8 Skills That Are Difficult To Learn [But SO Important To]

8 Skills That Are Difficult To Learn [But So Important To]

Some of the most important things to  possess in life aren’t tangible but they do take a tremendous amount of patience, perseverance, and perspiration to acquire, let alone – master. Understanding the benefits of these qualities makes a difference in every aspect of life and – especially – in the workplace.

TIME MANAGEMENT: Effective time management is one of the most highly valued skills by employers. While there is no singularly correct way, it’s important to find a system that works for you and be consistent with it. Why is time management important?

  • Time Is Limited: No matter how you slice it, there are only 24 hours in a day.
  • You Can Work Much Smarter: When you learn to take control of your time, you improve your ability to focus and prioritize. With increased focus comes elevated efficiency, because you don’t lose momentum. You’ll start to breeze through tasking more quickly and your day will be significantly more productive.
  • Improved Decision-Making: You’ll find that a  benefit of good time management skills is the ability to make better decisions. Through effective time management, you can eliminate the pressure that comes from feeling like you don’t have enough time. You’ll start to feel more calm and in control. When the time comes to examine options and make a decision, you can take time to examine the options, align them with the vision and values of the organization and your team and make great decisions.

EMPATHY: Empathy is a fundamental human ability that has too readily been forsworn by modern business – in some industries more than others. Empathy — the ability to feel what others feel — is what makes good leaders great and it is the backbone of customer experience. Empathy is the “esprit de corps” of effective teams. It motivates people to try harder. Empathy drives employees to push beyond their own apathy or complacency, to go bigger, because they are connected to something larger than just a paycheck. They are behind the purpose and the promise of the organization.

CONSISTENCY: Too frequently people think they can stop and take a break when they hit a milestone they have set for themselves. Big mistake. Consistency is often the difference between success and failure.

  • Consistency Creates Accountability: As leaders, we ask that our teams deliver consistently on objectives and goals. We also need to be accountable for delivering consistently on our leadership promise(s) to our team members.
  • Consistency Allows For Measurement: Until you have tried something new for a certain period of time and in a consistent manner, you can’t determine if it works or not. Effectiveness of initiatives can only be measured when performed on a consistent basis. Allowing a three to six month test of initiatives, processes, and organizational structures before judging them a success or failure will allow for impact or adapting a minor change to make it’s plausibility certain.
  • Consistency Will Be Your Reputation: Great leaders deliver to their team members, colleagues, superiors, and customers consistent results…or not. Either way – your consistency will either support a reputation of greatness or disappointment. Let it be greatness.
  • Consistency Keeps Your Purpose, Promise, Vision, and Values Top Of Mind: The people you interact with pay as much or more attention to what you do as to what you say. Consistency in your leadership serves as a model for how your team members and colleagues will behave and what they make important. If you treat these things capriciously, don’t be surprised when you find they are doing the same.

MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS: Sticking your nose into other people’s work isn’t helpful and wastes time and resources and effective and efficient leaders know this. Here are some reasons why this is an essential skill:

  • Balance: Taking on other people’s problems or butting in just for the salacious details of workplace theatrics can throw you off balance, at the expense of your own well being and productivity. Caveat: I’m not referring to helping others or being of genuine service. I am referring to interfering with – or gossiping about – those whom you have no business interfering with and letting others sidetrack you from your objectives.
  • Freedom: You can do whatever you want, led by your inner compass. Life is significantly more empowering when you are not shackled by the opinions  or challenges of others.
  • Creativity: Minding your own business keeps your mind free from clutter so that you can keep your priorities straight as you work towards your objective. It frees up space for innovation and solutions to impediments you encounter each day.
  • Purpose & Potential: By redirecting energy that would otherwise be wasted trying to keep up with others, you have much more to direct towards your own compelling purpose. Your potential in fulfilling your purpose is limited only by how much energy you apply and how you work through any challenges you may face.
  • Confidence: When you follow your own path, you develop the skills and abilities that are inherently yours and you learn through trial and error. Each success builds on itself, preparing you for even greater challenges.
  • Sense of Accomplishment: You know where you started and where you currently stand and you can take pride in that. You don’t know what others have done to get to where they are, what they have sacrificed or the path they have taken. Nor do you need to as you work towards you goal(s).

BEING A GREAT LISTENER: Listening is a wildly important skill and extremely underutilized. There are many benefits to being an active listener in the workplace. Here are a few:

  • Fewer Misunderstandings Will Occur: Inc. warns leaders that when they have poor listening skills themselves they will jeopardize their working relationship with their team members and colleagues. People know when they are not really being heard and this decreases their sense of worth in the organization, builds resentment, and motivates them to look for other opportunities.
  • Shows Empathy: Listening illustrates your attitude as a leader inside the company. People respond positively to an an accessible and genuine dialog in which they know you will listen intently and do your best to support them. Doing this elevates the level of trust and transparency between the leader and the team members.
  • Improved Productivity: When team members collaborate and share ideas and then truly listen to each other regarding an aligned course of action and delegation of tasks, there is increased productivity [and accountability]. Active listening helps improve clarity and maintain focus during a project or task.

HAVE A BIAS TOWARDS ACTION: Today’s effective and inspiring leader is the person that can concisely communicate the goals and objectives of the business and any obstacles the team may face on the way to delivering excellent results. They solicit feedback and suggestions from the team who will need to deliver results, they listen to those ideas, they incorporate them into planning and strategy, they build consensus among all of the team members and they action their plan. The best leaders build diverse, inclusive, and involved teams and galvanize their teams into action and, ultimate, results. They don’t endlessly scrutinize the “what ifs” or “where to begin” through time wasting meetings or conference calls… they just …go.

BEING PRESENT IN THE MOMENT: According to happiness researcher Matt Killingsworth, we tend not to be very good at staying present in the moment. According to Mr. Killingsworth, “47% of the time, people are thinking about something other than what they’re currently doing“.  Mindfulness is about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected to what we are doing.  Here are the benefits of being present:

  • You Are Your True Self: Rather than identify solely with your thoughts, feelings, roles, or inauthentic identities – mindfulness allows you to discover and respond to your authentic values and your authentic self.
  • You Become More In Control of Your Self Development & Growth: By knowing your actual strengths and opportunities you can focus your learning and development in the correct areas to focus on for improvement and elevated marketability.
  • You Develop More Successful Relationships:  By elevating the awareness around your needs and the needs of your colleagues; by developing empathy and compassion you engage in strong communication and make more conscious choices about who you want around you.
  • You Develop An Attitude of Gratitude: When you are present in the moment you can appreciate the small steps you – and those around you are taking – inside the larger picture and the daily chaos.

BEING HONEST: Being honest requires courage because it makes us vulnerable and accountable, especially inside a culture that doesn’t practice or value honesty consistently. To avoid stepping on the feelings of others with our honesty also requires tact. Honesty in retail leadership isn’t about being a jerk – it’s about being committed to your team’s growth and well-being. Here are some compelling benefits of honesty:

  • Honesty disarms people: People can be disarmed by your honest response to a situation. Being supportive and involved – your team will understand that your guidance will come from a place that truly in invested in their success – even the hard-to-hear-stuff will be heard.
  • It keeps you from lying to yourself: Cultivating honesty means cultivating awareness of what is honest, and when you are aware in that way, it is hard to lie to yourself about your motivations and your actions. Being honest, literally, starts at home and with ourselves.
  • Very little can come back to bite you: When we refrain from lying or manipulation in our interactions with others, we aren’t worried about negative actions coming back to haunt us. Why risk it or spend time worried about when, not if, it will happen.
  • It builds self-discipline around communication: A commitment to total honesty means paying a lot more attention to what you communicate. You’ll think about whether you really need to tell that white lie. You’ll own up to mistakes and learn from them.
  • It demonstrates personal and professional confidence and integrity: If you are dedicated to being honest, you better be comfortable with yourself. When you are honest, you are transparent about who you are and what you do. You believe in yourself. If you do have self-doubts, you’re transparent about them and work toward filling any gaps in your performance.
  • You attract better quality colleagues and business partners: When you act with honesty and integrity, others with the same qualities are drawn to you. I don’t mean the “I tell it like it is” bravado, which is usually a mask for hostility and manipulation by “managers” that lack any people skills. But an honest approach to all your dealings and communication just naturally appeals to other people who operate the same way. Birds of a feather…
  • It‘s good for your career and your professional reputation: When your organization values honesty and integrity, you become a trusted source of feedback and a voice for improvement. When your team understands they can trust you and that’s a non-negotiable that you have of them as well – you operate at an organically higher-level of performance and collaboration. Communication is clearer. Questions are asked for clarity. People don’t have to assume anything.  While it might seem that people who do anything to get ahead succeed, if “anything” includes deception, they ultimately are outed. When you are known as a retail leader who operates with integrity, someone who can be relied on, someone whose word can be taken seriously, the benefits are huge. Your reputation often precedes you – especially in the small world of retail, and credibility means everything.



Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | beth@excellencein-retail.com [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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