How to manage Aspirational Skills 1. Background Ever wondered why some young people just seem to go from one level of success to the next? Do you ever wonder why one person’s career just does not seem to take off as well as the next guy? The problem might be with “ aspirational skills “ (AS). Aspirational skills can be inborn with some, and absent with others. However, AS is a behavior pattern than can be taught and learnt. Aspirational skill refers to a person’s ability to see one self move forward in life, to understand what is required to succeed and to almost automatically adjust behavior to accommodate for the required state of existence. Well, as you believe, so shall it be. The question is, however, do you even know what you believe all the time? Aspirationally competent people are often unconsciously competent in this skills set, meaning that they just do it, without thinking about it too much! 2. Elements of aspirational skills Aspirational skills, like most human skills, can be analysed, copied and replicated. Managers can do a great deal to create, develop and cultivate Aspirational Skills with staff. There are seven main elements that comes to mind in the development of Aspirational Skills: 2.1 The sense of self awareness The development of aspirational skills can only happen if the sense of self-awareness is stimulated. In order to truly aspire, the individual must become aware of the possibilities that he or she has. The effective manager will thus identify ways to improve the sense of self-awareness of employees. Developing coaching programs, career advice, personality profile analysis and many more can do this. The self-awareness is a complex issue. One simply needs to look at an epoxide of Idols to see the lack of self-awareness – many people think they can sing, completely oblivious the fact that they are devoid of talent! Self-awareness is about an ostrich knowing what the best is that an ostrich can achieve, and it does not have to include flying. No amount of training, motivation and coaching could get the ostrich in the air. Unless a hurricane lifts this big bird of its feet, flying is just not an option. Self-awareness is about developing a realistic self-concept and understanding what the possibilities are that can be pursued. 2.2 Desire to be more The desire to be more than who you are is a very important part in development of aspirational skills. It starts with self-awareness and understanding where the individual is at in life. From there, a possible new future, should be constructed in the mind. Self-motivation, drive and the irrevocable will to succeed is a key requirement for success. The desire to be more suggests that the individual must have a “dream” – a future state of being. This desire, coupled with a vision, is needed to “see oneself” succeed. Visualizing the desired state of being is part of the plan to succeed. 2.3 Ability to develop a career path Once the self-awareness and desire to succeed is developed, the individual also needs to develop the skill to plan, step by step, how to get to success. This roadmap needs to have millstones and rewards for milestones. It is also important to celebrate milestones. Millstones make the individual realize that they have another step achieved towards the attainment of the big goal. Nothing succeeds like success – so if you can have the experience of success early on, it triggers the pattern in the brain to seek more, and aligns the sub-consciousness into a whole set of behaviors that drives success. Management of succession planning in the workplace goes a long way in this regard. 2.4 Develop a quest for knowledge A quest for knowledge is just as important in the development of aspirational skills. The more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to know. The quest for knowledge is a big driver in aspirational skills, as it demonstrates to the individual that he or she can know more, be more and become so much more. Management can do a lot to stimulate the quest for knowledge by making available training opportunities to staff. These can include face to face learning, e-learning and many more. 2.5 Contextual Skills When an individual truly understands the company they work for, the develop contextual skills. The contextual skills imply that an individual understands the big picture. Context explains the reasons why. If you have a reason to do what you do, doing it is so much easier. Often, a mother would to all she can for her children, including further studies, working extra hours and making the effort to ensure the education and well being of her children. If you have a reason why, coping with the how becomes easy. Management should pay careful attention to induction programs. 2.6 A sense of Purpose The pre-requisite for purpose is exactly, to understand the context. This means the individual knows the big picture, as in understands the company the work for, and the role and importance that their job has in the company. To know your role, is like understanding your purpose. This could be very well managed in the Job Description. Measurement of performance also goes a long way to confirming purpose and gives the individual a sense of achievement. 2.7 Creating synthesis Human information is doubling every 15 days in 2013. This suggests that staying up to date is a real challenge. All over the world, industries are professionalizing more. The need to stay current is reflected in the development of professional development (CPD) systems. The most important skill of the future is the ability to digest vast amounts of information and make meaningful decisions at the right time. Synthesis is about the ability to take seemingly unrelated information and turn it into new results. 3. How to unlock aspirational skills in your staff Managers that wish to unlock aspirational skills in staff need to consider the elements of aspirational skills. Aspirational skills can be taught as part of induction, and backed up by explaining a sensible career path policy. In addition, aspirational skills can be developed and taught as part of a self-management program. Linking the aspirational development program to a coaching and mentoring system is another possibility. However, aspirational skills are best managed indirectly as part of the performance management process. 4. The role of IDP’s The development of Individual Development Plans (IDP) enables the individual to document and therefore “project manage” the IDP towards a desired outcome. IDP makes it easy to measure milestones, and could serve as an integrated plan for the elements of aspirational skills. 5. Conclusion Aspirational skills could be developed as part of the organizational development plan. As with the case of effective human capital management, it constitutes the development of an integrated systems thinking approach. To develop aspirational skills is to develop the organization. It drives career planning and it pushes succession planning. Aspirational skills are the basis of self-motivation and self-management.