Competency… Being proficient

  • PublishedJanuary 8, 2018

Competency simply means the ability to do something successfully. Some scholars go as far as to say competency is the combination of practical and theoretical knowledge. This may be obvious, but is rarely a reality to many professionals today especially in an era where eloquence and proper self-presentation get more praise and where appearing competent is more important than being competent. Gladly, the bottom line of true competency is results.

The process of acquiring competency is a lifelong series of doing and reflecting, as competency is about proficiency and mastery. Human beings’ ability to perform tasks diminishes in almost all fronts overtime and so when not put into practice, one’s skills may grow blunt. Conversely, as the old sage goes, practice makes perfect. And therein lies the answer to being competent. Hence when striving to attain competence in a certain area, do it over and over again till it becomes like second nature.

Admittedly, such mastery is not easy. It requires a specific mindset where failure is not the enemy. We should not fear failure, but rather have a persistent spirit – you don’t have to get it right the first time, but you cannot give up. Failure is one of those things in life that is compulsory, but temporary. Through failure, we learn and grow. Sometimes we fail because we didn’t know. Other times we fail because we put pressure on ourselves to achieve success. Have someone around you who is able to see past your temporary failures and encourage you to try again. Better still, be that person for yourself and for the people around you. Look at where you are and where you want to be. Desire to be the best version of yourself regardless of others around you and work towards that goal.

In the pursuit of competency, you can only be your best if you are willing to admit what you don’t know and learn it. We, therefore, have to be conscious of our incompetence for learning to take place. And just like excellence, competence knows no limit hence you can never sit pretty thinking you are at the top of your game.

But not just that, a generation is done a disservice if its seniors fail to take the time and make the effort to teach them. Mentorship is thus key when it comes to developing a competent nation. Remember, an organization is only as strong as its weakest person. It is the onus of every organizational leader to train their team to ensure that everyone has standard competency if the organizational goals are to be achieved.

It is imperative to note that competency is not the ultimate goal. With this in mind, we should all aim to master what we are competent in. Mastery here means being able to invent new, better ways to do a specific job as well as ability to teach others. Only then can we make the world a better place for, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, you have to try different approaches if you want results.


I am, as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary.

Billy Joel (1948), American singer-songwriter and pianist

I have no idols. I admire work, dedication and competence.

Ayrton Senna (1960-1994), Brazilian racing driver who won three Formula One world championships

All too often people pretend to be professional. “Professionalism” is sometimes a facade for fraud. Be pro, but be real. Honesty and transparency combined with character, competence and real results is the key to being a true pro.

Richie Norton, American author, entrepreneur, international consultant, keynote speaker and educator

What clients are really interested in is honesty, plus a baseline of competence.

Patrick Lencioni, American writer

The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it’s so rare.

Daniel Patrick Moyniha (1927-2003), American politician, sociologist, and diplomat

  Your thoughts

The term professional has been misused for sometime now with everyone and anyone claiming to be a professional. A true professional is someone who has a combination of competence, confidence and belief.

Wendy Njoki, HR practitioner

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