Power skills are the human skills that matter more than any others
– with technology rapidly transforming our workplaces it’s easy to imagine that technical skills are the ones we need to focus on.

New research from Pearson suggests otherwise.  Demand for technical skills is increasing and the way we do our jobs may change significantly, but it is the so-called power skills that help us to stay relevant and adaptable in an ever-changing and uncertain world. In other words, human skills: being able to make the right choices, communicate well, collaborate with others, lead teams and take on new challenges creatively and independently.

I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” – William Ernest Henley

What does it really mean – to be the captain of your destiny in this way? It often feels like we have very little control over anything, much less our work and career trajectory. But in a world where businesses go bust, what might have been in demand one day is gone the next or where redundancies and downsizing happen as a matter of course, being master of your own direction is crucial.

Knowing yourself, being able to stay motivated in times of change and having faith in your own ability to meet challenges is vital, and often missing.

How might we begin to do this? What kinds of traits and capabilities should we put our energy into to power up our skills?

Here is some food for thought to get started. I am exploring writing a new book about achievement focus – one of Pearson’s top five power skills defined like this:

“The ability to take on responsibilities and challenges with little or no supervision, develop one’s own way of doing things, and depend on oneself to get things done.”

The more we rely on technology to make us efficient, the fewer skills we have to confront the unexpected, says writer and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan. She shares why we need less tech and more messy human skills — imagination, humility, bravery — to solve problems in business, government and life in an unpredictable age. 

  1. Self-awareness – for me, everything starts here. When you’re self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behaviour with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you. You’re then more willing to change and adapt behaviour when needed.
  2. Introvert or extrovert? – each brings with it unique strengths. When you understand your way of interacting with the world, you can leverage those strengths, manage your energy and build meaningful relationships.
  3. M is for motivation –  the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. Knowing what motivates and drives you is vital for achievement and focus.
  4. Perseverance – not about never giving up but much more about being willing to change your approach if what you thought might work does not or is not going to be effective.
  5. Taking action – every day seeking out opportunities to grow and develop and make progress towards goals and being willing to feel a bit uncomfortable in the process.

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