The OPIC Coach@work program is a fantastic tool for helping Leaders and Managers to embed coaching as a key process into their skillset.  Coaching skills are fast being recognised as a critical capability within the workplace.  The central component of the OPIC approach and expertise is in the identification and development of Capabilities as being crucial for an individual, not only within their role, but ultimately in being able to work effectively within their team and to make a contribution to and be successful within a complex corporate organisation.

Recently I interviewed Peter Zarris, the CEO of OPIC about the importance of capabilities within the workforce and why they help to progress individuals in their career.

KR: Peter, can you explain why Capabilities are so important?     

PZ: Sure, essentially OPIC’s core purpose and the core reason it so strongly believes in that insights and capabilities are critical to someone’s sustained success within an organisation.

The world of work has changed, and it has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. The biggest single impact has been technology, closely followed by massive changes in the geo-political realities of the world.

Australia as a nation no longer operates alone.   There is often a contradiction between wanting a better economic reality and greater opportunities for ourselves and our children, and the desire to minimise external threats.

The other clear reality is that it has become more difficult to acquire or even maintain the type of lifestyle we all aspire to.

KR:  Absolutely Peter, that makes a lot of sense.  Tell me what do you see as the key challenges that lie ahead, in 2018 and beyond?

PZ: Challenges, there are increasing housing prices, and more generally increased competition locally and globally for good jobs, increasing costs of higher education, and increased demands on all aspects of work mean that we are increasingly spending more time at work, and the time we spend there is increasingly stressful and demanding.

We are dealing with:

  • increasingly chaotic global markets,
  • we’re dealing with increasingly complex and chaotic workplace environments,
  • and we are dealing with increasing demands to not only be competent and highly technical and proficient in our lives,
  • we are also dealing with effective in dealing with multiple stakeholders, demanding customers, ambitious staff,
  • and we are dealing with Boards and senior executives who have increasing aspirations around what the organisation can achieve with the resources they have in hand.

KR: So Peter, what do you see as the role of Education, and more broadly learning and development for leaders.

PZ: Those of you of my generation – yes I’m a Baby Boomer – were indoctrinated with the idea that all life’s “ills” could be cured with a sound education which would then lead to highly sought after and valuable qualifications, which in turn would lead to a successful, well-paying career.

The other ancillary benefit was, of course, the status that went with being a Doctor or Lawyer at the highest aspirational level, but also engineers, accountants, and psychologists also had a level of status achieved through the recognition of their role, and the execution of their daily tasks.

These were simpler times.

Not only is it far more competitive to get into highly sought after tertiary educational programs, there is increase competition from overseas students, the cost of these programs has soared to necessitate the creation of a taxation system to allow students to be able to be educated now and pay later (the so-called HECS scheme), and increasing with these degrees alone do not deliver the type of return on investment or career certainty that they once did.

The reasons are complex, but at the most base level the simplest reason is that firstly the nature of organisations – and this means that all organisations – has changed; and secondly the newer generations, in particular the so-call Gen-Y’s are rightly questioning whether the lifestyles and choices made by the Baby Boomer generation are for them.

At the very least, they question whether pursuing these ambitions will make one iota of difference in creating the type of economic prosperity so keenly sought after by previous generations. For example, even a well-paying job makes it difficult to see the possibility of owning the most basic home, which is now in the realm of somewhere between half a million and a million dollars.

The other key consideration of course is even if someone were to commit to this pathway, are having the right contacts and the right educational qualifications enough within themselves to guarantee that someone can acquire and sustain the type of fulfilling career they aspire to.

After twenty-five years of consulting to the largest and most successful business and government organisations, my conclusion is that the answer is a simple “no”.

Whilst obviously there are multi-facets in coming to this conclusion, in simple terms success now in organisations is not purely about academic capability, but now also includes the capacity to work in and manoeuvre through a complex multi-faceted organisation where there are often multiple stakeholders across projects, and where success is achieved as much through the management and alignment of project requirements through and with stakeholders as they are through a level of technical expertise that within itself leads to the right answer.

In short, being competent is not enough – you have to be Capable as well.

KR: You’ve now touched on capabilities, can you explain this in more detail.

PZ: This is not mere semantics. Your skills, knowledge, experiences, and technical training are a critical in determining whether you will be hired to do a particular job.

Your capabilitiesyour ability to work effectively with other people, deal with conflicts, influence, collaborate, work on multiple projects, innovate, and other such activities – will determine how sustainable your career will be in that organisation, and also how likely you will be to progress to more senior roles with broader responsibilities.

In fact, in most cases, progressing and ascending in an organisation often simultaneously requires letting go of one’s technical expertise (i.e. Competence) and enabling outcomes via your capability (relationships, influence, buy-in, plans, etc.).

Yet, how much of the preparation of peoples’ career is spent on the development of capabilities?

Are universities focusing on – and indeed capable of developing – the broader capabilities required not just to get a job, but to keep a job, and hopefully in the longer term grow and progress within that organisation.

Of course, the answer again is largely “no”, and is often greatly misunderstood the role that capabilities play in the sustainable success of people within organisations.

KR: So how does OPIC help with developing capabilities?

PZ: OPIC’s commitment to capabilities is not just a commitment to helping organisations understand their staff more deeply, but also a commitment to helping people prepare themselves for the challenges they will be facing in complex modern organisations.

In order to develop capabilities, you need:

  1. The capacity to understand what that capability is and the ability to practice it.
  2. The opportunity to learn from others, or from others who are seen to have mastered that capability.
  3. Someone there to support you, positively reinforce what you’re doing, and assist you (otherwise known as a coach).
  4. Someone to help you manage the inevitable frustration and moments of dispiritedness that comes from trying to develop a new capability, which can cause frustration (we playfully call this “the Ikea moment”, where one gets frustrated with what they’re learning and momentarily wants to give up).

Depending on where you are in your career and what you hope to achieve – knowing what capabilities you need in addition to what you need to know is crucial.

KR: That’s great, so how does the Coach@work program help with future proofing your career.

PZ: The Coach@work program includes the identification of specific capabilities that are seen as being critical to the client’s role.  These capabilities are developed and supported through the coaching process, allowing the client to continue to understand and work with those capabilities, with the support of their coach.  With the development of these capabilities, their skillset become increasingly relevant in the future.

So – to be successful it’s time to

  1. learn about yourself.
  2. understand how large Organisations work
  3. to prepare to develop yourself as well as learn and develop new skills or knowledge

Being capable matters more than ever – especially if you want a long and successful career in your chosen field.

KR: Thanks for your insights Peter, it is great to get your thoughts and perspective.

If you are interested in finding out more about how OPIC and the Coach@work program can help you develop your capabilities, please get in touch.