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4S Model: Skills

In the same way organizations must continuously improve, you must also continually increase your capability to become more valuable to employers, clients, and other stakeholders in your career.

Capability is the overall combination of your knowledge, skills, abilities, and the other intangibles you possess.  Increasing this capability is the Skills step of the 4S Model, and is driven by your personal development plan.

The Center for Creative Leadership made popular the concept that learning and development happens in a ratio of 70/20/10:

  • 10% formal learning and education. Includes certifications and designations, completed coursework through company learning systems, and university degrees.  Some examples of are: earning a CPA, CFA, Series 6, and a graduate degree.
  • 20% informal learning and education. Includes mentoring, coaching, feedback, and observation of role models.
  • 70% experiences. The experiences you have every day:  in your everyday role, on special projects, problem solving, process improvement, presentation, and relationships.

In 2011 Dave Forman of HCI suggested an update to this model with his 60/20/20 hypothesis:

  • 20% materials and interventions. This new category includes your formal learning and education, as well as books and references.
  • 20% learning through conversations and media.  Roughly equivalent to the "informal learning" of the 70/20/10 model, this is expanded to include the information you gather from those around you - either in person or virtually.  Social media, in person conversations, and mentoring fall into this category.
  • 60% experiences in work and community. Includes the experiences you have every day, including both work, community leadership, volunteering, etc.

Different models are helpful in different ways, and the important key for you is to realize that there are several different ways to build your capabilities to enhance your career options.

Creating your development plan is not a one-time activity, but instead should be ongoing and iterative.  The components of the process are:

  • Assess. Know your starting point by assessing yourself in some way and determining your personal success metrics.  The assessment should happen before development, during development, and at the end.  If you have a concern about backsliding in a particular skill, consider continuing periodic assessments after your development goal has been achieved.
  • Plan. Block time to achieve your goal, set realistic timelines for yourself, and think through how you will get the resources you need to develop the skill (time, money, partnership, etc.)
  • Manage. Managing the development process usually involves some sort of personal check in with yourself, and might include an assessment.  It may be helpful to find someone else to check in with as well - a development partner - someone that will help hold you accountable in an altruistic way (that means not your boss!).
  • Communicate. Tell others with whom you feel safe exactly what you're trying to accomplish.  These people could include your manager, partner, skip level, others with an interest in your career, and your support network.

Some ideas to help you along the way:

  • Reward yourself. Plan the reward ahead of time, that way you're not tempted to move the bar, change the reward, etc.
  • Don't overcomplicate. The harder it is to manage your development plan, the less likely you are to succeed.  Maximize your chances for success by making it easy to assess, plan, manage, and communicate the process.
  • Break your development into manageable chunks. If you'd like to be president, consider breaking that desire into:  winning a local office, developing a platform, political science and/or law degree, etc.
  • Use your calendar to block time for development. No one will do it for you - and if they do you'll probably resent them for it.  If you schedule your development time the same way you would schedule other appointments, you may find that you achieve your goals at a much faster clip and have more focus.
  • Enlist a development partner that's not your boss. Your boss is a fantastic person to keep engaged on the journey, but the better person is going to be someone with whom you don't have a reporting relationship.
  • Keep your boss informed, and make it easy on him/her to track - or at least offer sound bytes. Your manager has a full plate, and making your development easy to support is your job.  Track your own development, share it as appropriate, and remember to say thank you for any development your manager enables.
Understanding your skills are important in the 4S process.  As you assess yourself and develop your skills, make sure you can articulate exactly what you're good it - it will pay off in the Steps part of the process.
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