Caught in Character

I eagerly watched the screen for my daughter’s photo to discover why she had been “Caught in Character”.    All week the teachers observe the children’s behaviour and if they see a child behaving in a way consistent with the ARISE values the school promotes, the child is photographed and celebrated for their good behaviour in the “Caught in Character” segment of the weekly chapel.  This is one of the reasons I love our school, the “Caught in Character” programme.

These are principles we all could live by, wouldn’t you agree?  

I got to thinking about how useful it would be to implement “Caught in Character” in the workplace.  Many people are behaving badly in the Australian workplace.  Just look at the statistics.  

We’re behaving badly towards each other.  Some 47.9% of people in the Australia/New Zealand region said they had experienced violence and harassment at some point in the past (Lloyd’s Register Foundation, 2023).  In 2022, the Diversity Council Australia’s Inclusion at Work Index recorded 18% of Australians experiencing discrimination owing to skin colour, ethnic origin, or religion.  The situation is the worst for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with 47% reporting experiencing discrimination in the last 12 months.  

We’re behaving badly in how we do business.  Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index shows Australia is in 13th place, and whilst this is not considered bad, we are 10 points below where we were in 2012. (https://transparency.org.au/media_release/global-corruption-index-australia-lags/).

A vicious cycle is created between corruption and human rights abuses, discrimination and harassment.  Corruption facilitates human rights abuses.  Strengthening fundamental rights and freedoms means there is less space for corruption to go unchallenged (https://transparency.org.au/media_release/global-corruption-index-australia-lags/).

Inclusion at Work Index, 2022

I think A.R.I.S.E. has greater utility  than just in our school. 

What would A.R.I.S.E. look like if we carried it into our workplaces?

A = A Love of Learning

With teams who brought a Love of Learning to work, our workplaces would be thriving.  Psychologist Carol Dweck (2016) contrasted people with fixed and growth mindsets.  Fixed mindsets believe emotional intelligence is already programmed, which flows into their thoughts, behaviours, and beliefs, affecting learning adaptation and flexibility.  Not ideal in a workplace.  Those with growth mindsets maximise their exposure to new things, stepping out of their comfort zone to gain knowledge and improve their work performance.

Chamorro and Swan (2016) identified ways workplaces could foster a Love of Learning:

Align interests.  Offer training that is interesting for the organisation and employees.  Employees’ motivation will be higher if they gain relevant knowledge.

Emphasise long-term benefits rather than short-term ones.  Training should teach skills that will benefit employees in their current and future roles.

Select people for training.  Focus on employees who demonstrate higher ability to learn and curiosity and are genuinely interested in acquiring new knowledge.

 Be a model.  Encourage learning behaviours by doing it yourself.  People with high learning abilities find time to learn new things outside their specialisation area and enhance their cognitive skills to transfer theoretical knowledge to practical application.

Be a good mentor.  Demonstrate interest in employees’ progress.  Listen to their concerns related to their learning experience and provide constructive feedback.

Encourage collaboration.  Try to set up times when employees can come together, help each other, and improve their learning experience.


R = Respect

Paul Meshanko (2015) describes respect as “an ongoing behaviour pattern that promotes increased awareness and acceptance of differences in individuals’ beliefs, styles and backgrounds, as well as their physical, ancestral, geographic or socio-economic makeup”.  That’s a pretty good start.  One of the reasons we chose the school our girls attend is because of the following story.

There were two children of mixed-race heritage.  One, in particular, had been cruelly bullied at another school for her glorious differences.  Her self-esteem was at an all-time low, her grades dropped, and she was terribly unhappy.  Everything a parent’s heart worries about for their child.  Hearing that our school was not like this, the parents, in desperation, enrolled their daughters in our school.  Our school doesn’t just acknowledge difference…it celebrates it, putting it on the stage, encouraging story-telling and awareness.  It was like coming out of the dark and into the sunshine for our young friend.  She went on to be the school captain. 

How different would our workplaces be if we valued our differences, making meaning out of them and enabling people to employ those differences in achieving the Vision and Mission of the business, organisation or institution?  How would people thrive?


I = Integrity

I once was responsible for a small grants facility.  One of the recipients had a young man in the lead role.  Long story short, he was stealing the project’s funds.  We were alerted to this when my colleague in the highlands rang to tell me the community where the project was located was threatening to end his life (and they had the capacity and reputation for doing so).  A lack of integrity destroys projects and gets people killed.  When you take a little time to think about what a lack of integrity has initiated in the world, you realise it is absolutely essential in our workplaces.

Integrity in the workplace could look like this.

  • Embracing a values-based approach that promotes ethical decision-making and self-reflection in how work is undertaken as an employee;
  • Adherence to legislative frameworks, policies, and practices relevant to the industry the workplace is in;
  • Organisational structures, policies, and procedures are deliberate, legally compliant, and reliable; and
  • Every member of the workplace intentionally makes integrity a priority in all their activities.

S = Safety

We spend a lot of time focusing on Occupational Health and Safety, particularly on the physical hazards.  I believe we should be giving just as much attention to the other aspects of safety.  The Australian Human Rights Commission identified key components to creating a safe and healthy work environment as commitment and awareness:

Commitment from senior managers and other senior staff to develop a healthy working environment through mission statements and policies

Managers demonstrating their commitment by implementing the strategies

Making all staff aware of your managerial commitment to having a healthy and safe working environment.


E = Empathy

n. the ability to imagine and understand the thoughts, perspectives, and emotions of another person. (Oxford Dictionary)

Empathy is one of the CliftonStrengths themes.  Those with Empathy (as two people in my house have) can sense other people’s feelings by imagining themselves in others’ lives or situations.

I don’t have Empathy in my Top 5 Strengths themes.  That doesn’t let me off the hook.  I was lucky to have a Mother with Empathy, and observing her, I learnt what it looked like.  Then I employed my native strengths to achieve the same end.  I tend to use my Connectedness and Individualisation most.  It is more demanding but absolutely essential.  A world without empathy has been demonstrated in every human conflict since the beginning, fearful, brutal, and affecting masses.  We all must use our strengths to achieve empathy.  Find someone who is a natural, they’re not hard to identify.  Observe how they act in various situations and see what you have in your toolbox to do the same.  

I particularly like the Zendesk innovation around empathy:

The practice of empathy circles actually started when one of our employees, Delores Cooper from our office in Madison, Wisconsin, invited fellow employees to an impromptu “safe space” almost immediately following the murder of George Floyd. This was meant to simply give employees the opportunity to join together, speak, and listen. Delores expected a few employees to join for an hour-long discussion. However, more than 25 employees attended, and the event lasted five hours, underscoring the critical need for more opportunities for people to gather and talk.

Zendesk has hosted six empathy circles over the past year, with roughly 1,000 attendees globally. Themes have ranged from racism in America, to the role of intersectionality in EMEA and APAC, to combating racism and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community; but these discussions can cover any topic you wish to shine a light on. The conversations are generally unstructured, which leads to open dialogue; however, it’s helpful to have a pair of facilitators open the discussion with historical background or factual news. They can share personal stories or motivations to set the tone and create group trust.

To date, we’ve received overwhelming positive feedback from our workforce about the circles, with 95% of participants saying they helped build a safe space and empathy in the workplace, and 96% saying they would recommend the experience to a colleague or friend.


So now you have an inkling of what A.R.I.S.E. means, if I come walking through your workplace next week the question will be:

What kind of Character will you be Caught in?

About the Wayfinders' Blog

The Wayfinders’ Blog helps individuals, teams and organisations discover and develop their unique strengths. I provide valuable insights and practical tips to my audience empowering them to develop their talents into strengths and achieve their goals.

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