Talent gets you in the door, but character will keep you in the room.
Wise words for an office setting, though it is rarely followed. Let me pose a question: is everyone you work with of good character? I’m not talking about intentions, everyone has good intentions. In fact, everyone is the protagonist of their own life. No one wakes up thinking they are the villain, yet somehow there are still people out their with questionable character traits. Why? Because as humans we are empowered with the ability to justify our actions and rationalize the results.
So, back to the original question: Is everyone you work with of good character? The honest answer is probably not.
Many organizations justify keeping the wrong people around because of because of fear. Many organization think they are making smart decisions because they don’t want to have to retrain someone, or because the cost of searching and on-boarding is too high, or because they don’t want to upset the apple cat, or because they for change, or the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t… fill in whatever cliche excuse you want. At the end of the day our organization are justifying keeping the wrong people around and rationalizing the negative impact they are having on the business.
Several years ago I hired 2 separate contractors. One was hired to renovate my master bathroom (we’ll cal him Bob) and the other was hired to replace my outdated sliding glass doors with dual-paned french doors (we’ll call him Adam). The day Bob was supposed to arrive I waited patiently at 8:00Am like we had agreed. by 8:30AM I had called with no answer. 8:45AM rolled around and I received a text saying he would be at my house in 20 minutes. 35 minutes later, Bob was knocking at my door. I let him in and he began working. Demolition went quite quickly, but when he realized he needed a few things from the hardware store he disappeared. I didn’t see Bob again until late in the afternoon. He only arrived at my home to pick up a few tools and assure me he would return the next day… I wasn’t so sure. The next day arrived, but Bob did not. In fact it was a full 2 days later that he returned to my house to work on the bathroom. He walked though my home and began his work without acknowledging his absence. I heard him working through grunts of frustration. The occasional bad word was uttered, but I paid it no mind. Then when walking into the master bathroom to offer him water he did something odd. He stepped in front of my sink, as if to hide something. It was as obvious as if I had caught my 4 year old with his hand in the cookie jar. I approached the sink he was purposely blocking to see it terribly damaged with a bottle of ‘Porcelain Fix-IT” sitting on the counter. He didn’t bother to tell me when it happened. Only once I caught it did he begin to make excuses. Wow! He not only didn’t bring it up when it happened, he tried to hide it. Disappointed that he had accidentally cracked my new sink, I left the room with a sense of frustration and indignation. I felt betrayed… but, he was already here, it would be painful to try and find another contractor, I’ll just let him finish. The renovation 5 days longer than anticipated and ~30% over budget the work was done. Bob explained (complained) that my bathroom was much more difficult that he anticipated. Citing that the tile I had chosen wouldn’t cooperate and that the fixture was especially troubling. I was not only frustrated with his attitude, I was disappointed in his work. all because I allowed him to stay after I saw a lapse in his character.
In stark contract we have Adam, the person charged with repacking the doors. On the day of his work, he showed up exactly at the time we agreed. He worked quickly, quietly, and effectively. We agreed that he could come back two days later to install the moulding around the door. After he left that day I was sitting on my couch. I saw something pass by my window. While I wasn’t expecting him to return for 2 days, I peered through my new dual-paned french doors to see Adam. He had come back by my house and was filling the seem of the doors with spray foam. This was never discussed or requested. This was just one person doing more than was expected. I was flabbergasted! Adam was a perfect, glowing example of someone that goes above and beyond. I tipped this individual $100 for being so thoughtful.
It is always worth using character as the guiding principle in any relationship, whether personal or professional. Good people create good results. Do NOT keep others around because you feel obligated or because you fear replacing them. It is always easier to find someone with talent than to correct the problems that arise from people that have none.