Competency Index – Level 4: Occasionaly Gets It But Needs Reminding

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The Competency Index (CI) is a simple measure that gauges how deeply ingrained someone’s behavior might be. It enables you to determine which skills he or she is missing and which you will need to bring to the relationship in order to make it work.

Incompetent people tend to be set in their ways and may not appreciate the need for doing anything differently. It will be difficult to influence a change in their behavior, but there are practical steps to be taken that might make a difference.

Put your Doer hat on and imagine being faced with the challenges in this true-life story.

Level 4: Occasionally Gets It But Needs Reminding


Since reporting to Polly, you have discovered that the old adage is true: it is not what you know, but who you know that counts. Her uncle’s position on the Board of Directors made it possible for Polly, a recent graduate with no job experience, to get hired on as a copywriter. As a long-time employee, you were bemused at how quickly Polly advanced from simple copy writing to media buying. When the media director was hired away by a competitor, the CEO of the company appointed Polly to that management position without interviewing any other candidates.

Polly was now in a situation where several of the people reporting to her, including you, have significantly more experience than she does. Aware of the resentment and snickering behind her back, Polly has become autocratic in her management style, which only further widened the gulf between her and your coworkers who report to her.


Polly is a good example of a Level 4 incompetent because she is approachable and seems to understand that her ties to her uncle are creating resentment among her colleagues. She tried several times to make it on her own merits but falls back on using her connection with her uncle whenever she encounters any obstacle.

  • Provide a neutral setting for your first attempt to discuss the problem. It is best to meet in in a place familiar to her where she feels comfortable. Lunch at her favorite restaurant is ideal.
  • Allow time for personal chitchat about her life, family, friends, and personal interests. Keep the conversation lite by sharing a personal experience that relates to what you wish to discuss.
  • Seek her feelings on the topic before sharing yours. Let how she feels be your guide for making your point. Accept her assessment, even if it is contrary to your view, before laying out your concerns.
  • Establish your understanding and awareness of how others feel about the situation. Then share your personal feelings and intentions. Lastly, tell her what you would like her to change in the future.
  • Make suggestions for how this situation could be handled differently if she is agreeable to altering her behaviors. Offer to write down the gist of the discussion and send it back to her for confirmation.

Do not get clever with your approach to people like Polly—keep it simple. Avoid high tech presentations. Incompetents at this level are easily befuddled when mentally overloaded. You are far better off repeating the same simple pitch.

Give them credit for whatever portion of your pitch they do get, but do not go overboard with praise—it is important to be authentic. Provide regular follow-ups even when there are no issues, otherwise they will forget what they have accepted or agreed to since your last discussion.


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