Your Most Important Skill

by Janice Giannini

With a deep mastering at the intersection of IT and business strategy, consultant, board adviser and former C-suite executive, Janice has been harnessing the true power of IT for more than 30 years. An Executive and Board-level digital strategist at the intersection of risk and IT, she enhances competitive position through vision and equity with large-scale risk identification, quantification and mitigation in an ever-changing marketplace, generating long-term value for clients. She engages with senior executives and teams, particularly in complex businesses where misalignment is blocking their desired success, to develop and execute practical business strategies and plans. Clients have found her especially helpful when they recognize they must integrate an eagle's eye and worm's eye view in order to identify and remove obstacles. Janice has consistently taken on those challenges that others chose to run from. This typically involves those challenging times when failure is not an option and integrating business, technology and people changes must be accomplished simultaneously. As a result, many of her clients are complex organizations who won't settle for anything less than developing widespread professional competence.

I recently saw an article on the Forbes website titled "The Most Important Skill in Life (It's Not What You Think)." Intrigued, I read the post, and the following points caught my attention:

  • The most important skill in life is mastering how to get happy and stay happy. Another way of saying it is, mastering our emotions.
  • When you have mastered your emotions, you can pick and choose how you feel at any point in time, no matter what else is happening around you.
  • The path to self-mastery and happiness starts with accepting responsibility for your feelings and taking back the power you have inappropriately given to other people or life events.
  • When are you going to finally make the connection between you and all your problems? They all start with you.
  • Ask: "Do I want to continue feeling the way I'm feeling right now?"

After reading the article, I realized these same ideas apply to professional accomplishments. If your focus is achieving integrated personal, professional, and business goals, what gets in the way most frequently?

Let's face it, when everyone agrees on the actions, plans, desired outcomes, or processes, achieving goals is fairly straightforward.

When there are differences in opinions and strongly held ideas or beliefs, the process can become fraught with emotions. At this point, whether you're in the board room, an executive suite, on a project team, or on a tiger team for new launch or crisis situation, your path forward may feel more like an obstacle course.

We all like to believe we handle these differences well, possessing the abilities and characteristics to quietly and effectively navigate obstacle courses with ease and confidence. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Mastering your emotions is possible, but you have to work at it.

The following exercise is designed to help you understand where on the spectrum you are between giving away power and total self-mastery of your emotions.

Please take out a blank piece of paper and follow along, answering the questions as best you can on the first pass. Write down whatever comes to mind. You will not help yourself if you sanitize responses because they are unflattering. No one will see this but you!

Think of a situation where you are a leader in your business, working with a diverse, collaborative team that needs to agree on actions, plans, desired outcomes, or processes. You want to achieve integrated personal, professional, and business goals. You will settle for the best you can get, if you need to do so.

  • Describe what your integrated personal, professional, and business goals look and feel like to you.
  • Describe what you think the best outcome looks and feels like from your personal vantage point, based on working with this team as you have done in the past.
  • What is the difference?
  • When you are committed to a goal, plan, or approach, what happens when someone strongly disagrees with your approach or offers another solution that you either have not considered or don't think will work?
  • What does it take for you to slide from self-confident in your approach to annoyed and potentially angry because the others don't get it? How quickly does this happen? Why?
  • When you awakened this morning, what did you expect to happen with this team discussion? As a result, what emotional state were you when you walked in the door of your business?
  • If you awakened believing that achieving your integrated personal, professional, and business goals was possible, what might have been different?
  • How would people around you react? What might it take for you to accomplish this?
  • If you achieved your integrated outcomes consistently with less stress, how might that impact your self-respect, family, focus, and quality of life?

Now, go back through the questions, adding a column to the right that shows a sliding scale from 1 to 10.

  • One (1) represents giving away all power to people and events and feeling helpless.
  • Ten (10) represents total acceptance of your feelings and being present to the current conversation.

Write down your first instinctive response. You will not help yourself if you sanitize the responses because you are not a perfect 10. It's not about where you have been until today. It's about where you will be tomorrow and the day after that!

As you look at the profile just created, ask yourself what you're going to do to get closer to mastering your emotions.