Leverage Your Core

skillsNo.  This is not the beginning of a workout or strength training article.

This is about who you are as a person.  As a professional.  About the skills you possess and the importance of leveraging your core skills.

But first, a quick story.

Earlier in my career, I had been doing very well in a particular field and was contemplating changing directions to broaden my experiences and perspective.  During a lunch with one of my mentors, I asked him how he had made the moves he did in his career across industry areas and leadership roles within different areas of responsibility.

He smiled as simply said, “Core skills translate.”

When I gave him that single raised eyebrow inquisitive look, he continued.  “Your core skills, often your soft skills, are necessary in every role that you’ll enter.  Your ability to communicate and influence effectively, to collaborate and negotiate,  to rally people, build trust, and inspire, to think critically, make decisions and to connect people and ideas – these are the things that you take with you to each role.  These are the things that make you valuable as a leader – regardless of the field or job title.”

When I asked about the knowledge needed to function in that new role, he said, “Sure, experience and knowledge in the field is important, BUT – as long as you possess the capacity and strong desire to learn – and learn quickly – your core skills are more important to me than your hard skills and knowledge bases.  I can teach the latter easily.  It’s more difficult to teach the former.”

This was one of those conversations that made me step back and really think about my future differently.

Often, when looking at a new job opportunity or potential shift in our career, we take stock of our hard skills, knowledge base, and experiences and they become the filter by which we say, “can I” or “should I” go after this new role.

But this shouldn’t be the case.

Rather, I would challenge that we should take inventory of the core (soft) skills that we possess and bring them to the forefront in determining whether or not we could or should do something.

Now, this isn’t to say that hard skills and knowledge bases aren’t important, because they are.  What I want you to walk away with today is the knowledge that your core skills are important and translate broadly. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself solely based upon your current hard skills and knowledge bases.


So, as a result of the conversation with my mentor, I put together this quick action list to help me as I began my own search for “what’s next” and wanted to share it with you:

  • Take stock of your own soft skills.  If you don’t know what they are – search “soft skills” on the web and get a list.  Then begin picking out the ones you do well and maybe not so well (good to know yourself fully).  There are also soft skill tests out on the web that can help you identify and measure your skill levels.
  • Ask trusted others. Get outside opinion about your soft skills.  Trusted individuals will hopefully tell you the truth about what they see.   They may validate or invalidate some of your own selections.  And, they may also share some with you that you didn’t see as potential strengths.  I recommend asking at least 3 people (not all from the same team or work area) so you gain the benefit of different perspectives.
  • Identify your top strengths.  Write them down.  What are your top 3-5?  These become a great place to start when it comes to developing the story of who you are and what you’ll bring to the table.  Putting them on paper begins to help you solidify your story.
  • Look for leverage.  When looking at a potential new role, identify where your core skills match up with what they are looking for and be prepared to talk about these. The job description may reveal some of these.  BUT DON’T STOP THERE – also check their website or other collateral and look for their missional or values statements.  Are there any of your core skills listed there that you could highlight?  Leverage your network to find out about how the company functions or what they value in skill sets.
  • Develop translatable stories.  Put together succinct stories about your previous experiences that help highlight your core skills in a way that they could see you in the new role doing the same for their company.  You want them to be able to visualize you in that seat.  The problem/action/result framework often works very well.

While this list isn’t the be-all and end-all, I hope that it provides you some framework in thinking through your core skill set and translatable skills as you look to venture forward.  They are important!  As my mentor said, “Core skills translate.”


Servant Leaders Stand Up!

Over the last week, I’ve taken tons of calls and/or exchanged emails, texts and messages with many in the wake of the latest organizational restructure at Walmart.

As you might imagine, a large portion of those were from people that had been displaced and were working through the process of figuring out what’s next.

But what you may not expect is that about 1/3 of those were from people that were “left behind”. Those that remained in their roles and are now having to figure out a new normal.

And honestly – the conversations sounded very similar. People were nervous, uncertain, and anxious about what comes next.

So, let me cut to the chase.

Servant Leaders! It is time to stand up!

Regardless of where you fit in the organization, regardless of whether you are still with the organization or not, regardless of whether you have a team of direct reports or not – it’s time to stand up and be present!

And not just for those that were displaced, but for those that still remain as well.

Here’s 4 actions you can take right now!

  1. Identify.  Be mindful of your surroundings. Use your EQ to help you identify those that may be in need. Keep your radar up. Maybe now is the time to check in on that one person that you don’t know so well, but seems to be extra quiet today.
  1. Listen. Take the time to invest in others by just hearing them out. What are they worried or anxious about? What are they excited about? What questions do they have? You don’t have to have the answers for them. Often times, merely lending an ear is enough.
  1. Help.  Provide what assistance you can. And not just on the work stuff. Use your advice, network, knowledge, and maybe even a little research to provide what people may need, professionally and personally. Put in some effort. You don’t need to coddle them. Rather be honest and thoughtful.
  1. Encourage.  Lift them up.   Whether words, actions, or setting them up for small wins. Whatever it is – find ways to help them get moving in the right direction. The goal is to get them going and then keep them going. It will likely take more than a single action on your part. So, check back and follow up.

Servant leadership is not a new concept by any means, and I would hazard to guess you’re familiar with that to do. Now, just apply it and take action. Lift those around you.

We need servant leaders now more than ever. 

Will you accept the challenge to stand up?

Moving Past the Breakup

thIt’s not you. It’s me.”

One of the most cliché and arguably one of the worst breakup lines ever.

But why is it that bad? Because the “dumpER” really doesn’t tell the “dumpEE” what they need to know so that they can move on.

And in the world of relationships, we find that it isn’t just contained to romantic or social engagements.

Many have found themselves in a place recently where their company has decided to part ways and the best answer they are getting right now is, “It’s not you. It’s me.” – paraphrased of course.

It’s a reorganization. It’s the competitive environment. It’s expense control. It’s them. Not you.

But that isn’t an answer. Why did they select me? They could have chosen anyone. I’m a top performer!I heard this from the table behind me at a restaurant this week.

Someone was struggling with the ‘why’ and not able to get past where they are until they understand it – to their desired level of understanding. Unfortunately, it may never come.

Regardless of how many steps you subscribe to in processing grief or loss (which includes the loss of a job), there are sometimes barriers that get in the way from allowing you to move from one stage to another and finally on to acceptance…..if you let them.

And I get it. I’ve been here. I am here.  I’ve gone through the same “why did this happen to me”?

But, life experience has taught me a few things. And I want to share them with you with the full knowledge that maybe this only applies to me, but in a hope that it will somehow help you process your own situation or that of one that is near to you.

If you find yourself stuck after a breakup, here’s 3 things to consider:

  1. The ‘why’ doesn’t really matter. In the big scheme of things, understanding doesn’t change the outcome. The breakup still happened. You are where you are. While understanding may better help you mentally and emotionally process your situation to a degree – in reality, you don’t need this information to move forward with your new season. Besides, if you keep stonewalled by the same reply it may be time to stop rattling a tree that won’t drop you any fruit.
  1. Don’t over pursue. I have some friends and colleagues that fall in to this category already are over pursuing the ‘why’ – like the person in the restaurant. They “have to know” and they are doing it at a cost. They are running a myriad of negative emotions – and sometimes letting these emotions guide them. Anger, depression, confusion, etc. And it’s driving their actions and tone. Yes, tone. How you say and do things.

While you are free to do what you want, there is a wise old adage about not burning bridges. You never know when you’ll need a recommendation, job, or advice from a former colleague. Everything you do at this point speaks to your character and becomes your reputation. Remember – you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to it.

  1. Focus Forward. You only have so much energy. If you find yourself stuck, spinning, and wasting your energy – find a way to get past it. It may be as simple as a conscious choice to move past it or it may require counsel and talking it through with friends or even professionals. Sometimes, you don’t see that you’re spinning, which is why outside perspective is good from those you trust. Whatever it is, move forward. Make a plan. Take advantage of the resources and time you have to make a decisions and GO. Sometimes easier said that done, but you will never get to where you’re supposed to go next if you don’t take a step forward.

These are my own lessons from my personal journey. While not the be all end all, they are definitely things that I have had to remind myself of often.

If you are in the midst of a breakup, you may find yourself somewhere along the path of the grief process, which is totally okay! Those stages need to play out. Just know that there is hope for your future! AND don’t get hung up on the things that are going to slow you down and keep you from moving forward.  You’ve got this!

What has helped you get past a breakup?

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