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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How to develop the competency of Decisiveness

CDG_HorizontalBannerLeaders, especially those in senior management, need Decisiveness. They must be able to make high stakes decisions, such as whether to accept a multi-million dollar deal, restructure the organization, cancel a venture that is not going well, shut down a plant, or eliminate a large number of jobs. Decisiveness does not mean making decisions impulsively or intuitively; it does mean willingness to step up to a decision when a decision is needed.

Definition: Willingness to make difficult decisions in a timely manner.

  1. Is willing to make decisions in difficult or ambiguous situations, when time is critical
  2. Takes charge of a group when it is necessary to facilitate change, overcome an impasse, face issues, or ensure that decisions are made
  3. Makes tough decisions (e.g., closing a facility, reducing staff, accepting or rejecting a high-stakes deal)

General Considerations in Developing this Competency

One of the best ways to learn this competency is to be thrust into a situation where time-critical decisions are required, and you must make the best decisions you can, under pressure. It may also help to work closely with a leader who demonstrates Decisiveness, to see first hand how this person makes decisions.

Another approach is to reflect on your own behavior. Think of situations in which you needed to make a decision. What did you do? Did you act decisively? Would you handle this situation the same way today? What would you do differently?

Practicing this Competency

  • Volunteer for assignments in which you will be responsible for making decisions.
  • Practice using a simple analytical process in making decisions: Answer these questions:

1) What are the criteria that should be considered in making this decision?

2) What are the alternatives?

3) For each alternative:

  • What are the positive results if things go well?
  • Can you quantify the benefits of a positive outcome?
  • What are the possible risks? What could go wrong?
  • Can you quantify the costs of a negative outcome?
  • What is the probability of a positive outcome?
  • Look for opportunities to take charge of a group to overcome an impasse, ensure that the group faces an issue, or change the direction in which the group is moving.

Obtaining Feedback

Ask someone to observe you over a one-month period and give you feedback regarding decisiveness. Ask this person to point out when you are demonstrating Decisiveness effectively, when you are making decisions too hastily, and when you need to be more decisive.

Learning from Experts

If you have the opportunity to work closely with a decisive leader, observe this person’s decision making behavior. How does this person make decisions?

Interview a leader who is strong in Decisiveness. Ask the person to talk about several situations in which he/she had to make a decision. Ask the person to walk you through each situation. Find out what the person did, said, and thought, in the process of making each decision. Reflect on what you have heard. What behaviors could you benefit from by adopting?

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:

  • Give the person ongoing, constructive feedback about behavior in decision making situations.
  • Empower this person to make decisions in his/her area of work.
  • Provide assignments that involve decision making.
  • Be supportive when a decision does not work out. Decisive people do not always make decisions that work out as planned. Rather than criticize the employee, debrief the situation with the employee to help identify what can be learned from it.

Sample Development Goals

By December 1, I will interview Mary Byrne to learn how she makes decisions.

At the next meeting of the Production Team, I will intervene quickly if the group starts to go off track. Afterwards, I will ask two team members for feedback on my behavior.

On March 1, I will review the proposals from different vendors and make a decision on
that day.

Within one week, I will confront Deborah about her performance problem and begin implementing the disciplinary process.

WHAT METHODS OR RESOURCES HAVE YOU SEEN TO BE MOST EFFECTIVE IN DEVELOPING “DECISIVENESS” IN LEADERS?

Resources for developing this competency are listed in the Competency Development Guide.  Organizations can provide every employee with the content of the Competency  Development Guide, and customize it to their needs, through the purchase of an intellectual property license.

Workitect is a leading provider of competency-based talent development systems, tools and programs. We use “job competency assessment” to identify the characteristics of superior performers in key jobs in an organization. These characteristics, or competencies, become “blueprints” for outstanding job performance. Competencies include personal characteristics, motives, knowledge, and behavioral skills. Job competency models are the foundation of an integrated talent management system that includes selection, performance management, succession planning, and leadership development. Contact our experienced consultants to learn how we can improve all areas of your talent management processes.

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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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Developing the Persuasive Communications Competency

From Workitect’s Competency Development Guide, a 280-page resource guide for developing thirty-five competencies.

Definition: The ability to plan and deliver oral and written communications that are impactful and persuasive with their intended audiences.

  1. Identifies and presents information or data that will have a strong effect on others
  2. Selects language and examples tailored to the level and experience of the audience
  3. Selects stories, analogies, or examples to illustrate a point
  4. Creates graphics, overheads, or slides that display information clearly and with high impact
  5. Presents several different arguments in support of a position

Importance of this Competency – Persuasive Communication is important for professionals in sales and marketing. It is also important for leaders, who need to gain support for a new vision of the organization, for an operational plan, and for changes in structure and work processes. This competency is also important for anyone who needs to gain others’ support for initiatives.

General Considerations in Developing this Competency – This competency involves developing two skills. The first of these is designing and developing communications that will have a persuasive impact. This skill requires thinking about and anticipating the impact of various communication strategies. Two kinds of information can be used to achieve a persuasive impact: (1) identifying and highlighting arguments or data that are logically compelling; and (2) identifying and highlighting arguments or data that address specific interests, concerns or fears of the audience.

An excellent way to enhance your ability to design and develop persuasive communications is to work closely with someone who is skilled in this ability. Books and courses on presentation skills can also be helpful.

The second skill involved in Persuasive Communication is presentation delivery. A course in presentation skills is likely to be especially helpful, because it combines specific instruction with practice and feedback. There are also books, videos and self-study courses to develop presentation skills.

Practicing this Competency

  • Look for and take advantage of opportunities to prepare and deliver presentations. In designing a presentation, identify and highlight information that will have a persuasive impact because it is logically compelling.
  • In designing a presentation or preparing for an influence meeting, try to anticipate the interests and concerns of the audience. Before the meeting or presentation, call someone in the audience and ask what kind of information would be most helpful and what the audience will be most interested in hearing.
  • In constructing a presentation, use examples or analogies based on the experience of your audience. For example, if you are talking to manufacturing staff, you might use examples dealing with production runs.
  • Take time to find and develop interesting stories to illustrate points in a presentation.
  • Use presentation software to develop attractive, high-impact graphics for your presentation.

Obtaining Feedback – Before delivering a presentation, review the content with someone whose judgment you trust and ask for feedback and suggestions.

Ask someone to observe you delivering a presentation and to give you feedback and constructive suggestions.

Have someone videotape you delivering or rehearsing a presentation. Then view the video and note specific things you can do to improve your presentation delivery.

 Learning from Experts – Observe someone skilled in creating and delivering presentations. Note the content and organization of the presentation. What ideas could you use in your presentations? Study the person’s delivery of the presentation. Note the person’s verbal and nonverbal behavior. What does this person do that you could do in your presentations?

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

  • Provide opportunities for this person to observe skilled presenters. Discuss what the person noticed in the skilled presenter’s presentations.
  • Help the person plan the organization and content of a presentation. Share the reasons underlying your thinking.
  • Observe the person deliver a presentation and provide specific, constructive feedback, both positive and negative.
  • If you are managing several persons who have opportunities to give presentations, debrief each presentation and ensure that each person receives useful, constructive feedback.
  • Provide opportunities for presentation skills training.

Sample Development Goals

By June 10, I will read How to Present Like a Pro, by Lani Arredodo, and identify a list of ideas to build into my presentation at the Western Marketing Region Meeting.

By June 5, I will have Cindy Spier videotape me rehearsing a presentation, and I will ask her to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement.

By July 10, I will learn to use Microsoft Powerpoint to prepare a sales presentation to Omega Company.

By July 25, I will complete a course on presentation skills.

Books

Artful Persuasion: How to Command Attention, Change Minds, and Influence People, by Harry Mills. New York, NY: AMACOM, 2000.

Creative Business Solutions: Persuasive Presentations: How to Get the Response You Need, by Nick Souter & John Boyle. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2007.

Effective Presentation Skills: A Practical Guide For Better Speaking, by Steve Mandel. Ontario, CA: Crisp Publications, 2000.

In The SpotLight, Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing, by Janet E. Esposito. Bridgewater, CT: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win Customers, Clients, and Contracts, 3RD Edition, by Tom Sant. New York, NY: AMACOM, 2012.

Persuasive Communication, Second Edition, by James B. Stiff & Paul A. Mongeau. New York, NY: Guilford Publications, Inc., 2003.

Persuasive Writing and Speaking: Communication Fundamentals for Business, by Phyllis Wachob. Stanford, CT: Thomson Learning, 2004.

Speaking With Bold Assurance: How to Become a Persuasive Communicator, by Bert Decker & Hershael W. York. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

The Art of Persuasion: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Convincing Power, by Andrew Gulledge. Lincoln, NE: Universe, Inc., 2004.

The Art of Public Speaking, by Stephen Lucas. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

The One-Page Proposal: How to Get Your Business Pitch onto One Persuasive Page, by Patrick G. Riley. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2002.

The Shortcut to Persuasive Presentations, by Larry Tracy. North Charleston, SC: BookSurge, LLC, 2003.

Wooing & Winning Business: The Foolproof Formula for Making Persuasive Business Presentations, by Spring Asher & Wicke Chambres. Hoboken, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

Self Study Courses

How to Speak Persuasively. American Management Association. Tel. 800 250-5308.

External Courses

Effective Executive Speaking. Three days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441.

Expanding Your Influence: Understanding the Psychology of Persuasion. Two days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441. http://www.amanet.org/training/seminars/Expanding-Your-Influence-Understanding-the-Psychology-of-Persuasion.aspx

Getting Results Without Authority. Three days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441.

Influencing Skills. Two days. The Hayes Group International, Inc. Tel. 336 765-6764. http://www.thehayesgroupintl.com/workshops/influencing-skills/

Strategies for Developing Effective Presentation Skills. Three days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441.

Let Us Help You

Workitect is a leading provider of competency-based talent development systems, tools and programs. We use “job competency assessment” to identify the characteristics of superior performers in key jobs in an organization. These characteristics, or competencies, become “blueprints” for outstanding job performance. Competencies include personal characteristics, motives, knowledge, and behavioral skills. Job competency models are the foundation of an integrated talent management system that includes selection, performance management, succession planning, and leadership development. Contact our experienced consultants to learn how we can improve all areas of your talent management processes.

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“How to Do HR Right” – FastCompany

Several years ago, the business magazine FastCompany published an article written by Keith Hammonds, titled “Why We Hate HR”.  It was posted in a previous Workitect blog, “Why Do Some Executives Hate HR?”  Most of the article describes where HR falls short in being an effective contributor to business results. The article also includes a list of five suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the human resource function.

Say the Right Thing. At the grand level, what HR tells employees has to match what the company actually believes; empty rhetoric only breeds discontent. And when it comes to the details of pay and benefits, explain clearly what’s being done and why. For example, asks consultant Dennis Ackley, “When you have a big deductible, do employees understand you’re focusing on big costs? Or do they just think HR is being annoying?”

Measure the Right Thing. Human resources isn’t taken seriously by top management because it can’t demonstrate its impact on the business. Statistics on hiring, turnover, and training measure activity but not value. So devise measurements that consider impact: When you trained people, did they learn anything that made them better workers? And connect that data to business-performance indicators-such as customer loyalty, quality, employee-replacement costs, and, ultimately, profitability.

Get rid of the “Social Workers.” After Libby Sartain arrived as chief people officer at Yahoo, she moved several HR staffers out–some because they didn’t have the right functional skills, but mostly because “they were stuck in the old-school way of doing things.” Human resources shouldn’t be about cutting costs, but it is all about business. The people who work there need to be both technically competent and sophisticated about the company’s strategy, competitors, and customers.

Serve the Business. Human-resources staffers walk a fine line: Employees see them as stooges for management, and management views them as annoying do-gooders representing employees. But “the best employee advocates are the ones who are concerned with advancing organizational and individual performance,” says Anthony Rucci of Cardinal Health. Represent management with integrity and honesty-and back employees in the name of improving the company’s capability.

 Make Value, Not Activity. University of Michigan professor Dave Ulrich, coauthor of The HR Value Proposition (Harvard Business School Press, 2005), says HR folks must create value for four groups: They need to foster competence and commitment among employees, develop the capabilities that allow managers to execute on strategy, help build relationships with customers, and create confidence among investors in the future value of the firm.

Related Reading: Teaching Guide for “Why We Hate HR” published by SHRM, “Why We (Shouldn’t) Hate HR”, HBR by Bill Taylor, June, 2010.

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The Cost of Higher Quality Decision-Making

How do successful human resource teams manage to do more with less, thus earning their respective title? Less staff, less outsourcing… all thanks to higher quality decision-making, which drives lower costs. Sounds easy enough, right? It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Here’s a little insight to how having an integrated talent management approach can help manage costs and promote resiliency.

Foster resiliency, foster freedom

We all ideally want to achieve that sense of purpose in our careers – after all, our “job” is simply an aspect of identity, while our “career” serves as an aspect of our lives. When the concept of resiliency is fostered by the HR function, both parties (HR and employees) are provided the freedom to make choices and act on them, thus allowing everyone involved to feel ‘in control’ of their professional life. This, in turn, assists in boosting productivity and overall performance.

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Some tips for promoting resiliency include:

  • Engaging employees via communication regarding the influence they hold in daily tasks and their career paths.
  • Re-framing stress into opportunities for growth & development (i.e., incentives).
  • Cultivating creativity by involving employees in the process of any organizational change.

Research has shown that the more an individual views their job as a calling rather than simply a set of tasks, the more committed they are in the workplace. By fostering resiliency and applying tips, such as those mentioned in the above bullet points, you allow your employees to adopt a sense of freedom and true purpose – and a better chance they will stick around in the face of high-stress situations or corporate change.

Sharing a common language

Along with cultivating a resilient staff, successful HR organizations understand how to remain focused on the business’s objectives in order to effectively identify the skills needed for the job, both present day and well into the future.

Before adopting a talent management program, it’s important to recognize what it means for the HR function to ‘share a common language’. An integrated talent management system shares a communicative architecture, contrasting from a typical system where:

1)     Selection decisions are made via one set of criteria

2)     Performance is appraised on a second set of criteria

3)     The training function teaches a third set of skills

Using a more integrated approach, for example a selection decision, is based on the understanding of not only on how employees should be identified, but how their skills align with the company’s vision and culture.

To learn how you can begin taking the first steps to successfully do more with less by fostering resiliency and building an effectively integrated talent management system, please visit our webpage.

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Developing Technical Competencies

Technical womanThe demand for and interest in technical competencies has significantly increased in the past few years.  When the concept of competencies first emerged, the focus was largely on the behavioral factors that led to successful or exceptional performance in a job.  The original positions targeted were generally leadership jobs.  The models were created to identify and describe what differentiated the best managers from the rest.

The positions targeted for development of competency models have evolved to include a variety of individual contributor roles where there is much more emphasis on technical knowledge and skill requirements.  We have found that technical competency models can be created using similar approaches to those we use in developing traditional behavioral (non-technical) with a few notable differences:

  • For technical competencies, we are much more reliant on the expertise of incumbents and their managers to identify both the competencies and the behavioral indicators.  While we may have an in-depth understanding of what the influence competency involves and the typical behavioral indicators, our understanding of an engineering competency called “uses technical models and tools” is very limited.   We use resource panels made up of incumbents and managers to identify the technical competencies and create definitions for each.
  • While using levels with behavioral competencies is common, we seldom see a technical model that doesn’t have levels.  The 4 levels are typically labeled Basic Proficiency, Intermediate Proficiency. Full Proficiency, and Expert.  Again, we rely on the SMEs to write the definitions of the levels as part of the resource panel activities.
  • Finally, we work with the managers of the department to determine the technical competencies required for each job and the needed proficiency level.  This builds consensus among the leaders about the technical requirements for each job.  We also find that it defines the difference between jobs, e.g. the difference between an engineer 1 and an engineer 2, which is welcomed by the jobholders.

Technical competencies models can be used to define the essential levels of knowledge and skill that technical professionals need for effective performance.  However, when it comes to determining what differentiates the best technical professionals from the rest, we find those answers lie within what we traditionally have labeled as the behavioral competencies.

We teach people how to create technical competencies and a technical competencies dictionary in our Creating Technical Competencies workshop.

Author: Dick Gerlach

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