Let’s roughly divide skills into two categories: task skills and meta skills. As a programmer, your task skills might include programming languages, debugging tools, IDE’s, design patterns and such. Task skills are the skills that are not easily transferable from one profession to another.
Meta skills refer to skills that are transferable, such as communication, conflict resolution, learning, self-awareness and stress reduction. Even if you switch from a programmer to a doctor, your meta skills are still useful and can easily be applied in your new line of work.
The correct balance between the two skill sets depends on context. Some roles require more meta skills than others. A leader might need a large portion of meta skills and cope with very little task skills. An expert might get away with less meta skills.
However, in general, task skills tend to be overemphasized. Most training budgets are spent entirely on task skills. Work cultures value task skills and refer to meta skills as “touchy-feely” or see them as unnecessary extra. These companies fail to understand that meta skills are crucial for success.
Imagine what would happen if we could:
- get our message across with fewer misunderstandings
- understand each other better
- deal with conflict in a constructive manner
- see problems as opportunities
- focus on the important things
- not stress too much
Even if your organization is not putting enough emphasis on meta skills, that doesn’t mean you need to ignore them. You can improve your meta skills by yourself. You might want to read up on Nonviolent Communication, you might want to attend a Mindfulness seminar or try out improv theater.
How meta can you go while still maintaining an edge in your task skills?