Top 10 Essential Skills List

Source: Image: 'derin'

Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog) shares this request, "I'd love to read the what others view as essential skills...might have on their list of essential skills needed to succeed at anything?"

So, here's my list:

  1. Empathy - Being able to feel the pain of others, but also, to sense the unspoken message in every conversation is critical to the success of a school district administrator. I don't know any administrator who lacks this sense of empathy who is successful.
  2. Writing - Being able to write your way out of a paper bag is critical in K-12 education, especially as a lot of our work moves online. However, because K-12 schools are SO behind, you can probably get by if you lack the ability to write quickly and effectively with this next skill:
  3. Speaking - I've decided that everything one says is "public" these days, as such, why describe "speaking" as public? You're speaking for an audience whenever you open your mouth.
  4. Get it done Attitude - I've met many an educator who doesn't "get it done" but instead sits on their behind and ruminates about why it won't work, why it won't happen, and in the end, these end up being a waste of time. Just do it.
  5. Anticipate Problems - This is the first part of a two part skill-set. The "get it done" attitude is great as far as it goes, but if you don't anticipate problems that will arise as a result of your actions, you will definitely be counted among the dead trailblazers in life. That is, the guy who got there first but realized he was surrounded by hostiles right after he realized his horse was tired, his cartridges were spent, and his puny knife couldn't cut in all directions at once. I've received serious mentoring on this one from a colleague who's value in my eyes has increased over time as I realized, it's great to have a Devil's Advocate on the team.
  6. Develop strategic solutions - While it's great to have a positive attitude, anticipate problems, you have to develop solutions in collaboration with others. I HATE having to do this and it's a skill I'm still developing. This is challenging because you have to involve others and to be honest, I think teachers have a "I can get it done myself" attitude (hence, #4) that often clashes with everyone else. Yet, this is so important...developing solutions that involve strategizing with others.
  7. Trust in Teams - If you can't be reliable, predictable, dependable, and for goodness' sake, worthy of trust, then you might as well give it up and go home. Being able to build relationships that are founded on trust is absolutely essential to success, no matter where you are, work or home. Build a team that knows you trust them completely...if you're a leader, it has to go that way. You have to trust your people completely, even as you realize that they are there to be used to the benefit of the organization, ruthlessly effective for good but trusting that they'll never be ruthlessly squandered.
  8. Transparency - This is one that wasn't an obvious one for me, but I've come to appreciate. When I was a kid, I hated for people to read my unfinished writing (drafts), but blogging has taught me to practice transparency. If you're a screw-up, it's best that other people know what you're doing to improve that . And, share the challenges of the journey with others as much as possible. Transparency is critical in a team otherwise, people are wondering what the heck you are up to.
  9. Communicate with InfoTech Tools - while speaking and writing are obviously communicating, I mean communicating in the sense of using technology to amplify your reach and engage others in dialogue that wouldn't be possible without the technology. I am so grateful that I can use blogs, podcasts, and other tools (such as bulk emailing tools) to share information, as well as collect information (e.g. Google Docs, Filemaker, MySQL database-backed web sites). I can't tell you how often COMMUNICATING with a wide audience has saved my bacon and that of the organization I worked with. I am a BIG fan of using technology surprise there, huh?
  10. Self-Sustaining Passion - I always liked the idea of an oasis, fueled by a spring of everlasting, fresh-tasting, cool water that soothes the parched throat. When I get parched, staked out on the desert sand by circumstances, I can turn to who I am and eventually, feel the power within. I am self-sustaining in that even if the big boss came over and said, "Man, you're gone!" I'd be able to say, "Heck, this is tough, but you know what, I'm doing the right thing in saying, 'See you! and then moving on up and out.'" I strongly believe that I must be passionate in believing in myself because, frankly, God believes in me. And, if He does, who am I to question? Find what you love to do, then do it and share with others as much as possible (provided it's 1) legal; 2) moral). Creativity flows from pattern-making and passionate pursuit of the inconsequential. Yeah, you hit dead-ends, but you learn so much...and in the end, dead-ends are part of a greater pattern of learning.

That's my top-ten list off the top of my head, Doug. Stephen Downes has a nice list, too, with stuff I've missed off mine but would certainly rate high!

I'm going to tag the following 3 folks and encourage them to link back here and Doug Johnson's entry.

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sendkathy said…
Scanning through my Google Reader this post captured my attention. As a classroom teacher I think about this very topic all the time. When students demonstrate empathy, originality and the ability to motivate a group to become passionate about a project I know I have to nurture these qualities even though they are not expressly written into the curriculum. Thanks for incorporating these exceptional qualities in your blog and inspiring me to write my own post!
doug0077 said…
Thanks, Miguel. A thoughtful list indeed. I liked your emphasis on teamwork. Something I tend to take for granted, I'm afraid.

A happy holiday season to you.


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