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The Six Pillars: Building Character Into Your Mentorships

There is no arguing that in order to be a good leader, you need to have good character. But it’s tricky enough building your own character; how do you go about building the character of another person—say, a mentee who is depending on you to show them how to succeed in their career?

According to the Joseph Institute of Ethics, there are Six Pillars of Character to strive for, and while some of them might be inherent in an individual, all of them can also be taught, just like any other skill.

In order to teach the qualities of good character, you need to make sure you understand them yourself. So what are the six pillars of character, and what exactly do they mean in a business setting?

  1. Trustworthiness: It can be argued that trustworthiness is the single most important quality of good character. Without trust, you cannot build lasting relationships, compel others to buy your product or service, or win others over to your cause. Trust is integrity, and it is absolutely essential to every business relationship.
  2. Respect: Respect is having a sense of another person’s place in the group, the organization, and the world. It means giving your regard and consideration to another for the work that they do.
  3. Responsibility: Responsibility is about taking ownership, both of the work you do as well as the mistakes you make. It means taking action and not backing down from taking risks or seizing opportunities. 
  4. Fairness: Give everyone equal treatment. Avoid favoritism and give everyone a chance to show their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.
  5. Caring: Have empathy for those around you. It’s understanding that the needs of your clients and co-workers are important and relevant, and that you can make a difference in their lives through your work.
  6. Citizenship: Citizenship describes the character of an individual viewed as a member of society—your behavior in terms of duties, obligations, and functions. In the workplace, this means being an active participant in the goals of the organization and doing your part to ensure that your contributions serve the wellbeing of the entire company.

Once you have a firm handle on the pillars of good character, you can incorporate a few character-building activities into your mentorships. Some examples might be:

  • Making character a primary topic of conversation. Pick topics to discuss, like how one's character affects their work, interaction with others, and goal-setting.
  • Developing leadership profiles that evaluate character, so that mentees can get an idea of where they are and what qualities they may need to develop.
  • Reviewing the company’s values and asking the mentee to explain what these values mean to them and how they would incorporate them into their work. It is especially important that you demonstrate these same values in the work you do in order to show that they are taken seriously by management.
  • Promoting self-awareness by regularly asking the mentee to evaluate their own habits and behaviors and discuss their meaning.

Character is not separate from, but rather central to, how we work and how we interact with others. A strong leader needs a strong character, and the earlier your mentees learn the qualities of good character, the better chance they’ll have at becoming competent and respected mentors in their fields as well. 

If this post resonated with you, check with your organization to see whether you are part of the MentorCloud network. If not, sign up for a demo here! Our vision is to create a mentoring planet in which true equality is achieved and hard work is rewarded, but it's only possible with your participation.