Thursday, February 26, 2015

Metacognition: thinking about one's thinking

Metacognition refers to critical analysis of thought or purposeful thoughtfulness. Metacognition refers to the knowledge, awareness and control of one’s own thinking and learning. During Metacognition, one can examine one’s own brain’s processing.  Metacognition is a form of cognition, a higher order thinking process or a supervisory or metalevel system which involves active control over cognitive processes. It can be simply described as thinking about thinking or knowing about knowing or cognition about cognition. Metacognition serves many diverse functions. Metacognition plays an important role in communication, reading comprehension, language acquisition, social cognition, attention, self-control, memory, self-instruction, writing, problem solving and personality development (Cooper 1999). Learning is facilitated through the use of metacognitive strategies that identify, monitor and regulate cognitive processes.

Metacognition-meaning and definition

John Flavell, a psychologist of Stanford University is regarded as a foundation researcher in metacognition.  Metacognition was first coined by Flavell In the mid 1970s. The term Metacognition as used by Flavell (1979) refers to an individual’s awareness of his/her cognitive processes and strategies. The word “Metacognition” combines the prefix “meta” (derived from Greek meaning after, behind, or beyond) with cognition which refers to the process of knowing (derived from a Latin verb meaning “to learn or to know). Metacognition is described as the ability to monitor, regulate and select strategies in doing a task. The strategies can include any methods, thoughts, beliefs, practices, tricks, behaviours or moods that are specifically cultivated to improve one’s ability to learn.

Metacognition is important because it affects acquisition, comprehension, retention and application of what is learned. In addition it may affect critical thinking, problem –solving and decision making.  Metacognition include both knowledge and strategy components. Cognitive and metacognitive strategies are closely intertwined and dependent upon each other. Metacognition involves information processing activities. Metacognition refers to thinking that enables the understanding, analysis and regulation of thought processes. Metacognition is defined as thinking about one’s thoughts (Harris and Hodges 1995). The National Research Council (2001) defines Metacognition as “the process of reflecting on and directing one’s own thinking.”

Metacognitive components

Metacognition consists of two complementary elements such as metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation (Flavell 1979).
Metacognitive knowledge – awareness of one’s thinking – refers to what the learner knows and understands about the task in hand.
Metacognitive regulation – the ability to manage one’s own thinking processes –refers to the strategies the learner uses to complete the task.
Flavell (1979) describes three kinds of metacognitive knowledge.
1.Awareness of knowledge –understanding what one knows, what one does not know and what one wants to know.
2. Awareness of thinking – understanding cognitive tasks and the nature of what is required to complete them.
3. Awareness of thinking strategies – understanding approaches to directing learning.
There are three kinds of content knowledge. Researches support the claim that skilled learners possess declarative, procedural and conditional knowledge about cognition. This knowledge usually improves learner’s performance.
1.Declarative knowledge – knowing ‘about’ things – knowledge of one’s own learning processes and about strategies.
2. Procedural knowledge – knowing ‘how’ to do things – knowing what skills and strategies to use and how to apply them.
3. Conditional knowledge – knowing ‘when’ and ‘why’ to apply different cognitive actions- knowledge about why and when various learning strategies should be used.
Metacognitive regulation refers to a set of activities help learners to control their learning. It includes three essential skills:
1. Planning – involves working out how a task might be approached before you do it.
2. Monitoring – refers to the learners on –task awareness of progress, comprehension and overall performance.
3. Evaluation – requires the learner to review the outcomes and efficiency of the learning experience e.g. revisiting goals and conclusions.

Metacognitive levels of thought

1.Tacit –thinking without thinking about it;
2. Aware –thinking and being aware that you are thinking;
3. Strategic – organizing our thinking by using strategies that enhance its efficacy; and
4. Reflective – reflecting on our thinking (pondering how to proceed and how to improve; Swartz and Perkins 1990).

Metacognition and learning

Metacognition allows learners to take charge of their own learning. It involves awareness of how they learn, an evaluation of their learning needs, generating strategies to meet these needs and then implementing the strategies (Hacker 2009). Metacognitive strategies in learning include planning for learning, thinking about the learning process as it taking place, monitoring of one’s comprehension and evaluating the learning outcomes. Monitoring and reflecting on the process and products of one’s own learning is crucial to successful learning as well as to learning how to learn. Metacognitive knowledge is crucial for efficient independent learning because it fosters forethought and self- reflection. John Dewey often considered the father of progressive education, viewed reflection as a central part of active learning. Metacognitive skills are essential for lifelong learning. Metacognition helps the learners to understand how they learn, their strengths and their needs and better understand the learning process. Palinscar and Brown suggested four concrete teachable metacognitive learning activities: summarizing, questioning, clarifying and predicting.  Ann Brown and her colleagues (1983) describe three ways we direct our own learning:
Planning approaches to tasks –identifying the problem, choosing strategies, organizing our thoughts and predicting outcomes.
Monitoring activities during learning – testing, revising and evaluating the effectiveness of our strategies and
Checking outcomes – evaluating the outcomes against specific criteria of efficiency and effectiveness.

Metacognition and reading

Metacognition plays an important role in reading comprehension. Metacognitively skilled readers are readers who are aware of knowledge, procedures and controls of the reading process. They use this knowledge during the reading process to improve reading and comprehension ability. Reading comprehension refers to the ability of readers to understand the surface and the hidden meanings of the text using metacognitive strategies.  The reading strategies include metacognitive components such as inferring, self-questioning, monitoring, ‘fixing’ and summarizing. Reading for meaning involves the metacognitive activity of comprehension monitoring and reading for remembering includes identifying important ideas, testing one’s mastery of material, developing effective study strategies and allocating study time appropriately.

Metacognition and listening

Metacognition has a lot to offer to listening comprehension.   Metacognitive strategies for listening include analysing requirements of a listening task, activating appropriate listening process required, making appropriate predictions, monitoring their comprehension and evaluating the success of their listening approach (Vandergrift 1997).

Metacognition and problem –solving

 Research has shown that one of the key traits good problem solvers possess is highly developed metacognitive skills and are generally self-aware thinkers. Davidson, Deuser and Sternberg (1994) identified four metacognitive processes that may be applicable in solving problems: identifying and defining a problem, mentally representing the problem, planning how to proceed and evaluating what you know about your performance.  Some of the metacognitive processes involved in problem solving situations include self-planning, self-monitoring, self-regulating, self-reflecting and/or self-reviewing.  Learners with superior metacognitive abilities are better problem – solvers.

Benefits of metacognition

Metacognition is important for the development of critical thinking and effective learning (Larkin2000). Metacognition once learned, supports reflective thinking, helps problem solving, gives responsibility and improves self-confidence for quicker decisions for the rest of one’s life (Kuiper 2002). Metacognition plays a pivotal role in oral comprehension, reading comprehension, problem solving, attention, memory, social cognition, certain types of self-control and self – instruction (Gama2000). Metacognition is closely intertwined with learning to learn, life-long learning, flexible learning, independent learning, and gaining responsibility for learning (Yurdakul 2004). Metacognition is important in project work because learners must make decisions about what strategies to use and how to use them. Metacognitive skills have a positive influence on both problem solving (Schoenfeld 1987) and mathematical problem solving (Hacker 1998). Metacognition enable educators to teach students how to learn as well as what to learn. Metacognitive knowledge is critical in guiding the writing process. As noted by Strickland (1972) “The quality of what is expressed in writing depends upon the quality of thinking that undergirds it.”

Concluding thoughts

Metacognition enables a critical awareness of one’s thinking and learning and oneself as a thinker and learner. Metacognition is crucial to effective thinking and competent performance. Good metacognitive thinkers are also good intentional learners. The function of cognition is to solve problems. The function of Metacognition is to regulate a person’s cognitive operation in solving a problem or executing a task (Vos 2001). “To make an individual metacognitively aware is to ensure that the individual has learned how to learn” (Garner 1988).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Principles of effective leadership

Leadership is one of the most complex human behaviours. Leadership is a multidimensional process that is conceptualized as a trait, as an ability, as a skill, as behaviour, as a relationship and as a process (Northouse 2015, author: Introduction to Leadership). Effective leadership is a key factor in the survival and success of an organization. Leaders can make the difference between success and failure. A leader is a person who directs, organizes, administers, makes decisions, delegates possibilities and plans for future. Effective leadership needs skills, styles, character and the spirit of serving to be effective, efficient and productive. Leaders need to have a vision, communicate that vision with passion so followers are inspired. Successful leaders have a strong desire to lead and exercise power, exhibit honesty and integrity and are highly self-confident. The world’s most effective leaders –Gandhi, Mandela, Churchill, Lincoln, Thatcher, Mother Teresa etc. – display widely different personal qualities.

Leadership concept

Leadership can occur between the leader and another individual; between the leader and a group, or an organization or a community or a society. Leaders need followers in order to lead. Followers need leaders in order to follow. Leadership is a relational concept. Leadership exists in relation to others (followers). Leadership deals with people in relationships. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner said, ‘Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.’ So leadership is composed of leaders, followers as well as situations. Leadership is a process of social influence (not power), which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal (Kruse 2013). Psychologist Bernard Bass (1990) reviewed 28 studies and found evidence that the desire for achievement is an important motivating factor among effective leaders.  Successful leaders are characterized as “electric, vigorous, active and full of life.” (Kouzes and Posner 1987). They are ‘tirelessly persistent’ in their activities – especially in communicating their vision to followers (Bass 1990).

Leadership definition

Leadership is commonly defined as a process of interaction in which the leader influences others toward goal achievement (Yukl 1998). Leadership occurs among people, involves the use of influence and is used to attain goals.  So leadership can also be defined as the ability to influence people towards the attainment of goals. Leadership is a ‘people activity.’ In order to lead, the leader must do something benefiting followers and the followers allow the leader to lead. Leadership is a transaction between leaders and followers.  Leadership is a process whereby an individual (a leader) influences a group of people to achieve a common goal.

Leadership factors

Leadership is composed of four primary factors such as leaders, followers, communication and situation.
Leader –leaders require traits, skills and knowledge. The leadership traits include intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability (Stodgill 1974).
Follower – The process of leadership involves the leader and the followers in interaction. Peter Drucker said, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
Communication- Communication skills are the foundation for effective leadership.  Communication includes how the leader speaks, listens and learns. Many American presidents like John F Kennedy, Franklin D Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln have made impact as great communicators.
Situation – the situation normally has a greater effect on a leader’s action than his/her traits. What a leader do in one situation will not always work in another.

Leadership theories

Trait theory – assumes that a leader is born with specific traits that made him/her a good leader. This theory assumes that the leader is different from the average person in terms of capacities, talents and personality.
Behavioural theory - assumes that anyone can learn to become a good leader because he is not drawing on personality traits.
Transformational theory – assumes that people will follow a leader who inspires and motivates them.
Transactional theory – assumes that people are motivated strictly by reward and punishment.

Leadership function

Leadership have three essential roles: they have to define the task, achieve the task and maintain effective relationships.
Planning – seeking all available information and defining the task; developing a workable plan.
Initiating – explaining people the aims and the plan;
Informing – clarifying the task and the plan; summarizing suggestions and ideas coherently;
Controlling – making sure that all resources and energies are properly harnessed;
Supporting –setting and maintaining organizational and team values and standards;
Motivating – gaining the goodwill and genuine commitment of the team and each member;
Evaluating –establishing and applying the success criteria appropriate to the field;
Setting an example – leading from the front while exemplifying the qualities and behaviours expected in the team.

 Leadership components

Character – the leader’s behaviour and personality;
Style –the way leader relates and does the job daily;
Skills – performance, which could be developed on the job;
Service – a leader is a servant first and then a boss. Leadership is relationship of service to people and purpose (Kouzes and Posner)

Leadership characteristics

The purpose of leadership is to change lives. The leader bears an almost sacred duty to create conditions that enable people to grow and have happy and productive lives (Senge 1990). Leadership is often thought of as more inspirational or guidance –oriented as well as informal. Leadership relies more on personality traits and people skills. Leadership is thinking creatively and innovatively; empowering others through focus on execution. A leader who is innovative and produces better results is respected and looked upon. In a research conducted in 2008 (McKinsey research), it was found that more than 70% of the senior executives believed that innovation was one of the drivers for organizational growth.

Leadership styles

Four distinct leadership styles are identified based on the relative presence (high-low) of task and relationship behaviour:
Telling – (high task-low relationship) –The leader makes the decision. The leader defines roles and tells followers what, how, when and where to do various tasks, emphasizing directive behaviour.
Selling – (high task – high relationship)- the leader makes the decision and then explains it to the followers. The leader provides both directive and supportive behaviours.
Participating – (low task-high relationship) – The leader and followers share decision making. The main role of the leader is to encourage and assist followers in contributing to sound decisions.
Delegating – (low task – low relationship) – The followers make the decision. The leader provides little direction or support.

Leadership qualities

Leadership behaviours are a function of intelligence, personality traits, emotional competence, values, attitudes, interests, knowledge and experience. Leadership qualities can be divided into two categories: traits and core values. Leadership traits represent WHO you are. They develop over time. Leadership core values represent HOW you are – the guiding principles for how everyone in an organization thinks and acts.
Vision – the sense of vision causes the leader to accept the duties of leadership and inspires others. Leadership is a strong sense of purpose. Warren Bennis said, “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
Character – is a significant source of personal power. Character in leadership is pursuing noble ends with noble means with knowledge, skill and talent. The leader must have drive and determination to stick with difficult tasks until they are completed. Successful leaders remain calm and confident even during tense situations.
Personal integrity – It is the quality of honesty, strength of character and courage of leader. Integrity leads to trust and trust leads to respect, loyalty and ultimately action. Fuchan Yuan said, “There are three essentials to leadership: humility, clarity and courage.”  Dwight Eisenhower also said, “The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.”
Charisma – Charisma is a Greek word that means ‘divinely inspired gift.’ Charisma means attractive or possessing a certain quality that raises enthusiasm or interest.  Leaders are talkative, good looking authoritative or energetic. The result is admiration, enthusiasm and the loyalty of followers.
Energy – To have energy is to have the physical and psychological ability to perform. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The world belongs to the energetic.”It is a better indicator of long-term leadership success than many traits.
Competence – competence in leadership is seen as a matter of task accomplishment and interpersonal relations. Task accomplishment involved traits like intelligence and knowledge. A leader must have a keen mind to understand information, formulate strategies and make correct decisions. Interpersonal competence involved the ability to communicate and to demonstrate caring, insight and empathy. A leader’s interpersonal skills are vitally important in the process of inspiring others toward implementing the vision. By counting attributes per category, leaders must have a ratio of about 60% interpersonal and 40% personality attributes.
 Flexibility – those who are adaptable are willing to use alternatives, substitutes and surrogates. Adaptability is a key component of flexibility as a positive leadership.  Adaptability allows the leader to adjust multiple demands, shifting priorities and rapid change. Adaptability helps the leader to be resilient in the face of constraints, frustrations and adversity.
Sociability – is ready and willing to engage others without anxiety or fear. The leader must be sincerely and deeply concerned about the welfare of people.

Leadership effectiveness

Leading groups effectively is a tremendous challenge, a great opportunity and serious responsibility. Leadership is mobilizing the interest, energy and commitment of all people at all levels. Bardwick (1996) clearly states that leadership is not intellectual or cognitive but emotional. Noted author Warren Bennis, who has spent over three decades studying leaders described leader as “one who manifests direction, integrity, hardiness and courage in a consistent manner that inspires trust, motivation and responsibility on the part of followers, who in turn become leaders themselves" (Johnson 1998). Effective leaders have more drive, honesty, leadership motivation, self-confidence, intelligence, knowledge, creativity and flexibility. Successful leaders accept responsibility and accountability for their actions and decisions. They have clear goals and communicate them to their followers.  Great leaders are and always have been of service to their followers first and then leaders into a new, better, more productive life. Effective leaders are both task-centred and people – centred. Current research indicates that emotional intelligence is crucial factor in leadership effectiveness. Emotionally intelligent leaders are equipped with the insight to see people’s pattern of emotions, the relationship between emotions and how emotional states change from one to another. Raymond Perras, the author of AiM for Life Mastery said, “If choose peak performance, you will learn to apply the right stuff, in the right amount, at the right time.”
                             “Great leaders inspire greatness in others” – Anon. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Skilled interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication (IPC) is central to our daily routines. It is essential to our survival and happiness. Communication is the exchange of thoughts, opinions or information using speech, signals or writing. Communication may serve a variety of purposes – for example to learn, to relate, to help, to influence or to play. We communicate to develop identities, establish and build relationships, coordinate efforts with others, have impact on issues that matter to us and work out problems and possibilities. Studies have shown that most people spend between 80 and 90 percent of their waking hours communicating with others. Experts tell us that 70-80 percent of our working time is spent in some kind of communication. Communicating inter-personally is a ‘way of life’ in organizations. Effective communication is an important element of success for every organization, leader, manager, supervisor and employee.John Powell said, “Communication works for those who work at it.”

Meaning of communication

The word communication comes from the Latin communicare, which means ‘to make common’ (Weekley 1967) or ‘to share’. The word interpersonal is derived from the prefix inter, meaning ‘between’ and the word person; Interpersonal communication (IPC) literally occurs between people. Interpersonal communication is an exchange of information between two or more people. Information is conveyed as words, tone of voice and body language. Studies have shown that words account for 7 percent of the information communicated. Vocal tone represents 55 percent and body language 38 percent.

Defining  interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication (IPC) is defined as the process that we use to communicate our ideas, thoughts and feelings to another person (Wikipedia).
Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information through verbal and non-verbal messages.

Elements of communication

The elements of communication include purpose (why a message is communicated), audience (who is listening to the message), vehicles (the means used to deliver the message), and barriers (outside forces that keep an audience from listening).
Purpose – know what the real purpose of the message (e.g. to persuade or inform);
Audience –know your audience and adapt your message to their particular needs;
Vehicle – choose the best medium (e.g. a report, personal conversation or presentation) for conveying your message;
Barriers –troubleshoot or present possible communication barriers.
All communication has both a purpose and audience. The purpose may be to describe a situation, explain a procedure or persuade someone. An audience is one or more readers or listeners. A communication vehicle is the medium through which something is transmitted, expressed or accomplished. There are many of them e.g. verbal, written and visual. There may be distractions and interruptions. 

Communication model

Effective communication begins with first understanding how the communication process works. The sender-message-channel-receiver model describes the communication process.  In 1949, Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver published the transmission model of communication. This model had five components:
  •  An information source, which produces a message;
  • A transmitter, which encodes the message into signals;
  • A channel to which signals are adapted for transmission;
  • A receiver, which decodes the message from the signal and
  • A destination, where the message arrives.

Characteristics of interpersonal communication (Hartley 1999)

  • Communication is from one person to another.
  • Communication is face-to-face. 
  • Both the form and the content of the communication reflect the personal characteristics of the individuals as well as their social roles and relationships.

Forms of interpersonal communication

Communication is more than just verbal. Verbal communication involves all aspects of language: words, style, grammar, content, pitch, volume, tone, pronunciation, pace, timing and the clarity and the use of voice. Non-verbal cues are very important in communication. Non – verbal communication is what we say with our body. It includes physical-facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture and motions and positioning within groups. It may also include the way we dress, our silence and other mannerisms. Researchers have estimated that approximately 7 percent meaning is transmitted by words, 38 percent is transmitted by vocal cues and 55 percent is transmitted by body cues.

Principles of interpersonal communication

There are ten principles of interpersonal communication:
1. Interpersonal communication is inescapable-we cannot keep ourselves away from communication.
2. Interpersonal communication is irreversible – it is rightly said that a word uttered once cannot be taken back.
3. Interpersonal communication is contextual – communication does not take place in isolation. They are context specific.
4. Interpersonal communication involves ethical choices – ethics refers to a set of principles or rules for correct conduct. As you respect yourself and your ideas and feelings in ethical communication, you must honour those of others.
5. People construct meanings in interpersonal communication – meanings reside not in words alone, but rather in how we interpret them.
6. Meta-communication affects meanings –meta-communication is communication about communication. Metacommunication may be verbal or nonverbal. It can increase understanding.
7. Interpersonal communication develops and sustains relationships- IPC is the primary way we use communication to develop and sustain relationships.
8. Interpersonal communication is not a panacea – although communication is powerful and important, it is not a cure-all.
9. Interpersonal communication effectiveness can be learned – effectiveness in IPC can be learned through committed study and practice of principles and skills.
10. Interpersonal communication is complicated – no form of communication is simple due to the number of variables involved.

Importance of interpersonal communication

On a fundamental level, interpersonal communication plays an important role in fulfilling several basic human needs like the need to belong, the need for competence and the need for autonomy (Baumeister and Leary 1995). Communication can move communities, influence cultures and change history. It can motivate people to take stand, consider an argument or purchase a product. Competence in oral communication is a prerequisite to student’s academic, personal and professional success in life. Good communication is important in maintaining relationship in family and with friends. Strong communication skills are vital to effective management. Effective communication is very helpful in workplace where we need to interact with different types of people. In general most communication in the workplace is to either convey information or persuade co-workers (or supervisors) about a course of action.

Skilled interpersonal communication

According to Hargie (2011) communication is a form of skilled performance. Skilled interpersonal communication improves individual and group outcomes in life and work. Skills needed for interpersonal communication are self awareness, control over oneself, speaking clearly and pleasantly, good manners and etiquettes, active listening, understanding of non-verbal behaviour and feedback.
Active listening – Listening is the cornerstone for good communication and is often the least developed skill. To listen demands an active effort to search and understand the meaning of what is said. The active listener listens intently with the aim of empathizing with the speaker.
Focus attention – the first requirement for good listening is to pay attention to be completely focused on the speaker. Listen intently and avoid any distractions. Show your are paying attention with eye contact and non-verbal indicators.
Reflect content and feelings – Use your own words to paraphrase the message to check your understanding of what the speaker is saying. Acknowledge the feelings you hear behind the speaker’s message.
Effective questioning – Ask permission to ask questions. It is a good step toward building trust and will allow a more honest, straight forward, free flowing exchange of information. Questioning the speaker helps to obtain more information and to clarify an earlier point.
Assertion – assertiveness is the ability to confront someone in a non-aggressive and non –manipulative manner.
Giving feedback – Feedback is returning output of information based upon input received by another. When communicating, you must learn to be effective both in the way you receive feedback from others and the way you tell others what you think of their ideas.

Uses of interpersonal communication

  • Furnish, gather and understand information.
  • Develop acquaintances and preserve personal relationships.
  • Influence the stances and conduct of others.
  • Make decisions and solve problems.
  • Establish an identity with others.
  • Satisfies your four needs: physical, practical, social and ego.
                        All communication has both a purpose and an audience,

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Professional competencies for superior performance

Competencies are specific personal qualities or behaviours that individuals must have or must acquire to perform effectively at work. Competency consists of knowledge, skills and personal attributes that affect an individual’s ability to perform. Competencies are internal capabilities that people bring to their jobs. A competency is the capability to apply or use a set of related knowledge, skills and abilities required to successfully perform (applied knowledge or the behavioural application of knowledge). According to the Oxford American Dictionary, a person is competent when he or she is properly qualified or skilled. Competence is the quality or state of being functionally adequate or having sufficient knowledge, strength and skill. Every job requires different competencies. Competencies within different contexts may require different bundles of skills, knowledge and attitudes. Competencies are the gauges for job success. Competencies are the behavioural differences between outstanding performers and average performers and thus are the building blocks to the organizational success. Toyota’s organizational core competencies lie in achieving excellence through ‘continuous improvement and waste reduction’. Google has determined that innovation is a critical competency for their success. Pixar, a digital animation movie production studio has created ‘culture of creativity’ is their core competency.

Concept of competency

The word competency is derived from Latin word ‘competere’ which means ‘to be suitable.’ The concept of performance competencies was pioneered by psychologists Robert white and David McClelland. White (1959) identified a human trait that he labelled ‘competence’ which described those personality characteristics associated with superior performance and high motivation. It was McClelland (1973), a professor of psychology at Harvard University who introduced and popularized the term ‘competency.’ Competencies can be grouped as knowledge, skills, self-concepts, motives and traits (Tucker and Cofsky 1994). A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. It involves the ability to meet complex demands by drawing on and mobilizing psychosocial sources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context. Acquiring a competency is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process. Competencies are built over a period of time and are not inborn. It typically takes experiences on the job to build competencies.

Defining competency

1. A competency can be defined as the entirety of knowledge, abilities, skills and attitudes, which are necessary for an individual to work effectively in particular working environment.
2. A person’s ability or capacity to undertake a particular task or job (Sapre 2002).
3. The knowledge, skills and ability required to be successful in the job (Simpson, HRSG).

Competency versus competence

Competency is a person – related concept that refers to the dimensions of behavior lying behind competent performer. Competency is the ability to apply knowledge and skills to produce a required outcome. It is the ability to perform activities within an occupation; to function as expected for employment and the ability to do a job under variety of conditions.  Competence is a work related concept that refers to areas of work at which the person is competent. Competence is the quality or state of being functionally adequate or having sufficient knowledge, strength and skills.
Competencies= competency + competence

Components of competency

Skills: capabilities acquired through practice.
Knowledge: understanding acquired through learning.
Personal attributes: inherent characteristics which brought to the job.
Behavior: the observable demonstration of some competency.
Competence in most professions involves the effective implementation of three main sets of skills:
1.Cognitive skills – refers to the knowledge base of the profession which sets the individual apart from others.
2. Technical skills –refers to the specialized and manipulative techniques essential to the profession.
3. Communication skills –refers to the ability to interact effectively with clients and other professionals.
General competencies will enable individuals, firms and nations to compete successfully in the global economy of the 21st century. The workplace competencies include the abilities to manage resources, use information, work with others, understand systems and use technology. Five competencies most commonly found in international assessments are critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration and flexibility and adaptability.

Value of competencies

Competencies are essential for preparation and success in employment. Competencies may generic to emerging patterns of work and work organizations. Competencies equip individuals to participate effectively in a wide variety of social settings and adult life.  Competencies involve the integration and application of knowledge and skills. Goldsmith and Walt (1999) emphasize the following six  leadership competencies as ‘the desired characteristics of the leader of the future’: thinking globally, appreciating cultural diversity, demonstrating technological savvy, building partnerships and sharing leadership.

Competency categories

Core competencies are those characteristics that apply to every member of the organization regardless of position, function or level of responsibility within the organization The core competency  is based on the value systems, vision and mission of the organization e.g., motivation, trust, problem solving, interpersonal skills and communication. Core competencies need to be identified, acquired and cultivated to form the strategic architecture of a firm. The organization has been compared to a tree with branches and roots. Then core competencies have been compared to roots that provide nourishment.
Functional competencies are characteristics shared by different positions within an organization that belong to a common job group or occupational family or employees performing a common function. The functional competency is built around key business functions like finance, production and marketing.
Job-specific competencies are characteristics that apply only to specific positions within the organization. They built upon the foundation of the organization’s core competencies.  For example a pilot needs a wide range of skills to fly a plane. Job-specific competencies include functional and technical competencies.
Core, functional and job –specific competencies comprise the architecture of a company’s competency model. Organizations may use competency models as a springboard for organizational change. Competency models have also been uses as a guide for employee development.

Dimensions of competency framework

1. Cognitive competence – knowledge (know-that) and understanding (know-why);
2. Functional competences –skills or know-how;
3. Personal competency – behavioural competencies or ‘know how to behave’;
4. Ethical competency – personal and professional values; moral maturity;
5. Meta-competencies – ability to cope with uncertainty; learning and reflection.
Three –dimensional competency framework (KSA=knowledge, skills and abilities)
1. Cognitive competence –knowledge and understanding
2. Functional competence – skills
3. Social competence – behavioural and attitudinal

Mapping competencies

Competency mapping is the process of identifying key competencies (technical, managerial, conceptual knowledge and attitudes and skills etc.) for an organization and the jobs and functions within it.  Competency mapping involves the process by which we determine: the nature  and scope of a specific job role, the skills required, the level of knowledge required and the behavioural capacities required to apply those skills and knowledge in that role. Competency mapping plays a vital role in selecting, recruiting and retaining the right people.  Individual’s level of competency in each skill is measured against a performance standard. When the competency required for a particular position is mapped, an accurate job profile is created.
Competency profiling is a technique used to determine the unique set of competencies associated with effective job performance in a particular organization. Competency profiles summarize the knowledge, skills and abilities required for an open position. The choice of the best candidate is made easier by detailed matching of educational background, experience and training to the requirements of the position.
A competency dictionary lists all of the competencies that are required by an organization to its mandate. It includes the core and all functional and job- specific competencies identified throughout the organization. A competency dictionary also includes information on the proficiency level needed to successfully perform each competency for each position in the organization.  Identifying job-specific competencies prior to recruitment enables one to determine gauges for success.

Competency modeling

Competency modeling is a job analysis method that identifies the worker competencies characteristic of high performance. There are three fundamental components to identifying competencies (Weiss and Kolberg 2003).
1. Select some of the job’s most effective performers.
2. Study what these people do that distinguishes them from their less-effective counterparts.
3. Identify the competencies that account for this difference.

Benefits of competencies

  • Competencies contribute to valued outcomes for societies and individuals;
  • Help individuals meet important demands in a wide variety of contexts;
  • Be important not just for specialists but for all individuals;
  • Identify selection criteria for interviewing potential job candidates;
  • Structure meaningful performance evaluation.

In summary, competencies are specific personal qualities that are casually related to effective and/or superior performance (Boyatzis 1982). Rothwell (2002) explains that core competencies that are required of all workers. This would include knowledge, skills and abilities (commonly referred to as KSAs) as well as soft skills or behaviours (Lucia and Lepsinger 1999). A competency model is a descriptive tool that identifies the competencies needed to operate in a specific role within a(n) job, occupation, organization or industry. Depending on the work and organizational environment, a group of 7 to 9 total competencies are usually required of a particular job (Shippman et al 2000). Competencies are context – specific (Boyatzis 1982). Some competencies are more important or essential than others for a position. Competence bridges the gap between education and job requirements. High performance is often the result of right people, right place and right time.
                         Competence is an individual's know how or skill.