Evidence of Competence, and Lack Thereof

This is a point I've been confused about for a long time. For one thing, I fully buy into the idea that you want people to grow, as your organization grows, so they should have a level of incompetence for new and developing challenges which they will encounter. If they are fully competent at everything, it will all be quite boring and they won't last long, and certainly won't have their heart in it at the beginning.

That said, the employee, consultant, contractor, what have you, is being hired to perform. They need to be able to do this. What kind of evidence should we consider, and what is not relevant? Those are the questions. I've had a lot of trouble lately, and so this is a message to myself and an attempt to learn some lessons, and not simply experience chaos. The hope is that some of this can be avoided in the future.

A gleam in his eye

To be honest, this is a list of what is not evidence of competence, as well as its positive presence.

Competence Is Not Being Interesting

No matter the wonderful personality of a person, or their social media following, or what they have done in the past, this is not competence. In fact, it can get in the way of competence.

Competence Is Not Having Potential

Lots of people (perhaps everyone?) has potential for improvement or accomplishing things they have never done in the past. This is not the hallmark of competence, but rather a lack of competence. Of course, having potential is a useful thing, and preferred. However, it simply isn't competence.

Competence Is Being Responsible

Simply saying that one takes responsibility is a very small part of actually doing so. Taking responsibility is about being responsive as well as doing one's part. Sometimes being responsible is about playing a role, and not just taking something on ones own shoulders. For example, if someone is trying to take responsibility, being responsible is about shared ownership and allowing others to be responsible as well.

Competence Is Communicating

Timely communication is an integral aspect of competence. If someone simply does not communicate in a reasonable amount of time, of course within reason, then competence is lacking.

Competence Is Making Others Efficient

By focusing, as per Peter Drucker, on making other people more efficient, we are doing the right thing. This means to a large degree cutting down on inessential communication. The idea is not to second-guess other people and do things without checking in. Rather it is being cognizant of where things might go wrong and focusing the communication at those points.

Competence Is Getting It Done

Finally, competence ultimately is in getting the work done. If someone simply doesn't get the work to you, or it is largely inadequate, both in terms of time, quantity as well as quality, then we are dealing with incompetence.

Authentic Evidence Of Competence

  • The individual is able to effectively integrate requested changes to their work behavior or work product within a reasonable amount of time. If they keep doing things differently than requested, this is negative evidence.
  • The individual communicates timely and effectively—that is, no phone or email tag, a minimum of messages and a maximum of signal over noise. If the person takes days to respond or does not provide information previously requested, this is not a good sign.
  • If the individual does what they say, and their behavior is predictable from their communication, this is a good sign. If people say one thing but it doesn't become reality, and this happens often or with some degree of regularity. This is a bad sign.