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Tech skills give you job security. People skills give you board seats

I remember when I first realized that true power was not in technical skills, but all in people skills.

I was in my graduate talent programme, interviewing to get into the big restructuring project that had just started.
McKinsey was launching the program for us and it was a colossal opportunity to network with the upper management and learn from the most driven consultants -always get into any restructuring projects if you can-.

That day Michael, an IT SVP, was interviewing in the teleconference room.
He asked me why I wanted to join the program. Little did I know, I said that I wanted to join to "learn the lean methodology".

His answer changed how I looked at career growth (and opened my eyes).

He largely ignored my initial, useless answer -great frame control that also saved my face-. He didn't correct me, but picking up from what I said last, he went on:

 Are you here to learn the lean methodology, or to learn about people skills? The methodology is an added benefit, and what's an even bigger opportunity for you is to learn the soft skills.
Things like leadership, persuasion, stakeholder management, presentations... ".


That guy talking (soft skills) presents the results of what others will be doing for him (tech skills)

I went in there focusing on technical skills.
And Michael Schlitt, I still remember his name, showed me that the methodology -the technical skils- meant little to those who had real power.
And he even did it without making me feel like an idiot for my answer. He showed me, with a brimming smile, what being an SVP as all about. And it wasn't about technical skills. Michael didn't know shit about lean methodology.
Power was all about what I now call the "executive skills".

The executive skills, which Michael that day didn't mention, also include knowledge and mastery of power dynamics.
Things like speaking with confidence, looking authoritative, and knowing who to ally with.

All I could answer that day was: "yeah, I see, actually, that's why I want to join".
I sure had a long way to go to learn more about exec skills :).



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