‘Skills You Need’ for Success (tweet this!)
There are certain skills you need, especially if you want to obtain long-term success in any field.
The good news is that there is a lot of information available in the digital age which can assist in developing the right skills. The problem is often finding the right or best sources of advice, especially in terms of authoritive, quality content.
The website ‘Skills You Need‘ very much solves this problem. I was very fortunate to encounter this excellent resource whilst completing an online L2 Customer Service course a few months ago (check out this previous POS post for more info.) Since this time, I have found it to be a highly invaluable repository of knowledge for those all-important life-skills required for success.
In this post, POS speaks directly to the founder of Skills You Need, Matthew Scott, to find out more about the website and how the many of the skills featured there are directly relevant in developing a powerful ‘success mind-set’:
POS: ‘Skills You Need’ is clearly dedicated to promoting the necessary skills a person requires in order to obtain the most out of life. What would you rate as being the top three most essential skills a person should develop to achieve success in any field?
In my view, the single most important skill we can all develop and practise is listening. Effective listening is the key to productive and successful relationships with others, at work, socially and at home.
Most people take their ability to listen for granted, they don’t consider listening a skill at all – rather something that just happens. Listening absolutely does not ‘just happen’ – it takes thought and practise.
Research has shown that most people rate their own ability to listen more highly than others – this means that other people think they are better listeners than you and you are likely to think you are a better listener than others. The belief that you are a good listener can be an active barrier preventing people you from thinking about and developing your listening skills.
We all have the ability to listen effectively, but we slip into bad habits – our minds get distracted and think about other things, we develop preconceived ideas about what we are going to hear or what certain ‘types’ of people are going to say. We develop bias and hear selectively. Effective listening does not just mean hearing what others say but rather having an open mind and effectively processing all the information we receive from others – not just the words.
The goal of communication is understanding, we cannot hope to truly understand others if we don’t actively listen to what they say.
The second key skill that will help in any situation is also a type of listening! ‘Self-listening’ or self-awareness is the ability to understand yourself in an objective and positive light. This involves recognising your strengths and weaknesses and identifying learning and development opportunities. This skill involves a careful balance of thought processes – too much negative thought can lead to reduced self-esteem whereas over confidence can lead to arrogance – both can be detrimental to your ‘self-relationship’ and your relationship with others.
‘Self-listening’ involves being honest and true with yourself – accepting your mistakes and celebrating your successes whilst recognising the skills that you could improve. ‘Self-listening’ is all about balancing the various aspects of your life in a way that is effective for you.
Ultimately, success is a measure of how you feel about yourself – if your circumstances, your relationships with others or your situation is preventing you from feeling personal success then you need to find ways to change, adapt and advance. Listen to yourself and find ways to progress.
The third skill that I am going to identify as essential is assertiveness. Assertiveness is simply being clear about and standing up for what you believe, want or need. People often confuse assertiveness with being aggressive, this is a mistake, aggression implies force – in communication this means forcing (or attempting to force) your ideas, values, wants and desires onto others. Assertiveness is not about ‘getting your way’ and does not involve forcing your ideas onto others but clearly and calmly making your thoughts known.
Being assertive relies on other skills, such as listening, good verbal and/or written communication as well as self-esteem. A lot of people struggle with being assertive and it is easy to get the balance wrong as assertiveness should include encouraging assertiveness in others too.
For many, one of the most difficult things to say is ‘no’. It is easy to fall into the trap of Assertiveness also means that we can learn to say ‘no’ when others place demands on us which are unreasonable. By taking on too much and not understanding our limitations will, inevitably, lead to stress.
POS: I was very thrilled to see that there is an entire section dedicated to ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EI) on your website, an idea that has been popularised by academics such as Daniel Goleman. How essential do you think it is to cultivate EI as a life-skill?
It has been demonstrated that, generally, people with higher emotional intelligence enjoy better interpersonal relationships. These people are more likely to be able to detect the feelings and needs of others – this in turn means they are more likely to respond and interact appropriately, especially in more ‘difficult’ or emotionally charged situations. People with higher emotional intelligence are likely to be able to negotiate more effectively, build rapport more easily and show empathy. It is definitely worthwhile thinking about and developing your emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence, however, is not all about your relationship with others – it starts with the relationship that you have with yourself. Emotional intelligence involves understanding and managing your own emotions and feelings and recognising your influence, or effect, on other people and their emotions. That means being aware of the likely impact of your behaviour on others – what you say (or don’t say) and what you do. This enables you to become more aware of other people’s emotions and feelings so you can adapt your behaviour and communication according to what you are trying to achieve.
Employers sometimes use psychometric testing techniques to try to ascertain the emotional intelligence of employees or potential employees. However, it is not easy to accurately test. EQ tests require that the person taking the test answers questions honestly and it is therefore a lot easier to ‘cheat’ at an EQ test than it is an IQ test. Ultimately EQ can only be measured by how an individual progresses through life – developing meaningful relationships with others, their interpersonal skills and understanding and managing their own emotions, intra-personal (or personal) skills.
POS: I notice that you also have a section dedicated to leadership. I’ve always believed that, to be truly successful, a leader should have a strong understanding of ‘strategic thinking’. How would you rate this as a skill that should be developed by leaders in, for instance, the fields of business and management?
There are many skills that can enable leaders to be more effective. The ability and skill to think strategically is critical in terms of the successful sustainability and achievement of the aims of any organisation, group, project or task. Strategic thinking is not only a skill for leaders, but enables all individuals to be able to operate efficiently in terms of the decisions that they make and the actions that they take – from prioritising time and structuring tasks to planning a marketing drive or defining the strategic direction of an organisation or business.
Individuals with leadership positions in the fields of business and management must be equipped with a number of key skills in order to at least maintain their organisation’s current position, whether it be in terms of income, charitable activity or production levels – but they must also be able to think strategically: look to the future, scan the economic and competitive environment and identify how they may best position their company within it. Their purpose is often to increase financial turnover, secure more clients, fund and develop innovative solutions or escalate productivity.
Whilst strategic thinking is key, it is also important for leaders to have sufficient knowledge, vision and drive to be able to resource future plans, both financially and in terms of the ability and will of followers who will drive strategic plans forward. Strategic thinking is just one of the tools to aid successful leadership – the sharing and belief of a vision by followers is a fundamental requirement of the success of any leader – without the support and positive action of others towards the shared aims and targets a leader is unlikely to achieve success.
POS: Time management is, very often, a central element of any successful strategy. What are the most virulent time distractions which should be avoided in order to manage one’s time most effectively?
Very often a significant reason for procrastination is the feeling of being overwhelmed or daunted by the prospect of a certain task. The actual distractions that manifest from such feelings will depend on the individual – we can all identify things that have personally distracted us in the past. Perhaps you’ll clean the kitchen rather than work on your essay, play solitaire on the computer rather than tackle that report or go for a walk rather than make that phone call. Distractions are not necessarily time-wasters – you can work on an important task as a distraction from another task. The important thing is to recognise that you are letting yourself be distracted from doing what you know you should be doing.
Sometimes a certain amount of distraction can be useful, doing an unrelated task can, for example, help clear the mind so that you can come back to the main task with a fresh outlook. However, being overly distracted can be detrimental and lead to further procrastination – it is often true that, the longer you leave a task the harder it is to get started. Furthermore, frequently allowing yourself to become distracted can lead to frustration and self-criticism – these feelings can reduce your confidence and self-esteem and make completing the main task more difficult.
The key is to accept that you are, at times, likely to be easily distracted. Think about the type of tasks that you find easy to put off and the ones that you do immediately – recognising your triggers for distraction is a useful part of self-development. Ultimately you should aim to prioritise your tasks, try to be proactive rather than reactive to situations. Split large tasks into small, easily manageable and achievable steps, write these steps down and tick them off once completed – the simple act of marking tasks as ‘done’ on your to-do list can boost your motivation and keep you from being overly distracted.
POS: My understanding of the ‘psychology of success’ is that it is all about creating a powerful ‘mind-set’ for personal achievement. I very much believe that you need to develop certain positive habits as well as skills in order develop such a state of mind. In your opinion, which particular habits would you say are the most essential for developing a ‘success’ mind-set?
We tend to think about others as being ‘successful’ based on factors such as how much money they earn, the car they drive, their relationship with other people, their status at work or socially. Success is about realising your potential, your ability to achieve what you want – success is ultimately a very personal feeling that can be based on any number of factors. We may see others as being successful because they have achieved or attained goals that we consider to be indicators of success. Success is an individual measure of happiness and contentedness and varies from person to person – for some people it may be variety and diversity of work or feeling that they have made a difference to others. For some people happiness is derived from achieving a flexible work-life balance, attaining relative financial security or dedicating time to a cause that they believe in.
We each need the determination and resilience to reach the goals which we believe are the indicators of our personal success. The most important habit that we can harness is self-belief – believing that anything is possible and that there is always possibility for further self-development and improvement. This should be coupled with an element of positive thought – focusing on the best outcome to any situation or event, not the worst. One simple trick is to try to be proactive rather than reactive to life – make a life plan and work on achieving your goals one step at a time. Do not beat yourself up when things go wrong but pick yourself up and continue.