Training ensures people are competent at their position. And where competence lives so does confidence. Confidence breeds the pride and enthusiasm necessary for outstanding performance, constant and never-ending improvement, and the momentum that fuels an aligned organization.

To play at the top, we must go beyond great strategy, product differentiation and innovation. High-performance teams have these three elements in common:

  1. Inspiring leadership: Leaders that engage the human spirit inspire their teams to greatness.
  2. Talent alignment: Strategy comes to life only when everyone is working for a common goal.
  3. Training as a strategic competitive advantage: Learning that engages and changes human behavior is the fuel behind great teams.

We all know we need solid training programs, but few organizations think of training as an organizational strategy. Often it is viewed as a tactical obligation. When we change our perspective and think of learning as a key component of strategic advantage, we begin to discover how to make our talent (our greatest expense, risk and challenge) into a market differentiator nearly impossible to duplicate.

Behavioral change is challenging on many levels, as most humans like things to stay the same. They may want change, but they want you to change, not themselves! It is a reality that training leaders deal with daily.

Competencies that Drive Results

Thousands of hours of study, research, modeling, and analysis of organizational behavior resulted in a method for coaching people to their potential. Through this study, three critical components were identified that predict competency potential and determine a team’s ability to deliver results.

This goes against conventional wisdom where competency models are pages long; but when we look at competency with these three elements as the focus, training becomes more manageable and targeted to affect the behaviors (skills and processes) that consistently drive results. Ensuring competency is the most significant step we can take as we shift training programming to be an integral piece of our overall strategy. Training isn’t a department, it’s a culture.

Mindset. The first and most important piece of ensuring competency is mindset: the positivity and commitment to doing the job. If a person’s head isn’t in the game, no amount of training will ensure this performer rises above mediocrity. People with the wrong mindset never reach their potential and mediocre teams lose market share.

Skill Set. The skills required to do the job are vital to competency. This is why so much training is dedicated to skill development. And yet, skills are secondary to mindset. A person can master even difficult skills with the right mindset.

Process Set. Process gives us sustainability and improves productivity. It allows for improvement and drives efficiency as we determine what processes need to be utilized and how they affect other positions or departments. Process changes are the dominos that minimize mistakes, decrease error costs, and eliminate redundancy issues. Process gives us a sense of confidence in how to deliver or approach a given task.

The competency model’s three essential components ensure you build training that uses the foundations necessary to inspire confidence and drive high performance in your team.

To build an organization of truly outstanding performers who play “all in,” we must go beyond hiring the right people. We have all been there—hiring someone we believed would become a successful player on our team and yet they didn’t pan out. Sometimes it’s a bad hire but many times it is how we onboarded them or failed to set them up for success that was the root of their taking too long to “get it.”

It’s surprising that organizations are willing to spend weeks hiring the “right person” and less than a week onboarding them to ensure their competency. When it comes to talent, we all want competent people.

How People Learn

When developing our people, how they learn is as important as what they learn. Think of each element of training as if learning to ride a bike. Knowing the parts of the bike, and even how they work, isn’t enough. Actively getting on the bike is key. The Learning Model allows you to systematically integrate each job function’s skills and processes, so a person becomes competent and therefore confident. Just like riding a bike, the Learning Model is a series of steps designed to build competence, and therefore confidence, for sustained learning and success.

  • Knowledge: Intellectual understanding
  • Application: Understanding how the knowledge is applied and used
  • Demonstration: When you can demonstrate it, you know how to do it
  • Competency: Improving competency creates consistency
  • Confidence: Confidence is a derivative of comptency
  • Pride & Enthusiasm: Confident people have pride & enthusiasm

A coach needs to evaluate performance to move the learner to their next level of competence. Just like riding a bike, you must start with the basics and build from there. Helping a person become consciously competent is a gift you give a learner as it takes time, thought, and the patience to encourage as they trip and fall along the way.

Four Levels of Performers

Independent primary research has shown that when it comes to performance in a specific job, there are four levels of performers broken down by percentage of each in the average organization studied.  

Outstanding performers (4 percent) are the best of the best. They are at the top of the game and consistently deliver the highest level of results. Having tapped into their passion, their fanatical focus allows them to take their strong skills to another level as they endlessly raise the bar.

Top notch players (17 percent) are still “A” players with high levels of skill and focus. They have a learner mentality and consistently deliver as high achievers with the right mindset. To move them to the outstanding level of performance requires connecting their higher purpose to their work, awakening their passion to fuel their desire to learn even more.

Naysayers (7 percent) are energy suckers. They blame and shame others and exhibit a lack of responsibility for delivering results. They undermine the team, finding what’s wrong and focusing on problems rather than solutions. They are difficult to coach and the best approach for dealing with them is an exit strategy.

The mediocre crowd (72 percent) consists of a variety of performers and at 72 percent of the average organization, it is definitely a crowd. Why might people perform at a mediocre level? They may be new or learning a new job; they may have been promoted so they are learning their new responsibilities; or they may be bored with their current position. Maybe they have been there too long or aren’t being challenged to take their work to another level. In any case, they are not inspired, which is key to their turning on their own motivational switch. A person who is motivated to perform always performs at a higher level than a person who is not.

It is clear that the true opportunity for any organization to outperform its competition is to focus its efforts on moving the mediocre crowd for higher performance.

Three Key Tools to Moving the Mediocre Performer

  1. Inspire them. Show them how their work integrates with the organization’s overall mission. Ask them how they see their work impacting the customer, team, or end user and why that is important to them personally.
  2. Help them find and turn on their motivational switch. When our head isn’t into our work, we will never perform to our true potential. That limits our competence and hence our confidence. The more engaged a person is, the more motivated they are to perform at a higher level.
  3. Coach them. The coach’s job is to help people become competent. Most leaders manage people more than they coach. Management is the facilitation of people, product and process. In contrast, coaching is optimizing performance through engaging the human spirit, building skills and establishing accountability.

Accountability is a derivative of responsibility and when it comes to coaching, learning is not the coach’s job. The coach’s job is to create responsibility “in the chair over there” (with the learner). This means it is not your responsibility as the coach to take notes and tell people what to do. It is your responsibility to help them understand the deliverables and to clearly and interactively share the skills and processes they need to know to perform. A great coach applies knowledge through demonstration, so the learner can model and apply the information. The coach then creates an environment that allows the person to demonstrate the skills.

People learn best when they feel safe and trust that you sincerely want them to become successful. Fear is a common barrier to growth. Coaches decrease fear and increase positive emotional engagement.

At a fundamental level, training is the ability to change human behavior. When we think from this perspective as a leader and coach, we have more empathy as we all know change is hard. Learning takes time and changing behavior takes even longer.

There is no greater gift than helping individuals find their confidence. Confidence unlocks potential and builds a higher level of commitment to the organization. It’s no secret that the more committed people are, the better the work. Then the real math kicks in.

Now we are talking about a strategic weapon.