On your travels around social media, you have probably come across the term 'life hacks' – these are little tips to simplify and improve everyday life to make it a little easier.
For example, did you know…if you're rubbish at separating egg yolks and whites and don't have a nifty kitchen gadget then use an empty plastic bottle, put the mouth over the yolk and squeeze – and it sucks the yolk up!
Here's another…for the best sound in a cinema, sit 2/3rds of the way back and as close to the middle as possible; this is where the audio engineer sits when they do the final mix.
And here's another…if you have a headache or migraine, put your hands in ice water and flex them several times…headache gone!
Ok – just one more: if your new shoes feel too tight, stuff each shoe with wet newspaper as tightly as you can. Let the shoes dry, and then remove the newspaper.
These little tips are in abundance on the internet for those of us who care to look and find them. I could probably go on for many many lines dishing out more life hack advice!
But what if there isn't a tip with how to deal with motivating a member of your team? Or a quick structure to give feedback? Or a tool to help you solve a problem?
Well, fear not! QA have recently launched their suite of Skills Hacks.
Working in the same way of thinking as life hacks, these short, sharp and interactive interventions have been developed to provide quick, usable and practical skills to help you navigate your way in the workplace of today. They'll also help boost productivity and performance in an environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
I work with many clients who are wanting to create lasting behavioural change amongst their employees. However, skills are a different beast. For one, they are a lot quicker to use and easy to remember.
They focus on the 'what' to do. If you need help with the 'how' to do it, then, yes, step it up a gear and look at learning that will create long lasting behavioural change.
Skills can be broad and diverse and it pays to develop them. They allow us to use our strengths to deploy them, and mastering them can help us to learn and work more effectively.
Understanding what an effective leader does is one of those beneficial skills that can change your (and others') life. After all, one who leads isn't just one who manages things. What a leader does is motivate, empower and inspire. True leaders see the best in people and teach them to harness their potential in all that they do.
Why should I learn it as a skill? Natural leaders are an asset in any organisation and on every team. Anyone whose attitude moves from 'I can do it' to 'we can do it' makes everybody better. It's their independence and willingness to take responsibility for making good things happen, not just simply getting things done. That's why leaders learn more, do more and see more.
In this digital age, communication has transformed beyond face-to-face interactions. We communicate using technology more than ever. Even so, whatever medium we choose there are skills we can acquire to help us communicate more effectively.
Why should I learn it as a skill? In our organisations, we work in groups to produce solutions to the challenges and problems we face. The only way this can be done effectively is with good communication. Having great communication skills means less stress, more productivity, and better relationships.
It's no surprise that creativity features on my list. This isn't just a valuable learning pursuit; it's also vital to success in the workplace.
Why should I learn it as a skill? The global marketplace is more competitive than ever. Innovative products thrive on an organisation's ability to design and present them in aesthetically pleasing ways. Creative thinking and application grabs consumers' attention and secures their loyalty. Ultimately, creativity is a common language we can all learn to communicate our passions and ideas with.
4. Problem solving
As far as beneficial skills go, this one is probably the most important. Solving real-world problems is crucial to surviving and thriving in the present and in the future.
Why should I learn it as a skill? The world is changing and will continue to change dramatically. As such, in our future, we will be solving future problems that we can't even imagine yet. We'll face challenges that require skills to define a problem, design an appropriate solution, and put it to effective use. Problem-solving skills help us tackle anything from writing a shopping list to designing and realising our biggest dreams.
5. Critical thinking
The ability to think critically is a must for future success in a changing world. It's about thinking independently, responsibly and productively. Philosophy.com, in my opinion, offer one of the best definitions of critical thinking: 'Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe.'
Why should I learn it as a skill? The way we think about the world, ourselves, and each other affects more than just personal experience. It has a part in defining the future of everything and everyone and the entire world - this is known as the 'Ripple Effect.' It's been a part of many cultural philosophies for thousands of years, reminding us that how we choose to think and act influences our whole world. We don't have to be overwhelmed by it, just simply aware of it as it guides our critical thinking practices.
This means being able to work in groups that are both physical and virtual. It includes proficiency in communication, empathy, and leadership. It also means being able to work with someone across the world as easily and productively as someone who sits next to you.
Why should I learn it as a skill? Working in groups is a key feature of the digital age. Our organisations incorporate teamwork into their daily practices. As such, collaborative abilities have a permanent place among the most beneficial skills everyone should develop.
7. Information management
Information is essentially all things on the Internet, and it's alive and growing. In fact, according to a recent article, approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created online every single day. Moreover, this statistic is only bound to get higher as time goes on. There is so much out there that a skill set is needed to decipher much of it and make it useful.
Why should I learn it as a skill? Dealing with information means we can determine what is valuable and discard what is fake or questionable. This is important for producing solutions and products that are genuine and useful. It's also an aspect of research and proper attribution of sources; things every good digital citizen needs to know.
Like I've said, the world is changing. However, it's not just the world we need to keep an eye on; we must also be flexible in our personal lives. Life is fluid - sometimes it's a stream, sometimes a river, and sometimes it's a tidal wave! Learn to keep your head above all of it.
Why should I learn it as a skill? We deal with trends of every kind constantly. Business, technology, entertainment, communication, and lifestyle trends are just some of the many. What makes it more challenging is that each major trend can often have several sub-trends of its own. Keeping abreast of these means staying informed and knowing when to take advantage of opportunities. As for life itself, it will always have challenges, no matter how well things are going. Being able to adapt to change in all its forms keeps us constantly prepared to survive and succeed no matter what climate we're in.
Lifelong learning is driven by curiosity. Outside the pressures of work, there is no educator or peer to motivate us to learn and expand our mind. Developing curiosity is undoubtedly one of the most beneficial skills you can have.
Why should I learn it as a skill? Simply put, without curiosity there is no learning. Nurturing curiosity can lead to moments where a learner says, "Wow, I never expected that." This is exactly the kind of reaction that indicates adults actually can fall in love with learning again. As such, they're the kinds of moments managers and leaders strive to create.
As we learn, we acquire new skills and knowledge for various uses. However, none of that knowledge is any good if we don't consider how it has helped us or others. If we are going to place our attention on learning something we must consider the merits of learning it before, during, and after the learning happens. Otherwise, we have engaged in empty learning for no reason.
Why should I learn it as a skill? By reflecting, you are 'owning' your own learning. You can look at the ways you succeeded and ways you could improve your approach in similar future situations. Above all, you consider how what you have learned has served your original purpose for learning in the first place (usually to solve a problem or answer a challenge). Beneficial skills must include reflecting on learning because it's what gives learning real meaning.
Jennie Marshall is a double award winning Learning Professional who joined QA in 2011 as a Learning Specialist in our Management, Leadership and Personal Effectiveness team. In her career she has enjoyed a variety of roles within different industries including Estate Agency, Imports and Exports, Financial Services, Call Centres, Utilities and Staff Unions.
In January 2014 she moved to a new role within the same department, as Head of Courseware Development where she was responsible for the overall quality, design, development, administration and coordination of our market leading courseware.
In January 2016 she then moved to a new role of Learning Consultant in the same team, where she now leads the design and delivery of innovative learning programmes linked to business / individual performance improvement for our customers.
She is a respect and trusted advisor within the team, and known for her experienced and dedicated approach to learning and development, with expertise including management, leadership and talent and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has also supported our customers as a Product Owner on a secondment basis, using Agile methodologies to manage and deliver new learning products to their business. Her experienced was recognised in December 2018 when Jennie was awarded Chartered Manager (CMgr) status.
In her role she acts as lead consultant for a number of large clients and remains frequently involved with the development of various initiatives and programmes from graduate programmes to modular skills development journeys.
Alongside developing great learning products for clients, Jennie also works on refreshing the Management, Leadership and Personal Effectiveness curriculum and is a regular blog contributor on QA.com.
When not absorbed in course development, Jennie can usually be found in her garden, or involved in various pursuits through the Women’s Institute, where she is a Communications Secretary. She also features frequently on her local BBC radio station as a newspaper reviewer.
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