Competency Index – Level 5: Finally Gets It Bit It Took Some Time

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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 5: Finally Gets It But It Took Some Time


Your boss Willard is a financial genius. His peers call him “Will the Wizard,” and they mean it most respectfully. Will has an MBA from the Wharton School and a wall full of certificates and awards attesting to his experience and skills in managing the financial intricacies of a fast-growth company in the information business. A year ago, its stockholders approved a merger with a competitor. Will, who had been the key person in structuring the terms of the merger, was picked by the Board of Directors to be president of the newly formed company.

To you, and obviously to the Board, he seemed like the best choice. The trouble is, as you are now discovering, Will stays in his office with the door closed most of the time.

When you try to make an appointment, you are told that Will is not available—he is away at a conference, or in a meeting offsite, and will get back to you shortly. Shortly never comes. You have evidence that Will is bypassing you by asking for very specific information directly from the people who report to you and then taking actions that undercut your authority.

You are hoping that given time, he will come around. But other direct reports, especially those who had recently transferred from the former competitor, have no such patience. Some plan to approach the CEO of the parent company with their complaints; others just plan to seek employment elsewhere. The fall-out from this discontent surely means that the company is in for a rough ride.


It will take time and persistence to eventually make Level 5 incompetents like Will understand the consequences of their behavior. With your insistence, he should be able to adjust his style to bring it more aligned with what you and your peers expect from him and to act in a more responsive manner.

Incompetents at this level pretty much teach themselves and seldom make the same mistake twice. All you have to do is point out the consequences of their behavior and wait patiently.

  • Provide a balanced argument both for and against whatever actions you feel he should take. Include a list of possible consequences to him and the company if nothing changes.
  • Allow him ample opportunity to develop his own solutions and time to experiment with new behaviors. Offer to serve as a participant observer or silent monitor to provide frequent feedback.
  • Assume he will want to verify your perceptions of his behavior, so be accurate and realistic. Do not overstate the issues or report anything that you have not witnessed firsthand.
  • If he disagrees with what you report, make an organized presentation of your position and ask for his perspective on each point.
  • If he accepts your recommendations, submit a step-by-step timetable for whatever changes he has agreed to make and assure him that you will get back to him with the results so there will not be any surprises.

At this level, you are dealing with a person who at various times does not understand what you expect of him or he does not know how to do it right. Persistence rather than persuasion will result in a much higher pay-off. If you do not receive the answer you want, let him know you are not going away until you do.

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