The last two Poindexter blogs discussed the importance for employees to adopt a sense of hope and purpose as the unfolding challenges of Covid19, isolation and mental health have become increasingly prevalent in today’s society. Hope is the antidote for anxiety and despair, while purpose is the catalyst of hope and produces actions that enable us to achieve our desired and hoped-for results. It has been my experience that a person’s chosen character traits and attitude are determinant factors that either raise one up to the heights or take one down to the dregs. Yes, I said chosen. I maintain that personality types, intrinsic personal propensities, intellect, shifts in attitude, and the impact of home, social and relationship environments affect how one responds to despairing life events. Yet, there are countless stories of individuals who overcome the unfortunate hand they are dealt or maximize the opportunities they are given. Likewise, there are those who choose the convenient way out and squander the opportunities provided to them.
Character is the inherent complex of attributes that determine a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions
Positive character traits are not inherited, but are chosen, developed through experience, honed through adversity, and expressed through humility and generosity of spirit. Additionally, one’s attitude provides the needed impetus to engage and overcome adversity. I have chosen six character traits I shared with Ukrainian business students at two Kiev universities to help them address the corruption that permeated their corporate culture and hierarchy. These are qualities I suggested they embrace if their objective were to set a new standard for business practices. Established standards do not change overnight, but rather are incrementally changed by one person at a time. I further discussed how one’s attitude shapes the impact of one’s character either positively or negatively.
Why is character important? Character broadcasts loudly and transparently who we are and what we value. Character…
• highlights our personal ethos
• underscores our ethical behavior
• magnifies the values we live by
• affects our words and deeds
• encompasses how we treat people
• establishes how we conduct business, and
• determines how we lead
In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “A level 5 executive builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will.” I would amend this to say that possessing humility, or a right assessment of yourself, is true of any person at any level within the organization. Humility enables one to relate to everyone within the organization – it produces civility, courtesy, and extends dignity to every person.
A great quote from Warren Buffet declares, “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” Integrity honors commitment and never compromises ethics. Those who live with integrity carry through on their commitments – even when they are costly – and are accountable for their own behavior, actions, and results.
The great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer once said, “The purpose of life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Compassion embodies empathy, kindness, and even gentleness toward others. Compassion is not weakness; it balances the hard and brutal realities of life and business – it reveals our humanity or lack thereof.
Philosopher Pascal Mercier opined, “Loyalty… a will, a decision, a resolution of the soul.” Loyalty demonstrates a dedication to a cause and ideology when working with others, and in addition, to self-restraint when faced with conflicting and sometimes compromising options. In the play, Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote the line, “To thine own self be true.” This visceral introspection reflects accountability without excuse.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,” said Winston Churchill. Courage is being tough-minded and resolute, not defiant nor stubborn. Courage is committed to principle, not to a majority consensus or political correctness. Sometimes, maybe often times, courage is the road less travelled.
“Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little,” said the Greek sage, Plutarch. Perseverance also requires a sense of reality that is borne out in an old Ukrainian proverb that goes, “no matter how hard you try, a bull will never give milk.” However, when one achieves a goal, one often looks back and attributes it to a strong work ethic, self-determination, and a keen desire to succeed in the face of obstacles, opposition, and sometimes failure. All of these attributes are the embodiment of perseverance.
If one is to fully leverage and maximize these character traits, a proper attitude is critical. Several years ago, I was exposed to the book, The Mood Elevator by Larry Senn. For me, the “eureka” was in the idea of curiosity being the tipping point. As I recollect my thoughts on the importance of curiosity, I recall that fateful moment of eureka in which I understood the simple notion that a curious person asks questions, does not assume, does not ascribe motive, or become impatient, but contrarily strives to understand, learn, and discern through experience. Approaching life and business with a curious spirit allows one to visualize opportunities, consider new innovations or constructive redesign, remain encouraged by the diversity of ideas and experiences and to genuinely appreciate your colleague’s input. The proper attitude leads to a perspective of gratitude which is the top floor of the elevator. The question for you to answer is – on what floor do you mostly reside? From the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, “choose wisely.”
Choosing positive character attributes, along with an attitude energized by curiosity can lead you to the top floor of gratitude and may just become your breakout strategy for striking the right balance in 2021.
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