Behavior Reveals True Character
Barbara Bush leaves a void in the American political scene. She was a woman of class, and, when your husband and son became president, a woman of fortitude. She was fiercely loyal to her family, as she should be. Regardless of your political views, the true character of this woman is reflected in the deep affection that the Obama and Clinton families have for her.
“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people,” she said and, by all accounts, she lived up to this measure.
A few weeks ago, I was at an event and a former student of my father shared a story. He was visiting in my father’s office at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, and the custodian came in to clean. My father greeted the custodian by name with enthusiasm. After the custodian left, my father told the student that he should always treat everyone with great respect no matter their occupation or circumstances, and that you should learn the names of service workers because they too often labor anonymously.
Then I remembered a famous quote by Dale Carnegie, “A person's name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Not only is this the right thing to do, but also observing how people treat others—especially those of perceived “less stature”—is a window into their true character.
Years ago, I became great friends with Betty, my favorite waitress at a popular business meeting spot. I had the benefit of some great advice from Betty and insight into others. People who I held in high respect she was not a fan of because of the way they treated her—how they tipped her. These were prominent citizens and in nearly every case over the next decade, I unfortunately saw a glimpse of what Betty had warned me about.
Recently, we decided not to pursue a continued relationship with a client. The spark was observing the client, berate a waitress for reasons I still don’t understand. His colleague who had joined us said nothing. But I went back to my office and reflected on an engagement where the client had not been engaged, where he did not listen to counsel, where he was always looking to the campaign and not what it would take to maximize his success (including altering his plans). It all came together, and we declined to continue our relationship.
Treat everyone with great respect—especially those of varying circumstances. And use this measure as a way to evaluate potential employees—and yes, even employers. It is a window into true character.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.