If you are looking to hire someone to join your company or to develop existing people who will regularly bring added-value (in the long-term), you need to think about more than technical or functional skills. In my opinion, the 9 following competences are absolutely key to sustainable success in today and tomorrow’s business environment…
THE CONSTANT LEARNER
It has been said for decades that the only constant is change. Clearly that hasn’t changed. If we cannot be sure about what tomorrow looks like, then the following three competences are important:
- Open-mindedness is the ability to receive and treat new information without overbearing prejudice. Many of us spend the majority of our waking lives on autopilot, doing things just like we did yesterday, set in our ways and thoughts. Open-minded people are able to put their own convictions on hold and see things differently in order to deal with new ideas. They are conscious of their own habits and convictions, they listen well and they tend not to mix up their own perception with reality.
- Self-learning is the ability to define, follow-up, deliver and evaluate learning goals in an autonomous way. Today’s workers must be able to acquire and assimilate knowledge, learn new skills and question their own attitude without the necessary intervention of a learning department or teacher. Specific skills here include goal-setting, self-coaching and identifying infinite learning opportunities.
- Problem-solving skills and scientific reasoning are required in order to figure things out where no answer currently exists. Workers must have the ability to correctly assess and define a problem. They must have a minimum of business acumen and creativity to propose multiple hypotheses and a sufficient scientific process to create “experiments” that will allow them to isolate, test and understand problem causes and potential solutions.
FUNCTIONING WELL IN TODAY’S UBER-SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT
In today’s working environment (the “New World of Work”) the possibilities are endless. We can gather and share information from and to everywhere in a click. We have unprecedented access to other people. We are mobile within markets and across functional and geographical lines. The following three competences are all about getting and giving the best in that environment:
- Personal Knowledge Management is a collection of processes that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his or her daily activities. Faced with the enormous noise of information coming in from everywhere in multiple formats, today’s workers need to be able to make sense of it all and put the noise to effective use for herself and others, today and in the future.
- Networking skills allow workers to effectively analyse, evaluate and improve their own networks in order to receive and give more value. With a clear long-term mission and good social skills, effective networkers can assess, create and maintain well-functioning networks. They know the right people (who know the right people..) and can establish trusting useful contacts over a variety of face-to-face and virtual platforms in order to achieve their goals.
- Commercial communication and personal branding. As businesses become more “intrapreneurial” and workers get involved in more cross-functional, multinational projects, the ability to understand the situation, values and needs of other people and position oneself and one’s work “commercially” in terms of benefits is key to being accepted and being useful. No-one can sit back and say that “sales” is for someone else. As Daniel Pink has said, to sell is human and we’re all doing it, whether we know it or not. The product/service branding approach of matching key messages to target audiences can today be equally well applied to individuals – effective personal branding helps other people to see your own value more easily.
BRINGING VALUE TO THE BUSINESS
A constant learner who is able to function well in an uber-social environment is not worth anything if he doesn’t really understand how business is happening and what can be done to achieve goals. He needs three additional competences:
- Business acumen or business intelligence is the first foundation for adding value to an organisation. In the past, only the management needed to worry about the universal drivers of cash, profit, growth, people and assets; everyone else could “just” focus on his job. But as environments, people, projects and processes change rapidly, there is more need for workers who truly understand their own work and how it influences the bottom-line and delivers on company strategy. If you don’t understand the core factors that make your business successful, you will not be able to identify opportunities, solve problems or articulate solutions that bring any value.
- Strategic thinking is the ability to identify priorities based on current position in relationship to the end-goal. Technical or tactical experts tend to have a good grasp on which is the best way to achieve a certain action, but strategic thinkers more easily identify those actual actions which really need to be taken at this time. Although top-management may be responsible for defining the company strategy, each individual needs himself to be able to regularly and effectively assess their own position (in terms of S/W/O/T etc..) and look for recurring themes and priorities. In this way, they can strategically choose relevant action and next concrete steps.
- Proactivity is the ability to stop, think and choose, rather than simply reacting to circumstance. A close-cousin of both strategic-thinking, open-mindedness and problem-solving ability, proactivity requires self-knowledge and a specific attitude, in addition to specific knowledge of the environment and mission. Faced with unacceptable results, the proactively-reactive person will assess the situation and processes/programs in order to create change which he or she believes he can orchestrate. And the truly proactive person will “in advance” take the initiative to assess risks to the mission and think about how to do things differently and how to have a maximum impact.
- “The Respect Effect” by Paul Meshanko – some important concepts on open-mindedness
- “Before all that self-learning, one last little training for everyone” – ASTD blog post about helping people get better at learning
- Learn about the “6 thinking hats” of Edward De Bono for ideas about problem solving and creativity
- Read Harold Jarche’s “PKM” blog
- “Analysing and evaluating informal learning networks” – blog post from ASTD2013 ICE
- “The only 3 questions that count” and “Be FAB to be heard” for ideas about commercial communication
- “Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand” on Mashable blog
- “If you want to show value, you’ve gotta have business acumen” blog post
- “Creating strategic action in 4 steps” blog post
- Read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
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