This is the 1,000th post here at All Things Workplace! Today's post was first published in 2007 and I decided to bring it back because its comments prompted an entire series to be generated as a result. I hope it adds meaning to your day and your career.
How often do you hear the terms wisdom, discernment, and integrity used during the business day?
And just what are organizations looking for when they are hiring or promoting?
We hear words like intelligent, problem-solver, action-oriented, results-driven, and good decision-making ability.
But what good are any of those if they aren't carried out with wisdom, discernment, and integrity?
It's possible to be action-oriented and still take a lot of wrong actions.
Does intelligence guarantee sound leadership? History reveals that many leaders with intelligence that was clearly "above average" have oppressed their people, ruined their economies, and even committed genocide.
What Are We Dealing With Here?
First, some slightly paraphrased definitions from Merriam-Webster Online.
Wisdom: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : (insight) c : good sense : (judgment).
Discernment: the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent; the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.
Integrity: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : (incorruptibility); the quality or state of being complete or undivided : (completeness).
Why Do They Make a Difference?
Let's start with integrity. It's probably the easiest to deal with and something that we do talk about on the job, at least when it is violated.
Integrity makes a difference because it's an outward indication of our internal character. If we say we have a set of "corporate" values and then live by them--even if it means sacrificing extra revenue--then we are known as having integrity. When we live up to our word, we have integrity. Most of all, integrity is what allows a person or a company to be trusted.
When you possess wisdom, you are able to make judgments that go beneath the surface issue or decision being presented. My observation and experience show that those possessing wisdom have actually learned from their previous experiences and mistakes; have confronted their own part in them; and now are able to see more clearly what is happening within other people and other situations. Maturity--not age alone--is necessary for wisdom.
Discernment is probably the least-used word in business. It implies a well-honed wisdom that allows one to accurately "read between the lines" when dealing with people and situations and see what is true. You and I know lots of people who say "I know how to 'read' people. However, I don't really know lots of people whodiscern the truth very well at all.
What Happens in The Absence of Those Three ?
When we hire and promote based upon education, experience, and behavioral traits, we're still working on the surface. To get "keepers" we need to dig one level deeper.
At a business luncheon meeting a few years ago our well-educated, high-level executive speaker spent his entire block of time talking about his accomplishments, what he was going to achieve in the coming year, and the plan to get there. When he asked for questions, the guy next to me said something gutsy:
"I'm sorry. Who you are spoke so loudly that I was unable to hear what you had to say."
My neighbor had discerned the self-centered character of the presenter. The speaker had not discerned the values, maturity and character of his audience. As a result, his accomplishments couldn't overcome the low regard in which his peers began to hold him as a result of his bravado. It was a defining moment that impacted his career mobility.
When we're hiring and promoting, wouldn't it be worthwhile to know who we're getting--not just whatwe're getting?
It seems to me that we need to understand at least two things in order to make that happen:
1. What "kind of people" do we want? (What values do we hold that need to be evident in our people)?
2. What does it take to develop the wisdom and discernment needed in business?
Special Note: Thank you all for your readership, comments, and encouragement since the launch of All Things Workplace in August, 2006.The interaction here has generated friendships, professsional exchanges, and business opportunities never imagined prior to clicking "publish" on the first post. I value all three and am thankful for the chance to participate in the lives of others dedicated to filling workplaces with solid performers and productive relationships.
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