Improving and Broadening Executive Skills Key to Professional Growth

Bob Cavoto, CEO, 20/20 Foresight

Have your professional skills become as stale as day old bread or do you continually seek out new assignments that will help you broaden and improve your executive skills? If you want to catch the positive attention of bosses up the ladder or executive recruiters, you should be continually trying to broaden your skills to become a more versatile professional.

According to a Pew Research Center Study issued in October 2016, more than half of working adults believe "it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace." The report goes on to state that, "About three-quarters of U.S. adults (72%) say that individuals should bear ‘a lot’ of responsibility for making sure they have the right skills and education to be successful in today’s economy."

This same study notes that from 1980 to 2015, overall employment increased by 50%. However, the growth was 83% when looking at “jobs that require average or above average social skills…such as interpersonal, management and communication skills, and those that require higher levels of analytical skills (77%), such as critical thinking and computer skills.”

A crucial factor in progressing professionally is to continually improve and broaden what are called executive skills, or the competencies used to organize our lives daily and to reach the objectives -- big or small -- we have set for ourselves. When executive functions aren’t properly developed, there can be problems with analyzing, planning, organizing, scheduling, and completing tasks, the very skills noted as important in the Pew study.

Peg Dawson, Ed.D and Richard Guare, Phd, who are known for their work with children but branched out to write The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain's Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and at Home, developed a test that that helps adults evaluate skill sets and identify both strengths and areas of improvement while also showing how to not let challenges hinder the realization of goals. It is available via the Virginia Commonwealth University here. Taking this test and answering honestly can greatly assist any professional in assessing and working on their executive skills.

Depending on the time and circumstances, the types of executive skills needed may vary. As you manage your career, you need to realistically assess what is needed to be considered for positions with greater responsibility. If you are looking towards eventually holding an executive position, you need need to understand the capabilities you should concentrate on improving based on the business you’re in or the one to which you’d prefer to transition.

Increasingly, the executive skills developed in order to rise through the ranks, may not be enough to win the day. In addition to the traditional role of implementing strategies set out by the CEO, newly appointed senior executives must be prepared to provide counsel in areas that may be out of their specific area of expertise.

In addition to executive skills, it is critical to continually work on keeping interview skills sharp. Knowing how to highlight the right experience in both a resume and in interviews is an essential skill set to move up the career ladder. We often find that clients do have strong, relevant job experience, but they simply haven't positioned this experience correctly on their resumes or in job interviews or on their resumes.

We recently worked with a senior vice president of real estate development whose goal was to become a chief operating officer. Unfortunately, her lack of experience in financing and a career sabbatical was precluding her from being considered for positions for which she felt qualified. We worked with her to sharpen her focus on:

  • Career paths and targeted resumes;
  • Development and execution of a focused strategic marketing plan;
  • How to best tell her “story” while clearly articulating the reasons for her sabbatical
  • and why it was beneficial for her and future employers in the long-term; and
  • Outreach to and direct contact with the hundreds of firms that would be
  • impressed with her experience and credentials.

After working with our career experts, in three months, our client had three job offers in the Southeast, Northwest and West Coast.  She ultimately chose a Chief Operating Officer position with a Real Estate Services Firm in the Northwest.

20/20 Foresight Executive Marketing has helped hundreds of job seekers successfully navigate the interview process by providing individual interview preparation and coaching. To learn more about executive marketing and career management services, contact 20/20 Foresight at or call 708-246- 2100 and our career experts will be in touch.

Download a PDF of this blog.