Positive Vibes – High Performance or High Character

 In Character

John: I read on the HCCA blog about Kasey Ingram, the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of ISK Americas, who learned compliance at the bottom of the ocean as an officer aboard a nuclear ballistic submarine. During his orientation at the Naval Academy, a commander told him and the other new Midshipmen “Just because you’re a high performer doesn’t mean you have high character.”  It was an admonition he never forgot and it has shaped his career since.

To me, it is about living with your core principles first – what is my purpose? What vision do I want to project and am I doing that every day? That’s important to me. I have worked with people on both ends of the spectrum – high performers with high and low character and I will take high character every day. I call low character someone who berates others or is verbally abusive. Drunk with power. You may see people who are shady. Neither are components of high character. So strive for both. When I focus on improving myself, everything in my world gets better. But if I focus on improving professionally, it does not make me a better person. Being a better professional? Sure. That’s nice. Being a better person? That takes minerals.

What do you think Sandy? Do you want high performance, high character or both? And why?

Sandy: Hi John.  Interesting topic.

I agree that high character is by far the most important thing. Most people in our culture agree that being honest, trustworthy, loyal, reliable, responsible, thoughtful, and a person of integrity are what it’s about.

However, there are as many definitions of “high character” as there are people. We’re talking about your personal value system, which we each were taught by the people who raised us when we were young.  If you come from a family that taught you it’s OK to lie, cheat or steal to get what you want, your values are different than those who came from a place of honesty and integrity.

In some cultures it’s acceptable to lie or use bribery to get what you want in business, or to manipulate circumstances in your favor.  In those situations the focus is on high performance above all, so high character suffers.

I like to think that high character will result in high performance, but unfortunately it’s not always the case.  Sometimes the shady character wins, at least in the short term.

However, if at all possible I choose to avoid those folks and surround myself with people who have the same values I do.  In my world my values are most important. I have to be able to live a life of integrity, treat others as I want to be treated, and be able to sleep well at night.

Please comment so others can benefit from your wisdom and experience

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