There are five work skills you need to have if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur and an executive. Some you can learn in the university — but not all.
|The Five Core Work Skills|
• Strategy and Tactics
“A competitive world has two possibilities for you. You can lose. Or, if you want to win, you can change.” — Lester Thoreau, Dean, Sloan School of Management, M.I.T., 60 Minutes, February 7, 1988
Written by Murray Johannsen. I welcome connections via LinkedIn or directly on this website. And DON’T MISS OUT on insightful content on our Linkedin feeds. Themes for posts are: 21st Century Skills: What’s Needed and What’s Not; AI Savvy: Essential Skills For AI at Work; and Bootstrapping Your Dreams: Growing Digital Business Skills.
A degree typically gives you one but not the others. For example, an engineer knows technical skills but not the other ones. Same with managers who typically lack technical skills.
- Feel the Future is Uncertain? Want to Nail Down a Path Through the Fog of Confusion?
- What are the Five Most Important Work Skills?
- The Core Five Work Skills
- Access Onsite Resources
Feel the Future is Uncertain? Want to Nail Down a Path Through the Fog of Confusion?
The world changed in December of 2022 with the launch of ChatGPT. Whether you like it or not, businesses are employing AI in every industry and just about all jobs performed by those who went to college.
Hundreds of millions of employees will find the way they do their work drastically changed. The same goes for entrepreneurs and business owners.
There is a way to map a course into the future — it’s called SKILL MAPPING.
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IT IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO NOT KNOW WHAT SKILLS YOU NEED TO DEVELOP to have a successful career.
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What are the Five Most Important Work Skills?
One model that has had staying power was first published in the Harvard Business Review in the 50s by Katz. However, this model it possesses certain limitations for those who strive to:
- Those who want to break into the executive ranks, or
- The entrepreneur who wants to be more than a sole proprietor.
To fix this shortcoming, the Core 5 Work Skills model was developed. The three skills in the Katz model are similar, but others are different since the focus in those who wish to be an executive or an entrepreneur.
The Core Five Work Skills
Core Skill #1: Technical. You Can’t Prosper Without This One
“Your employee should have superior technical skills compared to you. If he doesn’t, it means you hired the wrong person.” — Jack Ma
“My sister lived in Burma and was having some wiring installed by a native electrician. Again and again, he would come to her for instructions, and finally, in exasperation, she said, “You know what I want done. Why don’t you use your common sense and do it?” He made a grave bow and said, “Madam, common sense is a rare gift of God. I have only a technical education.” — Carl Compton in The Public Speaker’s Treasure Chest
Ignoring climate change, the most dominant force affecting work and skills needed are AI and machine learning. It promises great opportunity for those with the right set of expertise and skills and great peril for everyone else.
The importance of technology in the mix of organizational skill-sets cannot be overestimated. In fact, a Brookings Institution study showed that in almost all career categories, the necessity of IT skills has been going up. In fact, a robust set of technical skills may lower the likelihood of being replaced or let go.
Assuming you have the right mix of technological competencies, what else does one need? If you answered leadership, give yourself an A. If you think transformational leadership, give yourself an A+.
Click To Access More Information on 21st Century Technical Skills
Core Work Skill #2: Leadership: Still Needed in the 21st Century
“Today’s business graduates have an abundance of technical knowledge. They can do linear programming, calculate a discounted rate of return, develop a sophisticated marketing plan, and crunch numbers on a computer spreadsheet. They’re technically solid, but most lack the interpersonal and social skills necessary to lead people.“ — Robbins, S. (1989)
My father had a simple test that helps me measure my own leadership quotient: When you are out of the office he once asked me, does your staff carry on remarkable well without you?” — Martha Peak, 1992
“You manage things. You lead people.” — Grace Hopper, USN, Rear Admiral
“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other 999 follow women.” — Groucho Marx
Great individuals typically are transformational leaders. And business founders have to have to possess leadership savvy to build a group of strangers into a high-performance team while making continuous improvement the norm. Yet many leaders have flaws preventing much forward progress.
Transformational leadership is desirable if executives are to transition their organizations through change and innovation. That said, many c-level executives in bureaucratic organizations prefer the status quo.
“Looking for differences between the more productive and less productive organizations, we found that the most striking difference is the number of people who are involved and feel responsible for solving problems.” — Michael McTague, Management and training consultant, Personnel Journal, March 1986
“The most dominant executive decision will be decisions under uncertainty.” — Henry Tosi and Stephen Carroll (1976)
You see books on this from time to time such as Bossidy’s 2002 book “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” and the all time classic: Sun Tzu’s (650 B.C.) “Art of War” — a book still read by many business people in Asia.
Strategy originates from military doctrine, getting drummed into both officers and NCOs as essential to achieving any objective. Those who were exposed to military thinking will recognize the importance of this dimension immediately. Essentially, it’s knowing what to do and doing it.
Operational strategy consists of three elements: first defining a current state and then the desired state. Once those two are fleshed out, time to come up with a plan to close the gap. Sounds easy — but it is not. It is an extremely challenging endeavor in a complex, rapidly changing world to understand what to do and get it done.
One day a neighbor happens to walk by and see his friend Nasrudin in his garden looking for something so he asks, “Nasrudin, what have you lost?” “My key,” said Nasrudin. “Exactly where did you drop the key?” “In my house.” “Then why are you looking here for your key?” “There is more light here than in my house.“
Tactics are woven into strategy. You might say good tactics rely on sound strategy. But while strategy is static, tactics are dynamic, changing, evolving. They exist in time, in a certain context, and require one to stay adaptable and flexible.
Strategy and tactics are largely conceptual skills dealing with the ability to use mental heuristics and relevant paradigms to solve problems and make decisions.
When tactics are done well, we see flawless implementation. But too often we see sound strategy falling apart due to flawed tactics.
I’m convinced that many are blind to strategy, walking like a drunk down a road where they are really can barely see what the next step will be — let alone take it.
Core Work Skill 4: Management Ability
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants to be done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” — Theodore Roosevelt, 26th American President
[Referring to his managerial counterparts in local government:] How would you like to run a business where your top management can change every two years, your revenue can depend on the whims and fancies of state and national government, and you have to convince more than half a million people that you can collect garbage, control crime, enhance safety, and brighten the future better than anyone else?” — Anonymous executive, Chief Executive, Winter 1982-1983
Management is Different From Leadership. Many of you will go, “Well, duh.” But what is obvious to a few is not so obvious to the many. You still hear really intelligent people talk about “managing people.” But most people don’t want to be managed, they want to be led.
Management will change a great deal in the 21st Century. Partly, this has to do with how to manage in an AI world. Take one example, whether one does process or project work. In start-ups, almost everything is a project. In a bureaucracy, almost everything is a process.
Take hiring for example. Government has a well-defined set of steps that require 3 months minimum. While in a start-up, there is no process whatsoever so everything can get done in a couple of days. Jobs with many repeatable processes ARE SUBJECT TO AUTOMATION.
Stay Away from Process Work
Since the days of reengineering, process improvement was used as a way to eliminate labor. For once a process is defined and stable, automation becomes likely. For example, it takes 5 steps to cook a hamburger paddy, it’s clearly something a machine can do. If it’s 105 steps, it is something AI’s potentially can do.
Strive For Project Work
The reason you want project work is simple. Variation creates a more difficult environment for automation. Project managers’ got to be good in technical, managerial, leadership, and strategy and tactics skills. And it really wouldn’t hurt to have self-mastery skills as well.
Since administrators love processes, large companies are going to be able to automate standardized processes quicker than smaller ones. It’s one reason you should open up an entrepreneurial income stream.
5. Self-Mastery: A Timeless Skill More Important Now Than Ever
“If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”— Sun Tzu, The Art of War
You might say, the real key to success may be where you are not looking. We are all forever unfinished works. We are imperfect, we have weaknesses, lack knowledge, have not built the skills.
This was driven home in a recent book by Marshall Goldsmith called, “What Got You Here, won’t’ Get You There.” In this book, he documented twenty-one major faults within CEOs. Things like:
- Failing to give recognition,
- Making excuses,
- Acting like you know it all, and
- Not listening.
Many of these are relatively simple behaviors, one mom should have taught them when they were kids. But when one is in power, even small faults become noticed, magnified, and discussed by underlings. Impatience as an engineer is barely noticed, but in the vice-president of engineering, it’s a major problem. To fix them, you need competencies in the skill of self-mastery.
This area consists of development factors necessary to “Be All You Can Be.”
It’s a skill-set not covered at all in business schools or technology programs. Even those with a psychology degree typically do not know how to make their minds run better. Typically, what goes unseen gets neglected.
Remember, what makes the 21st Century unique is something that has never happened before — our machines are learning. So it makes sense to up your game and really gets serious about learning as well.
Access Onsite Resources
Abbott, Jacob (1876). Alexander The Great. Harper and Brothers, University of Michigan Library, pages 1 and 7. Available on Project Guttenberg.
Blank, Steve & Dorf, Bob (2012).How to Road-Test Your Business Model, Inc. Magazine, May 12.
Benz, Kara. (2016). How To Write Your To-Do Lists, Quartz.com, October 31.
Creasy, Edward (1994).Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: From Marathon to Waterloo. Da Capo Press.
Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. (1989).Business Failure Record (1989). New York: page 19.
Economic Predications.org (n. d.).Who Predicted the Financial Crisis.
Eikenberry, Kevin (2012).A No Excuses Leadership Learning Strategy.Leadership and Learning Blog, February 27.
Hart, Eloise (n.d.). The Delphic Oracle. The Theosophical Society.
Hay, Timothy (2012). Google Ventures Has Big Plans for Start-up University. Wall Street Journal Blog, February 12, 2012.
Johannsen, Murray (2016). Five Must Learn Skill Development Models. Legacee.
Johannsen, Murray (2015). The Sad State of Skill Building Today: Six Reasons Skill Development Doesn’t Happen. Legacee
Tosi, Henry and Carroll, Stephen (1976). Management, John Wiley & Sons.
Robbins, S. & Hunsaker, Phillip L. (2008). Training In Interpersonal Skills (5th Edition), Prentice-Hall.
Whetten, David & Cameron, Kim (2010). Developing Management Skills, 8th Edition. Prentice-Hall.
Ross, Phillip (2006)The Expert Mind.Scientific American.August, Page 64 to 71. Stets, Jan and Burke, Peter (1999). In Edgar F. Borgatta and Rhonda J. V. Montgomery (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Sociology, Revised Edition. New York: Macmillan. Pp. 997-1005
First Published on March 27, 2014. Last update: November 5, 2023,