November 9, 2021

178: What Are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive functioning is a common topic amongst parents and educators of teens, but rarely discussed in the workplace. Yet, it’s the set of capabilities that we use daily to regulate our emotions, thinking, and behavior which collectively allow us to deliver results. This skill set, like any other, needs to be understood by managers so that we can improve ourselves and support our colleagues.

This is the first of two episodes on executive functioning skills. This episode is focused on what executive functioning skills are and how they show up in the workplace, as well as how you can assess yourself and your colleagues in each area. The second episode (#182) will be strategies to improve each area, so if you discover your own weakness or that a colleague struggles with a particular skill, you’ll have some ideas for how to help yourself or support that colleague.

The full episode guide includes an overview of the eleven executive functioning skills, how they interact and natural groupings that compound, and questions for reflection to help you assess yourself and your colleagues. Get it when you join the Modern Manager community or purchase the full guide at

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Read the related blog article: 11 Executive Functioning Skills Needed In The Workplace

Key Takeaways:

  • There are eleven executive functioning skills our brains use to process and decide on an action.
  • Motivation and context matter to our ability to perform these skills. We may have strengths or struggle under different conditions.
  • Response inhibition is being able to thoughtfully control our response rather than reacting to stimuli.
  • Working memory holds onto relevant information for a short period of time.
  • Emotional control navigates feelings in a healthy way.
  • Sustained attention is the capability of sticking to a task, especially when tiring, challenging or boring.
  • Task initiation is the ability to jump in on a project without procrastinating.
  • Planning and prioritizing means creating plans, identifying key steps, and sticking to it.
  • Organization involves keeping information, things (physical and digital) and activities orderly.
  • Time management is about using time wisely and accurately predicting time needed.
  • Goal Directed Persistence is the ability to set goals and work towards them.
  • Flexibility is the ability to shift and pivot as needed.
  • Metacognition is seeing the bigger picture and reflecting on your own thoughts and behavior objectively.
  • We can have friction with our colleagues, when these skill sets clash.

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