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Meta-Skills: What Are They? How Do We Develop Them in the Workplace?

A drawing of a human brain with a lightbulb inside
Which meta-skills are you developing?

Introduction

Did you know that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed interpersonal skills? In a world where change is constant and rapid, the ability to adapt and thrive is more crucial than ever. Meta-skills are those foundational abilities that help individuals learn new skills, solve problems, and navigate change. Let’s explore what meta-skills are, why they matter, and how you can develop them within your team.


What Are Meta-Skills and Their Future Relevance?

Meta-skills are overarching abilities that support the development of other skills and are particularly crucial for team performance. As technology evolves, specific job skills change, but meta-skills remain valuable because they make individuals versatile and capable of continuous learning. Here are three key meta-skills relevant to enhancing team performance:


  • Self-Awareness: Understanding your own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. This skill helps team members recognise their impact on others and adjust their behaviour to foster a cohesive team environment. By identifying personal triggers and emotional responses, individuals can manage their actions better and contribute positively to the team’s dynamics. Self-awareness also aids in attention management, helping individuals stay productive and focused.

  • Emotional Intelligence: The ability to manage your own emotions and understand others’ emotions. This skill is crucial for fostering empathy, which helps in understanding colleagues’ perspectives and building stronger interpersonal relationships. Emotional intelligence also aids in managing stress and conflict, leading to a more harmonious work environment. Moreover, emotional intelligence is essential for effective leadership, as it enables leaders to inspire, motivate, and guide their teams successfully.

  • Communication: Conveying information clearly and effectively to ensure understanding. Good communication skills are essential for expressing ideas, providing feedback, and active listening. Effective communication helps prevent misunderstandings, enhances collaboration, and ensures that all team members are aligned towards common goals.

3 key meta-skills for team performance
3 key meta-skills for team performance

Other Meta-Skills

While we’ve highlighted three key meta-skills, it’s important to recognise others that are equally valuable, such as learning how to learn, influence, creative problem-solving, and resilience. For instance, Google’s policy of allowing employees to spend 20% of their time on projects outside their job description fosters continuous learning and innovation. Steve Jobs’ influence led to groundbreaking innovations at Apple, and the development of COVID-19 vaccines required creative problem-solving. J.K. Rowling’s journey to publishing “Harry Potter” demonstrates resilience. These skills also contribute significantly to professional growth and organisational success.

 

Developing Meta-Skills in the Workplace

Developing meta-skills requires a strategic approach that combines training, real-world application, and continuous support. Here are some practical steps to foster self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and communication within your team:

 

Self-Awareness

  1. Reflection Exercises: Encourage employees to spend 10-15 minutes at the end of each workday reflecting on their daily experiences and behaviours. Journaling can be an effective tool for this. Set aside time once a week, such as Friday afternoons, for a group reflection session where team members can share their insights and learnings.

  2. Feedback Sessions: Implement regular 360-degree feedback sessions where employees can receive constructive feedback from peers, subordinates, and supervisors. Consider scheduling these sessions quarterly to ensure consistent feedback and improvement.

  3. Personality Assessments: Use tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or DISC assessments to help employees understand their personality traits and how they influence their work behaviour. Conduct these assessments annually and follow up with workshops to discuss the results.


Emotional Intelligence

  1. Emotional Check-Ins: Start meetings with a brief check-in where team members share how they are feeling. This practice fosters emotional awareness and empathy. Allocate the first 10 minutes of your weekly team meetings for this activity.

  2. Empathy Training: Provide training sessions focused on developing empathy and understanding others’ perspectives. These can be half-day workshops held monthly, with practical exercises and role-playing scenarios to enhance learning.

  3. Stress Management Techniques: Teach techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises to help employees manage their emotions better. Offer daily mindfulness sessions or meditation breaks and consider inviting a professional to lead these sessions once a week.


Communication

  1. Active Listening Workshops: Conduct workshops that focus on improving listening skills, ensuring that team members truly understand each other’s points of view. Schedule these workshops quarterly and incorporate interactive activities like paired listening exercises.

  2. Clear Messaging Training: Offer training on how to communicate clearly and concisely, both in written and verbal forms. These can be short, one-hour sessions held bi-weekly, focusing on practical techniques and real-world examples.

  3. Regular Team Meetings: Hold regular team meetings to ensure that all members are on the same page, encouraging open dialogue and feedback. Set a consistent schedule, such as every Monday morning, to align goals for the week and address any concerns.


If you need further assistance in developing these meta-skills within your team, our Team Performance Accelerators, personalised coaching services, and wellbeing initiatives can provide tailored support to help you achieve your goals. Wellbeing initiatives can be easily arranged and customised based on specific needs, perhaps starting with a survey to gauge where your team might need expert advice or specific techniques.

 

Measuring the Impact of Meta-Skills Development

To ensure your meta-skills development initiatives are effective, you can measure their impact through various methods. Collect employee feedback on training programmes and workshops using regular surveys to gauge satisfaction and perceived effectiveness. Monitor employee engagement levels, as higher engagement often indicates successful meta-skills development. Improved meta-skills typically lead to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover, which can be observed through retention rates. By analysing these metrics, you can assess the effectiveness of your initiatives and make necessary adjustments.

 

What to do Now?

So, what’s next? If you’re a leader, start by assessing your team’s strengths and areas for growth in meta-skills. Consider simple actions like incorporating regular emotional check-ins during meetings or encouraging reflective journaling. For individuals, take a moment to reflect on which meta-skill might have the greatest impact on your personal and professional growth. Whether it’s enhancing your emotional intelligence, improving communication, or becoming more self-aware, small steps can lead to significant improvements. Remember, developing meta-skills is a journey, and every step forward brings you closer to unlocking your full potential.


Investing in meta-skills is a strategic move to future-proof your workforce. By fostering self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and communication, you can build a resilient and versatile team ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges. Recognise and develop other skills like learning how to learn, influence, creative problem-solving, and resilience to ensure comprehensive growth. Start integrating meta-skills development into your training programmes today to secure your organisation’s long-term success and sustainability.


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