivation, and stay organized are major determinants of success.
Interpersonal vs. intrapersonal skills
Interpersonal skills help you collaborate and play nicely with others, while intrapersonal skills help you regulate your emotions and recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. Examples of interpersonal skills include empathy, persuasion, humor, coaching, and communication skills.
Interpersonal skills make up your outward-facing personality — your social skills — while intrapersonal skills refer to your inward-facing character.
Note how intrapersonal skills differ from job-specific proficiencies like software development, copywriting, or interior design. (People often attend school to master hard skills, while you can’t necessarily teach good intrapersonal skills in a classroom setting.)
4 key intrapersonal characteristics
Intrapersonal skills are competencies that you can practice and improve. However, to master those skills, you must change your mindset and adapt these intrapersonal characteristics that dictate your relationship with time, self, and the world around you.
The ability to look ahead, make plans, and anticipate challenges doesn’t come naturally to everyone. While flexibility is a valued intrapersonal skill, it doesn’t warrant moving through life without a plan or goal.
Mastering proactivity means being comfortable with the uncertainty of the future and establishing plans for yourself and your team. It also means having a strong grasp on time management, especially in a working environment.
At BetterUp, we’ve studied the concept of future-mindedness. When leaders practice looking ahead to the future with optimism and pragmatism, the business (and its people) benefit. In fact, future-minded leaders have higher-performing teams.
Teams with future-minded leaders also experience increased agility, team engagement, innovation, risk-taking, performance, and resilience.
It’s not easy to learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them. To do this, you must commit to self-reflection, the conscious practice of objective self-examination. Reflection isn’t done with the intention to criticize or judge but rather to identify growth areas.
Without a grasp on self-reflection, other intrapersonal skills like self-awareness and self-discipline may be difficult to master.
3. Beginner’s mind
Having a beginner’s mindset means lowering expectations, stowing away preconceived notions, and having a healthy curiosity towards new things. Looking at the world through “beginner’s eyes” helps you learn new things and appreciate others’ perspectives — even when you already know something or have lots of experience with a topic.
This characteristic is especially important when training or leading others in the workplace.
4. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, express, and regulate emotions. It also speaks to how well someone understands and responds to others’ emotions.
This is one of the most important intrapersonal characteristics as it has a direct impact on your relationship with yourself and others, especially in the workplace. High emotional intelligence allows you to better collaborate with others, maintain a better work-life balance, and approach work with a mindset that’s healthier for your personal development.
Moreover, the higher your emotional intelligence, the more equipped you are to master other intrapersonal skills like resilience, focus, and self-esteem.
The most sought-after intrapersonal skills for leaders
Some of the most important leadership skills are intrapersonal. These skills (also known as soft management skills) help leaders connect with their team, empower employees, promote collaboration and teamwork, inspire confidence and hard work, and face tough moments like disciplinary action or even layoffs.
Let’s examine four sought-after intrapersonal skills for leaders.
Adaptability is one of the top five skills that employers seek in their employees — and more so in leaders. Adaptable people are able to manage unexpected events and remain calm in the face of change. That means being okay when things don’t go according to plan.
Leaders need to work with their teams to overcome challenges and quickly pivot to pursue new opportunities. Moreover, different situations will require different leadership styles to suit the circumstances. Being more adaptable can help you meet these needs with ease.
Being adaptable can also help you reduce stress as a leader (and among your team) as you manage the ever-changing economy and labor market.
Delegation is one of the most important aspects of leadership. It allows you to assign appropriate tasks, responsibilities, and projects to other members of your team.
Leaders who delegate well can free up their schedules for other tasks while helping their employees to grow in their careers and take ownership of their personal and professional growth.
Resourcefulness is knowing how to maximize your resources and not letting a lack of resources negatively affect your work. Strong leaders inspire creativity and optimize their team’s strengths to produce results.
Resourcefulness is an important skill for leaders, especially in times of economic uncertainty.
Leaders with vision possess a positive outlook on the future and can imagine possibilities that others may not see. Vision is incredibly valuable in the workplace as it allows you to rally others around your goals and anticipate changes and trends to keep your team innovative and successful.
How to develop intrapersonal skills
People with strong intrapersonal skills are in touch with their own feelings, motivations, and goals. Some people are born with a natural ability and inclination to be introspective, others are not.
The good news is that, with a little practice, it’s possible for your team to strengthen their intrapersonal skills. Intrapersonal skill-building should be a part of every management development program.
Whether you’re looking to improve your own skills or develop successful managers at work, stellar intrapersonal skills come down to building good habits and spending time reflecting on motivations and behaviors.
Here are some activities your team can do to build their intrapersonal skill set.
Have your team set goals (and keep them)
It’s one thing to dream about your goals; it’s quite another to do whatever it takes to meet them. Encourage your team to set and document their personal goals, as well as the steps they’ll take to achieve them.
Your team can learn a lot about themselves when working towards their goals. For example, they might discover things about their resilience, ability to focus, and self-discipline, to name a few. They also might discover some new passions and interests along the way.
Prioritize self-care among your team
Your team’s physical health directly affects mental health and well-being, which can in turn affect their intrapersonal skills and ability to work together.
Exercise is known to reduce stress and anxiety, allowing them to think clearer and generally approach life with a positive attitude. Meditation promotes relaxation, stress reduction, and better sleep. It can also help them focus better and practice mindfulness.
Encourage your team to carve out time for exercise, meditation, or any other type of physical activity.
Encourage your team to practice positive self-talk
Your employees’ longest relationship in life is with themselves. Encourage your team to build a habit of talking to themselves how they would a colleague, close friend, spouse, or even a child — with patience and forgiveness.
Journaling is one way for your team to connect with themselves and keep track of their inner dialogue, emotions, and experiences. Journal writing can also help your team track their growth over time, providing a tangible record of what they’ve overcome and how they’ve improved their skills.
Empower your employees to lean on their support systems
Everyone resonates with different support systems. Some people opt for therapy, which is a wonderful way to share challenges, fears, and emotions without judgment. Therapy allows your employees to reflect on behaviors and habits, learn techniques for improving intrapersonal skills, and let go of painful experiences.
Alternatively, your team may opt to enlist the help of a coach. Company coaches, like those at BetterUp can help your team identify their strengths, achieve their goals, and reach their full potential. This type of coaching (as opposed to therapy) can also help with professional development and contribute to your business strategy, helping level up your organization as a whole.
Over to you
Intrapersonal skills are the foundation of your team’s relationship with themselves, their colleagues, and their leadership.
Investing in improving your team’s intrapersonal skills enables them to face tough situations, regulate their emotions and reactions, and set and meet important goals. Those with strong self-awareness, self-confidence, resilience, and reflection (to name just a few) can better cope with stress, weather changes, and manage tasks.
Now is the time to invest in employee development and skill-building. Your workplace culture will thank you.