“Change equals self-improvement. Push yourself to places you haven’t been before.” – Pat Summitt
The future workplace will require its leaders to have a particular skillset that allows them to be adaptable and effective within a climate of change. Recently, I shared insights on the most in-demand skills for the future that the leaders of tomorrow’s workforce need to develop.
Several key competencies will aid in the development of all of those skills:
- The ability to think outside of the box, maintaining a healthy curiosity about how to best respond to change.
- An aptitude for thriving in ambiguity and remaining agile, ready to try new ideas, since change will continuously be occurring.
- A willingness to embrace the digital realm and continuously update your skills.
Now, here are some strategies for developing the mix of skills that will prove essential to success in the coming years.
1. Highly specialized knowledge.
Having a high level of specialized knowledge in a niche area will help you stay valuable and marketable. To develop this knowledge, attend industry conferences, networking with experts you admire. Get their contact info and share ideas. Attend seminars and panel discussions on cutting-edge developments in the field, and ask the experts how you can hone your skills to prepare for future transitions and which skills and knowledge they believe will be most marketable in the future. Leverage the resources they point you toward to continue learning.
Find mentors who can encourage your growth and help guide your direction, too. Take classes, and read books and articles by leading experts. Then, consider positioning yourself as a thought leader in that area by sharing your insights and predictions through blog posts, clearly demonstrating what you can bring to the table as an expert and strategist.
2. Exceptional emotional intelligence.
In the future, the most in-demand skills will include the ability to relate to others well. You can develop your emotional intelligence by frequently considering what leads your coworkers, clients, leaders, and direct reports to act in certain ways. Pause to consider how they might feel about a situation or decision, given their facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and past reactions. Making yourself more approachable to others will also give you more input about how they’re feeling. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Use open body language, make eye contact, and smile.
- Invite them to share their feelings with you.
- Practice active listening.
Do those things, and you’ll soon have a stronger grasp of how others feel at any given time—and they’ll be more likely to confide in you in the future. As a result, you’ll grow strong working relationships that enhance your ability to lead people.
Develop techniques for managing your own emotions, too. Get your stress under control in ways such as the following:
- Talk through challenges with a trusted mentor instead of bottling up your anxiety.
- Keep a journal of how you navigate difficult projects and other challenges, so that in moments of stress, you can easily remember examples of how you’ve dealt with similar situations.
- Practice a meditation technique or another stress-relieving exercise that helps you feel more grounded and capable.
- Maintain a healthy diet, exercise routine, and sleep schedule for optimal mental clarity as well as physical health.
3. Ability to coach others.
To begin developing your coaching skills, identify the leaders you most admire—whether they’re in your organization or outside of it. Make a list of the ones who have most strongly impacted your life. Then, list the traits each leader embodies beneath their name. Now, reach out to the top five leaders you most admire and ask them for advice on developing those traits. Meet with them for coffee or lunch, if possible, or have a phone conversation if they’re far away. Hopefully, you’ll end up with several mentors who can help guide your development as a leader and coach for your own employees.
4. Ability to work collaboratively.
Practice working collaboratively with other key players across functions. For example, if you’re an accountant, take part in meetings on marketing strategy, product development, or personnel management where you can provide insight from a financial perspective. Explain hard data in a way that everyone can understand in order to inform the group’s decisions. There’s no better way to show your colleagues and superiors the value you’ll continue to bring than by demonstrating it now, stepping into the role you predict you’ll be filling several years down the road.
The ability to generate creative solutions will help you navigate the waters of change, solving new kinds of problems with well-designed plans, says Clar Rosso, Vice President of Member Learning and Competency at the American Institute of CPAs. Unleashing your ingenuity means giving yourself time to reflect, brainstorm, and design new ideas. Spend time thinking about creative ideas for maximizing the success of your organization, building reflection time into your schedule on a weekly basis. Reflection time deserves to be a key priority, since the most valuable ideas tend to arise from the times when we pause to simply think, rather than constantly rushing from one task to the next. Then, take calculated risks by testing your ideas out after gaining buy-in. You’ll build both your confidence and reputation in the process.
6. Big-picture thinking.
Engage in big-picture thinking by developing an in-depth understanding of how every department or function contributes to the success of your organization. Refresh your knowledge of your company’s vision and mission, and practice articulating them. Whenever you face a strategic decision, consider whether it supports the vision and mission. These practices will help you become a big-picture thinker who helps others think this way as well.
As you cultivate the leadership skills that will be most in-demand in the future, you might see opportunities opening up that you never could have predicted. Keep learning and growing, and you’ll lead the way through the transitions to come!
Joel can help your organization navigate the coming changes with grace and skill. Contact him to discuss how he can help your current and future leaders build a top-tier skill set.