Friday, October 17, 2008

sanctioned incompetence

Last weekend I had the privilege and opportunity to attend the Catalyst Conference in the Atlanta area with 8 of my students from Concordia University - they were all from our Thrivent Scholars Program and this was the culmination of that experience from the past year. One of the speakers we heard was Dave Ramsey, a financial guru who comes from the Christian perspective. Dave's talk was on the 5 things that destroy unity - and the final "thing" was what he entitled SANCTIONED INCOMPETENCE.
We all know what this is - and we all can name people in our organizations that should have been gone a LONG time ago, but have not been confronted with their lack of competence within the job into which they have been placed. For those people who are incredibly competent and work hard to make a difference for their organizations, this is not only demoralizing but does, as Mr. Ramsey pointed out, destroy any sense of unity - and lack of unity leads to lack of production.
Why is it that so many people are allowed to continue when their supervisor knows they are incompetent, everyone else knows they are incompetent, and they themselves know they are incompetent (okay, maybe they don't know, because if they did know they were incompetent, they would probably NOT be incompetent). I think it comes to a very simple answer - people are afriad to confront. It is not easy to say to someone "you are not doing a good job and you need to improve or you will be fired." And yet, as Mr. Ramsey pointed out, leaders who won't confront aren't really leaders. For the sake of the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent; for the sake of the best workers in the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent.; for the sake of the stakeholders of the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent; for the sake of the future customers of the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent; and for the sake of those who are incompetent, leaders need to confront them so they can find a better niche for themselves and be a whole lot happier and more productive.
As leaders, let's step up to the plate and confront those in our organization who just aren't cutting it - they may need training; they may need encouragement; they may need a new position; they may need a vacation; or they may need to go. Whatever it takes, let's get rid of sactioned incompetence!

1 comment:

Carl said...

Don,
My wife, Jan, and I have learned during our 38 years of marriage and 20+ years of working with premarital and married couples is that many of us haven't experienced strong marriage-relationship models that have show us what healthy conflict looks like, and I think the same is true in the workplace.
Healthy conflict (constructive confronting) is all about intimately knowing someone we respect and care about. I think Rick Warren expressed it well in "The Purpose-Driven Life" when he wrote (paraphrased) that conflict is the tunnel you pass through to get to intimacy (really knowing who someone is and what they believe, understand, and care about).
I think it is self-evident that if I respect and care about another, I want to know if they disagree with me or have a different expectation. Confronting those differences in a healthy, construtive way leads to better mutual understanding, which leads to intimacy.
In the workplace environment, when a leader confronts an employee who has a different expectation/understanding about what competence is, the leader learns more about who that employee is and what he or she believes and knows. The leader is also offering the employee an opportunity to know her or him better. Further, the leader is empowering the employee by helping him or her experience healthy conflict.