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May 25, 1998

Making Evaluation

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Michael S. Josephson and Wes Hanson write in a compilation titled The Power of Character the following scene. It helps to frame the condition of character in the hearts of some.

“I was on a radio talk show and had just quoted some dismal statistics to support my claim that there is a growing hole in our ‘moral ozone.’ A man named Bill called in and said that my views were naïve and unrealistic. He said that he had had to cheat in high school to get into college, that he had cheated in college to get a job, and that he occasionally cheats on his job to get ahead. He said my statistics only convinced him he needs to do a better job of teaching his son to cheat. It wasn’t the response I had in mind.”

And it’s probably not the response we would want to hear if we were on a live radio show espousing the golden braids of character. It goes against everything we believe. While this kind of thinking is prevalent—you see it everywhere—not everyone is buying in, thankfully.

Take, for example, the situation going on with an elementary school system that my friend, a principal, told me about. She shared with me that her staff members had developed a program to instill good character in their students. The school focuses on a different attribute each month, such as respect, punctuality, and courage.

The principal, with 30 years of experience in education, says, “The character trait program our staff has developed is without a doubt the best thing that we have ever done. It has had a major impact on student behavior, student work habits, and achievement.”

Focusing on character isn’t just for our young people. In fact, it’s just as important, if not more so, to develop our character as we mature. In a world full of people trying to get ahead, pushing to better their careers, we all start to look alike. But those who actively work to develop an honest, trustworthy, and kind reputation will stand out from the crowd—and keep themselves from the imbroglios that so many executives find themselves in these days.

Your character affects every aspect of your life. No matter how talented or rich or attractive people are, they will not be able to outrun their character. And character is one of those things that’s truly you—no matter whether you’re at home, work, church, or on the ball field coaching your son’s little league team.

Here is a list of the 10 character traits the elementary school emphasizes. Read each one and then evaluate yourself in light of their description:
(circle the answer that best describes you)

1. Punctuality—being on time for the requirements of life
Always Sometimes Never

2. Responsibility—being accountable for your behavior
Always Sometimes Never

3. Perseverance—continuing to do something in spite of difficulties or obstacles
Always Sometimes Never

4. Respect—high or special regard; honor one another
Always Sometimes Never

5. Thoughtfulness—consideration of others; courtesy
Always Sometimes Never

6. Confidence—trust; a feeling of assurance or certainty
Always Sometimes Never

7. Enthusiasm—strong excitement of feeling
Always Sometimes Never

8. Courage—standing up for what you believe in; bravery
Always Sometimes Never

9. Attentiveness—paying heed or care
Always Sometimes Never

10. Humility—absence of pride or self-assertion; modesty
Always Sometimes Never

According to the previous evaluation, are you a person who consistently chooses character?

How would others evaluate your character?

Identify a character strength you always choose to display. Why is this so important to you?

Identify a character weakness you struggle with regularly. In what situations do you find yourself struggling with this weakness?

Character Is More Than Talk

Many people talk about doing the right thing, but action is the true measure of character. Dennis Kozlowski, the CEO of Tyco, often touted the frugal way he conducted business and talked about the spartan offices the company maintained. However, anyone who watched his actions closely could have seen that his talk and walk didn’t line up. Kozlowski was accused of looting Tyco of $600 million.

We have learned to talk the language of character but we don’t always reinforce it by walking the behavior of character. How closely do your talk and your walk match up?

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