Category Archives: Competence

Not a Matter of Skill

“I don’t understand why John doesn’t do better,” Marissa complained. “I constantly have to give him critical feedback, and I know he doesn’t like it, I can see it in his face. If he would only pay attention to the problems right in front of him, I wouldn’t have to correct him.”

“What do you think the problem is?” I asked.

“Well, he got promoted to be a supervisor because he was a great team leader, best machine operator we have. All he has to do now, is make out the work schedule for the department, order materials and supplies, schedule preventive maintenance on the machines, keep overtime in check, how hard could it be?”

“What do you think the problem is? Where does he struggle?”

“He struggles with all of it,” Marissa replied. “And his attitude is in the dumper, he mopes around all day because he thinks I yelled at him for doing such a crappy job.”

“What does he do well?”

“That’s part of the problem. We had a machine go down yesterday and he spent the entire afternoon tearing it apart and putting it back together. All the while, we don’t have next week’s schedule and we are almost out of materials. I had to put in a rush order so we can keep production online next week.”

“So, who promoted him?”

Four Levels of Knowing

What-we-know is a mental configuration. The way we configure what-we-know extends along our timespan of intention.

Most ideas exist independent of each other. If our timespan of intention is short, it is a perfectly good way of organizing what-we-know. We can rely on what we see, hear, touch, smell. Life is relatively simple. We can choose this idea OR that idea. This is the world of trial and error.

But, we wake up one morning and see ideas that are connected together. Our timespan of intention extends further into the future. What we see, hear, touch and smell is organized by ideas that are connected. This is the world of best practices, connected to our most common problems.

But, we wake up one morning and see ideas that are caused by other ideas. There is not only a connected relationship, but a cause and effect relationship. Our timespan of intention extends even further. Best practices help to solve problems we have seen, but are useless to problems we have never solved. What-we-know comes from root-cause analysis, the basis for creating a single serial system, a series of ideas sitting in a sequence of cause and effect relationships (critical path).

But, we wake up one morning and what-we-know includes more than one system. We see multiple systems sitting side by side. Each internal system has its own constraints, but some of those constraints now sit outside the system. Each system has an output which becomes the input for its neighboring system. Defective output from one system wreaks havoc on its neighboring system. And some systems outstrip the capacity of neighboring systems, crippling overall throughput of the entire enterprise. If our timespan of intention extends this far, our problems exist in the hand-off between systems and in the output capacity of one system to the next. The organization of what-we-know comes from systems analysis.

We can only know (what-we-know) what we are capable of knowing.

Not a Matter of Motivation

“It is difficult to lead the charge if you think you look silly on top of a horse.”

I am often asked to describe the most important qualities of leadership. What does it take to make a good leader? There are many qualities. Today I am thinking of Mastery.

Mastery is the beginning of self-confidence. Many times, people believe they can pump themselves up with a motivational book or by attending a motivational seminar. While there are temporary positive feelings of invincibility, it doesn’t take more than a few hours for that to wear off.

True self-confidence begins with mastery. “Mastery over what?” – just about anything that requires some new degree of skill, anything that requires a person to truly push performance beyond their current level of self-confidence. Most folks seldom push themselves beyond their current limits, for fear of failure. It is in the facing of that fear (fear of failure) that I see true growth, a new level of mastery. There can be no mastery without the possibility of failure.

When was the last time you pushed yourself beyond limits? When was the last time you engaged in something new, something that required you to think in a new way, that required more tenacity than you have ever mustered before? It doesn’t come from a book. It doesn’t come from a seminar. Get off the couch, go do something new.

What Determines Success?

Emily shifted to the edge of the chair in anticipation. “Okay, I’m game,” she said. “If I want my team to make changes, I have to look at myself first. So, I am willing to do that. I want to make things come out better, make my team better, make myself better. I want to make a difference. I want to change the outcome.”

“Emily, we don’t choose the way things turn out. I mean, we may think we choose our success, but we do not. The only thing we choose are our habits. And, it’s our habits that determine our success. What are those grooved and routine behaviors that chip away at the world? If you want to know how to influence others, you have to first understand how you choose your own habits.”

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?”