See more book notes

CloInte 06-11-167


The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality

How Six Essential Qualities Determine Your Success in Business


Dr. Henry Cloud

Collins, 2006, 282 pp., ISBN 0-06-084968-1


Dr. Cloud, author of the best-selling Boundaries, is a clinical psychologist with an extensive background in both the clinical and professional consulting world. He has a consulting practice in California. Cloud explores with convincing insight six aspects of character in dealing with the personal side of leadership. This is a must have book. It is dense with information, as Eric would say.


Character traits supersede gifts, talents, and ability. Those who have them succeed and those who don't ultimately fail. (Preface) The six traits:

1.      Establishing Trust

2.      Orientation toward Truth

3.      Getting Results

4.      Embracing the Negative

5.      Orientation toward Increase

6.      Orientation toward Transcendence


Integrity matters. Morals and ethics undergird our entire system of business, relationships, government, finance, education, and even our very lives. (7) But beyond this, Who a person is will ultimately determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed. Ethical functioning is a part of character, but not all of it. (8)


The most important tool ultimately is the person and his or her makeup, and yet it seems to get the least amount of attention and work. (10)


When a person travels through a few years with an organization, or with a partnership, or any other kind of working association, he leaves a wake behind in these two areas, task and relationship: What did he accomplish and how did he deal with people?At the end of the day, we must look back and see if the wake of our work is profitable or not. (17)


We leave a wake of people behind us as we move through their lives and their organizations. (18) For some, interpersonal short-comings get in the way enough to compromise the tasks accomplished and bring them to nothing. (20)


Realities put demands on people that they must meet to perform and not crash. (23) Character is the ability to meet these demands of reality. Leaders will succeed, leaving a positive wake if their character can meet the demand. (24)


In the end, character always rules. Personal issues make the difference between those who do well and those who don't.It is always the personal side that creates the problems, the stress, or messes up the goals. This book looks at the personal side. (26)


You should always pick people with the best character possible. Hire and choose to work with the best, but don't ever forget that all of us can always change and be better. (27)


It is not always the market or the strategy or the resources, it's the people who make for success. And if you don't have the right kind of people you can lose with a great market strategy and a ton of resources. (30)


Integrity means the whole thing is working well It is about wholeness and effectiveness as people. (31) Integrity is about needing wholeness in all areas of character If we do not have integrity of character, then our ability to capitalize on our strengths will be severely affected. (33)


The opposite of integration is compartmentalization. That means that a part of oneself can be operating without the benefit of other parts, and that spells trouble. (36) Strengths turn into weaknesses without the other parts of a person to balance them out. (37)


The places at which we are underdeveloped are the places at which problems occur. The bigger problem is that we become dysfunctional in the truest sense of the word. Dysfunctionalmeans actual exertion of effort in that area causes more problems, or a greater gap, than it solves. (38) Like a person attempting to resolve a conflict but making it worse. (39)


Character makes it all work in the end, and character is defined as the ability to meet the demands of reality. (39)


Establishing Trust

I think this is my favorite chapter because I saw so many applications. In the opening example a new CEO announces a stimulating vision for a new merger.As high level managers express particular concerns, the CEO reassures them in grand but vague terms and passes on without really hearing their concerns. He thinks he has done well when he has initiated a disaster of demotivation because he did not connect.


If you are going to get them to come with you in your final decision, and trust you, you have to understand where they are and join them in that place first. We trust people who we think hear us, understand us, and are able to empathize with our realities as well as their own.(52) Good leaders capture the other people's will, their true desire, through connecting with them first. (53)


Sometimes there is nothing that can be done. But, to know someone understands makes it somehow different. (54-5) People feel cared about, and trust is built, when they know that we have a genuine interest in knowing them, knowing about them, and having what we know matter. (56)


Fundamentally, connection is the experience by one person that another is invested in him or her. Connection happens when one person has a true emotional investment in the other, and the other person experiences that and it is returned. (57)


Empathy is the ability to enter into another person's experience and connect with it in such a way that you actually experience to some degree what the other person is experiencing. (58) When we listen, we may hear and understand. But we must communicate our listening in a way that lets the other person know we have truly understood. (59)


You know what not being heard is like. You experience invalidation. It feels like the other person has negated your experience, treating it like it's not real or doesn't matter. (63)


To empathize and validate doesn't mean you always agree or think the person is right. It means that you see it as valid, as the reality of their experience. But sometimes you might learn something useful and change your opinion about it. (74)


Most times people who invalidate others are not aware they are doing it. (66)


This stuff matters. Connecting with others in a way that makes them feel understood and valued is key to life and the basis of building trust and loyalty. From that base, everything else works. (73)


The next level of trustworthy character is looking out for the interests of others as well as your own. Some people are scrupulously honest, but if something isn't in the contract they will ignore your interest and look out for their own. Others will be sure you are protected as well. Which would you trust?(76-79)


Incredible things happen when two parties let down their guard with each other. They get open, creative, take risks, learn from each other, and deliver fruit in whatever their endeavor. (79) Trust goes to a whole new level when you believe the other part is for you and against you or indifferent to you. (80)


True trust comes when we realize that another's goodness, and being for my best interest, is not dependent on anything. It is just a part of that person's integrity. (83) My favorite word of this kind of character is grace. Grace is when we extend favor to someone, not because they have earned it in some way, but because we just possess it to give. It is a stance in life, a way of being. (84)


So, if you want to leave the best wake possible, leave behind a trail of people who have experienced your being for them. (84) [This is powerful. dlm]


In leadership, this means that you are for your people to do well, and to become all that they can be. It also means that you do things for them that are unmerited and help them get there. (85) But the key is that this kind of person keeps the standard, while at the same time trying to be a force that helps the other person meet the standard. (86)


For someone's character to be able to negotiate reality, there must be this dynamic tension between power and vulnerability. (88) We need leaders who are strong enough to depend on, but vulnerable enough to identify with. If a leader is weak, people lose faith. But if a leader needs to be seen as more than he is, he cannot be trusted. (92-3)


When the leader lets his subordinates know that he needs them, it builds trust. When people feel needed, they perform better. (94) Transparent leaders let the reality of where they are and the situations be known. We can only ultimately trust people who are being real with us. But part of that is transparency not just about the facts, but about themselves as well. We need to see their vulnerabilities, and how they are feeling about things. (95)


But, again, the balance is key. The tension between vulnerability and strength in leaders cannot be lost. (95)


Oriented Toward Truth

Telling the truth is the first part of having an orientation toward truth. (101) Truthfulness is really measured in terms of our tendency to tell it when it hurts in some way. People fudge or lie when there is a risk of some sort of loss or negative consequence. And that is where our study in character truthfulness begins. (102)


Basic truthfulness is that people of good character are people who can be trusted to tell the truth, and to give a representation of reality to others as best as they understand it. That is the foundation of all of life, from business, to government, to family, to commerce, to friendship. (104-5)


The author tells a wonderful story about the CEO of a dog food company that fired the marketing department because it was unsuccessful at increasing sales. Finally one manager squeaked out, But sir, the dogs don't like it. (99-100)


Truth telling is foundational but not enough. Honest people may miss parts of reality that are important to making things work. (105) What if the world has changed, and you can't see it? (106)


Reality is always your friend. We must be in touch with what is, not what we wish things were or think things should be or are led by others to believe they are. The only thing that is going to be real in the end is what is. (106)


Confront the Brutal Facts. This was the principle that success can only be built through seeing reality clearly and facing it. You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. (107)


You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end which you can never afford to losewith the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. (107)


But we first have to see. What keeps us from seeing that it is not the marketing, but the dog food? (110)


'the people who see reality as their friend, however, do not assume that they have a grasp on it. (112) Instead they go seek it out. They look for it and do everything the can to find it. They hunger for finding out what is true. They are active, not passive about it. (113)


The opposite is avoidance. It may come because of investment in some other desired reality or fear of dealing with the facts. (114-15)


The search for truth includes truth about the external world, about themselves, and about other people. When you think about it, it is the people who have little self-awareness who are the most dysfunctional. The natural human tendency is to not face ourselves as we really are. The winners find out and they have the courage to embrace what they learn. (118-19)


Our tendency to distort others is a big part of how we run into trouble. And we typically do it for a few reasons that have to do with our makeup. (121) In contrast, people of integrated character tend to delude themselves less about others. (123) Character that sees itself is usually able to self-correct. (124)


'the characters who do well have an ability to neutralize hard truth, making it not overwhelming, but something to be looked at without all of the awful and terrible emotion that goes along with it. (126)


If the emotional side becomes overpowering, we can be vulnerable to making some really bad decisions that show poor judgment. The integrated character, as a pattern, does not do that. (128) The ability to control your thinking when your emotions are enflamed is huge for success. (130)


'the ability to make external reality one's own reality is pretty huge. It is a good thing for your view of the world to be the real one. If it is not, you lose a lot of functioning. (135) 'to give up false security for reality is for the more mature, and strong of heart. (136)


Getting Results

'successful people stick to what they are good at and find ways to make that larger. (147)


'the difference between winners and losers is not that winners never lose. The difference is that winners lose well, and losers lose poorly. As a result, winners lose less in the future and do not lose the same way that they lost last time. (160) Integrated characters deal with loss well. First of all, they do not deny it, no matter how much they might love the idea or the endeavor. They can face up to the reality that it is gone. (161)


Cut your losses and move on. Embrace the defeat, learn why, and move on. Don't repeat the same kind of loss. (162) Look at your own contribution to the failure and learn. (163)


Embracing the Negative

Life is largely about solving problems. Nothing good is going to happen if you can't deal with the bad things that are going to happen (172) If you can't meet and resolve them, it will end your hopes for making things work. Do not avoid the elephant in the living room. (173) Problems are issues to lean toward, not away from. Deal with them promptly, actively, and directly. (174) 'successful people face into embracing problems and negative reality. (175)


Integrated characters have the ability to recover quickly after a negative motional event. They recover motivation, hope, judgment, clear thinking, drive, proactivity, etc. (181)


For people to deal with negative interpersonal realities, they have to be separate from the other persons feelings toward them, or the other person's feelings in general. 'the nature of conflict means that people sometimes have negative feelings toward each other. A leader has to remain separate from how people feel when he is confronting them about performance, or an issue. (184)


Take ownership for the results. Go through the pain to improve and enjoy the benefits. Don't hang on to having been right. Being right can never compete with doing well. (190)


One of the most important aspects of character in life, without question, is one's ability to confront. It is true that you get what you tolerate. Nonconfronters leave a lot of success on the table. Problems overcome them and stop them. (191)


A lot of people confront easily, even too easily, and yet do it in a manner that is more destructive than helpful. This drives problems more deeply into hiding by creating an atmosphere of fear rather than resolution. If you confront poorly you will lose. 'so, you must confront, but confront well. That means that the truth-telling side of your character must be integrated with the loving and caring side of your character. Confront the problem, but in a way that preserves the relationship and the person. (191-92)


Say what needs to be said, and say it in a way that shows that you care about the person. Go hard on the issue and soft on the person. Honesty without love is not integrity. (192)


Confrontation does not have to be adversarial. It merely means that we are going to face this issue together instead of putting our heads in the sand and ignoring it. You and I versus the problem. (193)


Let the Bad Stuff Go. Get over it. After an issue has been addressed and corrected, forgive. Cancel the debt. (194)


Oriented toward Increase

People with the drive to make things grow leave a wake of making things bigger and better. 'to meet the total demands of reality, we must be growing and always increasing our abilities, skills, and capacities, in every area of life. Integrated characters have this drive inside. (208)


'the invisible world of character is where the visible world always originates. (213)


People naturally desire growth. If that desire is met with negative outcomes, the natural response is protest. If the protest brings nothing good, the person feels a state of loss. Then a sense of hopelessness. Then detachment. They no longer believe growth can happen and they no longer attempt it. (214-15)


Risk means that you do something that has the possibility of a bad outcome, and that you embrace that possibility and are OK with it. (217) But it is usually not really risky. You are ready for it. You are taking a further step. You just haven't done it before and aren't sure how it will turn out. This is the normal pattern of growth. (218)


Rest. Integrated people who have drive but are not driven are able to 'sabbath and recreate. The idea of a Sabbath is a period of time (twenty-four hours weekly) where you are not producing anything. Rest means not producing. When something is not producing, it is regenerating. And while that is happening, good things are occurring that get it ready for the next production cycle. (232)


Thos who grow in their own lives are also investing in the growth of others. (233)


Oriented toward Transcendence

One question hovers above all others in importance for a persons functioning in life. It is the question Are you God, or not? The way that a person answers that one determines everything else that we have been talking about in character and functioning.


Everyone knows the right answer, but many people function as if they are God. They act as if they believe the universe, everything, and everyone is there for them. They put all their efforts in building their own little kingdom. 'they experience themselves as the center of the universe. (241)


On the other hand some people transcend ordinary human selfishness and self-centeredness. They recognize existence is not just about them but ultimately about much bigger things. They find their role in the big picture and find a much larger meaning in life. (242)


'the big things, not ourselves, are the things that make us big. 'the paradox is that to join things bigger than us, we have to humble ourselves and become 'smaller, in a sense. We exist for the transcendent things, not them for us. The greatest people have not sought greatness, but served great causes. (243)


If a company values its own interests above all else, then the other things take a backseat. 'the paradox always holds true. Give up things for yourself, and you get more. Seek only yourself, and you will lose even what you have. (245)


Character always wins. (249) 'the real indicator of a character of self-denial and self-correction is whether it shows up in behavior. It is one thing to hold principles but another to live them. (215)


'self-denial is always about loss. It is the willingness to lose something that truly matters to us for the service of something bigger. This aspect of character is the basis of all that makes the world go round, and when it breaks down, so goes the world. You win in the end by losing in the beginning, if you lose to the more important things. (257)


'the immature character asks life to meet his demands. But the mature character meets the demands of life. (258)


We tend to hide the areas where you have the greatest opportunity for growth. As a result, you try to operate only using your strengths and thereby compensate for those weak areas in some way. Also, this faking it cycle gets worse as time goes on as the demands increase. (266)


'to grow, and to internalize new patterns, we need a feedback loop that sees where we are at any given level, makes us aware of it, gives us feedback with a path to do better, monitors the new changes, and repeats the cycle. 'the boss relationship should be just this way; observe, give feedback, coach, monitor, and grow. Instead, too often if falls into the ignore and zap mentality. (272)


'the best support is also the support that cares about us but does not let us off the hook. (273)


People change when they play the movie, which is to take a hard reality look at your life and work, then play that reality forward to see if you like the way the future movie of your life and career plays out. In that way, people begin to experience the future losses, rewards, and consequences right now and get with reality. (276)



* * * * * *