Introduction: the Attitude of Your Company Matters
Having defined in the previous chapter our position in the market and knowing our career–life goals (in previous chapters), we are in a condition to specifically decide the competencies we want to develop and the plan for that. We will create a competencies development plan for the short and long run.
The best methodology for developing competencies is on-the-job learning. Prof. Chinchilla says, “and it is true that by managing competencies professionally, a company can become a school of habits” (Nuria and Maruja 2013). This is the reason why the best personal leadership programs are project-based and generally intertwined with the position and responsibilities we have in the corporate setting.
Though companies are more focused on short-term skills development, the best way to keep and develop talent is to provide the capacity for training the long-term competencies of the employees. As difficult as it sounds. Every company and every career stage can become a real school of habits or competencies.
In a company that is focused on the jobs that should be done, the management will largely concentrate on commanding specific tasks of the employees. In this context, the maximum an employee could achieve is sustaining his or her career through avoidance of mistakes but without ambitions in terms of growth. When employees are focused on tasks and are driven by command aimed at sustaining their positions, then they become very much context-dependent. The reason is that they are prevented from thinking strategically about their jobs and competencies.
Second, if a company tries to help employees to build careers around jobs—and not just simply comply with objectives—managers will create corporate environments that support more synergies between the personal goals of the employees and the corporate needs. In this case, employees have more chances not only of sustaining their jobs, but also of creating the habit of thinking career-wise. If employees focus on objectives, the company encourages their proactivity and result orientation.
Third, if a company seeks to instill in employees and managers a vision around their careers and jobs, managers will also encourage the proactivity of the employees through reflection of the linkages between the company’s goals and their professional–personal anchors. For this purpose, they will likely use coaching as a regular tool for management. Employees can expect in this context to be transformed in those stages and jobs where they work. Hence, they become less context-dependent, as they have been acquiring competencies, which make them flexible to perform through transitions.
If a manager takes a paternalistic role and instructs people all the time, as generally happens in companies focusing on tasks, employees never become independent, neither the company nor of the context. By contrast, if managers focus on coaching and developing the people, they become less dependent on the company and the context.
Your Development Potential and the Action Contract
Once we have discussed at length in the previous chapters and in the introduction to this chapter the impact of context on our personal development, it is time to define a plan. But, before that, we want you to be clear that even though the corporate environment and the market reality are very influential, you still have a fair amount of personal responsibility for your own growth.
One of the most traditional formulas of job performance is the following:
Job Performance = Attitude (willingness to perform) × Aptitude (capacity to perform) × Corporate support (company culture, systems, management style, etc.)
We can apply this formula to your personal development performance or individual potential growth as well.
Your attitude will depend directly from your vision, values, and how far you see the relevance of the growth. Managers can mainly influence the later, that is, explaining the impact of growth on the financial conditions of the work contract. Aptitude depends on your previous background. The responsibility of the managers here is largely constraint to a proper recruitment process. Corporate support depends on whether the company wants to focus on the compliance of employees to specific jobs or rather foster the proactivity of the employees in building their careers, as has been explained in the introduction.
In order to set up a clear plan for your personal development, we will offer a specific tool we have been working with for years: action plan contract. Though it looks very simple, it will require reflection, time for preparation, and feedback from your coaches or people you rely upon.
The action plan contract follows the same principles that other coaching practices as delegating the ownership of the decision to the coachee and keeping the long-term picture actionable with specific short-term goals. We will come back to coaching at the end of the workbook. These techniques are very useful because they test your willingness to change (attitude in the formula of personal development performance), as you are required to be very specific on the what and the how of your improvement process.
Action contract is a tool that we use in order to be very specific about the development plan of the participants. The key characteristics of the action contract is that it defines the specific competencies that we want to develop, how it would be developed, and the so-called SMART1 objectives for that development. Even though you have only two questions, we suggest you take between two and three hours to complete its first draft.
Based on your SWOT analysis, the long-term vision you set up for yourself in Chapter 5, and the results of the kaleidoscope strategy, which is your next career goal (for the next 1–2 years)? Please, give reasons.
For example: promotion to a new position, launching a start-up, and so forth.
Which are the 1–2 competencies you realistically think you need to focus on and develop during the next 1–2 years? Please, give reasons.
For example: Team orientation because I am defensive in my dealings with my teammates, besides I do not know how to listen. Further, I am expected to be offered a position where my main responsibilities will be related to team management.
Please, specify 1–2 objectives for each of the competencies or skills you think you should develop. Please, use SMART principles to define your objectives for example (given that the competence is team orientation): I will answer to my teammates’ phone calls promptly and pleasantly. I will ask those mates how they feel when they call me. I would like to have a substantial improvement by the end of the project where I am involved.
Now, please turn to the next exercise in your personal and career journey “Leader’s Journal” and fill in your roadmap—2.2.2. Assessment of my shortterm competencies’ development needs and 2.2.3. Action Contract and the conclusions from this exercise.
Tips for Learning—List of Competencies and the Relevance of Innovation Skills
It is good to choose a list of competencies that can help us fulfill the action plan contract. There are numerous lists of competencies that are applicable in business contexts. They are generally categorized in different ways, but all of them include three types of competencies—technical skills, personality, and business competencies. We offer next a list of competencies (see table 8.1) by Cardona and Lombardía (2005), but this list is purely indicative!
Source: (García-Lombardía and Cardona 2005)
In the short run, innovation competences are the key. These skills are particularly relevant to taking advantage of the opportunities that appear often, quickly, and radically during the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is particularly true as stable jobs are part of the pasts and companies to become an innovation ecosystem. In figure 8.1 following below, you can see the outlining of these competencies by Prof. Gregersen and Christensen of Stanford.
Source: (Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen 2011)
The core competence for innovating is the cognitive skill of associational thinking. The reason why some people are better at generating associations than others is due to the way their brains work, how they have been educated, and the variety of experiences to which they are generally exposed. However, a more critical reason is that they engage more frequently in the behavioral skills of questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting—these operate as motivators for associational thinking. Another key element is the courage to innovate, meaning they are willing to embrace a mission of change and take the risks to make change happen. If a person wants to be good at it, they need to practice generating ideas as well as engage in questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting. A. G. Lafley declared “innovation is the central job of every leader—business unit managers, functional leaders, and the CEO” (Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen 2011).
This exercise, designed by Prof. Rivera, is intended to simulate how companies could develop their people meanwhile they push for short-term results. Let us be honest: the enormous pressure managers impose on employees in terms of short-term performance is one of the most important obstacles for employees’ development. Paradoxically, the organizations, which should have the main interest on developing competences many times, become the main blockers. The artifact exercise aims to offer a realistic view on how people could develop themselves despite the context and making use of the context.
Companies can develop their people if they identify realistically their potential contribution and if they set up mini development plans using projects as sort of competences labs.
This is a group task and must be implemented in such a setting (5 to 10 people). Ideally, you will compete with other or other groups. If you do not have peers to work with, the task may be skipped, but it is advised that you fill all the tasks to experience the workbook fully.
Part I: Choosing the Challenge
Choose a very difficult challenge for the group (e.g., create the most extraordinary and unforgettable outdoor experience for executives and employees of your company. The company should be in agreement!).
Part II: Designing the Implementation of the Challenge
- Brainstorming: 10 minutes NB! During brainstorming, it is not allowed: criticize ideas and deliver negative comments. Write down all ideas.
- Vote the best. five minutes.
- Prepare an elevator pitch of up to two minutes. 10 minutes.
- Send the elevator pitch to the other groups (by written). Feedback from the other groups with suggestion(s) or comment(s) (by written). 15 minutes.
- Prepare the final version of the elevator pitch. 10 minutes.
Part III: Picking Responsibilities and Competencies
- The member, who proposed the idea, becomes the group’s leader and facilitator.
- List the top 10 contributions needed for implementing successfully the idea. 15 minutes.
- Create a list of many common skills or qualities that members of the group have in common (except the leader). Avoid writing things that are immediately obvious. 10 minutes.
- Record unique skills and qualities; meaning, items that only apply to one person in the group.
- Please, find at least two unique qualities and strengths per person (except the leader). 10 minutes.
- Distribute the contributions between the group’s members according to their skills and qualities. 10 minutes.
Part IV: Action Plan Contract
Every member will fill the action plan contract of competencies that want to develop during the implementation of the project. Leader will assist every member in the process and sign the contract. 60 minutes.
It is important to respect the sequence of the steps.
Participants of this exercise should feel a safe environment.
The time allocated for the tasks should be respected.
In a way, this activity is like a serious game—gamification of the context of competence development. Imagine if the company implements this sort of dynamics for every project that it undertakes. In this way, it could become a school of competencies combining short-term goals with long-term objectives in terms of competencies.
As we can see in this chapter, competencies development requires longterm thinking and the organization’s attitude to provide the right context. Employees need a context that fosters strategic thinking, synergy, and coaching if they are willing to equip themselves not only with technical skills to properly execute tasks but also with long-term business and technical competencies.
Learning competencies requires the right attitude also of the individuals that is proven in the decision to commit to very specific and measurable goals. We have suggested designing these goals using the tool of the action plan contract.
Finally, the learning of each competence by adults is better done in project-based settings where the employees can have an appropriate context for practice and can better perceive the importance of their improvement.
Your roadmap now starts to look quite full. From describing your personality till a very specific definition of the competencies you want to develop in order to move forward. We suggest you read again all that you have written, then you can better understand the value of what is coming next.
1 Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
Achievable (agreed, attainable).
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
Time bound (time-based, time limited, time or cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).