Summary Written by Carissa Reiniger

The Big Idea

Life's Wake

"As a person goes through a company, he or she leaves a wake behind."- Integrity, page 16

Picture a boat going across a body of water and the wake that it leaves behind. If the wake is smooth and in a straight line the boat is on course. If it starts to get choppy, there might be something off course. The wake can tell you a lot about how the boat is doing.

If you think about the people who have had a positive and negative impact on your life, you’ll be able to recall the wake they left behind. Some people are phenomenally strong at accomplishing tasks but lack people skills or the ability to understand how to treat people on their path to accomplishment. These people might accomplish sales targets but have a group of people in their wake who are hurt, upset and angry. Others are exceptionally strong with people, have the ability to build relationships but aren’t evaluating their performance or are missing something in their character that is leading to them missing performance results, leaving a wake of unfulfilled accomplishments and a resume of unsatisfied employers.

Cloud teaches that there are two sides to every wake – Tasks and Relationships. For all of us, the wake we leave behind can tell us a lot about our impact as leaders. No one is perfect. Even so, understanding what our personal wake looks like – in regards to both tasks and relationships – can give us real clues into where our character is breaking down. And, where our character is breaking down, it’s also preventing us from being able to deal with the demands of reality (have integrity) and perform at our very best. The more clearly we analyze and understand that wake, the more quickly and precisely we can improve our character.

Insight #1

Impact Checkup

"On the relationship side [of the wake] there are results… Were [the people you worked with] stretched and inspired to become more than they were before they worked with or for you? Did your relationship cause them to produce more?"- Integrity, page 18

An amazing question to ask yourself is summarized in the quote from the book above. Where were you working five years ago? Think of some of the people that you worked with. Think about what kind of a wake you have left with those people. How would they remember you?

Doing an evaluation of who you have touched and what relationships have had positive outcomes vs. negative outcomes can be hugely informative. Then keep this on your radar. Day to day, what wake are you leaving behind you with all of the people you work with? Why are things going well or not going well? Doing a simple “wake check” on a regular basis and can give you a really amazing reflection tool to weigh how things are going in your world.

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Insight #2

The Choice

"The immature character asks life to meet his demands. But the mature character meets the demands of life."- Integrity, page 258

Everything we’ve talked about only matters if you choose to do something with it. Dr. Cloud is very clear in Integrity that it is up to each of us to work on the areas where we need to improve our character. If you are continually hiring the wrong teams because you are not patient enough to manage an interview process properly and the wake is a series of the wrong employees and an unhappy team, then you need to understand what in your character is causing the lack of patience, work on it and get help. “Self help” is a somewhat ironic term because if you are not strong in a certain area, it can be extremely difficult to help yourself. The other side, of course, is that no one can ultimately change you but you. The happy medium is to find someone to help, inspire or teach you who is strong in the particular area you’ve identified a need for growth.

Once you have identified things in your wake that you don’t want to leave behind anymore and have translated that knowledge into understanding something in your character make up that needs some work, we all need to go find someone(s) who is great at what we are not. We simply cannot “self help” ourselves in something we are not naturally strong at. So, build a personal team that is made up of a number of individuals who excel in character areas where you are weak and enjoy the process of learning from them. Strong leaders with high integrity are people who are consciously and constantly bettering themselves by surrounding themselves with people they can learn from.

Integrity changed my life. The concepts are simple but extremely empowering. The big reminder here is that we can do all the technical training in the world, we can work harder than anyone else and we can care a lot, but until we understand our character make up and develop our ability to truly meet the demands of reality in our world, we will realize the success we all aim for. This book reminds us that none of us our perfect. But, if we truly embrace that truth, and then consciously learn from and use the information found in our personal wakes, we can continue to improve and grown steadily into the leaders we wish to become.

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Dr. Henry Cloud

Dr. Cloud is a clinical psychologist with a unique ability to connect with his audiences. Drawing upon his broad range of experiences in private practice, leadership consulting, and media, he simplifies life’s issues and gives easy to understand, practical advice. It is Dr. Cloud’s humour, compassion, and “in the moment” confrontation that make his approach to psychology and spirituality such a success.

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