As my team begins development on our training series AI in the Workplace℠ available to Seeding Change members in early 2019, I thought this would be a good time to write a post about not overlooking the basics.
Focusing entirely on developing technical skill sets for 2030 and beyond may actually put you at risk of bypassing the transferable skills that will successfully lead you into the future.
Let's take a look at the skills and capabilities that I would recommend developing or strengthening in the next couple of years.
Much of what we do in business and in the workplace requires effective and efficient communication skills. Maybe it's time to perform a self-assessment and ask others how well you're doing. It's about being open to continuous improvement in ourselves as well as others.
Understanding what you hear, what you see, and what you read will continue to be a critical transferable skill set in the coming years. One way to make efficient use of your time is to listen once with intent to comprehend what the speaker, presenter or instructor is sharing.
Distractions such as instant messenging or responding to emails during a meeting or training session mean that you're only capturing the periphery of what is being shared with you. Your ability to make clear-headed decisions based on "peripheral information" means that you'll waste your time and others' time in asking questions that could have been asked once within a wider audience where everyone might have benefited. Or you find yourself having to attend two or three follow-up meetings with the same agenda because, well, you're not alone in multitasking during meetings.
Is it time to brush up on your ability to write clear, concise emails, project notes or other communications geared to the business environment? Your ability to influence and persuade budget owners, stakeholders, and other decision-makers with your writing skills will set you apart.
Are you skilled at collecting data in order to inform, influence, persuade and to help others visualize a future state on a path to their acceptance and adoption of change? Qualitative and quantitative research is not a skill only for marketers. Writing use case scenarios--edge cases or corner cases--that include a narrative of a workflow that ties user paths together and paints a cohesive picture can help you drive decisions.
Teaming / Socializing
I refer to quadrant communication as possessing the skills to effectively reach a quadrant of communication style types in the least amount of time. Although I do have a preference for Wilson Learning's The Virtual Salesperson training/certification (it's not only for sales teams), leverage whatever your preference is for understanding and appreciating different social and communication style types.
The skillful use of quadrant communication when preparing for meetings and presentations will help to remove barriers as you build bridges between people. You'll more effectively facilitate collaborative, problem-solving discussions on complex topics.
For example, using Wilson Learning's quadrant of social styles: Driver, Analytical, Amiable and Expressive, let's say that you're presenting to a group of marketing professionals, assuming that everyone in the room (real & virtual) are Expressives. You've designed your presentation for this ONE style, only to discover that there’s a mix of ALL four social styles in the room. How might you adapt on your feet? Your primary style is that of a Driver, e.g., direct communicator, quick decision-maker, prefers big picture thinking, and drives decisions with data.
As a DRIVER you’ll want to tone down your delivery since you won’t want to intimidate the Amiable and Analytical decision-makers in the room.
Come up with a use case or scenario that focuses on the people side of your message. You’ll want Amiables in the room to hear your message, but don't expect this social style to make decisions on the spot, if this is the first time they're seeing your information. They'll want to bring your presentation back to their team for discussion and consensus before making a decision.
As a Driver you’ll likely have data at your fingertips. But Drivers prefer high level data that might not satisfy an Analytical social style. No problem. Present your data and you’ll quickly find out who the Analyticals are in the room—they’ll either ask for additional data on the spot, may appear skeptical of what they’re hearing, or request that you send them additional data to review. Don’t expect an Analytical to make a decision on the spot. They’re going to want to process the data first before making their decision.
Drivers are comfortable making decisions—but you could lose the interest of your Expressives in the room if you don’t allow them space to explore other possibilities.
360 Change Capabilities
Change happens all the time. It happens around us and happens with or without our participation. How well do you deal with the anticipation of change? Do you feel nervous excitement or demoralizing fear? Perhaps it's somewhere in between.
Because the workplace is changing so rapidly in ways that can impact your personal life overnight, it's imperative that you learn how to acclimate to the unknown where outcomes are not guaranteed and navigation occurs without a compass. You must be willing to trust the unknown and develop a comfort level for dancing with the chaos. Ongoing self-reinventions require that you learn about yourself and trust your change markers, which allows you to intuit when a change in direction is needed.
And when plans go awry and setbacks occur? How resilient are you in getting back on track and finding a new path that builds on what you learned?
Another capability muscle to strengthen is anticipating the possibility of future change given what you now know, building pivot plans that provide you with a buffer to respond and increase your chances of successfully "landing on your feet". Pivot readiness skill sets are especially important for high impact projects when critical decisions require that you respond and lead others in making decisions. Your pivot plans will help guide you when you're required to take action with 50 percent (or less) of what you need to make a key decision knowing that adjustments can be made along the way.
Whole Brain Innovation
Possessing an entrepreneurial mindset encompasses the skills highlighted above; however, it also specifically calls on you to take personal and professional risks that may truly be outside your comfort zone. Now is the time to strengthen your risktaking muscle before you're distracted by the new shiny objects of transformative technologies, such as AI and smart machines.
David Corey's article on Empathy and Emotional Intelligence in our ebook The Entrepreneurial Leader's Disruptor Handbook also includes an excellent EQ self-assessment.
Change leaders wear a myriad of hats when partnering with executives and senior leaders, product and project teams or front line managers. In an infographic on change management, I capture eight ways for organizations to leverage change management skills that include two areas not always associated with change leaders: systems and design thinking.