10 LIES ABOUT WORK/Lie Nr. 6 – The best staff is well-rounded.

If you are a jobseeker and you have a high level of academic background, (master degree, PhD etc.) plus you have also great experience in your field of course you try to apply for a job which require a high qualification and offers you nice benefits in return. You start searching and each time you find a job description which could potentially pique your interest you will get first a long list of requirements from that company which is asking you to prove your competencies in as many of your future tasks as possible. You must be skilled and experienced in a lot of things and you have – let’s say 1 hour for the interview – to prove that. They expect you to do that at the 1st round of job interview. If you are weak at some criteria or you really don’t tick 100% at one of the required skill or competency, you may already expect to be rejected without too much talk. The company will tell you usually after few days that they decided for another candidate. In most cases this is a lie. They didn’t decide for anything, they just did not find the perfect candidate which can fulfill 100% all their requirements.

They are all following the idea that the best candidate is well-rounded and therefore they put effort to spend time and money to find that candidate. Those organization who have this approach are just wasting their money for nonsense. It’ s definitely a wrong approace to judge like that, saying: the best staff is well-rounded.

Here is why: In the real world, each of us, imperfect as we are, strives to make the most of the unique mix of traits and skills with which we’ve been blessed. Those of us who do this best – who find what we love about what we do, and cultivate this love with intelligence and discipline-are the ones who contribute most. The best people are not well-rounded, finding fulfillment in their uniform ability. It’s quite the opposite, in fact-the best people are spiky, and in their lovingly honed spikiness they find their biggest contribution, their fastest growth, and, ultimately, their greatest joy.

I’ve been in corporate workplace environment since 2003 and everytime I see this pattern at management level still pushing for the fancy statement that the best staff is well-rounded when it is just never the case.

At some point in your career, if you haven’t already done so, you will bump into a thing called a competency model. A competency is a quality you are supposed to possess in order to excel in your job. They look like this: strategic thinking, goal orientation, political savvy, business acumen, customer focus, and so on. The idea behind them is that excellent performance in a job can be defined in terms of the right grouping of competencies.

Thus the company’s top leaders will be asked to examine a long list of these competencies – there are literally thousands to choose from-and then pick the ones that everyone agrees each incumbent in each job should possess. One widely used model, for example, identifies five categories of competencies (core, leadership/management/business/interpersonal, job functional, job technical, and technical-task specific) and then a further list of competencies within each of these, so that “core,” in this case, includes for example 22 leadership competencies, 18 management competencies, 45 business competencies, and 33 individual competencies, for a total of 118.

Entry-level jobs are assigned fewer or simpler competencies, and the further up the hierarchy a job is, the more numerous and the more complex the competencies assigned to it tend to become. Having defined competencies for each role, the leaders will also usually define a desired proficiency level for each competency on a scale of 1 to 5, so that they can say, for instance, that such-and-such a job requires strategic thinking at a proficiency level of 3, whereas it needs customer focus at a proficiency level of 5.

This entire construct – the chosen competencies and their required proficiency levels, for each seniority level, for each job, across some or all of an organization – is called a competency model. In a typical model, a given job might be defined to require a few dozen competencies at varying proficiency levels.

Every organization have more or less the same evaluation pattern.

So far, this might seem unobjectionable, if a little unwieldy: a group of leaders getting together to define what they feel the ideal employee should look like. It might not be our first choice for how they should spend their time, but at least no one has been harmed in the making of this model. It’s what happens next, however, that leads us into choppier waters, because once created, the competencies show up everywhere.

Your manager and your peers will rate you on them, and your overall performance rating will be derived in large part from how much of each of them you possess. During annual talent reviews, the competencies will be the language used to describe your performance and potential: if the consensus is that you possess them all, you will be considered for promotion, or paid more, or selected for plum assignments; whereas if you do not possess them, or display gaps in a few of them, you will be told to take the relevant training programs, and work on proving to your company that you have plugged your gaps. These competencies will become the lens through which your company sees you, understands you, and values you.

All of the major Human Capital Management tools – the enterprise software systems that companies use to keep information about you, pay you, allocate benefits to you, promote you, develop you, and deploy you – are built around competency models, and how closely you and your colleagues match up to the models. The concern here is the theory of work that those companies embody and that underlies so much of what we do in organizations today.

In the FIRST part =The theory goes something like this: we live in a world of machines, code, and processes, and when these break, we have to identify the faulty component or line of code or process step and fix it – to take dysfunction and repair it. The first part of this competency theory of work, then, extends this thinking to performance. Once we’ve located you on our proficiency scales, we tell you that your lowest scores – those where you are most “broken” – are your “development areas,” and that the best path to greater performance will come from unrelenting focus on these areas.

The second part of the theory takes this line of thinking to its logical conclusion: we reason that if improvement in performance comes from remedying shortcomings, then high performance excellence – must be the result of having removed shortcomings across the board, from having a high score on every scale. Excellence, in other words, is a synonym for all-round high ability: well-rounded people are better.

This is the lie that underpins the tyranny of competencies, and it is persistent and pervasive. But to see the truth, we need only to understand two particular facts

FACT NR. 1 = competencies are impossible to measure.

Because competencies are unmeasurable, it is impossible to prove or disprove the assertion that everyone who excels in a particular job possesses a particular set of competencies. It is equally impossible to show that people who acquired the competencies they lacked outperformed those who did not-that, in other words, well-rounded people are better.

FACT NR. 2 = the research into high performance in any profession or endeavor reveals that excellence is idiosyncratic.

The well-rounded high performer is a creature of theory world. In the real world each high performer is unique and distinct, and excels precisely because that person has understood his or her uniqueness and cultivated it intelligently.

Excellence in the real world, in every profession, is idiosyncratic. In the theoretical world that exists inside most of our large organizations – a world preoccupied with the need for order and tidiness – the perfect incumbent of every role possesses all the competencies that can be dreamed up and defined. In the real world, however, these long lists of intricately defined competencies don’t exist, and if they did, they wouldn’t matter.

While the outcomes of high performance are visible and clear, the ingredients of high performance vary from person to person. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to human beings; and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to great performance.

Well-roundedness is a misguided and futile objective when it comes to individual people; but when it comes to teams, it’s an absolute necessity. The more diverse the team members, the more weird, spiky, and idiosyncratic they are, the more well-rounded the team. Competencies, and all the other normative and deficit-focused tools we have, don’t push in this direction – of expressing and harnessing diversity. They do just the opposite.

So we should remove from our competency models the levels of ability, the individual evaluations, the feedback, and all the other things that they have become encumbered with, and we should instead simplify them, clarify them, recognize them (and name them) for what they are, and stick them on a wall for all to see. When we carry our competencies across the measurement bridge, we enter a fake and dangerous world-as a tool of assessment, order and control, they are worse than useless.

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