Robin Kessler - Competency Speaker and HR Consultant

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Minimize, maximize, satisfice

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm

When I was in the MBA program at Northwestern’s Kellogg, I became very aware of the terms minimize, maximize, and satisfice. I still think they’re important today.

Think about how to distribute your resources or make the best use of your energy. It is important to realize that you can’t do everything extremely well. You have to choose the most important things to maximize how much effort you use.

When I was writing my books, I made the decision to prioritize them over almost everything else in my life at the time. I kept my business running, continued teaching the three classes I needed for health insurance and benefits through the university, and remembered to pay my bills.  But other things, like sleep and housekeeping, suffered.

Many of my clients seem to want to achieve their goals without putting in the amount of effort that it takes to be successful. I really believe that you need to sacrifice something to improve – or change – your career. 

One of the most important competencies is Achievement/Results Orientation. Consider applying that competency to set and achieve your own career goals.

We all need to ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve our biggest goals, like writing a book or completing a degree. I admit to minimizing on housekeeping and barely satisficing on sleep to write three books in a four and a half year period.  I still believe it was worth it.


Focus on competencies

In Uncategorized on January 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm

When you plan for your success this year, consider this quote from the author Ayn Rand, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

If your organization has identified the competencies it needs to be successful in the future, it has provided you with a list of targets to focus on to maximize your own success.

  • Recognize when your accomplishments provide evidence of key competency areas.
  • Learn how to write very effective, targeted competency-based accomplishment statements.
  • Be able to explain your accomplishments in competency-based interviews.

It’s that simple. Ready for a much better year in 2011?

It’s the key to the future. Don’t let anyone stop you.


In Uncategorized on January 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Yesterday, I received a call from one of my best friends to tell me that I am invited to her daughter’s graduation from Tulane University in May.

It is important to realize that school is not the only thing we graduate from…or get to a point where we need to apply what we have learned in a new way. We may, for example, “graduate” from jobs that no longer offer us the same challenge they used to. We may realize we have grown more than some people in our lives who are not open to change.

Certain organizations, like the State of Michigan,  value continuous learning so much that they have identified it as a key competency needed for their organization to be successful in the future. Most organizations make an effort to develop their people, especially in better economic times.  But we need to be open to learning new things and taking on new roles.

When you continue to learn you may find yourself at a different level – and actually thinking differently –  than those who resist change. And you have the potential to actually offer your organization more long-term than people rooted in tradition.

Graduating from college is a big step. But it is not the only type of graduation we face in work, or in life. Some of us recognize that the cartoonist Doug Larsen was probably right when he said, “The trouble with learning from experience is that you never graduate.” 

Taking some risks and volunteering for new opportunities and projects can provide our employers with the proof of our ability to handle more tomorrow than we are handling today.

So when I go to the graduation in May, I have confidence that the graduate I’m going to see will continue to learn, experience new things, and make herself more interesting and valuable to employers throughout her life. She has made the most of every opportunity she’s had so far, and I know she’ll do well in the future. As an honorary aunt, I know I’m biased. But I’m allowed my opinion.

Ready, set, get hired

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

This is worth paying attention to:  The National Association for Business Economics said the hiring outlook for the next six months is at a 12-year high. The source? An online article that came out today at  If you read and listen, it is starting to look like most of the experts think the job market is going to be much better in 2011.

What should you be doing? Motivational speaker Wayne Dyer has a great quote:  Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.

It is time to get ready…so that when the job market in your area or in your field starts to be more open, you are positioned for the right opportunities.  When the hiring outlook is at a 12-year high, we all need to be ready to capitalize on it.

If you want to be ready for your own miracle……..

  1. Develop a stronger competency-based resume that provides evidence that you have been successful in  key competency areas the employer cares about.
  2. Think about how to identify and explain your own competency-based accomplishment statements to help you get ready for a competency-based interview  (Remember to include situation/task, action, and result in your answers to competency-based interview questions).
  3. Network now so that your network is in place when you really need it. Make a commitment to develop a stronger network for the future.
  4. Have a good professional presence on LinkedIn and other social media sites.
  5. Consider getting a coach to work with you, especially if you are not a strong communicator or cannot do a good job of advocating for yourself at this time.

During the last 2 1/2 years, many people have gone through periods of unemployment or have felt trapped in jobs that are not ideal.  Because better economic times do not last forever, you need to be prepared for the next really good opportunity. Just being willing isn’t enough…most miracles take some work. Getting a really good job always takes some effort and being savvy enough to maximize your chance to get an offer.

Don’t let yourself miss this coming moment. It would truly be a shame.

Rating competencies

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I received an email recently asking for advice on setting up a tool to help with rating competencies. The senior learning and development consultant explained that many of their managers were confused with the behaviorally anchored rating scales they had developed and needed more guidance.

Many organizations use a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales tool that they developed based on the number of ratings they use. The State of Michigan, for example, has behavioral examples listed for each of their competencies under the headings, Needs Improvement, Meets Expectations, and High Performing.  If you look at their competency, Customer Focus,  an employee who acknowledges their customers “in a timely manner” and “meets or exceeds their expectations” would be rated Meets Expectations.

When we were in school, most of us figured out that some teachers and professors gave A‘s very rarely and others were not as reluctant to give the highest grade. The same dynamic happens in organizations – managers are not always consistent with their evaluation ratings because they have to make decisions about people who do not neatly fit into one rating and there will be some judgment involved in the final decision.

Developing well-written competency-based accomplishment statements to back up the ratings is the first step toward having competency-based performance management systems work more effectively. Better information going into the system means higher quality information to make better decisions about people….what is the opposite of garbage in, garbage out?

Having competency-based accomplishment statements in the system means that senior managers can:  

  • Make the ratings more consistent with actual performance across their organization,
  • Make better decisions about promoting people,
  • Evaluate other possible employees from different departments more fairly, and
  • Create better development plans for their departments because they have better information about the strengths of their current workforce.

Competency-based models that have been developed for your organization have the potential to help make it more successful in the future. Consider taking the time to make sure they are being implemented as well as they could be.

Jury duty

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2011 at 12:42 am

Faced with jury duty?

Consider the positives: 

  • A chance to use your analytical skills in an entirely different way.
  • An opportunity to influence other jurors and the outcome of the case. 
  • Another way to use your interpersonal skills.  
  • And perhaps,  the opportunity to prove that you’ve demonstrated your leadership skills.

If you haven’t watched the original version of the movie, 12 Angry Men, you just may want to rent it soon. One person – the character played by Henry Fonda – made a difference in the verdict that jury delivered. It is still a truly wonderful film. Fifty-four years after it was made, it is still relevant (although it is hard to imagine many juries today that have only white men as members).

So, the next time you have to go to jury duty, consider shifting your attitude and consciously thinking about the competencies you may be able to develop.

Can anyone guess what I did today????

Writing competency-based accomplishment statements

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm

One of the true keys to successfully advocating for yourself in an organization using competencies: write better, stronger competency-based accomplishment statements to use in your performance reviews and development plans.

Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Consider what you have done during the performance period, competency by competency.
  • Choose the accomplishments that had the biggest impact on your organization to write about.
  • Say as much as you can in as few words as you can.
  • Make sure you’ve thought through the situation/task, action, and result of every accomplishment.
  • Try to give specific numbers or statistics to help your reader understand the scope of the accomplishment.
  • Assume your readers are intelligent but recognize they may not know the details about your projects and your accomplishments.

Take responsibility for identifying when an accomplishment shows that you are strong in a particular competency area.

Remember that your manager supervises many employees, and it is up to you to make sure they are informed about your success….especially on accomplishments that relate to key competency areas for your group.

Black Swan and competencies

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm

One of the most interesting statistics that I found for Competency-Based Performance Reviews concerned adult mental health. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s website, in any given year, between 28 – 30 % of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness or addictive disorder.

Many of us have at least one person in our life who has been diagnosed by a mental health professional and is taking medication or being treated for a mental illness or addiction.  But when we consider that roughly three out of every ten adults has a mental health or addictive disorder, it helps us realize why so many people can be a challenge for us to deal with in our professional and personal lives.

I saw the film, Black Swan and have been thinking about the character Natalie Portman plays. The movie is being marketed as a psychological thriller, and because I do not want to intrude on the experience, I am choosing not to tell the specific plot in this blog. I will say the film shows some differences in perception and gives the audience a chance to see through the eyes of someone dealing with definite mental health issues who comes across as relatively normal to others in her profession.

Mental illnesses and addictions are common at work. Just think about the 30% statistic. Remember that in many cases, the person has not been diagnosed and may not even think there’s a problem (or the problem is always someone else).

When we consider emotional intelligence and competencies like interpersonal skills, we can clearly see that the most successful people have learned to work with – and get the best from – people from every background, including those with more manageable forms of mental illness and addictions. We may want to make sure we remember to include  mental health in our definition of diversity and help employees recognize and manage these challenges if at all possible.

Leadership expert Warren Bennis has a quote that I believe also works for considering the mental health of the employees and managers we work with. He said, “I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation.”

Get ready for a better year

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Vince Lombardi, the famous coach, is known for saying that “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success.”

If we want to do well this year, we need to plan to work hard. If we want to do better in 2011, we need to plan to work even harder than we did in 2010.

But when the rules of the game change – which they always do – we need to recognize those changes early, adjust our game plans, and figure out how to make the new system work for us.

Conceptual thinking is the competency that will help us identify patterns, see connections, and target the changes we need to make earlier than people who think more conventionally. This year, commit to appreciating your ways of thinking that are different from the norm…or at least learning to truly value that competency in others.

If we are smart, we can expect to see more changes in 2011. Hopefully, the changes will also offer opportunity, and not simply opportunity for growth. Get ready!

Here’s to your success in 2011!