Generic skills are sometimes referred to as “meta-skills,” “character skills,” or “learning how to learn” skills. The word “generic” comes from the Latin “genus.” It has the same root as “generate.” Generic skills
Generic skills are high-order, transferable skills that are common to almost all complex endeavours. They include skills such as communicating, problem-solving, curiosity, patience, flexibility, purpose, persistence, resilience, courage and creating that apply across all specific fields. They enable us to organize, adapt, and strategically apply our specific skills in new situations and circumstances.
Generic skills also enable us to generate new skills (not to mention new products, services, relationships, communities, etc) that help us succeed in novel situations, manage and adapt to change and to flourish by creating what matters, even in the face of adversity.
They are important today because work and life are in flux. Both are getting more complex. Both require flexibility, initiative, creativity, emotional mastery and the ability to take on many different tasks – and to learn from your doing and your experience.
Never has Aldous Huxley’s statement “Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you.” been truer!
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Though there is some disagreement among psychologists as to what constitutes true emotional intelligence, it is generally said to include at least three skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and cheering up or calming down other people.
There is currently no validated test or scale for emotional intelligence as there is for “g,” the general intelligence factor a fact that has led some critics to claim the concept is either sketchy or entirely non-existent. Despite this criticism, however, emotional intelligence (or “emotional quotient,” as it’s sometimes known) has wide appeal among the general public, as well as in certain industries. In recent years, some employers have even incorporated “emotional intelligence tests” into their application or interview processes, on the theory that someone high in emotional intelligence would make a better or co-worker. But while some studies have found a link between emotional intelligence and job performance, others have shown no correlation, and the lack of a scientifically valid scale makes it difficult to truly measure or predict someone’s emotional intelligence on the job.
Having good, strong problem-solving skills can make a huge difference to your career.
Problems are at the center of what many people do at work every day. Whether you’re solving a problem for a client (internal or external), supporting those who are solving problems, or discovering new problems to solve, the problems you face can be large or small, simple or complex, and easy or difficult.
A fundamental part of every manager’s role is finding ways to solve them. So, being a confident problem solver is important to your success. Much of that confidence comes from having a good process to use when approaching a problem. With one, you can solve problems quickly and effectively. Without one, your solutions may be ineffective, or you’ll get stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences.
There are four basic steps in solving a problem
1.Defining the problem
3.Evaluating and selecting alternatives.
very significant part of this involves making sense of the complex situation in which the problem occurs, so that you can pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Many of the tools in this section help you do just that. We look at these, and then review some useful, well-established problem-solving frameworks.
Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.
Through the release of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, the caveman gained a rush of energy, which prepared him to either fight the tiger or run away. That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy, it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.
In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes.
The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health. The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido.
Stress constantly creeps into our lives. It can come from the frustration of a traffic jam or a confrontation with a partner. Stress can be spurred by money worries or spiked by a sudden health scare. It can exact a toll upon you physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
Stress is a fact of life. But you determine how it affects your life. You can counteract the damaging effects of stress by calling upon your body’s rich potential for self-healing.
Stress Management ; a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, is packed with strategies you can use to rein in the runaway changes unleashed by stress. These proven techniques can help you repel the consuming effects of stress and reclaim and restore inner peace.
The report will show you how to elicit at will the relaxation response. This is the simple, calming opposite of the stress response. And it will introduce you to various methods of producing this response from focused breathing to tai chi and repetitive prayer.
Stress Management ; will help you explore cognitive restructuring, a strategy to change the way you look at things. You’ll find how to challenge negative thoughts and avoid jumping to conclusions. And, if you’ve heard about the power of visualization and meditation, but don’t know where to start, the report will show you.
The report will help you identify the warning signs of stress. It will alert you to the dynamic roles of nutrition and social support. It will give you tips for coping with caregiver stress, work-related stress, and stress from conflict with others. And you’ll find three rewarding mental exercises that boost happiness.
Plus, a special section will show you how to take the sting out of ten common stressors everything from being late to feeling burned out. You’ll be briefed on relaxation techniques to use when you have only ten minutes or even just one. You’ll also get suggestions for communicating better, for learning to nurture yourself, and using mindfulness to reduce workday stress.
Setting goals and making decisions go hand – in – hand. To set and achieve your academic goals you will need to decide what they are and how you’ll know once you have achieved them.
Once you have your goals you can use them as motivational tools. When you’re feeling weighed down by an assignment then try visualising the goal you are pursuing. If the assignment is an important part of you getting that HD, imagine opening your results email and finding a HD waiting for you. Imagine the pride you will feel and how enjoyable it will be to share your success with the people you care about. Each assignment is a milestone on the journey to that moment.
Making Decisions Have you ever stopped to think about how we make decisions? Usually we employ one or more of the following strategies
This is the ultimate generic skill. The central feature of good management is to get other people to do what you would like them to do. These sorts of skill – for example, to be the medical director of a trust – are well described in previous Career Focus articles. I discuss here some of the most important skills.
Leading is about creating and communicating a plausible vision and empowering colleagues so they can help achieve it. Plenty of people have visions, and many other people can empower. When you have the ability, motivation, and resources to combine these, you are a leader.
The most important formal opportunity to get things done with other people is some sort of meeting. Meetings can happen anywhere, from a corridor to a boardroom. To get the best outcome from a meeting, be clear about what you would like to achieve and what you think is possible before the meeting starts. If you have a game plan with a colleague, brief and debrief carefully. It is said that the minutes of the most carefully planned meetings are written beforehand.
In general, the people who achieve most in meetings are clear about what their ideal (and realistic) outcome is; know who the key players (allies and blockers) are and what motivates them; have a good sense of timing; sit where everyone’s eye (especially the chairperson’s) can be caught easily.
The selection process (interviewing and appointing) risks being a minefield of political correctness and legal pitfalls, but there are many good courses available locally to help make the process as easy, fair, and productive as possible. The quality of our professional lives (to say nothing of the care that our patients receive) depends largely on our colleagues. To improve your competence (for example, to interview is good practice for being interviewed and vice versa) and confidence, consult the postgraduate dean’s office, your college’s continuing medical education coordinator or any of the Career Focus trilogy on selection.
One of the most common grievances of registrars is the poor quantity and quality of feedback about their professional progress from so-called mentors and tutors. The annual assessment process introduced by Calman has gone only some way to address this. Giving good feedback improves the quality of professional development, quality of care, and morale of staff. It is a vital skill to acquire. Learning how to do it well needs good facilitation with techniques such as role play and well devised exercises.
While you are learning how to give it, make sure you learn how to receive it too. Every course for trainers should address this regularly.
So much information is available and is being generated that we stand no chance of keeping up to date with all the information we might need, no matter how specialised we are the only sustainable method of keeping up to date is to adopt a “just in time” approach, rather than a “just in case” approach. We need to be skilled at turning clinical problems into answerable questions, finding the relevant research information in minutes and hours – appraising it, using it, and storing it for subsequent use in similar clinical situations.
An example of this transition is the tradition of running a journal club. A common mistake at such events is to start with papers that are unrelated to everyday practice. It is better to start with actual clinical problems.
The importance of being able to reflect on one’s knowledge and ability cannot be overstated. The figure shows the classic progress over time of competence and insight. The paradox is identifying where one is “unconsciously incompetent.”
The first steps in developing a lifelong approach to learning entail attitudes not skills. Much of what we think we know may be untrue and much of what we need to know, we don’t. This should not paralyse us with fear, anxiety, and lack of credibility. It should motivate us to be honest about our contribution and limitations and energise us to learn the skills needed to keep as up to date as possible.
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