March 15, 2017
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

Years ago I read a book called Principle Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey. In it, he put forward the following formula: Trust = Character and Competency. Intuitively, the formula makes sense and it helps me to define the purpose of Landscape Ontario.

At the core, our job is to bring together like-minded individuals into a community for mutual benefit and improvement, focused on helping each other build character and competency. It is really that simple, profound, difficult, inspiring, complex and hugely important. We change the world for the better when we do our collective job correctly.

In her book Presence, Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy states that people size you up in seconds. They quickly evaluate you based on the following questions: Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person? Trust is so important.

Let’s break the formula down. What is character?

The dictionary says, “Character is the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group or nation.” Inherently, I believe we can all feel what character is. I am immersed daily in the positive energy reflected by the character of our members — especially those who volunteer their time and resources. Below are some of the character traits I see on a daily basis. I won’t name names, although I am describing many association friends. One day, I will write a book on the wonderful personalities that have inspired our culture through their character.


I was once asked to write a recommendation about a member. The phrase “he bleeds integrity” instantly came to mind. It’s easy to spot someone with integrity. It’s more difficult to define it. Does someone who “says what they mean and mean what they say” have integrity? Perhaps. It depends on what they believe. History is full of dark examples of leaders who said exactly what they meant and meant what they said. The consequences were disastrous.

Integrity means much more. It is a character trait of someone who is honest and cares about the well being of others. They are focused on doing the right things based on a strong moral compass. Someone who has integrity can be trusted. From an association perspective, we seek these who are honest and fair with customers and employees. They remedy errors. They have empathy.

We are drawn to people who have integrity. We are also loyal to them. One of the reasons LO was formed was to differentiate members from the “fly-by-night” operators who leave behind failed landscapes and broken dreams. Our goal is to bring together members who have integrity.


Is vision a character trait? I think so. Perhaps a more appropriate name for this trait is “initiative” or “responsibility.”

For the last 28 years, I have been surrounded with members and staff who see a positive future and take initiative and responsibility to transform their vision into reality. I still remember in the 1990s when the past-presidents of Landscape Ontario were asked to develop the first strategic plan. Most aspects of the plan came to fruition. To this day, our board, chapters and sector groups are involved in the endless and exciting cycle of planning, executing and evaluating to advance our professions and build a positive future.


Perhaps a character trait that most defines our culture is “contribution.” When new members and staff first come into contact with our association, many are inspired by the level of engagement and contribution. Our members give thousands of volunteer hours and millions of dollars worth of resources to build a profession that cares about making the world a better place. Often, the return on investment is measured by how inspired others are and by leaving a legacy to benefit future generations. I am very cognizant of the fact that I have never met hundreds of past members who are responsible for creating an organization that has benefited my family and I.

These are only three of the many positive character traits that reflect trust in our organization, businesses and ourselves. There are many more.


Let’s go back to Covey’s formula: Trust = Character and Competency. I would never hire a plumber or go to a doctor just because they have wonderful character traits. Both character and competency are required. Competency is synonymous with professionalism. Our community gathers together on a regular basis, formally and informally, to enhance our competency and our professionalism.

When we engage with members and potential members, it is not only about the financial, social, learning and legacy benefits available through interaction. It is about attracting those who realize the importance of working together to achieve trust in our profession. It is about mobilizing a community focused on enhancing the lives of our customers, employees and future generations by who we are and what we do. It is about building trust.
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at