The quest for competence

THE words of the wise are well known. If you have a choice to make between speaking and listening, it is better to listen. If you have a choice to make between demonstrating and telling, it is better to choose the former.

Those who are racing to tell are many, but those who are rushing to do are fewer. Deeds speak louder than mere rantings and pratings.

There is a profound Arabic saying that every child should memorise and every adult should teach.

“Men are four: He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool — shun him; He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is simple — teach him; He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep — wake him; He who knows and knows he knows, he is wise — follow him!”

Rendered in more direct language:

There are four types of people:

“He that doesn’t know and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know is a fool, shun him. He that doesn’t know but knows that he doesn’t know is simple, teach him. He that knows but doesn’t know that he knows is asleep, wake him. He that knows and knows that he knows is wise, follow him.”

Unconscious incompetence

When you do not know that you do not know, you are hard to help.

The hardest people to help are those who do not know that they do not know. Those who are underexposed think their village is the world.

Those that never experience anything beyond what they know think that what they have seen is ultimate glory. Before people start shunning you, wake up to the reality that there are other realities beyond what you know and have experienced.

Exposure is a gift that works better when combined with humility. Always be learning, because knowledge is always multiplying. This applies to individuals and organisations as well.

Jack Welch once said that when the rate of change outside an organisation is faster than the rate of change inside an organisation, the end is near.

Equally, when the rate of change inside any institution or system is faster than the rate of change outside, there is a margin of safety.

When nothing seems to be changing, it is important to ask serious questions.

Those who do not know that they do not know are usually the most arrogant. This is amplified by the popular Dakota wisdom that never ceases to challenge and inspire me.

The American Indians were the first inhabitants of the Americas. They had various tribes that were scattered throughout the land.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

But in modern business and organisations, because heavy investment factors are taken into consideration, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including the following:

Buying a stronger whip; Changing riders;  Threatening the horse with termination; Appointing a committee to study the horse; Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses; Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included; Reclassifying the dead horse as “living-impaired”; Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse; Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed; Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance; Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance; Declaring that the dead horse carries lower overhead and therefore contributes more to the bottom line than some other horses; Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses; or Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

You can easily add your own to this growing list. If you are riding a dead horse and you do not know that you are riding a dead horse, you will do things that defy horse-sense. Check the horse often to see if it alive. Smell the cheese often to see if it is still there.

Keep looking and learning so that you do not remain with lofty certificates and yet ignorant. Keep introspecting because to not know and yet not know that you do not know makes you impervious to knowledge.

Conscious incompetence

When you know that you do not know, you are teachable and can be helped. In fact, you will not just wait to be helped, but you will actively seek help.

I do not want to park in the past because my mother taught me that: “Matakadyakare hanyaradze mwana”.

That is a Shona saying that could be literally translated as: “Yesterday’s meal will not provide succour to a child today.”

What I knew yesterday could easily be history.

Great organisations are always learning and seeking out consultants to help them and work with them.

Leaders are readers because they know they have to keep their cutting edge. There is a growing appetite for life and business coaches.

Every sports person knows that to raise performance you need a good coach. Try championship performance without a coach.

Trying to save by engaging an incompetent coach sets you up for mediocre results.

Unconscious competence

As you continue your growth and development journey, there are things you will do that you may not be aware were the right things until you meet others who do them.

Keep doing what helps you even if other people do not seem to share the same passion.

I used to love books and was buying books all the time.

As my own development journey grew, I started meeting other people who also have an unquenchable thirst for learning.

I discovered that I was not wasting money; I was doing the right things all along.

As you keep learning and growing, never forget that greatness is not a destination but a journey.

It is a constant challenge to be moving from good to great, from mere competence to mastery. You want to do what you do so well until it is an art form.

At that level it becomes unconscious competence. You and what you do become one.

Conscious competence

When you know what you know, you are confident but never arrogant. As the Arabic saying goes: “He that knows and knows that he knows is wise, follow him.”

He who leads you determines where you go. You also are a leader, lead with insight.

Keep learning and growing. Never be satisfied and arrive at a place where you park. The pace is not slowing down and the race is not finishing.

Some people belong to your past, others belong to your present, while others belong in your future.

Love and learn from the past, but do not park there.

Pay homage to those in your past, for they contributed to who you are. Keep envisioning the future and seeking those who will take you there. If you park in the past, fellowship in the past, plan for the past, then who is minding the future?

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, writes in his book “My Vision”: “Whenever we talk about the future, we should be talking in terms of the challenges that lie ahead. Our ambitions are big and we anticipate even bigger challenges.

“Our ability to overcome these challenges depends on our capability to plan, work and feel optimistic and confident about ourselves, our potential and our capacity to reach our goals.

“Great challenges make great nations and when I look back to the past and then to the future, I am convinced we will overcome these challenges and succeed. We did do in the past and can certainly do so again.”

Commit to greatness and keep learning.

Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author and coach. He is a cutting strategy, innovation, team-building and leadership facilitator. Feedback: [email protected], Twitter @MiltonKamwendo and WhatsApp +263772422634.

 

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