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The crisis of our day is leadership. And the crisis in leadership is the issue of character. Can an organization actually improve and/or build desirable character traits in the lives of its members? Is it possible to alter the basic character of an adult after employment? My experience in conducting leadership development in more than 50 countries says “yes.”
Ideally, job-related pre-employment screening should filter people with character flaws that would make them ineffective in their position. But we must recruit from the human race, imperfections and all. Therefore, character development must be an integral part of any organization’s human resources policy.
The first step in addressing character development is to identify those traits that the organization values. This list must be short enough to be remembered and long enough to develop the organizational culture. The list should include one-word descriptors, such as integrity, discipline, loyalty, optimism, humility and conviction.
I believe somewhere between six and 10 traits is the appropriate number. Once identified, they must be published and reinforced. Desirable traits must be defined, discussed and demonstrated, and formally displayed where employees gather. They should be connected to the organization’s goals and objectives. Encourage creativity and innovation to develop ways to keep the desired character traits front and center. I know of organizations that have included their pursued character traits on their “challenge coin.”
Once the organization has identified, defined and published its character development traits, they may be incorporated into the performance evaluation process. Each of the selected traits should be addressed in some way in every evaluation report. Example: Explain how a given employee has demonstrated initiative and good judgment.
Historically, performance evaluation systems have been a source of employee disgruntlement and low morale.
Structured correctly, however, they can have the opposite effect: guidance, improved performance and positive reinforcement. Focusing on character places emphasis on results.
Following are some basic essentials that result in a personnel evaluation system that may improve not only performance, but also character:
Fair: Offer more attention to positive accomplishments than to constructive criticism or disapproval.
No surprises: Criticism must be discussed and informally documented throughout the evaluation period rather than it suddenly appearing on the permanent record.
More than just conclusions: Criticism should include only conclusions supported by specific facts and/or observations of describable behavior.
Guidance: Include specific recommendations to help employees improve and reach their full potential.
Goal oriented: Make a connection between the performance of the employee and organization’s objectives.
Character: Make references to the desired character traits. Cover as many of the selected character traits as possible in the report.
The rating or personnel evaluation report can be an excellent device to keep the spotlight on character traits. This is particularly true if these documents are used for merit pay considerations.
Extensive research has shown that employees pay more attention to their leader’s behavior than their talk. The fair preparation of personnel evaluation or rating reports is a behavior that will capture the attention of your followers.—On Point.
Following are examples of personnel evaluation report entries that illustrate positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.
“During this evaluation period, Officer Smith has demonstrated diligence ( character trait ) to support the department’s commitment to community mobilization ( goal oriented ). He exercised initiative in organizing eight community watch meetings ( supporting facts ). His patrol area experienced a 32% decrease in daytime burglaries, and the property recovery rate improved by 22%.
“Injury traffic collisions have increased 14% in his patrol district while his traffic enforcement activity is in the lower 25% in comparison with his peers (supporting facts). It’s recommended he obtain data on injury traffic collisions in his patrol area from our data analysis unit at least semi-monthly. He’ll then be able to structure a portion of his available patrol time to those locations, having a pattern of collisions in order to provide preventative police visibility, as well as targeted traffic enforcement (guidance). Targeting his attention to the violations causing those collisions will demonstrate the character traits of discipline and diligence (reference to character traits).”