Competencies and Derailment Factors

When I wrote about derailment last week, I thought I was just punning from my manager’s question to me. But several people have asked if I could share more information about IBM’s Leadership Competencies and the Career Derailment Factors.

I was hesitant to do so, since the last thing I want to do is leak confidential or proprietary information, but it turns out I didn’t have to worry; IBM has published quite a bit about these topics, and I’m perfectly happy to point to what they’ve already shared. I haven’t explored these items very deeply, but they look like they might be useful.


I’ll start with the Leadership Competencies. There are 11 of them:

  • Client partnering
  • Collaborative influence
  • Developing IBM people and communities
  • Earning trust
  • Embracing challenge
  • Enabling performance and growth
  • Informed judgment
  • Passion for IBM’s future
  • Strategic risk taking
  • Thinking horizontally

(Source: IBM Zurich Research)

Most of them would apply with slight changes to any large company (and probably to small companies, too). The most important, in my opinion, is “Passion for IBM’s future” — when someone loses that, it’s time to look elsewhere (or to find a way to recharge). Jay Conger at the Center for Effective Organizations at the Marshall School of Business at USC includes a useful diagram of the competencies in a broader presentation on leadership competencies in several organizations, and Fast Company wrote about the competencies in “IBM’s Management Makeover” in late 2007.

IBM also has a set of “Foundational Competencies” for “outstanding non-management employees”:

  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Trustworthiness
  • Communication
  • Taking ownership
  • Client focus
  • Drive to achieve
  • Passion for the business
  • Creative problem solving
  • Adaptability

(Source: IBM South Africa Graduates Facebook page)

Finally, Walter Pistarini in IBM Professional Development gave a presentation about both sets of competencies and IBM’s “Professions” to the World Computer Conference in Milan in September 2008.

Current IBMers should also note that there seems to be work in progress to merge the two set of competencies and produce one set of “IBM Competencies” for all IBMers; there is a presentation in the Media Library (inside the firewall)

Career Derailment Factors

There are about 30 derailment factors, which are grouped in 10 categories:

  • Lack of Adaptability
  • Lack of Self Awareness
  • Lack of Work/Life Balance
  • Lack of Self Control
  • Lack of Interpersonal Acumen
  • Lack of Independence
  • Lack of Trustworthiness
  • Lack of Strategic Perspective
  • Lack of Backbone
  • Lack of Organizational Acumen

I took the list from the slides which accompany the Derailment Factors – IBM episode of the OneSHPE podcast series on education, career, and engineering created by
IBM and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

And if you want to know even more, Audrey Murrell, Sheila Forte-Trammel, and Diana Bing have written Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge, and Relationships, which discusses the Career Derailment Factors.

3 thoughts on “Competencies and Derailment Factors

  1. Really seems like they should have collapsed foundational and leadership competencies into a single set.

    Leadership competencies also seems misnamed if using the traditional management definition of leadership as the ability to affect change. Seems like “leadership” is becoming synonymous with traditional “management” which to me is a dangerous form of semantic diffusion.

  2. you ought to check out the LMAP 360
    used at Yale School of Mgmt, Disney, Deloitte, Temasek, PPG Asia, Coca Cola. gets to the heart of the matter
    and provides a gestalt on how personality traits operate, in tandem, that facilitate performance or derailment.

    validated model.

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