Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

KSAs and KSAEs

It's how often you are effective!How Effective Are You? That’s What Counts!

You have heard of KSAs: Knowlege, Skills and Attitudes. Those are the Domains of Learning, developed from the work of Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s–and still being refined. The levels within each group provide the basis for learning objectives, lesson plans, tests, job descriptions and performance evaluations.

KSAs Aren’t Enough

You would think if someone could analyze, evaluate and create (the highest levels of knowledge), had mastery over work skills (the highest levels of skills) and consistently was positive and and focused on doing well (characterizing, which is the highest level of attitudes) that he or she would be successful at work. Unfortunately, as you know, there are people who fit all of those descriptions, but who nevertheless are not effective–and effective is what counts.

Someone was telling me about a coworker who is knowledgeable about many aspects of her work and skillful in many ways as well.  She is highly motivated and believes in the power of positive thinking.  The only thing that keeps her from being as successful as she would like is this: She isn’t effective. People don’t like to work with her; she creates problems wherever she goes; she is a source of irritation and frustration for many people. She doesn’t get more work done, she reduces the amount and quality of work. Another woman was described to me recently as being knowledgeable and skillful with a great attitude–but she sometimes seems disorganized and unfocused mentally and doesn’t inspire the confidence she merits.

I know a man who is a tremendous source of knowledge about many things. He has the talent and skill to write, speak, find problems and develop solutions and do a wide range of mechanical, mathematical and written work. He has a strong set of values from which he never wavers. But, he consistently has problems where he works because he is often engaged in a conflict with someone. He is viewed as ineffective and a liablity.

KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes) must be supplemented with traits and behaviors in order to result in effectiveness. Certainly there are those who are so brilliant or talented that their weird traits or obnoxious behavior is tolerated. But even those people usually have effective staff who negotiate the contracts and soothe the conflicts stirred up by their clients.  (And you and I are not so brilliant and talented that we will be tolerated.)

Effectiveness is Habit-Forming or Vice Versa

The argument could be made that the traits and behaviors to which I refer are actually skills: interpersonal skills, communication skills, conflict resolution skills, self-control and self-development skills.  Or, that they reflect a lack of appropriate attitudes or an excess of an otherwise positive attitude. That is all true. But, some aspect of effectiveness involves style, approaches and habits. There is a reason the famous book refers to Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, rather than Seven KSAs of Highly Effective People.

Test Your Effectiveness

So, how can you know whether you possess the E to go with your KSAs? These are a mix of questions, but perhaps they can help you decide if you are being as effective as you’d like to be:

1. Are you achieving your professional goals or do you feel held back often?
2. Do you have the enthusiastic support of most of the important people in your work world?  
3. Can you point to significant accomplishments that matter to those above you in the business?
4. Do coworkers who are generally respected and not known for pettiness, distance themselves from you?
5. Do you get asked to help or do you have to push yourself into groups or committees?
6. Do you find yourself needing to self-market to overcome your reputation?
7. If most of your coworkers and immediate supervisors were asked, would they commend your work effectiveness?
8. Have others hinted to you–or come right out and said–that your work habits create problems for them and you?
9. Does it seems that the people who are most impressed with you don’t work closely with you–and those who are least impressed, do?
10. Do you get thanked often for how effective you are or do you have to tell people to make sure they know?

It could be that those who are least effective will not recognize their deficiencies. However, honest self-appraisal could help all of us find the areas in which we are least effective, even if we think we’re not as problematic as those people. Or, you may feel glad to consider how well things are going. If that’s the case, thank the people who are helping you be effective.

The bottom line: If you feel sure you possess a high level of KSAs but you don’t seem to be effective, put your focus on identifying and improving problem traits and behaviors. That is what allows your KSAs to become high levels of KSAEs.

June 10th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 8 comments


  1. Truer words were never spoken and I used the questions myself and thought they were good to consider.

    You said,
    The argument could be made that the traits and behaviors to which I refer are actually skills

    I work with someone who knows all the right things to say and the way to say them. I haven’t ever heard him say anything that wasn’t worded just right and said in a good way. But he has some characteristics that he can’t do much about and that keep people thinking of very highly of him. He isn’t effective about getting things done that he wants to get done. It’s a shame but I don’t know anything he could do or that anyone could do to help him.

    If you have ideas, I would appreciate hearing from you and I could give you more information. Thanks!

    Comment by Denver D. | June 11, 2010

  2. Tina says: Thanks for your comment, Denver D. I’ve sent you an email and will see if I have any ideas that might be useful. One way you can help, if he really, truly is unable to change some things that would help himself, would be to give him your full support in a way that is obvious to others. Use his name in your own conversations about topics for which he has expertise. If someone says something disparaging, speak up and point out his good qualities. Cite him in your own work, if that fits the situation.

    Just make sure you are not defending him or supporting him excessively if he could do something to make a change but chooses to not do it. In that case, maybe you can talk to him about those things, honestly and with good spirit.

    I’ll look forward to hearing the details from you and will get back to you. Thanks again.

    Comment by TLR | June 11, 2010

  3. I can verify this is true, because I was one of those who was knowledgeable and skillful about my work and had a great attitude. The skill I was missing, which no one ever taught me, had a lot to do with my personality and style of doing things. As a result I felt beat down every day, to the point of being on the verge of quitting. Thanks to you and a wonderful mentor here at work I have become a respected supervisor, even among the sworn team….which isn’t easy! And, I love my work more than I ever thought possible. So, to those who are having problems I would say, don’t give up until you’ve figured out where the problem is. If it’s with them not you, maybe you need a different job. If it’s with you or a mix, maybe you can make some changes to help. I didn’t think I could, but I did! Thanks! P.

    Comment by P.A.H. | June 11, 2010

  4. Tina says: Wow, Phyllis, that is a wonderful comment! I never thought of you as not being effective, I just knew you weren’t doing as well as you wanted–or as well as you were capable. But you’re certainly effective now and, as you said, very well respected! Thanks for writing. T.

    Comment by TLR | June 11, 2010

  5. I agree with your ideas, but want to point out something about measuring effectiveness. I know some people who are considered effective, but it’s because they’ve built their reputations on the backs of other people. The get a lot done….as long as their admin. asst. and several other people are around to make it happen. I know that higher-ups are supposed to delegate. My complaint is that this guy gets praised for all he does, when he doesn’t do anything except pass it along to someone else, then present it like he did it! Since I’m one of the people who has to do the work, it gets old pretty quick.

    Comment by Nana3 | June 11, 2010

  6. Tina says: You’re right, Nana3. There is a fine line between delegating appropriately to increase effectiveness for the organization and oneself, and dumping work. One way to know the difference is this: If someone delegates work to allow him or her to get something else accomplished it’s probably a vald use of delegation. If he or she delegates work to someone who should not be doing it or just to get more free time, especially when that person is already busy, then it’s probably the wrong use of delegation.

    Comment by TLR | June 11, 2010

  7. Interesting ideas. The list of questions made me think. You seem to write a lot about the responsibilities of managers….so I’ll say this too…I think managers need to be more honest about telling people they are ineffective and they ought to praise those who are effective. As it is, neither one knows the truth. Do you agree?

    Comment by skeeter | June 13, 2010

  8. Tina says: Yes,I do agree, Skeeter, that managers and supervisors should let people know immediately when something they are doing is being ineffective or creating problems for people and work. That’s sort of my litany and I’m sure I sound like I’m harping on the subject. But that kind of intervention is needed right while the ineffective behavior is going on, not after the project is done.

    Often good employees will rescue others, just to help make sure the work is done right. As a result the ineffective employee thinks he or she did just fine. Someone needs to tell them the truth, and it should be the manager.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! T.

    Comment by TLR | June 13, 2010

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