Category Archives: Competence

Who Do You Hang Around With?

Jessica was talking about her boss, Matthew. Matthew is one of those special people who, in the midst of a problem always seems to see a solution. In a meeting, where an idea may be shot down, Matthew reverses the energy. He says, “I know it is impossible, but if it weren’t impossible, how would we do it?”

What she finds interesting about Matthew is that when he walks in the room, she feels an uncanny ability to conquer any difficulties in her current project.

Stay away from naysayers, and surround yourself with people who are pathologically positive. Find the energy to make things happen, to solve the problems around you. Find that person who gives you the energy and the uncanny ability to conquer difficulty.

Can’t Always Get What You Want

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You will never ever get what you want!!! You will only get what you focus on.

At first I am disappointed, because I really want what I want. And, it makes me feel bad to understand that I will never get what I want.

If I really want it, I have to focus on it.

“It is really hard to find good people these days. We just never seem to hire the kind of people we really want.”

YOU WILL NEVER EVER GET WHAT YOU WANT! You will only get what you focus on.

It’s not that you can’t find good people out there. You have not focused your concentration and energy to find good people. What does focus look like? Think about finding good people, talk about finding good people, have meetings about finding good people, plan a campaign to find good people. Roll out an action plan to find good people.

You will never get what you want. You will only get what you focus on.

If Nothing Changed

“Everything seems to change, every day,” Charlotte whispered. She felt the change, but never said the words.

If nothing changed in your company, what would your team members do at work, today?

They would continue to do the same thing they did the day before. And life would be good.

But things do change, and that is why you have a job as a manager. Change is your job security. As long as there is change, you will have a job to do.

As your customers change, specifications change, technologies change, your role as a manager is to modify systems and processes to accommodate those changes.

The more things change, the more your company needs competent managers.

Biggest Room in the World

What is the struggle? I want to know the pain. Often, the largest pain is the crucible for the largest gain. The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

Don’t avoid the struggle. I know it hurts. It appears debilitating. Lean in. These are the areas of greatest opportunity. Context is important because the struggle that is causing pain looms large when you are up against it. Step back. Place the event of your struggle into a longer time frame.

  • What does the pain teach us?
  • What are the most effective moves now to change the painful circumstances going forward?
  • What are the most difficult moves that must be made now?
  • What must we learn to make those difficult moves?
  • How long will it take to learn those new skills?
  • How long will it take to master those new skills?
  • What is the long term impact of that mastery?
  • What will be different about you when that happens?

The Link Between Necessity and Competence

“I thought about what you asked. What is it that I have to do? What is it that I have to do to become the manager, to become the person I want to be?” she started.

“And, where did you arrive?” I asked.

“I am back to competence. To be the manager I want to be, requires competence.”

“So, you have to become competent in the skills of management, you have to become competent in thinking like a leader?” I asked.

Emily paused to reflect.

“More than a decade ago, I took up the sport of cycling,” I said. “The more I rode, the higher my level of fitness, the more competent I became at the skills of cadence and wind resistance. In short, I did the things I had to do to reach a specific level of accomplishment. It was not a choice. To reach my goal, I had to do those things. Without those things, I would never have reached the goal.

“What is interesting to me,” I continued, “is that level of accomplishment has become who I am. And to stay at that level requires me to continue. It is now one of my internal disciplines.

“I suspect, as the manager you want to be, you will have to practice in much the same way. You will have to become competent at the skills of management. You will do what you have to do to reach a specific level of competence. It will not be a choice. To reach your goal, you will have to do those things. Without those things, you will never reach your goal.

“That level of accomplishment, as a manager, will become who you are. And to stay at that level will require you to continue to practice. It will become one of your internal disciplines. Competency requires no less.”
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In the USA, this week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time to be with family and give gratitude for the lives we have. And, we might eat a little turkey. See you next week. -Tom

The Role of Necessity

“But, I am not sure I know what my team wants,” Emily replied. “I am not sure what my team will find necessary.”

“Even more important is,” I interrupted, “Do you know what you want? As a manager, what do you want? As a manager, what are the things you have to do? These are not things you might like to do, or things that might make you a better manager. These are things that you have to do, to be the kind of manager you want to be. It is only when those things become necessary that those things will become ingrained into your personal discipline, to make you who you are.

“As a manager, what is necessary? What do you have to do to be successful?”

People Only Do What They Have to Do

Just a quick note. Management Blog celebrates the anniversary of its beginning, Nov 15, 2004. Tomorrow begins its 14th year. Still having fun. “If there is no fun, there is no passion. If there is no passion, there is no success.” -Peter Schutz (passed away Oct 29, 2017).
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“Yes, there’s more,” I replied. “Our discussions led us through stupidity, incompetence, competence and mastery. But, just because your team becomes competent, does not necessarily draw superior performance.”

“But you said incompetence was the reason for most failures in the workplace,” Emily protested.

“I said there were two factors that determined success or failure, and competence is one of the factors.”

“So, what is the other?” Emily asked.

Necessity,” I replied. Emily sat back knowing she was in for another brain stretch. I smiled and she leaned forward ready to listen.

“Let’s say you had a team that was perfectly competent to perform at a high level, yet the results were lacking. What would you consider to be the problem?”

Emily thought briefly. “I would say, it’s probably attitude or motivation.”

“Consider that accomplishment, producing results, can be traced back to two factors, competence and necessity. If we know that competence is not the factor, how could necessity explain the shortfall?”

“Do you mean that people only do what they have to do?” she asked.

“Exactly. People only do what they have to do, to get what they want or to avoid what they don’t want,” I replied.

“So my people will only do what I want, if I make it necessary for them to do it?”

“If only we had that power,” I said. “We don’t get to make that decision for other people. Only you can make that decision in your life, to do what is necessary, to get what you want. The successful manager is the one who taps into the necessity in the team.”

The Link Between Morale and Competence

“So, if morale suddenly improved as the speed of the line improved, what changed? What changed inside your team?” I asked.

“Remember, before, we were talking about competence and incompetence,” Emily thought out loud. “I didn’t believe you when you said the problem was incompetence. But now, I see such an improvement, I think you were right.”

“So, what changed inside their heads?” I asked again.

“Before, the team didn’t know the daily target number. That single number became a tool for them to get better. They became more competent.”

“They are on their way to mastery,” I said. That word mastery hung out there like a full moon. Inescapable.

“I never thought of it that way.”

“Put the two together.”

Competence and mastery,” she said.

“Why do people perform at a high level?” I asked.

“Because they can,” she replied. “Give them the tools to become competent and you will see progress.” Emily smiled. It was beginning to sink in.

“At least, that is half the story,” I announced.

“There’s more?” Emily asked.

Not a Problem of Morale

Emily’s white board had been in place for three days when I got the call. The tone in her voice was quite cheery.

“My team is absolutely amazing,” she reported. “The first day was tough because production was pretty much the same as before. The daily target was 175 units and we only managed to produce 86. I thought the team would implode, but when I got to work the next day, they were all there early and the line was already running. Instead of shutting down the line for break, they took breaks one at a time to keep things moving. We still only got 110 units, but they saw the improvement. Yesterday, they changed a couple of more things and we produced 140 units.

“What’s funny,” she continued. “All I have done, as a manager, is post the target number on the board in the morning and make comments about their improvement. All the changes, they have done on their own. It’s like everything has shifted. This is no longer my problem. They are working to fix it like it is their problem.”

“And, what about your morale problem?” I asked.

Emily’s face curled into a smile, “Oh, I don’t think the problem was morale.”

A Simple Feedback Loop

Emily was already in the plant. Out on the line, she tacked up a small white board. She wrote -Today’s target – 175 units. She tied the marker to a string and let it dangle.

She called a quick team huddle. “Listen up,” she said. “Instead of waiting for the QC report, I want to start tracking finished units before they leave the line.” She explained the tick marks and assigned a team member to count the marks at 10:00am, 2:00pm and 4:00pm.

I showed up during lunch. “Emily, I am glad you were in class for our discussion of control systems and feedback loops.”

“Yeah, we were going to talk about that, but all we did was talk about my morale problem.”

“Not exactly,” I replied. “Think about this. Before today, you had a dysfunctional control system. The results from the QC department were delayed by one day and the people who could fix the problem weren’t given accurate information.

“Today, you successfully converted your troublesome control system into a helpful feedback loop. The team (who can fix the problem) now gets accurate information in real time without delay.”