Gregory Ronczewski is the Director of Product Design at TeamFit platform – view his profile on TeamFit

 

“To wear different hats” is a pretty common expression. It means you have several different jobs or roles. There is another one, “wear too many hats”. In this case, a person can’t cope with… well, cope with what? With the complexity of a task or a role? A specific task? Is it about responsibilities or abilities to solve something? Or is it a lack of experience or missing skills?

This expression has a positive connotation as well. Wearing different hats may simply imply that you are resourceful and creative. Here is another way to express it – “jack of all trades.” There may be some negativity attached to this, but at the same time, a doctor who plays cello in a community quartet and writes best-selling novels in her free time is a very versatile person with many talents and interests, and quite possibly, feels comfortable in all three roles. For me, the real question is: can you separate yourself from a role so much that you become a completely different person? When we see a text written in a language that we know, we can’t stop from “understanding” the meaning. There is no way to stop this process. Will our doctor who plays cello be able to stop being sensitive to the sound, tone and pitch while examining patients? I don’t think so. She may not use the music related skills, but the hearing will inform decisions regardless of which hat is currently on.

When we started to build the skill profile, we quickly realize that the complexity of interlocking abilities, talents combined with experience and specific skills have to be looked at as a whole. Only a three-dimensional representation of a person can shed some light on the question of how well this individual fits in a particular team. Skills, knowledge and talent combined with experience play a role in the organization of this matrix.

If you follow our blog, you know that for the last few months Competency Models have been on our drawing board. As we dig deeper into how a model is built and by what process, we face the same challenge of how to untangle skills without disconnecting them from the overall skill portrait. Then use the skills at the foundation level to inform desired behaviours expressed by a Competency Model.

While a model can be designed by combining policies and processes specific to an organization with a set of best practices that are available in the general domain, there is another option that seems to gain good traction. If you want to learn about a particular role in your organization, talk to your best performers in this specific role. Find out what makes them successful, what skills they use and how they apply them. What complementary, associated or connecting skills can be found in the skill profile of a top performer. Ask if there is more than one way to be a top performer. This approach changes what used to be a top-down directive, often mentally rejected as a moulding process to force people into the same robot-like form, and by turning it upside down. We have a bottom-up version of how to build a competency model, or rather a compromise – a bit of both worlds combined.

To be honest, I don’t like the idea compromising on the key points. It is like those popular in the 80s hi-fi stereos which had a turntable, cassette deck, amplifier and radio. Quite functional – no question about it, but the sound quality was always pretty bad. So in a way, a Competency Model that is designed with a top-down mentality, but informed by the bottom up information may be functional, but what are we losing? Will the top down approach stifle the bottom up and will it still be possible to see the skills of people who wear multiple hats? I think, in this case, a combined approach is the way to go. In time, the skill and experience layer will gain more influence and gradually replace the imposed scenarios. Still, each company has unique values, processes and objectives and it will be misleading to avoid these. Those unique values are behaviours are very important.

Recently, I saw a comment posted on LinkedIn suggesting abandoning the traditional interviewing process and replacing it with a skill assessment. TeamFit is well positioned to deliver just that. Still, I think there is far more to discover. For some reason, an image of a well-camouflaged individual comes to mind. Each skill, each experience, each competency, each role contributing to the unique professional signature, and at the same time cloaking the view. We all are pretty good at trying to fit in. To blend and conform to the expected. Some people like to be told what to do, they are afraid to decide, to take initiative. We are often happy to exchange our individuality for the benefits and a promise that the job will take care of us. In reality though, job security is long gone and just conforming to the imposed standard will not guarantee anything. It doesn’t work for employees and it doesn’t work for the company either. Companies will not benefit from a cohort of workers who only comply with once-and-for-good established Competency Models.

It is easy to walk by without seeing anything, but with the right lens and correct focus, a hidden world is revealed. A dynamic, evolving model based on the real changes is something to look forward to.