The four I-Competencies (Intellectual, Interpersonal, Intensity and Integrity) can serve as a useful framework for describing some of the factors necessary for success at different organizational levels. These attributes are foundation competences. That is, they are fundamental and cannot be developed significantly by training, coaching or experience. They are the result of genetics and the values one absorbs due to early family and societal/cultural influences. In this respect, they differ from the many surface competencies (e.g. formal presentation skills, spreadsheet skills, technical knowledge base, etc.) which can be taught. Each managerial level requires different behaviors and skills for success. Some of these differences are illustrated below, using the I-Competencies as an organizing structure.
The Intellectual Competency
This is more than just how well a person can perform on a standardized test, although it does include the aptitudes that predict success in an academic environment. However, it also encompasses mental agility, quickness and creativity, depth of knowledge and common sense. This factor is a combination of a person’s unique mix of skills and abilities and how well she or he uses them. People who make smart decisions and who use their talents effectively are more successful over time than those who make bad decisions and/or squander their intellectual resources. The data are quite clear and unambiguous. There are always exceptions to the rule (there are very bright people who never amount to anything and there are people of very average intelligence who work hard and achieve at very high levels) but overall correlations between the components of this competency and performance over time are clear and consistent in a very broad range of jobs and organizations. The differences in the use and expression of this competency at different organizational levels are as follows.
• Learn the technology and business.
• Solve immediate problems in a practical manner.
• Make decisions on practical, job-related things like technical applications, methods, etc.
• Learn about politics, relationships, social networks, other functional areas.
• Put structure into the big picture – interpret strategy.
• Solve interpersonal problems.
• Adapt and change gears rapidly – be quick and decisive.
• Translate global strategy into appropriate solutions and actions.
• Make decisions on structure and allocate resources.
• Continuous learning: fire hose always in mouth; wide open on all fronts.
• Cope with continuous conceptual demands.
• Be quick and agile when connecting the dots…but reflective and appropriately self-paced before coming to conclusions (balance the competing forces of reflection vs. bias toward action).
• Solve strategic problems.
• Create the right structure.
• Think clearly and creatively.
• Challenge assumptions.
• Make wise decisions on resources, business direction, long term strategy.
• Analyze larger business/capital issues and develop appropriate solutions.
The Interpersonal Competency
No matter how clever a person is and how elegant or elaborate his problem solutions, if he can’t communicate them to others and convince others of their merits, it doesn’t matter. People who have good social skills and who get along with other people are much more successful as a group than those who don’t have as many talents in this area. They have greater influence in the group because others like them and feel good about them. The interpersonal competency is the key that unlocks the door of influence. It enables you to communicate the worth of your ideas. This competency includes general social and persuasive skills, social insight and intuition, likeability and persuasiveness. The intellectual competency enables a person to solve a problem. The interpersonal competency enables him or her to convince other people that the solution is the right one, or at least a good one. The differences in the tasks and demands associated with this competency at the organizational levels are as follows:
• Communicate clear tactical objectives.
• Give effective feedback and critique.
• Reinforce successes.
• Focus on building and maintaining good relationships with bosses and subordinates.
• Maintain proper balance between detachment and involvement.
• Establish, build and maintain networks.
• Build supportive lateral relationships.
• Scope is 360 degrees – all relationships are important.
• Develop reputation as approachable source of information and help.
• Realize impact on others – develop and fine-tune self-insights.
• Develop the confidence to hire people stronger than you are.
• Learn how to develop and use the talents of others.
• Learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.
• You can’t lead by giving direct orders to everyone at this level. To really influence the organization, you must harness the power of symbolic behavior. Remember that people are always watching you. Learn how to show the behaviors, attitudes and actions that give the troops the right message.
• Develop strong relationships outside the company. A good network helps you gather the intelligence that will affect the company.
• Develop good political intuitions and skills.
• Work on your insights – develop and nurture good sources of feedback, advice and counsel.
• Fine tune your skills of assessment. Realize that everyone looks good at this level and that it is usually the seemingly minor, subtle things that derail a person in the executive ranks. Be sure you’re getting the best people possible on your team.
The Intensity Competency
This includes energy, stamina, drive and the ability to get fully engaged. People with high intensity are active, not passive. They are driven by a need to get things done and to see results. With the proper control and focus, people with high intensity will achieve at higher levels than those with only average levels of stamina and energy. This is the gasoline that drives the engine providing the fuel for achieving goals and for staying motivated in the face of obstacles. It is often manifested in an organization or team setting as general motivation. The more motivated you are, the more likely you are to achieve results and consequently the greater your ability to influence others by virtue of your accomplishments and general credibility. The tasks associated with this competency at each level are as follows:
• Set the example of hard work and timeliness.
• Stay involved with the task. Master all processes.
• Apply yourself well and don’t stop until you’ve finished the job.
• Keep your subordinates focused on the task. Don’t tolerate slacking off.
• Deal with increasing demands on your energy.
• Process new information rapidly and effectively. You must translate, interpret and communicate increasingly large volumes of material.
• Push yourself and others to achieve at high levels and to sustain performance.
• Try to keep your life in balance but be prepared to make sacrifices for the job.
• Develop good stress management skills.
• Act. When in doubt, step out and lead. Apply yourself with a consistently high level of energy and focus.
• Realize that this is the most demanding job you’ve ever had. There will be little time for personal life. Everything is now about the job. Your work is never finished. You must have great stamina just to keep up.
• However…in spite of the above, you need to be sure you have appropriate ways to recharge and keep your stress level manageable.
• You must work with energy and resilience. The demands on your time and energy are relentless.
• You must be able to adapt quickly to changing demands.
• The job requires intense determination.
The Integrity Competency
This is somewhat broader than the basic honesty-dishonesty dimension although that is an important part of this competency. This is the cornerstone of building trust. Trust – along with expertise – are the two primary factors of credibility. This also includes general conscientiousness, discipline and follow-through. The person with high integrity will meet his or her commitments in the time frames agreed upon and according to the standards expected. If not, he or she will let everyone know in plenty of time so that they won’t be surprised. Part of this competency includes the ability to focus and to use one’s talents and aptitudes with appropriate discipline. This is the factor that holds things together and facilitates trust and consistency of performance. The greater the perceived integrity, the greater the trust. The tasks associated with this competency at each level are as follows:
• Do what you say you’ll do.
• Establish trust with subordinates and bosses.
• Act in a consistent and fair manner.
• Apply clear standards fairly.
• Build a broad base of trust.
• Become recognized as a person of conscientiousness and credibility
• Never, ever, betray a confidence.
• Do what you commit to doing, do it on time and meet or exceed the standards you promise. If you can’t do this, let everyone know well in advance. Never leave anyone hanging.
• Don’t let anyone get blindsided if you can stop it without violating other laws of trust.
• Be a role model for credible, ethical behavior. Realize that all eyes are on you and that your behavior speaks for you and the organization. The behavior needs to be consistent with the verbal message.
• Remember the difference between doing things right and doing the right things.
• Remember that you are the face of your organization to people on the inside and outside. Your actions will be carefully scrutinized. Bend over backwards not to do anything that might remotely be interpreted as questionable behavior.
Although there may be some overlaps between the competencies, there are enough differences to make it useful to categorize and define them as described above. A person can’t make up for a marked deficit in any one of these competencies by being very strong in the others if he/she wants to ascend into the top ranks of management and leadership. This is a multiple hurdle system. One must have at least some minimal level of competence in each dimension or he/she will eventually de-rail.