From Time Teller to Clock Builder – How I Failed to Lead and Started Over

The first leadership job typically comes to a person because they are great at what they do. And because they master their subject, someone thinks the expert would make a great leader, teaching others how to do it.

That someone often doesn’t understand much about leadership in the first place. Subject matter expertise has little correlation to leadership effectiveness. Nevertheless, now, the expert becomes a ‘leader’. 

I once was that lost first-time leader. 23 years ago. It was a terrible place to be in. I was watching myself fail in real time as I struggled to lead. Against the frustration, I found a sense of accomplishment in what made me successful in the first place: subject matter expertise. 

Telling time only gets you so far

I worked harder than ever before, showing everyone ‘how it’s done’. The time teller was born. I gave instructions and made sure things got done my way. 

No one likes a micromanager… But what’s worse: I didn’t provide much room for others to grow or think for themselves. Telling time does not build other leaders. 

It took me years to overcome the time teller syndrome… and another decade to start building clocks.

The pinnacle of leadership is building other leaders

When you become a clock builder, you’re not just focused on getting things done. You’re helping people to grow. You’re empowering them to take ownership and find their own solutions.

Being a clock builder means you’re investing in people. You’re mentoring and coaching them, giving them the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. 

It’s not easy to make the shift from being a time teller to a clock builder. It requires patience, and the ability to let go. But the payoff is huge. You’re not just building a team; you’re building a community of leaders who can support each other and drive the organization forward. You’re building a legacy.

Clock building comes in different shapes

Leading a boutique strategy firm, I don’t have a large team. But building clocks goes 360 degrees: it includes clients, business partners, and the coaches and facilitators who use my 9EOI model: the Nine Elements of Organizational Identity. 

I recently trained two friends so they can now apply the 9EOI model with their own clients. It was a test to see if I’m ready to be a clock builder. And you know what, I love it!

For myself, clock building is helping others use the 9EOI model

I love building clocks, and I want to build many, many more. My main lever will be to train and certify leaders, coaches, and facilitators to use the 9EOI method to facilitate strategy with ease and impact.

It is not for everyone, I know. But it’s my way to build more clocks. If this speaks to you, chances are it will help you become a clock builder, too. 

Find all about the 9EOI strategy certification at 

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Main Image by Amin Hasani