At breakfast the other day, a friend and I were discussing the current hot topic of crisis management. It seems every time you watch the news you hear of yet another ethical scandal.
- Uber founder Travis Kalanick, who recently resigned due to sexual harassment allegations.
- Binary Capital co-founder Justin Caldbeck, who resigned for similar issues.
- The Silicon Valley company founders in trouble for their own ethical screw-ups.
The news is thick with these stories. But, before you look away and shake your head - it’s worth a honest look in the mirror.
So often we are quick to say that only happens in Silicon Valley, or in big cities, or in big companies or with young immature business owners. Although there may be some truth in this, it’s important to remember that if we're not careful we also could make a series of decisions that could negatively impact us and others.
Is Character Really that important?
In the business world, we hire for competency and assume character will work itself out. And when we do see character flaws in employees, often we simply tell the them, "Just don't do "that" on company time."
We say things like:
Please don’t drink as much at the holiday party next year.
Could you please stop your sexists or racists comments about our co-worker in my presence?
Don’t look at those inappropriate pictures on company computers or phones.
The reality is that the behavior we have outside of work eventually creeps into our work day. Whether it is texts, language, or attitudes, a person can only keep their personal and professional life separate for so long.
Many industries fork over millions for those with certifications or licenses to take 10-20 hours of advanced learning classes each year. However, nothing is ever expected for character growth. A matter of fact, the opposite is often true! For example, employees are encouraged not talk about spirituality at the office or are pressured to work long hours rather than focus on family time.
As the recent news stories show, we need to encourage and expect character growth in our employees and ourselves just like we expect competency growth.
You’ve maybe heard the saying, "As the leader goes, so goes the company."
More than likely, if the leader is in a downward spiral so are other employees as they often practice similar behavior because it's tolerated. However, if the leader is holistically healthy then that positive energy is contagious. Employees are healthier, happier, and bosses are pleased because efficiency and execution is increased.
I'm going out on a limb to say that Travis Kalanick and Justin Caldbeck were not bad people coming out of the womb. My good friend at breakfast actually knew Justin Caldbeck from his days at Duke and never saw this type of behavior.
That, my friends, is why this needs to be a wake-up call for all of us. Through these recent stories, we see how a slight character slip here and there adds up and how easily we start to lose our perspective of where true north is. It is a very slippery slope. What starts out as an innocent flirtation, leads to inappropriate meetings with a co-worker offsite. What starts out as viewing porn on your phone leads to inappropriate passes at the opposite sex. What starts out as poor financial projections leads to inflating revenue numbers or shifting costs. We need to be careful to not throw the first stone and must be intentional to have rhythms in place to prevent this happening in our own companies.
Character and Competency
So, how can we focus on growing our character? How can we recalibrate and get healthier? How can we take these recent crisis' to heart and learn from their mistakes? Begin by taking a look at your rhythms and routines.
Here are are five areas you can start with:
1. Take Regular Times of Solitude with Purpose
Solitude can get people in trouble if they have their phones or alcohol nearby, make it more convenient to grab a coffee and journal instead! Spend your time in solitude thinking about how to grow the company, how to invest and serve others, and how to love your spouse better. Start small with a 30 minute journal session.
2. Find Accountability
We were built for community. We cannot do the demands of the corporate life by ourselves. We need true and authentic friendships that we can be transparent with in our brokenness. Who is your accountability partner? Who is your small group of men or women you do life with? Be sure you keep these friends close.
3. Have a Coach or Mentor
We need people in our lives to ask us gut-wrenching questions that help us discover our ‘why’ and motivation in life which helps us uncover our potential. Allow them to help you discover your identity instead of the image you may be hiding behind. Who is investing in you and who are you investing in?
4. Get Controls in Place
We need controls in place to make sure we are not tempted to make bad choices. It may be to not drink after 8PM on weeknights or to make sure when you meet with the opposite sex co-worker the door is always open or maybe when texting the neighbor's spouse you always copy your own spouse. What controls do you need to put in place to control your temptations?
5. Schedule Date Night and Family Time
Marriage is hard. Often with clients we see that date nights are what gets bumped from the schedule first. You have a busy week with work, a busy weekend with kids, and you just need a night to slouch on the couch. But sometimes we need just the opposite! Date nights keep the spark alive and keep us focused on what matters. Be sure that night stays on your calendar and try not to go two weeks without a date night.
For all of us, the demands of the business world are relentless and the temptations of the world are even harder. We must all expect ourselves and our employees to grow in character so our team is protected from slips that wreck the ship.
Take time this week to evaluate where you are at both personally and professionally and as well the ethical climate of your team. You’ll never regret taking time to pay attention to the little details of life which ultimately yield the greatest results!
Cory Carlson lives in Cincinnati, OH and is the national sales manager of Hartco, Inc. and Connections Director for Five Capitals.