Dealing with a skills gap? We’ve all got room for improvement and we know it. If we’re real with ourselves, we accept the fact that there are skills we have that work; and there are ways in which we cope with what we know we don’t do well. It’s how we all survive at work and in life. In many ways, depending on our individual motivations, we may have skills we don’t think we need but have to get. Skills to keep the job, get a promotion, be more desirable as a worker, or to just get the job done. Whatever the reason, we’ve all got our own individual skill sets based on the path we’ve cut for ourselves.

I will speak to the world of soft skills. Soft skills are essential skills if your job deals with people in any regard. Soft skills are the skills we use to connect to others, improve our mutual understanding, and create our ability to cooperate with each other. They can be harder to master than “hard” skills – which are technical skills because they are situational and contextual in how they can apply.

Better Self-Awareness

Knowing yourself–having a realistic grasp on your own self-awareness–is critical for any kind of success. Self-awareness is everything. This includes knowing what your strengths are, your emotional intelligence or emotional intensity–knowing what triggers you. Additionally, how you show up when something triggers you and how you manage yourself. Furthermore, how you impact others, how you roll as a team member, and/or how you lead others. Thus, this means knowing your behavioral tendencies around pacing, control, trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, decision-making, independence, rules, and structure. This also includes how you think, communicate and learn best. There are probably some other aspects as well, but these are the baseline from a professional standpoint.

Most of us do know these things about ourselves, but when I put them on a list you might be thinking: “Holy cow! Who knows this much about themselves?” This is because we don’t generally look at ourselves through this lens on a regular basis. We also don’t really have a good gauge, if we do know some of these things about ourselves, on how we rate against others. We experience the world from our point of view, so we assume others experience it in a similar way. So, we can’t really tell if we’re “extreme” in our behaviors. This can be extremely good or extremely bad. If we do know we are extreme, it’s most likely because someone gave us that feedback.

Behaviors are Important

Behaviors are important because behaviors are essentially sets of skills that work together. For example, if I am highly “assertive” that probably means I’ve got skills. Skills such as interpersonal communication, relationship building, and influence to name a few. So when we think about a skills gap, we’re looking for the skills that either may be missing altogether or skills that are present. These present skills need to be enhanced to be more effective at being “assertive” or engaging in a behavior. The fundamental question for a skills gap is: How effective am I at the desired behavior? Then, we parse that behavior into skills. These lists of skills or skill sets are varied. I look at skillsets and behaviors against a job role.

Know the Role

Desired behaviors and skillsets are only important against the demands of a job role. The behaviors and skills of individual contributors versus front-line managers are different. The same is true for front-line managers versus mid-level or senior managers who are managing managers. So knowing the role, and the expectations of the role are critical to effectively analyzing desired behavior because that is part of the expected performance.

However, it is also important, when understanding a skills gap, to think about the future of the role because most of the time, this is where closing a skill gap can make a huge difference in how you are experienced, perceived, and known. An example of this is a person who works in a role around learning and development. The skills here are everything from research to design to implementation around adult learning. However, if this person is paying attention, they also realized that media has become more and more a part of the learning experience so an effort to grow skills around video production, software platforms in delivery, podcasting, artificial intelligence, gamification, etc. are critical. Because now, if you work in organizational learning, you also have to know these technical skills.

Another example is the increase in virtual teamwork. This is a skill set that is both hard and soft in that it requires you to be more technically savvy to deal with connectivity platforms and troubleshooting those on your own is necessary as well as team connectivity and relationship building at a distance, maybe even across cultures which are all soft skills.

Take An Assessment

The bottom line here is if you don’t know enough about yourself, or haven’t really viewed yourself through a professional behavioral lens there are a ton of assessments for that. It’s why, as coaches, we often time begin with an assessment. It helps us as coaches quickly gauge and understand our coachees and their behavioral tendencies easily and quickly. And if you use an assessment that provides a job role performance model, this will help you understand how you’re apt to perform against a specific job role and can help you target specific skill gaps – like assertion, trust, or decisiveness.

Feedback from others is okay. It may provide a general direction of where to look in terms of your skills. However, feedback from others is based on their experience, not necessarily who you really are. If you change your behaviors (increase or modify your skills in some way) then you can change how others experience you. For you to get the best idea about your own skills gap is for you to assess yourself. The science is really great and you’ll be surprised at what you already know and what you learn about yourself when you take the time. A good assessment will provide you with targeted areas to consider relative to a role. It’s the fastest way to learn and know if you’re a good fit and will perform well as well as where you’ll need to put in the extra effort and build skills.



With my book, Own Up!™ I challenge managers and leaders to own up to their accountability and communication shortcomings. Get your copy!