Thursday, November 4, 2021


Professional development is a journey that is not a straight-line, more like a spiral up cycle that expands into the new horizon extensively.

Every professional has their own journey of growth either personally or professionally based on their own perception, cognitive ability, innate talent, education & training, life experience, and refinement. Professional competency is a unique set of capabilities with focus to solve certain problems; it’s interrelated with the traits and experience. 

People may have years of experience, but their professional competency does not reach the high level of maturity. Perhaps they miss some important traits or personal drives to keep sharpening professional capabilities and integrating them into core competency. Professional competency development and maturity requires character, determination, persistence, discipline, dedication and practice in the present and a continuum. Here are three levels of professional competency.

Linear competency with specialty: Professional capability is underpinned by various hard and soft factors such as talent, process, motivation, special training, etc, to accomplish certain tasks and achieve performance. Linear competency is usually based on a set of professional capabilities developed with the combination of relevant cognitive abilities, knowledge, or skills within the same domain to do specific professional work. Professionals with linear competency are usually specialists who are good at doing a certain level of work using their set of specialized knowledge and expertise.

It usually takes time to sharpen professional skill set and building specialized competency to improve the quality and consistency of their products/services deliveries. Therefore, enriched years of experience count, strong discipline count, and great attitude to learn from your frustration and failures count. At this level of competency, professionals need to have humble attitude for knowing their limit and how to improve by comparing their work with their peers; by analyzing their experience and enhancing professional discipline. Without lessons learned, you cannot deepen understanding of how to solve your set of problems more skillfully and make continuous improvement. Without discipline, you do not create a new state of awareness where the self is nourished through the experience of positivity and continuous self-development. Collectively, when many specialists work on their own without empathetic understanding and communication, silos are created, functional gaps enlarge and they perhaps become a part of problems that stop their organization from accelerating high performance.

Integral competency with core focus and fluency: To move up toward this level of professional competency, people need to keep exploring their talent, broadening their relevant skills and deepening their expertise to solve more complex problems and get higher than expected results. They become more fluent, intuitive and productive in what they are doing, and they are more confident to connect wider dots, explore adjacent knowledge domains, or integrate seemingly irrelevant, but in fact necessary for growing the next level of expertise to fit the role they intend to play.

At this level, specialized generalists or generalized specialists are more confident and able to develop interdisciplinary expertise and become more good at building, integrating, and reconfiguring their professional competencies to solve new sets of problems faster, better and innovatively. Capability optimization may evolve and move between categories based on the knowledge refinement, personal driver, progressive disciplines, and move from base to competitive level to differentiated level. The professional core competency with fluency at this level are more complex in development, sophisticated to copy and faster to integrate. It cannot be transferred because of the degree of originality, unique expertise, and high professionalism that people go with.

Influential competency with high impact:
At this level of professional competency, people are not only fluent on making professional deliveries, but also becoming more influential on innovating, coaching, driving transformative changes. They are not only experts, but also great leaders who can integrate their professional competency with leadership vision and influence to create a ripple effect and make a high societal impact. The often described attributes of influence competency with transcendent skills include such as intelligence, creativity, influence, learning agility, global empathy, transformative leadership, etc. High professionals should keep integrating the existing building blocks or recombine existing capabilities into the more sophisticated capabilities for solving complex problems and making a high impact.

The integrity and influence of the competency are tested through traits such as cognitive intelligence (critical thinking, creative thinking, etc.) attitude, passion, entrepreneurship, leadership, maturity, and wisdom. Great leaders and high professionals with influential competency are usually objective-perceptive thinkers for making sound judgment; they can break down conventional thinking boxes; continually challenge what most people understand as normal; generate new knowledge, invent and innovate fluently; they can appreciate true talent and able to spot innovators or change agents; cultivate the next generation of true critical thinkers, independent thinkers, or creative thinkers.

Professional development is a journey that is not a straight-line, more like a spiral up cycle that expands into the new horizon extensively; so people need to keep their mind open and their energy high, to continue unleashing their potential. Letting people explore where their energy is and then align the energy to work at hand; a sustained motivation will further enforce self-discipline to keep skills updated and reach the high level of professional competency.


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