August 6- Competency and Compliments

Today I had my mid-internship review with Kevin at N2N.  I was looking forward to the feedback and excited to hear what Kevin had to share.  I feel like we have developed a strong working relationship relatively quickly.  I like Kevin’s laid back style, he is well connected with the broader Oregon mediation community, and I respect the self-awareness he shows.  Kevin walks-the-walk of mediators in everyday life by seeking to understand interests, valuing diverse perspectives, and seeking out win-win solutions all the time.  

Overall, Kevin is really impressed with my work.  He’s been happy with my productivity and my ability to work both independently and with a team.  He appreciates the ease with which I accept feedback and will also push back when I think I’m right. I found myself feeling a little uncomfortable with all Kevin’s praise but it was nice to be affirmed.  He readily agreed to write a letter of recommendation for me should I need one which was very nice to hear. 

Through our conversation got a sense that he values me as a colleague and not just a lowly intern.  Our conversation was useful not just to give me feedback on my performance at N2N but also on the practical challenges of organizational leadership and management.  It was also extremely useful to be able to talk about mediation as a profession and the challenges and opportunities for young people entering the field.  As president of OMA Kevin is mindful of these challenges and interested in finding ways better integrate experienced practitioners with those of us who are coming out of more formalized programs.  He sees a real potential to expand the skills and perspectives of existing practitioners by better involving young upstarts in the field who have benefited from more academic training. 

In thinking about entering this field “for real” in less than a year, I started to wonder if I would really feel prepared.  However productive I’m able to be at N2N, I feel like my actual mediation experience is still very limited.  I hope to continue to get more experience and repetition volunteering with community cases and in Small Claims Court.  I would like for Kevin to be able to recommend me not just for my graphic design, communication skills, and work ethic but also for my competencies as a mediator. 

Our conversation also gave me cause to consider the idea of competency.  I am often baffled with how difficult it is for people to get work done.  A Google image search for “competency” yields a whole slew of complex diagrams which, I fear, do little to address the basic nature of capable work that I think of when I think of competency.  The diagram below does a better than average job at capturing the components of competency that seem most relevant to me. 


When I think about my job performance, it really is a combination of skills, knowledge, and attitude.  On any given day I notice the ways that one or more of these gives me the boost I need to get something done well.  I notice myself being frustrated with what I see as inferior job performance and this diagram is useful to think about to better understand where they might be falling short.  I think we often blame people’s attitudes for their shortcomings.  While this may be the case in some circumstances, I suspect that deficits in skills and knowledge may be to blame more often than not. 

For me, a “can do” attitude and confidence that I can succeed definitely help me overcome deficits I may have of skills and knowledge.  I can definitely identify times and situations where I build skills as I went (learning by doing at its finest) simply because a situation demanded skills I didn’t really have and I agreed to try anyway.  This has built a really strong cycle where strong job performances are the norm for me.  While I still have MUCH to learn (skills and knowledge) I feel confident that I will continue to do well in the process.

As a side note, Kevin did suggest that I reconsider my footwear on days I work in Linn County Small Claims Court.  After weeks of feeling over dressed in Benton County I wore flip-flops with my skirt and nice top on Monday.  Apparently, flip flops are poor form when you’re working with judges.  I should have known better…now I do. 

flip flops

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