It was 12:05pm, a young intern is on his phone, twiddling his thumbs and smiling as he swipes his fingers through the screen. He gives a little chuckle and without looking, manages to locate his chair in the boardroom, sits down and continues to look at his phone. Oblivious to the fact that the board meeting is about to start in just a few minutes. 

The rest of the team (mainly mid-high level management staff) make their way into the board room, all with their coffees in hand and bags in tow. Their focus was clear and priorities declared to each other and the intern who glanced at the seniors, gave a brief nod followed by “yes” and then continued on his iPad to prep the minutes. 

Here he was, in a fortune 500 company, a place where competition to work is rife and you have to be the creme-de-la-creme to get an internship. His lack of awareness about the seriousness of the meeting was confusing. Although he was tasked with writing the minutes, did he really understand just how important this company is to the community? 

I was recently read about a new concept called the “21st century skills”. According to ‘applied education systems’, the 12 most important skillset are; 

Critical Thinking Communication  Flexibility 


Creativity  Information Literacy  Leadership  Social Skills 


Media Literacy  Initiative  Technology Literacy 

These skills are said to be required by students and the junior workforce to be able to succeed in the information era. As AI is rapidly expanding, it is becoming more crucial than ever to put these skills into practice. 

As you go through the list, the intern above shows little to no emphasis on these skills, apart from his ability to focus on this device (media literacy). 

These skills are further divided up into 3 core disciplines:

1. Learning skills – critical thinking, creativity, collaboration & communication

2. Literacy Skills – information, media & technology

3. Life Skills or ‘FLIPS’ – flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity & social skills. 

It can be said that many young professionals entering the workforce today are media, technology and even information literate. Their level of detail to describe how information comes to them and how to interpret it is essential to the development of the modern era. I completely agree with this statement. However, media and technology will not help deal with conflict resolution, delegating tasks, enhancing effective communication skills nor provide them with the confidence to nail future interviews. 

For the sake of this interview, I wish to focus largely on the ‘life skills’ sector or pillar 3 as it were. 

Life skills act like the cement or glue that binds the other 2 pillars together. These skills can either create a solid structure (strong mental performance, individuality and agility) or a weak one (little communication etc) which eventually leads to a break down in times of crisis or change. 


Why are these so important? Let’s go back to the intern. To give you some scope of the meeting, the business is going through a rapid change process, the managers are stressed and conditions for change are making them uncomfortable, even though the change will bring sustainable success. The intern on the other hand is too busy playing with his phone while waiting for his work to begin. He is frustrated with the ‘slowness’ of the speakers and shows it by tapping loudly on the laptop keys. The managers stop, look at the intern and ask him to leave. What went wrong? 

It all comes down to FLIPS. By developing the necessary FLIPS, the intern would have been able to discern the the emotions of the managers and empathise with the situation. This will show a great deal of emotional intelligence and depth of understanding that is required to grow within the corporate world. 

BUT…What is the point to all of this? In the 21st century, these skills are in hot demand and to have them at a young age isn’t too common. Industries today are changing so quickly that mental agility and the ability to react to these changes is becoming even more valuable than intelligence itself…think about that for a minute. 

Therefore it goes to show that even though a young individual will work hard to achieve their graduation certificates, it doesn’t mean a great deal unless they have the courage to innovate and contribute on a continuous basis to establish growth. 

Leadership is the back bone of the FLIPS model. Why is this the case? Leadership encompasses all that we do, think and behave on a daily basis. The intern in this scenario didn’t demonstrate much leadership in this scenario. However like with anything, it can be learnt. This is crucial to understand..Leadership is a learned skill. As we continue to grow within an industry, more responsibilities will be given to us which presents more opportunities to use leadership skills. 


Such leadership skills are; decisiveness, purpose, and self-awareness to name a few. Each combine to form the basis of a professional individual. If the intern was a little more emotionally aware of his surroundings, he would have greeted each senior staff member, sat up-right and gone to work straight away. 

Leadership doesn’t have a title, it is an action. 

Next is initiative..What exactly is initiative? The Oxford dictionary has two powerful definitions for the word. 

  1. The ability to assess and initiate things independently.
  2. The power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do. 

So why is initiative so crucial in today’s age? Simply put, it creates impact and demonstrates the ability to adapt to change quickly. This in turn will reduce stress and create solid strategies for the long term future. 

How can a young individual show initiative? Start with the little things and build up. For example, at the end of each day, wash your mugs and clean your desk. This psychologically tells your brain the work is finished and you can rest. Leaving a workspace cluttered or dirty, keeps the brain activated and may even induce stress. Secondly, if all work is completed early, asking your manager for more responsibilities demonstrates you ‘mean business’. 

Last but not least is perhaps one of the most important skills necessary to grow within your role….PRODUCTIVITY. 

Being emotionally aware, taking the initiative to learn more, having a growth mindset are all essential qualities to action daily. However, if you do not know how to manage time effectively, it can lead to stress, frustration and the downfall of the mentioned traits. 

Productivity is crucial in being able to finish tasks within the deadline and stay on top of your work. There are several different models to use in order to maximise your time effectively. The best are ‘time-chunking’ and ‘Pomodoro effect’. Each technique can be applied in any work setting and will ensure stress levels are managed and work is completed on time, every time. 

Each skill mentioned is highly valuable for individual growth. We are very lucky to have a large number of young, intelligent men and women who have the ability to process a lot of information at a given time. Further to these skills, with proper planning and development coaching, junior members of staff will be able to highly benefit from learning the principles of FLIPS and grow within their role to be the best they can be. 

With patience, understanding and a strong desire to develop, I am confident that these people will blow our minds and create positive impact for communities around the world. 

At UP, we provide workshops and coaching programmes to help develop young individuals with the skills to be confident at their job. By focusing on aspects of FLIPS, time management and presentation skills, we strongly believe we can transform the way they see their work and in turn help them understand the value they give to their respective organisations. 

For more information about our workshops, feel free to contact me on 79280224 or [email protected]