Getting Unstuck: How Competence Can Get Your Back On Track Again

By Heather Campbell

The Executive Team was stuck. Every month, their meetings got bogged down in day-to-day operations instead of big-picture strategy. They decided they needed to reset their strategy to get things back on track. Time to get a two-day session scheduled.

Before getting diaries out, the consultant asked:

Do you know how to set business strategy?

The Directors were a bit taken aback. They were competent, right? They were Directors! But as they talked about the frameworks and processes they’d use to shape their strategy, two of them, including the European Managing Director, admitted they could use a refresher.

I know this because I was that consultant. Usually, I wouldn’t ask this question. But after working with this team for a few months, I had a hunch that their constant focus on operational topics was due to a gap in strategic thinking.

Competence – or the lack of it – is often what keeps individuals and teams stuck. That’s why it’s one of the four Cs for getting unstuck (the others are Confidence, Communication, and Culture).

In this team’s case, they were stuck discussing operational issues because that’s where they felt competent. They’re not alone. Even top leaders can get stuck, assuming they’re competent because they’ve got the title, an MBA, or a fancy course under their belt. They’ve got years of experience so their Competence must have built too, mustn’t it.

The answer to this is, yes, it most likely has.

But business keeps evolving, and so should our Competence. Sometimes it just isn’t as strong as it needs to be, and we’re stuck as a result.

Here are four common barriers to building Competence and so getting unstuck:

1. Time: We’re all busy and taking time out to learn feels like a distraction. But it’s actually how we find new, better ways to hit our goals and get energized with fresh ideas.

2. Blind Spots: Sometimes, we don’t realize what we don’t know. This can mean our Confidence outshines our Competence (hello, Dunning-Kruger Effect). We need to keep pushing ourselves and exploring new ideas to uncover these blind spots.

3. Fear of Failure: Admitting we aren’t Competent in a specific area can feel like admitting failure. But ignoring it just makes things worse.

4. Cultural Stigma: In some workplaces, showing vulnerability isn’t okay. It can take guts to say, “I need to learn more,” but especially so in such environments.

5. Blame Game: It’s easier to blame others for their incompetence. But remember, when you point one finger at someone else, three point back at you.

This Executive Team was dealing with all five barriers, which kept them stuck. It was time for some honest conversation and joint learning to move forward.

Life isn’t plain sailing and we all get stuck sometimes, whether it’s in our careers, when implementing change, or in setting strategy.

If you or your team are stuck today, could Competence be the lever you need to pull to get moving again?

Catch you next week when I’ll explore the fourth C – Cuture.

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