How to Acquire Competencies



Competency Development

Competencies can be developed. However it doesn’t happen overnight. The person you are working with must make a concerted and sustained effort over a period of several months if he or she wants to add competencies to his repertoire.

When working with organizations to design and implement a development program, consider walking them through the graph below. Note that coaching, when combined with other development initiatives, can have a significant impact on performance improvement.

A competency is a measurable characteristic of a person that is related to effective performance in a specific job, organization, or culture. These characteristics may include the following:

Knowledge—information required to perform a task to an outstanding level of performance

Skill—the ability to perform a task or activity that leads to an exemplary level of performance

Self-Concept—a person’s attitudes, values, or self-image

Traits—physical characteristics and one’s consistent responses to situations or information

Motives—things that a person consistently thinks about or wants that causes him/her to act

These characteristics are defined in terms of behaviors—those thoughts and actions of outstanding performers. Because competencies are behavioral, they can be developed.


The Competency Acquisition Process

The process of competency development is comprised of five steps:

1. Recognition: “I know the behavior when I see it.”
2. Understanding: “I know why it is important.”
3. Self-Assessment: “I recognize the gap between what I do and the target behavior, and set goals to close the gap.”
4. Practice: “I give myself a chance to practice new behaviors in a controlled setting.”
5. Application: “I demonstrate the new behavior in my daily work.”

Who Should Be Chosen to Provide Feedback?

Ask each person you are coaching to select a number of individuals who can provide him or her with objective and credible feedback.

Suggest that they choose individuals with whom they have had—

  • Frequent contact (multiple times per month or more)

  • Recent contact (within the past six months)

  • A long working relationship (one year or more)

  • Diverse contact (over a variety of work-related settings)

As a coach, you can work with the other person on each of the first
four steps of the competency acquisition process. You can help this
person achieve mastery of the competencies on the job through your
encouragement and observation.

You can do this by helping the person to—

  • Understand what he or she needs to achieve success, and why
  • Set a manageable goal
  • Structure competency practice in a safe setting

These activities and your support can add enormous value to the progress and accomplishments of the person you are coaching.

Talking about Development in the Competence Building Process

Development requires focus and commitment. It requires setting goals and direction. It requires support and follow-up, and measurement of progress.

You can be particularly helpful in the goal-setting process. There are
10 questions that should be answered to ensure that 1) the person
is setting the right goals for him-/herself, and 2) he or she will be
successful in reaching those development goals.


Ten Goal-Setting Questions from the coaching process at HayMcBer

1. What are the one or two things you would like to do differently to achieve better results in your job?

2. To what extent are you personally invested in addressing those areas?

3. What are the one or two competencies that, if consistently demonstrated, will help you achieve those intended results?

4. What specific goals will you set for yourself to make you successful?

5. What are the key things you need to do in order to achieve these goals?

6. How will you plan to deal with setbacks that may interfere with the achievement of your goals?

7. What kind of support will you need to be successful in making these changes?

8. What steps will you take to ensure you get this support?

9. By what date will you have achieved measurable progress toward achieving these goals?

10. What will performance, both yours and the organization’s, look like when you have reached your goals?

Use these questions in your conversation to help bring focus and commitment to the goal-setting and development process.



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