Not so long ago, I would have agreed that the foundation for professional success is based on the three fundamentals; Knowledge, Skills, Activity. But the world has changed (to coin another altruism), and whereas these three ingredients were once a recipe for achievement, no longer is it enough to simply work hard, know more, and have all the best management techniques and skills at your fingertips.

A myth: “Knowledge is Power”. Why a myth? Because there are hundreds of people all around who rise to the top, with less knowledge than those who look up at them from below. In addition, knowledge in terms of raw data and pure information are now so readily available that the brave new world has created a more level playing field than ever before. It is so easy to find out virtually anything. So it’s not knowledge, but Know-How, Know-Who, and Know-Why which is Power.

Another Myth: “To develop yourself you must focus on developing your skills”. OK, skills are important. But it’s accessing your abilities, rather than how many management skills you have, which will have the most impact in moving you to the top. I have seen hundreds of business people attend hundreds of skills-laden management courses, without it making the slightest impact to their effectiveness. It is not having the skills which is important, so much as making full use of our abilities, our unique individual talents, our full human potential. Yes, develop your skills. But always make sure you are working at the full level of your innate abilities.

Myth Number Three: “The World belongs to the Busy”. Most people are busy. In fact, I’ve never known so many busy people! It has become a status symbol, a badge of honour to be really busy… “maxed out”. So why is it that the most successful executives have more control, more freedom, more time off than the rest? How is it that those at the top appear to be moving forward almost effortlessly? There is an element of the graceful swan whose legs are furiously spinning below the waterline. But, more important is recognising the difference between activity and productivity. It’s Productivity which wins the day, the month, the year. It is about creating the space to focus and to do those things which are “business critical” which will produce the best results. Rather than being highly-active, but only semi- productive all week, better to be fully productive three days per week. I have advocated for a long time that for most people in business (and particularly those directly involved with sales), having three days of pure focus on those things leading to direct business results is the best regime. To do this, of course, we need to squeeze out the other activities which may contaminate those Focus Days. We must allocate a time slot for planning and administration and the general “business mud”. So put this on a separate day, and delegate the rest. And that’s a whole new topic…

So, rather than Knowledge, Skills, and Activity, it’s Know-How, Abilities, and Productivity which will determine professional success for this century’s executives and business people.