Competencies: Still Useful in Performance Management


Competencies demonstrate the ability of an individual to do a current and/or future job well.

The term first appeared in 1959 in an article by R.W. White as a tool for managing performance. Now over 50 years old, we may well wonder if the concept is still useful in managing and motivating performance. Especially now with software tools available to manage and implement competencies, we maintain that competency management can be more critical than ever for the success of an organization.

Competency-based management depends upon strong connections between business planning and human resources planning. Once the organization’s overall strategic plan is in place, human resources and the business can help to identify the core competencies required to fulfill that short and long-term vision.  This includes isolating the specific on-the-job skills, abilities, knowledge, behaviors and motivations necessary to achieve the desired results.

Once finalized with the business, the list should be applied to five main phases of human resource management.

  1. Branding, Recruiting, Interviewing, and Hiring. Hiring staff should be well acquainted with the competencies required so they can recruit for and select talent according to those behaviors. Anyone interviewing, too, needs to be aware of and test for desired behavioral traits.
  1. Learning and Development. New employees as well as experienced employees should be exposed to multiple learning and development opportunities that assess, develop, foster, and measure the identified behaviors at various levels of proficiency and stages of a career.
  1. Performance Management. Managers should be well versed in core competencies that are highly valued and give feedback through ongoing coaching to support while encouraging the desired behaviors and providing uncomfortable consequences for those who do not fit.
  1. Compensation and Rewards. All remuneration and reward systems should also be based on the behaviors identified as fundamental to the organization’s success. By compensating those who exhibit the desired behaviors, others will be encouraged to follow.
  1. Succession Planning. Promotions and succession planning should rely upon performance and core competence proficiency to create alignment.

The stronger the links from one phase of the operation to another, the more embedded the competencies will become in the organization. This is not to say, however, that the list is cast in stone. On the contrary, it is important that the list shift as the needs of the organization change. As requirements change, so should competencies adapt over time.

Learn more about Instructional Design Consulting by LSA Global

Competency-based management also depends upon the ability to analyze gaps in competencies and then to structure a program to close the gaps. With proper application, productivity can be significantly enhanced as the skills needed are put into use.

Competency-based management is a strategic tool for success because it links organizational strategic planning to job execution.

Three Ways Good Sales Leaders Keep the Engine Humming


An efficient, effective sales team is a beautiful thing and it deserves loving care.

Although external factors in the industry or economy can clog up that smooth running engine, there are internal factors over which you have control that need your attention. As a sales leader, it is up to you to do all you can to keep your sales force engine in good working order and with all gears in sync.

Here are three areas to get right.

  1. Create an Effective and Consistent Sales process.  Identify, adopt and implement a sales process that makes sense…not just for you as manager but for every member of your team. Document the process and keep everyone on track. It is important that all salespeople follow the same procedures from initial customer contact through successful sale and follow-up. Otherwise, there is confusion as team members run their own show and approach business from different directions…often at odds with other members of your organization.
  1. Do not tolerate poor performance. The consequences of retaining salespeople who are not performing according to team standards are twofold: overall sales numbers are dragged down and higher performers lose heart. It is easy to understand why. Imagine that Lisa is working hard to reach her team goal—following process guidelines, connecting with customers regularly, creating customized solutions for individual customer needs, etc. Next to her at team meetings sits Dana who makes little effort to prospect, keep in touch with current customers or understand their problems…and his sales results are correspondingly poor. Lisa could well wonder why she should continue her conscientious and dedicated effort. Her morale and the morale of other high performers suffer and the success of the whole team is threatened.
  1. Invest in On-Boarding.  As you fill open slots, invest heavily in your new hires. Though it may be tempting to focus on your already productive salespeople, think about what an effect eager, well-trained, well-oriented new salespeople could have on the team as a whole. The more effort you pour into introducing new hires to your organization, to your product/service, to your sales process, to your customer base, to your competitive challenges, the more likely they are to hit the ground running. By incorporating the new hires into the team quickly, you secure their feeling of belonging and their commitment to the team goals. They are less likely to leave and you avoid the cost in time and money of starting to hire replacements all over again. 

Keep your sales engine running smoothly with a finely tuned sales process, high performing team members and well-integrated new hires.

To learn more visit our consultative selling best practices blog.

Roles: Instructional Design versus Training Delivery

Instructional Design

Different strokes for different folks.

Sometimes the designer of training also delivers the training.  While this can be very effective, the skills required for effective instructional design are quite different from the competencies required to be a successful facilitator.

In our experience, there are few who can accomplish both phases of training successfully.  Unless you have one person with the right expertise, use seasoned instructional designers to design and proven training facilitators to deliver.

Here are a few thoughts as to how to distinguish the two.

The Role of an Instructional Designer
It is up to the instructional designer to assess or understand performance gaps and determine what learning interventions would be most effective in closing them. The designer then develops the objectives, flow, sequencing, activities, simulations, and content.  During the project, designers often work closely with the facilitator and key stakeholders while making course corrections as needed. 

Ultimately, the instructional designer is charged with understanding and analyzing a performance problem and creating a customized solution to address it in a way that makes sense to the participants, their bosses, and the business.  Ideally, they are also able to perform effective training needs assessments, root cause analysis, process improvements, change management, targeted reinforcement, performance coaching, and the measurement of skill adoption and business impact.  Bottom-line: They need to be able to help select the right arrow form the quiver to get the desired results.

The best designers are analytical, logical, process and outcome-oriented, can match competencies to job requirements and desired performance results, and have a broad range of proven instructional tools and activities at their disposal.

The Role of a Facilitator
It is up to the facilitator to demonstrate, teach, consult and coach the targeted skills, behaviors and knowledge needed for improved performance. The facilitator should be able to build credibility quickly, engage participants, and articulate and align to the purpose of the program in a way that elicits their full-fledged involvement and cooperation. 

A good facilitator is able to encourage even the most reluctant and introverted learners to participate, has strong content and business knowledge, sets a challenging but realistic pace, clearly describes exercises, encourages discussion, builds creative tension to promote learning, and helps participants understand how to specifically apply the lessons learned. The best constantly improvise in the moment to meet the ever-changing needs of their audience while staying true to the over-arching learning objectives and desired business outcomes.

The most sought-after facilitators have been in their participants’ shoes and are typically outgoing, people-oriented, compelling, inspiring, trustworthy, authentic, flexible, articulate and sincere in their desire to help participants be more successful in practical ways that make sense for them and their unique business situation.

If you are asking one person to play both roles, you owe it to them and to the participants to make sure that they have the experience to succeed.

To learn more visit our Instructional Design Best Practices Blog.

New Managers Must Keep Their Eye on the Ball

Management Training Programs

Intense focus.

If you have ever stepped up to bat, “keep your eye on the ball” is the refrain that most likely ran through your mind. Now that you are a manager, you would be wise once again to heed this advice. Why? Because it is with the combination of discipline and focus that you will be most productive.

In your new position, you will be asked to accomplish more than ever before with and through others. You can no longer be the lone hero and succeed.  Your success is now dependent upon the success of those working for you.

And you thought you were busy then.  Here are some new manager tips to keep your eye on the proverbial ball:

  • Narrow your focus. Choose just five critical goals that you want to achieve per week. Clear your mind of the other clutter and stay on track.  Fight the urge to do more.  Stick with the goals that matter most.
  • Be wise about meetings. Each meeting you attend as a new manager should satisfy the following criteria:
    • Adherence to scheduled start and stop times
    • A clear agenda with explicit desired outcomes and expectations
    • Key participants only in attendance with clear roles and objectives
    • Clear rationale for a face-to-face discussion rather than phone/email communication 

If the meeting does not meet these criteria, do not waste your time attending.  And if you are calling meeting that do not meet the criteria, get your act together.  You need to model core leadership skills to your folks.

  • Keep your attention on the overarching purpose. All your actions should ultimately drive toward the one or two moves that will really make a difference…the ones that will determine the success of your enterprise, department, or team.  Don’t sweat the other stuff.
  • Remove distractions. Understand how interruptions can destroy your concentration and eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn your phone to vibrate; reconfigure your screen settings so you have neither visual nor audio notifications of incoming mail; discipline yourself to only 10 minutes per day at work for “recreational” web time, such as FaceTime or keeping up with the news on the internet.  Set an example for your direct reports.
  • Set aside specific time for specific tasks. Yes, you will need to check on your email and return calls daily. But, to maximize your ability to focus on the task at hand, limit email and phone calls to either first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon. If you think of the phone and email as a means of putting you in response mode, in other words doing what others are asking you to do rather than taking your own action, this time management tip may be easier to follow. 

These are simple, yet effective strategies that successful managers incorporate into their business lives. Now you can give improve your productivity too.

To learn more visit our New Manager Best Practices blog.

Where to Lead – The Valley or the Mountain Top?

Leadership Training

The best leaders understand that they need to inhabit both environments… the valley where they get to know their employees as they work side by side and the mountain top where they share their vision and inspire their team.

Here are tips about how and why to shift from one level to the other.

The Valley – Leaders that Care

Your employees want to feel that you understand them and that you care about their job satisfaction. Surveys alone won’t tell you this. You need to get to know them personally…what motivates them and what keeps them engaged. They want to sense that you, as their leader, are emotionally connected. This is not to say that you need heart-to-heart conversations—not reasonable or possible with the schedule you keep—but it does suggest that you be accessible and available when needed.

The Valley – Leaders that Develop

Another way for leaders to effectively “live in the valley” is to foster employee growth and development. Provide opportunities for employees to learn, build their skills, and enhance their careers. On the flip side, care enough to let them know when they are not performing as they could or should. By giving feedback in a constructive way, you demonstrate belief in your employees’ ability to grow and, with effort and support, shine. And if you understand what drives individual employees, you can encourage them with appropriate carrots. Some will want only recognition of a job well done; others will strive for higher performance with more tangible rewards such as a bonus or promotion.

So when do you, as a leader, climb to the mountain top?

  • When you need to resolve conflict. As a leader, it is up to you to address key conflicts in the ranks and achieve resolution so the team can move forward in alignment toward common goals.
  • When you need to drive organizational change. As a leader, it is up to you to introduce and implement change so the organization stays competitive. How you communicate the reasons and goals for change and how well you model the new reality will determine to a large extent how cooperative your employees will be.
  • When you need to take risks. As a leader, you can role model how and when to take risks. Little is accomplished without some degree of risk. Challenge your employees to take positive risks and give them the latitude to step out of the safety zone of the status quo to experiment now and then. This will foster innovation and keep the organization from getting stagnant.
  • When you need to inspire. As a leader, you are charged with bringing out the best in people. Paint the picture of what success will look like and their role in achieving it.

From the valley to the mountain top and back again many times a day…this is what effective leaders do and this is why their organizations thrive.

Visit our Leadership Training Best Practices blog here.

True Leadership – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Leadership TrainingTrue Leadership.

Much has been written about what it takes to be a true leader. In these treatises, the behavior of successful leaders is often described in terms of leading teams. But teams are not a homogenous entity…they are made up of individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. A far more effective way to learn how to lead is to focus not on leading a team but on leading individuals. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

Take a close look at the individual members of your team. The better you understand how they think, the better you can uncover and take advantage of their talents. Hopefully you have a mix of types…some who are detail-, task-oriented thinkers and others who think more strategically; some who are extroverted and others who prefer working on their own; some who are good at problem solving and making decisions while others are better at implementation. A diverse team allows for flexibility in meeting challenges but it also requires flexibility in the way you as a leader treat each member.

As a leader, your job is to transform the talents of your team members into performance.

Depending upon their goals and interests, each member will respond to different motivators. Some will work harder with simple verbal encouragement; others may need something more tangible, such as company-wide recognition or a performance-based bonus.

Another important component to bringing out the best in people is giving them assignments they love and, simply by nature, do well. Just as an employee who enjoys working with people would hate to be strapped to a computer all day, an introverted worker would not like to be given the task of presenting to a group of strangers.

The best way to get to know your team members individually is to spend time with them, one-on-one. Find out what drives them. Ask what they like to do and observe how they operate. Your goal is to coax the highest performance out of each. Play to their strengths rather than trying to overcome their weaknesses so each member is doing what they do best.

By recognizing each individual for who they fundamentally are, you can build a team that works happily and effectively together. Celebrate the differences on your team by recognizing where each individual fits and, as a group, appreciate what each member can contribute to the overall team effort and results.