Women at Work: Start development with a competency model

Women at Work: Start development with a competency model

Tina Smagala

By Tina Smagala

A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that 85 percent of high-performing organizations use a “competency model” as the foundation for their leadership development strategy.

Competencies are skills or abilities, such as decision making, driving results, managing change, developing others, customer service, business acumen, functional expertise, and strategic thinking.

A leadership competency model typically includes seven to 12 competencies that leaders need to demonstrate for success in their role now and in the future. Each competency should include three to six behavioral expectations, or descriptors, of what the competency looks like in action. They are uniquely identified for each level of leadership. Leadership levels include those who manage individual contributors, front-line managers, and senior managers.

When well documented, the behavioral expectations progress in scope and complexity through each leadership level. For example, a manager of individual contributors may be expected to develop others by coaching direct reports whereas an executive may be expected to develop others by mentoring high-potential leaders. Leaders are expected to demonstrate the behavioral expectations for their current position as well as levels of leadership they previously held. Organizations can also have a broader competency model that includes behavioral expectations for individual contributors.

When creating a competency model, define what the competency means in your organization and then specify what it looks like in action for each level of leadership. If you’re not sure which competencies to include in your model, start by interviewing your top performers to understand the competencies that drive their success and include those leaders in a competency card sort process. The competency model must align with the organization’s business strategy and the executive leadership team must support it.

Once you have your model, don’t let it just sit on the shelf! It should be the basis of discussions and decisions regarding talent assessment, succession planning, and leadership development.

Tina Smagala is a leadership developer at Paychex and can be reached at tsmagala@personalityworks.org. This column is written by members of the Rochester Women’s Network (http://rwn.org/).

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