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 adjudicator hat on and imagine being faced with the challenges in this true-life story.
Level 3: Gets It After Being Hit Over The Head
You are the manager of a women’s leisurewear boutique, which is part of a national chain. Your store has recently been losing money. In talking with some of the managers, you have come to realize that there are pervasive problems affecting all stores in the chain. When you tried to talk with Carla, the CEO, about what was going on, she told you that you did not see the big picture and not to worry. Her response only makes you worry more.
You feel that the problem originates with Carla, who seems to have no clear idea of what running the company requires. She is always totally immersed in doing what she understands so well—talking with investors and bankers—but she pretty much ignores the management of the business. When new stores fail to meet their sales targets, Carla ignores the problem. Her board of directors, all family members and friends, never question her actions or ask for financial reports. There is no one to coordinate the purchasing activities; inventory management, credit and returns policies, and individual store managers are left to their own devices.
In Carla’s case, you are dealing with a Level 3, which means she might get it after being hit over the head with it. Because she is smart and ambitious, there is a way to reach her. However, as with the proverbial mule, you first have to get her attention.
Here are some steps that you can take, either alone or jointly with others who share your frustrations:
- Ask to meet with her in person. Tell her it is important enough that you are willing to travel to her office.
- Present her with a list of your concerns. Tell her that your colleagues and coworkers have voiced similar concerns.
- Make her aware of the serious risk of letting things continue. Emphasize that managers will be resigning and the firm may go out of business. If you are prepared to do so, offer to resign if there is no change.
- Offer your solution, which is to hire an experienced executive to serve as chief operating officer for the parent company.
- Suggest that by delegating the responsibility for setting, coordinating, and monitoring corporate-wide policies, she would be free to do what she does best which is to attract new investors and raise additional capital.
Your best efforts will not be good enough the first time out. Be prepared to give multiple presentations before seeing progress. You will know you are getting through at this level when the rebuttal shifts from, “Why should I?” to “How can I?” After that it is a matter of providing ample documentation to show how it should be done. Come prepared with examples of how this worked in other places and why you are convinced it is the right thing to do here. Even though it appears to be obvious, you may have to restate your conviction until she finally gets it. You are done. The idea has a new owner, so let it go.