We all have skills.  

Maybe you can solve complex mathematical equations.  
Maybe you can fix a leaky drain pipe.  
Maybe you can cut quite the rug on the dance floor.

Maybe some of these skills have even gotten you hired at some point or another.  But while these skills may be vital to your job (or your job's annual Christmas party), people generally aren't fired because of deficiencies in these highly specific skills.  When things go wrong on the job, it's generally because of problems in a person's adaptive skill set. 

Our skills, in all their variety, can pretty much be categorized into 3 different types:

JOB-SPECIFIC SKILLS
These skills pertain primarily to the very specific talents and abilities your job requires: A lawyer's ability to write a brief, a nurse's ability to give an IV to a patient, a programer's ability to write code for a website or a performer's ability to play the piano.

TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
These are skills you can take you with you to many different occupations:  General management skills, the ability to delegate, the ability to use a computer keyboard, public speaking skills, etc.

ADAPTIVE SKILLS
This group of skills is basically a cross-section of all the emotional and social competencies that you learned by the time you were around 15 years old and that you brought with you into adulthood.  They include:  

  • How you relate to others and make people feel
  • How you understand and express yourself 
  • How you react and respond
  • How you receive feedback (do you punish people by being defensive?)
  • How you deal with anxiety
  • How you handle change

It's these skills that studies show tend to make or break our success in the workplace.  

As I said above, most people aren't let go from a job because of a problem with their job-specific skills (such a pianist being fired because she woke up one day and forgot how to play the piano).  Most people are fired because of their adaptive skills (i.e. said pianist constantly berates the composer, freaks out when given feedback or throws fits when the music for the concert is modified at the last minute).

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