Making Character First
Building a Culture of Character in Any Organization
The idea of recognizing people for character is build around several important human traits.
First, when you honor people for character, it encourages them to build more character. It’s like a snowball. Once you start it rolling, it grows and grows.
Second, people have a natural desire to please those they respect, whether it is a teacher, parent, or supervisor.
Third, people need you to reinforce the qualities that you value. At Kimray, we emphasize one character quality a month because we feel like these values deserve our attention.
Praising for character is a great way to encourage others in the right direction and remind everyone of the corporate values you hold dear.
Emphasizing character in your personal life, home, and company is a full-time commitment. Every decision you make will either build your character or diminish your character. When you accept that and commit to building your character, to modeling character, and to inspiring character in others, it will change your view of everything and everyone.
As your character grows, it becomes the compass and the attitude indicator in your life. It gives you direction you so desperately need in the small decisions—when it is easy to do the right thing—and also in the larger, more difficult, and defining decisions of life.
Character determines success.
I had the privilege of growing up across the street from my grandmother. She had a garden and often needed help. She would call me over, and it was my responsibility to plow the furrows, plant the seeds, hoe for weeds, and gather the produce. From her simple garden, I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons.
Working with my grandmother taught me great lessons about being diligent, reaping what you sow (potatoes grew potatoes), reaping later than you sow, and reaping more than you sow. My grandmother modeled these lessons with her actions, but I was able to remember and apply them in my life because she took time to explain them and praised my diligence when I did them correctly.
Grandmother also demonstrated that there were consequences for doing right and consequences for doing wrong. The consequences for doing right are always better.
I was blessed to have such a powerful character model in my life. Without my grandmother teaching and modeling good character, I know that my life could have taken a different turn. Her actions and words gave me a foundation based on good character.
“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only wat to teach” —Albert Einstein
Our character is like the root system of a tree. The deeper and healthier the root system of a tree, the stronger and more fruitful the tree will be. If the tree has a weak, diseased root system, it will be unhealthy and bear little or no fruit. To produce better fruit, we fee and water the roots of the tree. We know the roots are healthy when better fruit blossoms.
Just as fruit gives an indication of the condition of the roots of a tree, our attitudes, words, and actions signal the nature of our character. Just as strengthening the character of an individual helps produce better words, actions, and attitudes.
“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” —Thomas Paine
To find a true solution to any problem, you must discover and correct the root cause of the problem. Crime is no different. Crime is the result of bad character. Individuals with good character do not commit crimes! If our communities had more citizens of good character, and fewer citizens of bad character, we would have less crime! This may seem like a simplistic answer, but it directs us to the root cause of the problem and gives direction for finding a true solution. The question now becomes, “Can a community develop a culture of character that discourages crime?”
Character First has developed a methodology and materials that have been used successfully by government agencies, law enforcement, prisons, schools, families, businesses, and churches to help individuals build good character. These are the major areas of cultural influence in a community. Making Character First explains a step-by-step process for developing a culture of character in the key organizations that influence the character of a community. By working together, they can create a culture of good character and thereby reduce the crime rate in the community.
Character First creates a common language that permeates the company. Even though you emphasize only one character quality a month, you might recognize employees for three or four different qualities at each meeting. As these employees are recognized, the other employees hear the additional character qualities, their definitions, and how they are demonstrated.
Different people attach different meanings to words, and this can cause problems when we talk to one another. Fortunately, Character First helps you develop a common vocabulary so everyone understands when you talk about ideas such as punctuality, loyalty, attentiveness, or flexibility.
Remember, it is your responsibility to communicate clearly and to make sure people understand you. Using a common language of character can help accomplish this.
Exactly how important is character when hiring? Is character more important than skill, or is skill more important than character? Where is the balance? Do you have to choose between character and skill, or is it possible for a person to have both skill and character?
“In determining ‘the right people,'” observed Jim Collins, “the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience.” To have a great company, character must be the most important criteria in the hiring process.
At Kimray, we decided to create an addendum to our application that would guide us during interviews. It contained character-based questions that would help us discern the specific qualities and overall character of a prospective employee. This has proven very beneficial for our company since we implemented it more than two decades ago.
I’ve learned through the years that it’s easier to hire people with good character than to change their character after they are hired. If you want a company with a culture of character and employees known for their character, you must hire for character. There is no other way, and there are no shortcuts.
Everyone in an organization is continually building character. The only question is whether a person is building good character, or tearing it down and replacing it with bad character. Lou Holtz, the well-known college football coach said, “You’re either growing or dying—’maintaining’ doesn’t count.”
That is true about your character. Your character is not static. The seemingly “little” decisions you make every day are either building your character or tearing down the character you have. We need to be intentional about building good character.
“I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” —Unknown
Character is really about relationships. It’s about how people interact and the behaviors we expect from one another. Consequently, a character failure almost always fractures a relationship. The results can be devastating, and you may never get an opportunity to restore the relationship.
This is especially true when poor character violates a person’s trust. Trust is a character issue. To be trustworthy, people have to demonstrate many character qualities, including loyalty, truthfulness, and sincerity. It takes a long time to rebuild trust once it is damaged, and you may never enjoy the same level of trust again.
“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” —Thomas Paine
Our life is governed by the hundreds of daily decisions we make. Don’t finish the year thinking, “I wish I had … .” Make the decision today to purposefully build character in your own life and encourage and motivate others to build character in their lives.
Sound difficult? I couldn’t be easier. Learn to praise others for character—not achievement. As you praise others, you will find yourself building good character.
Making Character First will lead you step-by-step through the process. Enjoy the read and start making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Character determines success!