put competence in its place

 In career, energy, leadership, presence

Competence has been lurking around in the shadows. Are you ignoring it completely? Or unconsciously gripping onto it for dear life? Either way, it’s time to put competence in its place.

In a culture addicted to excellence, or it’s ugly sidekick ‘perfection’, competence doesn’t get a gold star rating. Yet, when we ignore it’s role, excellence actually alludes us.

Think of your last performance review. How much time was spent setting stretch goals to dramatically improve the areas you’re weak in? Likely all of it. Yet Marcus Buckingham has shown me time after time that…

putting all my attention on my weaknesses will actually make me gloriously average at everything!

Buuuut if I put even a little time and effort into improving the areas I’m strong in (those that give me energy) THAT is where I’ll achieve excellence.

When I coach leaders to do just that, they raise the same concern over and over: I still need my employees to get better at those things they’re not good at. The solution: set a target of competence for weak areas. Set a target of excellence for strong areas.

Most of us never even think about what competence could look like – we just blindly shoot for perfection everywhere. Think about your own work. And life. The thing you’re struggling to master. What would competence look like? Not every task needs to take on Olympic-training proportions.

When we consciously set a target of competence, we free up energy for those parts where we will really shine. Powerfully contribute. Change the world!

On the other end of the spectrum we have the grippers. A huge barrier to making lasting change, at work or in life, is gripping onto the comfort of competence.

I know how to do it this way.
I look smart and efficient when I do it this way.

The idea of reverting to the status of newbie instead of being the go-to-person is a giant turn-off. So we unconsciously grip onto our own competence for dear life. After all, competence brings with it a sense of certainty that comforts us. And, unfortunately, keeps us stuck in one place rather than growing and evolving.

Stephen Jenkinson says this on the making of human culture (which I would argue is what each of us are actually ‘making’ as leaders, parents, and conscious adults):

“The culture I know well doesn’t believe in learning…
It rewards certainty, it rewards competence…
So how do you subvert knowledge and certainty when people have it?
So that learning gets a chance to appear?
How do you do it?
And the answer is, sometimes you have to craft a circumstance in which certainty is shown to have the kind of limited broadcast bandwidth that it has.
It’s just not that big an achievement to be sure of yourself.”

Because when you are stubbornly certain of how to do something, you’re not truly open to changing it. In that moment you forget the evolutionary element of humanity: one thing dies before something else grows in its place.

“Can you set certainty aside, and instead nurse several, often contending, takes on things at the same time without collapsing into a decision in favor of one and banishing the others?”

To do so is a skill. It is the skill of learning. It will bring you into powerful presence. Make you more creative. So you can lead at work. And in your life.

Releasing the grip on competence opens us to healthy change and bigger impact.

Join Rhonda next week in Kelowna when she unveils her Conscious Leadership program. Details and registration to the no-cost event at 1pm on June 12th are here.

Can’t make the event, but want to know more? Read about the course here and email Rhonda to discuss attending the 2019 program or bringing her into your organization to teach all your leaders.

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