A New Kind of Training – The Nature of a Skill

blake-ross-croppedBy Blake Ross, Lead Front-End Developer

As we introduced in the first article of this series, A New Kind of Training is built on the idea that relating to and working well with others is a skill, or more precisely, a skill set. What on earth does that mean? Well, let’s first note four ordinary examples of skills and work from there:

1) Shooting free throws
2) Cooking a meal for a large number of people
3) Boxing
4) Singing

With these examples in mind, let’s note some obvious, yet insightful, qualities of skills which could help us get to the marrow of why it’s so important for us to approach “relating to and working well with others” at work as a skill.

1) One characteristic of a skill is that people’s abilities vary. Some people are amazing at shooting free throws and some people would brick or air ball almost every shot they take. Similarly, some people are pretty strong at knowing how to relate well to others at work, and some people may stink at it. Some people may have a strong sense of how to work really well on a team, and some people may not even realize that others regularly experience difficulty working with them. Consider your own experience for a moment. Do you know people who are easy to work with? How about people who are tough to work with?

2) Skills are by nature things that can be progressed, which means that an unskilled person can become skilled. For example, cooking a Thanksgiving meal for extended family the first time may mean your mac & cheese was oversalted and overcooked, and that gravy, well just never mind that gravy. But you can get better because many fantastic cooks began by having to hammer out clumsiness and multitasking challenges. Similarly, if you don’t realize that the way you email coworkers typically has a funky tone that can make it tough for people to work effectively with you, well, good news! You absolutely can become more skilled in your emailing. How?

3) Self-awareness + intentional cultivation/practice + input/guidance/coaching = more skill. Easy. If a boxer wants to get better at moving in the ring (self-awareness), he may need to focus on his footwork for a while to really progress those skills (intentional cultivation/practice). He may also depend on coaching and a sparring partner’s feedback to progress (input/guidance/coaching). Similarly, if you’re prone to shyness in group scenarios at work, even when your team needs your free communication and direction, you absolutely can choose to focus on that skill and practice overcoming shyness if you believe it is needed.

4) Finally, it’s important to note that with any skill, you may be wrong about yourself. Self-awareness is precious when it comes to progressing a skill. Most of us have probably seen and laughed at an American Idol audition where a person believed he or she was a star-caliber vocalist. And as with American Idol, self-awareness at work is precious. Literally, self-awareness at work is about as valuable as your salary! All of this has the unfortunate implication that you or I may believe we relate well to others at work or work well on a team, when in reality, we need a dose of Simon-esque feedback.

In the next A New Kind of Training post, I’ll address a final core concept driving this series before we embark upon training together. In the meantime, click below and enjoy (scrub to 4:00 to see my personal favorite):