Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Competency Dilemma



















Written by Jen Shirkani and

There is an old saying, “If you want something to get done, give it to the busiest person you know.” Every organization has a group of people who are always willing to help out, work longer hours, and go the extra mile. If you are that person, the odds are your company will continue to lean on you, whether or not you have the bandwidth or aptitude. Too often, this dynamic leads to a new kind of dilemma, one that you may have lived through, or are currently facing. It’s called The Competency Dilemma.

A competency dilemma doesn’t simply occur as a onetime event.  If it isn’t successfully resolved, it can ultimately become a barrier to professional success.  Without regard for the signals and alerts along the way, it can trigger an alarming state of “task creep”: one by one, little extra tasks find their way to your desk.

The Competency Dilemma:  A Progressive Condition

At the time we’re hired, or when we’re promoted into a new position, the most common goal is to exhibit ways to prove our worth.  We strive to assure those around us, (and particularly our leaders) that the decision they made in hiring or promoting us was indeed the right choice.  Showcasing our skills and abilities (competencies) is a natural response to our primal need to survive in a new environment.

Over time, our competencies become apparent within the culture.  We may ultimately find ourselves becoming the “go to person” for multiple projects that begin to stretch our ability to prioritize and manage a wide array of requests.  Suddenly, we awaken to a newly defined, and amazingly expanded job description.

And so, the dilemma begins.  Discretionary time is greatly reduced, or becomes non-existent.  Our personal and professional identities become blurred, and the need for restructuring is eminent because the consequences often include high stress, family strife, damaged peer relationships or even health issues. It’s usually not a sustainable situation. 

If you are reading these words and are starting to realize that you are currently experiencing a personal Competency Dilemma, it’s time to take action. The solution requires a proactive approach.  I am not going to say that you are being taken for granted, but the truth is that no one is going to show up at your desk with a solution on your behalf. It’s time to reset some boundaries and establish a renewed state of personal and professional alignment.

The Competency Dilemma:  Awakening & Defining a Solution

Start by clarifying the expectations put on you. How much is actually delegated and expected, and how much is the perpetuation of old habits from you or them? Are there things that could be more effectively managed by another team member?  Could you be partnering more productively with others, in order to benefit both you and the organization?  Is the bulk of your workload out of alignment with the responsibilities associated with your job description?   If so, when was the last time you initiated a discussion regarding the areas in which you possess the most significant competencies?  And, what are the areas of development in which you’d like to gain a new understanding or skill?

The thought of being the catalyst to a discussion based on the need to re-align your workload can be intimidating at first glance.  However, as we all know, the ever pressing potential of a personal business crisis awaits those who are unwilling to communicate tactfully on their own behalf.

Unfortunately, we don’t usually awaken to the potential dangers of a self-described Competency Dilemma until we begin to feel the stress and overload associated with being assigned (or when we have “over-volunteered” for) projects beyond our capacity to function effectively.

The dilemma didn’t evolve in a moment’s time…so likewise, a long term definitive solution will only be consistently successful as a result of your ongoing effort to enact positive change.

Remember:  Your ability to thrive within any organization, is based upon your capacity to function within the limits of your competencies. And, that is something everyone wants. 

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