How Adults Succeed: The Hidden Power of Character

Accountability Books Personal leadership


Key Point: I am working through some of the books on Bill Gates’ summer reading list. One of them is How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. Tough believes “character” has to do with practical values that help people succeed: The ability to work hard toward a goal and stick to it in the face of adversity and setbacks, the ability to rebound after failure, the inclination to do one’s best even in the absence of obvious external rewards, and the ability to delay gratification.

Tough goes on to reinforce the importance of the education system teaching and reinforcing character. I couldn’t agree more. You can have all the technical or academic skills, but if you do not have the character (attributes, characteristics, values) to execute, you will struggle mightily in a results driven environment.

In my two books, The Character Triangle, and The Character Triangle Companion, as well as in my weekly blogs, I too emphasize CHARACTER. Those that follow my writing note that I focus on self-accountability, respect and abundance as the core elements to focus on regarding character development. I do believe while attracting and selecting talent, it is an advantage and even imperative to hire on CHARACTER AND COMPETENCE. However I feel that we must be relentless on continuing to develop BOTH character and competence in employees. Just because a person has historically proven or demonstrated character, does not mean it will continue to develop.

As an example, an individual who has shown self-accountability as a trait, can be shown how the trait can evolve as complex problems emerge. Another example involves the value of respect. When one learns to apply the skill of being able to navigate a very difficult conversation, the trait of RESPECT advances. If one assumes that they already have the value of respect, with no further development required, they will short change themselves.

Character and its traits are on a continuum. It is not just about whether you “have it or not…” It is about where you are on the continuum. My argument is that the formula for how children succeed also applies to adults. It is a never-ending process.

Character Moves:

  1. Do you believe in personal character development? If so, what is your personal character development plan? What tools and skills are you putting in your quiver to progress on the character continuum? For example, what is your anti-blaming formula? Goal setting system? Overcoming resistance framework? Habit forming system? Be able to articulate your continuous character development plan and process. If you can’t, you likely don’t have one.
  2. As a leader, how are you helping others develop their character and technical work competence? If you believe that people who work for you can’t develop their character or rely on the belief they already “have it in their DNA,” you may be disappointed. Being a leader involves caring and showing/ teaching others. It is a never-ending, relentless process for you and others around you.

Hidden power of the Triangle,