Capable people are credible. They inspire trust. It’s that simple. You can have integrity and good intent, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have current capabilities, if you are not relevant, you will not have credibility. From The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey
In working with clients, I’ve come across some excellent ideas to enhance credibility by increasing capabilities, but the three accelerators that make the greatest difference are the following:
1. Run with Your Strengths (and with Your Purpose)
The idea here is simply to identify your strengths (whether they be Talents, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, or Style), and then focus on engaging, developing, and leveraging what’s distinctly yours.
Peter Drucker encourages leaders to “feed opportunities and starve problems.” In the same vein, I contend that we need to “feed strengths and starve weaknesses.” It’s not that we ignore our weaknesses; rather, we make our weaknesses irrelevant by working effectively with others so that we compensate for our weaknesses through their strengths and making sure that everyone is on the right seat on the bus.
One well-known example of running with one’s strengths is the amazing athlete Michael Jordan. At one point, he decided to retire from his highly successful basketball career to play baseball, a sport he had always loved and wanted to prove he could play at a high level. However, in leaving basketball for baseball, he moved from “best in the world” to “mediocre.” So Jordan decided to go back to basketball, where he won three additional championships on top of the three he had previously won. He ran with his strengths. As a result, not only was his own career more successful and enjoyable, he was able to make a unique and more appreciated contribution to basketball and to the world of sports at large.
For a business example, I once had a salesperson who was the “Michael Jordan” of salespeople. He was fantastic — extraordinary at sales and great with clients. He was truly world-class. But this man didn’t want to be a salesperson; he wanted to be a general manager. Finally, he persuaded me to let him try — despite the fact he had tried the same thing in two prior companies and had failed. He was mediocre at best — Michael Jordan playing baseball — and I offered to put him back into sales. But he didn’t want to go there. This man became a powerful example to me of the personal and organizational loss created when people don’t run with their strengths.
It’s important to realize that there are times when the importance of running with whatever personal strengths we may have is outweighed by another kind of strength — strength of purpose. It may be something that’s conscience-driven or some purpose we feel compelled to pursue. And we may not yet have developed the TASKS strengths we need to do it.
In my own life, I have found great satisfaction in pursuing education and opportunities to work and contribute in fields in which I feel I have natural strengths. But I have also felt a sense of excitement and pleasures in responding to an inner voice that has urged me at times into undeveloped territory, forcing me — something even uncomfortably — to discover new strengths or build new skills to face the task at hand.
2. Keeping Yourself Relevant
For years, people have recognized the value of a four-year degree, but to succeed in today’s economy, you really need a forty-year degree. In other words, you need to be engaged in lifelong learning the four-year degree may teach you how to read, write, think, and reason, but its main purpose is to set you up for ongoing learning.
I know of one extraordinary man who for years would get up very early every morning and read for two hours. His goal was to learn everything possible about organizational behavior and development, human behavior, management, and leadership. And he did. I watched him become extremely competent. Each time he was given more responsibility, he raised his competence to the level of his promotion — what I call the Reverse Peter Principle in action.
Going back to the Dell/Rollins example, it would have been easy, even justifiable, for Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins to ignore the feedback they had been given. After all, they were already eminently successful as leaders. But instead they were driven to relentlessly improve. Not only did this result in their increasing their already high credibility, it enabled them to increase trust and improve results.
“I am always learning and working at the margin of my ignorance.” –Harvey Golub, Chairman of Campbell Soup Company and Former CEO of American Express
3. Know Where You’re Going
In a recent conversation with strategist and marketing expert Jack Trout, I asked him what, in his view, was the key to leadership. I’ll never forget his simple and resounding response: “At the end of the day, people follow those who know where they’re going.”
“It’s a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead and find nobody there.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt
I remember years ago when my father decided to give up his teaching position at the university to form his own training and consulting company at the age of 50. Many of his friends thought he was crazy to do so and advised against it. He had a good life at the university. He was contributing, and he could always consult on the side. But my father had a clear, distinct vision of where he was going — a vision of a different-in-kind contribution that he believed he could make only by having an organization behind him. So he took the leap… and others followed. And together, they ultimately built the Covey Leadership Center — and later FranklinCovey — into one of the largest and most influential leadership development companies in the world.
To know where you’re going and to have the capabilities to get there is another way of demonstrating competence. And that competence, coupled with character, creates a credible leader whom others will follow — not because they’re forced, but because they’re inspired to do so.
“The people you lead want to know where they’re going.” –Christopher Galvin, Chairman and CEO, Motorola
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen M. R. Covey is cofounder and CEO of CoveyLink Worldwide. A sought-after and compelling keynote speaker, author, and advisor on trust, leadership, ethics, and high performance, Covey speaks to audiences around the world. A Harvard MBA, he is the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which under his stewardship became the largest leadership development company in the world. Covey resides with his wife and children in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains. His book The SPEED of Trust (Copyright © 2006 by Covey Link, LLC) is about how trust — and the speed at which it is established with clients and, employees — is essential to a successful organization.
MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
- Read Chapter 1 of The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything
- See the book’s Table of Contents
- Browse more books by the author