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Diagnosing Development: Competence vs. Commitment

The Situational Leadership® II model has three core components – setting a SMART goal with your employee, diagnosing the development level of your employee with regard to the given goal, and applying the appropriate type of leadership for the person’s development level. Today, we’ll break down the two core factors that determine the development level – competence and commitment.

Defining Competence

Within the scope of SLII®, competence refers to a person’s demonstrated knowledge and skills with regard to a specific goal or task. A person who is highly competent at something has a lot of experience, has done the task unassisted before, and needs minimal help. A person with little or no competence with regard to a specific task has never done that task before and may not know where to begin.

Competence doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence – it’s about experience. A person could be highly competent at one task and have no competence at another.

Defining Commitment

In the SLII® model, commitment refers to a person’s level of motivation and confidence with respect to a given task or goal. Commitment is completely separate from competence. An employee might have no idea how to write code, for example, but be extremely eager to learn. Likewise, a person could have tons of experience in bookkeeping but hate doing it.

The Four Development Levels

Most employees can be assigned one of four development levels:

  • D1 – The enthusiastic beginner. Low competence, high commitment
  • D2 – The disillusioned learner. Low competence, low commitment
  • D3 – The capable-but-cautious contributor. Moderate to high competence, variable commitment
  • D4 – The self-reliant achiever. High competence, high commitment

Determining which development level an employee fits into requires having one or more Alignment Conversations. These conversations are opportunities for the leader and the employee to honestly discuss expectations, concerns, and questions. Getting the most out of these conversations requires a high level of Conversational Intelligence™ on the part of the leader.

Defining Conversational Intelligence™ and Why It Matters

Conversational Intelligence™ is about awareness, understanding, and action. Many leaders struggle most with the first part – awareness – and this can have a negative impact on Alignment Conversations. For example, when an employee tells you that they know exactly how to approach a given goal, an aware leader might realize that the employee is just trying to impress. Awareness is about being present in the conversation, not judging the other person, listening to concerns, and asking follow-up questions.

When a conversation is an active exchange, it becomes about sharing and discovering. In these sorts of conversationally intelligent exchanges, real progress can be made by accurately determining a person’s level of competence and commitment without any judgement. Starting from this place of honest assessment is key to applying the most effective form of leadership and ultimately achieving the goal.

About Joy Ruhmann
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