5 Skills for the New World of Work



There is no arguing that the way we work has changed greatly in the last decade. Gone are the 9 to 5 desk jobs where we gather a paycheck for clocking in and out, and work tirelessly for years at the same company; the goal to retire with a gold watch and rich pension. Our economy has evolved from a one career-one company ideal to appreciating cultivation of a rich skill set. Businesses are less concerned about tenure and more focused on experiences. In this new world of work, a different skill set is required for optimum success. To thrive in today’s work world, employees and leaders need the following skills:

  • Entrepreneurship: this article is not suggesting you need to start a business to cultivate this skill. It is the drive that leads individuals to make a leap and take risks in starting a business that employers want. Entrepreneurship requires innovation, vision, risk taking and relentless execution, which are all valuable skills to build at any level. According to Forbes, we are all entrepreneurs, so take some time to explore your inner entrepreneur.
  • Problem Solving: the old idea that managers have all the answers and that an employee’s job is to wait for their direction, has gone by the wayside. Strong leaders know that those closest to the work often have the best understanding of an issue. The ability to think critically, test assumptions and solve problems is a skill to build at all levels of an organization.
  • Agility/Flexibility: we all are familiar with some variation of the quote, “the only thing certain in life is change.” The same can be said of project management and work in general. Very few of us work on an assembly line, where we perform the same task every day. Even those of us doing task work, have variety in each day. The need to be flexible and to respond appropriately to the job at hand is a critical skill for success in today's world.
  • Collaboration: business and Project Managers know that collaboration is a skill necessary to get the job done. Leading teams often means collaborating with diverse stakeholders and team members but collaboration skills are not just important for leaders. Teamwork has become a staple of our new world of work. Collaboration skills include ability to build consensus, increase productivity, test theories, learn from others and innovate to grow rapidly.
  • Written and Verbal Skills: the ability to communicate with others both by speaking and writing is still the foundation for success in today’s working world. There are a few exceptions to this rule but for most of us, our ability to communicate clearly is the top skill we must continue building. Employees at all levels need to be able to communicate in order to share. Learning how to get your ideas across with clarity and intention separates the good from the great.

In today’s new economy, these soft-skills are rapidly becoming the new hard skills. Beyond certifications and degrees, cultivation of these five key skills can differentiate your performance from the rest.


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5 Ways to Overcome Project Obstacles



As project managers, we try to anticipate and plan for big challenges, but it is often the small daily obstacles that can derail our projects. These small obstructions are common and it is the way we solve them that distinguishes great project managers from the good ones.

There are many structured approaches to problem solving. Most follow a step-by-step process to define problems, identify their causes and to determine the best solution. This approach is often the standard way to handle big problems but it can be too much for smaller, day to day issues that need to be solved on-the-fly. Often, deploying a non-standard strategy can be better for moving you past the issue at hand. If you are looking for some quick problem solving methods to move you past the every day challenges or you feel your default problem solving techniques are not agile enough, here are 5 strategies to try the next time you’re faced with an obstacle:

  1. Create a visual of your project - using visuals like a mind map can help move your creativity in a new direction.
  2. Brainstorm a list of ideas - since solutions to problems often reside beyond the status quo, jotting down a list of all thoughts, including those that may seem way outside the realm of practicality, can help you find needed breakthroughs.
  3. Look outside – sometimes, taking an outsider’s view can reveal new ideas. Ask yourself what advice you’d give to someone else faced with the same obstacle.
  4. Circumvent the obstacle - tackle a different element of the project, move ahead in any way you can, simply keep moving forward.
  5. Work without judgment - letting go of the need for the solution to be perfect can be inspiring. Achieving a good enough outcome on the obstacle may free you up for brilliance on the next task. Additionally, you may have the chance to return to the problem later with refreshed creativity.

Building a variety of workplace skills to overcome challenges in real time will make you a better problem solver and a more successful project manager. Adding these 5 simple problem-solving strategies to your skills set can help you move your projects forward with a bit more speed.


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Seven strategies to make yourself heard



We all want to be heard. To be both heard and understood, when it comes to communicating in the workplace, it is critical to keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Know what you want to accomplish. What is the key message or theme you wish to communicate? Before you begin, you need to know what the desired outcome is. What is the exact reaction you want to get from your audience? Before speaking, try to visualize mentally how you want your audience to look when receiving your message and the way you want them to feel afterwards.
  2. Know your audience. It is important to understand what your audience also wants from your communication. Before communicating, try to better understand your audience. Who are they? What do they already know? Do they need a lot of details? What may they want to hear? Are they engaged and interested in what you have to say?
  3. Know yourself as a communicator. Everyone has a unique way of communicating his or her message. Try to identify what your personal style is. Focus on cultivating your authentic voice through your communication. These may be unique to you, such as your way of thinking, the vocabulary you use, your voice and tone, and the body language you convey when communicating. Pay attention to the speed at which you speak and the tone of your voice.
  4. Use the 3 communication C’s. Focus on communicating clearly, concisely and confidently, particularly in your verbal communications. A good rule of thumb is the “rule of three.” Do not introduce more than three items at a time or try to accomplish more than three things in meeting. It is good to clearly state: “I have three points of feedback. First…Second…and Third…” Use fewer words and choose the ones that convey specific support for your ideas. Be confident in your knowledge and opinions and your audience will stay engaged.
  5. Be heard through active listening. The proverb states that we have two ears and one mouth, and that we should listen twice as much as we speak. One of the best ways to be heard is to be a good listener. Often when others speak, we are just waiting for a break where we can jump in to share our opinions or experiences. Practicing active listening and pausing to collect your ideas before your share yours will refocus the audience’s attention on your message.
  6. Eliminate Negativity. Work to eliminate these absolutes in your communications - should, have to, always and never. Most often, these four words will come across as extreme, judgmental and bossy. This will create some audience resistance to what you are trying to communicate.
  7. Be prepared. Be prepared by doing your research and having visual aids to support your message. Go into all communication armed with the facts and data points needed to convey your message if challenged. Review your message in advance, to determine whether there is conflicting data, and try to anticipate where there could be a difference of opinion.

Keeping these seven tips in mind will help you command an audience’s attention. They will not only hear you, but will also be more deeply engaged in your message.


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6 tips for effectively managing stress at the workplace



Stress. We all experience it at the work place, particularly when managing projects. Many people say that stress is to be avoided at all costs, but I’ve found that it’s actually an asset when well managed. The secret is to manage stress and not let stress manage you. Here are 6 tips to better manage it:

  1. Get to know stress - What does it feel like? Do you feel it physically, mentally or emotionally? Is it a pain in your neck or shoulder, a clenched jaw or a feeling of irritability? Become familiar with how stress affects you.
  2. Become a stress detective - Once you are familiar of how stress affects you, begin to notice when and where it happens. For example, what time of day it is, where you are when it surfaces or who you are with. Try to recognize these as stress zones. A useful tool is to record your stress levels for an entire week. Record where and when you are experiencing stress and try to look for the triggers that are bringing it on.
  3. Label it - A technique that works well is to simply state “this is stress” when you recognize you are in a stressful moment. When you label a feeling as stress you create a boundary around it. Doing this helps you realize that the stress is actually not something happening to you, but rather a way you are responding to a trigger. Ultimately you will get to the point where you are personifying your stress. For example, internally, you may say “I recognize this as stress. I know how to handle it!”
  4. Understand the role of stress - Stress is actually a reaction intended to protect us. It is the body’s warning system designed to alert us that things are not in balance. A good analogy is a warning light on your car dashboard. Stress is your body’s way of alerting you that you might need to pay attention to a particular issue.
  5. Create tactics for handling - There are two tactics to master for stress management. One is learning to avoid it but an even more practical technique is learning how to manage it. The easiest place to start is with some basic physical best practices such as focusing on your diet, exercise, and sleep.
  6. Managing your body's response - Studies have proven that meditation techniques can significantly reduce stress. An easy way to start is by taking with a few deep breaths in moments of stress. Inhaling deeply thorough your nostrils and out through your mouth works to send calming messages to your brain, slowing and soothing you. Try a series of three deep breaths before you enter a stress zone.

You can't always control what happens to you but you can control how you respond. These 6 tips should help you detect stress zones and recognize the stress. Once you have it recognized you are in a better position to manage it.

What are your tips for better managing stress? Please share them in the comments section below.



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