Competence, confidence, and commitment

stones2One of my former bosses used to reckon that the basis of a good team was competence, confidence, and commitment.

By competence he meant that each individual team member must be competent to execute the skills and exercise the judgements required to make a full and useful contribution to the team’s performance.

By confidence he meant that each team member must be realistically confident of their own competence and the competence of the other team members.  In short, they must believe that they can do what needs to be done.

And by commitment he meant that each and every team member must believe in the team and that he or she must be committed to the team’s success.

‘But competence comes first,’ he used to say.  ‘Without competence, confidence plus commitment is a recipe for disaster.’

It’s a bit like Clausewitz’s observations on new recruits to the Prussian army.

There are those who are clever and energetic.  They are tomorrow’s leaders.

There are those who are clever and lazy.  A pity; a waste of good talent; but no harm done.

There are those who are stupid and lazy.  And it is just as well that they are lazy.  They don’t do very much, so they don’t get the chance to make too many mistakes.

And there are those who are stupid and energetic.  These people are the most dangerous people in the entire army.

I was reminded of this recently when I was asked to ‘tidy up’ a suite of briefing papers.  They were, to put it mildly, gobbledygook of the first order.

Their principal author was a man with an almost unbelievable amount of confidence and commitment.  Unfortunately, his competence when it came to putting ideas down on paper was almost non-existent.

In many organisations, ‘writing it up’ – whether ‘it’ is the results of a brain-storming session or a multi-million dollar pitch – tends to fall to he or she who volunteers, he or she who is confident in their ability to put pen to paper.  But, unfortunately, there are many confident writers who are not competent writers.  And competence must come first.

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