A prevailing theme of The Dropped Ball Series is that people rarely fail because they are ill willed. More often than not, skill deficiency is the process failure underlying most employee slip-ups in the workplace. Failures typically occur when an employee is unable to execute one of these 40 Ubiquitous Skills for Workplace Success.
Many of these skills have been branded Soft Skills. The label implies that these skills are somehow secondary. This characterization has given rise to a number of false assumptions.
These skills are innate.
Once you develop them, you have them forever.
They are not as important as ‘Hard Skills.’
Myth #1: These skills are innate.
A skill is a task that can be executed under real world pressure. The greater the pressure under which an individual can successfully execute said task, the more skilled they are. With these ubiquitous skills, most people have a general understanding of the technique: the How of executing the task. But we seldom practice executing these techniques under pressure and thus never develop them into skills.
Certain individuals – based on personality type, early childhood socialization, previous work experience, life experience, etc. – will seem to naturally be able to execute under higher levels of pressure. However, natural aptitude does not equal a ceiling. Less innately-gifted individuals may grow in ability beyond their counterparts by practicing under pressure.
Myth #2: Once you develop these skills, you have them forever.
Stemming from the myth that these ubiquitous workplace skills are innate, we also tend to assume they are constant. This is not the case. If you did not swing a golf club for two years and then play a round, you would not expect your score to be as good as before your hiatus.
Similarly, consider holding a job for several years that does not apply much pressure on your Active Listening skill and do not practice active listening under pressure during that stretch. Then you take a position where you are frequently interacting with disgruntled customers. In the new job, you will find your Active Listening skill has deteriorated because you have not practiced it under pressure.
Myth #3: These skills are not as important as ‘Hard Skills.’
From hiring processes to new hire training and continuing education programs, there tends to be a strong focus on 'hard skills.' Undoubtedly, a surgeon needs to practice operating, an accountant needs to be familiar with company software, a quarterback needs to have a technically-sound throw.
But the best training programs develop both the ubiquitous and concrete skills together. Without the ubiquitous skills, culture issues will arise and workplaces will be inefficient. Additionally, these ubiquitous skills raise the long-term potential of individual employees for their concrete skills.
A growth mindset requires an individual to have robust Self-Management, Productivity, Communication, Perception, and Interpersonal skills. Individuals with a growth mindset are able to learn and develop at a faster rate than those without it. Thus, ubiquitous workplace skills allow individuals to develop concrete skills faster and those skills will peak at higher levels.
Think about a concrete skill – like a surgeon’s ability to complete an appendectomy – as water in a bottle with the amount of water representing ability. Only practicing the operation is like filling up a 32-ounce bottle. Practicing both the concrete skill and the ubiquitous skills, the individual is able to replace the 32-ounce bottle with a 64-ounce bottle while filling it up with water at the same time.
The Key: Practice under Pressure
The theme underlying this article is that practicing ubiquitous workplace skills should be a priority for employees and employers.
As an employee, practicing these skills will accelerate the rate at which you can learn and grow, allow you to contribute more effectively to your organization, and enable you to move upward in your organization more rapidly. Employers who create time and space for practicing these skills under pressure can expect a more cohesive, efficient workplace.
Creating professional training that applies pressure to develop more robust skills requires specialized knowledge and experience. L M Thomas Group and its subsidiary, NextPeak, have pioneered a new professional development methodology, Play-Based Learning.
If you are an employer and would like to learn more about creating a program that will make your workplace more cohesive and efficient. Or you are an employee who would like to grow your current ability and long-term potential, book a free, thirty-minute consultation to learn more!