Do you know what it means to be competent? It means you can get things done. That’s all. Do you know someone who gets things done? I’ll bet you know fewer people who get things done than you think you do.
Ok, maybe competence is a little more than just getting things done. It’s getting them done the right way. That doesn’t require a high iq. It doesn’t require super-human creativity. It might require that certain skills be in place, but if those skills aren’t in place, then basic competence would dictate speaking up and saying so, which would probably negate the requirement of performing said task.
Let me give you an example of competence. I hire a person to do sales for me at MWI. I tell them that in order to close one $10K deal per month (about the minimum needed to stay employed here as a sales person), they need to make 10 phone calls per day.
Now there are two ways this sales person can demonstrate basic competence. One, they can make ten phone calls per day. Two, they can find another way to close $10K per month. I don’t really care whether they close deals by making ten phone calls, or by knocking on doors or by sending emails or by figuring out a method I’ve never thought of. All I want them to do is bring in $10K per month and do it in an ethical manner.
What is incompetent behavior in this situation? It’s the person who doesn’t bring in $10K per month, and hasn’t made 10 phone calls per day either. If someone has done what I’ve told them to do but hasn’t succeeded, then at least they have a claim that maybe it wasn’t their fault.
What’s another example of competence? In the LDS Church we have a thing called Home Teaching. It’s a program where men from each ward (aka “congregation”) are paired up and given an assignment to visit 2-3 families, maybe more, at least once each month. The pair of men are supposed to bring a gospel related message to the home of each family, and also make sure each family is being taken care of spiritually and temporally. That means if a family is short on money and can’t afford medical care for a child, the home teachers find out about it and bring this to the attention of a leader who can get financial assistance for the family through the Church.
This shouldn’t be too difficult, right? All you have to do is get ahold of your Home Teaching companion, prepare a brief lesson, get a hold of your 2-3 families to make an appointment, show up, teach the lesson, and report this to your supervisor. All of this might take up 2-3 hours per month. Not exactly a taxing exercise. And the benefits are enormous when Home Teaching is done consistently, even if only a minimum of effort is expended.
Of course there are difficulties. A family goes out of town for two weeks, so that makes them hard to visit. A companion works three jobs at all sorts of hours, so that makes him hard to get a hold of. Sure, there are challenges, but you’ve got an entire month to do this. There might be an excuse for why you missed a month. But two months in a row? Six months in a row? After a while it becomes obvious that what is missing isn’t the ability to get the task done, it’s motivation. A lack of motivation is probably the number one factor that breeds incompetence.
So do you know someone who gets things done? Do you know someone who always does what they say they’re going to do? Someone who, if they’re not going to do something, tells you they’re not going to do it so you’re not expecting them to?
No, I’m not this person. I could use quite a bit of improvement. When I’m incompetent, sometimes it’s due to a lack of motivation. Sometimes it’s a lack of judgement. Sometimes it’s over-committing myself. But whatever the case, incompetence is 100% curable, and the individual is 100% responsible for it. Remember, competence doesn’t have anything to do with your abilities or skills, it has to do with doing what you say you will do. It’s getting done what you say you will get done.
But I know a few people who are competent. Some of them work for me. I’ve been lucky or blessed enough to have hired some great people. I give them tasks, they get them done. It’s great. You might say “Well duh, that’s what you hired them to do.” But you know what? Anyone who has ever been in management and responsible for hiring knows how hard it is to find people who can get things done. When you find people who can get things done, you hold on to them. You’re grateful for them, you appreciate them, you do everything you can to keep them happy because if you lose them, things don’t get done.
I haven’t hired all too many people during my tenure as an entrepreneur and business owner. Less than 30, in fact. But out of that group I would say roughly half of them were functioning at a high level of competency, and probably a fourth were definitively incompetent.
How do you teach competence? I’m not sure you can. Well, I take that back. I believe too much in the magnificence of the human mind to say you can’t teach competence. But I think it can be very difficult for some people to learn, just as it is hard for some people to learn how to be honest, or charitable, or patient.
But that’s another topic altogether. All I’m saying here is that basic competence is rare, and you would do well to develop strong relationships with those who have it.Liked it? Share it!