But they do require talent. It may not be math or legal expertise or sales or digital marketing, but anything learned is a skill, and if people think they are easy to learn, what would be the reason people don’t have them? Apathy is partially the reason, but what is easy for one person is hard for another. Innate things that take zero talent are few and far between. Let me explain the ten that have been so publicized.
- Being on time. Arriving somewhere that is either an hour away or just five minutes, always being punctual — that’s called planning. It’s a skill. Whether it’s a delivery truck following its schedule or a salesperson getting to a meeting, knowing when to leave or that you should check the weather and traffic if planning to drive, are things learned.
- Work ethic. Too many people don’t realize how involved this is, and how much it depends on experience. It’s like exercising: You think running 4 mph on the treadmill at no incline is a workout — until you realize you can go 7.5 mph at a level-three incline. It’s about endurance, comparison and drive.
- Effort. Honestly? This is basically the same thing as work ethic.
- Body language. I’m CEO of a company with 200 employees, and I still have to remind myself to maintain eye contact. The art of a handshake is messed up all the time, and after people leave a meeting, the guy or gal with the wet-fish handshake is always criticized. But you’re not born knowing how to do these things.
- Energy. Many people have sleeping disorders, which directly links to energy levels, while others are “over-energetic” and need to be taught to calm their energy levels. Other people who are naturally even-keeled need to learn how to show their energy level, even though it goes against their type-B personality. Personal energy is like electricity — it involves how you’re wired. You need to train your mind on how you should utilize it.
- Attitude. There aren’t a bazillion self-help industries because attitude isn’t a skill. You can think the cards are all dealt against you, or you can take steps to learn. You can choose to work on being better, or you can tell yourself “it doesn’t matter.” But attitude is the most important skill. It sets you up for all the others.
- Passion. This comes from trying things, learning things. It could be cooking, motorcycles, gardening, music, writing, poetry, movies, decorating. Push yourself to explore. Once you learn that, having passion is contagious. And realizing that it’s okay to show your passion is step one.
- Being coachable. This starts at a young age. Early childhood education is key. Before the age of five is the most important time in a person’s life to learn key ways to be successful contributors to society. I’ve hired many people in their thirties and forties who didn’t either want or know how to adapt to a new environment or to learn to be better managers. They didn’t know how to handle being coached. I’ve had others who did and flourished.
- Doing extra. This falls under work ethic and passion. Where does your job start and end? Knowing how much of a difference a little extra makes can change people’s perception. I’ve hired employees who accumulate data and share it while it’s still raw. I’ve hired others who get the data and package it beautifully, in a way that’s easier to understand and work with. Extra work makes a huge impact.
- Be prepared. This ties in with work ethic, too. But there is also, as importantly, the act of being over-prepared. When you spend more time than needed because you’d rather prep for a meeting than execute other aspects of your job, you’re over-preparing. It costs you in other areas. On the flip side, those who don’t prepare enough to know the details are hurting themselves. Every job, company and career requires different levels of preparation, both physical and mental.
However, there is one important skill missing from this list: empathy. I wish everyone had more empathy. It’s easy to say that a person doesn’t have something like work ethic — and that they should, because “it takes no talent” — but taking the time to explain to someone what work ethic really is, and how to improve theirs, goes a much longer way.