Sunday, May 08, 2011

Character Is A Choice

What I think is unique about character is that it doesn't have to be an inborn trait. It can be taught, learned, embraced and expanded. There is no underlying fundamental talent that is needed for character to take root in a person's life. You don't have to have a "green thumb" to make it bloom and grow. Ultimately, it is a choice.

(For anyone really interested in my long train of thought ... feel free to keep reading. These are just thoughts that have traveled through my mind. No professional or personal platforms are intended. I was simply energized by the thoughts a book had sparked and wanted to capture it while it was fresh.)

Late last night, I started reading Delivering Happiness by the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh. I wasn't expecting to do anything more than just enjoy another perspective. But at page 159, I had to stop and capture a few thoughts as it relates to "corporate culture" of Girl Scouts.

The first solid thought came from a discussion of core values and if they are truly meaningful. Can people name them or the company mission? Can people live them? I truly believe the Girl Scout mission is a catalyst because it's what I envision for my daughter ...
"Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place."
How about in the workplace? I had always had a blind embrace of it as an employee with more of an arm's length view - it was what we were doing for the girls. But today I started thinking. How does our mission affect the professional work environment? While all three "C's" seem like prerequisites with a view to making the world (and our work environment) a better place, character seemed to be the number one element that I see affecting our own "corporate culture."

We may be actively making the world a better place ...
We may be courageous and confident in what we are doing ...
But are we embracing character? Are we transparent? Do we own our own mistakes? Do we talk behind the backs of others? Do we disagree and sabotage? Do we bottle up frustrations? Do we circumvent due process? Do we really respect one another? Better yet, do we truly respect authority? Or are we satisfied with tolerating and venting when we come to roadblocks? Do we collaborate to solve issues? Do we put ourselves aside for the progress of our collective abilities to serve girls and volunteers? Do we have an open forum both personally and professionally? And do we still honor others with what is said behind closed doors?

Then I read an excerpt on page 158:
"Integrity was a value that had been suggested by some employees, but I made a conscious choice to leave it out. I felt that integrity would come from us actually committing to and living up to our core values in everything we did, not just referring to them when it was convenient."
I've had that thought in the Girl Scout world before when it comes to leadership and self-esteem (it comes organically through opportunities to exercise the mission) ... but I had not thought about it in terms of our mission specifically. My mind immediately went to the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Character is much like integrity ... it is a value that comes from us actually committing to and living up to the Promise and Law, our "core values" if you will.

The Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

The Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Let's be honest (and fair) ... we are certainly human. There are days where exhaustion can take over and it's hard to be friendly or helpful. Situations arise and depending on the reactions, one more negative outburst can drain the last reserves. Considerate and caring responses can become feigned, a burden, or simply non-existent.

So what do we do? How do we respect ourselves and our limits while respecting others and authority? Maybe it is summed up in our last three lines ...

1) Use resources wisely. Whether personal resources, company resources, material resources ... it all applies. Do I have enough internal bandwidth to address a challenging situation within the ideals of our Girl Scout Law? If not, maybe I need to evaluate my resources ... gain understanding, get a fresh perspective, identify solutions and what we have or need to address it, and when better prepared, have that open discussion to make something positive happen.

2) Make the world a better place. Am I contributing to my world? My world can be a variety of elements - work culture, family, community, etc. If I am about to tear something down, is it with the aim of making it a better? Identifying the purpose within each action is huge in my mind. And in this case it's the guideline to know if it's a candidate to be part of the mission or not.

3) Lastly ... be a sister to every Girl Scout. What does this really mean? I'm not sure that I'm the best one to even attempt a description. I never had a sister! But I always wished I had one and frequently imagined what life would be like with a sister. I wanted someone to share life with on a daily and continuing basis. So what do sisters do in my daydream? Work together, play together, help each other, be honest even when it hurts, apologize when relationships go awry, and ultimately know that we're in it for the long haul. A sister is forever.
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