Ever get the feeling nowadays that character isn’t getting the emphasis it should? Character is something people need to be aware of in all situations – through words and actions alike. It is more than just ethics and morals (critically important) . . . character includes grit, tenacity, resilience, and perseverance in the face of adversity. A person’s character will determine the way they deal with life’s guaranteed challenges.
For almost my whole life, I have been a competitive swimmer going all the way through college as a letterman athlete. There have been numerous times, too many to count, where I was pushed far past the outer limits of my ability, but something strange happens when that occurs. You get better. Being able to have the grit and stick-to-it-ness to push through the pain and do what is needed is part of what reveals your character.
The construction industry is all too familiar with this aspect of character. There are some amazing, character-filled people throughout the industry who have found ways to not only just survive but thrive in whatever adversity comes their way.
Challenges are not our stumbling blocks but opportunities for greatness. The truth is that true excellence is performing at the very upper level of your potential. It takes a desire to win. When you strive to win every time, you must reach outside your comfort zone and take risks without being reckless. However, when you endeavor to achieve excellence, along with being slightly uncomfortable, you’ll most likely make mistakes. The best thing an organization can do is allow you to make mistakes, because they are really just opportunities to learn.
Learning from mistakes and discomfort builds character and makes you more competent. You can grow, stretch and become better at your job. This makes you a better person, a better leader, more competent, and adaptable. I faced a lot of adversity in my collegiate swimming days. Between the 5am practice times as a night-owl, training 30 hours a week on top of school work, to some severe injuries that threatened ending my career, I am able to look back on my days at the University of South Carolina as a blessing through fire. I wouldn’t trade it at all though. It revealed that I don’t give up and can put in the hard work to do what I need to do. I learned a lot about what made me tick during those days.
I was reminded of my collegiate days this week, as I got to sit down with the 29th president of my alma mater – the University of South Carolina – Lt. General Robert “Bob” Caslen on the recent episode of the Bridging the Gap Podcast. We had a great talk about the importance of character in leadership, what it looks like and how companies should equip leadership with character.
The highest performing companies don’t encourage their employees to be average. They encourage them to perform to their highest potential. In a culture of excellence, good leaders create an environment where employees can grow. They reward employees for embracing the values around good character. Good leaders have humility, and they give and gain trust. In a highly functioning company, employees need to trust their leaders and respect their character. Competence is important, but it can’t carry someone very far if they have character issues.
In lower performing companies, people do what they’re told but nothing more – no one wants to be criticized for taking initiative and then making mistakes.
No matter where you rank in a company, you are still subordinate to someone. Leaders sometimes need to get candid advice from their subordinates. Then the subordinates need to respect the decisions the leader makes.
The following communication strategies are signs of good leadership:
· Effective leaders consistently communicate how employees uniquely contribute to the company’s goals and values, giving them a sense of purpose, motivation and fulfillment. This reassures them that they are making a contribution that stabilizes the company.
· Good leaders spend more time building cooperation and less time exerting control. They recognize employees for their intrinsic value, not just as cogs in the company’s works.
· A good leader provides structure and routines to alleviate the fear of the unknown. Structure helps employees focus on work and can include regular online or onsite meetings for employee input, questions and answers and connecting with each other.
· Leaders who model openness give others the courage to ask for help and take responsibility for mistakes. By sharing information and being transparent, leaders can build trust and create a bond. Sharing successes, failures, goals, and changes that potentially have negative implications allows team members to voice their concerns and reduces unsettling gossip.
Listen to episode 43 of the Bridging the Gap Podcast today with guest Bob Caslen to learn more about leading as a person with great character.