Building Workplace Readiness Skills: Part Two

Last week we began our three-part series on workplace readiness skills for teens and young adults. We’re writing this series because we share the concern being voiced by many employers and educators that our nation’s young people are not (generally speaking) well-equipped with the skills to succeed in today’s workforce.

As an organization committed to empowering the next generation, LifeSmart is honored to contribute our perspectives on this subject. Whether your role is educator, mentor, parent, or otherwise, we hope you’ll find these insights helpful in preparing the young adults in your life for success in the “real world.”

Today we’ll focus on four important personal leadership attributes: teamwork, diversity awareness, conflict resolution, and creativity/ resourcefulness.



With rare exceptions, most young adults will pursue careers where teamwork skills are critical. Today’s workplace is far more collaborative than in the past, and career success is greatly influenced by a person’s ability to work well with others. Here are the attitudes and actions of great team players:

  1. Giving everything their best. This means delivering excellent results for their assumed roles/tasks and relating well with the others. They set their bar even higher in a team context since others are counting on them.
  2. Encouraging and appreciating their teammates.
  3. Embracing feedback, rather than treating it defensively.
  4. Keeping their communications neutral or positive.
  5. Focusing foremost on the team and achieving its goals. “Team > me!”


Diversity Awareness

As they find their way in the workplace, young adults will be working with people of different ages, genders, ethnicities, faiths, backgrounds, and worldviews. By making a concerted effort to appreciate others’ uniqueness and value, they will build synergy, trust, AND a better workplace environment. That means:

  1. Taking opportunities to get to know their colleagues both professionally and personally. How are their personalities wired? What are their interests? By better understanding their coworkers, everyone can relate more successfully.
  2. Always looking for the best in people even if they won’t make the “BFF” list (hint: most won’t!).
  3. Being respectful and tactful while building relationship capital.
  4. Being an inspiring team player and avoiding supercharged conversation topics (hint: be careful during election season!).
  5. Always remembering that no one can know the burdens each person is carrying.


Conflict Resolution

It would be nice if everyone always got along, but the workplace offers special challenges. Some people position for advantage and power. Some won’t pull their weight.  Some people prefer drama and gossip. Some lack integrity. And, sometimes personalities clash.

When conflict does arise in the workplace, here are some successful strategies to manage it:

  1. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Often, conflict arises from simple misunderstandings. Try not to prejudge or assign motives.
  2. Respecting themselves and their right to be heard.
  3. Striving for mutual understanding, sharing perspectives respectfully, and agreeing to disagree if their positions are irreconcilable.


Creativity and Resourcefulness

As I share in my “How to Be an MVP Employee” DVD, one of the keys for career advancement is building value in the eyes of an employer. That means not only delivering excellent job performance, but also contributing to the overall success of the organization. It means going above and beyond the job description with initiative and creativity to improve results.

“Workplace MVPs” build their value by:

  1. Improving revenues (increasing sales and customer loyalty)
  2. Reducing costs and improving organizational efficiency
  3. Innovating (developing new products, services, or procedures)
  4. Leading high impact projects that contribute to the success of the enterprise


Importantly, each of these soft skills applies to our personal lives as well, and it’s never too soon to start building them. How would the teens you know fare in these skill areas? Yourself? Stay tuned for Part Three next week!

Diversify Your Life

Sports psychologists tell us that athletes who play one sport experience burnout at much higher rates than athletes who play a variety of sports. The principle is true across the board: no matter how good something is, whether a sport, a career, a relationship, or an investment, it’s diversity in all those areas that makes life richer. 

Are you someone who focuses your life in just a few areas? Or, are your interests varied and your experiences diverse? Here’s a great example of how life diversification can work. Take PGA golfer Brandt Snedecker, who won the 2012 PGA tour championship, and also the Fed Ex Cup, for a whopping $11.4 million purse. It would be easy to assume Brandt’s victory was due to his exponential driving ability and fantastic putting (in this tournament he was number one for both). But that’s only part of the picture.

In an interview, Brandt said he has learned a powerful lesson as he has gotten older: Having balance in his life gives him a better golf game. These days, Brandt says, he doesn’t practice as much as he used to (sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?). He works out in the gym much less. He gives more time to family. The results? A renewed sense of well-being, a better mental state, and, he feels, an overall a better golf game.

How about you? Are you someone who focuses your life in just a few areas? Or, are your interests varied and your experiences diverse? Think of the following important areas of life. Rank them from one to 12 in order of their importance to you:

               1.     Relationships—family and friends

               2.     Marriage and parenting

               3.     Career / school

               4.     Spiritual life

               5.     Entertainment

               6.     Learning

               7.     Physical activity

               8.     Travel and leisure

               9.     Arts and nature

               10.  Hobbies

               11.  Community service/volunteerism

               12.  Down time


Now, consider how you’re allocating your time to these areas. Is it spread out or concentrated in only a few areas? While each person is different, variety will diversify who you are and enrich your life.

This lesson is as true for young people as it is for adults. Excessive pressure to achieve at academics or sports can cause teens to over-allocate their time and energy in those two areas, leaving little time for family, hobbies, and just plain ol’ “down time.” Whether you’re 16 or 60, this is a sure-fire recipe for burnout and it’s becoming increasingly common in the younger generation.


For all of us, making time for family, and for meaningful activities that enrich our life, will reduce our stress and burnout—and may actually help us perform better at the other things we do! Yes, variety is the spice of life!

Have you learned how to create balance in your life? How have you done it?  Or, are you one who is looking for ways to diversify your life?  Please share your comments and questions below; we’d love to have this conversation with you!


Be a Lifelong Learner

School’s out!

I’m not sure who loves to hear those words more—kids or teachers! I guess all those seniors out there finally found the cure for their senioritis. 

But, just because school’s out doesn’t mean learning has to go out the window, as well. Education isn’t just for classrooms! Lifelong learning is a pursuit that will serve kids well for the rest of their lives.

I grew up living the simple life in small-town Wisconsin. It was a childhood I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I spent most of my free time either playing sports or hanging out in the woods with my friends. But, while that got me through high school and college just fine, I began to notice something early in my career…most of my peers were more intellectually well-rounded than me. I especially noticed it at gatherings when politics and world affairs were discussed.

I knew I had some serious catching up to do, especially considering the growing number of client meetings I attended. Thankfully, once I committed to stepping up my intellectual game, my confidence grew. It made a huge difference in my investment management career where I evaluated successful leaders.

In this global, knowledge-based economy, students need an insatiable appetite for learning. This means not only expanding their career/major subject knowledge, but also having diverse interests. Encourage them to explore other subject areas  that challenge their minds or satisfy their curiosity.

Summer vacation is a great time to expand your horizons and try something new. Here are some ideas for the young people in your life (or for yourself!):

·      Check out the free summer concerts happening in cities all over; discover some new music

·      Learn a new sport or revisit one you haven’t played in awhile

·      Catch up on current events by reading newspapers or magazines (print or online)

·      Volunteer for a charity

·      Read a book that wasn’t assigned to you

·      Write a book (why not?)

·      Go places: the beach, the park, a museum, the library, the zoo

·      Enjoy the outdoors: try rock climbing, go biking, go kayaking or paddleboarding, go for a hike

·      Job shadow someone who is employed in a career field you’re considering

Encourage the young people you know to stretch their wings a little, to be lifelong learners. It’ll help them advance in their career and make them more well-rounded and dynamic people.


What are ways you’ve encouraged learning in your children or student outside the classroom? How about for yourself?  How do YOU keep sharp and keep building your repertoire of skills and information? Please comment below and let us know your thoughts and suggestions.