Why is it important to develop your skillsets? What skills do you need to learn to get by in life?
According to the authors of Influencer, there are three areas of skills that you need to develop to achieve your goals: individual skills, collective skills, and environmental skills. These skills are essential in everyday life.
Below we’ll look at how to develop skills from these three categories.
The authors argue that effective influencers must believe in what Carol Dweck refers to as a growth mindset—the understanding that you, and others, are capable of learning and getting better at something—because implementing critical practices almost always involves learning new skills. Instead of telling people what they need to do, effective influencers spend their time creating opportunities for people to learn how to develop skills they need.
The authors recommend using the following strategies to help people learn and practice critical behaviors:
To support skill development, provide opportunities for intense focus over short periods of time. This intentional practice requires deep concentration that cannot be sustained over long periods of time; therefore, it’s best to practice skills for short periods of time before focus begins to fade.
As people practice a skill, offer ongoing feedback based on clear expectations. According to the authors, consistent feedback is more important than the time spent developing a skill. Not only does frequent feedback help people improve their skills more quickly, but it’s also motivating to observe ongoing progress and areas of growth.
Throughout the process, normalize setbacks. People will struggle to learn new skills if they lack the resilience to work through challenges. Learning something new isn’t a smooth road, and you’ll have more success if you normalize the challenges that will come along the way.
Finally, the authors say, don’t underestimate the importance of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, or “soft skills.” People’s ability to work effectively with others and manage their own emotions is critical to their long-term success and ability to persist through challenges. (Shortform note: While some people argue that soft skills cannot be taught, research has shown that coaching and mentoring programs have led to dramatic increases in participants’ resilience, focus, and self-regulation.)
Our communities have the power to enable critical behaviors or deter them. For example, studies have shown that if people see more garbage on the ground, they’re more likely to litter themselves.
The authors offer the following strategies to ensure that community members are working collectively to support the individual adoption of critical practices:
First, tap into the power of collective creativity and wisdom. Groups often hold more wisdom than any single individual. When confronting challenges and setbacks, individuals should know that they can rely on the collective wisdom of the people around them. For example, in the age of remote work, many workplaces have established Slack channels specifically for employees to use when they need help—allowing them to tap into the collective wisdom of colleagues to solve challenges at work.
Next, provide an outside perspective. People can’t always see their own work clearly. Hearing the observations of other people and getting consistent specific feedback allow everyone to see their own progress more clearly, and become proficient more quickly. An outside perspective can be offered by a colleague, a friend, or someone outside the community.
Both the above strategies work to nurture a sense of solidarity, according to the authors. Influencers encourage everyone to act in ways that benefit the collective good rather than the individual. This not only cultivates community buy-in, but it also creates widespread accountability where everyone is looking out for each other.
The authors note that our environment has a deceptively strong impact on our behavior, so it can be a powerful (and often underutilized) resource in influencing the adoption of critical practices. For example, many city planners are looking at ways to increase sustainable commuting practices, like biking, walking, or taking public transportation. Studies have shown that cities that invest in biking infrastructure see a significant rise in bike commuters. Changing the environment by adding more bike lanes or bike-friendly roadways results in a change in commuter behavior.
The challenge is that our environment is so much a part of our daily lives that it’s often hard to see the way in which it shapes our everyday behaviors. Because of this, the authors suggest that the first step is to become more aware of our environment. After that, we can start to discern how aspects of our environment encourage or discourage certain behaviors.
The authors offer the following strategies to make sure the environment is conducive to the adoption of critical practices:
First, shine a spotlight on subconscious behaviors. For example, if you find yourself snacking mindlessly during the day, keep the wrappers for all your snacks in a clear container on your desk. In doing so, you’ll draw attention to a previously unconscious behavior and give yourself more agency in controlling that behavior.
As you’re thinking about the built environment, focus on creating relationship-centered spaces. The authors argue that relationships are built through proximity. If, as the authors suggest, relationships are crucial to ensuring that individuals have the ability and motivation to adopt a critical practice, then it’s important to make sure your space facilitates community-building.
Finally, eliminate choice whenever possible. The authors encourage influencers to make adopting the critical practices as easy as possible. For example, if you’re trying to get your family to eat healthier food, keep some fruit or nuts as a snack on the counter so they don’t have to choose between healthy snacks and junk food.