I love observing highly competent professionals in action.

Whether they are preparing breakfast over a sizzling grill, performing surgery, or turning a challenging customer into a raving fan, there’s nothing more inspiring than observing someone who is great at her work.

The Highly Competent Lift Us Up:

If you focus on looking for these individuals in your daily walk of life, you will find them everywhere.

Just yesterday, I observed the barista at a Starbucks greeting clients, preparing beverages and training a future barista, all at the same time.

Her dialog with her trainee displayed a deep commitment to making every customer’s day with a perfect beverage. Her instructions included tips and tricks for using the equipment and ingredients to create “velvety foam” and “sensational blends of flavors.”

Her motions were clear, deliberate and focused. It was the passion in her voice for her work that wowed me.

Mountain climber helping another scale a cliffImagine harnessing that passion and commitment for serving customers in your organization.

The highly competent inspire us to serve.

There’s the pioneering surgeon specializing in hip replacements. His style lacks the warmth of the barista, but his competence is unrivaled.

His patients show up in pain, and after a less-than one-hour surgery and a few hours to burn off the twilight anesthesia, they walk out the door and go home. It’s the same day. They walk.

Recovery is close to painless for many. Amazing.

The highly competent reduce pain.

There’s the auto mechanic who only cares about customers, not about his service writer’s quota. He’s ticked off many a service writer with his unrelenting commitment to quality, but the customers are grateful, and they make certain top management knows it. For several decades, he has proven immune to the dumb a** management machinations of auto dealer service writers who NEVER have the customer’s best interests in mind.

The highly competent provide safety when the risk of abuse is high.

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I love watching the manager who leads teams known for solving the stickiest of corporate problems, and then regularly makes heroes out of her team members for their achievements. She stands just to the side of the spotlight and makes certain her employees are front and center.

The highly competent elevate the rest of us.

All of us owe something to that one teacher who inspired us not for a semester or year, but for a lifetime.

The highly competent teach.

The speaker who constantly practices to an empty room and camera—to teach, inspire and for a moment, make a difference in the lives of her audiences.

The highly competent give something of themselves in a moment to help us on our journey.

They’re Everywhere if You Look and Listen:

Thankfully, all you have to do is listen and observe to find highly competent people in all walks of our lives. Some of my best hires are as a result of listening and observing these individuals in action in places far away from my own business.

It turns out, their commitment to excellence and their passion translate to different environments.

What All this Means for Leaders:

There’s too little excellence in our organizations. Yet, there are people who strive and desire to be excellent everywhere.

We tend not to make uncovering and developing the highly competent our focus. We talk about it. We name programs supposedly dedicated to it. And then as leaders, we outsource this precious work.

Or, our values talk to excellence, but our practices accept something less.

Leaders must own this work.

Leaders must model these behaviors.

Truly, what’s more important than getting the best people in roles that leverage their talents?

What’s more important than helping as many people as possible hone their skills in pursuit of a high degree of competence.

What’s more powerful than unleashing this force on our customers?

In reality, nothing is more important in your role as a leader.

This is how you become you at your best.

How hard are you working at it?

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Too many of us in leadership roles start our days with the wrong priorities firmly embedded in our minds and routines. If every day doesn’t involve doing something to allow someone (or many) to develop and apply what they are great at in support of our business, we are failing. It’s time to reframe our priorities.

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Leadership Books by Art Petty