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News@Ivey · Ivan Langrish

Taking character into consideration during these critical times

May 22, 2020

Mary Crossan

“Crisis reveals character for better or for worse.”

This statement from Organizational Behaviour Professor Mary Crossan, underscores just how the COVID-19 global pandemic is impacting everyone during these stressful and isolating times. Described as a humbling moment, a crisis can either build, or erode one’s character.

In an interactive webinar called Combatting COVID-19 with leader character, Crossan is joined by Steve Virgin, Director, Character Based Leadership at the Canada Revenue Agency, examining how dimensions of leader character can be harnessed not just to cope, but to thrive in an uncertain environment.

Driven by more than a decade of research, Crossan and her colleagues at Ivey have led the way on creating a framework in which you can think about character as a habit and behaviours that you can target and develop.     

“This is a moment where people need to find within themselves what is their purpose and how is it they can contribute in the best possible way?," she said. "I think a lot of people are discovering when they look at the dimensions of character, there are areas which they wish they could strengthen and their own well-being and their own work will be more productive if they could do so.”

Virgin has implemented a character-based approach to hiring within the Canada Revenue Agency and is also charged with infusing character across the organization. Achieving this awareness requires champions and the impact, especially during COVID-19, has been very evident.

“The impact is palpable,” said Virgin. “Every organization I’ve worked at talks about breaking down silos. The work done at Ivey has given us those keys to break down these silos and use the leader character approach. We are seeing collaboration, being collegial, cooperative, and interconnected.  It’s so important and we are seeing it at the CRA.”

Crossan emphasized how our fluid work situations during this crisis have forced employers to reflect on the culture of their organizations.

“In this virtual world we really have to amplify character. Our situational awareness changes. How do I know what’s going on with other people? You have to reach out even more strongly than we ever have.”