Having a ping pong table, a sofa with Playstation is great to look like a cool company. But, honestly, that falls short when, at the end of the day, the pressure is enormous, the bosses’ form of communication is just shouting and no one cares about the opinion of those who are on the ground.
One of my favorite books is Stephen Coveys’ classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I love the book, I have read it several times, and sometimes I revisit it to reread some of the ideas I need to reabsorb at the moment.
In the research he did for the book the author studied hundreds of self-development books and noticed a pattern in them. Books that were written until the beginning of the twentieth century, approximately, were focused on Character-related issues and, after that, the books shifted their focus to what the author defines as Personality.
For Covey, what is the difference between Character and Personality?
The Character ethic focuses on what one is, on issues such as Integrity, Honesty, Loyalty and values that define one’s character. The Personality ethic is more focused on techniques, skills that can be learned such as selling better, communicating better, making more friends, getting what one wants and having a strong and robust image.
The author establishes an incisive distinction between what he calls Character and Personality. The focus on Character allows us to grow in what we are, while in the Personality we grow in what we seem to be.
Both are extremely important, and I don’t mean that learning techniques or tactics to improve our communication and our image isn’t important. But a Personality without Character won’t work in the long run.
Saying you’re something and actually being something are quite different things, right?
That salesman who uses all techniques properly but, at the end of the day, makes our stomach turn with a sense of distrust, will never give us peace of mind. It’s as if behind that mask there is something maladjusted.
That’s what the author refers to, the incongruity between Character and Personality doesn’t work down the road. Today, more than ever, we must focus on what we are and not just on what we seem to be.
And this takes me to the contest of the best companies to work for.
Magazines are sold, marketing efforts are implemented, we add our ranking to the email signature and we boast with pride the fact we are in the list of the best companies to work for in Portugal. It’s all about marketing and employer branding efforts to attract the best talent in Portugal. Properly paid to the companies that do the said ranking.
But, in my opinion, it’s fake. Why?
Having a ping pong table, a sofa with Playstation is great to look like a cool company. But, honestly, that falls short when, at the end of the day, the pressure is enormous, the bosses’ form of communication is simply shouting and no one cares about the opinion of those who are on the ground.
Of course, the perks and the office environment are important. I can’t argue otherwise, but those who think that’s the reason why employees don’t quit on their organization or are more loyal to it are mistaken.
The office perks, the “*ranking * of the best companies”, the companies that buy the most glamorous magazine covers to splash the CEO’s face on it, are wound dressings for something that’s often rotten on the inside. Just talk to former employees of these companies.
I have no illusions that some former RUPEAL employees (the company that owns KWAN) will speak badly about the company I lead. We aren’t perfect (and I don’t have the most easy-going personality ????). But I also know that the vast majority of our former employees positively recommend us. It’s one of the things that makes me particularly proud. Actually, the positive reference by former employees and customers is our biggest source of new business.
For the past 9 years, when I founded the company, I have always tried to foster and focus on the company’s internal values. To focus on the guiding principles and stay loyal to them. In the long run, I know that will pay off, after all, those who focus on what they seem to be seldom remain for a long time to tell the story.
More than thirty years later, Stephen Covey is still spot on. We need to focus more on what we are than on what we appear to be. The character ethic has never been so necessary as it is today.