. . . Heart and Hard Work
All too often, we bare witness to people washing-out simply because they didn’t spend enough time on their personal foundation. Or as I like to say, they had a lapse of judgment that was rooted in a character flaw. The hard truth is it takes more than degrees, certificates, networks, and intellect to have sustaining power, emotional agility and the kind of mental fortitude that you can thrive no matter the circumstances. The strength or weakness of your character will make or break you – professionally and personally.
Our daily news feed is filled with stories of politicians, clergy, athletes, entertainers, business and community leaders… loosing position and income, derailing careers and their lives because of seemingly minor transgressions of exaggerated truths, distorting facts, disregard for governing policies and laws, and contrary dispositions. That’s a nice way for saying they lied, stole, cheated,. . . Thorny character traits come with the skin we live in. Everyone is vulnerable. Derailment and distractions due to underdeveloped character happens to regular folk – regularly. Most of us can name at least one person in our circle of family, friends, and colleagues that fell from grace (personally and professionally) due to a poor choice rooted in a character flaw.
Reflecting on my 30 years of navigating these types of issues in the workplace, I observed a diverse group of people ranging in age, profession and years of experience. They represent every gender and ethnic group. These folk live in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. There are two interesting similarities in this group: (1) All are Homo sapiens; and (2) Each possessed underdeveloped character traits that enabled life and career derailing decisions. Anyone who isn’t committed to continual character development can fall prey to its unyielding power.
Investments in education and technical training are essential to having qualifying skills. Competence is the price of admission and only half of the ticket. Equally important and the other half is your character. Competence is what gets you hired; character is what sustains you. Attributes like integrity, courage, compassion, contribution, responsibility, fidelity, accountability, empathy, deference, discernment, forgiveness, humility, honor, self-control, respect, justice . . .
Don’t believe for a second that organizations only care about results. How you got those results is discussed and for a multitude of reasons, you haven’t been brought into the conversation. In fact, you may receive high praise, one or multiple promotions before anyone approaches you with how. . . Hopefully your response won’t be a career staller or worse, a deal breaker. In the words of Stephen Covey, “The development of character offers you enduring effectiveness.” If you really want career longevity and long-term success, you must do the work on yourself that goes below the surface. This is the heart & hard work that creates authenticity. Balance your professional development investments to be equal parts competency development + character development. The combined investment will leave you richer at every level.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT enables you to skillfully manage an ineffective boss or rude colleague. It equips you to remain level-headed in the midst of chaos. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT urges you to resist your ego when it threatens. It will empower you to acknowledge when you are wrong and will convict you to self-correct. It will keep you humble, gracious, and grateful. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT fuels your emotional intelligence and compels you to inspire and serve. It equips you with an understanding of your worth and empowers you with insight to know when it is time to walk away. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT will help you distinguish valuable feedback from BS and respectfully disagree. It equips you to nurture healthy relationships – especially with those not like yourself. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT readies you with the grit required to take a stand, push beyond difficulties and propel yourself forward. It empowers you to give others praise and recognition. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT prepares you to challenge groupthink when it is demeaning, compromising, threatening…or just plain wrong. It will keep you from compromising your integrity. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT enables you to speak truth when a lie is more comfortable or convenient. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT qualifies you to live authentically.
Character Development Tips
Review and edit your circle. These are the people who are closest to your heart. They are your confidants and those you trust with the issues of your life. You must be able to rely on them to check you; tell you when you are wrong; give visibility to your blind spots.
With every project; every assignment, ask the people you work with (in a 1:1 setting), what can I do to be better? Think: Start, Stop, Continue. Whatever you do, don’t settle for “your great” or “nothing”. NOBODY is great all the time. Let them know you really want to hear – whatever it is. When people start to share, quiet yourself to hear with your heart and head. Only ask questions in the moment that will provide you clarity. Say thank you and put your improvement plan in motion!
Ask your partner, spouse, children what you could do to be more supportive, more loving of them. And like #2, don’t settle for “your great” or “nothing”. As they share, don’t shut it down by being defensive. Show maturity and wisdom by listening with an open heart and mind. And when they are done, hug and kiss them while you are saying thank you. Put your improvement plan in motion!
Seek professional help if you haven’t been able to figure it out.
If you believe in the power of prayer, pray for a heart to see yourself clearly; the insight that will help you change; and the courage to transform.
Create a daily ritual of reflecting on your words, actions, thoughts, and decisions. Put your improvement plan in motion.
Celebrate your successes.