Skills to Work on for the New Year

Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google on the conviction that they needed to find the smartest people from elite universities who were experts in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

In 2013, they initiated ‘Project Oxygen,’ accumulating every bit of hiring, firing and promotion data collected since the company’s inception.

Here is a list of the top 5 qualities, in order, that define a winner in the Google work culture:

  1. Being a good coach
  2. Communicating and listening well
  3. Possessing insights into other people (including those who hold different views)
  4. Having empathy and being supportive to colleagues
  5. Being a good critical thinker/problem solver

STEM didn’t make the list.

Of course you need to be competent in your field.  But competence at what you do is table stakes.  If you want to belly up to the bar to land a job, of course you have to have basic competence; but if you want to be a success and really win at work, it’s about developing ‘soft’ skills.

When employers detail their concerns about staff members to me, it’s rarely about competence.  Usually it’s about EQ-related (emotional intelligence) issues:

  • Nobody likes him or wants to follow him
  • She’s good at her job, but isn’t a leader
  • He rubs people the wrong way
  • She doesn’t have the self-awareness to know how she comes across

If you get good at the 5 qualities discovered by Project Oxygen, you’ll always be in demand, you’ll rise in the food chain, and you’ll never be supplanted by a robot.  Get serious about developing these skills.  ‘Soft’ skills are the true ‘hard’ skills.

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