Build a Better Character, Build a Better Business: Lessons From Donald Miller at BMSU

In the words of Donald Miller, “a value-driven professional sees themself as a product on the open market”. So how can you ensure that employers, employees, and customers get a return after investing in you? When you help people make money, reduce frustration, and solve problems, you earn their trust and become a great investment.

One of the first steps on the path to success is building character. Keep reading to get an overview of the character traits that successful people share, and how cultivating them can help you excel in the professional world. 

Be a Hero, Not a Victim

When someone constantly thinks of themself as a victim, they are unable to grow as a person or a professional. Someone with a victim mentality might believe that they are not in control of their life, that others are responsible for their failures, or that the universe is stacked against them and there’s nothing to be done about it.

In stories, heroes go through transformations, fight conflict, and achieve their goals because they accept responsibility for their life and choices and know they have the power to change it. We may all play the victim sometimes, but this state only needs to be temporary as we regain the strength to help ourselves once again. The true secret of a hero is simply never giving up, even in the face of challenges and conflict.

De-Escalating Drama and Correctly Engaging Conflict

As Donald Miller says, “drama costs energy and energy costs money”. Overreacting to criticism, failures, setbacks, or others’ behavior brings attention away from the shared goal of the team or business and onto the individual. 

So how do you handle dramatic situations without feeding negative energy into them? Try asking: “How much drama is this situation actually worth?”. Staying calm allows for more clarity in the midst of drama, and people are generally more respected when they slightly underreact to situations as opposed to overreacting. 

It’s easier to stay cool under pressure when you know how to engage in conflict. While conflict might not sound especially enjoyable, it provides meaning to life and to work and allows for growth. Some things must be addressed in the professional world, such as poor performance, unmet expectations, budget concerns, and large misunderstandings. Being direct, affirming, having an open mind (you could be in the wrong!), and being in control of your emotions helps you engage with conflict in a healthy and helpful way.

The Importance of Feedback

Accepting and acting on feedback from trusted friends and supervisors helps us become better people and increase our value as professionals. Having a consistent feedback routine allows for continuous growth and positive transformations which leads to improved performance. An effective routine might include a monthly meeting with your advisor or team members in which you ask a set of questions such as: “Have you seen me act unprofessionally?” and “What am I doing that can be improved upon?”.

Being able to accept and use feedback gives you a major competitive advantage, as many people are unable to receive feedback well, let alone act upon it to make changes. 

As a leader, clarity is incredibly important. This means setting clear expectations, enforcing accountability, and providing feedback and rewards and affirmations for good performance. In the world of business, being respected and trusted is typically more important than being liked.

Choose to Act

Attempting to please others, trying not to lose face, or simply being afraid of an outcome can lead us to hesitate, stall, or “choose to be confused” about a situation or a decision that needs to be made. In the majority of these situations, we already know what needs to be done. 

To work on this aspect of character, ask yourself: “If I were not confused about this situation, what would be the obvious action I should take?”. After determining this, set a deadline — this helps with follow through and ensures that you keep a bias toward action.

Successful people and high-value professionals act on their ideas and get things done. As Donald said, “setting goals will not build your career, accomplishing goals will.” People who have a strong bias toward action and drive goals to completion are incredibly valuable investments. 

Embrace a Growth Mindset and Stay Optimistic

Having a fixed mindset will leave you stagnant in life and in the professional world. Someone with a fixed mindset thinks that they cannot change, and thus dislikes feedback and criticism because they don’t believe they can improve or learn new things. 

People with a growth mindset believe they can constantly improve themselves and learn from their failures and setbacks. This includes embracing challenges, persisting through obstacles, seeing effort as a path to mastery, learning from criticism, and finding inspiration in the success of others rather than feeling threatened.

Part of having a growth mindset is believing amazing things can happen. Being relentlessly optimistic means you have relentless forward motion. People who are optimistic set huge goals, but they also recover quickly from a setback or a failure, because they are able to take it as a learning experience. The path to success is not a straight line, and the people who keep trying over and over are the ones that are most likely to succeed. As Donald noted, “life and your career are games of statistics: the more you try, the better chance you have”. 

If you enjoyed this lesson from Donald Miller, click here to read the next lesson about how to market effectively.