Through our own behaviors, do we live a life demonstrating that what we stand for and believe in we actually exemplify on a daily basis; or do we wake up every morning just attempting to prove to the world how wonderful we are, regardless of what behaviors might be needed to accomplish that? If what we are attempting to prove is not a reflection of who we truly are, is there any way we could be happy? The answer is no, because we are in conflict with ourselves.
Do you believe there is a direct correlation between money, things and genuine happiness? If you believe there is, than I can conclude that the more money and things an individual possesses, the happier and more fulfilled they would be. Correct? Why is it then, that many people who have so many things, are absolutely miserable? Contrastingly, why are there many people with limited material possessions, and yet, are very happy and content with their lives? The reason is “things” do not define who we are, rather our “behaviors” do. If the acquiring of things is used as a substitute, for being accountable for our behaviors, then we are being dishonest with ourselves. Therefore, neither what we own, nor the power we gain, will ever fill that void in personal honesty. As a result, we may have things, but are we happy?
I do believe material things can provide pleasure, but are not the roots to long-term contentment. I enjoy nice things, and I feel fortunate that I have been able to create a level of comfort for my family and myself. However, I will share with all of you that what I wear, what I drive, and how big a house I live in does not, by itself, define the true character of who I am as a professional, a husband and a father. How I treat my own family, how I treat my clients, how kind and respectful I am to others, how well I conduct my business, and how accurately I practice the message I share, will ultimately define whether I was a person of personal honesty. Personally, I have made mistakes, and I am sure mistakes will happen again, but to repeat a pattern of behavior that sabotages my own sense of self, and those close to me, is inexcusable. Personal honesty stems from living a life that is a true reflection of who we are, and it complementing what we professionally represent to those around us.
How many leaders in government, Hollywood, professional athletics, corporations, religious institutions, and many other professions disappointed and/or destroyed their family, friends, and followers with personal dishonesty? In the recent aftermath of the former Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer’s debacle, it once again put the spotlight on failures in leadership, and has created yet another uphill battle for honest people in positions of leadership to solidify trust by those who admire, look up to, and respect them. What message do we send our children in regard to personal responsibility, accountability, integrity and character when pundits make excuses for the personal irresponsibility’s of those in famous positions? The message sent is one that creates distrust towards others, and in the minds of many that “character, integrity, accountability, the sum of which equals personal honesty, is irrelevant in regard to personal and professional achievement.
Why would any leader with significant influence and power disintegrate the very core values that they are attempting, or projecting, to espouse to? It is called egoism, narcissism, and behaving in an egocentric manner. By definition, Egoism is “The quality of thinking or acting with only oneself and one’s own interests in mind; preoccupation with one’s own welfare and advancement.” Narcissism is defined as “Excessive admiration of oneself.” Egocentric is defined, as “Thinking or acting with the view that one’s self is the center, object, and norm of all experience.” “Individualistic, selfish.” These three destructive traits have historically destroyed individuals, families, careers, communities, governments, empires, and have even extended to the destruction of entire societies.
I can honestly share that my life changed when I discovered the more I think of others the happier I tend to be, and to realize that it is not about me, but my service to those around me. I have learned it is so vitally important to do everything I can to ensure that the way I want the world to be, and the way I want the world to view me as being, is a true reflection of who I am. Displaying personal honesty during the course of our life is a rewarding challenge for anyone reading this blog.
One of my major themes within the No Excuse! training program is the establishment and implementation of a set of core values within an organization. These core values should reflect the leadership’s fundamental approach towards how business is conducted and how clients view the organization. Core values provide the parameters of behavior to hold ourselves and others accountable, and a more complete evaluation of performance and decisions being made. It is also imperative that these core values be defined for the employees, and the entire gamut of the work force. The primary reason for defining what we mean by what we say is as human beings we define words we hear, not only by what the dictionary may state, but also based on our life experience with that word. I can say the word “integrity” and everyone may have a variation of what the word means based on their life experience with it. For example, I have younger people in my workshop sessions when asked the question, “What does the word “integrity” mean?” with the response of “I have no idea.” A reason why it might be important to define for people what we mean by what we say?
During the course of my travels and training I have encountered organizations with a firm set of core values that are reflective in the leadership and the employee base. However, it is extremely important for the leadership to constantly review, remind the entire team, and consistently define what those values are, and will continue to be. The resulting benefit is enhanced trust and accountability, leading to better communication; and extending to better efficiency, productivity and eventually greater profitability.
Here is the “homework” twist to what has been shared previously. I also conduct seminar-training sessions for small groups of CEO’s and senior leadership across the country. In the course of discussing core values, I always enjoy seeing the visual response of senior leadership when I ask them, “Have you ever sat down at the dinner table and asked your children and family, what do you think the core values of our family might be?” Many times it is like observing deer in headlights. There is always a brief hesitation and pondering that occurs when asked that question. We can establish core values for our organization but we do not take the time to establish core values for our family? Most of the time we assume the children know, but in reality, the assumption is incomplete. It must be brought to the surface, and the values discussed, to solidify a foundation of understanding. Of course this does not only apply to senior leadership, but everyone reading this column.
The wonderment of this “core value” homework assignment is when a child opens their mouth with a response, let’s say, “Honesty should be one of our core values”, the child has to then take ownership for what they just said which allows you as a parent to hold them what? “Accountable” It works! We established four in our family, and they are as follows, “always be honest”, always do the best you can”, “treat people with respect” and “when you start something you do not quit midstream” i.e. you join a team you see it through to the end of the season. You do not quit just because you do not like it. That is called commitment to your teammates, and taking accountability for the decision you made. At times, would my children fight these values growing up? Absolutely, but now that they are grown I have noticed that these core values have provided a basis for their sense of self respect and confidence; as they tackle the difficulties of life, and having to make decisions they must take ownership for.
Peer pressure in our schools continues to be a formidable force in influencing the direction our children take with their lives. Why is that? The reason is, you have adults who do not have any idea what they stand for and believe in, have no consistent core values of their own. So, if I as a parent do not know what I stand for and believe in, how could I expect my children to have any idea what they should stand for and believe in. As a result, there are no parameters of behavior established, the children go to school, allow their friends to dictate how they should behave, so as to artificially enhance their self-esteem.
Take the time tonight, or as soon as may be convenient, to sit down with those young ones, and not so young ones, and ask them, “What are the core values of our family?”. It will pay huge parenting dividends down the road, because it will provide those parameters of behavior, and a structure to build the childrens’ sense of self-respect.
Over the past several years the use of the word “whatever” has become a national obsession as part of our daily conversation. Unknowing to many, “whatever” is having a very debilitating effect on our behaviors, and resulting attitude towards personal and professional responsibility. To tolerate the use of “whatever” among our children only reinforces their lack of understanding about what it means to be accountable for their actions. Why did you lie? “whatever”. Why did you treat your friend with disrespect? “whatever”, and so on. It also substantiates for many children that it is appropriate to pass on blame, and make excuses for failure and disappointment. In our families it is essential not to tolerate its usage, and for parents to set an example of not allowing “whatever” to be used in regard to a decision being made, or a behavior being disciplined.
In our organizations leaders must recognize that the term “whatever” is having a significant impact on effective leadership and management. Frequent use of “whatever” in the workplace only undermines responsibility for failure and achievement, creates a lack of trust, and generates misunderstanding within the organization. It is extremely difficult for a leader to be effective when a “whatever” attitude exists among those being led. How can an organization be as efficient and profitable when its’ employees lack an understanding of the importance of taking accountability for their behaviors and performance? Can you imagine a board of directors of an organization who are in the throws of making an important decision responding to strategic and budgetary questions with “whatever”?
Young people today are yearning for structure and discipline; and admire leaders who demonstrate strength of character and commitment to principles and core values. Peer pressure in our schools continues to be a formidable force in influencing the direction our children take with their lives. A reason for that is you have adults who do not have any idea what they themselves stand for and believe in, have no consistent core values of their own. So, if I as a parent do not understand what I stand for and believe in, how could I possibly expect my children to have any idea what they should stand for and believe in. As a result, there are no parameters of behavior established, the children go to school, allow their friends to dictate how they should behave, so as to artificially enhance their self-esteem.
It is my wish that parents, teachers, leaders and anyone in a position of responsibility set an example not to tolerate the use of “whatever” at anytime when an important decision must be made; or when an individual must be held accountable for inappropriate behaviors or incorrect decisions. The establishment and reinforcement of personal and professional responsibility within our home and workplace, along with a consistent set of core values that guide our behaviors, provide the foundation for a strong and disciplined family unit; and for a productive and profitable work force.