Your Vision Means Nothing

Truths About Leadership Nobody Wants to Hear Part 5

Your vision and leadership mean nothing – not without the credibility and competence to get things done.

Lot’s of people have lots of ideas. Some of them are even likable enough to get other people interested in working with them on those ideas. But without the ability to support that vision with your own hard work it’s probably not going to happen. Nobody likes to be the only donkey pulling the cart, not even other hired donkeys.

Credibility means doing what you said you would do. Competence means the ability to deliver on those promises. So be careful about what you promise, but once you promise it, move heaven and earth to deliver. Then together with your vision (and the ability to authentically share it) you’ve got a chance.

The Hard Work: 

Making others look good, also known as the Canvas Strategy:

“The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting.” – Ryan Holiday

Truths About Leadership Nobody Wants To Hear Part 4: Your Competence Means Nothing


Personal Commitment is Always the Only Way to Drive Change

This article, about how EBay is making recruitment, retention, and promotion of women a strategic priority, is interesting once you get past the jargon, it illustrates a couple of points well:

  • personal commitment is the best, perhaps the only way, to drive change. Which means telling a personal, credible story about your own motivation. Which means being vulnerable, and that’s scary.
  • finding, keeping, and promoting the best available talent, no matter what the source and no matter what the size of your company, is a strategic advantage that raises the game for everybody
  • being a good ally means putting somebody else’s interests above your own with no expectation of reward
  • measurement and culture (how people treat each other) trumps policy and process
  • it’s also a good example of having one priority at a time (promoting women not the first thing the CEO John Donahoe tackled)

The only thing I’d add (and maybe they’re doing it already) from my experience in mentoring is finding a way for women to mentor each other. The best way to inspire somebody is for them to imagine they can do what you did.

In this case that means women mentoring women. And besides, mentoring is a great way to develop  leadership skills, identify those that can lead (because they mentor), and fill the leadership pipeline with people that know how to develop other leaders.

Just a suggestion, John, if you’re reading this…


(Re)Starting Your Company #1 – Teach

Alexander the Great with his teacher Aristotle
Alexander the Great with his teacher Aristotle

Finding the right people to help you run your company is hard. Especially here in Calgary. Finding qualified and competent workers at all levels has been a challenge for years, with no end in sight, because of the boom economy.

Getting the right people is a strategic differentiator for your company. So instead of competing with everybody else, you might want to try something different.

Recruit your students. Don’t have any? Go out and teach or volunteer in your professional community. This is an extension of a previous suggestion for restarting your career – get out there and volunteer in the community.

One of my clients is a sales manager for a home-builder. In order to develop herself professionally, she volunteered to teach the local entry-level realtor’s certification. If you know anything about the Calgary real estate market, you’ll know that it was barely affected by the crash. Vacancy rates have been at less than 1% for a couple of years now. Lots of new agents are entering this hot market hoping to make their fortunes in sales.

But there are many other opportunities in this city. Even though the hiring pool is wide, sometimes it’s not  very deep. And no matter what the size of the candidate pool, we always wanting to be skimming off the top – to get the best available candidates for the money we’re paying.

Besides being a great way to stretch herself, authentically give back to the community, and enhance her personal and company’s reputation, she realized that she had a month-long opportunity to “interview” candidates for hours at a time in the evenings and weekends. The best ones – self-motivated, self-disciplined, smart, hard-working – are the ones she invited for a coffee chat.

By not making the excuse of too busy (she is a shareholder in the company and the mother of a young child), by developing herself and giving back to the industry, not only did she burnish her own and the company’s reputation, she also found a pipeline of likely candidates in a very tight market.

Want to restart the hiring pipeline for your company? Get yourself and your leaders out there.

(Re) Starting Your Career #5 – Do What You Said You Would

Over and over again trust, credibility, and integrity come up as characteristics of effective leaders. Many words have been written about trust. It’s one of those words like integrity that has hundreds of meanings to different people. But the reality is quite simple.

In order to be an effective leader, the people you’re leading must trust you. In order to be trusted, you must do what you said you were going to do. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important:

Credibility results from doing what you said you would. Like most basic truths, this is both simpler and more complicated than it sounds.

Credibility means doing what you said you would. It really is as simple as keeping your word. Here is the complicated part:

Credibility means keeping your word even if it costs you. Doing more than you expected to do or losing out on something else if that what it takes.  It means keeping track of your commitments so you don’t “forget”. Unintentionally breaking your word is still breaking your word.

It means being disciplined enough to know what you can say yes to, and most importantly when you should say no. Keeping your word even to people you don’ t like. Saying no even when it means disappointing somebody you do like.

It means being very very selective about what you do say yes to. It means doing your best in all those circumstances. Even when what you want to do the most is just get “it” done and off your plate so you can move on to something else.

It means being transparent about where you are progress-wise. Reporting on progress is part of the commitment. It means being blunt and honest even when it hurts or is uncomfortable. It also means admitting when you can’t keep your word, and being transparent about what you can and will do going forward.

Credibility is your most valuable asset as a leader. Don’t believe me? Go read “The Leadership Challenge”. Or “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. Then come back and tell me why trust isn’t at the top of the list. If people don’t trust you, nothing else will get done. Everything will be a struggle, Conflict, not the healthy kind, will abound.

Now, go examine your commitments. Choose only the most important ones.  Choose carefully. Do those first. Honestly manage the others. Then thrive.

Bernie works with small, medium (and sometimes) large companies, start-ups, and volunteer organizations to help them set a vision that is executable, to be effective, and to surround themselves with people who will help them succeed. I believe the workplace is a place to thrive, not just survive. Call me if you want help transforming your business. 

What Counts in Leadership

Surprise: passion, credibility, and values still count