Confidence Competence Model

A Better Way to Address Performance Issues

“Will or skill” is an insufficient question when addressing performance issues. This model works okay if it’s truly a “skill” issue because managers know what to do next. They train, coach, or assign a buddy. But the “will issue” answer often begins a slide down a slippery slope of assumptive questions:

  • Why doesn’t she care?
  • How can I motivate him to do more?
  • I wonder how long I have to document all this before I can fire her?

Once you label someone as disengaged, it’s difficult to see them any differently. The truth is the percentage of employees who “just don’t care” is actually very low in most organizations. I find that what looks like disengagement often stems from the confidence/competence cocktail.

The Confidence Competence Model

The next time you’re dealing with a performance management problem, try starting with the lens of confidence and competence.

High-Competence/High-Confidence: Challenge Me

This could be an employee in the perfect sweet spot of positive energy and flow, or may be becoming a bit bored and longing for more. At best, they’re your A players, although the high confidence/competence combo can sometimes manifest itself in feelings of superiority, particularly if the rest of the team is weak (read more about that here.)

High-Competence/Low-Confidence: Encourage Me

The good news is you’ve got skills to work with. The low confidence may appear as disengagement, but don’t be fooled. Try these confidence building techniques to encourage her to reach her full potential.

Low-Competence/High Confidence: Coach Me

This employee needs help seeing his strengths and developmental opportunities more clearly. Offering feedback through 360 assessments, specific examples, and coaching will help bring his skills in-line with his self perceptions.

Low-Competence/Low Confidence: Teach Me

This chicken or egg situation is still potentially solvable. Train and teach the skills she needs for success in the role. There may also be a skills miss-match, have deeper developmental conversations to determine if there is a better fit for her within your organization.

Posted in Employee Engagement & Energy and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Gallup tracks disengagement on a regular basis. Their studies says over 70% of workforce are disengaged. Some of these are actively disengaged meaning they’re trying to spread their dysfunction throughout the org.

    Sometimes lack of performance stems from a personal situation we know nothing about. So, I advise clients to get to know people on a personal level.

    • Great point Steve! My experience is that often times when employees are disengaged, it comes from a series of misunderstandings and blame. If left unaddressed long enough, these isdues can be really difficult to fix. However, like you said, you have to get to the truth behind the behavior first before you can really diagnose.

    • Gloria, I agree it’s an important balance between data and intuition. I have a feeling your comment may have gotten cut off midstream. So glad to have you join the conversation.

  2. My first start is acknowledge that management had a lot to do with getting ourselves in this situation. My number 1 issue is clarifying what the expectations are for their functional role. Next, explain what the big picture is and how their team fits into the picture. I quickly build trust by showing care about them and their personal goals and working to re-engage them by painting a picture of what life at work could be, if they were engaged, their team was listened to, empowered and held accountable for that responsibility. If there is still an issue, it is attitude, training or capability. Attitude is the killer. They have a choice to join our team or join someone else’s. This is rare. Training is usually the real problem, and lack of management/leadership. Capability can’t be fixed. Either they get moved to where they can contribute (and have fun doing it) or they would have to go. I take the position that the organization needs performance from its various functions. We have people to make it all work, but we don’t have to be perfect, just work well together.

    • William, I love your approach. Thanks so much for sharing. I particularly like how you start with taking ownership and building trust. I do hope you will come back again and share more insights,

  3. Nice post Karin,

    But sometimes it’s the other part of the relationship (read the manager) who is not engaged / competent.

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