Success Looks Like…

One of the hard truths that many people must come to terms with at some point professionally is knowing “that” one leader who fell from grace, who tumbled from their position on top as a result of some colossal failure.

Unfortunately it typically messy – really messy with things like moral and ethical failure. Sleeping with another person’s spouse, “cooking the books” and cheating investors and financiers, or outright theft of company property and/or intellectual property.

What happened?” we yell; louder still if we’re personally connected to the situation. Not that all situations are exactly the same but more often than we want to admit it’s the collective fault of the organization and culture that was developed.

Sure, that person is individually responsible for their own actions but there is a collective conscious that exists that must be noted, especially if you’re a leader of the organization or in a position of responsibility. Their exact call? To create a culture and an organization that focuses on their team’s character development just as much (if not more) than the products and services that they are creating.

I liken it to the foundation of a Wedding Cake (and a wedding is an apt metaphor to use, for more than one reason) that’s flipped upside down: The foundation, being character is far too small to support the weight above it, which is the organizational needs and goals. Eventually it all come crashing down. Messy, to say the least.

A great company, one built to last, one that desires to see what success really looks like long-term, is built on the solid bedrock of growing character. Not just individuals but the collective bandwidth and strength of the teams within. On that firm foundation the company can begin to grow, like it was intended to grow and like we all want it to grow.

In the above drawing “Biz #2″ is the ideal where “Biz #1″ is obviously headed toward disaster.

The question, of course, is which organization are you a part of? What type of organization do you lead? Time to “get real” with the honest and hard truth: Most companies (nearly all, literally!) talk a really good game when it comes to this stuff – even businesses and organizations where their integrity is a part of the product and service (think non-profits). Very few organizations actually execute their mission statements explicitly. Very few are truly right-side up.

I want to be a part of organizations that take this seriously. I want to lead organizations that live this. I want to partner with organizations that aren’t upside-down. It’s not only good business practice (obvious: “don’t partner with orgs destined to collapse… duh”) but you’ll sleep better at night; and all good entrepreneurs need a lot of sleep (as much as they deny this fact).

If you’re looking for a good company to model check out my friend @benjmiller who’s company is in the business of “cultural engineering,” managing “business DNA” towards excellence - they “get” this. They also live it. You only need to visit their offices, shake the hands of their employees to see it in real-time.

Ok now. Your turn.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Great post John. So many companies fail to recognize that CHARACTER trumps everything else. Without it things may look good, grow, and be “successful” yet when the storms of life come through it topples over.

    • John Saddington

      seriously. love this concept.

  • Craig Allen

    I just starting reading “The War Of Art” yesterday. Really good.

    • John Saddington

      it is incredibly good.

  • Charles Specht

    Love the visual pictures. It makes the article make more sense!

    • John Saddington

      i know. i like doodling. always have been.

  • Tim Milburn

    Hey John. This is so important. I just unleashed a book that points to the priority of a leader’s character ( A person who lacks character can be a leader, but not for very long. Love the cake analogy. I may borrow that.

    • John Saddington

      going to check this out tim… thanks!

  • Jessica Zirbes

    Great post! I’ve worked for both types of companies, gladly I currently work for an extremely ethical global firm – Jones Lang LaSalle.

    I also liken your thoughts to marriage. I remember having several coffee dates with my hubby (when we were dating) where we talked about our standards. Blessed to be married to a man of unshakable character!

    • John Saddington

      oh yeah…! sounds like a keeper….!

  • Dustin W. Stout

    All too true… Character has to be the most important aspect of everything you do. If you put anything else before it, you might as well start the countdown to destruction.