We sat down with Phill Nosworthy, multi-disciplined executive coach, global speaker and influential change-maker, to discuss what he’s defined as the "Gaps." Gaps are the areas companies and individuals need to close in order to ensure success, progress and fulfilment. Think of them as the sometimes-isolated ingredients of success that, when converged, combine to fuel extraordinary growth. Phill cites five. Today, we’ll focus on the first: the convergence of skill and character.
Q: Kick us off. What lead you to the realization of these gaps in businesses?
I’ve observed and worked with many leaders over the years who were, on paper, successful, but did not feel it. And that was something we became very curious about. It triggered some foundational thinking—what, then, is success?
If we are working so hard to ‘be successful’, then we should also be careful of what our definition of success is. With a poor definition of success, the pursuit of it can be a futile, or unfulfilling, exercise. Worse, we could be working hard and never take the time to define success for ourselves. You’d be surprised how many people we work with—high achievers and people of note—who fall into that trap.
It was this simple observation that brought to mind the gap between meaning and mastery. You see, it’s very possible for people to be good at things—that’s the mastery bit—that don’t matter to them. It’s also possible for people to know what matters most to them, and not have the skill, or mastery, to obtain it for themselves.
It was by looking closer at that gap—the gap between meaning and mastery—that exists in so many people’s lives, that we also noticed a series of other gaps that prevent people from really getting what it is they go to work for.
More than anything else, that’s what I want for people. To get what they go to work for every day.
Q: So, the first big gap you want people to converge is skill and character. How do you define them?
Skill is about information, application, education and access to growth.
Character is what inhibits or enables that skill. It's that grit, tenacity, resilience, substance, decency and generosity. All these deeper aspects of who it is you are instead of just what can you do.
Q: What do you mean by the gap between skill and character?
This is the gap between your talent—or how good you are at accomplishing your task—and the substance of who you are as a person or company.
Today’s workforce is often comprised of deeply skillful teams. Our workplaces and education systems have really optimized for the development and identification of talent. It's all about skill. If you're smart enough, most businesses will put up with just about anything from you. But what we're starting to notice is that the marketplace and teams—people—have less appetite for that behavior.
It’s critical for people to know that skill is essential, but that it’s their character that either enables or inhibits that skill.
More than anything else in business, we need a convergence between skill and character. I think there are some spectacular role models around the world who are leading by example, showing us what that should look like and helping people build courage around the fact that doing things in an honorable way that respects people doesn’t come at the expense of bottom-line results.
Q: Can you give us an example of such a role model?
A great example is Microsoft, and their idea that growth-minded culture gives people the courage to recognize that they are a constant work in progress - always growing, always progressing. While an employee there might be 45 or 50 years old with an MBA, he or she is still a work in progress. So, a growth mindset lets people focus on how they're improving rather than proving to other people they’ve already achieved the pinnacle of their development as a human.
Since Microsoft shifted to this mindset, share prices have gone through the roof, as well as product quality, reputation and market share. Culturally, it's a wonderful place to work, with young people lining up to join the company.
Q: Are we seeing this gap just within a company’s culture, or in the marketplace too?
We’re absolutely seeing it between consumers and companies. Access to information produces increased responsibility and accountability, along with heightened scrutiny. Simply put, the public is watching the actions of business leaders, and making their choices based on those actions.
Q: Why is it so important for companies to be aware of this gap and how it affects their culture?
Work is already stressful for people. Right now, researchers would agree that about 20-30 percent of our workday consists of complex problem solving. The balance is rote tasks, checking in with people, answering email, and the day-to-day admin of work.
But technology is evolving to take more of these simple tasks off our desks altogether. That means, that in the near and immediate future, more of our time will be given to more complex tasks. If people are stressed by a 20 or 30% complex task allocation, I wonder what will happen to culture, performance and the qualitative experience of work when 50-60% of our day is complex.
This is a time then that we must focus on better converging character with skill. Remember character is the thing that harnesses and directs our skill.
It is our capacity, our tenacity, our courage, our resolve and, quite frankly, it is also our ability to create boundaries, and know what matters to us, and to work to a code.
If there's ever been a time to focus on character and looking after ourselves, it's now. Cultures can change. We can bring deep substance to business.
But we’ll need people role modeling it and doing it in a way that’s natural.
Q: So, how do we start to close this gap?
It’s actually quite simple, built on the back of self-awareness and a little daily self-reflection and intention-setting. It comes from working on four other convergences:
- Knowledge and Application
- Identity and Reputation
- Intention and Action
- Confidence and Courage
Ready to learn how to start closing these four key gaps? Stay tuned for more of our interview with Phill Nosworthy. In the meantime, look for his new book, CONVERGENCE, which discusses the five essential gaps in business and life.
About the Author
Christian Homme is a Sr. Copywriter for Tech Data. In his role he creates and reviews content for Tech Data, their partners and their resellers. Prior to joining this position he has created content for a variety of industries including major retailers, government accounts and food-service companies.