Krys Boyd, of Think on KERA in Dallas, interviewed Brent Iverson of UT Austin and John Sibert of UT Dallas on her program today. They are respected teachers at the University level, and are each contributors to the book The Little Orange Book: Short Lessons in Excellent Teaching (University of Texas Press). You can listen to the full interview here. Their expertise is in the sciences, but, notice this portion of the interview: A caller called in to tell a story of a teacher from his college days — a teacher who failed in the human interaction department with his students. The two guests responded partly with these words:
How are my students perceiving me?
This applies to people… Not (just) professors, but people. How you interact with others, especially if you have some content models, impact their view of that content…
This goes back to a very basic concept of rhetorical effectiveness from Aristotle — the power of ethos. Ethos: the ethical appeal, the credibility of the speaker/messenger. And, at the heart of ethos is the notion that the teacher/speaker has the goodwill of the audience at heart.
This is from one of my earlier blog posts: Does Your Audience Find You Trustworthy? — 4 Components Of Ethos. From that blog post:
In one of the textbooks I use in my teaching, Public Speaking (8th Edition) by Michael Osborn, Suzanne Osborn, and Randall Osborn, they describe four components of ethos. These are terrific. Here they are, from the book, with my own take sprinkled in:
- integrity – be trustworthy (ethical; honest; dependable)
- competence – develop genuine expertise; know your subject well (informed; intelligent; well-prepared)
- dynamism – raise the energy in the room whenever you speak (confident; decisive; enthusiastic)
- goodwill – have the best interests of your audience at heart. Always mean them well, never mean them harm.
Or… to put it all in simple terms:
- you can trust me
- because I have prepared well
- and, I believe this deeply enough to get excited about it – and I work hard to stay current
- and I share this with you to help you succeed in your own pursuits.
Enter every speaking assignment with these components of ethos at the front of your mind, and you will become known as trustworthy – a person of good character, speaking well.
Goodwill; effective interactions. It always comes back to the soft skills, doesn’t it?
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
Every organization claims high ethical aspirations. Unfortunately, the least character-driven team members often tend to be the most “ethical” because they know EXACTLY where the line is and make sure they never cross it. Meanwhile, the most character-driven members of the team get caught in “gotcha” ethics violations because they were not worrying about where the line was since they knew their motives were pure.
It is time to quit trying to be “ethical” and instead create a character-driven culture. A formal ethics policy is still necessary, but we need to transition beyond a policy as the standard to aspire to, and make it the lowest common denominator foundation, upon which is constructed a more noble cultural value system.
When it comes to behavioral standards, there are four progressive levels. Organizations who create cultures of sustained excellence tend to operate at the fourth level.
The first level is simply compliance with the law.
Most teams do a pretty good job of complying with legal standards, but team members unduly focused on the legal standard are often searching for loopholes and opportunities to work in the dark. The legal benchmark is avoiding criminal prosecution.
The second level is compliance with ethical standards.
Ethics can generally be described as a formally adopted set of behavioral standards. While an ethics policy sets a higher standard than mere legal compliance, it still creates a “compliance-based value system” instead of a “character-driven value system”. The ethics benchmark is avoiding the embarrassment and humiliation of violating the ethics policy.
The third level is integrity-driven.
While ethics tend to focus on public compliance with formal behavioral standards, integrity has been described as what you do when no one is watching. Integrity comes from deep within. It is who you are more than what you do. To be integrity-driven is a far higher standard than mere compliance with a formal ethics policy. The benchmark here is not what is allowable, but what is RIGHT.
But being character-driven (the fourth level) is the test of real leadership.
While integrity suggests doing the right thing when no one is watching, character-driven decision making is doing the right thing when you are under immense pressure to do the wrong thing. It is infinitely easier to be integrity-driven than character-driven. The benchmark here is whether you have the courage to pay the price to do what is right in spite of the pressures.
In today’s brutal political environment, where it is popular to demonize those with whom we disagree, character-driven decision making is more important than ever. Unfortunately, the short supply of character-driven leaders is enabling and empowering the cavemen and the articulate incompetents in too many of our communities.
John Rockefeller said, “Live your life in a way that you can look any man in the eye and tell him to go to hell.” There is no more desperately needed advice for today’s leaders.
Go for it. Be willing to do what is right regardless of the pressure, the name calling, the threats. Be willing to lose your job over it. Your legacy will be a better community as a result of your sacrifice, and you will look back and know it was your greatest moment.