Technology Only Amplifies The Need For These 10 Classic Business Skills


Joe McKendrick, Contributor

October 31, 2014

With the increasing growth of cloud, mobile and social interactions, it’s going to take new types of interactions and management styles to succeed, right?

Well, yes, it pays — and it is increasingly required — to be digitally savvy and knowledgeable about the potential impact of IT on the business. But ultimately, it’s the classic tried-and-true skills that come shining through.

In recent years, I’ve spoken with many business leaders across the globe in many industries, and I’ve found that no matter how digitally advanced they may be, the thing that makes the difference are the business skills that have served leaders for decades, and even centuries. Companies still need to go above and beyond to meet customer expectations, while keeping expenses lower than income.

The rise of digital enterprises has not dampened the need for such skills — if anything, the need for such skills is amplified. Here’s how:

1) Communication: It doesn’t matter if you are online or face to face, the ability to inspire people and get ideas across is timeless, and even more critical. Digital technologies opens up many new paths to innovation, while at the same time incurring disruptive change. The ability to communicate with team members, upper management, and business partners during these transitions is critical. Getting people excited about getting up in the morning to get to work is a skill that’s even more in demand in today’s highly competitive environment.

2) Public speaking and presentation: Along with day-to-day communication skills, shepherding organizations through times of great digital disruptions include the need to get out in front of customers, prospects, employees and industry groups to share and inform. Not only do you need to persuade and inform people in a room with you, your presentations may be seen and heard anywhere across the globe, for a long time to come.

3) Negotiation and vendor management: Organizations are increasingly building portfolios of brokered services that are repackaged and passed on to selected markets or customer groups. For many, entire business lines may be built on services acquired through cloud and APIs. Managers will need to be able to identify and monitor these services, as well as secure the best rates and terms. Internally, budgets are going to be as tight as ever, and the ability work with with management and sell projects and proposals is essential.

4) Time management: The most precious commodity no longer comes out of the ground, nor is it stored in databases. The most precious commodity is time, and nobody has enough of it. In the past, futurists predicted that automation would free up people from mundane work and give them both more creative think and leisure time. Only the opposite has happened. The ability to do a lot more with less is driving people to do even more. The rise of digitization means businesses are moving at subsecond speeds. Social media and email (especially email) is digging away at peoples’ time like never before. The ability to move from project to project and get information and ideas to people who need it when they need it requires a precision like never before.

5) Entrepreneurial skills. Technology by itself will not spot new untapped markets, or go out and get the funding needed to launch new concepts.  It takes imagination, creativity and optimism to create value where it didn’t exist before. Innovation isn’t generated by machines, it comes from the minds of the people using those machines.

6) Ability to spot and nurture talent. Ninety percent of success comes from your choice of the people who surround you. There are plenty of online job boards and some well-designed resume scanning packages that can pull in promising talent. But it takes a sharp sense to spot the people who will energize your company or department. More importantly, it takes a special kind of company to enable personal and professional growth that will bring highly qualified talent to the fore.

7) Ability to keep learning and adapting. Technology keeps growing and evolving and a frenetic pace, and one’s skills quickly need updating. Those that succeed are willing to keep pace with new developments in their professions and industries. This doesn’t just require attending college courses; other avenues include corporate training, as well as involvement in professional associations or user groups.

8) Ability to articulate a vision. Even the most digitized and advanced operations require an overarching vision that keeps everyone motivated and working on the same page. The leaders and managers who get the best results are those who set a vision for their organizations.

9) Critical thinking. Even with the most advanced analytics, organizations need people who will constantly keep questioning the sources of data, conclusions drawn, and results reported. Over-reliance on algorithms can dampen innovation, and blind organizations to new opportunities. There may even be inaccuracies. Data needs to constantly be looked at in new ways.

10) Optimism.  Optimism is what drives people to act on their ideas and take risks. The digital economy may be unforgiving of laggards or those who resist change, but it can be rewarding for those who embrace new approaches and technologies.

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