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IMA Human Resources Blog

The 11 Types of Executive Function Skills and How an Executive Function Planner Develops Them

Accent Group Solutions is an IMA member…

What kind of decision making, organization, time management, etc. skills do you use throughout your day? If you have a large a project, what skills do you rely on to complete your work? It may seem like an odd question, but the reality is many adults can instinctively identify the necessary steps needed to finish the task. It’s because we have well-developed Executive Function skills.  Unfortunately, most teenagers do not.

Executive Function skills are “brain-based skills required for humans to effectively execute or perform tasks and solve problems.”

There are eleven basic Executive Function skills:

  1. Response Inhibition – The ability to evaluate a situation and how someone’s behavior might affect;
  2. Working Memory – The ability to hold information in mind while performing complex tasks;
  3. Emotional Control – The ability to manage emotions to help regulate and guide behavior;
  4. Flexibility – The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information, or mistakes;
  5. Sustained Attention – The capacity to attend to a situation or task in spite of distraction, fatigue, or boredom;
  6. Task Initiation – The ability to begin a task without undue procrastination in a timely fashion;
  7. Planning and Prioritizing – Make decisions about what’s important to focus on and what’s not.
  8. Organization – The ability to create and maintain a system for arranging or keeping track of important details and items;
  9. Time Management – The ability to estimate how much time is available;
  10. Goal-Directed Persistence – The capacity to establish a goal and follow through on achieving it;
  11. Metacognition –  The ability to self-monitor when performing a task.


The neurological skills required to perform these executive functions are often not fully developed in adolescents. The brain’s frontal lobe that controls our executive functions does not fully develop until our mid-20s.

Combine this pre-developed state with other factors, such as increased hormones and changing levels of neurotransmitters, is a prime reason why many teens struggle to successfully use these skills.

This means more teenagers do not have the neurological function to develop soft skills necessary for the workplace. Approximately 35-70% of all young people entering the workforce lack crucial skills, such as:

  • Communication
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Problem Solving
  • Collaboration
  • Attention to details


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