No one in business was prepared for what happened when the coronavirus invaded the U.S. Overnight, it literally upended the nation’s economy, leaving American workers not knowing what to think about the future.
While some workers are doing well, others are underemployed, and 13 million are jobless. Whether you’re a CEO, just entering the workforce, or someone in between, such confusion and uncertainty begs the question, “What’s it take to survive in a job today?”
(Related: The Only Message Customers Want From You)
What businesses are looking for are people with the ability to adapt, learn, perform, and progress so they can contribute to the organization’s success. To be specific, these are people who possess four basic business survival skills:
1. Asking Questions
Why is it that when the teacher asks the class a question, it’s always the same kids who raise their hands? But not in business. Many believe that success on the job depends on keeping your head down, going along to get along, and not making waves. In other words, never raise your hand.
While it may be the culture in many businesses, it’s also dysfunctional behavior. Companies experiencing the pandemic’s pervasive effects know their survival depends on rapid and continued adaption and innovation, which starts with asking questions, lots of questions. Here are examples:
- Why are we doing this?
- Why aren’t we doing this?
- Why is it taking so long?
- Why are others getting ahead of us?
- Why aren’t our people more involved in decision making?
- Why are we doing it this way?
In other words, if a company wants to flourish, its success depends on everyone involved being observant and curious and raising their hands and asking questions.
2. Staying Focused
If anything is obvious, it’s that we all need to up our ability to concentrate on the job, to stay focused. It’s not easy. We’re drowning in distractions, one every three minutes on average. What makes it worse, as Gloria Mark of the Deptartment of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, noted, we have only a limited amount of short-term memory available. Is it any wonder why we’re more stressed, less productive, and oblivious to what’s going on around us? We don’t have a chance to concentrate.
The iconic management consultan, Peter Drucker pointed out that Mozart was an exception. He was the only “first rank composer” who could work on several pieces at the same time. Handel, Haydn and Verdi composed one at a time.
Most of us aren’t a Mozart. Paying attention takes work, starting with actively minimizing distractions, better organizing our time, and not jumping on the internet and social media during the work day. Is it too high a price to pay if you want to make a difference where you work?
3. Thinking Clearly
Unfortunately, workers who can think clearly are in short supply. Daniel Jeffries, the futurist and author, is on to something when he says, “We’re not taught how to think anymore, only what to think.”