Defining The Skill Sets You Must Have With Skill Mapping

CM-MelpomeneMelpomene  by Edward Simmons.

by Murray Johannsen. Published on November 6, 2016. Comments or Observations? Feel free to connect with the author by Linkedin or through this website

Using skill mapping to define skill sets is about creating a vision for yourself — your career and your life – yours, not the bosses, not the corporations, not your parents. Yours.

Remember, most people know what they don’t want, but not what they do want. You know what you don’t like about your current job, but could you visualize something better?

Step into a better future by following this practical three-phase process of mapping skills. The beauty in this technique lies in the fact that you can:

a. Improve current performance, while

b. Preparing for your next big roles.

Essentially, skills mapping is the process of getting from where you are to where you want to be. 

What is Skills Mapping

The method of skill mapping is built on the metaphor of the journey. And if fact, individuals can go on many types of journeys such as a  Journey of Discovery, a Divine Journey, or more commonly the Treasure Hunt

The process of defining skill sets starts out with an assumption — that you want to create the map that allows you to create your future. 

Phase 1: Mapping Your Future

You really cannot follow someone else’s journey, you must create your own map. 

The first phase skill set definition consists of defining these six steps: 

• 1. Visualize Your Current and Future Roles

• 2. Continuously Scanning the Environment

• 3. Determining Threats and Opportunities

• 4. Assess Your Core Competencies, and

• 5. Decide on Strengths and Weaknesses

Phase 2: Choose Your Best Routes

The map has given you the layout and you now know your destination; but there are many paths to get there. Sometimes the path is not clear, sometimes multiple paths  can take you there.

Imagination does not end in mapping, it is also important in routing. For you must know what actions to take at the right time. 

Phase 3: Travel the Path

One needs to take action to get from where you are to where you want to be. This is commonly described as execution, or getting tactical.

But there is another aspect of this, one many neglect. You must also important abilities such  leadership skills and know the skill of learning skills.

Phase 1 of the Skill Mapping Process: Creating The Map

Skill-Set 1: Visualize Your Current and Future Roles

Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” — Horace Greeley, 1865

Painting By John Gast (circa 1872): Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny was a political ideology held by Americans during the 19th Century. This belief held that the nation should expand from the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific. Notice the use of light shining on technologies such as the railroad and the telegraph: the cultivation of the land, wagon trains and so on. Notice the retreat of Indians and native species into the darkness; and that the East lies in the light of the known, but the West there is the darkness of the unknown.

I sometimes think the education system causes imagination to atrophy, along with creativity. It’s one reason that the current educational establishment does not work for many (Robinson, 2010). If you somehow manage to get from K1 to 12 with your imagination intact, surely college will destroy it.

The case can be made that formal education also kills imagination. Think back, in any of your classes at any time in you life, did a teacher ask to close your eyes and use your imagination? 

Dream big dreams; only big dreams have the power to move men’s souls.” — Marcus Aureliu

Painting by: Anton Von Werner: State Opening of Parliament (German Reichstag) on 25 June 1888, celebrated in the White Hall of the Berlin Palace In life and work, all of us play many roles. In this painting, we see a many individuals, playing many roles.
Painting by: Anton Von Werner: State Opening of Parliament (German Reichstag) on 25 June 1888, celebrated in the White Hall of the Berlin Palace In life and work, all of us play many roles. In this painting, we see a many individuals, playing many roles.


You can choose to be a bit player on the stage of work or a superstar. But to be a star, you will want to learn skill mapping. Sometimes this is also called competency modeling. A core part of this process is to define the key skill-sets required to play a particular role. But before that, one has to define your social roles.

Step 2a: Your Current Role

Step 2b: Your Next Role

Step 2c: Your Dream Role

Skill Mapping 2: Continuously Scan the Environment

“You can choose to exist in a dark closet of ignorance or step into the light of knowing.” — M. Johannsen

Scanning the environment is a process, one that you do seeking even daily. The more you pay attention to what’s happening in the environment, the better to you can prepare. But you have to know where to look. Painting by: Ivan Aivazovsky (1817–1900):
The Ninth Wave


As told in the book called “The Big Short,” by the 2007 it was clear to some that a recession was looming. These investors saw what few government policy makers, bankers, businessmen or consumers perceived and shorted the market, making hundreds of millions of dollars. 

But for the millions in America who were paying less attention to the big picture, it was a bad thing since banks reposed their homes. If you see dark clouds, the wind is picking up, rain drops in the air, you best bring an umbrella.

Dealing with threats is one major reason you want to engage in environmental scanning. The other reason? It helps you detect opportunities.

Skill Set 3: Identify Opportunities and Threats

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” — Winston Churchill

Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgsky (1837–1898): Fire in the Village. While some changes are obvious, many still find themselves unprepared to deal with it when it occurs.
Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgsky (1837–1898): Fire in the Village. While some changes are obvious, many still find themselves unprepared to deal with it when it occurs.


Let’s face it, threats stress people out; they cause anxiety, worry and fear. It’s so much easier to deny them, than deal with them. But acting like an ostrich with your head in the sand does not minimize your exposure.

People in earthquake zones fail to prepare for the next Big One, those that live on the beach don’t hurricane proof their homes, some drivers try to run without car insurance, and those living next to rivers can’t imagine the water breaking through a levy.

It’s so, so much easier to deny the problem than to deal with it. We all do it. We shouldn’t. Threats need to be minimized. They need to be dealt with. They must be faced. Show courage — be fearless.

“The wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” — Sir Francis Bacon.

For the artist, the painting is both creative expression and the opportunity to make money when displayed in an art gallery.

Fast burners know whether something is an opportunity or not. They know when an unexpected opportunity presents itself and take advantage of it.They can even create their own opportunities. One doesn’t do this by sitting in an easy chair with a scotch in your hand and letting your imagination run wild. Its focused effort applied for days, months or years toward a vision or goal. It’s something great men and women know how to do. And its something the rest of us should learn.

Skill Mapping 4: Assess Your Five Core Organizational Skill

“The door of opportunity frequently opens for those best prepared to walk through it.” — Murray Johannsen

Image by: AnonMoos
Image by: AnonMoos: Borromean Cross. It symbolizes that fact that the Core Five skill categories are linked together and not independent of each other.


In the Core Five Organizational model, every work role has a unique set of five competencies. They are:

Technical. Everything job requires the use of some type of technology. IT skills anyone?

Leadership. The focus here is on the “soft skills” and getting things done through people.

Management. We all manage some type of work. And of course, all must manage time and money, resources typically in scarce supply.

Strategy and Tactics. Essentially, you have to know where you are, where you’re going, and how to get there. And one must go tactical and to execute a strategy in time.

Self-Mastery. The one area many people ignore, its a number of mental processes underlying both success and failure.

For example, a college student must learn to manage time, develop self-discipline, get good at certain elements of information technology, etc. Prior to graduation, the really smart ones execute a job search strategy and had developed the communication skills necessary to get through an interview.

Of course once college students graduate, they must start the skill development process all over again. For example, at the university they learn a skill called writing a research paper. However, in corporate America, rain will fall in the Sahara about as often as you will write in scholar English a research paper with citations in the APA style in 12 pt Times.

Sadly, many students lack the skill sets employers want and so graduate into a time of being unemployed or underemployed.

Skill-Set 5: Define Strengths and Weaknesses

“It’s not your strength’s people talk about over a beer.” — Murray Johannsen

Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779): Mengs,_Helios_als_Personifikation_des_Mittages. Most of us, have no idea what our strengths are, let alone our weaknesses. This image symbolizes the special skill of archery (and I suppose)  of  flying.


Why You Can Focus on Strengths

If you plan on having the same role the rest of your life, stay with your existing strengths and don’t worry about your weaknesses. For example, an artist can focus exclusively on their art, making a god-given talent even stronger.

Why You Should Focus on Weaknesses

There are two careers paths where you cannot afford to have weaknesses — c-level executive and entrepreneur. But the skills needed for each are quite different. To a lessor degree, this also applies to supervisors and managers. In those areas, faults cause plateauing or failure.

Playing to your strengths makes sense in certain career fields. If you make your living as a drummer in a band, a football linebacker, a surgeon, or a CPA, getting really good at a small number of skills makes a great deal of sense. But if your career path requires more than just a narrow skill-set, it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that harms you.

However, if you see yourself as an unfinished work, as someone who doesn’t want the same job for 30 years, as a person who wants to move up the ladder of success, you better work on those weaknesses.

If in doubt about proficiency, put a skill into the weakness category. Also, some skills are so important that you never take them off your weakness list. An example is certain verbal communication skills.

Remember, if you are starting something new and you don’t think you have any weaknesses, your head is not screwed on straight.

Unfortunately, few formally assess their strengths and weaknesses. And for those that do, its common to put down lots of strengths and just a few weaknesses. It’s a common pattern for a narcissist. They like to think they are perfect—a fatal flaw if there ever was one.

“You get hired because of your strengths, fired because your weaknesses.” — Murray Johannsen

CM-Scale of Justice
Artist: Antonio Canova. Image by Fondazione Caripio Notice the scale, a symbol of justice. But it also signifies a measuring of pro and con of strengths and weaknesses.

Assess Your Character and Traits

This is where assessments, a mentor, or a coach comes in handy — it’s vital to get feedback from an expert. They can provide specific details only someone who really mastered a skill is capable of knowing.

See: Sins and Virtues: Spotting Flaws and Developing Strengths

Phase 2: Choose Your Routes

“Always, always plan your route.” ― Rick Riordan
U.S. National Park Service: Klondike Route Map. Notice that a destination (Dawson City) can be approached by three different routes. Each route will have certain advantages and disadvantages. And so it is when we push to achieve a goal. Typically, many paths can get you there.


Since you know your destination, it’s now time to plan your route. In this phase, you will develop a set of priorities and come up with a development plan. This is a whole new skill set many lack.

Phase 3: Walk The Path: The Fine Art of Execution

Somethings are just nice to know. Quantum physics and astronomy come to mind. However, from a practical standpoint of making a living, you must continuously build application skills. Application skills can be physical or mental, the point is they can be used in the real word. For example, many know geometry and algebra, but few, very few, use it in their jobs.

3a: Always Grow Skill Sets 

Yunnan Kim Showing her Gold medal for figure skating. Image by: amex
Image by: jmex. Yu-Na Kim Showing her Gold medal for figure skating. This moment represents thousands of hours of practice over many years. Some skills (really important ones) cannot be build by occupying a seat in a university classroom.


The right mix of skill sets prevents you from getting fired or improves your likelihood of success. An example is communication skills. For example, most people are terrible listeners — they just don’t realize it.

Besides a focus on application skills, it’s really important to perfect the skill of building skills. This breaks out into:

Click to find out more about reflection, self-talk, visualization and meditation.
Click to find out more about reflection, self-talk, visualization and meditation.

Skill-Based Learning. There is a theory to learn on how to learn. And it wouldn’t hurt to understand smart practice.

Mastery Practices. There are five of these: self-talk, visualization, meditation, reflection and mindfulness. For accelerated learning of skills. 

And it’s not just communication skills, leadership skills in general aren’t that good. This despite the fact that the leadership skills in general predict success in organizations.

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” — Arthur Ashe

Robert W. Buss (1804-1875): Dickens’ Dream. According to Arthur Ashe, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” Great quote, and yet, it’s better to say the outcome is as important as the doing. One cannot exist without the other. If there is no dream, there is no doing.


3b: Take Action

The map is made. The routes are chosen. Now is the time for action (Benz, 2016). Time to test how good your current skills are. This indeed requires many other skills. For example, performing a simple task of putting together a “to do” list requires other skills sets as well.

It will be a time of frustration. For you will find that the mind doesn’t want to change, it prefers things the way they are. You will have to read the map, choose your rout and execute everyday, every week, every month. You will have victories, but will also suffer defeats. It’s all part of the process.

Critically Important Skill-Sets

Painting by: Joos de Momper (II) (1564–1635). Image by: Pauline M. The Tower of Babel is an organizational tale, a human enterprise that failed to achieve its objective. The skill that was missing? Communication skills.

The Core Five Core Competencies

These are five skill-sets necessary to succeed in today’s modern organizations, if you want to fast track to the c-level or if you succeed as an entrepreneur. One needs to continue to develop competencies in:
• Technical, 
• Leadership, 
• Management, 
• Strategy and Tactics, and 
• Self-mastery.
Some things change—some things don’t. — Morpheus, Matrix Reloaded
Times change. While there are some skills that are timeless, others reflect the zeiteist of the times. These tend to be careers that have some element of technological change that impacts it — which today is most careers in the developed world. 

Three Administrative Skills

This article presents a classic view of the key administrative skills to develop. The three administrative competencies proposed by Katz are:
• Conceptual, 
• Human Relations, and 
• Technical. 
Worth looking at since it has staying power since first published in the Harvard Business Review in the 50s.

Management is Different From Leadership 

When you saw the statement above, many of you will go, “Well, duh.”  But what is obvious to a few is not so obvious to the many.  You still hear really intelligent people talk about “managing people.” But most people don’t want to be managed, they want to be led.

The Most Important Leadership Skills

 Skill development is necessary to climb the organizational latter. But what skills should you develop? Discover what the experts say on what are the most important leadership and management skills you can build for  organizational success.

A Final Word. The World is Changing — Stay Current in Your Skills.

A man working on a machine in the early part of mid-20th century. Source: U.S. Gov’t. War Department. Office of Indian Affairs

Skill Mapping References and Resources

Sculpter Unknown: Statue d’ange symbolisant la sagesse. Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, dans l’escalier reliant la basilique et la crypte.. An Allegory of Wisdom.

Benz, Kara. (2016). How To Write Your To Do Lists,, October 31.

Johannsen, Murray (2016). Five Must Learn Skill Development Models. Legacee.

Johannsen, Murray (2015). The Sad State of Skill Building Today: Six Reasons Skill Development Doesn’t Happen. Legacee

Partnership For 21st Century Skills (N.D.) 21st Century Skill Map.

Robinson, Ken (2010). Bring On The Learning Revolution.

Santiago, Elizabeth and Trujillo, Daniel (N.D.). Skills Mapping : Aligning Curriculum in 9-14 Pathways. Jobs for the Future.

Witacker, John (2014). Skills and Delivery Mapping.

Leadership Skill Development