How to Improve the Influencing of Others

IMPORTANCE OF INFLUENCING OTHERS
This competency, which is the ability to get others to do what you would like them to do, is fundamental to many goals and activities at work: selling, enlisting support for ideas, obtaining resources, motivating subordinates, energizing teams, and building support for an organizational vision. The higher your level in an organization, the more important is this competency.
More and more organizations are moving away from hierarchical organizations, in which influence depends heavily on the use of positional power. The increasing use of teams requires Influence Skill, rather than authority, to gain support.

DEFINITION OF “INFLUENCING OTHERS”: The ability to gain others’ support for ideas, proposals, projects, and solutions.

  1. Presents arguments that address other’s most important concerns and issues and looks for win-win solutions
  2. Involves others in a process or decision, to ensure their support
  3. Offers trade-offs or exchanges, to gain commitment
  4. Identifies and proposes solutions that benefit all parties involved in a situation
  5. Enlists experts or third parties to influence others
  6. Develops other indirect strategies to influence others
  7. Knows when to escalate critical issues to own or other’s management, if own efforts to enlist support have not succeeded
  8. Structures situations (e.g., the setting, persons present, sequence of events) to create a desired impact and to maximize the chances of a favorable outcome
  9. Works to make a particular impression on others
  10. Identifies and targets influence efforts at the real decision makers and those who can influence them
  11. Seeks out and builds relationships with others who can provide information, intelligence, career support, potential business, and other forms of help
  12. Takes a personal interest in others (e.g., by asking about their concerns, interests, family, friends, hobbies), to develop relationships
  13. Accurately anticipates the implications of events or decisions for various stock holders in the organization and plans strategy accordingly.

General Considerations in Developing this Competency
As the behaviors for this competency show, there are a wide variety of ways in which this competency can be demonstrated. Most of these ways involve careful analysis of the needs, interests, concerns, and fears of the persons to be influenced. Based on this analysis, the skillful influencer considers alternative approaches and develops influence strategies. The strategies reflect thinking that is not always shown in observable behavior. Developing Influencing Others requires learning this kind of thinking.

One of the best methods to develop Influencing Others is to work closely with a skilled influencer planning influence strategies. Another method is to learn about influence strategies through courses and books. Using influence strategies effectively requires practice and feedback. Courses which involve role playing and feedback can provide this practice.

This competency builds on several other competencies, especially Interpersonal Awareness and Persuasive Communication. Developing these competencies will help develop Influencing Others. In addition, Influencing Others often requires knowing or learning about the politics of an organization: the histories and agendas of different groups and the decision makers and key influences of particular types of decisions.

Practicing this Competency

  • The next time you need to influence someone, ask that person or others what are his/her most important needs and concerns.
  • Try to think of a solution that will address the other person’s needs or concerns while meeting your own objectives.
  • Consider involving others (by asking for input, checking out possible approaches, or working with them to develop a plan) to gain their support.
  • Think about what you can offer the other person or group in exchange for what you would like from this person or group.
  • Try to think of solutions that will benefit everyone involved in a situation. The book, Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury, provides many useful ideas for doing this.
  • If an issue is critical and you have exhausted other approaches, consider escalating the issue to your own manager or the other person’s manager. This is a strategy which should be used only when absolutely necessary, since it often provokes negative reactions in the other person.
  • Before an important meeting, at which it is important to gain the support of another person or group, consider what you can do to structure the event (e.g., by orchestrating the setting, attendees, sequence of events, refreshments, entertainment) to achieve a desired outcome.
  • To influence a decision in your own organization or a client’s, try to learn who the decision makers are and what their concerns are likely to be. Try to talk directly to the real decision makers.
  • To build a basis for influence efforts in the future, develop and maintain relationships with others from whom you may need support. Find ways to help them. Try to learn about their interests and concerns.

Obtaining Feedback
Before implementing an influence strategy, discuss it with others and ask for their feedback and suggestions. After an interaction in which you tried to enlist the support of an individual or group, ask a colleague who was present for feedback and suggestions on your influence efforts.

Learning from Experts
Look for opportunities to work closely with skilled influences on tasks requiring the development of influence strategies e.g., planning a presentation or sales call, leading a group to achieve a particular outcome.
Observe a skilled influencer using influence skills in situations such as sales calls, speeches, meetings with subordinates, meetings to build relationships. Notice what the person says, how he/she says it, and the verbal and nonverbal reactions of the persons present.
Interview a skilled influencer about times when this person successfully influenced others. Try to get the sequence of what the person did and thought. Recognize that the person you interview may be reluctant to discuss some influence efforts, particularly those used to influence the person’s current supervisor.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers
If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:

  • Involve this person in some of your own influence efforts and share your thinking about your goals, plans, and the reasons underlying them.
  • Provide assignments requiring the use of influence skills: e.g., developing a presentation to senior management; planning a meeting with another group whose cooperation is needed. Provide suggestions and feedback on the planning and implementation of influence strategies.
  • Provide opportunities for this person to work closely with skilled influences.

Sample Development Goals

  • By September 10, I will read Getting to Yes, by Fisher and Ury and use what I learn to develop a strategy for gaining the cooperation of the R&D Division.
  • By November 3, I will hold meetings to build relationships with 5 individuals from other departments, whose support I may need over the coming year.
  • Before the October 5 sales meeting with Central Information, I will call the two project managers they are inviting to that meeting to learn what they would like to gain from the meeting. I will then plan and deliver a presentation that addresses these needs and interests.
  • By December 15, I will complete a course on Influencing Others.

Resources for Developing this Competency
Books, learning programs, courses, and other resources are listed in Workitect’s Competency Development Guide, a 280-page, 8.5″ x 11″ spiral bound handbook for the development of 35 competencies. An online version, the eDeveloper, and licenses for organization-wide use are available.

Other Applications

For many organizations, the guide has been a key component of an integrated competency-based talent management system that includes job competency models built with a competency dictionary of 35 competencies, interview guides, and 360 assessments.

Also available for HR professionals: the Resource Guide for Developing Global HR Competencies, second edition of a 166-page spiral-bound book that provides a comprehensive listing of resources for developing 18 strategic and tactical HR competencies required of HR professionals working anywhere in the world, including in locations with limited access to resources.

Contact us for additional information.

Join our LinkedIn Competency-Based Talent Management Group.

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How you can benefit from having a competency model for your job.

 A  COMPETENCY MODEL FOR YOUR JOB CAN PROVIDE THESE BENEFITS FOR YOU IN YOUR ORGANIZATION:

A. Clear Job Requirements:

What do you need to do to be successful at work?

Competencies define the skills needed for your current or desired job, creating alignment around expectations at work. You can use them to assess your own skills, increase your self-awareness, and identify how to improve your performance in your current job or your candidacy for another job.

B. Objective Performance Reviews:

Do you have a clearly defined process to track skill progression?

Competencies, and the associated behavioral indicators, add objectivity to the performance management process by defining what and how well you are performing certain skills. It is not based on your manager’s subjective conclusions about your performance and competencies. You can track your own performance and document how well you performed against a specific competency, revealing how well you demonstrated the desired behavioral indicators.

C. Evaluation of Career Potential:

Do you know how to gain career mobility at your organization?

Your potential for other positions in your organization has probably already been evaluated, based on the skills, knowledge, and “intangibles” you are perceived to possess. Wouldn’t you like transparency, to know what those intangibles are, so that you can reset your career aspirations or develop the competencies you need in order to advance? In comparing people’s performance and potential, a competency model provides a consistent, objective and valid framework for the evaluation. If none exists, you don’t know what is being used as a measuring stick, e.g. loyalty to boss, tenure, etc.

D. Clear and Concise Feedback:

Is there a common language to communicate development opportunities?

Competencies allow people to give you clearer, more concise and understandable feedback about your strengths and development opportunities. They also offer a common language to give and receive feedback, used to set goals. Would you prefer to hear “you need to work on your selling skills” or “you would be more effective in selling your ideas if you more actively sought to understand others’ needs and concerns before trying to promote your ideas”.

E. Achievable Development Plans:

Do you have a realistic, behavioral specific plan for success?

A competency model helps you to build your development plan by pointing to specific behaviors in which you are successful and where you should improve. You can then benchmark progress and create future action plans, leveraging your strengths to address developmental needs. In the previous example, the focus for development would be to “better identify others’ needs and how your ideas will assist them”. This is a better and more achievable development objective than to simply “improve your influencing skills”.

DEVELOPING COMPETENCY GOALS

A process for developing competency goals is described below. While you may begin this process at the development planning meeting with your manager, afterwards you will need to do some additional individual planning and follow-up with your manager.

For each competency you have targeted for development:

1. Read the section on this competency, in Part II “Specific Suggestions for Developing Each Competency.” of Workitect’s Competency Development Guide.

2. Prepare a list of 6-15 goals you would like to include in your development plan for this competency. Each goal should specify some specific activity that you will complete by a specific date. Sample competency development goals are provided for each competency.

3. Draw on, but do not necessarily limit yourself to, the specific suggestions provided for developing this competency.

4. Include some goals that involve practicing the behaviors of the competency in relatively safe situations, where mistakes will not have significant consequences.

5. Include some goals that involve practicing the behaviors of the competency in situations that will help you achieve your job or business goals.

6. Create a list of goals for this competency that is both realistic and challenging. Assume that you will focus your developments on one competency for a 3-4 month period and that you will spend 3-6 hours per week, in addition to your regular job responsibilities, working on your competency goals.

7. Review a draft list of your goals for this competency with your manager and get his/her input.

8. Enter the competency development goals on a copy of the Competency Development Planning Form.

9. Repeat this process for the two other competencies you have targeted for development.

More information and tips can be found in our Competency Development Guide.

Discussion Question: If you now have a competency model for your position, what has it meant for you personally? Positive, negative, or no effect?

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Resources For Developing Competencies

Here are some resources you can use and actions you can take in order to develop a competency:  
Observation of outstanding performers
can be useful in developing recognition and understanding of the competencies. To use this type of developmental activity, you must have someone to observe who is adept at the competency, and the competency must be, of course, one that is demonstrated through observable behavior, such as providing motivational support.

Practicing the behaviors of each competency is the most direct method of competency development and is an essential part of any competency development strategy. This method provides the skill practice that is needed for competency development. You can use this method in conjunction with any of the others (e.g., by first reading about or observing effective behaviors). If possible, try out the behaviors in relatively safe situations (e.g., off the job) before trying them in critical, high-stakes situations on the job.

Self-Study Courses
Self-study courses can provide the same advantages as readings. In addition, many self-study courses include video providing an opportunity to observe others demonstrating the competency, audio which make it possible to learn about the competency while driving your car, and a variety of exercises to increase your understanding and use of the competency. Self-study courses may also include tests, which allow you to check your understanding.

Courses
Courses provide a block of time away from the job, when you can focus on development of specific competencies or skills. Most courses provide a variety of methods (e.g., readings, videos, observation, and practice). Courses can provide opportunities to practice skills in a safe environment and to receive expert coaching. A few external courses that are offered in several geographical locations are listed. Your organization’s training staff can help you find other courses. Directories such as “The Corporate University Guide to Management Seminars” published annually by The Corporate University Press (124 Washington Avenue, Point Richard, CA 94801), provide extensive listings of courses.

Readings
Readings help provide a conceptual framework for understanding a competency.
This framework may be especially useful in developing the following competencies:

  • Establishing Focus
  • Motivating Others
  • Fostering Teamwork
  • Managing Change
  • Managing Performance
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Influencing Others

Readings can also provide ideas on how to practice or learn competencies.

Interviewing Outstanding Performers
Interviewing outstanding performers is an easier tool to use than observation, because you do not have to be present with the outstanding performer when the competency is being demonstrated. You simply ask the person to discuss how he/she demonstrates this competency and how you can go about using this competency in your situation. It is helpful to ask the outstanding performer to talk about specific times when he/she used a competency. Interviewing outstanding performers helps to develop your understanding of the competencies. In using this method, you need not be limited to people in your own organization. Consider friends, neighbors, and people you know through professional and community organizations.

Seeking Feedback
Seeking feedback from others provides you with an accurate self-assessment. Feedback is especially important when the competencies require developing and refining a high level of skill. Ask others to observe while you try to demonstrate the competency, and ask them for feedback and suggestions. Try to arrange situations where others can observe you (e.g., conducting joint sales calls or selection interviews, managing a meeting). Let the observer know in advance what behaviors you will try to demonstrate. Ask for feedback afterwards.

Another option is to utilize feedback instruments. A 360 degree feedback instrument, Soundings™ Leadership Competency Assessment, provides feedback on 159 behaviors that make up thirty-five competencies from subordinates, co-workers and managers.

Additional Resources and Developmental Actions
Workitect’s Competency Development Guide contains additional actions that can be taken to develop a competency. An example for the competency of Managing Change can be found here.

In preparing your plan to develop a competency, consider all of these types of activities. The more different types of activities you include in your plan for developing a competency, the better your chances of success. At the same time, emphasize the activities that you are most comfortable with. And there are a variety of planning forms in Workitect’s Competency Development Guide that will facilitate the entire process. This is one of them:

WHAT RESOURCES AND ACTIONS HAVE YOU FOUND MOST HELPFUL IN
DEVELOPING COMPETENCIES?

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Include Competencies in a Succession Plan

 successionplanningSuccession planning is an ongoing system of identifying competent employees who are ready to move into key jobs in the organization and/or those who, with specifically identified development, will be ready to assume key jobs at some stated point in the future. Job-person matches are made between existing employees and future jobs they might assume. These future jobs are usually higher level posi­tions. But, succession planning may be for key jobs above, at the same level, or even below the job an employee now holds. Increasingly, succession planning is for lateral job moves (e.g., to a different function, project team, or geography).

The usual criteria for a succession planning system successful include:

  • One, preferably two, well-qualified internal candidates are identified as ready to assume any key job should it become vacant.
  • A record of successful promotions (or other job placements).
  • Few superior performers leave the organization because of “lack of opportunity­”

Competency-based succession planning systems identify the competency re­quirements for critical jobs, assess candidate competencies, and evaluate possible job-person matches. Career path “progression maps” identify key “feeder” jobs for lateral or higher level “target” positions within a job fam­ily or across job families.

The table below shows seven generic levels for line, staff function, and team/ project management. Jobs at any given level are feeder positions for higher rungs on the job ladder, and for lateral moves to positions in other job families.

A competency-based succession planning system assesses how many em­ployees in which feeder jobs have (or have the potential to develop) the compe­tencies to perform well in key target jobs. There are two ways of doing this.

  • The first is to compare the competencies of people in the feeder job with the competency requirements of the target job.
  • The second is to compare the competency requirements of the feeder job and the target job.

                  Generic Organizational Structure: Feeder Jobs and Levels

Line Staff Team/Project
1. Individual Contributor: Seasoned professional New hire 1. Individual Contributor: Seasoned professional New hire 1. Individual Contributor: Seasoned professional New hire
2. First Line Supervisor: Homogenous work group 2. Lead professional: Integrates other professionals work 2. Team/Project Leader: without permanent reports
3. Department: Manages several work units managed by subordinate supervisors 3. Function Manager: (finance, human resources) for a small business unit 3. Project Manager: Coordinates Project/Team Leaders from several work groups
4. Several Departments: Manages plant, region, several departments, function managers 4. Several Functions: (e.g., finance and administration) 4. Large Project Manager: Manages other Project managers
5. Business Unit: President or General Manager 5. Top Function Manager: for a business: VP Finance, VP Marketing 5. Major Product Manager: Coordinates all functions – R&D, marketing, manufacturing, HR
6. Division: Manages many business units (e.g., Group VP of large firm) 6. Corporate Executive VP: (e.g., Chief Financial Officer) 6. Mega Project Manager: $100+ million (e.g., NASA, military weapons acquisition)
7. Major Corporation CEO: Large complex multi-division organization

ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES

The issues that indicate a need for competency-based succession planning systems include:

  • Promotion or placement outcomes are poor; too many people promoted or transferred to new responsibilities fail or quit. Typical examples are promoting the best salesperson to sales manager or the best technical professional to supervisor and then finding he or she lacks essential in­terpersonal understanding and influence skills.
  • There is a need to redeploy technical/professional staff people to mar­keting or line management jobs-or managers back to individual con­tributor roles in an organization that is cutting middle management. “Lean and mean” organizations offer fewer vertical promotional or ca­reer path opportunities, with the result that more succession planning is In downsizing organizations, the key placement question may be which managers have kept up with their technical and professional com­petencies so they are able to return to individual contributor roles.
  • Organizational changes require employees with different competencies. Globalizing firms need employees with the competencies to function in different parts of the world. Privatizing organizations need to determine which government bureaucrats have enough achievement motivation to be­come entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Stagnant firms need employees with innovative and entrepreneurial competencies to survive in markets with shorter product life cycles and fast-moving foreign competitors. Downsizing firms need to decide who stays and who is let go, that is, which employees have the competencies to fill demanding “same amount of work with fewer people” jobs in the new, smaller organization.
  • Mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations require the surviving firm to decide which existing employees are needed for (which) jobs in the new structure. Mergers of similar firms often result in an organization with two marketing departments, two sales forces, duplicate staffs in many functions; merger efficiencies come from elimination of the double As with downsizing organizations, the question of who stays and who goes is determined by which employees have the competencies to succeed in the firm’s future jobs.

STEPS IN DEVELOPING A COMPETENCY-BASED SYSTEM

  1. Identify Key Jobs. Identifying these jobs in the organization’s struc­ture – or the structure it wants for the future usually includes identifying the firm’s strategy, its critical value-added target jobs, and key feeder jobs to these target jobs. Most organizations will have some variant of the seven levels shown in Table 1 for line, technical/professional, or functional staff, and team/project manager job families. Vertical progression in a job family is:
    – Individual contributor, often divided into two subgroups: new hire and seasoned professional
    – First-level functional supervisor, managing a homogeneous group of individual contributors (e.g., a move from engineer to chief engineer or programmer to software development team leader). For functional technical/professionals and project job families, this level may be a lead professional who acts as a temporary team leader, assists and integrates other professionals’ work, and mentors junior employees, but does not have any permanent reports.
    – Department, function or project managers, who manage supervisors or lead professionals of several work groups
    – Multiple departments or functions managers, who manage several other department, function, or project managers (e.g., a plant or re­gional manager, or director of finance and administration)
    – Business unit general manager, such as CEO of a small firm (less than $20 million in annual revenues); top functional manager, such as Mar­keting or Finance Vice President of a medium-size firm ($20-$200 million revenues); or manager of a major project
    – Division general manager, such as CEO of a medium-size firm ($200 million revenues); top functional executive in a large firm ($200+ million revenues), or mega-project manager
    – CEO of a large, complex multidivision organization
  2. Develop Competency Models for Critical Target and Feeder Jobs. Fre­quently this involves development of competency models for each of several steps in a job family ladder. BEIs conducted with four superiors and two aver­ages at each level are analyzed to identify competencies required for a supe­rior performance at the level and also to pinpoint how the competencies change or grow as an employee advances up the ladder.
  3. Create a Formalized Succession Planning Process. This process should be an annual cycle that requires management at each level to conduct assessments and engage in discussions about the talent within their organizations including performance and potential of their direct reports and other high potential people within their groups. In addition a mid-year update meeting can be help to identify progress since the last formal session. During the annual session the management team classifies people, in terms of their performance and potential, as:
  • Promotable, either:
    • Ready now, or
    • Developable (i.e., could be ready in the future if they develop specific competencies to the level required by the future jobs for which they are candidates)
  • Not promotable :
    • Competent in their current job, and/or
    • Have potential to transfer laterally to some other job
  • Not competent in their current job and not a fit with other jobs in the organization as it will be in the future. These people are candidates for early retirement or outplacement.

4. Develop a Human Resource Management Information System. Succession planning for more than a few positions all but requires a computerized human resource information system to keep track of the competency requirements of all jobs, competencies of these people assessed, and evaluation of possible job-­person matches.
5. Develop a Development/Career Pathing System (Optional). Succession planning systems create demand for competency-based development and ca­reer pathing systems. Once employees understand the competency require­ments for higher jobs and the gaps between their competencies and those required by the jobs they want, they ask for training or other developmental activities to close the gap. Similarly, once an organization is aware of the com­petencies it needs to be successful and the gaps between these needs and the capabilities of its existing or projected staff, it seeks selection or developmen­tal programs to close these gaps.

Workitect consulting services are available to create competency-based succession planning and talent management systems.

Reference: Competence At Work, by Lyle Spencer and Signe Spencer; 1993, John Wiley & Sons.

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Develop the HR Competency of “Promoting the Organization’s Culture & Values”

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VALUES AND CULTURE PROMOTION is one of eighteen competencies in Workitect’s competency model for human resources professionals working in a global environment. It is one of five competencies in the HR LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES cluster. Resources for developing the competency are listed in the 166-page Resource Guide for Developing Global HR Competencies.

Definition: Effectively communicates core values and behavioural standards; monitors and facilitates internal communications; disseminates necessary information to appropriate parties; develops the organization’s image within local community.

An employee demonstrating this competency:

     Communicating the firm’s culture and values

  • Articulates the firm’s culture, values and goals and inspires others with that vision.
  • Utilizes HR team and senior employees to establish role models for others behaviours and attitudes.
  • Assures the development of clear and focused letters, newsletters, memos, etc. to inform employees of programmes and organisational objectives
  • Monitors internal communications to ensure that the firm’s goals, mission and values are represented.

    Internal Communications

  • Manages internal communications to help employees understand their roles and responsibilities in meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers, owners and employees.
  • Educates management and employees to understand their role and responsibility for internal communications.
  • Analyses, categorizes and circulates information to others.
  • Assures that information is communicated at a level appropriate for the audience.
  • Oversees that all employee have access to relevant company and customer communications.

    Community Relations

  • Works with management team to promote the organisation as a reputable and respectful employer in the local community
  • Pro-actively develops relationships with organisations in the local community to provide humanitarian assistance when needed.

Importance of This Competency

This competency, the first strategic competency of five under the category of Human Resources Leadership, revolves around the organisation’s values and culture, and places the Human Resources function clearly at the helm in promoting these success characteristics.

General Considerations in Developing This Competency

The most obvious way to begin to develop this competency is to ‘walk the talk’ and demonstrate our company’s values and culture in your day-to-day interactions. If you are seen to demonstrate these characteristics yourself, then you will be able to start to practice the skills and other behaviours that will help you to communicate and educate others in their importance, value and application – you will be seen as a credible source of information on these issues.

Practicing This Competency

    As a Team Member

  • Look for ways to incorporate values and culture characteristics in your daily interactions, and be consistent in their implementation.
  • Look for ways to reinforce these characteristics in other communication pieces (e.g. employee newsletters, notice boards, etc.).
  • Review other internal communication documents (e.g. memos and letters) to make sure that the message is consistent with these characteristics.
  • Look for ways to make information more accessible and relevant to employees.
  • Provide feedback and examples to your team leader of situations in which the culture and value characteristics are being demonstrated (or not demonstrated).
  • Look for humanitarian opportunities in the local community for the company and employees to connect with and support.

    As Team Leader

  • Make sure that you demonstrate the value and culture characteristics with your own team (ask your team for feedback) – practice what you preach!
  • Recognize and encourage behaviors in your team members that demonstrate these characteristics.
  • Identify opportunities to coach other managers and supervisors in ‘walking the talk’ – coach and provide feedback where necessary.
  • Review internal correspondence and communication materials to make sure that all written materials also ‘walk the talk’.
  • Look for additional methods of increasing communications within the firm, encouraging ‘two-way’ communications and open dialogues that move beyond curt email messages.
  • Encourage relationships with local organizations and other activities and behaviors that demonstrate value and culture characteristics within the context of the larger, local community.

Obtaining Feedback

  • After sending out a significant report or memo, contact people and ask for feedback on it. Try to find out how many people read it and remembered it and what they thought of it.
  • If you use voice mail or e-mail as part of your work, ask co-workers about how effectively you use these communication vehicles and what you can do to improve your effectiveness in communicating.
  • Ask colleagues for specific feedback on the degree to which they believe you effectively model organization’s values and culture.

Learning from Experts

  • Observe the communication behavior of a skilled leader. Look at the frequency, style, and format of this person’s communications. If possible, ask this person about his/her thinking in planning particular communications.
  • Before sending out an important communication, ask for suggestions from someone strong in communication skills.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

  • If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:
  • Model this competency by sharing information and by crafting clear, concise messages addressing the needs of the audience.
  • Provide assignments that involve drafting memos, reports, or other communications. Provide constructive feedback on the communications.
  • Help this person think through the communication vehicles and messages needed by a department or team of which he/she is a part.
  • Assign this person to a team or task force headed by someone who demonstrates a high level of attention to communication.

Sample Development Goals

  • By June 12, I will make recommendations to the Planning Team on ways we should communicate the new operational plan to the Division.
  • By July 1, I will distribute a memo to all department heads summarizing the work of the Waste Reduction Team. A week later, I will call six of the department heads and ask for feedback on this memo.

 External resources (books, online and self-study courses) for developing this competencies. Roadmaps for developing seventeen additional competencies are contained in Workitect’s Resource Guide for Developing Competencies, a companion to Workitect’s Competency Development Guide.                                   

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It’s your career development – so who should be in the driver’s seat?

Female DriverTHE NEED FOR TALENT

In a growing economy or in a down economy, there is always a need for employees at all levels to be fully competent and motivated. Global competition, rapidly changing technology, and increasing customer expectations are demanding more of our organizations and the people within them. In addition, our educational systems appear to not be producing enough prospective employees with the right skills and knowledge needed by business. It is clear that the top performing organizations of the future will have a sound strategy and competent and talented “human resources” who are committed to the goals of the organization.

What are the implications for you as a member of the workforce? There is a way for you to impact several extremely important parts of your work life—your everyday job performance, the relationships with your co-workers, bosses, subordinates and preparedness for other roles and careers. You can do this by enhancing and developing core competencies, abilities, capabilities, etc. There are many ways to do this.

  • By practicing the competency
  • Obtaining feedback
  • Learning from experts
  • Coaching from others
  • Setting development goals
  • Utilizing learning resources, such as books, courses, seminars, and e-learning program

WHY COMPETENCIES?

If the word “competency” is not yet a familiar one in your organization, it probably will be within the near future. More and more organizations are developing job competency models, “blueprints” of jobs that list the skills, knowledge, attitudes, motives, etc. that characterize superior performance. These models have a variety of uses, one being a guide for employee development.

Why are job competency modeling popular? Because they are developed by studying what superior performers actually do on a job, rather than relying on theories of what people “think” constitutes superior performance. In other words, they are practical, “real world” and based on fact—not subjectivity. They can also identify the competencies that every incumbent must possess to survive in a position, i.e. the “threshold” competencies that lead to average performance. But the really key contribution is to identify the few competencies that differentiate superior performance from average performance. With this information, organizations can change their human resource processes to select, develop and reward superior performers – which leads directly to increased sales and productivity, reduced costs and the achievement of the organization’s strategic and tactical objectives.

For example, if an organization can pinpoint the competencies demonstrated by their top sales people (e.g. the top 20% who produce 80% of the revenue), it can substantially increase sales by selecting and developing a sales force with the appropriate competencies.

As individuals, most of us strive for superior performance, motivated by the desire to excel, to be recognized or rewarded. This book provides guidance to help you be the superior performer your organization is looking for, with the personal benefits that accompany that level of performance.

FROM PATERNALISM TO PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY— MANAGERS AND EMPLOYEES AS COACHES

Most supervisors are as uneasy about the performance management and career development process as are their employees who are on the “receiving” end. Having a structure and framework for assessing an employee’s strengths and developmental needs removes some of the subjectivity from coaching discussions. More importantly, asking employees to self-assess their competency development needs with the help of feedback from others, helps reduce defensiveness and creates a more constructive environment for developmental discussions.

More organizations are putting the responsibility for career development precisely where it should be: in the hands of the individual employee. But employees still need support and coaching from others in the organization. Although the coaching role is usually performed by the employee’s immediate supervisor, it can also be played by mentors, team leaders, project managers and other employees. One of the most underutilized resources in organizations today are the experienced, long-service, “journeymen” and “journeywomen” who have served as superior performers in a position and can coach others to superior performance, particularly with regard to the technical proficiency of a particular position. This coaching role can also be performed by retirees who would welcome the opportunity to continue to play a meaningful role, even on a part-time, contract basis.

CDG copyWorkitect’s Competency Development Guide is a resource guide for developing competencies. Tips for developing thirty-five key competencies are outlined along with instructions on how to identify the competencies needing development.

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Develop a Competency-Based Career Pathing Process

Career StreamCareer pathing in its elaborated form is a sophisticated method of developing future managers through the careful assignment of an individual to positions that provide him or her with opportunities for developing the competencies needed for higher-level positions. Workitect’s approach to career pathing combines an analysis of positions in terms of both the tasks and the competencies needed for effective performance. The combined approach is essential for each of the jobs in a career path, because sharp discontinuities sometimes exist between the competencies demanded in one job and those demanded in another in the same career path.

Career pathing involves making series of job-person matches that enable the person to grow into greater levels of responsibility, thus assuring the organization of the talent it requires for maximum productivity. Optimal job-person matching is not a simple matter—the attributes of both the job (duties and responsibilities—tasks) and the person (knowledge, skills, traits—competencies) must be taken into account. Our research shows that the more complex the job, the more difficult it is to identify the critical tasks and competencies related to success.   To use an extreme example, assembly-line tasks may be well circumscribed, and the workers’ necessary knowledge and skills defined briefly: the competencies that make the difference between satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance are limited and highly task-specific. By contrast, in professional and managerial jobs, the competencies that make the difference between minimal and outstanding performance tend to be much more generic than task-specific; because of this, the competencies are harder to identify than are those of manual laborers. Nevertheless, these competencies must be considered when making career pathing decisions involving professional and managerial.

Most career pathing systems used by organizations consider only task-specific job requirements in making job-person matches; when such systems do consider generic personal characteristics beyond knowledge and skills, these characteristics are usually vaguely defined, difficult to assess, and not demonstrably related to outstanding performance. By contrast, Workitect’s competency-based career path analysis avoids these problems. In addition to looking at the requirements for acceptable performance of the specific job tasks, it examines and documents the more general characteristics of outstanding performers—characteristics that are not covered by the analysis of tasks. Moreover, Workitect examines different levels of jobs within an organization, in order to determine both the task and the competency requirements of target jobs and of jobs that feed new talent into the target jobs (“feeder jobs’).

Understanding the task and competency requirements of various jobs helps clarify human resource planning. Although two jobs may have similar task requirements, there may be little overlap in the competencies needed for effective performance. The most commonly cited example of this phenomenon is the transition from salesperson to sales manager—people in these two jobs share tasks, yet the sales-management position demands competencies that are very different from those required by the salesperson’s job.

In a competency-based career pathing system, the job-task analysis is only part of the picture; it thus contrasts with traditional approaches to career pathing, in which task analysis makes up the entire picture. Naturally, it is important to determine how familiar an individual is with the tasks of a target position, since even if the person has all the characteristics necessary to be a superior performer, it may take him or her considerable time to master particular tasks. But from an organization systems perspective, any approach based exclusively on task requirements omits a critical part of job performance—characteristics of the individual who performs the job in an outstanding manner. Indeed, it is this factor that is the most powerful predictor of a person’s performance in high-level jobs.  Download this report about the entire process of competency-based succession planning.   

The Process

The major steps in developing a competency-based career pathing system are:

  1. Put together a resource panel of experts on the target and feeder jobs, who will set direction and specify the job performance criteria that determine who the outstanding performers are.
  2. Generate task and characteristics, through the resource panel, and survey job incumbents to obtain their perceptions of which job tasks and personal attributes contribute to success in the target job.
  3. Identify top performers in the target and feeder jobs, using performance criteria specified by the panel.
  4. Conduct in-depth interviews with both superior and average incumbents in target and feeder jobs, in order to find out what they do and how they do it.
  5. Develop a task analysis from the interviews, focusing on these tasks and deemed most important by superior performers.
  6. Develop a competency model of people in the target and the feeder jobs, identifying the competencies that all job performers need, but focusing on those competencies that make the biggest contribution to outstanding performance.
  7. Analyze career paths by combining the survey and interview results for target and feeder jobs.
  8. Implement the career pathing system through a number of options:
    –  Computer-based task and competencies inventories
    –  Performance appraisal linked to new job opportunities.
    –  Systematic counseling.
    –  Career development and related training programs.

The Products
The products of a competency-based career pathing system include:

  1. A description of the tasks required by target and feeder jobs, broken down by job families.
  2. A competency model and individual profiles of the outstanding job performers in each target and feeder job.
  3. Behavioral descriptions of each competency in the model.
  4. An analysis of job tasks in terms of the competencies that are required to perform them
  5. Performance indicators that provide the material for a competency-based evaluation program and a computerized skills bank.
  6. A career map of the organization identifying which jobs are the key feeders to higher-level positions.
  7. Recommendations for training in or selection for each competency in the model.
  8. Recommendations for developing a computer-based human resource management system that incorporates the findings of the task, competency, and career path analysis.

Summary
The objective of succession planning is to provide senior management with a system for providing and identifying a pool of ready replacements for key jobs, and to provide professionals with a clearly defined career path and a process to optimize their advancement. We help organizations develop and implement these systems.

Effective talent management, talent development, and career lanning contribute directly to the financial performance of an organization. The focus of talent management should be on assessing the competencies the organization needs to implement its strategy, and planning for the recruitment, selection, development, and management of that critical talent. Workitect consultants develop competency frameworks, models, and integrated applications that align with business strategy. Learn more.

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Seven Factors to Consider before Building Competency Models

7-FactorsJob competency models describe what superior performers actually do on a job that produces superior results. Armed with this information, selection, retention, training, succession planning and performance management systems can be integrated and designed that will attract, develop and retain top performers.

Superior performance that produces superior results means higher sales, productivity and profits. And everything can be measured. Which explains why many organizations have embraced competency-based talent management. It has provided human resource departments with an opportunity to demonstrate to line management that HR is able to “add value” that improves organizational performance.

However, there are several factors to consider before attempting to develop and implement a competency framework for talent management – factors that can make or break your best efforts.

1. Accept or modify the terminology and educate the users
The language that consultants use to describe competency systems is often confusing, misleading and filled with jargon. It starts with the definition of competencies.

A competency is a “skill, knowledge, motive, attitude, or personal characteristic that causes or predicts outstanding performance”. Most standard dictionaries, however, define competence and competency as “sufficient” or average performance as in “competent to stand trial”. Several HR directors have told me that, with the flip side of “competent” being “incompetent”, they are concerned that the image that competency systems raises for some people is that of incompetence, an implication that people are incompetent until receiving the benefit of competency modeling.

In truth, one of the purposes of competency technology is to help competent people become more competent – in areas where increased competence will produce superior performance. Each of us has strengths and areas where we can improve. Competency modeling just does a better job of identifying the specific competencies that drive superior performance and assessing the degree to which individuals have demonstrated those competencies. Our experience has been that once employees understand the concept and purpose of competency modeling, they accept it

A competency model does a better job of conveying the idea of superior performance because the word model means “something to be copied or imitated”. A job competency model, therefore, is a “blueprint” for all current and prospective job holders to copy, that includes a list of competencies that are required for superior performance. Competencies required for average performance, those required to just survive in a job, can also be spelled out in a job model.

Don’t expect everyone to immediately understand and appreciate the significance of competency modeling. Some may feel threatened by it. Go slow and educate people as you progress.

2. Think in terms of measurable payoffs.
The key question to ask yourself and others in your organization is: “what is superior performance worth?” This is easier to answer for some jobs than others, but there is an answer for every job. It first requires clarity about performance measures.

Since sales jobs have fairly clear measures, let’s look at sales jobs to illustrate the point. In one client’s organization, the average annual sales for all sales people were $3.0 million. The top sales people averaged $6.7 million in annual sales. Superior performance was worth $3.7 million in sales per sales person. Now translate this into the bell-shaped curve that depicts the distribution of performance ratings in many organizations. If you can, in fact, increase the percentage of superior performers and move the curve to the right, you will add economic value. Each sales position that is filled by a superior performer, in the case above, will add $3.7 million of sales per year.

***HR ValueChart4:c

Line executives understand this kind of thinking, where they often do not understand other HR approaches that are seen as having little impact on the bottom line.

3. Consider alternative approaches, including “doing-it-yourself”.
There are several ways to develop competency models. If you are doing more than one model, consider using an integrated approach that utilizes a competency dictionary, a common set of building block competencies, customizable for each job. Each model requires six to ten days of an internal or external consultant’s time, including facilitation of a focus group of high performers, interviews and model development.

Pick an external consultant to get you started who is willing to transfer their methodology to you and train your staff to carry on the work, and/or have them attend Workitect’s three-day Building Competency Models certification workshop.

For a large retail organization, we developed the first two models while training an internal HR manager to do additional models. She also designed and implemented selection and performance management applications based on the models. Structured interview questions were developed for each key position to help hiring managers assess and select candidates with the required competencies. Performance goals and results forms were also developed.

4. Start small, don’t oversell, but start with a critical job
The best way to demonstrate the payoffs of a competency approach is to start with a high impact job or one that is requiring attention, i.e. high turnover, impact on company’s sales, etc. Define the measurable outcomes of doing the model and specify applications.

For example, if you want to do a model of a software developer position, include an application of a selection system and interview guide that will allow you to expand the candidate pool and select superior performing software developers. Other applications can be added, but you should start with at least one visible and measurable outcome for the model. If outcomes and applications are not built in, competency modeling may be perceived as a HR exercise without payoffs.

There is a natural tendency to want to start with a low risk, low visibility position, in order to evaluate the process and the consultant. You are better off doing your homework and thoroughly checking references before selecting a consultant than to waste an opportunity to make an impact that can multiply through out the organization.

The ideal place to start is with the top executive group. Getting that group to develop a model for their position assures buy-in. They may have already gone through a strategic planning exercise that included identifying their organization’s “core competencies”. Developing a model helps them understand the job competency process and align it to the company’s strategy. For example, if innovation is a desired core competency, then a “fostering innovation” competency may be included in most models in order to drive the kind of change needed. An executive model is also needed for a good succession planning system.

5. “One size fits all” model or multiple models for multiple jobs
Some organizations use a generic off-the-shelf model for all manager positions. The model may have been one developed externally to cover all management jobs in all industries. Or it may have been developed internally by surveying senior executives asking them what they thought were the key characteristics required for success in their organization. Both approaches are inexpensive to adopt.

The prime disadvantage is lack of validity in a specific organization. The externally developed model may miss several key competencies that may really make the difference between superior and average performance in your unique culture. The internally developed list is often based on opinion and false assumptions and not on hard data. There can also be a communications gap. One CEO insisted that his organization hire and develop people “with a fire in their belly”. He didn’t mean finding people with ulcers, but it did take a competency model to validate his opinion and to clearly and concisely describe the qualities of people who were actually successful in that organization.

The opposite end of the spectrum is to do models for every job in an organization, which is costly and unnecessary. Job models are not necessary for every single job in an organization. Jobs can be grouped into like categories or levels. For example, ten different positions in an information systems department may be grouped into three levels.

For another manufacturing company, this is the process that was followed. Models for thirteen key management and professional positions at the plant and headquarters facilities were completed within a relatively short period of time.

6. Maximize the uses and benefits.
There are many possible applications and uses of competency models. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations go to the trouble of developing models, use them for one purpose and put them on the shelf. Here are some ways in which you can take full advantage of competency models. Use them to:

  • Integrate all HR and talent management processes using a common framework to select, train and reward people.
  • Assess internal and external candidates using assessment exercises, interviewing and instruments.
  • Develop a model for high performing teams. Select and train team members, use for team building.
  • Expand hiring and succession pool. Models may challenge assumptions about required competencies and identify alternative sources of talent
  • Retain key employees. Target retention of top performers. Employees who see expanded opportunities for growth are more likely to stay (also impacts morale).
  • Redesign jobs. Analysis of a job during model building can reveal ineffective job design plus suggested improvements from focus group.
  • Certify competence levels. Design certification programs to develop and reward competency development.
  • Design 360° feedback instruments and other developmental tools.
  • Determine staffing of merged organization. Keep the top performers in the key positions.
  • Create the learning organization. Use the models as templates to guide development.

7. High tech or low tech?
Competency technology has evolved to the point where you can now buy software programs to help construct competency models. These programs contain competency dictionaries, i.e. lists of competencies that can be used to analyze jobs. Some companies have designed their own customized programs for the same use. As we move closer to computerizing all paper transactions and making greater use of the intranet, this seems to make sense. The more we can use technology to simplify our lives, the better.

However, the process of developing competency models remains basically a human process. It requires interviewing, collecting and analyzing data, observing behavior, skillful facilitation of a focus group and drafting a model document. Judgment, ability to react and adapt to situations, to deal with conflict and resistance and uncover unexpected opportunities to improve an organization’s performance are required.

Using automated tools to assist in the application of competency technology is a good idea. Employees who can access competency models and developmental opportunities through a computer terminal feel more empowered and more in control of their destiny. Just be careful to not put the cart before the horse. Remember GIGO (garbage in, garbage out)? Develop good models and good systems before computerizing. Concentrate first on practicality and fit, not on technical sophistication.

Conclusion
The downside of outlining all the things one should consider before doing something is that it will have the unintended effect of discouraging the reader from doing the “something”. Hopefully, that will not be the case here because the payoffs for your organization and for you personally of undertaking a competency approach far outweigh the pain you may incur. Thoughtful consideration of the seven tips described above should minimize the pain and maximize the gain. Read more.. Insights: Superior Performers Produce Superior Results

Also included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models Workshop and applied in our consulting practice to help organizations develop job competency models and HR and talent management applications, including performance management, succession planning, assessment and selection, and training and development.
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How to break the Competency Curse

Woman Thinking iStockphotoHow One Manager Found New Opportunities at Work

When good workers suffer from “the competency curse,” they can end up being pigeonholed into tasks they do well, instead of a track that allows for growth.

At first glance, I thought that the title of an article in the Wall Street Journal was taking a shot at competencies. One of the expected outcomes of job competency modeling is that people are given the opportunity to develop competencies, which in turn provides opportunities for career advancement. So competencies should not be a “curse”. Fortunately, this article does not take that position. It is about a person who is so competent in her current position that the organization feels that it cannot afford to move her to another higher level position. In other words, being too competent can restrict your career opportunities.

In this article, Danielle Blimline faced that problem and took some very interesting steps, including making a “presentation” to her manager, Chris Currier, to convince him to move her to a different and higher level position. She first started by obtaining some advice from a career consultant who helped her develop a solution to her problem.

The Solution

Danielle planned a conversation with her boss to ask for a chance to contribute more. She developed a 10-slide presentation about her experience and her goals, including a slide about the pros and cons of her “available options”—staying in her current job, moving up to a new position or quitting. “It was a ‘go big or go home’ moment,” she says. But “I was having a hard time” phrasing the message, she says. “How do I tell him this is not working for me?” Her challenge was to rephrase her pitch in a positive way,

The Implementation

Mr. Currier had been impressed by her “unflinchingly positive demeanor” during his first few months working with her, but he had wondered whether she was burning out on the job.

After Danielle launched into her presentation, she saw Mr. Currier suddenly sit up in his chair, his brow furrowed. “He was a little defensive for a second,” she says. She worried that she was making a negative impression. Mr. Currier says he was trying to figure out where Danielle was going with her slide presentation. “These are sensitive topics. We were walking on eggshells,” he says.

Danielle responded by re-emphasizing that her goal was positive. “This meeting is about me. I’m not criticizing you,” she says she told him. “I don’t want to keep recycling” oft-used skills, she explained. “I want to build something better. That’s my sweet spot. That’s what makes me happy.”

Mr. Currier thought “the presentation was extremely well thought-out,” he says, and Danielle’s delivery was “unique, in the ability to articulate in a very succinct manner where she wanted to go,” he says. They agreed that he would look for potential mentors for her in the company. “I had several conversations within the first hour” after the meeting, exploring options, he says.

The Outcome

She was promoted to managing a 10-member team on a large high-profile account. Her new boss praises her “motivation, attitude and commitment,” adding, “she has been an integral part of our success so far.” Danielle calls it “the most ideal job I’ve had. I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I like to be challenged, and figure out how to make things work better.”

To learn more about competencies, competency models, and how an employee can acquire competencies to advance his or her career, click here.

Have you or others in your organization been faced with a “competency curse” problem? How have you or your organization dealt with it or solved it?

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When companies select CEOs in their late 40s.

CEOGenerational changes are occurring  in the executive suite as more companies hire chiefs in their late 40s.                        

Generation X is moving into the corner office, bringing a different style to the way companies are run. So begins a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Here are a few of the highlights from that article and possible implications for HR professionals.

In general, younger Chief Executive Officers (aka CEOs) tend to:

  • Be more dedicated to keeping products and services relevant for the rising millennials projected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025.
  • Take more risks
  • React faster to sudden business shifts. Are more nimble and agile.
  • Favor a flatter organizational structure so they can make decisions faster
  • Be tech savvy and focused on technology

AND…they are more focused on talent management and development. According to    the article, Gen X CEOs:

  • Spend more time wooing and keeping younger staffers.
  • Delve deeper into hiring and retention.
  • Place more emphasis on human capital for long-term competitive advantage.
  • Look for better ways to balance work-life needs for all employees.
  • Emphasize setting of the culture of the organization.

Here are a few relevant quotes by contributors to the article:

  • “Talent acquisition and retention is a huge component of what we [new CEOs] need to think about. That is where you get to set the culture.”
  • “Businesses gain a greater recruiting advantage from their organizational culture than higher salaries or fast promotions.”
  • “Managing talent is a critical focus for the new CEOs because the contemporary economy heavily depends on service and knowledge workers, and corporate loyalty has faded as people change jobs more often.”
  • “Millennials, people in their mid-teens to mid-30s, have a different expectation of what they’re looking for in employers,” favor greater flexibility about where and when they work, and “their hearts want to be engaged.”

Featured in the article are new CEOs younger than 50 in McDonald’s, Harley Davidson, Microsoft, and Aqua America.

Implications for Human Resources 

Competencies and competency-based applications can be used to set and communicate an organization’s culture and values. Many organizations recognize the importance of culture in achieving competitive advantage. Executives can identify a competency framework that best reflects the characteristics of current and future employees, characteristics that are a good “fit” for the organization’s culture.

Human resources can build a competency architecture, models, and applications that are customized to the organization’s unique culture and strategy and that provide a framework for selecting, developing, and retaining talent. This can be accomplished with a methodology that doesn’t require complex software or off-the-shelf models. If a generic competency dictionary is used to facilitate the process, it should be seen by employees as practical, comprehensive, easy to work with (no more than 40 competencies), and written and organized in a way that is easily understood by all.

Workitect’s competency system is a blueprint for designing competency-based talent management applications that address the interests of the Gen X CEOs and employees described in this article.

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