Robin Kessler - Competency Speaker and HR Consultant

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

President’s Day

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Have you ever thought about what George Washington and Abraham Lincoln would say about the decision for Americans to stop celebrating their birthdays independently and have one holiday for both called President’s Day?

One of my favorite nonfiction books that I’ve read in the last year is Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The book is about Lincoln’s cabinet, which he put together by selecting his major rivals for the presidency and some other very strong willed, experienced people.

Lincoln was incredibly good at getting the best out of some very talented but sometimes tempermental people. When I read the book, I had the feeling that Lincoln was probably one of the most emotionally intelligent presidents we’ve had in the U.S.

So, after reading about Lincoln’s level of maturity, I’m not convinced that he’d object that much to the change from the Lincoln’s Birthday holiday to President’s Day. Remember that he had to lead the country through the Civil War, which was an incredibly difficult time. More Americans died in the Civil War than in all the other wars the United States has participated in…combined.

Think about the competencies he needed to be so successful, like interpersonal skills and organizational awareness. His interpersonal skills included a good sense of humor and an interesting way of thinking and putting together his words. Lincoln said, for example, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

Lincoln might even be able to reframe the question about the holiday so that he recognized the honor of sharing the day with George Washington, despite the story about the cherry tree not being exactly true.



In Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Why do almost all of us procrastinate on at least some things? One of my best friends reminded me earlier  this week that it just may be part of being human. I think she’s probably right. 

Authors and comedians recognize how typical it is for us to procrastinate….and use it for humor. As Mark Twain said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

So when you are having one of those days, or one of those weeks, make the effort to take on some of the bigger things you feel guilty about postponing. I came to work today determined to start working on a project that I’ve been having a mental block about, and realized I’d left my notes at home! But, since I’m committed to at least working on the project today, I will stop by my house later and get the notes. Because I’ve also avoided blogging this week, I made the decision to work on this!

We all have days we are more focused and demonstrate we are strong in the competency, initiative. And we have those other days. One of the best things I’ve done for myself in the last few years is to give myself permission to make mistakes and not be perfect.

When we procrastinate, it is more evidence that we are not perfect. That’s okay.

But we need to try to limit the damage, especially if we are procrastinating on something that could be important to our future. I know students who have waited until close to the deadlines for applications for graduate school, law school, medical school, and college……and don’t seem to realize that they may be hurting their chances because they do not seem as seriously interested as students who apply earlier.

It is an opportunity for growth. I promise I’ll try to work on my own tendency to procrastinate this year. Will you join me?

Staying warm

In Uncategorized on February 10, 2011 at 12:42 am

The comedian George Carlin once said, the “weather forecast for tonight:  dark.  Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.”

I have a special feeling for George Carlin because in another place and time, my high school graduating class voted to have him as our guest speaker at graduation. Congressman Barbara Jordan came in second in the voting. Texas State Representative Sissy Farenthold, who received the third highest number of votes, was our speaker that year.

I really liked Carlin’s quote about weather because this winter has been particularly challenging for many people in the United States and around the world, and it has been hard to predict. Having lived in Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, I know that my neighbors in Houston should be careful about how loudly they complain about the cold weather here….even though it is more than many of us are used to.

One of the things to consider is how people may perceive you when you complain about things that they may think are insignificant. Some of the most successful people I know have mastered the art of not showing their frustration with the small things – they seem to save their energy for the bigger, more important things.

If you want to have credibility, build a history of making good decisions and doing good work.  Remember the basic philosophy of behavioral and competency-based interviewing…..past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. 

Remember to ask the people who have made good decisions in the past for advice, not the ones who have made bad decisions.  Since the weather can be difficult to predict correctly, I’ll go with George Carlin on this one…I’m betting it will be dark tonight. Hopefully, that will keep my own credibility intact!

I’d also love to know the truth about what actually happened when the school principal realized the senior class had voted for Mr. Carlin. I’ve always wondered if the school administration didn’t just decide that our parents couldn’t handle Carlin’s humor and so they went with a safer speaker.  If any of my readers know the details, I’d love to hear them.

Perception of competence

In Uncategorized on February 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Canadian writer Laurence  J. Peter has a wonderful quote:  Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder.  Peter is probably best known for writing the book, The Peter Principle:  Why Things Always Go Wrong.

Those of us who teach communication or management would probably agree that perception is more important than reality. One of my clients told me how frustrated he was because his manager said he did not deserve a higher performance rating last year because he had not put in as many hours as his coworker. The client consistently stayed two hours later than his manager and coworker but because the manager was not there to see it, the manager did not perceive him as working the additional hours.

How can you increase the odds that your manager’s perception of your competencies will be similar to your own perception? One word:  Communication.

Learn to recognize your own accomplishments. Focusing on when an accomplishment proves you are strong in a key competency area is a good start. Make sure you tell your manager about these competency-based accomplishments. Take the time to write more powerful competency-based accomplishment statements for performance reviews and development plans. Learn to explain competency-based accomplishments completely and concisely for competency-based interviews and performance review conversations.  

Taking the time to provide your manager with better information about what you have accomplished at work that matters the most to your organization is not a waste of your time. It can actually help your manager perceive you the right way.

Anticipate change

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2011 at 12:04 am

In addition to getting strong results professionally, we need to all stay informed about what is changing in the world around us…especially the changes that could impact the demand for what we do.

Who anticipated the protests in Tunisia and Egypt? How many of us thought in the 1970’s that the Berlin Wall coming down and the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe would not happen in our lifetime? Who thought government jobs would be less secure in 2011 than jobs in the private sector?

What is the impact of political change on our organization and on the work we do? The most forward-looking people are trying to figure out what they can do today to be prepared for a different tomorrow. Think scenario planning.

Being able to communicate competency-based accomplishments clearly is one way to prepare for change. You  need to be able to influence  decision makers that your most important competencies are strong enough to allow you to help your organization transition to a different market or product or customer in these very uncertain times.

Keep your head down but your antennae up. Make sure you continue to develop your competencies and have the evidence to prove them:  well written, competency-based accomplishment statements.