Charisma or Character…How To Tell The Difference


In life we encounter many different types of people.  Introverts, extroverts, funny, serious, loud, quiet, shy, and jocular.  These are all personality traits or characteristics of an individual.  They do not define or identify their character.  Many times we try to “read people” to determine if they have good intentions or selfish desires.  Confusing character with charisma is an area where most people struggle.  It also poses potential danger if misread.  So what’s the difference between character and charisma and how do you determine if the person you’re interacting with has great character or is simply charismatic?

Before you can determine character from charisma let us first establish a working definition for both.  Character is the way someone thinks, feels, and ultimately behaves.  Think of character as an individuals guiding light, or true north.  People of great character operate with authenticity.  They have strong self-awareness, and the likelihood of them doing the right thing under the most difficult of circumstances, is incredibly high…almost unquestioned.   Character boils down to doing the right thing when no one else is looking.  Character is hard-wired.  You can teach right from wrong, but you can’t teach character.

Charisma on the other hand is an appeal that attracts others to an individual.  It could be a specific talent or attribute.  Charisma, or charm, are qualities that are also hard-wired into a personality.  Many celebrities, politicians, and public figures have great charisma.  It’s a quality that has been developed over time and used to rally support behind a persons specific efforts.  In the movies, as in life, there are people who have enough charisma to make obnoxious characters likable.  Perhaps this is where the saying “wolf in sheep’s clothing” came into existence.  We are often times fooled in life by people who are very charismatic rather than supporting the individual with strong character.  People with charisma seem to have it all and it’s exciting to be around them.  But charisma is no substitute for character.

So how can you tell the difference?

  1. When talking with someone do they open up or keep things shallow or superficial?
  2. How willing is the person to roll up their sleeves and “do”, versus simply talking about “doing”?
  3. When interacting with others does the person focus on the material things or do they make human connections?
  4. What examples can be found where this person did something good for someone, or some company, for which they received nothing in return?
  5. How do they treat and interact with their family and friends?
  6. Do they keep their word even if doing so results in a loss?  Or are they quick to abandon their commitments and justify doing so with one reason or another?

Learning how to deal effectively with people throughout life will determine your success and happiness.  Being proficient in identifying people with character versus charisma will give you greater opportunities to align yourself with those who will truly add value to your life thereby create lasting relationships.  Focus on establishing relationships with people rich in character rather than charisma.  Remember, charisma is an outward sign whereas character comes from within.  Surrounding yourself with people high in character will bring you a lifetime of self-fulfillment and happiness.

The Human Equation – Building Relationships That Last


Human beings are emotional creatures. We long to connect, to be seen, heard, felt, and understood. We strive to make good first impressions because we know what’s at risk if a first meeting goes wrong. Acceptance and recognition are perhaps cornerstones of what makes us human. We want to be part of the pack, to run with the herd. We crave recognition for what we contribute, and how we perform. Every race, every culture, every civilization yearns to feel united.

In business or in our personal lives the relationships we establish and maintain will ultimately determine our level of success, happiness and fulfillment. Building relationships is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Know this…the best things in life take time and a lot of hard work. Healthy, productive, and positive relationships are no different. And also know it’s a two-way street. The best relationships are not just about you, they are about the greatness that is produced as an output of two people, parties, partners, etc, coming together. With all great relationships the sum of the whole is much stronger than the sum of the parts.

Two specific elements are necessary for all great relationship to take seed: trust and authenticity. Both are difficult to establish but for different reasons. Trust requires risk and is a gift given to others. Authenticity requires truth and is a gift given to yourself.

Lasting relationships are built upon trust. Both parties must trust that the other has their best intentions in mind and in heart. If there is doubt in either, then trust does not exist. If breached, trust is very difficult to re-establish…perhaps impossible. Taking advantage of someone is the surest path toward damaging trust. In the business world this might look like playing hardball with pricing, financial compensation, terms and conditions, or a legal but perhaps unethical use of leverage. Doing what’s right is not the same as doing what is legal. My first boss taught me an important lesson….”if it’s right for the customer, and right for the business, and assuming it’s legal, then do it.” Notice the legal aspect is a given. It’s like integrity…it’s a must…it has to be there. Assuming it is, then focus on doing the right thing for the customer, friend, spouse, partner, etc., first…everything else follows.

Trust also is a reflection of character – acting authentically. Doing what’s right when no one else is looking. In the business world it is often easy to confuse charisma with character. I’ll write more on this subject in a future blog.

Authenticity requires self-awareness. You may be thinking that you’re already self-aware and if you are that’s awesome. But for most people the exercise of becoming self-aware is ongoing. It’s not a one and done. It’s a continuous assessment of yourself, your goals, your ideals, your philosophies, and your priorities. As circumstances change you need to reassess yourself. This is how many people get lost in their circumstance as opposed to remaining true to themselves…being authentic. No place is this more visible than in business or in the world of celebrity. As people acquire more power, money, and material things, they risk becoming out of balance between their circumstance and their “self”. To remain in check ask these two questions periodically: what is the most important thing in my life, and are the things I am doing aligned with what I’m saying is the most important thing?

By operating from a truly authentic place, you will be able to develop long-lasting relationships. You will develop a reputation as being someone who is trustworthy, loyal, and committed to doing the right thing. Before long you will sought after for your insights, ideas, and relationships.

How To Improve Boardroom Decisions


Daylong meetings starting at 7:30 am behind closed doors. Continental breakfast with all the coffee you can drink. Lunch around noon…sandwiches or pizza…followed by early afternoon cookies, more coffee, and an occasional bottle of water. The day ends around 5:30 pm with a 30 minute break to “freshen up” before going out for a team dinner. Sound familiar? It does if you’ve ever experienced an executive, or Board-level meeting.

Many companies are currently knee-deep in 2014 planning sessions. Meetings like the one I’ve described above are taking place in different cities across the country…and the world. Lots of PowerPoint presentations, opinions, predictions, explanations, what-ifs, if-nots, and I-needs, fill hours upon hours of meetings. Interestingly enough one of the most important ingredients to building a successful strategy is missing from many of these discussions…the customer.

A fair number of companies execute their planning season with an inside-out view. They go into these sessions with closed minds, hindered by their narrow focus of what is, rather than what could be. This is not necessarily a purposeful or conscious approach, but it just seems to happen that way. We look at last year’s results, add 10% or whatever number we “think” sounds reasonable and build a plan around it. Again, sound familiar?

But companies that drive significant growth through innovation do it differently…they involve the customer.  Here’s some proof.

One of the best shows on television today is The C-Suite.  The show, and its host Jeffrey Hayzlett, focuses on getting behind the typically-closed-doors of some of the country’s biggest brands.  They dig around the executives thinking, ideas, philosophies and plans.  Hayzlett asks tough questions, the questions viewers would love to ask if they could – and he gets answers.

In a recent episode of The C-Suite on BloombergTV, host Jeffrey Hayzlett profiled the Seattle Sounders professional soccer team. He met with the owner and the executive leadership to understand how the Sounders have accomplished sell-outs (60,000+ seats) at every home game. In a previous episode he met with the executive team of Dunkin Donuts to have a similar conversation about what’s driving their growth. What was quite surprising and impressive is that while both these companies are in completely different industries their response was nearly identical…they both involve the customer.

Joe Roth, the majority owner of the Sounders, and Nigel Travis the CEO of Dunkin Brands, have both established customer advisory councils. The Sounders’ council consists of season ticket holders and Dunkin’s is made up of a group of their franchisees. Both councils provide ideas, thoughts, and reactions to their respective company’s strategy and plans. The Sounders go as far as involving their council members in discussions from ticket prices to player selection. They have given the brand to their customers and are reaping the benefits in a big way.  In fact their leap of faith has paid of five-fold.

It takes guts to listen to your customers.  Executive teams must also have the courage to act on what their customers tell them. Oddly enough the companies that have allowed their customers to “hijack” their brand have been extremely successful as profiled in the book Brand Hijack. Given their success it’s interesting to me that more companies don’t follow this approach. At the same time I find it unbelievable that many companies still don’t listen to their customers yet expect, or hope they continue to spend their money on their brands.

It’s great to see some companies really nailing the customer experience.  Asking, engaging, listening and acting upon what the customer says is so powerful.  Providing a forum for that exchange to take place is a best practice all companies should follow.  For many things in life there is no silver bullet.  But in business, knowing your customer is the best silver bullet you’ve got.  You simply need to do three things:  Ask, listen, and act.

Does your company do this?

Technology. A Blessing or Curse?


One of America’s most quoted writers of the 19th century, William Arthur Ward said, “if you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”  The truth in that statement is evident throughout the history of the world.  The capacity and capabilities of the human mind are impressive, and sometimes unbelievable.  Imagination creates ideas, which in turn drive inventions that lead to further innovations, and ultimately affect the evolution of our civilization.  Going back in time there are countless examples of how imagination led to major improvements in the quality of life for that generation and beyond.

Inventions like fire and the wheel, to penicillin and electricity, and more recently to the combustion engine and computer, the human race has traveled far since we first stepped foot on this planet 200,000 years ago.  We have dreamed big and accomplished much.  We have brought the world closer together with communication devices beginning with the telephone and television to cell phones and Skype, and now we’re about to see a new device that will combine all our communication and media needs into a watch! Finally, all those nifty gadgets that have only been available to James Bond will now be within reach.

But as we travel the technology highway leveraging new software, hardware, middleware and any other kinds of “wares” are we really evolving or are we digressing as a civilization? Not long ago we took pride in our ability to meet people and interact with them in the most human of ways…through speech. Even before the most popular languages of the world became official, humans communicated with sounds, noises, pictures, and touch. Leaders were identified by their ability to communicate and influence. These skills were learned and perfected over years of varying experiences. And one of the most powerful experiences that develop human beings is our ability to navigate successfully through conflict.

As I look at our children’s generation I wonder how effective they will be able to manage conflict in the future. Personal and professional conflict are challenging enough but world conflict is what I find more troubling. It’s unbelievable to me that as we near the end of 2013, email has become a bit passé.  Texting and instant messaging have become the communication tools of choice for the younger generation. Kids no longer sit on the phone for hours with their friends. In fact, if you have kids, when was the last time your home phone rang with one of your child’s friends on the other line? It’s far more likely that instead of talking live they have chosen to text one another.

I’ve watched good news, bad news, funny news, and everything in between be communicated through texting, and it’s left me wondering…

Human beings are emotional creatures if nothing else. How will we evolve in the future if all of the emotional aspects of our lives are synthesized into an electronic communication? Do we risk becoming desensitized? Where will this generation, and the next, find joy? What will cause their pain? As they become accustomed to receiving bad news from a device versus another human won’t they in fact become numb to bad news? How will they develop the coping skills required to grow and develop? Usually those skills come from interacting with other people by making a connection with one of our senses. If you can’t see who you are dealing with, nor can you hear them, or touch them how will those skills be learned. Perhaps they won’t.

Communication devices and tools most certainly serve a purpose. However, I would suggest that for life’s most important events, put the device down and engage the old-fashioned way…with speech, with sight, with human connection. Not only is this way more fulfilling emotionally but it allows our innate skills, our instincts, to flourish and continue to developing.

4 Behaviors That Will Improve Your Performance…Before 6 am


In studying many of the world’s greatest leaders, I have found a series of 4 common behaviors that drive each of them on a daily basis.  Whether a political leader, business leader, or a leader in the world of celebrity – Hollywood, or sports – great leaders display and demonstrate these behaviors on a consistent basis…daily.  What makes this all the more interesting is that all 4 of these things  take place between 4 – 6 am!  That’s right.  Great leaders are up and engaged well before the sun rises.  So what do all great leaders from Steve Jobs and George W. Bush, to Lou Gerstner and Bill Clinton have in common?  Here they are:

  1. Early risers.  Great leaders start their day early.  Many at 4 am.  They realize that by the time the rest of the world awakens they need to be ready to engage immediately.  Waking up early is the first step in their high-performance process.
  2. Exercise.  Many great leaders start their day by hitting the gym, getting a run in, a SPIN class, or yoga.  They understand that taking care of their bodies allow them to endure the stress and strain of their daily responsibilities.  The beauty of exercise beyond the obvious benefits is the release of endorphins.  This chemical reaction that takes place when exercising is what causes a “runners high” and overall great feeling of accomplishment when you’re done exercising that lasts well into the day.
  3. News.  A quick scan of the news is a common behavior shared by great leaders.  Not to get bogged down in the details but to have a high level understanding of what’s going on around them and how certain news may impact their business, customers, employees, etc.  There are a variety of apps available today that help gather news and put it in a format that allows the reader to view it quickly and efficiently.   Applications like Zite, Flipboard, and Pulse are known as personalized digital newspapers.  You select the general topics you want to be informed about and the application scours the internet for news on those specific topics, gathers it, and puts it into your digital newspaper.
  4.  Self-reflection.  Perhaps one of the most powerful performance enhancing activities is self-reflection.  Start each day with 15 minutes of self-reflection.  A time when you can take an introspective look at yourself, where you are, what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and where you’re headed.  If the activities you are currently doing are not aligned with where you’re heading, through self-reflection you can identify this disconnect quickly and make a course correction.  Self-reflection allows you to keep to your True North.

Try adding these behaviors to your daily routine for 3 weeks and see what differences you notice.  For something to become a habit you must do it 21 times.  One idea is to get a calendar and cross off each day…a countdown of sorts.  It will help you adjust and acclimate to this new performance enhancing ritual.  Let me know what you think.

“A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge.” – Peter Drucker

How Great Is Your Company? Answer These 4 Questions.

happyworkGreatness is determined on many levels.  Seldom is it one thing that defines a great company.  This year’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work for include: Google, SAS, CHG Healthcare Services, Boston Consulting Group, and Wegmans Food Markets rounding out the top five.  What makes these select few stand out among the millions of companies doing business every day?  Is it the free lunch that Google offers or the casual dress code at SAS, or the leadership development programs offered at Boston Consulting Group that make the difference?  More than likely it’s those things plus other less tangible things that have elevated these companies to becoming employers many people aspire to work for.  If you’re considering a move, or simply trying to decide if you should stay or go, look at the following 4 areas and answer the questions I’ve posed.  This may provide you with the insight you’re looking for to make your decision.

  1. Employee morale.  Some companies conduct regular surveys of their employees to measure morale and job satisfaction.  Poor morale can lead to many negative side-effects for a company and its employees.  Here are some signs you may have a morale problem:  increase in sick time, customer service levels dropping, longer than scheduled employee breaks, increase in personal phone calls, visible avoidance of senior management.  Typically low employee morale is the result of uncontrolled stress or strain in the workplace.  However, in companies with strong employee morale you see higher engagement, lower usage of sick-time, and perhaps most importantly a culture of innovation that leads to strong customer satisfaction levels.  Engaged employees offer new ideas, suggestions, and solutions for how to improve things across the business.  The key driver to making this happen?…managements ability and desire to listen and act in collaboration with their employees.  How is your company’s morale?
  2.  Creativity.  Positive energy generates positive thoughts.  Positive thoughts produce creative ideas and solutions.  When a company’s culture is negative or numb, it loses its ability to create new ideas, concepts, products, or services.  Creativity is a required ingredient for innovation and invention.  Without it, you will successfully secure your spot in the purgatory of status quo.  Companies that thrive in a highly creative and innovative world have mastered the power of creative thinking.  They have accomplished this by instituting a level of controlled, creative tension.  Management expects employees to generate new ideas and employees expect to be heard.  This dynamic of a two-way-street creates a steady stream of creative traffic that produces ongoing positive results for both the company and its employees.  Is your company a culture of creativity, what example can you give?
  3. Turnover.  Life is all about relationships and the workplace is no different.  According to a recent Dale Carnegie Training study, the #1 reason people leave their job is because “their boss sucks”.  People don’t leave companies…they leave to get away from other people.  Companies with high turnover, which I would define as more than 10% annually should take a deep look into what is driving their turnover.  Often times exit interviews and surveys are the relied upon methods for gathering feedback from a departing employee.  However, these tactics come after the fact…when nothing can be done to salvage a high-value employee who has decided to leave.  High turnover can also suggest a disconnect between the management team, the company vision, and employee goals or quotas.  What’s the turnover rate at your company?
  4. Transparency.  It’s either there or it isn’t.  You know as an employee how your work impacts the top and bottom line…or you don’t.  Management communicates a clear vision that includes the company’s goals, the timeframe for achieving them, and regular updates on the health and progress of the business relative to these goals.  Creating a culture of transparency requires time, commitment and most importantly trust.  Management must trust the employees with information, and employees must trust their management to provide this information with accuracy and honesty and hold it in confidence.  A breakdown on either side of this relationship ultimately leads to the elimination of transparency further leading to many of the above symptoms taking hold:  poor morale, turnover, and lost productivity/creativity.  How much do you know about your company’s goals and objectives?

Leadership lessons from a SPIN class


Years ago I was invited to join a SPIN class. Spinning isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a grueling hour+ exercise class that pushes your boundaries…if you let it. Like any other type of exercise, you get what you put in. Sure there are people that go to a class and coast…literally. But then there are those who push their own limits to achieve new mental heights and physical accomplishments.  You test yourself to see what you’re made of, what limits you can blast through.  You learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of achieving.

So what does leadership have in common with Spinning? What characteristics can be borrowed and shared between the two? Consider the following:

Leadership, like Spinning, requires a huge amount of energy.  Endurance and stamina are also required, and the more you have of each the better your results.  In addition, great leaders, like great cyclists need rhythm, discipline, focus, desire, and most of all integrity.

  • Rhythm is extremely important to both leadership and Spin. You need to have a regular rhythm to running your business.  A normalcy for when you host meetings, when you communicate to customers and employees, how you recognize top performers.  Spin requires a steady rhythm as well.  Consistent pedal strokes are important to maintaining your energy levels so you can finish the race.
  • Discipline is something all leaders must have. It’s easy to share the good news, but challenging times requires a greater degree of discipline to maintain a steady flow of communication.  Great leaders know that staying disciplined will help them pull through the toughest storms.  Spin too requires discipline.  It’s not easy to get up at 4:30 am to get to a 5 am Spin class.  But with that discipline comes the benefits of better endurance, stamina and energy.
  • Focus is another requirement of great leaders and cyclists.  When leading  an organization an effective leader must have the power of focus.  Jack Canfield’s book The Power of Focus offers great insight into this critical element of success.  One specific chapter, “If You’re Feeling Swamped, Get Help!”  In Spin class when you feel you can’t do more, you’re simply out of gas, you rely on those around you to help you focus and get through it.  The Boardroom is no different.  Great leaders know what NOT to focus on as much as what TO focus on while collaborating with their team to achieve that focus.
  • Desire, or will, is necessary for all great leaders.  It is also required for surviving a SPIN class.  Having a strong will, or constitution as some call it, is essential to being an effective leader.  If no desire or will exists you will struggle with all the other elements required to be successful including the ones already listed above.  A strong will drives you through difficult business circumstances, much like how your will takes over 35 minutes into a SPIN class when you’ve hit a wall and giving up becomes a possible option.  It’s your will, your desire to finish, that drives you forward.
  • Integrity, the final element that shares a connection with leadership and SPIN, is perhaps the most important.  You can do all of the above perfectly but if your intentions lack integrity they simply don’t matter.  Integrity, like character, is defined as what you do when no one else is looking.  It’s making the right decision even when that decision may come at a personal cost to you.  In SPIN class when the instructor says “add a gear”, no one but you knows how much gear you’ve added, if any.  You’re tired, exhausted, breathless…do you add gear or fake it?  Integrity is about turning the dial up when the only person that knows is you.  In business you’re faced with tough decisions, some visible and some not.  Great leaders are consistent when making decisions in public as much as in private.  They do what’s right even when no one is looking.