Three essential skills you never learn in class (Part 2)

This is a follow-up post on Three essential skills you never learn in class.

  • Focus

Studying with a radio on? Believe me – it is distracting you more than you’d want. Sure it makes the working hours more fun – but you’ll end up spending more time at the desk.

Most of the greatest managers I have been working with, had a few traits in common, including this one: they were very good at determining what not to do. Get up in the morning, look in the mirror and put out a mini-goal of the day. “I am going to my job and will do…”. Keep it in mind and as soon as you get at your desk, start doing just that. All the rest can wait. In my experience, what you do the first working hour of the day, will determine what you’ll be doing the rest of that day. If the first hour is spent on chatting at the coffee machines and wrestling that email inbox, it’s simply a lost day.

Another good way to keep focus on the longer term is setting up a balanced scorecard. Every week I have a look at mine, and it helps me determine what I should do and cut out all other fluff.

  • Structure

This is certainly the most abstract and unnoticed skill of good managers. There are never any medals won by ‘just bringing structure’. That is a shame. A lot of situations gone wrong, have gone wrong because of a lack of structure. A team can consist of great individuals, working on a good cause, in a great market environment. Only the one with a solid structure will make it to the finish. Structure is what puts everyone’s noses in the same direction. Otherwise, loose energy will cause entropy.

Also on an personal level, structure is often what is lacking in what we do. You can spend all the energy you have on a topic, (say learning Russian, train for a marathon or write a novel), unless you make it a long-term goal and build patterns for repetition, all that energy will be lost. Like you never did anything in the first place. What you studied is forgotten, the running stamina evaporates, the writing skills fade out.

It is my personal strong conviction these are the skills a mature professional needs to build up. As unsexy as they might be, and as attractive you can package it, it will always come down to this.


About curiousmanager

In life there are generalists and specialists. Although your job pushes you down towards a certain specialization, I feel it's important to keep your eyes and mind open for new stimuli. And I want to share my journey through arts, literature and sciences with other knowledge workers and managers. You don't have time to read. Let me do that for you and present only the best of the best in my blog!
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