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Personal Character Matters Big Time

I have the pleasure of knowing Fred Kiel, founder of the international coaching and leadership firm KRW.  Fred is well-known for his books oFred-Kieln Moral Intelligence.  Just recently he presented at TEDxBGI, during which he showed that leadership character demonstrably leads to higher financial returns.  Moreover, he gave us clear criteria for what constitutes character and how we can learn to build character ourselves.

My intention in this blog is not to cover all of Fred’s points, but rather to summarize them to entice you to click on the above link and listen to his truly outstanding treatise on the meaning and value of character.  We know that Daniel Goleman has noted that nearly half of one’s success in business is based on emotional intelligence — Fred goes many steps beyond that to prove the point with real world data.  (He surveyed 79 CEOs and 8,000 employees.)

What are Fred’s key points?

  • High character leaders are better at sustaining above average levels of financial performance.
  • What creates value in business is not just the business model — it is the character of those who manage and lead the firm.
  • Character can be taught.
  • There are four moral principles of character — two in the Head and two in the Heart.  From the Head we generate Integrity and Responsibility; from the Heart emanate Forgiveness and Compassion.
  • Employees who work in organizations with high degrees of character feel safe, are treated well, can depend on their boss, and behave according to the four above principles of character.
  • CEOs with high levels of character earn a return on assets of 8.4% vs. a negative ROA for those with character traits below the median.  In addition, when you divide the groups in half, those in the top half earn ROAs 5.35% above average while those in the bottom half yield ROAs 1.9% below the average!

Character can be taught and learned — having a good mentor (both personally and professionally) early in your career is a big help in seeing how to apply these essential elements:

  1. How you treat other people when there’s no gain for you.  (Watch how others treat doormen or custodians.)
  2. It is a matter of life experiences and becomes a behavioral habit.  (See how consistent people are when speaking to and treating others.)
  3. Strengthen moral habits through every day practice.  (Take pleasure in letting others know you value them.)
  4. Hone your common habits, primarily your Empathy habit (i.e., sense others, feel what others feel); your Outside habit (think beyond  yourself; it’s not always about you); and the habit to admit I Screwed Up (nothing is more disarming or honest than admitting you’ve made a mistake — it communicates that you are human — and commands respect and trust and gives you a sense of freedom).

Learn to develop your character by practicing empathy, allowing others to come first, and starting owning up to your mistakes.  The outcome will be good for you, good for the people you work with, good for your family, and terrific for the bottom line.

(In case you missed it above here is the link to Fred’s presentation:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqBPZR63vfA)