Spilled M&Ms© 1 – How to Succeed in a Career By Really Trying – Character

We covered the important aspects of What you do to add value to the organization and its goods and services and How you go about contributing this added value.  Now we finish up with Who is doing this.  This is you, who you Are, your Character.

First, some introductory comments.  Character is focused directly on the foundation level in the Behavior Framework and therefore has a direct impact on everything above it.  Character ultimately controls the behaviors that you choose (as in Games People Play), and the behaviors that others observe that will affect certain evaluations they draw.  Ultimately, these behaviors and how they are perceived will form the additional currents, forces, and opportunities that will impact the direction your career takes, as well as your life and relationships.

Character in the Behavior Framework

Character in the Behavior Framework


We probably would agree that character is important, at least when considering the larger picture of, for example, honesty and truthfulness.  We have already discussed Attitude, which is in large part also driven by our Character, so this topic can become pretty broad (e.g., there are 447 Character Traits, positive and negative, describing “Character” listed on one website).  Given this breadth it seems two decisions need to be made.

First, placing these Character Traits in the Behavior Framework as I did above needs to be simplified.  It’s simply too complex to pick the right spot for each trait.  Besides, this is just a visual analogy.  So, picture all of these Character Traits, green for good, red for bad, like a bag of Christmas M&Ms© spilled on the basement floor, your Are level:

Character Traits in the Behavior Framework

Character Traits in the Behavior Framework

(Understand also that since red M&Ms© are my favorite, this visual analogy is extremely difficult for me to put forward).

Second, I will limit to just a few of the important Character attributes or traits that affect how an organization perceives you as the source of your contributions in the following post.

Since Character affects so many interactions, let me begin with Principles and Values and build up from there.


The Principles we adhere to are typically the rules we use to choose how to behave or interact in our relationships with people or with organizations, and these behaviors will fall into one of three types: a Positive Sum (+∑), Zero Sum (0∑), or Negative Sum (-∑) interaction (Game) depending upon the desired result.  In other words, whether we are a Builder, SurvivorComplacent, or Salvager.  (Remember, there can be multiple levels of interactions going on simultaneously).

For example, if we value honesty and truth, then we should adhere to principles that maintain honesty and truth as primary in our relationships and decision-making, seeking the best possible overall outcome.

However, if we value honesty and truth but also value saving face, then we may find that our principles will lead us to maintain honesty and truth, except when saving face is more important (when honesty and truth confront us with loss of face).

“Tim, did you finish the Jones report yet?”  “Yes, I’ll have it for you immediately” (while trying to remember where he set it aside).

It appears to be human nature to use “little white lies” as a means of immediate loss aversion (loss of face, for example) even when there are more serious but delayed consequences or loss from the “lie” itself.

Our Principles, as rules of behavior, exist in order to protect the things we value.


Values are another broad issue.  A workable definition of Values is:

“Important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Values have major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.“  (www.businessdictionary.com) (italics mine)

On another website there are 418 Values listed.  It should be easy to see why hidden or “Sleeper” values can readily surface and become so important.

As best as I can sense, our individual values arise from our DNA (they’re in our genes), from our clan (what we were taught to value by our immediate family and relations), and from our tribe (the influence and expectations of our extended village or culture).  Regardless of source, they all contribute to our choice of behaviors or those behaviors demanded in various situations.

On the personal side, finding out more about ourselves can be a valuable asset.  Types of individual assessments include Myers-Briggs, DISC, and Taylor-Johnson.  A person familiar with what each of these assessments attempts to measure is very likely able to identify values and character traits just by observing our behavior over time.

Learning our personal characteristics will give us an increased strength in recognizing how to manage ourselves and others in various situations.  This self-awareness is an attitude that was mentioned earlier and will show up later, together with the practice of the skill of self-management.

On the clan side, being able to recognize values that were modeled, be they good or bad (honesty, trustworthiness, laziness, etc.) permits us to strengthen the good ones and eliminate, overcome or manage the weak ones (if so motivated).  Recognizing desirable values that were not modeled is also valuable.  This is also true on the tribe side, although overcoming certain tribal values may be next to impossible without significant consequences.

When you join an organization, you also join a new clan (your department, boss, and immediate peers) and a new tribe (the whole organization’s culture, determined from the top down).

Being able to identify influences from clan and tribe and move away from the negative ones and toward the positive ones is a valuable strength.  This is true regardless if the clan and tribe relations are genetic or employment, as it moves us into the realm of being able to add value.

Next: Specific character traits and Why are they important?

About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
This entry was posted in Career and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.