Four Problem-Solving Skills That Matter Right Now

Amid the turmoil, employees who embody these skills will shine.

Published: Mar 19, 2020

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It’s hard to think of any aspect of workplace life that the coronavirus, or COVID-19, hasn’t touched. Between the job cuts and quarantines, many workers’ day-to-day lives look nothing like they did even two or three months ago.

What hasn’t changed is the value that leaders place on certain problem-solving skills, especially as so many employees are now working from home without the typical structures of the workplace. Before the crisis occurred, 62% of recruiters said they were looking for problem-solving skills; but as companies and employees grapple with the current environment, it’s likely that these skills will become more important than ever.

Here are four problem-solving skills that matter even more in the coronavirus era.

Managers who rate as highly agile receive double the number of promotions compared to those who rate lower for agility.

Here are four problem-solving skills that matter even more in the coronavirus era.

Active listening
Many organizations emphasize the need for people to develop their presentation skills, but studies show that listening skills actually hold more weight. A person’s understanding, open-mindedness, and supportiveness are the biggest combined contributors to others’ overall perception of that person as a communicator. In today’s complex workplace, characterized by remote work and rapid decision-making, that’s important. “To be successful, you need to know how to communicate with people from entry-level staff to senior executives in your workplace,” says Stacey Perkins, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

To build your active-listening muscle, limit distractions around you and quiet your own preconceived notions about what a person might say. Pay attention to a person’s emotional state—are they nervous, stressed, excited? Then formulate a response that acknowledges those feelings. When you restate a paraphrased version of a speaker’s message, ask insightful follow-up questions and employ nonverbal cues such as nodding, making eye contact, and leaning forward. And, yes, this applies to video calls as well.

Learning agility
Having a hunger for learning and problem-solving is a desirable skill in any field. According to a study by Korn Ferry, managers who rate as highly agile receive double the number of promotions compared to those who rate lower for agility.

If you want to push your brain to be more agile, try pursuing a new hobby. Push yourself to learn more about trends not just in your industry but in other industries too. By indulging your curiosities and shaking up what you know to be true, you’re developing a skill that is only going to become more useful as companies look for new ways to compete in a fast-changing world.

Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence, characterized by empathy, adaptability, and emotional self-control, is one of the skills that may help you get promoted to a leadership position—and ensure that you thrive once you’ve landed in one. “When an employee moves into management and leadership, their responsibility becomes less about doing the work and more about managing people, which requires more emotional intelligence,” says Alexander Lowry, a former JPMorgan Chase executive and now a professor at Gordon College.

But emotional intelligence a benefit in every role, because you’ll always have to deal with people. Practice separating your thoughts from your feelings in each interaction, and you’ll build the emotional-intelligence muscle over time.

Intrinsic motivation
Also known as self-motivation, intrinsic motivation is your desire to challenge yourself, explore, and learn without an external reward like money or recognition. Essentially, it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.

Intrinsic motivation leads to success because the driving forces behind it are deeper and more fulfilling than a paycheck. A study at Yale University found that intrinsically motivated West Point cadets were more likely to succeed in the military compared with those who entered due to either external motives or a mix of internal and external motives. Share your intrinsic motivators, like curiosity or the desire to help others, with hiring managers you might be interviewing with. Even better, include a personal story about what drove you to choose this field.


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