Leadership – Phenomenal in a crisis Leadership Response to 9/11

September 11
I will always reflect on where I was was on September 11, 2001 and the leadership response we experienced in this horrific crisis; one of the finest examples of corporate leadership I could imagine.

The 2001 Respiratory National Sales Meeting had the earmarks of a memorable event. Joe Canning and Betsy McKenzie had pulled out all stops to create an agenda that would educate, motivate and elevate the skills of the entire Respiratory Sales Team.

The Leadership Team which consisted of all of the managers met to receive a final review of the meeting. The individual managers then met with their Districts to review suggested topics. At 5 PM we assembled in the Meyerson Symphony Center which is 3 blocks away from the Adams Mark Hotel in Dallas, Texas, where most of us were staying.

The short program featured a stirring organ performance by a member of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra which was the opening act for the legendary Ray Charles. Ray was in fantastic form as he played through many of his standards. But the highlight was his passionate rendition of “America.” The standing ovation was deafening as the group showed their appreciation. Joe and Betsy knew that they had created a phenomenal week. The 1500 participants dined on hor’d’oevers and finger foods in the atrium of the Meyerson Symphony Center and slowly filtered back to the Adams Mark and Le Meridien, the principal hotels for the meeting.

The second day began with a lot of promise. We heard people talking about how great Ray Charles was the night before. Many stated their disbelief that we would bring Ray Charles to such a meeting. There were numerous conversations inquiring about his age.

The meeting began with an opening by Joe Canning, the National Sales Director for Respiratory Products. He was succeeded by Tony Zook, VP of Sales and Marketing and Michael Hickey, the VP of Sales, along with Rich Fante and Josh Tarnoff, Product Directors. The group was dismissed for a break. The break was also to allow the large group to reassemble in 2 smaller groups representing the East and West Areas of Respiratory. Doug McNamee was to be with his team in the East. I was to be with my team in workshops in the General Session room to receive the product strategy message. It was during the break that the word circulated about the World Trade Center bombings. The news rapidly moved through the crowd, as we began to piece together the entire horrific event.

The decision was made to announce the bombings to the General Session and to dispatch Regional Sales Directors to the different workshops to break the terrible news. Individuals who were directly impacted were asked to contact their families. Joe broke the news to the audience and you can imagine the shock and terror and disbelief. Tears rolled down the cheeks of many as fear took over.

Joe turned the meeting over to me, the stage that is, for a 5 minute introduction into the next phase of the agenda. I had planned several snappy introductory comments, but I had to change the tone. No one including myself was in the mood for motivation. I turned the program over to Demir Bingol, the Product Director for Rhinitis products. Demir was approximately 10 minutes into his presentation when Joe and Tony took the stage and stopped the meeting. Everyone was asked to take the next 3 hours and contact their families to check on their loved ones and reconvene at 1 PM.

The Leadership Team and higher level managers and people from the various support groups were asked to meet in the Executive Boardroom to discuss the plans for the rest of the week.

I spoke to Scott Climes, one of the Respiratory Regional Sales Directors who was dispatched to the workshops to deliver the news about the bombings. This message was to individuals from the Eastern half of the US. Many of them potentially had family or friends that were affected. He said he had never experienced such a reaction in all of his life. The tears; the terror.

People were wandering in the hallways. Many rushed to their rooms to begin the daily ritual of following the news coverage. Who did this and how would we respond? How many were in the two buildings and the pain and the grief that touched their families? Was it Osama Bin Laden? Who were the terrorists?

The Executive Boardroom would be the war room for the next few days. Here the highest ranking officers of the Company would determine how to guide its people through the tragic events of New York, Washington DC and outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Tony Zook, VP of Sales and Marketing took center stage. With marker in hand and flipcharts close by he began with our objectives. No one has ever gone through anything like this. How can we take care of our people? How can we get them home, the ones who need to get home? Should we continue the meeting? What is known? How should we communicate this to our people? When we formulate our recommendations remember cost is not a concern. Our people are our number one priority.

He elicited the key communication points that we needed to flesh out. Some buckets or titles were as follows: Travel, agenda, communication, an update on the situation, accountability. Each point was assigned to a team with a leader to bring up all of the key issues in that area.

We were fortunate enough to have 2 members of our Sales Team who had anti-terrorist experience. Additionally, our Chief of Corporate Security was present at the meeting because of the resources present and number of people. Bud Bender also had contacts within the FBI which would come in handy during the week.

A leader was assigned to each team and other individuals were assigned and asked to align themselves to a team where they could provide input. American Express One was the travel company. Julie Whalen, our meeting planner was asked to head the travel committee.

We were asked to take 45 minutes to discuss all pertinent issues and to reconvene, to make a flip chart presentation to the group. This allowed the group to provide input and fine tune the response. We were under the 1 PM deadline. We needed to complete our assignment early, so that we could present our recommendations to the group. MJM our production company would need time to input the information and create a Power point presentation.

My team headed by Doug McNamee covered accountability. We wanted to make sure that for the next 24 hours we knew the location of each employee at the meeting. We discussed the sales representatives staying in the hotel that evening until we knew more about the extent of the problem. Reps needed to contact their management team twice a day to state their locations and any changes. Managers needed to notify up the chain of command that everyone was present and accounted for. If anyone left the meeting to go home, it should be documented. The buddy system was suggested as a good way to keep track of each other, which was easier said than done.

The dynamic interchange during the presentation facilitated by Tony Zook was a pleasure to behold. Senior Leadership eliciting and contributing comments and suggestions, motivated by how we can help our people was marvelous. We were fortunate to have strategically or luckily assembled the highest ranking officials in our Field Sales force at the same meeting. We also were fortunate to have the talent from the military, security and Travel at the same site. The diversity of talent and experience made it easier to handle our mission. For with over 1500 people at a Sales Meeting, with many of them fairly young, who had not face any national emergencies in their lifetimes, this was a significant challenge for all of us.

One by one the teams presented and the adjustments and suggestions were made to the strategy and the presentation.

We were developing a game plan to keep people comforted and focused for we wanted to show our employees that we valued them. The human side came out repeatedly. There were times we wanted to over protect, but backed down because over protection can heighten fear. We discussed how to care for those directly impacted. We knew that the meeting was secondary to our people, but we also knew the meeting was necessary to keep people focused on something not related to the terror in the land. After all, the meeting was scheduled to last until Friday and this was only Tuesday. It became clear that air travel was not going to be an option for an indeterminate period of time.

The stories began to appear. People worried about their loved ones and tried frantically to locate them. The hotel telephone system was overloaded. Cell phone transmission had difficulty for a while. Some people did not wait for the 1 PM meeting to see what the company proposed to do in this tragedy. Several instances surfaced of people renting cars and driving toward home without letting anyone know they left. One manager rented a van to drive their people back home. Alternate travel plans were cropping up all over the place. Some of this is to be expected when you have sales people who are action oriented.

The meeting reassembled at 1 PM. On the stage were the principal contributors led Tony Zook, Michael Hickey and Joe Canning. What followed was another example of leadership at its finest. The depth and professionalism of the presentation led many to wonder how we could put together such a professional presentation is such a short period of time. Most commented that they worked for a great company. We continued with the meeting for that was the best option to care for our people. There were interfaith religious services arranged by Scott Buchanan and others in attendance.

Arrangements were made to get everyone safely home. The travel team rented 20 luxury travel busses to send to 20 different parts of the country to get our people home. They were richly equipped with food, DVD players, games, blankets and all manner of creature comforts to make the trip comfortable. One bus left with only one person on it for he was the only one going to that region of the country. There was a story of the Company renting two limousines to get one sales rep home in time for the birth of their child. Watching this tragedy unfolds and our reaction to it validate our history of being phenomenal in a crisis. People left saying what a great company we work and what a great country we live in. I appreciated being a part of leadership making a difference in the lives of our people during a very unsettling time in our Nation’s history.

Copyright © 2011 Orlando Ceaser

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A Mutiny Through Lack of Engagement – A Silent Rebellion

JC-Penny
A mutiny occurs every day in organizations all over the world. They don’t usually make headlines or the business sections of publications. They may not display visible signs of hostility. They may not involve physically taking over a facility and relieving leadership of its command. The approach is subtler but devastating.

A mutiny is defined as forcible or passive resistance to lawful authority (Merriam – Webster’s dictionary). The word and concept, I observed recently while watching Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard in the 1962 movie classic, Mutiny on the Bounty.

The mutiny, in our context, is a revolution where people withhold potential and productivity. They will not give 100%. People who hold back on their best effort or potential. The revolt is on the inside. For example, they may not be totally engaged at work. They may give a quality performance, but not the virtuoso performance of their best effort. Some employees will adopt an “Over My Dead Body” mindset (OMDB), which means they theoretically would rather die than give their total cooperation to an organization or manager that does not respect or trust them. Workers may decide that the company does not deserve their best, therefore their masterpiece ideas, solutions and discretionary effort will be withheld; an insidious mutiny against unsuspecting leadership.

Mutiny on the Bounty is a story based on an actual event. The HMS Mutiny Bounty sailed in 1787, under the leadership of Captain, William Bligh. He was a difficult leader, whose ruthless leadership style focused only on the mission and not his men. One of his famous lines from the 1962 movie was, “Cruelty with a purpose is not cruelty, it is efficiency.” Captain Bligh was overthrown by members of his crew, led by Fletcher Christian (played by Marlon Brando) after demonstrating heartless behavior which led to the death of several of his men.

How do you stop a mutiny?

How do you stop a mutiny before it happens? Selecting a leader with the right skills, reputation and temperament is a good start. Open lines of communication and an atmosphere of trust through transparency and fair play creates a climate of accountability. In the movie, the sailors did not have their captain’s superior or someone in the function of Human Resources to hear their grievances. An effective human resources department provides an avenue for people to express their problems with leadership. Many times, such a person or department is not on-site. However, the organization may have an HR department or someone in that function to contact.

The beauty of our current leadership/managerial landscape is that many organizations have ascribed to the notion of a healthy work environment. There are employee surveys, satisfaction surveys, and engagement surveys to take the temperature or climate of the company. These surveys can uncover problems and managers can be presented with data and held accountable for changing their environment. These surveys are strengthened with direct contact with management and human resources to ensure the environment is conducive for maximum productivity.

It is imperative as a leader to gauge how your people are responding to your direction and the culture in your environment. A worst-case scenario may develop where people mentally abandon the company, but stay on the job, because you failed to address a toxic culture.

Managers can evaluate their culture through The Know System™ which could provide a simplified look at their environment. The Know System™ featured in the book The Isle of Knowledge is a fable about making better decisions. The story helps the reader to find the problems, solve problems and make better decisions.

The Know System™ is easy to use and helps the participants gather information to enhance the quality of their decisions and discussions. Let’s begin with 6 words from the word Know and a few related questions that relate to company culture.

1. Won – What would a winning culture look like to you? What type of atmosphere, level of engagement and customer satisfaction scores would represent success to you?
2. Know – What do you know and need to know about your culture and the people in your organization? (This can be enhanced with the words who, what, where, when, how and why, if appropriate)
3. Now – What are you doing now to ensure a healthy habitat? Are you placing priority on the proper indicators?
4. No – What are you doing that you need to stop doing? What goes against your culture and stated values that you need to say no to? What do your people want you to eliminate or stop doing?
5. On – You must always be vigilant to monitor culture and maintain a proper cultural air quality. What are you doing to track leading indicators of a great culture? How are you measuring your work environment? Some companies use a stop, start and to stay approach. What should they stop doing (say no to), start doing and continue doing regarding their culture? This could involve training, new goals and diversity and inclusion strategies.
6. Own – Do you own the culture as evidenced by leadership behavior? How are you holding yourself and others accountable? How are you reporting your performance and interest in a strong culture to your people?

When the organization does not feel like a respectful place, people feel that the company let them down and cannot be trusted. Mutiny or thoughts of mutiny are indicators the culture has failed or is failing many of its workers. They may resort to subversive action and taking matters into their own hands.

In the closing scene of Mutiny on the Bounty, Captain Bligh, who was overthrown and placed in a lifeboat with a few men and rations, finally arrived in England. He was not blamed for the mutiny; but it was “noted that officers of stainless record and seamen decided to revolt against him” and a mistake was made putting him in charge of the ship.

A mutiny may be disguised by a series of resignations and requests for transfers. Your top performers or the most influential members on your team may leave, causing a chain reaction of departures. Management must be perceptive, accessible and periodically check the culture pulse of the organization. People must believe that leadership is authentic, transparent and sincere and practices their core values. Trust will be enhanced when people really believe that they are the number one resource in the organization. Otherwise, silent mutinies will go unchecked, unnoticed, and people will be unfulfilled, and the cost to business, substantial.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

The Power Of Paying Positive Attention (POPPA)

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I admire people who have a reputation for making people feel noticed and special. Presidents have been lauded for their ability to remember people’s names and making them feel as if they were the only people in the room (John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton). Others also, they have the keen sense to recognize and comment on any changes in a person’s appearance or behavior. You may be such a person. You have an eye for detail. You know the right questions to ask, and the appropriate comments to make. These individuals have the power of observation and paying positive attention.

Additionally, individuals have a knack for always pointing out when something is wrong. But, we will spend time focusing on the people who have the power of paying positive attention to something that is right. These individuals may have the gift because it comes to them naturally, so they have the knack for it. Or they may have acquired the knowledge of the impact it has on people. They have the knack or the knowledge. Therefore, they have the intuition or received instruction on the value of paying positive attention to others.

We could describe this skill with an acronym (Power Of Paying Positive Attention). It can have a profound effect on productivity, performance, productivity and relationships.

When you watch something carefully, continuously over time, you formulate a mental baseline of how things are. This is cemented in your memory. If something changes, alarm bells signal a deviation from the norm. You may not know what changed immediately, but you are aware that something is different. Observation and perception notify the brain.

POPPA is a great skill to demonstrate in the workplace, home and school. It helps to establish and strengthen relationships. The power of paying positive attention causes you to focus on people and every aspect of their beings. You look them in the eyes. You notice them and ask questions about the quality of their work. You remember their names. You ask questions about the pictures in their workspace and other symbols in which they have pride. You may comment on their backgrounds, families, education and interest as appropriate. They feel important. You value their contributions at work and are authentically concerned about them as individuals with families and a life outside of work. You see the employee, peer or classmate as a total person with long term professional and personal interests.

If you treat people as if they matter, they may ultimately live up to your projections and live up to and exceed your expectations. If you treat people as if they exist and make them feel important, and did not invisible, you will ultimately reap the benefits of an engaged and inspired person.

We are equipped with our 5 senses, highlighted by the senses of sight and hearing to enhance our powers of observation. It does not cost us anything, but a small investment of time to notice someone. If the average human being could walk around with a fictitious cartoon bubble over their head, it would say, “Notice me” or “Please see me.” They want to feel significant, special, substantial, loved and connected.

While observing a sales representative making a presentation a manager noticed that he was obviously preoccupied. There were points in the call when additional information was needed and he was usually very adept at picking up signals and following through with the right questions. After the presentation, rather than point out the obvious oversights, he asked if everything was alright. He discovered that he had personal matters that compromised his thinking and performance. The manager adjusted his coaching accordingly.

A District Sales Manager working with a star performer was confronted with the following situation. During one of her presentations, there was tension in the air on. The sales representative was noticeably reluctant as she was visibly holding back when a strong challenge was required. The company’s reputation was being assaulted and her usually strong personality folded in the moment. The manager asked, “What would you have done if I was not present with you today?” She outlined her strategy and why she did not pursue a more aggressive stance. She told him what she would have said ordinarily if he wasn’t there. She did not want to challenge the doctor in the presence of sales management, so she was reserved.

The manager gave her the following advice. “When I work with you I want to see reality. If I coach behavior that is not your usual behavior I leave feeling that I had a productive day. But my comments would have been a waste of time. You would leave feeling that the words were meaningless because they did not apply to you. If you don’t want me to waste my time, show me what is real and trust the process that I will handle each moment as a teaching and growth opportunity.” The power of paying positive attention allowed him to recognize a change in behavior and to coach to improve performance.

Lastly, there are times in our lives where we give routine responses. We are simply going through the motions in our very busy days. We feature the same words, whether it is in a greeting or part of the key messages delivered in a conversation or presentation. It is important to get these words right, but do not become bored or distracted with repetition. This may cause you to lose focus and fail to pay attention. You may miss an opportunity to connect with someone on a different level and strengthen a relationship. Watch the person’s face and body language to detect the messages they are sending to denote interest or a reaction to your words.

Our interactions in the workplace, at home and in school are environments where we should engage with other people by showing them that they matter. As a species, we want to be recognized and respected, belong and accepted. If we positively and authentically comment on their appearance, behavior, and performance, the compliment will inspire them to work harder to become more competent, which will have a profound impact on their confidence and they will complement your work culture, family, team, and organization.

Copyright © 2017 Orlando Ceaser

Loyalty – To be or not to be?

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Loyalty is an awkward discussion topic within organizations. The relationship with our jobs is complicated. Layoffs, reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions, plant/store closings, and outsourcing jobs overseas have a negative impact on employers/employee relations and more row. Managers in some organizations think, “Why should I be loyal to my employees, after all this is business.” Company survival trumps loyalty is their current mindset. Employees wonder if they should stick around.

Additionally, employees who were loyal to their companies find themselves out of work and feel betrayed and used by their former employers.

Loyalty can be defined as allegiance to something or someone. Loyalty is earned and its compliance is given by consent. We are speaking of loyalty in terms of fidelity to your company. We may also view loyalty on several different levels: loyal to your manager, coworkers and team

Loyalty is an intriguing concept. We know what it is and the circumstances where it should be exercised. It is emotional and enhances the value of a relationship. Relationships have expectations. If these expectations are not met or are threatened, loyalty is affected. When loyalty is coerced or forced, people will stay on the job until the right opportunity arrives to ease their conscience as they leave the organization.

We are loyal when someone or something is worthy of our trust. However, when there is a breach of trust, loyalty is retracted.

Loyalty Demonstration

Loyalty must be discussed in the context of equality and reciprocity. After all, reciprocity is a part of the transactional currency of loyalty. The company is providing something to the individual and the individual performs the work commensurate with the salary and the environment. Loyalty involves fairness and keeping your promises. The employee’s level of engagement reflects their level of appreciation for the services rendered. If the employee is treated fairly, allegedly, they will work hard, speak highly and positively about the company and remain a part of the organization. Loyalty is given as long as both parties fulfill their part of the obligation.

A leader who is loyal to their people may fight hard to justify retaining good people at the expense of others. An organization/leader that has a reputation of doing everything to minimize layoffs and retain employees can influence the number of loyal employees who choose to stay and speak highly of the company. Some companies may take less profit, in the short term, and minimize turnover in their organization.

What do you do to develop loyalty within your people? Some may argue that loyalty is not something that you develop, but like trust, is something that is earned. What steps can you implement that will save your business and earn loyalty from your employees? Do you show that you truly value their contributions? Do you adopt strategies that protect your people during the hard times until profit improves? Do you honor your promises and meet their expectations? Discuss the big picture to keep employees apprised of company challenges and performance, where appropriate.

Seeds of defection

Organizations will frequently make decisions and state that they were made in the best interests of the company. Budgets are cut; people are reassigned or displaced in order to improve the bottom line. Some leaders will not search for an alternative view that would spare jobs and careers. Leadership will quickly reduce headcount. This plants the seeds of defection, as people realize they are only a number, a statistic, headcount and a line item on a budget.

A selfish organization risk creating a selfish, culture where people stay or jump based on their individual needs being met. Therefore, everyone is treated as expendable. People respond by acting as mercenaries or hired guns. This removes the stability that people like to experience.

If a company reduces staff, so they can bring them back later, employees become stressed. They are constantly performing emotional gymnastics in a toxic environment. Conversely, if the company goes out of its way to inform and retain people and they know it, they may go out of their way to stay or deliver higher levels of engagement, retention and overall performance, to protect the company and their jobs.

Loyalty used to be defined in the context of fidelity, as it related to staying with an organization long-term. However, there’ve been countless instances where people passed up job offers from other organizations, only to be terminated by their own company. Individuals are angry at themselves for being loyal to a company and then the company does not show the same kind of loyalty to them. When did these stories circulate around an organization, people vow to never let that happen to them if they can help it.

Mindset in Today’s market

What kind of mindset should you have in today’s precarious job market? Should you keep your head down and not worry and everything will be alright and work itself out? Should you be open-minded to the flirtations from other companies promising a better deal? Should you put the word out that you are interested and seeking a different long term relationship? When people approach work with the mindset of the, “it’s just a job,” loyalty can be compromised.

Some people strategically interview internally and externally to keep their interviewing skills sharp. Their rationale is that it keeps them sharp for jobs inside and outside of the company. Other employees interview for ego and the self worth to see if they still have the skills desired by another organization. Others want to test their market value to benchmark for raises.

Loyalty Risks

People are hired who have demonstrated the propensity to jump frequently from job to job. Their track record is firmly stated on the resume. They are hired hands or have a mercenary mentality. They have an unspoken understanding with management that they are there to fulfill an assignment or until they can’t get something better. This may ultimately become a disadvantage.

I was impressed by a young man who fits the above the description. We met between sales calls and he asked if my company was hiring? He was very impressive; He went on to say that he was always looking for a better job. He made a very elaborate presentation of his thought process of always looking out for something better. As a hiring manager, I pondered the risk of recommending or hiring someone like him who was always looking to leave for greener pastures. Loyalty with him would be misplaced and could be detrimental to the survival of the new organization.

Loyalty is a learned trait. It is generally observed and imitated. Individuals learn from an environment where loyalty is practiced. They learn the components and the guiding principles and foundation regarding its use. Both parties in the employer/employee relationship are evaluating the value of the arrangement. Both groups are under enormous pressure to behave in a manner that is considerate of each other.

If a company lays off employees as a last resort, it may be the nature of the business that is the business required it. Employees may not like it, but ultimately will understand.

If an employee receives an outstanding offer from another company that could benefit them and their families, it may be the right decision to take the job. In some industries, it is the nature of the business to change jobs frequently to build a resume of different experiences. In each situation, the ideal objective is to be respectful of each other and perform in the best interests of all parties involved.

Loyalty also mandates that you honor your decisions, whether they are to work for the company, leave the company, hire or release employees; act in a manner that shows you are respectful and deliver the best you can in the relationship. You can always show loyalty by working as hard as you can, as long as you are on the job. An organization may have to reduce staff, as a last option to remain viable as a company. An individual may be faced with the tough decision to leave a job that has good to them; in today’s turbulent times we should respond to these difficult situations with dignity and respect in all roles and for all employees. Loyalty must continue to be an important value for us. However, loyalty is strained and tested; we must combine it with trust to build stronger organizations and relationships that benefits all participants.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser