Meta Skills

Think of a butcher and a surgeon.  They both wield a knife, but in very different ways.   The attitude they bring to the knife differs.

How would you feel if I suggested that everyone you interact with responds first and foremost to your underlying attitude?   That it is the attitude you bring to your skill, technique, or knowledge that will affect how someone reacts to you?  That qualities such as compassion, neutrality, playfulness, and a beginner’s mind are all key elements of your attitude – and that their presence or absence will affect how someone perceives and responds to your interaction with them?

We call these qualities meta skills – and they are underrated.  We don’t see them on our annual performance development plan, or hear about them when we discuss team performance or project plans.

Yet meta-skills are vital to the successful management of a team, to the successful delivery of a project, and to a cohesive and collaborative workplace.   Here are some worth reflecting on.

Compassion for ourselves and for our colleagues enables us to acknowledge mistakes and weaknesses in a way that is heard  – it creates a safety net where individuals are free to experiment, be themselves, and learn from their mistakes rather than live in fear of making them.   It enables relationships between team mates to flourish and for individuals to grow.

Neutrality allows us to explore different points of view, without being attached to a specific outcome or “side” – thus it also engenders creativity, and allows us to learn from the minority or unpopular view to ensure better decisions.

Playfulnesss – This one is often banned from the workplace, we seem to forget the old adage that a “spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”.   Humour, but not at the expense of others.  Playfulness lightens the atmosphere and enables a sense of perspective to each other and our goals. It releases tension and friction.   It doesn’t imply that our activities are unimportant, yet it keeps them in perspective thus allowing us to move more freely.

A Beginners Mind – This is a particularly challenging one to bring to the workplace.  We think we are being paid for our area of expertise and knowledge and skills.   Plus, most of us enjoy the role of expert.   Yet letting go of our need to be the knowledgeable one frees us up to explore what everyone else has to offer leading to more fruitful conversations.

I do not wield a knife at work – yet I do my best to bring bring these meta skills to my work. When I do feel more alive, enjoy myself more, and my clients get great results.

I’ll be doing a series of short articles on specific meta skills during 2018.  I’ll choose one to “dial up” each week and observe the impact on myself and my clients.   Feel free to do the same.


Inside the No – Myrna Lewis

The depth facilitators handbook –  Helen Smit



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