My first corporate boss used to talk about computer knowledge as “lower level skills.” Granted, that was a different time; there were many executives who didn’t even understand how to turn on a computer.
Personally, I thought my boss was full of crap, and embraced learning whatever I could to prepare me to do more things and perform more productively in my career.
One thing that meant was figuring out how to get the most from all the software we had available. It also meant growing by helping others become more proficient at getting things done too.
Strategic Leadership Opportunities Tied to Lower Level Skills
Flash forward to ten years ago this week.
I was at work on the Saturday over the 4th of July holiday organizing my office, taking advantage of the break time to get ahead. While sorting through file cabinets, my boss at the time called my cell phone and asked when I was getting back to town. Turns out, he thought I’d gone to Daytona to attend the NASCAR race our company’s car was participating in over the weekend.
When I told him I was one floor below him, he said to stay put, and he’d come down and get me.
He escorted me to the executive level on the 10th floor, and we went to his office. He closed the door and informed me the following Tuesday our company would announce we were buying our number one competitor.
After signing a non-disclosure agreement, I learned there was a very small group of executives busily working to prepare for the announcement. One snag they’d hit, however, was no one had the PowerPoint skills to create the investor presentations needed for the Tuesday announcement.
Putting together the PowerPoint slides was going to be my job.
So while I was a vice president, and heavily involved in market strategy for our $3 billion corporation, I was brought in to the inner circle on this billion dollar acquisition because I knew PowerPoint and Excel inside and out.
Ah, my lower level skills were paying off once again.
Lower Level Skills Can Be Strategic Too
The moral of the story is this: when you have an opportunity to learn an additive skill, whether earlier or later into your career, don’t ever think it’s beneath you.
Because when the unusual and pressure-filled times hit, you never know when whatever are viewed as lower level skills in your business will be the ones that put you on the team working on the most strategic move your organization ever made. - Mike Brown