The 5 Work Skills You Need To Master To Be Successful at Work

what of work pyramid

Here at Humor That Works, we’ve had the privilege of helping more than 250 organizations bring their people to life through humor in the workplace. We’ve partnered with corporations like IBM and P&G, government agencies like the FBI and FDA, and non-profits like the Red Cross and UN.

People sometimes wonder how we’re able to work with such a wide variety of clients without having worked in those spaces previously. The answer is that the skills of work don’t change.

No matter your role, function, industry, background, history, or job title, to be successful at work, you have to be able to do five things:


Can you complete tasks? Can you update a spreadsheet, sustain productivity throughout the day, or professionally shave an alpaca? This is the starting point for most entry-level jobs (execution that is, not alpaca shaving). Execution involves productivity, discipline, motivation, and stress management. If you can’t execute, you can’t work.


Can you create a course of action? Can you strategically plan a project, brainstorm new ideas, or figure out how many engineers it takes to screw in a lightbulb? (The answer is one. Engineers are efficient and not always funny.) This is what many of us start learning at university, and carries over to the highest echelons of work: strategic thinking, planning, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. If you can’t think, you can’t advance.


Can you clearly articulate and understand ideas? Can you send an email that gets a response, explain an idea so people understand it, or translate messages written entirely in emojis? This is the foundation of being able to work with other people. Communication includes speaking, listening, reading, writing, and understanding nonverbal cues. If you can’t communicate, you can’t influence.


Can you build relationships with fellow humans? Can you find common ground with a coworker, build rapport with a client, or engage in small talk with people standing next to you in an elevator? This is required to get things done in any type of group setting. Connection involves empathy, bonding, networking, and shared experiences. If you can’t connect, you can’t survive.


Can you influence people toward a goal? Can you create a compelling vision that people will follow, generate momentum in a team, or be the first to have some cake while everyone else is standing around being polite? This is the primary difference between the average employee and one with high potential. Leadership includes setting a direction, inspiring others, providing guidance, and driving change. If you can’t lead, you can’t create lasting impact.

That’s it: the What of Work. If you work, you execute, think, communicate, connect, and lead.

That’s true whether you’re a senior executive, firefighter, or dog trainer. We know because we’ve worked with all of them (the dog trainers even called one of us a “good boy”).

But beyond these five skills, there is one last skill that is often missing that amplifies the other five; one last skill that doesn’t focus on what you do but how you do it. That is the skill of humor. Humor can help you do each of these skills better while also having more fun.

To learn more about how humor applies to each of these skills, check out our book Humor That Works, or subscribe to see new blog posts.


what is your humor persona?

Humor is a skill that can be learned. And when used correctly, it is a superpower that can be your greatest asset for building a happier, healthier and more productive life.  See for yourself...

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