It’s so easy to see our organization’s people as homogeneous; one size fits all. They’re staff members, associates and in some cases, friends. Equanimity is fine; favoritism can come back to haunt us. But the plain truth lies in accepting a group of people within a company regardless of size when assessed purely through the eyes of competency, your team members cannot possibly be classed as performance equals. To make that mistake can stunt achievement, outlook, and morale.
Occasionally we refer to George Johns, still celebrated as one of the most significant architects of great radio, documented through the history of the legendary Fairbanks group with stations in Indianapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, West Palm and Dallas-Ft. Worth.
Fairbanks’ people were instrumental in establishing truly “visual” stations with quality standards still revered but rarely found today. Alumni of the “Fairbanks Way” mentored junior people who in-turn mentored more fortunate members of today’s program director ranks engaging the model in today’s context.
A couple of years ago Johns shared his remembrance of Fairbanks’ leader Jim Hilliard who at one point had grown weary of some grousing from his Indianapolis staff. Within Fairbanks, it was tough to find something to bitch about. Nonetheless, Hilliard chewed some tail with his Indy staff, recounting the timeless story of Chicken Little, who ran around squawking the sky was falling. Hilliard reminded his people, “The story could have ended on page two of the book if the farmer had simply shot the chicken.” Hilliard went on to suggest that he was considering just that. A few subsequent memos thereafter were even signed-off with “Shoot the Chicken!”
Given today’s disequilibrium, there’s lots of stuff to grouse about. We’ve long used the model of “The Competency Ladder” and it’s interesting to note those on the highest rung of the competency ladder typically voice the least sky-is-falling oratory. We describe a person in the top-tier group as a Conscious Competent. Defined, they are priceless and the most capable people in your organization. They know why they’re competent and better yet can mentor their skills to associates and peers.
The second strongest tier belongs to the Unconscious Competent. These team members are skilled enough to perform tasks at an above-average level but may lack introspection to know why they’re effective or, the insight to pass their skills on to a willing junior staffer. They’re not always managerial candidates though a great place to look!
Following that group ranks the Conscious Incompetent. But within these cohorts lies tons of potential that often remains untapped! Fair to say they’re not yet developing at a high level, but they know it and with encouragement can be relentless self-improvers within a vault of potential.
Finally, on the bottom rung of the Competency Ladder are the few Unconscious Incompetents…subpar in performance but worse, aren’t aware of it! And, occasionally you’ll hear them proclaim “the sky is falling.”