Pools of competency, incompetency

As the appraisal season is on us, I was wondering about the bell curve, the high potentials and this whole angst ridden process. Ideally every team should have people with different competencies, abilities and attitudes. Overlay this with two other concepts – you hire people like yourselves and birds of a feather flock together. What these concepts say is that you won’t find a lot of variation in a group of people who have been hired by a particular manager. The similarity bias is difficult to overcome !!

So there could potentially be a situation where there is hardly much variation in a team and you have pools of competency or incompetency … This is felt more strongly when you end up managing a team that someone else hired. Am sure all of us have managers who never seem to like any new hire, and have a bone to pick with the talent acquisition team. The problem is simply one of differing personalities hiring people like themselves. You also find “like” competencies and incompetencies migrating within the organization to feel “at home”.

How do you deal with the two scenarios – one, where you are hiring your team and two, when you inherit a team hired by someone else ?

Scenario 1 – you are hiring your team. When it’s a lot of frontline colleagues, the “doers” that you are hiring, define the competencies needed and have a detailed “intake” session with your hiring team. Clarify attitudes you are looking for, competencies and skills you are looking for, if possible a psychometric profile. You may still get a few folks that don’t fit in, for whom you will need to have strong onboarding and training toll gates. If you are hiring your team of managers, spend some time to identify the team composition you need to deliver your goals, more execution skills or more strategic strengths or relationship building skills. The strengths finder test and other tools like that are a good way to understand what “type” of managers you need and then hire enough of every kind. If you are hiring a replacement, be very careful to bring in complementary skills and a cultural fit. If the cultural fit doesn’t happen, the replacement hire can nearly break your performing team.

Scenario 2 – you inherit the team. If you inherit a frontline team, try and get to know the team members really well. Prepare a detailed handover document with the previous manager if possible, or prepare one yourself as most managers may not capture all the details you want. If you inherit a team of managers, you will find the pools of competency or incompetency depending on how the previous leader was … It’s relative, because understand also that the market situation is different, goal posts have shifted, competition is different and your expectations are different. Do the same exercise of getting a team composite of strengths and strengths that you need to hire. Understand the culture and define the culture goalpost you want to reach. Changing the culture is the most difficult change ever and if you are wanting different results, then the culture has to change. The same culture will produce the same behaviors which will lead to the same type of results. So if you want different results, change the culture.

Very important in all situations is to understand what you want and what goals are you chasing, competency and incompetency is relative always. So define the goals then decide on what culture, skills and competencies you need to deliver those goals and hire for that, internal or external. Give yourself enough time, because these changes are not easy. It will help if your long term goals are well defined, and every year you deliver a component that adds to the final destination. Utopian thought ?? Yes, because most organizations do not see beyond the next quarter !! Well, it’s Christmas time, ask Santa for long term thinking leadership 🙂

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