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When Nobody is Looking, Character Still Counts – Make Your Business Stories Credible

By June 9, 2012 February 17th, 2019 No Comments
teenager dressed in super hero outfit ready to take on the day, exuding positive character traits

Article Summary:  Character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

When Nobody is Looking, Character Still Counts – Make Your Business Stories Credible

Copyright © 2012. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. and ThinkBusiness Magazine
Ira J. Koretsky
February 2012

A friend recently told me about a holiday shopping experience he had with his teenage son. As they were finishing their shopping, they just happened to be looking when some of their fellow shoppers thought they were not. Cutting in line at check out and making rude gestures to other drivers as they navigated crowded parking lots were some of the behaviors they observed.

As many of us in the business world close the books on another year, what behaviors have we exhibited when we thought nobody was looking? If you are looking for ways to strengthen your character, here are several of my favorites.

Think of Everyone as the Next CEO

Years ago, when I joined ComedySportz, a professional improvisational comedy team, I learned many valuable lessons for improving relationships and communication (see Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker – How Improvisational Humor Training Helps You Sell).

One lesson that stood out was the concept of how people treat each other. I turned it into a business Smart Exercise with playing cards called Treat Everyone Like a CEO  (watch a clip). At the end of the exercise, we talk about awareness of one’s words and actions. Invariably, many participants are surprised by how unaware they had been of their negative tone of voice and hurtful words they use.

Irrespective of where you perceive yourself to be in the hierarchy, you cannot go wrong by treating everyone as if they are the next CEO. This is particularly important for new leaders. Whether you realize it or not, everyone is watching to see how you treat people. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect and you will quickly earn trust.


Treat everyone with courtesy and respect and you will quickly earn trust.


Helping Others Helps You

Duane, one of my team members, has some great stories. While studying at The George Washington University for his MBA, one of his professors, Jerry Harvey (author of The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management) had an interesting approach in his Individual and Group Dynamics Organizational Behavior class. Professor Harvey deliberately structured the final exam in a way that required a collaborative effort by the entire class. Anything short of full class collaboration ended in a failing grade. On the day of the final, Professor Harvey arrived in the class, passed out the exam, and just as quickly, exited the classroom. Duane told me with a big smile, “There were no individual rock stars that day—only the most cohesive group I had ever worked with.”

In business, particularly in difficult economic times and results-driven environments, how often do you take the time to help your co-workers? How easy is it to push-off requests for help from your co-workers when you yourself are stressed, particularly when the boss is not looking? Part of your success is often helping others to be successful.

You Get Out of it What You Put into it

I was reminded of this lesson as I watched Conan O’Brien’s farewell on The Tonight Show. He told us that “if you work really hard and you’re kind, then amazing things will happen.” Think about the work you do, your interactions with your co-workers, and your relationships with your suppliers and customers. Are your outcomes in line with your expectations? If not, it may be time to put a little more into your relationships.

Why Character Still Counts

Even when nobody is looking, character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

Photography Source:  Gratis Photos

Ira Koretsky

About Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, trainer, consultant, and executive communication coach.