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The Competency Fallacy Part II

Yesterday, I explained why developing people based on made-up behavioural competencies will get you absolutely nowhere. Ok, but what do we do?


We need to go back to the core of what we want to achieve by developing our people. It is all about performance, right? We want high-performing individuals and teams. But for this, you must build on the foundation individuals bring, such as natural talent, strengths, personality, passion etc. Ok, but it is so varied, and resources are scares, you would say.


First, we need to separate training, learning and development.


  • Training teaches technical skills that are required for the job. It's a must; otherwise, you cannot do the job you are hired for. It will likely occur in the flow of work or under similar circumstances.

  • Learning addresses knowledge and comprehension along the six taxonomies (Bloom).

  • Development is all about the person and behaviour, which we are addressing when discussing behavioural competencies.


Once we understand that one area of the competency framework and model needs to be personalised, the development of people gets easier not only because of the task but also because we can narrow that down into four areas. Needless to say, that certain amount of personalisation is also needed in acquiring knowledge and technical skill, but the content will be the same, whilst the content for developing individuals will be widely varied.


People's talents and strengths fall into four categories which, funnily enough, corresponds to the CIA exercise around building high-performing teams. Both CliftonStrengths and the CIA agreed that there are people who are extremely good at:


  • Taking Action (CIA) - Executing (CliftonStrengths)

  • Generate Ideas or Think (CIA) - Strategic Thinking (CliftonStrengths)

  • Build Relationships (CIA) - Relationship Building (CliftonStrengths)

  • Organising Resources & People (CIA) - Influencing Others Around Ideas (CliftonStrengths)


As you can see, they are very similar, and the good news is that you have them all in your organisation. You just have no idea about them. So how can you develop people and build high-performing teams if you don't know what your people are about, desperately trying to fit them into random competencies instead of finding them out?


The ultimate aim of people's development is to develop them in areas they are already strong and not to focus on something they are completely detached from. As the CIA, academia, Gallup, along with Marcus Buckingham have pointed out;


"You will grow the most, learn the most, and develop the most in your areas of strength. You don’t have strengths vs areas of opportunity for growth because your strengths are your areas of opportunity for growth" and not made-up competencies.


It turns out that you need to know your people to develop them, and made-up frameworks are just a cop-out of doing so.


If you need help figuring out your team member's and teams' areas of opportunity for growth and a high-performing team, let us know.


Or, If you want to learn about where do you fall within the four areas:







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