The Invisible Skills That Are Crucial To Success

You should rethink your definition of skills: the small, often invisible, things contribute most to your success.

The Invisible Skills That Are Crucial To Success
[Photo: Flickr user Alexander Lyubavin]

If someone asked you to list your skill set, you probably wouldn’t mention the fact that you show up for work every day. But Jon Acuff, author of Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck, says you should rethink your definition of skills and recognize that the small things–like showing up–are often the “invisible” things that contribute most to your success.


“Most people think of the word ‘skills’ too narrowly, assuming that it means a subject you’ve earned a degree in, or bullet points you can list on a resume,” he says. “But skills are more than that. Your employer expects you to be at work every day, for example, and if you Google, ‘why do people get fired,’ absenteeism is on every list.”

“If you want to reinvent your work, you need to reinvent your definition of the word ‘skills,’” he says.

Acuff argues that everything you do at work is a skill, but most are invisible. “These are the skills that aren’t sexy,” he says. “They’re easy, unseen, and most people miss them. Ignore them, though, and they will turn into weaknesses over time.”

To change the way your company and clients view you, Acuff says it’s important to pay attention to the seemingly insignificant things. He shares six invisible skills and how they impact your career:

1. Figure Out Your Company’s Currency And What Value You Add

In certain jobs, such as a lawyer with billable hours, value is easily calculated, but most jobs don’t have something quite as clear cut. How do you measure the value you add?

“Every company has a currency, and it’s your job to figure out what that currency is,” says Acuff, adding that if you’re not sure, just ask. “When I worked at Home Depot, the currency of my position was writing compelling advertising, delivered on time, communicating what my boss wanted. If I did those things, I was adding value.


“Once you understand your company’s currency, you can lean in and add value.”

2. Take Responsibility For Your Attitude About The Aspects That Aren’t Fun

Being fired is often a direct result of your attitude. “Too often, employees have a foolish belief that it is the job of the company to fulfill their career desires,” he says. “But it’s not the company’s job for you to like your job; it’s your job for you to enjoy your job.”

Acuff says a lot of time is spent on discovering your calling or purpose, but every job has mundane aspects that won’t feel fulfilling.

“Filling out an expense report is not a calling question,” he says. “It’s an attitude question. If you’re boss says it’s important, do the work. Your attitude impacts how you work, and you’re in control of it. If you want to have a better job, start with having a better attitude.”

3. Express Gratefulness

Acuff recently spoke to employees at a credit union where its CEO was offering a paid, four-week sabbatical.

“I asked them if they were excited about what their company offers, and I added, ‘Do you understand how magical this is? Nobody is doing this!’” he says.


Too often, employees get used to a benefit, then demand and expect it, Acuff says. “It’s easier to complain than it is to be excited,” he says. “Choose to be excited about what you’re doing and for what you have. Don’t complain about the quality of the free lunch the company bought you, for example. They bought you free lunch. Be grateful.”

4. Respect The Company’s Gear

If your company provides you with a phone and a laptop, you do not own the phone and laptop, says Acuff. Instead, understand that you are the caregiver for the equipment and you must use it respectfully.

“Don’t post personal things online using your company laptop, and don’t misuse your company phone,” he says. “Too often, people complain, ‘I can’t believe they won’t let me access websites.’ It’s the company’s equipment, and that makes it the company’s rules. Remember that. It still belongs to them. Do what you want on your own equipment.”

5. Pay Attention in Meetings

With an abundance of meetings and conference calls, it’s easy to zone out. But how you behave in meetings is observed and noted, says Acuff.

“Coach yourself to be present and focused,” he says. “Don’t be on your phone or pretend to be taking notes. You’re not fooling anyone.”

6. Be Diplomatic

Never engage in useless power struggles just because you can, says Acuff. They never pay off in the long run.


“Don’t park in someone’s favorite spot or use the mug someone loves,” he says. “Losing those little battles on purpose helps you win the relationship.”