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Chasing the bagel: Defining your vision and values


In this fourth chapter of a seven-part series on the characteristics of effective leadership, experienced infrastructure executive Domenic de Fazio outlines the importance of setting the right vision and values for your organisation, as told to Mike Cameron.

In April, I introduced concepts from my book The Emerging Leader – based on the seven core characteristics of effective leadership – with the promise that people from diverse demographics across several industries would write interesting pieces each month.   

To recap:

  • Organisations require predictable results and performance.
  • Workplace engagement is achieved through:
    • Trust.
    • Purpose.
    • Alignment.
    • Conversations.
  • The Emerging Leader Model (Figure 1).
  • The Seven Core Characteristics of Effective Leadership are:

1. Know yourself. Confident leaders apply their strengths judiciously and work on personal growth and development. They appreciate the value of life-long learning and self-discovery.

2. Emotional resilience. Resilient leaders are aware and in control, of their emotions and can adapt to stressful situations or crises. They overcome adversity without lasting issues.

3. Empathetic relationships. Empathetic leaders can recognise, understand and share the thoughts and feelings of another person. They acknowledge the story without judgement.

4. Vision and values. Visionary leaders appreciate that, while values make a contribution, vision is future-focused and about developing clarity and purpose around goals.

5. Effective communication. Effective leaders understand the power of words and their ability to inspire, support, reassure and direct people. They communicate with clarity of purpose.

6. Motivation and teamwork. Motivational leaders create a working environment where empowerment and active encouragement build teamwork. They show trust and courage while walking the talk.

 7. Trust in your leadership. Trustworthy leaders work with their people to establish believability, dependability and reliability through open and transparent behaviour that lacks self-interest. 

Figure 1. The Emerging Leader Coaching Model.

As I’ve reviewed and discussed these interesting stories with each author, it has become evident there are four attributes (values) underpinning the effectiveness of leadership. I intend to identify and further explain these attributes through a second companion book (planned for publication later this year), namely:

  • Respect: Diversity/Gender Equality and Inclusion/Culture.
  • Courage: Internal and External.
  • Integrity: Accountability and Transparency/Authenticity.
  • Agility: Alignment and Agility – Emotional, Management and Leadership.



I sat there, watching and taking in the moment, full of noise, conversation, laughter. Although not totally rare, it was not often that we as a team got together face to face. The leaders of our business, from Perth to Auckland and the many cities in between.

The room was full of laughter and chatter, but we understood the importance of getting together for the task at hand. It was strategy time, and we were embarking on defining the next five years.

It was with some hesitation that I called for attention, to formally open our meeting.

As I did, and the noise started to wind down, my focus drew to the document we all had sitting in front of us: a somewhat impressive, suitably substantial (thick) and beautifully presented document. Although it was only a draft, at this stage it represented the work each business unit owner had prepared with their teams over many weeks.

The document was a collective of market research, analysis, past performance, financial projections, strategic priorities and the path over the next five years, framed with just the right mix of graphs, tables and photos.

I dare say that there was a buzz in the room, a sense of accomplishment and perhaps relief that we were nearly there and had met our target date for a document in draft.

After an initial opening to the session and an hour or so for the business unit managers to present an overview of where they had landed, I found myself reaching another point of hesitation.

Knowing I would perhaps put the mood of the room at risk, I threw it out there.

“Who is inspired by this document? Does anybody find it more than vanilla? Is it visionary?”

As I expected, there was silence, maybe not a good move on my behalf.

Slowly the chatter re-entered the room. In reality, it was a defence or just a bunch of excuses, disguised as chatter, as to why the document was what it was.

It didn’t take long for us all to establish that not only was it “safe”, but we already knew how we were going to get there. We couldn’t even pretend that it was a stretch.

We agreed that we needed something a little more inspirational.

Without thought, I found myself sharing  a Simon Sinek story. It was about a bagel and about how he defined two types of people:

Those who decide what they want and then work out how to achieve it. And those that make sure they can achieve what they want.

“Who do we want to be?” I asked, knowing that as proud executives, we wanted to be the former.

I asked the team to explore what they really wanted to achieve, what they would be inspired by and what they would be proud to set as a “flag on the hill”.

We shared ambitions, with each manager sharing their vision of what “great” might look like. I gave them my version of what this would feel and look like and asked who was up for the uncertainty, who could put themselves up for a desired future without a clear path.

I very quickly was able to sense that the team all knew what “great” looked like. Were they brave enough to put it forward, put in the hard work and be accountable to it? Be somewhat vulnerable?

“Bang!” went a set of fists on the table, followed by a very enthusiastic  “I’m in!” Moments later we were all in.

Again, the noise levels increased, ideas and ambitions were being thrown about the room.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, we set our vision – our purpose, our “flag on the hill”. 

Code name: Bagel

We left the meeting, somewhat buoyant – we knew exactly where we were going, all on board and full steam forward.

Now all we had to do was work out how to get there.

The journey over the next 12 months was not without its challenges.

To have any chance of reaching our ambitious targets, we needed to nail a significant contract, and with “Project Bagel” in full flight, we had our eyes set on a 10-year program of works, with a target value of $2 billion. It would involve a 12-month procurement process, multiple stages and some key partners. Having committed ourselves, we assembled the best team from across the organisation, and with a hell of a lot of work, 12 days before Christmas, we received the great news of success – success that complemented many others. A clean slate of commercial disputes, many more contract extensions and our largest construction project win.

In short, it was our best performing year in more than five years.

It was all possible because we very clearly knew our path, our vision. We were after the “bagel”. •

Domenic De Fazio is a former CEO of Broadspectrum  – Urban Infrastructure Australia & New Zealand.


This article appeared in the July edition of Quarry Magazine.

More reading

Chapter 1: Seven characteristics of effective leadership

Chapter 2: Know Yourself: James Rowe – Self-development and personal growth challenges

Chapter 3: Emotional Resilience: Riding bumps, dispelling doubts

Chapter 5: Understanding and conveying the power of words

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