Each week, I attempt to answer a question from a leader somewhere in the world. Today, I’ll speak to a question that great leaders ask a lot. Unfortunately, many leaders don't ask it often enough: How do I identify and close skill gaps?
First, anytime I think about skills, I delineate two different types of skills – individual and team skills. Both are critical, but they are fundamentally different. You can work on individual skills alone; it takes a team to master team skills. I’ll offer a few thoughts today on both.
I think three questions are particularly helpful when addressing individual skills.
What do I need to improve? Sometimes we can get this answer with rigorous self-evaluation. Other times, it will require an outside perspective. Those closest to you can be most helpful when trying to identify gaps. A supervisor, a friend, a spouse, or even a 360 survey can be helpful. Focus on closing critical gaps – those activities required of you to be successful where gaps are evident.
What will help me grow? Identify people, activities, resources and experiences to accelerate your growth. Whether you’re trying to close a gap or leverage a strength, get help.
Where am I already strong? I believe we add the most value in our area of strength. It is where we are strong; it’s also where we’ll have the greatest upside potential for growth. We challenge our staff to close critical gaps if they have any, but we want them to invest most of their time advancing their strengths.
Here are a few questions to help you think about team skills…
What is the work we’ve been asked to complete? The work should ultimately drive the required skills. If your team needs to develop new products, skills around design thinking, creativity and innovation will be critical. If you’ve been asked to sell widgets - prospecting and closing a sale will be much more helpful.
What skills are missing from our team? In light of the work your team has been asked to do, are there obvious gaps? Perhaps you need to hire new talent with a different skill set. Or, maybe you need to cross-train someone on your existing team. As an example, if your team has been asked to manage a Profit & Loss statement for a business, someone on your team needs to know how to read it and interpret it.
How will we work together? This is where a team begins to understand the less obvious skills they’ll need to master together to be successful. Skills such as goal setting, problem solving, conflict resolution and even having effective meetings, and other skills like these will ultimately determine the success of the team.
Skill development is a life-long pursuit. Don’t try to finish it – if you think you’re done – you’re done![GLS_Shield]