Without Competency, you can end up on a "Three Hour Tour”


As Warren Bennis wisely observed, "Trust is essential for leadership. Competence is the glue that holds trust together." This captures the importance of competency as a crucial component of trust and effective leadership. In our ongoing discussion about the keys to unlocking trust, we've explored chemistry and character, which form the relational dynamics of trust.

Now, let's dive into competency, the third key, which is essential in the task dynamics of trust. Competency is a critical component of trust and effective leadership, as it ensures consistent and reliable results, thus maintaining influence and credibility. Competency involves more than just being knowledgeable; it requires effective communication and a proven track record. Unlike the relational components of chemistry and character, competency focuses on practical skills aspects of trust, crucial for transformative relationships. Demonstrating competency means showing you can deliver results consistently and reliably, thus building trust through your actions and achievements.

Years ago, I faced a real-life test of competency that underscored its importance in leadership. During my time as a wilderness guide, I led a group of novice adventures on a six-day canoeing and camping adventure in the Everglades. Confident in my skills and experience, I believed I could guide the group safely. On the first day, I assessed the group's capabilities with a day-long out-and-back excursion. With only about thirty minutes to go, we faced a choice: a wide, easy waterway or a narrow, adventurous one. Believing the latter to be more fun and slightly shorter, I [strongly] persuaded the group to take it.

This decision proved to be a disastrous mistake. After nearly three hours, we emerged from the mangrove swamp into the open ocean, with the sun setting, and disconnected from our intended destination. We were lost and there was a mutiny on my hands. We were eventually rescued by a local fisherman, but not before three canoes flipped in the dark. Back at base camp this mistake significantly undermined my perceived competence among all participants, leading some to insist on being driven to the airport to catch flights home.

My decision had undermined my influence as a guide, highlighting the importance of competency in trusting relationships. This experience taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of perceived competency in leadership. My initial confidence and knowledge were overshadowed by a poor decision that led us astray. To regain influence, I had to diligently demonstrate my competence moving forward. This principle applies universally. An experience where we were given the wrong advice or poor service from a professional erodes trust due to perceived incompetence. Whether it's a contractor, a medical professional, or even fellow parents, we judge competency based on outcomes and reliability.

Presenting competency can be challenging for many. Over half of the world's population hesitates to showcase their abilities, not due to a lack of competence, but because they avoid self-promotion. This reluctance, whether due to cultural norms or personal insecurities, often leads to a diminished perception of competence and, consequently, a loss of trust, influence, and impact.

How can someone become better at showcasing their competency without overt selfpromotion? A couple examples include actively participating in professional networks and industry events that offer opportunities to discuss expertise and share insights. Demonstrating competence through actions and results, such as consistently delivering high-quality work and seeking endorsements or recommendations from colleagues, can also substantiate one's abilities. Engaging in thought leadership by publishing articles or conducting training sessions further establishes credibility in one's field. These strategies not only showcase competence but also foster genuine connections and contribute positively to professional reputation and influence.

So, how did the misadventure in the Everglades end? With an apology from me and cooler heads from the participants, we continued to have a successful adventure. This experience underscored the fourth key to influence: credibility. Competency and credibility go hand in hand; without demonstrating competence, credibility is elusive. Stay tuned for next month’s discussion on this final element of influence.

If you're a leader who understands that developing your team's culture is key to growth and profits, connect with Dustin Fenton at Piton Coaching. Dustin specializes in transforming organizational cultures and elevating leadership performance. Reach out at www.pitoncoaching.com or on LinkedIn @DustinFenton and @PitonCoaching