Character Matters

Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams.

The military has a feedback approach as part of an upgrade of training and development programs for generals, admirals, members of their security detail, executive staff and even spouses. These came about after numerous scandals involved high-ranking officers. The US Military now requires generals and admirals to be reviewed by peers and direct reports on qualities that include their personal character.

Character without competence does not consistently get the job done. However, competence without character creates misconduct issues. The military sought to help their senior officers overcome bad habits they had developed.  Many officers conducted themselves well. However, when even a few leaders – or one leader – in an organization or industry compromise their character, there can be a perception of overall misconduct.

How can you develop a culture of character AND competence in your organization?

You get what you reward. So, measure, monitor, and reward BOTH.

All great bosses demonstrate both competence and character. The best leaders create clear performance standards AND clear values expectations so that every employee knows exactly what good citizenship in that organization looks like.  Great leaders do not leave this important task undone. They do not leave it to chance like so many other leaders. They define the expectations clearly. They communicate what behaviors are appropriate and the values from which these behaviors should come.

Competence matters. However, without character, it means nothing. Encourage and reward character as well as job performance.


Typical in many organizations though is the flawed process of Announcing and Assuming.

Have a meeting. Make an announcement. Assume “now everybody knows” and get back to work.

The reality is that announcing is only the FIRST step of an ongoing process to ensure demonstration of the values for which you want to be known. Constant reinforcement helps these values become habit.  Instead of announcing an assuming, try this approach.

Create a performance plan. During annual/monthly reviews, create specific, measurable, aligned goals which contribute to the organization’s success and gather data to measure progress in living out those goals.

Describe values standards in behavioral terms. Each player now has a plan with specific goals based on values. Now make sure that the standards for living out are defined in behavioral ways. There should be specific examples of what it means to live out integrity “I will always tell customers the real status of their order,” or collaboration, “I will contribute my ideas at team meetings,” or enthusiasm, “I will not stand in the corner rolling my eyes during staff meetings.”

Hold leaders and staff accountable for performance and values. Gather data regularly and praise progress and accomplishment. Coach for improvements. Reward or re-direct. And if you have to, release those that continuously don’t behave in a way that reflects your values. Apply this to every employee, from the head honcho on down.

Competence matters. However, without character, it means nothing. Encourage and reward character as well as job performance.

Want new articles before they get published? Subscribe to our Awesome Newsletter.


Advice from top Career specialists


Articles about the Public Sector


Public Sector Trends
Job Search
close slider
Are you looking for a government career? Your journey starts now!

Your Career Search Just Got Easier

Pin It on Pinterest