The uncertain economy has many business leaders poring over their financials, crunching the budget and nixing every unnecessary expense, but financial problems aren’t the only ones your company might be facing. Have you recently taken a good hard look at the character of your company?
When you really think about it, many of the transgressions we see in business today, from CEO scandals to terrible customer service, boil down to a lack of solid character, and character does matter in business. There’s no time like the present to sit down with your employees and define goals for the character of your company.
Here are five simple rules that every employee, from the top of the corporate ladder on down, should follow to ensure that they have a rock-solid character.
1. Don’t Tell White Lies. We’re all guilty of telling a white lie or two. In fact, most of us do it on a daily basis and hardly notice. While we may consider those little untruths to be harmless, consider that instructing your receptionist to tell a caller you’re out of the office when you really aren’t is a reflection on your own character. White lies are still lies, after all. Think of how many business-scandal stories this past year were the result of dishonesty—and how that dishonesty shattered the lives of many people.
White lies are like the gateway drug to bigger offenses, and even though telling the truth is often the hard and unpopular thing to do, honesty is rule one in developing sound character. Tell the truth because it is the right thing to do, and encourage your employees to do the same.
2. Keep Your Commitments. Have you ever made a business promise that you didn’t keep? Perhaps you didn’t follow through with a promised promotion or skipped out early on a day when you promised to work late. And given the past year’s turbulent economy, it’s possible that you found yourself in a situation where your mouth wrote checks in the good times that your bank account can no longer cash. Cutting expenses is necessary and understandable but breaking promises is not—even if it turns out to be more costly, inconvenient or time consuming to keep them than you estimated.
Don’t take your promises casually and explain to your employees that they shouldn’t either. Your employees will be less inclined to follow this guideline if they don’t see you doing the same. Before you commit to anything, make certain that you can live with the worst-case scenario resulting from what you’re agreeing to, and always, always follow through.
3. Go the Second Mile. One of the most common character flaws in leaders and their employees is that they do just enough to get by—enough to get paid and not get fired. That must change. If the majority of people are doing only the minimum, then those who give just a little bit more will stand out and be highly valued—a great asset for any company or individual.
Think about what you can do to go the extra mile each day. It may mean volunteering for an extra project, coming in on a Saturday, or taking a night class to improve your skill set. Whatever that extra mile may be, the benefits will be well worth your sacrifice.
Some of the most successful businessmen and women will readily admit that they are no smarter than their less successful counterparts. They simply outwork them, outthink them, and, as a result, outperform them. By doing what others were unwilling to do, going where they were unwilling to go, and risking what they were unwilling to risk, they earn successes that the “just enough” can’t attain.