Robin Kessler - Competency Speaker and HR Consultant

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.”


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