The author John Gardner once said, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
We all admire people who display high competence, whether they are precision craftsmen, world-class athletes, or successful business leaders. And most of us want to be seen as competent at our work. For leaders, competence is especially important. It can determine whether followers respect and follow you — or don’t. Here are some specific ways to cultivate the quality of competence:
1. Show up every day.
There’s a saying, “All things come to him who waits.” Unfortunately, sometimes it’s just the leftovers from the people who got there first. Responsible people show up when they’re expected. But highly competent people take it a step farther. They don’t show up in body only. They come ready to play every day – no matter how they feel, what kind of circumstances they face, or how difficult they expect the game to be.
2. Keep improving.
Highly competent people search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking why. After all, the person who knows how may always have a job, but the person who knows why will be the boss.
3. Follow through with excellence.
I’ve never met a person I considered competent who didn’t follow through. Willa A. Foster remarked, “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” Performing with a high level of excellence is always a choice, an act of the will. As leaders, we expect our people to follow through when we hand them the ball. They expect that and a whole lot more from us as their leaders.
4. Accomplish more than expected.
Highly competent people always go the extra mile. For them, good enough is never good enough. In Men in Mid-Life Crisis, Jim Conway writes that some people feel “a weakening of the need to be a great man and an increasing feeling of ‘let’s just get through this the best way we can.’ Never mind hitting home runs, let’s just get through the ball game without getting beaned.” Leaders cannot afford to have that kind of attitude. They need to do their job, and then some, day in and day out.
5. Inspire others.
Highly competent leaders do more than perform at a high level. They inspire and motivate their people to do the same. While some people rely on relational skills alone to survive, effective leaders combine these skills with high competence to take their organizations to a new levels of excellence and influence.
Where do you stand when it comes to getting the job done? Do you attack everything you do with fervor and perform at the highest level possible? Or is good enough sometimes good enough for you?
When you think about people who are competent, you’re really considering only three types of people:
- Those who can see what needs to happen.
- Those who can make it happen.
- Those who can make things happen when it really counts.
When it comes to your profession, where do you consistently perform? Are you a thinker, a doer, or a clutch player? The better you are, the greater potential for influence you will have with your people.