Character is a difficult attribute to define. But everyone has one. You can easily observe character within a few meetings or collaborations. What most reveals a person’s character is watching how they work through a crisis or significant challenge, especially one in which they risk making mistakes.
What is character?
The original meaning of the word comes from the act of stamping an image on a coin. Our character has been “stamped” into us through a variety of external means, including conscious and unconscious decisions on our part during formative years and experiences. An individual’s personal morals and thought processes become part of a person’s character. Character significantly shapes action. To most observers, action is what defines a person. Character can change and be developed. Character is built out of our responses to experiences. We all need outside help (i.e. perspective) on how to interpret those experiences. Those “outsiders” influence the development of our character, the “stamping” that happens to us, and that we do to ourselves.
How can you shape character in yourself?
Building and maintaining good character in yourself is simple but not easy. The most important aspect is developing a principle-based moral compass, grounded within your personal value system. It does require input from others and personal introspection to learn what values are important to you. Once they are clear, stand firm on those values. Standing firm at the core but remaining flexible in how you respond is the challenge. Character is both revealed and developed in the face of challenges to your morals and values.
How can you build character in yourself?
Build character by acting with integrity (thoughts, words, and deeds oriented toward wholeness of self, others, and relationships). Do what’s right even when it’s difficult and will cost you something (a value is not of value unless it costs you something). Be honest and humble with yourself and your coworkers. Lean into responsibility and respect as priorities. When you seek to build character within yourself, you’ll influence the building of a healthy workplace environment. People with strong character build strong character in others. If those others do not want to do that work, they will often self-select out of the organization.
How can you build character in others?
Build character in others by encouraging its development. If you’re striving to shape the culture of your workplace for the betterment of your team, character is a good (essential) place to start. Model it, discuss it, and share stories of it as demonstrated across generations, industries, and cultures.
Create a workplace culture that values and rewards any aspect of sound character that is valued by your organization. Champion doing the right thing in the face of adversity. Respectfully address when the wrong thing is done, or a good thing is done wrongly. (To respect is “to take a considered approach”, meaning to consider the individuals involved and the uniqueness of each set of circumstances and their influence, without compromising what is most important.)
Consider creating an atmosphere of healthy accountability. Hold yourself accountable first, and then encourage your team to be accountable to each other. However, be realistic and honest. Avoid creating a workplace where failure isn’t an option. Where standards are too rigid, you run the risk of creating a culture of deceitfulness and lies just to maintain the appearance of good character and success. Your goal is authenticity, so be sure to leave room for setbacks, growth, and the natural character that builds from resiliency.
Suggested Resource: Your Genius and Your Team
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