Personal character is what defines all individuals and sets them apart from others. It is at the heart of a reputation. Typically, people with positive character traits perform at high levels and are successful at motivating others. By acting as the public face of the organizations they work for, they also enhance the reputation of their employers.
Strength of character can be developed right from the start of a career. By viewing every task as an important learning experience and every situation as a potential building block, new workers can build patience, courage, and maturity. They can turn negative encounters into valuable insights. By working hard at even the most menial jobs, they earn a reputation for hard work and the respect of others who also started at the bottom. Others respond to people with strong, positive characters by believing in them; emulating their commitment and passion; working hard because they do; respecting their judgment; and wanting to participate in their activities.
Seasoned managers who are new to a company or an assignment can take a similar approach, constantly seeking ways to hone key elements of character like determination and self-discipline. We need to ask ourselves a series of questions to help understand how our experiences and our responses to them shape our characters:
* What was the situation? Describing the specifics of a past situation can reveal its relevance to a current or future one.
* What happened? Reliving the events may lead to new insights.
* What feelings did the situation trigger? In hindsight, negative feelings such as uncertainty may take on different positive meanings like pride.
* What lessons did the situation teach? Character lessons may be clearer in the present than they were in the past.
* Have these lessons been helpful at other times? Positive or negative, related experiences can reveal how or whether a past situation was character-building.
* Are these lessons applicable today? In a new context or with different people, there may be new opportunities for self-awareness and growth.
Mentors, champions, and role models can play a meaningful role in the character-building process. Mentors help teach job skills and provide career guidance; champions are internal advocates; and role models provide inspiration through their own character traits and accomplishments. Additionally, supervisors and/or subordinates who participate in a 360-degree feedback review can give an unvarnished, valuable sense of others’ perceptions.
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