Recently an infographic of the most important skills to have and to recruit in 2024 popped up on LinkedIn. It is a really interesting list and it got me thinking how do we define these capabilities, how do we go after them in the team and when we have them how do we deploy them to offer the most possibilities for the things we need to do.

Creating the right team dynamic, environment and culture is the thing that we all strive the most to get right, because we really do need to lean on friends, colleagues and partners to deliver our ambitions. As a wise person in Seattle (Neil Jordan) once said to me;

We need eco-systems not ego-systems to be successful.

So here is my view of how we apply this lovely list to what we need and a bit of an interpretation of why these skills are ‘more’ relevant now than ever before.

Analytical thinking and Innovation. How do we find the most innovative minds deploy them into a team and watch them grow? Linking innovation and analytical thinking seems like a clever response to the problem some organisations have had where the innovation function runs away with itself without connecting appropriately to the business it is working for. This is something we have tried to do with our very Innovate space in Nottingham. Making the ‘role’ of innovation everyone’s role but adding the need to think in an analytical way about the innovation I believe is a clear signpost for us that using innovation methods as a route to delivering an efficient business model for everyone with digital and data as its core is the route to successful growth.

Active Learning and Learning Strategies. For me this could be encompassed with the term bring your growth mind set to work with you. Teams are made up of individuals who come with their views and knowledge; if we can release that individual knowledge into a team then we build a wider more diverse knowledge base that everyone can learn from. As digital transformation people we have so much to share not just with our own ‘technology’ teams but with our businesses’ too. Sometimes getting the techie voice heard in the business meeting can be hard, public and private sector I have seen that be true and therefore influencing the whole organisations learning strategy is something I hope we can take on as a new important skill and objective.

Complex Problem Solving. In our world is every problem not complex, certainly its multi-faceted and that kind of equals complexity really. I do wonder if this area of skill set is really more about experiences and learning from the past as it is about an ‘inherent’ skill in how to do this. If we are trying to create this as a skill in our teams then I think it needs to be as much as a new focus on the ability to learn from mistakes and from what others have done before. Being able to seek out the collaborator and build their help into you or your teams problem solving I think (and I have for a long time) is a much-underrated skill. Back in my role in Ireland we borrowed a phrase, ‘Death of the expert and the rise of the collaborative sense-maker’ I think this is the route to bringing this skill to the forefront now and the route to some degree to ‘democratising’ the role of technology in all transformation.

Critical Thinking. How to be passionate and dispassionate at the same time, how to read both sides of the story and do something about it. As leaders in a digital world the skills we need in how we think have been developed in sometimes different ways. We know how we are sold to and therefore how to be both critical about the sales pitch but also how to get the pitch right as well. The speed at which we can enact a critical evaluation of a situation is more and more a skill we need. In my organisation now critical thinking within our service delivery function is probably more important than ‘cold hard’ technology knowledge. I wonder if we should add the word evaluation to this skill as we move into 2023 its not just the ability to think it is to know and at pace too.

Creative Originality and Initiative. What we are trying to achieve with our responsibilities to our business has to be original and therefore needs our creativity to be honed. The ability to find new members of the team that have new and diverse experiences that can add to the whole of the team I think is a route to achieving this. We need to allow all voices to be heard and that means empowering all ways that colleagues can take the initiative; it no longer matters if your colleague has a bright idea about how to save a cost or a new business idea that can add to the customer or patient experience and therefore deliver a better solution. It is on us as leaders to ensure we have ways to empower every single colleague.

Leadership and Social Influence. Nice to see these two skills linked I think. Not every (many) organisation has embraced the link between leaders and social influence sadly. For at least the last three roles I have had I have been banging this drum, how to use the social environment of the team to build it, to share learning and ultimately to be the leader we need to be to deliver transformation for our organisations and businesses. By adopting an understanding of social influence and linking it inextricably to leadership we put our selves in a new position, one that:

  • Reduces employee turnover rates
  • Increases morale among team members
  • Removes the need to coerce colleagues to accomplish tasks
  • Focuses the team on positive relationships, always
  • Focuses on consistent and transparent motivation

There are risks I realise this though; the level of agreement a leader needs across a team that is using its own social influence to keep the eye on the prize is not insignificant. The social influence can, if badly applied, bring about confusion and definitely brings ‘feelings’ to the forefront in management conversations. For me this works, but getting it right is not for the faint at heart and requires a lot of engagement up and down ‘the tree’.

Technology Use, Monitoring and Control. At last so many of my colleagues scream, a skill that has the word technology in it! What is interesting again here is the links that that the list authors make. This is not simply in-depth use of the latest and greatest tech, although that is implied too. The list calls for the monitoring and control of technology as well as its use. Transformation of a business is largely achieved through decisions on what technology should be used where and when; arguably this is the skill we all now need as digital leaders and technology born transformation agents. Our job may not be to understand and deliver ChatGPT, our job may well be to help our business know when, where and how ChatGPT can be used to enhance the business we are in.

Technology Design and Programming. It feels odd to have got so far down the list before getting to something so ‘obviously’ technology related. I remember when I first started in tech in the 90s at least 60% of the skills needed would have been described with a very heavy tech leaning. Looking at a few CTO roles that are recruiting at the minute though there seems to be a resurgence in asking for hands on experience of being in engineering in some way or other. As digital leaders we need to be able to walk the walk, in the past we could have a lot more reliance on trusting the teams but as we get closer to our business change teams our own credibility as technologists will always benefit from having the first-hand knowledge and maybe even the hands on experience of ‘doing-the-do’. 

Resilience, Stress Tolerance and Flexibility. The workplace in 2023 is a dangerous place! You need the skills to protect yourself and ensure that you can be the best you as often as possible but also have the knowledge to look after your own team and your peers. Resilience is now taught in schools, for many of us in the workplace in 2023 resilience is something you have gained through experiences over your career; resilience really is your very own kit bag of how to deal with stress, how to create tolerance and how to be flexible first and foremost under almost any pressure. I think as a leadership skill it probably needs to be rated near the top, particularly if we add a further nuance to it which is to facilitate this in any colleague we work with. Its great if you have these abilities but imagine being in a team where these abilities are inherent in every team player, now that truly would make the team world class I think.

Reasoning, Problem Solving and Ideation. A nice ‘full circle’ moment in the list of skills. The first one on the list related to analytical thinking and innovation, the last one on the list for me is a wider description of this but applied to the delivery of the business you are in today and not just the transformation of the business for tomorrow. We all are faced with change each week that can be disruptive to the normal, we need to be able to support the change, in fact we need to be able to turn change into positive, beneficial and transformational progress for our businesses. Ideation: the ability to consider a problem and find a new solution to it that can be applied quickly is something that we have to be able to do. As leaders we now need to be ‘in the detail’ of a lot of what we are doing as technology teams to ensure that we, as the senior interface to our business, can lead everyone through what is new.

Well now we have a list and at least my perspective on what the words mean and hopefully to some degree how we bring the skill forward to mean something in our teams. Now ‘all’ we need to do is work out how we begin to create the right environments for those skills to be honed and how we build value and belief across the business in the development of these skills as a priority. These skills, where they exist bring about culture change, why would they not, and therefore your whole business needs to be onboard that this is what you are going after.

Enjoy the journey.