Conceptual Skills: Definition, Overview and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

June 9, 2021

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

Conceptual skills provide the ability to develop solutions regarding high-level theories, ideas and topics. This quality also involves addressing challenging scenarios with a creative, innovative approach. With conceptual skills, it becomes easier to understand abstract or complicated ideas. In this article, we’ll review what conceptual skills are and why they’re important in the workplace.

What are conceptual skills?

Conceptual skills are the abilities that allow an individual to better understand complex scenarios and develop creative solutions. From a management perspective, these skills are valuable because those who have them can approach complicated workplace situations in a variety of different ways.

No matter what industry your company operates in, it will face challenges that require innovative and creative ways of thinking. In these situations, conceptual skills are the most beneficial to the organization. A conceptual leader can think through their ideas, transforming thoughts into action-driven solutions.

People see leaders with conceptual skills as strategic leaders because of their ability to strategize about potential situations and how to resolve them. At higher levels of management, the ability to approach a situation with a creative and abstract approach is highly valuable, so developing conceptual skills can be beneficial if you want to progress in a career as a manager.

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Different types of conceptual skills

Conceptual skills come in many categories, and mastering each category comes with its own benefits. Below are some conceptual skills that can prove especially useful in your career.

Decision-making skills

Decision-making skills involve the ability to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Whether you are interacting with coworkers or managing an issue with a project, being able to make effective decisions at all levels is important to success in management. To develop these skills, you must have good attention to detail, the ability to analyze and show resourcefulness when facing a problem. Excellent team members can often identify problems that could impact the organization before they are apparent to everyone, which may require them to make a decision that leads to long-term benefits for the company.

Example: An HR manager works at a marketing agency that focuses its efforts on the automotive market. Many of the agency’s creative directors have struggled to turn marketing concepts into campaigns that generate returns on their investments. This problem has been linked back to a lack of knowledge among the creative support staff and directors about the automotive industry.

The HR manager receives a task to train creative directors through the application of his conceptual skills. This manager sets up a time for each of the creative directors to spend several days working directly in an automotive factory with one of the executive team members at that factory. By thinking creatively and delivering an innovative solution, the HR manager could come up with a way to submerge the company’s creative directors into the automotive industry to gain new insights into how to best market its product.

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills can involve any number of abilities associated with interacting with other people. To define interpersonal skills, it’s helpful to understand which types of skills are necessary to become an accomplished leader. 

The ability to motivate others

This is a skill that can turn an individual into an asset to a company. Motivation increases employee satisfaction and productivity while setting a good example for the expectations of all team members within an organization. If you have excellent motivational skills, you may spot areas that could use improvement and approach these areas in constructive ways. This could help encourage your team members to make productive changes rather than feel discouraged. 

Professionalism in your role

Professionalism involves acting with honesty and integrity and maintaining your composure in the face of challenges. Try to hold yourself to the highest standards in these areas, creating examples for your members of the team to follow. When outlining professionalism, some examples include the ability to take the initiative, provide exceptional support with a positive attitude and exhibit strong moral values in all situations.

An innovative approach

In every industry, competitors are working to succeed ahead of others, so the ability to use and apply innovative thinking is necessary to stay ahead. A leader willing to innovate is more likely to lead the pack, rather than fall behind. Some examples of innovation include developing new and improved solutions for customers, re-designing or implementing new systems to improve functionality and productivity, identify shortcomings and generate fresh ideas. 

Example: Two team leaders, Annie and Ren, work at technology companies. Annie’s team takes legal action against competitors who infringe on the patents held by the company, which has resulted in her department becoming the company’s primary source of revenue. John’s company is a startup that makes smart roller skates that connect to social media for content sharing.

Although both have similar roles, Ren is currently working with many inexperienced team members who need coaching and support. Annie’s team must have excellent technical skills in the legal world because the members are dealing with critical lawsuits. In both roles, conceptual skills are necessary to make sure their team members can meet the objectives implemented by the organizations. However, Ren will need especially strong human skills to make sure the new employees on his team receive the support they need.

Technical skills

Technical skills are measurable. To succeed and secure a leadership role, you should fully understand your industry and what each member of the team does to further the goals of the organization. 

However, it will also help to develop technical skills in other areas, including the ability to market and come up with different ways to sell the organization’s products or services. Most technical skills require experience and training to master, which sets them apart from softer conceptual skills. 

Example: The manager of a market research team notices that his company’s customer base is shifting. Using his skills in data analysis, he guides his team through a comprehensive research project that reveals that younger consumers are showing more interest in his company’s products.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

How to develop your conceptual skills

Follow these steps to improve your conceptual and managerial skills:

1. Communicate well with others

Communication skills include your abilities to influence others with your nonverbal and verbal traits. Successful communicators are respectful, patient, listeners with notable speaking abilities. With good communication skills, it’s easier to talk to your team or encourage those around you to succeed and work toward business goals.

Related: 4 Types of Communication (With Examples)

2. Work on developing your negotiation skills 

Regardless of your industry, having the ability to negotiate with different types of people will serve you well throughout your career. You may also come across a situation that requires you to negotiate with a colleague or supervisor. Being able to negotiate effectively while listening to the other side is an important skill.

3. Embrace leadership opportunities

To succeed as a leader in your workplace, it’s important to develop strong leadership skills that allow you to inspire, motivate and encourage those on your team. Some of these skills include the ability to think creatively, resolve conflicts, analyze situations and delegate responsibilities. An effective team member should also be honest when interacting with business associates. Flexibility is another vital skill to develop, as a leader can not control the outcome of every situation, all the time. 

4. Learn the essentials of project management

During your career, you will likely serve as a leader in some capacity, which will require you will oversee the completion of important projects and delegate tasks to others. In any role, you may have multiple projects going on at the same time, so the ability to manage them and check in on their progress is essential.

Related: Understanding the Project Management Processes and Phases

Those who are willing to develop certain human, technical and conceptual skills are more likely to find growth opportunities in their careers. Finding a balance between the day-to-day operations and the larger goals of your organization is a talent that can benefit you in your professional goals.

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