How to Succeed in a Career By Really Trying – Competence

It is easy to begin with Competence as it is the most obvious – can you do the job.  As we will see, it is by no means the only important attribute and may not be the most important one.  In the course of discussing the attributes, I will attempt to tie each one back to the earlier Behavior Framework and the Games People Play as well.

Behavior Framework


What is this?  This is using your skills and talents consistently and effectively to add value (remember Fundamental Principle 2 and the rules of a Positive Sum (+∑) Game: Added Value).  These skills and talents are primarily the abilities that lie on the Able level in your Behavior Framework.  They affect what happens on the next level up in the framework, what you can Do; they are applied according to your Values and Principles on the level below, who you Are.  Keep in mind that the standard definition of Competence is having the quality of being Competent, which is having the required skill, adequate but not exceptional!

Through your Competence in your various Abilities you are able (expected!) to add value (Do).

Why is this important? On the tangible side, in hiring you I want to know that you have the skill set to meet the job requirements to add value to our goods and services, because that is why the organization exists.

If you are a new employee, say within the first year, I should have plenty of observations to make a fair evaluation.  Just remember, I am not the only one observing your behaviors and productivity to evaluate how good you are at adding value.  Other managers, peers, internal customers, and external (paying) customers all develop their perspective (if not a formal evaluation) based on how you interact with them (remember Fundamental Principles 8 & 9: Observing leads to Learning, and What you SAY you will do is very important, but what you DO is even more important).

On the intangible side, things are more complex but the skills are even more important.  At the top level I want to know How would you solve problems?  What examples do you have of problems you solved previously?  How would you approach particular issues that we currently have?  Are you content to stuff brochures in envelopes all day, or do you routinely observe things that could be better and then visualize more efficient and effective ways to accomplish them?  Looking at Problem Solving permits me to observe and evaluate your competence in practicing the more critical and fundamental but intangible (cognitive) skills of Critical Thinking (which are also all located on the Able level of your Behavior Framework):

Observation (What do you observe, not just see?)

Analysis & Evaluation (What do you determine is happening and why? What do you think are the consequences?)

Communication (Can you effectively explain to others in written and/or verbal form the results of your analysis and evaluation and your recommendations?)

Decision Making (Can you prioritize options and approaches for the optimal outcome?)

Why is this important? This is a given:

There will always be problems.

Some are big, some small; some other people have already solved elsewhere, some no one has yet solved.  I need to know that a potential hire or new employee has the ability to recognize when a problem arises and have some confidence and ability to address it.  Not necessarily to provide a solution, but to begin the process of questioning and approaching a resolution, involving others as needed (remember Fundamental Principle 6: You Will Never Have All The Information.  Problem Solving is a response to this Fundamental Principle).

To resolve problems, liberally apply GUNK.

GUNK is my Problem Solving acronym (cognitive clue) for what everyone should learn in college, and 80% of students don’t (Pareto’s Rule):

Identify what you are Given; what is Unknown; what you Need; and what you already Know.

Then, obtain what you Need, mix well, place in cognitive oven and process until done.

These two aspects of Competence are not equally important, but it is not an “either/or” situation, this is still “and/and.”  Yes, I need to have someone who is tangibly competent (skill and ability wise) to do the job.  But more importantly I need someone who is intangibly competent, capable of responding to real life (ambiguities, missing information, problems arising), adapt, learn, and still get the job done.  Given strengths in intangible cognitive skills, I can train in the tangible skills.

Which will take us to the next important attribute: Growth Potential.


About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
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4 Responses to How to Succeed in a Career By Really Trying – Competence

  1. Christy says:

    Love the GUNK acronym! Thank you for the post!


  2. How do I apply this to get my wife to read my blog? 😛

    I’m definitely going to remember the GUNK acronym. Very useful. Thanks!


    • Jim Edmonds says:

      I actually involve my wife as sounding board before hitting publish. If she’s convinced it’s a good effort, I go with it. The nice part is that she reads it again on the blog.


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