Fishing An Idea

Conversations revolve around talking either ideas or perceptions. I think most people are comfortable picking one or the other and sticking to it. When does chasing an idea conflict with winning consensus?

Fishing An Idea

Fishing An Idea

An idea is a statement that begs to be rationalized. It is often a solution to a problem. For example, in 1980s, Steve Jobs had the idea: “Every person should have access to a personal computer.” You challenge this idea/hypothesis by coming up with the needs of the average person and doing a market study. (This example comes to mind because I just watched Jobs the movie.)

Some people like to talk ideas. They have analytical minds. They revel in sharing perspectives, philosophizing on societal impact, and debating for the best argument. There is comfort in being confined to rules based on rationality. Arguments are challenged with logic, hypothesis testing, and statistics and probability.

A perception is a response that begs to be voted on. For example, last week there was sufficient discussion about the impact a CEO’s religious views would have on the company’s image. It is almost impossible to rationalize whether the former CEO should have been pressured to resign, so you weigh the public response.

Some people like to talk perceptions. They have sensory minds. They like to connect with others. The rules are to follow social graces. A winning argument is often subjective and one that builds consensus.

There is not necessarily a clear, overall benefit in choosing one preference over the other, though there are surely situational benefits. Personally, I think there should be clear segues when you move from talking ideas to perceptions and vice-versa. Moreover, you may want to converse with people based on their preference so they are in their comfort zone. This is what good leaders already do.

The popular Myers Briggs Personality test gives some validity to what I am trying to say.[i] There are four personality types, which ask the following questions:

  • Are you an introvert or extrovert?
  • How do you process information (sensory or intuition)?
  • What motivates you when you make a decision (thinking or feeling)? This has the strongest linkage to my discussion above. A thinking personality type looks to logic when making a decision. A feeling personality type looks to people and communication when making a decision.
  • Do you prefer organization and order or are you open to new information and options?

There was an interesting quote in the NY Times about Mozilla’s former CEO:

(he) is a very analytic person who got into a situation he did not have the social skills to navigate.[ii]

[i] http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/my-mbti-results/

[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/05/technology/personality-and-change-inflamed-crisis-at-mozilla.html

A Leader’s Vision

To be successful a leader must develop a forward-looking vision, something he or she can communicate effectively to teams and partners that motivates them to participate in a future. (This is something Jon Mertz hammers on in his recent blog. He discusses why a leader needs aspirational vision).[i] I got to thinking of other aspects of a leader’s vision.

Leader's Vision

Leader’s Vision

Returns take time. Actualizing a vision often takes many, many years. It takes time to create a team, raise funds, build a service or product, and gain market traction. Do not be cavalier about a return on investment, yet understand your vision might take many years to manifest with rewards coming much later.

Stick to your guns. Standby the core principles of your vision. You might have to change course and adapt to other perspectives regarding some of them. However, conviction is a requirement in fending off competitors and naysayers. Personally, I enjoy being challenged; some of my best work comes when I respond to a challenge or capitalize on a missed opportunity by a competitor.

Buttress your vision. It takes additional time to obtain auxiliary support mechanisms like a patent or book, but it is worth the investment for two reasons. First, it establishes credibility. You may have critics who are smarter, more ambitious than you, so winning them over requires proof. Second, it provides some protection. People listening to your vision might think they can do better and try to.

Every idea and concept matters in communicating your vision. Let’s say you communicate your vision in 400 words. Obviously, every single word serves a purpose. Moreover, as you share your vision, teach it so your influencers can say it back to you verbatim. (Perhaps even make this a requirement with your inner circle.) If someone misses a single point of the vision, its value can be seriously diminished and reflect poorly on you.

Always voice your vision. In a presentation, convince your management team to back the core themes of your vision. In an email, motivate a project manager overseeing a team of core developers building your service. In an executive summary, compel investors to fund the implementation of your service. Having a vision is respectable and contagious so don’t be afraid in spreading the word.

Rally the troops behind the vision. Work to get consensus with your key influencers, so be willing to tweak or modify your initial vision based on their ideas. Be ready for squabbles. Ultimately, it is powerful having a team in synch with your vision where they speak, teach, and breathe it.

Details matter during implementation. Delivering on your vision is critical for success. Steve Jobs comes to mind. He sat in as programmers were developing his visionary products. Every little, minute feature makes a difference. Arguably, this might be the most important responsibility for a leader. Once you lose a first to market competitive advantage (if you have it), the implementation makes or breaks you.

[i] Jon Mertz. http://www.thindifference.com/2014/03/26/vision-incite/

Original Background Copyright DepositPhoto #34770691 tolokonov

Getting to Know the Millennials

Marketers, technologists, educationists, politicians, and many others are trying to define the much hyped Millennial generation. Some of their generalizations include, Millennials are: digital natives, religiously unaffiliated, self-centered (perhaps by necessity), supportive of social welfare issues, better educated, demographically diverse, unmarried (and likely living with parents), and optimistic of their future. The Pew Research Center recently published a study called Millennials in Adulthood with some eyebrow raising statistics.

Millennials

Millennials

Millennials are digital natives, meaning they were raised with the prevalence of computers and devices, social media, video games, apps, and the Internet. Eighty-one percent on are on Facebook and have a median of 250 friends.

Technology has a major influence on education for a few reasons. First, online learning platforms make personalized and adaptive learning a reality. Second, information is easily accessible to all. (Personally, I think this is huge. I enjoy reading newspapers and journals online. I love searching whenever I confront a subject that interest me.) Third, discussion forums make feedback and social learning possible.

There are issues with technology and learning. Multitasking is a requirement for just about everything Millennials do, but clearly, it disrupts their ability to concentrate and become deeply engaged. Another potential problem is to take shortcuts in gathering information. Why read a respected publication when you can read a summary article? It is extremely easy to do and saves time and money. Finally, newspapers challenge us to think of important issues in the world and our community. Does social media – for many a replacement to news – generate the same kind of intrigue?

Despite being saddled with more student loan debt than any other previous generation and having little assurance social security will be there when they retire, Millennials are notably more optimistic than other generations. A whopping eighty-five percent say they are earning enough now or will in the future. (Significantly higher than any of the other generations).

Many from past generations paid off their student loans within a few years after graduating (the ratio of debt to annual salary was much lower and the cost of living was lower), so it was never really an issue. However, Millennials are confronted with lifelong debt. Where does the optimism come from?

I think it is a generational thing. Millennials are happy as long as they can pay their bills and are socially engaged; many are paying rent and living with parents. Student loans are simply another bill, and like a future mortgage on a home, something Millennials expect to pay for much of their lives. It is nothing more than an accepted reality, so why stress out about it.

Millennials are less religiously affiliated than other generations. Interestingly there is a trickle down effect, where each subsequent generation is less religiously affiliated than the previous one. Twenty-nine percent of Millennials are religiously unaffiliated (thirteen percent higher than the Boomers).

I think access to information enables younger generations to contemplate religion. For example, there is a series of videos on YouTube of Oxford lecturers debating the question on the existence of a God. Probably the only comparable experience from a previous generation is a Humanities course in college where exposure does not occur until someone is in their twenties.

Truth is most Millennials believe there is a God (eighty-six percent), though only fifty-eight percent say they are “absolutely certain” there is one. There are other issues for lack of religious affiliation like getting married and starting a family later in life.

Altogether, I think the biggest reason why Millennials are getting so much attention is because they are digital natives (and few experts accurately predicted how fast technology would influence our lives). Having access to vast amounts of information and being able to communicate instantly in social communities has and will have dramatic implications for generations to come. Biologists are studying the effects on the human brain. Educators are trying to understand the best ways to utilize technology for adaptive learning. Employers are desperately trying to keep up and hiring candidates with the necessary technical skills. The excitement is in trying to figure out where the Millennials are going to take us.

I suggest reading The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown if you want to read a thorough analysis on our current generations.

Original Image Copyright Fotolia #38579952, – silent_47

Career Planning Angles

Career planning is challenging because there are so many factors to consider – core competencies, skills, passions, relationships, and simply making a living; in addition, the workplace is always changing due to adoption of new technologies and globalization (which is why there are some naysayers to career planning). In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I take on career planning from a functional angle: the building and validating of a skill set.[i] Of course, I talk about weighing career passions and capital during the planning stage. Recently I read Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson who comes from an emotional angle: “an inward journey to explore what lies within you and an outward journey to explore opportunities in the world around you” (page 5).[ii] Interestingly there is a lot of overlap in our two angles.

Career Planning Angles

Career Planning Angles

I talk about taking personality, interests, and strengths tests to become more self-aware, so you avoid threading against your internal self. Similarly, Mr. Robinson says, “finding your Element involves understanding the powers and passions that you were born with as part of your unique biological inheritance (page 22).” He suggests meditating, mind mapping, and creating a vision board to identify your uniqueness and taking some of the same tests I suggest (like Gallup Strength Finder).

I talk about identifying and building your career capital – core competencies that you have an almost innate understanding to develop. It is part of Cal Newport’s “craftsman-mindset”. [iii] I love the way Mr. Robinsons expresses the same concept (related to your Element):

finding your natural talents and honing them in practice: it is a union of nature and nurture (page 36).

I talk about delivering YOU (a product) to a target market, so you think of ways to differentiate your skills to an audience. (This is the most practical way to plan a career.) What I call your target audience, Mr. Robison calls your tribe (the more popular buzz word).  He says: “Part of being in your Element is finding out what the world you want to be in – what sort of culture you enjoy and who your ‘tribes’ are (page 188).”

There is no denying career planning should be a journey into your soul. For many of us, besides sleeping, we will spend more time doing career related work than any other thing in our life (some estimates put it between 15 to 30 percent). I standby the importance of striving for career happiness and fulfillment. Regardless of the source of your career plan, whether it comes from a functional or emotional angle, take the results and translate them into a skill set. You can then create an action plan to build each skill – a sensible way to prepare for a dynamic workplace.


[i] Ryan Frischmann. A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career. Trafford (2013).

[ii] Ken Robinson. Finding Your Element. Penguin Group (New York, 2013).

[iii] Cal Newport. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. Hatchett (New York, 2012)

Personal Branding Clubs

Similar to a ‘book club’, consider starting a ‘personal branding club’ where a group of professionals meet to flesh out perceptions and talk careers. It is a logical extension from what Dorrie Clark suggests in her book Reinventing You.[i] Her idea is to create a focus group to understand what close associates think of you – your personality, style, core-competencies, career path, and relationships – collectively what can be thought of as your personal brand. All I am suggesting is to give each group member their own special night and commit to a schedule like any other club.

Personal Branding Club

Personal Branding Club

The group consists of associates who know enough about each other to share personal and professional insights. I suggest creating a Google + group for coordinating the events of the group (make sure to include a Google calendar). Plan an event, say one Thursday a month, so each member becomes the focal point. (The frequency of the meetings depends on the number of people in the group.) When it is your night to be the target of the group, you host the event and, as Ms. Clark says, you provide a comfortable environment with refreshments – show appreciation that people are willing to spend their time on your behalf. This is not much different from how book clubs operate.  The ‘personal branding club’ has a standard agenda, where there is an orderly way of doing things for each event. The purpose is to brainstorm on how others perceive you, get advice on how to move forward in your career, and simply talk candidly in a non-stress environment about your career. You are the star for the night.

Perceptions are often subjective and therefore vary from person to person. It is highly unlikely that every person in your focus group is going to say the same thing about you. And the subtle differences count! Moreover, finding out something you never thought of yourself is precious. I am not sure there is another way to get candid responses. This is why companies use focus groups to understand customer preferences and the effectiveness of their branding efforts.

Teenagers understand the sophistication of online perceptions. I watched a PBS Frontline documentary, Generation Like, about teenagers using Facebook. One of the film settings includes seven teenagers sitting around a table at one of their homes; each of them has a laptop and is connected to the Internet. They discuss the impact of each other’s Facebook profiles and answer some of the following questions. What is the implication if I ‘Like’ something? How many views do I get if I post a message or picture? What do you want for your profile to accomplish?  What should you have as a profile and cover picture and a caption?

Arguably, the stakes are much higher for adults because online perceptions have major career implications. A reputation is paramount because careers are more transient. Professionals are expected to take on more roles and work for different employers. In addition, adults must deal with having all their personal content become professional content (for the most part).  For these reasons, I think adults should practice some of the same techniques teenagers are using to understand how they are perceived online. I recommend starting a ‘personal branding club’.


[i] Dorrie Clark. Reinventing You. Harvard Business Review Press (Boston, 2013).

Original Image © Depositphoto/ depositedhar #5207145

Squeeze on Higher Education

The de facto college degree is getting squeezed from two directions: employers requiring professionals to build new-age technical skills (where there is currently a skills gap); and typical students who are faced with the rising cost of a traditional college degree and must take on significant debt. Moreover, according to a recent Gallup poll, a very strong majority of business leaders say hiring managers consider ‘knowledge’ and ‘applied skills’ as ‘very important in hiring decisions’ -  84 and 79 percent respectively. (This is far greater than the ‘degree’ or ‘college attended’ in the same category, only 28 and 9 percent respectively.) [i] And in another Gallup poll, business leaders were asked if higher education graduates have the skills ‘my business needs’ and 33 percent disagreed and 34 percent were neutral to the statement.[ii] More professionals have the opportunity to build skills and knowledge their own way, and there are three reasons why: access to knowledge, online learning channels, and social media.

Squeeze on Higher Education

Squeeze on Higher Education

We are starting to understand that the ‘pure memorization’ of large volumes of information is less relevant, and therefore dramatically changes learning expectations. Every single piece of information is and will be published digitally and accessible via a network and the large majority of it can be found from a simple Google or Wikipedia search. I do not deny that understanding concepts and rationalizing require some memorization, especially when one must think on the spot. (But even simple reciting can and will be augmented by wearable devices.) For example, there are now freestyle chess competitions where computer programs and humans work together as a team; this takes away the burden of memorizing moves and scenarios, and lets human players concentrate on strategy and understanding their opponent.[iii]

Online learning is going to revolutionize the whole process of becoming educated in a few ways. First, for many disciplines, you participate in self-guided learning. You take a free online course from a top-notch professor in any subject and this lays the groundwork to acquire deeper knowledge or simply provides enough context to work with others in the field. Second, with asynchronous learning, you fit online course requirements into a busy schedule (which might include working at a job); you usually have to complete about two to three hours each week (any time or day) for two months.  Third, you spread the learning experience over a longer period of time. Traditionally speaking, you spend two to six consecutive years taking courses and then get a degree. However, considering how fast technical skills change, it might make more sense to take one or two courses throughout your career – spreading it out in a steady stream. I predict ‘continual learning’ becomes a requirement for most professions.

With social media web services, it is possible to stay current with the most recent developments of a subject and interact with experts in the field. There are no barriers in following ‘thought leaders’ in Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Many of them are willing to share their most current work for free; generally speaking, the only requirement is to spread the word (by liking them) and/or participating in the discussion. After some time, with enough active participation, you start to develop your own insights and build a reputation. In fact, most employers canvas the Twitter activity of potential candidates (and some claim to be willing to make their hiring decision solely based on it).


[iii] Tyler Cowen. Average Is Over. Penguin Group (New York, 2013).

iv Derek Bok. Higher Education in America. Princeton University Press (Princeton, 2013); page 93.

One Thing That Does Everything?

Is it better to have a single device or application that performs many functions well, or multiple devices or applications that do a particular function best? In other words, you can have an IPhone OR a cell phone, digital camera, calculator, MP3 player, and GPS device. I got to contemplating how a similar phenomenon plays out on a personal website and more broadly with your personal branding efforts. Is a personal website enough? How do you decide which social media profiles to participate in? When should content overlap?

Juggling Content

Juggling Content

With a personal website, there are some clear advantages in using already established web services. Here are two examples. YouTube does an exceptional job handling video. It verifies copyright privilege, distinguishes content for a mature audience, and manages a variety of different video file types. In fact, w3schools.com (the best HTML reference) suggests using their video tags in HTML5. Google analytics is a powerful tool to understand website traffic. It is a simple, yet robust platform.

The benefits in using specialized applications are twofold: they are the best thing out there and will be continually updated to remain the best thing out there (by incorporating the latest technologies and adding new functionality). As a developer, it is refreshing to not worry about continually updating something that is not the focal point of the service. For example, it is possible to feed a script to Google Maps and rely on Google to provide the best possible mapping interface.

It becomes tricky as you decide what platforms to use and how you choose to use them. No matter how efficient you are collectively, there will be overlaps. Referring to the example above, say a personal website acts like the IPhone – a single platform with your multi-dimensional resume, photo and video galleries, a blog, etc. This substitutes the need for Instagram, YouTube, and WordPress or Tumblr accounts and supplements a LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook profile. There are benefits in having your content and functionality ‘all under one hood’.

  • Content is altogether. It is easier for viewers to find.
  • Content is integrated. This adds dimensions/layers and makes it searchable.
  • Content is managed and administered in one central console.
  • A single service might cost less than multiple services.

The ways I use a personal website with my social media profiles it to take advantage of what the social media application does best and wherever possible, link back to my personal website. For LinkedIn, I publish a barebones resume, mission statement, and list of skills. There is a link to my personal website, which I really want a recruiter, colleague, or client to click on when viewing the profile. I also publish my skill set in Facebook and Google+. Why? Because skills are highly searchable, I want to provide the right keywords for effective searches on each of the networks; skill sets are your one of your most valuable commodities. Regarding the use of many applications, I prefer having everything in one place, though, see the attractiveness of mobile applications – they are quick and direct (surprisingly, managing applications that perform particular tasks seems to save time). Going forward, mobile applications should be integrated with your personal website.

Hire Someone Oozing With Talent But Not A Team Player?

Should likeability be a factor when deciding to include someone on your team?  Nowadays there is so much emphasis in targeting individuals based on talent and skill. There is no denying talent significantly influences the success of your team. Here are some examples:

  • A lead programmer knows how to best architect an application or website. Doing it right the first time is so important, especially if it is the crux of your business.
  • A graphic designer creates something that is stunning and leaves a lasting impression on your company brand. It is doubtful two graphic designers ever produce the same product.
  • A leader juggles many responsibilities as he or she tries to synchronize the objectives of the company. Two leaders never take the same approach.

How does ‘likeability’ fit into the equation? Measuring ‘likeability’ is difficult because it is subjective and team dynamics are complex. Besides, you may work with someone you do not like but use good soft skills and learn to tolerate him or her.

One way to understand the functioning of the team is to sum the value of the product or service the team produces collectively. You can tinker with various team scenarios and compare the different outputs. As team members are added, the total value may increase or decrease; therefore, it is not solely dependent on talent.  A ‘star’ has the potential to make a huge contribution. Contrarily, a ‘sapper’ can do a lot of damage. In case the ‘total value’ does not capture the wellbeing of the team, I add another ‘total happiness’ index.

Value and Happiness

Value and Happiness

There is an article in the February 2014 Wired magazine about the CEO of Zappos who moved his company to Las Vegas. What is interesting is that he built not only the infrastructure of the company, but also a whole support community. He invested in entertainment, shopping, apartments, and restaurants and ended up revitalizing a whole downtown neighborhood. His motive is to nourish relationships between workers by pushing them to spend more time together afterhours – basically getting them to like each other. (How else do you explain having a fully stocked bus and providing free transportation to events across town on any given night?)

What makes this is a complicated issue (and probably why companies are willing to invest a lot towards talent) is one talented individual can fundamentally change the whole complexion of an organization whether or not he or she is liked. Think about the situation of Steve Jobs. He had the initial vision for Apple, and was crucial in making it a pioneer of personal computers – clearly has an abundance of talent. However, later on, he was let go and worked for another company. (It is hard to say if it had to do with ‘likeability’, nevertheless, it is clear he was at odds with management and not necessarily a team player. At least this was my interpretation of the situation based on the biographical film Jobs released in 2013.) Years later, Apple brought him back as an advisor and then CEO. He then led Apple to its legendary rise to the top of the industry.  Would you hire someone oozing with talent but not a team player?

Some conclusions:

  • Extreme talent is probably worth the investment. Of course the caveat is talented professionals should try to be ‘likeable’ (rather than ignoring it).
  • When two professionals have similar talent, it is worth considering ‘likeability’. Build a happy team.
  • An individual who disrupts team dynamics can do more harm than benefit. (Think of the ‘total value’ a team produces to understand the impact of an individual.)
  • Productive and happy teams have more longevity. Fulfilled team members are less likely to leave for other opportunities.
  • ‘Talent’ and ‘likeability’ are not completely independent of each other.
    • Invest in talent to create a thriving workplace and this might make a happy team– there is satisfaction in generating value.
    • Invest in getting team members to like each other. There is a positive vibe, and random interactions may spur innovativeness (something talked about in the Wired article).

A personal note:

For a previous employer, I coached all of our sports team. There was talk around the office about resurrecting a company softball team, so I started the co-ed, all-inclusive team – everyone from entry-level to senior management played on the team. The effect was huge: active participation, camaraderie, newsletters, nicknames, jokes, coffee talk, and so on. Later I added a soccer and basketball team. I think leaders should consider introducing meaningful, out of the office team building activities, such as sports teams. It breaks the rigidity and formalness of the workplace, and lots of times helps foster lasting friendships.

Earn A Spot On The Team

Companies can introduce a meritocracy based on the building and validating of skills. A meritocracy is “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement”[i], and attractive to modern companies because it incentivizes a workforce to produce based on their skills. It levels the playing field. Workers from different socioeconomic backgrounds take the same skills assessment or go through the same experiences, and the results indicate their level of expertise. One way a company can support a meritocracy is by having its workers share presentations and validations of skill sets throughout the organization – perhaps with personal websites or LinkedIn profiles.

Part of Team

Part of Team

Sharing skill sets creates transparency, an important characteristic of a meritocracy. Leader credentials are visible to everyone, so they better have experience and talent in their skill set (or there may be a revolt). And this is largely already in practice with leaders utilizing LinkedIn; skill sets are presented as a list and endorsed by a professional network. However, what is less in practice is reviewing skill sets of coworkers; but in a meritocracy, this can be helpful for a few reasons:

  • Provides an example. Learn how a ‘star’ in the company built his or her skills.
  • Shows incremental ‘merit bars’.  Learn steps to improve status, such as taking courses, training, etc.
  • Explains differences. Learn why a colleague has a different role in the company.
  • Gives context. Understand coworkers better by reviewing a good presentation of a skill set – with demonstrations and explanations. (Participate in peer-to-peer recognition.)

Tying merit extrinsically to the building and validating of skills is common sense. For example, as you build a skill, once you pass an assessment you get a bump in salary. If you are at a later stage, you validate a skill by getting a certification (such as CPA) and this gets you a promotion.

In his book Achieve Brand Integrity, Gregg Lederman discusses his employee centric approach to company branding: a leader defines what the company should be (after a thorough investigation), and rallies his or her employees behind it[ii]. One thing Gregg hammers on throughout the book is the importance of getting employees to become intrinsically motivated to perform and behave according to predefined expectations. Gregg dedicates a chapter where he talks about the importance of ‘recognition’ and ‘reward’ for good behaviors and experiences (sounds like meritocracy). He says:

A peer-to-peer recognition program is the best investment you can make in your people. (pg. 193)

My support for meritocracy in a company is based on using it to motivate workers to reach their potential and remove a non-merit driven hierarchy.  So I believe it is a tool for inspiration. However, I think an over-reliance on testing and assessments may have negative consequences and there are other factors in building a workforce. There is something to be said about working hard, showing empathy, and adhering to ethics – being a genuine good person. I think ‘likeability’ goes a long way in earning a spot on the team.  Meritocracy should be an infinite game where players elevate each other to make a better move; there is no declared winner or loser.


[ii] Gregg Lederman. Achieve Brand Integrity. B&W Press, (Rochester, 2007).

Original Image © Depositphoto/ suravid #9868662

Power in Presenting a Skill Set

There is a benefit in presenting your skill set to not only recruiters and potential employers, but also an ‘internal network’ – co-workers and supervisors – and an ‘external network’ – partners and clients. As I talk about ‘presenting’ a skill set, I want to clarify that there are many ways to present a skill. (Feel free to read more about them on the website: www.skillsbasedapproach.com.) I strongly advocate utilizing skill sets because they can represent your functional capabilities to everyone in your target audience. Skills are universally defined (for the most part) and portable across platforms and their competencies are measurable.

Power In Skill Sets

Power In Skill Sets

It is advantageous to have your skill set accessible to your co-workers – what you ‘bring to the table’. The biggest benefit comes when you work on a team, where everyone knows the skill set of each member. Moreover, the level of expertise and validations of the skills are also known. This greatly improves the team’s productivity in three ways. First, there is quick familiarity. Team members spend a few hours reviewing each other’s skill set so they have some idea of each other’s contribution should be. Otherwise, without reviewing skill sets, it often takes weeks for teams to really get to know each other’s functional value. Second, it is an accurate portrayal. Skill assessments and validations that accompany the presentation of a skill set should properly portray skill competencies. Unfortunately, the way teams function today is often ‘trial and error’. Third, it can help teams become more horizontal. An awareness of each other’s skill sets removes communication barriers, so members feel on more equal status. There may be less need to have a ‘formal leadership’ or direction.

When I was in business school, I remember Gallup provided our MBA class with their ‘Strengths Finder’ service – a survey, report, and seminar. You take an hour-long test and receive a report with a ranked list of your top 36 strengths, and in the seminar, a Gallup presenter discussed the results. My class was enthralled by the whole experience.  There were two big takeaways: no matter how well you know someone, it is almost impossible to identify all their strengths without an assessment; and by knowing your teammate’s strengths, you know how he or she makes the most impact. In addition, you may learn a teammate’s weaknesses which can be constructive when working as a team.  I highly suggest taking the Gallup Strengths test individually or as a team, and think about sharing the results.

To present your skill set to co-workers, you should keep your skill set current in your LinkedIn profile and utilize a personal website. I suggest a personal website because it gives you more flexibility to share your skill set in different ways.

There is a lot of talk about the best way to conduct ‘performance reviews’ or ‘performance coaching’ or ‘mentoring’. Whatever the case, it should be a conversation based on your skill set and in the context of a Skill-Based Approach. Present your skill set to supervisors and talk about the fifteen to twenty skills on your personal website and/or LinkedIn profile (and soft skills that may not be included).

  • Talk about your short and long terms objectives since you started working.  How are the objectives materializing? Are you satisfied in your current position?
  • Discuss your progress in building the skills over the prior period. What projects did you work on? How are your soft skills with coworkers and clients? How did you perform on assessments?
  • Collaborate on a short-term plan for the upcoming year. Base it on the development of a skill set. What company resources do you need to build skills (i.e. training or online courses)?
  • Brainstorm on the validation of skills in the long-term. Are you going to need accreditation to move up in the company?

Presenting your skill set to your external network – clients and partners – can be useful in your current position.  Clients love to be reassured. Perhaps your company sold them on a product or service, but now it is time to sell them on you as you deliver on your company’s promise.  Sharing your skill set with competencies goes a long way in convincing them you can do the work. Partners are an extension of your team. So there are the same team benefits mentioned above. However, the difference when you work with partners is that you are usually the ambassador for your company – so include soft skills as part of your skill set.

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