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Does Character Still Count?

Merriam Webster describes character as Sense 6: moral excellence and firmness [a man of sound character] I would describe it with the old adage: “Doing the right thing when nobody is looking.”

We live in a world that is ever more electronically connected yet personally disconnected. A world where we make deals over the telephone or by e-mail. A world where we may be no more than a price on a screen. A world where people increasingly come together for a single project and then disband to the far corners of the earth.

In such a world does that thing called character still count?  If you can get the job done, does it matter how? If you are only going to be together until this project completes, who cares? I would like to think that not only does character still count, but it counts even more.

In the majority of professional situations it is given that your colleagues are competent (mostly, although not always, true in my experience). But what happens when problems arise, when the schedule is blown, when a major product flaw is discovered? It is at that point that we realize that our colleagues are more than a set of competencies, more than a price on the screen, more than a contact on our e-mail list. It is at that point we realize the importance of character. Some projects succeed and projects fail, that is life. What counts is the manner of their success or failure.  We do not remember Enron because it failed; we remember it because of what happened before it failed. The intellectual brilliance of the characters involved is lost to the utter lack of character of those involved.

In a world of deals by phone and fax news travels faster than ever. So does reputation. Does character still count? I believe that the answer is yes. I hope you do too.

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