Step Six: Remove Character Defects
In my article on step five, I advised how to take a moral inventory of yourself and your business. That moral inventory was actually an exercise designed to lead us to the realization that our troubles are partly of our own making, thus removing the “blame game” from others or outside forces. It demonstrated that we are complicit in creating our own problems. That is something we all need to admit before going forward and turning our businesses around. Step five also asked us to share what we learned with a mentor, and that always requires a leap of faith. We must use our faith again in step six.
Step six requires us to let go of the moral failings and character defects we uncovered in step five. These character defects are huge handicaps to our lives and businesses. The list of defects may be long, or the list may boil down to one glaring item that disrupts our success in everything we do.
I have met many people with serious character defects during my 30 years in the downstream refining business — and I was one of them. I have since corrected some of my own defects, and I am still working on others. One of my most serious flaws was my ego. I thought I was better than others, that I could do their jobs better and was a hotshot at my job as well. How many people want to work with someone like that? This can be a huge negative in trying to pull a team together, and it can cause underlying resentment that undermines the effectiveness of the entire group. I was only fooling myself.
Ego and self-righteousness are destructive attitudes. They represent self-interests and are the opposite of self-confidence. They are also often accompanied by anger. How many chairs have you seen thrown across a trailer during a turnaround maintenance meeting? I’ve seen plenty. Intimidating others through anger is not the best way to get a cooperative response. Being overly ambitious is another flaw. Think about it: Isn’t being overly ambitious really a veiled form of greed?
Letting go of character flaws is not easy, and you may be tempted to say, “I can’t or won’t give this up. It’s who I am, and I will not change.” But an unwillingness to recognize our flaws and work on changing them stifles our thoughts and actions, and they will become roadblocks to success. Even though we may think we are going forward, in reality, we are not. The roadblocks (our flaws) will rear their ugly heads again and again.
It is helpful to ask a higher power to assist us, and that is a daily, sometimes hourly, task. But if you do so continually and recognize the instant you are becoming angry, egotistic and self-righteous, then you are on the road to freeing yourself of these demons.
While taking this step, one of my goals was to treat every person in my life exactly the same. I have not been able to achieve this goal. But the goal is not about achieving perfection. No human is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for perfection. Our goal is to remove roadblocks so we can work around our imperfections and achieve the ultimate goal, which is success.
Success comes in many forms. A successful business also comes in many forms. The one thing all businesses have in common is that they are made up of people who are motivated in one way or another to provide a product or service to others. These are products or services people want or need. A healthy business needs people with healthy attitudes. A healthy business needs a leader who is healthy as well. If we, as business leaders, are constantly striving to overcome pride, envy, greed and other defects in our personal and professional lives, then roadblocks will disappear, and the road to success will lie ahead. It is a road that will have occasional detours and a speed bump or two, but the results will be well worth the effort for us, our families and employees, and the customers we serve. You will be prepared to accept opportunity when it arises. While perfection remains elusive, success is very achievable.
Also published in BIC magazine.
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