Balancing confidence and competence

A great way to get over the winter blues is to challenge your physical and mental skills at high altitudes.  Every fibre in your body is alert to any physical feedback as your mind tries to balance the mental cocktail of extreme excitement, anxiety and danger.  While surges of adrenalin keeps you totally focused on the here-and-now so you forget everything else, if you misjudge the conditions the consequences are immediate. . .

Skiing provides a unique combination of pure fresh air to refresh the body and stunning views that refresh the soul.  It is a crazy sport because the exhilaration of hurtling downhill whilst maintaining some sense of control is very addictive but things can change in a split second.
Earlier this year on our first day at the ski resort of Meribel, my wife Pam and I had the very sobering experience of seeing someone being transferred from an emergency ski stretcher-cot to the medical centre.  It was not a pretty sight, and a stark reminder of the need to balance competence and confidence.

Many skiers (mainly the younger ones!) go for maximum speed rather than technique.  It is very easy to seek the rush of wind in your face and to cut corners especially when you have been down a particular piste a few times.  But you need to be acutely aware of all the other skiers and what they might – or might not – do in front of you. Making assumptions can lead you into serious trouble.  However if you lose your confidence due to a bad experience like a nasty fall, you won’t be able to access your competence and this can negatively affect your performance.   

Maintaining Performance
Many businesses are now under pressure to increase performance and to get the most from their resources including their people.  The skill and competence of managers is being tested to the limit and an over-confident manager can damage your business and lose you your best people.  In the current economic climate people need to be kept motivated or their performance, and a poor attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. 

For example in sales, poor results due to a tougher market can create despondency and the despondency can create even more poor results.  An over-confident manager may simply continue doing more of what worked in the past without realising how much the environment has changed and that a different approach is required. 

A competent manager who loses confidence due to the tougher conditions and new levels of pressure may ‘forget’ all the Knowledge, Skills and Attitude (KSA) they have.  This can lead to them getting totally stressed and team performance will deteriorate.

It’s the managers who have both competence and confidence who will maintain their performance in a variety of conditions because they know what combinations of KSA to apply and when to apply them.

If we go back to skiing for a moment, let’s look at what is required to maintain control (performance) in steep and challenging conditions.

The structure and flexibility of your skis.  Using the edges of the skis to control speed.  Using the angle and width of the slope to moderate speed. Balance and your centre of gravity.  Determining speed and what it will take to change direction or slow down.
How to develop strength and stamina in various muscle groups. Curving and twisting your body to face and lean downhill.  Applying just the right amount of pressure on different parts of the skis and boots.  Using the poles for rhythm, support and turning.   
Trust; in the principles, even when they seem counter-intuitive.  Staying relaxed; even when skitting across sheets of icy slope or very steep and lumpy terrain.  Safety; knowing your limits. Willingness; to step beyond your comfort zone. 

What KSA do your managers need to excel in the current climate?  What KSA do your sales or customer-facing people need to maximise the services you offer?  Do they know what to say and how to say it?  Do they have the right service attitude?  Are they comfortable and confident letting your customers know what else is on offer at every opportunity?  If not you may be missing valuable sales or referral opportunities.

A Robust Framework
Many businesses are now clearly defining the Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours required to succeed in a particular role by identifying evidence criteria for:

Proficiency – what is required for good performance (minimum expected)?
Needing Development – what are the indicators that performance is below expectations?
Clear Strength – what will someone who is ‘going the extra mile’ be doing?

This will require some investment, but once it’s in place it is very valuable for communicating what you require in recruitment, appraisal, management, training, promotion and succession planning.  This can mean the difference between success and failure because you will have drivers rather than passengers in your business.

If you are interested in exploring a competency framework for the key roles in your business please Click Here.

What about Attitude and motivation?

Because we are all unique and have a variety of motivational traits and preferences, it can be challenging to identify the best way to motivate and manage your people.  Some can people have the right attitude for certain roles but if there are changes they may find it difficult to adapt.  Others will remain flexible and ready to dive in to any new challenge, but they may find it difficult to maintain standards when under pressure.

– So how are you identifying the key attitude and motivational patterns of your people? 

– How are you maintaining their motivation in the current climate?

– What are you doing to develop the competence and confidence of your managers?

I’d be very interested to hear some of your thoughts and opinions about this . . . I’ll respond to every comment made below.

If you are curious about discovering the key words and phrases that will motivate your people, Click Here.

However if you would rather identify which words and phrases to avoid so you don’t create unnecessary misunderstandings then Click Here.

Remember  . . . stay curious!

With best regards
David Klaasen
David Klaasen is director and owner of the niche HR consultancy, Inspired Working Ltd.  (
If you have a communication or performance problem and would like some objective advice drop him a line at
[email protected]