Competence Is Not Enough

I have come to realize and appreciate the value of well-honed ability in one’s trade. “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with your might” (Eccl 9:10 NKJV). It’s just one basic thing we owe this world, to do things well.

Most times, we should have it all together technically. If you are writer you write exceptionally; if you are a surgeon, you cut people open, fix them and sew them properly. If you are an accountant, keep those books so well, no dime is missing. If you are a plumber, work so nicely you never get called back to refix a leaking pipe you just fixed. If you are a footballer, treat the ball like Messi or Ronaldo. Whatever it is you do, be good at it.  

But we all know that that there are bad days when:

  • the writer doesn’t write too well
  • the surgery has a complication
  • the books don’t balance
  • the pipe fixed still leaks
  • and you miss a penalty…

There are off days for all professions, and business people get the order wrong sometimes. You can be forgiven for failing with a skill once a while, but you may not get away with being a terrible person at the same time.

Technical competence is never enough!

I will argue strongly that the quality of the person is always more important that the quality of the job he can do at any given moment. While a bad job will cost you some money, a bad job from a terrible person will could cost you your peace and the money, and leave a long-lasting sour taste in the mouth.

For any position you hold, or project you are on, there are certain skills that elevate you above your peers or competitors, and you must pay attention to these skills. They are called soft skills. Anything you have to do to get the next man to cooperate or align with your idea in a manner that makes him feel privileged to have done so falls in the bracket of soft skills.

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There are stakeholders for every project and assignment. They may be the final consumers; the instructors on the job; partners; the supplier of raw materials; co-workers/teammates, supervisors and so on. Being able to manage everyone along the chain from ideation to creation and consumption is very important; and unless you can succeed at this, you will never rise beyond doing the grunt work.

For example, your knowledge of Java or C++, for instance, would not help you pacify a client whose app you haven’t delivered after 6weeks past deadline and his business is suffering. But, your ability to stay calm, listen to his outburst, apologize sincerely, communicating hinderances and challenges promptly, have the confidence of and being liked by the boss’s PA for being a courteous person in the past, could just help dowse the tension and give you an extension…and eventually keep that client for a bigger deal next time.

Sometimes, your consistent great looks could be all you need to get liked by the most important decision maker. Sometimes, it could be your ability to carry on a good conversation about the history of coffee drinking…and bam!!! You’re liked.

You can be great at your job, really great, but don’t ever underestimate the power of being liked…or loved.

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Below are five things you should do to put an irresistible edge on your competence:

  1. Value and respect people: no one is too little to be respected and appreciated for who they are. They may be low ranked worker to you, but they are kings to some people. No sane human being will reject respect, and they will have a natural inclination to give it back. When you treat people with a value mindset, they are compelled to deliver that value to you. You win at the end of the day.
  2. Communicate Clearly at all Times: speak to be understood! Sometimes this might mean you code-switch, that is moving back and forth between two languages, dialects or even accent in one conversation. The way you speak to the MD may not be the way you speak with the messenger, if you intend to get result with the messenger. Clear communication often demands sincerity, simplicity, authenticity and humility. Do not speak or write like who you’re not.
  3. Present yourself well: Auto-manufacturers change body designs and features more often than the do the engine specifications. Three successive models of the same car could carry the same engine; this is because it’s easier to persuade the eyes that something has changed. Appearance tells a lot, especially about how the individual being observed values him/herself. Whatever value you place on yourself is what others will confer on you. Good looks excite the eyes and it refreshes the soul. Ambiance that smells very lovely will draw people and keep them close. Look Good!!!
  4. Avoid confrontation and unnecessary arguments: avoid getting into arguments with people, or any situation that causes you to raise your voice. Yes, there will be times you need to be vocally emphatic about what you want, but don’t make it a default setting. When two people are shouting at each other, neither of them will make sense, they both will look unattractive. If you want to keep your dignity, make your point firmly but calmly and walk away. Many times, you will avoid a violent confrontation this way. If it requires you do an email to drive home your point and maintain your position, do so.
  5. Say it; Do it: being a person of integrity implies that should we draw a line between what you say and you do, it will be a straight one- the accuracy of your actions. It is self-depleting to make empty promises or make commitments you know you cannot keep. If the detail of the order you got is 6 red hats with powder blue rims to be delivered by 6pm on Monday for #60,000, don’t deliver 6 red hats, 5 with powder blue rims and 1 with sky blue rim delivered at 6:15pm on Monday, and now requiring #100 to balance for the packaging. If for any reason, something will change in that order, please communicate way before delivery is close, and let the client agree to such unavoidable change.  
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Businesses that last and transcend generations pay proper attention, not just to the credentials of people they hire, but their personalities. Quality people with less than desireable skills will someday learn the skills and become whole packages.

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