Understanding the Character Maxim
and how to make the Character Connection
by praising for character rather than achievement makes you a better supervisor. As supervisors, we tend to say things like “Good job” or “Keep up the good work” when praising the members of our teams. Our vocabulary tends to be very limited. But character-based supervision requires a new vocabulary that links the character quality with the achievement. It forces us to become better supervisors, better parents, and better leaders.
After watching this video, every time you find yourself saying “good job” or “keep up the good work,” it should serve as a red flag. Realize that you have just praised someone for achievement instead of character, make the character connection by coming up with at least one character quality the person displayed, then praise them for the character quality as well. This will remind them to keep up the good character…!
Shortly after I took office as Sheriff of Dorchester County, we experienced a tragic crime. An armored-car was hi-jacked and one of the guards brutally murdered. Due to an intense investigation and some top-notch forensic work, we were able to identify the murderer and successfully prosecute the case.
Right after the jury came in with their verdict, I sought out my Detective Sergeant (now a Lieutenant) who had handled the crime scene and forensic portion of the case. I knew the conviction was largely due to his efforts and I wanted to recognize him for a job well-done.
Lt. Earl Asbell
So I found him out back of the courthouse and went up to praise him as any good Sheriff should. But instead of praising him for his achievement (gaining the conviction), telling him “good job,” or “keep up the good work,” I praised him for three character qualities. By “pitching” these character qualities, right across the plate so he could catch them, I made the “character connection” and ensured that I sent the right message.
Gaining the conviction was the achievement–the fruit. Character qualities like attentiveness, thoroughness, and diligence were the seeds that produced the fruit. If you focus on the fruit and neglect the seed, you can produce a bad crop. It’s the Law of the Harvest. According to our Character Maxim, if you focus on achievement to the exclusion of character, you encourage bad character.
Watch this short video excerpt from the Police Dynamics Video Training Series as I demonstrate how to use character-based praise to encourage high achievement.
Praising character over competence requires a new vocabulary. The 49 character qualities defined by Character First provide an excellent tool.
Do you remember your first pursuit? Most police officers do. They can turn out really good or they can turn out really bad. As law enforcement leaders, we can use character-based praise to help minimize the potential disasters associated with high-speed police pursuits.
In this short clip from the Police Dynamics Video Training Series, I use the story of a Rookie’s Pursuit to illustrate just how important it is to praise the character that produced the achievement rather than the achievement itself.
In this illustration, the Rookie exercised the character quality of self-control:
rejecting wrong desires and doing what is right.
His self-control is what kept his own emotions in-check and maintained his composure so he could make good decisions under pressure.