Versatility is all about being open to new ideas or skills, taking the initiative to build on those new concepts, and having an optimistic attitude toward you're own ability and the potential onus of new challenges. Piece by piece, each of these parts could arguably be covered, in part, by the other virtues, but when you build these different attributes together and improve on them as a group they then develops into a powerful, personal tool called versatility.

For instance, being open to new ideas is a part of Tolerance, and taking the initiative to develop new skills and ideas is a part of Inventiveness, and this required attitude is also talked about it the section on Enterprise. In versatility they take on slightly different and specialized forms, however, and when you are working on such a specialized virtue set such as the "Business Virtues," the most important general attributes deserve a focus on several different angles. For one instance, Tolerance is about tolerating change put upon you, but Versatility is about enthusiastically searching for positive change and building upon your own toolbox. Learning how these different characteristics work together and practice with applying them correctly will improve your prowess in real business situations; over time this prowess will be intuitive.

The first part of versatility is working hard to perfect the skills you use on the job, learning techniques that you can use to improve on them or otherwise might be useful in your professional future, and keeping up with new technologies and ideas. This keeps you versatile by helping ensure that when your profession changes or when new problems demand you to change pace or direction, you will be ready to thrive in those challenges and stand out from others who flounder in these situations.

Another part of this virtue is having a positive attitude toward change and new ideas. I read an article by a computer programmer that blasted his profession because of the necessity of learning new technologies and programming languages in order to remain useful. In our fast-paced world, however, this is becoming true of many career paths. If you can foster a positive attitude toward the continued development of your skills, keeping up with your field won't seem as much of a chore and may turn into something you enjoy. When you become truly versatile you won't just be keeping up, however, you'll also be ahead of the game by learning not only the relevant skills for your job now but those for your future goals as well.

Down below are some activities that will help you foster your versatility.


  • Do That Thing You've Been Putting Off: Generally this space is used for trying to provide you, the reader, with new ideas. The truth of the matter is that you likely already have at least a skill or two that you've been meaning to pick up but never really "got around to." Now that you are focusing on this trait, work on those skills. This week! This might be anything from a newer version of software or a particular function of it, some topic you were supposed to read up on, or whatever is applicable to your job. Hunkering down and getting these skills down will help motivate you to tackle this virtue in a more general sense after this unfinished business stops nagging at you.
  • Climb, Don't Coast: One way to develop an attitude beneficial for developing your versatility is to give more care and consideration for your current job. Even if you are doing something seemingly banal like answering phones, you can probably put more effort in doing a better job. If you pay attention to your faults and mistakes you will begin to consciously work to improve on them. If you ignore them or simply don't care you may work for years with little or no growth. While being good at the stuff you know isn't always directly linked to versatility (although it does usually help), people who care about their job are more motivated to grow into new responsibilities and positions.
  • What are the Possibilities of Advancement?: If you don't really know, research how people in your position usually move up and out from your position—especially if you have no career plans that are wildly different than your current job. What positions do people in your situation usually advance to? What would be required of you to do the same? While being versatile isn't just about advancement, this is a strong motivator.
  • If Possible, Take Courses: Sometimes people just need a little motivation, and sometimes it's easier for us to learn with others around us. Classes provide you with live instruction and correction from a professional instructor, and a structured approach of a class can help you keep on track with your development—since no one wants to be the only student that came unprepared for the next class.
  • Be Your Own Teacher: If it isn't feasible for you to take an in-person class but are planning to learn from a book or website instead, be your own teacher. Like mentioned above, teachers provide the structure and motivation to help you succeed. If you don't have a teacher like this, however, you can provide some of the benefits of this environment to yourself. Make a goal for when you plan to have the skill down pat, and then make sub-goals for you to reach as you learn the skill. If you are learning from a book, go over the chapter titles and give yourself time to learn (and practice) the content from each chapter. Some books are better than others for helping provide this structure for you.
  • For Small Business Owners: If you own a small business there are always a myriad of skills you can (and should) be learning. Try to find ways in which you could improve your viability and profitability. This could be management or leadership techniques, improving your use of technology, organization skills, or some business secrets that others in your field might be more aware of. Make it a goal to learn each of these skills one-by-one and then apply them to your business. Then develop a new goal with new skills, and after that work on developing a habit for life-long learning!
  • Become Personally Versatile: You might be interested in learning skills not directly related to your job. Fortunately for you, this love for learning can still profoundly improve your proclivity toward developing new skills and might make you more versatile in your personal life (which is important too).
  • Work on Agility and Tolerance: These two virtues are indispensable to fostering an improved attitude toward developing your work-related skills. Agility makes you more open to tackling new challenges—that often require you to become more versatile—and tolerance makes you less likely to buck or procrastinate when it becomes time for you to take on new ideas and responsibilities.

Your Record

If you have encountered a task in your workplace that you were either too unprepared or unknowledgeable to complete, then mark your self at "fault" if, within 24 hours, you failed to start learning more about that task or failed to make yourself better prepared for the future. If you fail to attempt a new task that you had a reasonable chance to complete or time to educate yourself about it, then mark yourself at fault. Make goals based on the activities up above. If you fail to complete the activities or reach your goals, then mark yourself at fault.


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin, English Naturalist and Author of the Theory of Evolution

Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven.

Edward de Bono, Maltese Psychologist and Writer

If I weren't as talented as I am ambitious, I would be a gross monstrosity.

Madonna, American Singer and Actress

Golden Mean

Inflexibility, incompetence
Excessive versatility, being a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none

Recommended Reading

Complete MBA For Dummies — by Kathleen Allen Ph.D., Peter Economy

This is a breakdown of all the major skills that MBA programs usually teach their business students, from the popular "For Dummies" series. While it might not replace an education it can certainly be a reference for someone who can't take on a MBA program at the moment (or ever).

Manager's Toolkit: The 13 Skills Managers Need to Succeed (Harvard Business Essentials) — by Harvard Business School Press

This book covers some of the essential skills that help make good managers. If you are a manager (or want to be one someday) and feel like you could use a few tips, this book might be for you.

Administrative Assistant's and Secretary's Handbook — by James Stroman, Kevin Wilson, Jennifer Wauson

If you have a job as an assistant or secretary, this book might help you fill in your gaps of knowledge or improve your existing skills.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Whatever it takes for me to win, I`m down for it. Versatility goes a long way. The person who is most versatile has more going for him than a guy who does just one thing. Barbara Morgan