Robin Kessler - Competency Speaker and HR Consultant

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Set new goals to stretch in 2011

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm

With the end of 2010 just three days away, we all need to be thinking about our goals for this next year.

Consider trying to develop at least one professional goal for 2011 that:

  1. Is a true stretch for you,
  2. Is a new goal that you’ve never set before,
  3. Develops key competencies to a noticeably higher level, and
  4. Has the potential to truly impact your department and your organization.

Interestingly, I had lunch today with Joe Gorczyca, who is VP of Human Resources at BMC Software in Houston. Joe is one of the people in the HR world who tends to be interested in the latest thinking, and he was one of the experts I quoted in Competency-Based Interviews.

I asked him for his advice on setting goals in 2011, and he helped me develop the list I’m using in this blog. I asked Joe for permission to share his own stretch goal  for 2011, and he agreed to let me use it.

His goal? Improve his understanding of his company’s business model. When we talked about his goal, I asked him how that would improve his own performance. He agreed that a clearer way to explain his goal was to improve his understanding of the business model and use that understanding to set better goals for his department with more direct business impact.

One of my goals for 2011 is to do more consulting and training internationally. Competencies are used throughout the world, and most competency-based human resources models can be implemented more effectively if managers and employees learn to focus on recognizing competency-based accomplishments that contribute to their organization’s success.

What is your stretch goal for 2011? Start seriously thinking about it! You have three days left in 2010.



In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 10:30 pm

My friend, Tom Bachhuber, who directs the career development center at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, told me that his favorite quote is “Everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.”  The author is the American poet Jane Hirshfield.

During this week between the Christmas and New Years holidays, things are usually happening at a slower, calmer pace for most of us. We actually have some time to think about this last year and to plan for the next one. Taking some poetic license from Ms. Hirshfield, we are also changing. We are connected. And it is up to each of us to pay attention and decide if we are happy with those changes and connections.

We can choose to influence and impact certain changes and the people in our work life and our personal life. We can make the effort to improve control of our emotions and our ability to communicate more effectively when we are faced with a key, crucial conversation. Learn from listening to others; read good books like Crucial Conversations.

So what else can each of us do? Pay attention to our network of business and personal friends this year and make it stronger. Add to our contacts on LinkedIn and Facebook. You never know who may have an impact on your career, your life, and your business. I sent a LinkedIn invitation to someone I didn’t know a few months ago because he happened to have the same name as a colleague I had worked with at BP a long time ago. He immediately accepted and asked me if I helped people develop competency-based resumes – which is an important part of my business.

Make the commitment to take some extra time this next year to stay in touch with key people and add to your network.  Remember that each of us can’t possibly identify every change out there, and we all need some help. Pay attention to the direction of the wind and be ready to tack if you need to.

Your connections may well give you the advice that makes you successful in 2011 if you can simply slow down, be mindful, and pay attention to them.

Giving individual gifts

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

At this time of the year, it is important to consider the needs of the people in our lives and recognize how much they mean to us. Key competencies like interpersonal skills, customer service, and organizational awareness help us make conscious choices about the gifts we give and the ways we show our friends,  family and special people in our personal and professional lives that they matter to us.

In his book, The 5 Languages of Love, Gary Chapman talks about how receiving gifts is one of the five most common ways people show that they care ( The others are words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch).  He makes it clear that this is not a materialistic thing in most cases – the receiver appreciates the thoughtfulness, effort and love it took to give the gift. It is a way to make someone feel you really know them – that they are special to you and valued.  If you have someone in your life who values gifts, choosing to skip giving them a gift for a special holiday or event tells them you don’t care, and it may be disastrous for the relationship.

Since many of us speak several of these languages, consider telling someone else thank you (or that you love them), spending one-on-one quality time with them, looking for ways to help them and following through if you say you’ll do something. If it is a personal relationship, give that special person a hug or a kiss or simply hold their hand, but please do not even think about taking this into your professional life.

Like  MBTI, DISC and other tools that help us understand that other people have different talents and perspectives, Dr. Chapman’s book helps give us another reason to take the time to choose a special, thoughtful gift for certain important people in our lives. It may matter a lot to them.

People and competencies

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 11:47 pm

When most of us think about competencies, we tend to think first about work. What are the key characteristics that it takes to be extremely successful in our organizations?

But we can also ask this question about our relationships. What does it take to be successful in a friendship…or in a romantic relationship?

When I look at the list of the ten most frequently used competencies, I can’t help but realize that many of them – achievement/results orientation, initiative, impact and influence, customer service orientation, interpersonal understanding, organizational (or extended family) awareness, information seeking and integrity – also affect how successful our friendships and romantic relationships are.

So when we consider which competencies we want to develop next year, we may want to think about our goals for our relationships…in addition to our work.

As we approach the end of the holiday season, I want to thank the important people in my life who have taken the initiative to stay in touch and be supportive, given me honest high integrity advice, influenced me in a positive way, understood the craziness and accepted me for who I am.  What are the goals that we can set to be stronger in these competency areas ourselves?

Learn from the people you know who seem to get it right most of the time. Remember, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Read books from recognized experts. Take classes. Ask questions. And whenever you start to think you know it all, start over again. We all can learn to be more emotionally intelligent in 2011.

Actively manage your career

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Two choices:  you can be a victim and let things happen to you in your career or you can be strategic and decide to actively manage your career.

So, here’s another resolution for 2011:  learn to actively manage your career the competency-based way.

Here are the steps:

  • Communicate the competency-based way. 

Identify when you accomplish something that proves you are strong in a key competency area, let your manager know, and use it as an example in interviews and on your performance review. Be able to talk about it…and write about it.

  • Develop a competency-based resume. Keep it current.                                                                                               
  • Learn how to advocate for yourself in competency-based interviews and on your performance review.
  • Identify the key competencies you need for the future and target opportunities to prove your strengths through competency-based accomplishments.
  • Anticipate changes in the competencies your organization will need in the future.

Make a commitment, with a little c, to recognize yourself for your competency-based accomplishments in 2011.  You can do this! The big C types of commitments may be needed for other goals in 2011, but for those, I’d suggest talking to matchmakers, recruiters, realtors, mental health professionals, or personal trainers.

Great quote

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is known, in part, for his saying, “No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” Tom Rachman, a more current author, used the quote in his book, The Imperfectionists, which is where I saw it when I was reading before going to sleep last night.

There are many other people who believe the saying about tigers not changing their stripes. Interestingly, this fits with Carol Dweck’s observations in her research and her book Mindsets, about the difference between fixed and growth mindsets. Do you believe that people can change?

The river analogy may work well for most of us, because rivers change the landscape slowly. 

Most of us recognize that our sense of humor is not the same today as when we were teenagers. I still remember ordering a pizza for an athlete who lived in our dorm at Northwestern and had been injured at a game. Five of us had the idea to ask the restaurant to spell Get well in pepperonis, and we thought that was the funniest idea that anyone could possibly come up with. I’m not sure it seems as funny today.

It seems to be easier for most of us to see our own changes – and harder to accept that others may change as well. Part of being a good coach, mentor or leader is to help people identify the changes they need to make to be more successful and then help them change their behavior.  Like the river, it may take patience and time.

When we think about competencies, we are talking about interpersonal skills, customer service orientation and organizational awareness to start. And the awareness that it is not easy.

Changing the look

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2010 at 6:07 pm
Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”     
Today, I figured out how to change the background color for the blog and how to add my photograph to the “about” section.  My goal:  improve the look of the blog by changing from a starker white background to a softer cream color. I want people to perceive the blog as just a little  friendlier. 
Which competencies did I use to make the change?  Customer service orientation – I asked one of the more savvy people at Career Press (publisher for my books) for feedback on what I could do to improve the blog. I took her suggestions and used some initiative to figure out how to make the change in the background color
and add my photograph.
Remember that people who resist change are communicating something about how flexible they are.  Think about the women and men you know who have not even changed the style or color of their hair since they were teenagers. 
Please let me know what you think….and if there are specific topics you want me to write about.  I genuinely want this blog to keep changing and improving. Perfect is not the real goal.

Think internationally

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

One resolution for 2011:  look for opportunities to accomplish goals with a more international impact.

When I was getting an MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg in the last century, our professors told us that we should think of business in an international way. When we look at what has happened in the last ten or twenty years, it is clearer than ever that we need to be looking past our neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries to be more successful.

Competencies, in international organizations, should be even more important than in more national organizations. Why? Competencies can provide a way to communicate so that employees throughout the world are focused on the same goals:  increasing the organization’s success in a way that is consistent with the organization’s values.

Forward thinking  international human resources managers should identify this as an opportunity to collaborate  with line management to ensure that employees can identify when their accomplishments prove key competencies  and are able to communicate those accomplishments, verbally and in writing, to their management team.  When managers get better information from their employees, they can make better decisions about them.

What does it take to make this happen?  Strategic and Conceptual Thinking, Focusing on Results, Influencing Others, and Organizational Awareness to start. Improving competency-based communication can make your competency model work much more effectively.

What’s next?

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

With 2011 coming soon, we need to start planning for the new year and thinking about the future. What are the best opportunities for us, our team, and our organization in the next few years?

Read, listen, and pay attention to what is changing in our world. Last night, 60 Minutes had a segment on how Brazil is positioned to be the fifth biggest economy in the world and is currently larger than the combination of all the other countries in South America. This morning, I heard a segment on NPR about the electric car’s introduction in Denmark and Israel, and it’s potential in the United States. Look at the growth in medical marijuana. Think about generic drugs worldwide. What are the best opportunities for your own future?

Most people do not like change….or even thinking about change. I’m going to suggest that it is more important than ever, in this economy and at this time, to shift that attitude. Try to see the advantage of changing your mindset so you can identify these opportunities earlier than your competitors and capitalize on them.

Consider brainstorming possibilities and scenarios with your colleagues and friends who are interested in the future and have had a track record of calling things right in the past. Remember, one of the keys in competency-based thinking is past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

It takes initiative, and even more importantly, conceptual skills.  Read books by futurists. Identify trends. Be open to new ideas and the possibility of taking calculated risks.  Being in the same place next year is not an option if your goal is success…..or even survival.

Take responsibility

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2010 at 3:44 pm

What do you do when you are in a situation at work where there’s a problem? Do you look for someone else to blame? Or do you try to figure out what you can learn from the incident ?

One aspect of emotional intelligence involves controlling your emotions.  As a coach, consultant and professor, the most common advice I give people is not to take things personally….and to try to learn from each experience.

For example, if your manager or professor gives you a difficult time because you were ten or thirty minutes late to do an important presentation, what can you do? Two choices: you can accept the feedback and make sure it does not happen again, or you can complain that the manager is being intolerant.

It is up to you. Just don’t be surprised when your colleague who takes the criticism gracefully, apologizes, and doesn’t make the same mistake again gets that next promotion.  How you respond says something about your maturity, your interpersonal skills, and your awareness of what it takes to be successful.