The All – American You

All-American status is conferred upon athletes who have distinguished themselves among their peers. They are the top performers in the minds of designated observers, i.e. coaches and sports writers. Most athletes covet this recognition, but most do not receive the award. There is All-American potential in each of us, as we pursue our potential and the greatness in the workplace.

The All-American You would be your best self. Analyze your skills honestly and acknowledge, there is a discrepancy between your output and your opportunity; your strengths have not reached their full capacity.

The All-American You is the persona that qualifies you for the highest level of distinction. It is a personal reflection of exemplary performance, for sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty or expectations. How should you set up a program of ignition and recognition to achieve All-American status?

You may begin with the following:

1. Determine and examine what is important to your organization.
2. Compete with other employees against criteria you establish and the what
is important to the organization. (Our similarities bring us together,
but our differences and distinctions set us apart and magnify our
competitiveness.)
3. Personalize the program – sit down and write what you want to
accomplish.
4. You must ask; What level do I aspire to achieve?
5. What are my goals, aspirations, dreams and objectives?
6. What recognition have I achieved that could elevate me to a higher
level?
7. What do I have do to be the best in my chosen profession?

Brian was an All-American defensive end at Western Illinois University. Recently he received a letter requesting him to visit Western to see his name on the All-American wall. He took advantage of invitation from his alma mater. The wall is visible to everyone who visits that wall, which further endeared him to institution. You may wish to create a wall for personal encouragement. A vision board shows what he would like to achieve, while an All-American board this your achievements.
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All American status is personal recognition and acknowledgment for expressing the greatness within you. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself All-Company, All-Region, All-Nation, All-Region or All-Department, but you must humbly confess the value of your contributions. Since we are in a global society you may want to visualize yourself as All-Global or All-International.

An All-American designation could place an athletic flare to your self-talk and competition in the workplace and market place. This could breathe excitement into how you approach work and increase your level of engagement.

The All-American You is ready to be exposed to the world. Your peak level of performance should be released, must be released for you to achieve your best result. This will garner you the recognition, reputation and credentials you deserve.

Here are a few additional questions you may consider on your quest to finding and releasing the All-American You.

1. What statistics will you track? You need a means of gauging and
measuring your performance against a goal.
2. What press / notification will you receive? Recognition will be given to
you or should be discussed with your boss when you surpass certain
milestones
3. Who is cheering for you during the competition? You need individuals who
will be your advocates and cheerleaders to encourage, motivate and
propel you along your journey.
4. Are you aware of the competition developing strategies to nullify your
effectiveness? People will develop strategies to curtail your success,
what will you do to combat their actions? What are the counter
strategies and tactics you will execute?

My book Unlock Your Leadership Greatness, explores 10 principles to help you become an impact player, which could qualify you to be an All-American in your field.

All-Americans must commit to continuous growth through better conditioning, refining skills to achieve superstar status. You will consistently bring the All-American You to work. Eventually, your name will be posted on the wall, for excellence in your field. You can achieve the greatness in you by becoming the All American You.

Copyright © 2019 Orlando Ceaser

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A Mutiny Through Lack of Engagement – A Silent Rebellion

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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

4 Ways to Avoid Comfort in the Danger Zone

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We often speak of the need for someone to get out of their comfort zone. We want them to try something different and more challenging in order to build their skills. Judith Bardwick wrote a book Danger in the Comfort Zone which expands upon this concept. One day, my wife trying to recall the title of the book, referred to it as Comfort in the Danger Zone, which may be the way we need to think of it to guard against complacency.

The Danger Zone is not an area with signs that say; Keep Out, No Trespassing, Caution, Warning or Danger Zone Ahead. On the contrary, there may not be any indicators that the area in which you reside has any potential hazards labeled. There may be an assumption that you are self-aware and old enough to know better. The Danger Zone could be situations or relationships at work or in your personal time. It is a place where your behavior could compromise your life and your livelihood in a negative manner. The Danger Zone can be a moving target, or it may involve shifting circumstances.

In a Danger Zone, you may not recognize the hidden pitfalls that may exist. However, here are at least 4 behaviors that put us at risk.

Lack of continuous improvement

If we are negligent and refuse to continuously improve our skills, we may wake up one day to discover that we are not compatible with our customers. We lagged behind the times and the mandatory evolution in skills that keep us competitive and relevant. We discover the bar is raised and others, around us have emerged with greater skills and more up-to-date knowledge and technology. They are formidable competitors, who have forged ahead of us on the career ladder for promotions and job retention.

Inappropriate conversations in the workplace

There are certain conversations, language and behavior that is not acceptable at work. We have become relaxed and too casual in our conversations in the workplace. With the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, organizations are hiring people with a variety of differences, similarities and sensitivities. In the era of a more respectful workplace, we must be respectful of everyone. We must adjust conversations and interactions which are out of line with current morays and expectations. It is now apparent through high profile lawsuits, that inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated, and the consequences will be severe.

Let down your guard

There is a lot written about self-awareness in the workplace and in our relationships. One day I was joking with an employee and I watched, as he became very comfortable and casual in his speech toward. At one point he offered a swearword, as he would with his friends at the bar. I watched him as he left the room, happy about his conversation with the boss, not realizing what he done.

Later, he walked by my office and I called him in for a brief discussion. I began by apologizing to him for my role in setting up an environment where he felt too comfortable. “You said something,” and I looked him in the eyes, “that could get you destroyed.” You don’t ever tell me what I am full of in the course of a conversation. However, I’m sorry, I apologize for my role. But the lesson for you is to never put yourself in a position where you become so comfortable that you are not aware of words that are coming from you. I said no harm no foul. It was my fault.” There was no harm, but there was a foul, but I promised him that I would not use that against him, and I did not. Subsequently he was promoted to a District Sales Manager position and is still with the organization performing at a high level. You must always increase your awareness and be on guard.

Lose sight of the value of people at every level

When we are in the Danger Zone, we may tend to devalue some of the people around us. If we decide that some individuals or some group does not have an impact on our career, we may shun them and not go deeper in building a connection or relationship. We may develop a reputation of only socializing with certain people, who we think can help us. This shortsightedness can work against us, especially, if those individuals get promoted ahead of us and they remember how we treated them.

I recall a situation where one of my peers made disparaging comments about me behind my back. Ultimately, I returned as his manager and I received a curious phone call from him. He apologized for comments he had made, 10 years earlier. Whereas his confession was noble, I asked him a question that he tried awkwardly to answer. My question was,” If I was not coming back as your manager, would we be having this conversation?” Spare yourself these uncomfortable moments and negative career impact by treating everyone with value at every level.

We must not get too comfortable in the Danger Zone. Our continuous focus on improving our skills, shying away from inappropriate conversations, not letting down our guard and losing sight of the value of people at every level will be richly rewarded. These four points will assist us in growing our careers and strengthening our relationships.

Copyright © 2019 Orlando Ceaser

Work: A Love/Hate Relationship

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We have a curious relationship with work. We jokingly refer to it as something we just love to hate. We tend to gripe about work in our conversations which are often grounded in negativity. We often view work as a necessary evil, the daily grind or just a job and something to pay the bills. It is to be tolerated until we can do something about it or find something better. We view work with a captive mentality. It is something that we do against our will, as if someone’s forcing us to do it. We complain about work when we are hired, fired, quit or retire.

There are statistics and anecdotal comments that reflect our ambivalence toward work.  70 to 80% of people dread going to work every day. According to the Gallup Corporation, only 18% are fully engaged in the workplace. Conversely, if we find the job we love, we are told that we won’t work a day in our lives.

The Hate Relationship

When we speak of the things we hate about our job, it is generally focused on the manager or the fact that we are underutilized or in the wrong job. Leadership is responsible for the culture, with assistance from our co-workers. We may not think we are able to positively impact environment, unless we are a manager. Therefore, we may elect to put our head down, shut our mouths and do our job. These are survival and coping techniques we use when we cannot leave the job and must stay on board for the sake of our family and future.

The Love Relationship

There may be a love side to work that is often not discussed. Rarely do we hear people say, “I love going to work, it is so fulfilling, encouraging and allows me to grow my skills to achieve my dreams. I love my job because it completes me; I cannot think of any place I’d rather be than at work.” We believe that the right job with the right manager and the right company, that fulfills our purpose, is out there, but we haven’t found it yet.

We should focus our attention to the overlooked facts that point to an affection some of us have for our jobs. There may be positive attributes that are lost in the stress and struggles from working in a toxic environment. If we look beyond the haze, we may see that work can amaze and provide us the opportunity to focus on personal dreams and enable us to acquire marketable and transferable skills. The workplace provides the option to network and meet people who will help us in our career development. Our socialization may be comprised of people we see at work.

Gratitude

It would be helpful to make a list of the things we love and the things we hate about your work. Find a quiet place and create a chart on a piece of paper or on your computer or tablet. Be very truthful and objective, as you complete these two columns. The nature of the job may fit into your strengths and your passions. For example, you may enjoy your manager and co-workers

After you have completed this assignment, study the items you have listed. Ask yourself the following questions;

  • How is this item contributing to my feeling about work?
  • How important is this item in my overall perception of my job satisfaction or dissatisfaction?
  • What can I do to increase or eliminate this as a concern?
  • Who should I talk to and explain my position?
  • How can I make the most of this concern to improve the overall development of my skill sets and career?
  • Am I honest about my assessment of these love-hate attributes?
  • How can I ensure that my response is benefiting the organization and putting myself in position to achieve my goals and dreams?

Where is the Love?

Gallup’s research also notes that people who are engaged at work usually have a best friend work. Early in my managerial career I noticed that certain managers surrounded themselves with people with whom they had a history. These individuals moved together from job to job and invariably brought these talented people with them. Apparently, they had cultivated a bond with these coworkers because of their talent and trustworthiness. There is a lesson we can learn from these relationships. They were an asset to each other as they climbed the company ladder. Therefore, work developed friendships and strategic relationships can benefit our careers. These individuals become investments and when they change companies, they can pave the way for us to join another organization.

My wife commented on how the corporate training programs enhanced my development. She knew me before I started working for the company. She saw me before the experiences and training programs and witnessed firsthand, my personal growth, development and transformation. When discussing difficulties at work, she would remind me to be grateful and express gratitude for the blessings I received.

Many companies have a list of direct and indirect benefits that they provide for employees. These benefits may increase the likelihood that people will love their jobs. Additionally, successful companies try to match people with the jobs consistent with their skill or potential. The direct benefits are pay for education through tuition reimbursement programs. There are vacation days, paid leaves of absence, company matching as a part of their 401(k) benefits. We may argue that companies must offer these benefits to be competitive in today’s marketplace. Yet, there are positive programs that we can use to benefit ourselves and family. Taking advantage of these programs could increase our positive perception of the company. We have a greater chance of loving work when we take advantage of these benefits. If we play our cards right, we can use the organization to develop the necessary skills to achieve our life’s purpose.

However, benefits alone should not anchor us to an organization that is tearing us down and burning us out. I spoke to a vice president recently who stated that she stayed with a previous employer because of their benefits, when there were no personal growth and career development opportunities. She indicated that she probably stayed there four years too long, when she could have grown and been better off in another environment, enhancing her career.

We have a love/hate relationship work, but we should mine for the valuable opportunities, benefits and resources we need to grow our portfolio, relationships and life experiences. When we step back and are strategic and objective, we observe and anticipate chances for skill development and financial security. We can accurately project the company’s potential value to us. And when this happens our love for work may increase, along with our level of gratitude.

Copyright © 2018 Orlando Ceaser

 

The 4th Monkey – “Do No Evil”

I am reissuing, with a few modifications, my most popular blog post, for your consideration. The universal application of these age-old concepts is a tremendous value that should guide our behavior and interactions with each other.

We grew up with the story of the three monkeys. I imagine that many of us have the same interpretation of what they represent. We were exposed to pictures or statues. One monkey had his hands over his eyes, the second monkey with hands over his ears and the third monkey’s hands were over his mouth. They were see no evil (Mizaru), hear no evil (Kikazura) and speak no evil (Iwazura). There were actions and behaviors demanded of us based on the three monkeys, but nothing was said about the fourth monkey. The fourth monkey was do no evil (Shizaru).

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The stories of the four monkeys were popular in Japan in the 17th century. Their origin is between 2 and 4 BC in China. The Storyologer web-site (www.storyologer.com) has this account of Mahatma Gandhi who carried around a small statue of the three monkeys.  “Gandhi had a statue of three monkeys in three different postures. One was shutting his mouth with his hands, the other was shutting his ears similarly and the third one had put hands on his eyes. A visitor to his house became curious and questioned Gandhi about the various postures of the monkeys. Gandhi politely replied, “The one shutting his mouth tells us that we should not speak ill of anybody. The one shutting his ears tells us that we should not hear the ill of anybody. And the one shutting his eyes tells us that we should not see the ills of anybody. If we do so, we will have all goodness and nothing but goodness.”

Travelers will often find local markets with carved depictions or artwork featuring the three monkeys. My wife was able to purchase an angelic model of the same concept. There are three angels; one was covering her eyes, one was covering her ears and the other was covering her mouth. However, the fourth monkey was not shown. The 4th monkey, when pictured, is usually shown folding his arms (the body language of being closed) or covering his crotch to signify inactivity.

The different interpretations of the four monkeys is fascinating. In Buddhist tradition it meant don’t spend your time preoccupied with evil thoughts. In the West it relates to not facing up to our moral responsibility, for example turning a blind eye. But in my household, the monkeys were presented to us as a model of proper behavior. Our parents wanted us to identify with the images, to supplement our moral code.

See no evil (Mizaru)

We were told to pay attention to people and location(s). The idea was that if we were in the right location, we would minimize seeing trouble develop before our eyes. This was applicable in school and at work. We were instructed against being at the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place right. We were also told not to look for bad things in people or in certain situations. There are people who see bad things when they don’t exist, which could explain the manifestations of bias, stereotypes and profiling. We were not taught to be naïve, but to be careful and respectful.

Hear no evil (Kikazaru)

We were told to shield ourselves from bad language and bad intentions. We should stay away from people who spoke ill of others and gossiped. If we were not in the wrong place we could minimize hearing things that we should not hear. We were also instructed not to listen to foul or vulgar language. If we heard people language, especially regarding someone’s evil intentions, we could use the evil information to do good or to help others, that would be permissible.

Speak no evil (Iwazura)

Speak no evil was used to discourage gossiping or speaking ill will about someone. We were told to watch our language and to speak kind words. “If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything” was a part of this same philosophy. Adults told us that spreading bad news or malicious information could come back to haunt us. We should also, apply this same advice to the workplace.

There is a misconception around the concept about someone. This misconception has led people to adopt a code of silence in the workplace when a person is not pulling their own weight. We would rather silently complain or resign, before talking about an employee who was not working. We would not want to be labeled a snitch or a stool pigeon. In the streets people would say, “snitches get stitches”. To speak evil of someone means telling a lie, varying false witness or defaming their reputation. However, it is our responsibility to find a way to report injustice, illegal behavior and practices that undermine people and the organization. Our intention should be to speak the truth in love without malice or premeditated negative objectives.

One way to break the code of silence is by offering incentives to whistleblowers. These individuals are people who step forward and report unlawful activities in an organization. They are generally paid a 10% bounty if the measure goes to court and fines are levied against the lawbreakers. In neighborhoods where people know the perpetrators of violence, but fail to come forward, there are no such incentives. Residents may be afraid of retribution, as the rationale for their silence. We must also realize that justice requires telling the truth and this should not be regarded as speaking evil of someone.

Do no evil (Shizaru)

The fourth monkey’s actions are truly related to the others. The workplace is a common place for the four monkeys to be used as an operating system. Employee bullying and intimidation, sexual-harassment claims, the presence of racial discrimination, unconscious bias and sexually charged language and actions exists in many organizations. Where improprieties and liberties are taken with people’s rights in the form of disrespectful words and actions, there are laws in place to prevent and punish these actions. Employees, who adopt a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mindset are not helping to develop a positive company culture or a respectful workplace

Do no evil is a perfect monkey to enforce the values of character and integrity. He reminds us of proper behavior and etiquette. Our choices have consequences and the more we can emphasize a positive corporate culture and a respectful workplace the more effective our organizations will be become. There is conduct and behavior norms which must be identified, emphasized and enforced vigorously. Character will minimize stress in the workplace and reduce the number of lawsuits and discipline related to improper behavior.

The do no evil mindset would influence our participation in the political process. Our dialogue in conversations around those who are different from us or have different opinions would be positively affected. If we operated each day thinking in terms of do no evil, we would be more empathetic in understanding of each other. We would put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors and seek to understand their point of, listen to their words and lay the foundation for greater chemistry instead of conflict.

How can we create an environment in our workplaces, families and communities, where people are held accountable for their own unlawful actions and the private citizens who come forward can feel safe and protected? If the fourth monkey was modeled, we would have less of a cause to talk about Mizaru (see no evil) and Kikazuru (hear no evil).

Do no evil and speak no evil should be magnified and connected to many of our guiding principles of behavior.  The Golden Rule and its equivalent in many cultures advise us to treat people the way we want to be treated. The Platinum Rule which asks us to treat people the way they want to be treated. The 10 Commandments implores us not to do a series of acts which could be seen as evil, such as murder, stealing, etc. you are instructed to love your neighbor as yourself. If we began from a position of love it is easier to think in terms of speak and do no evil.

We must clearly outline expectations of behavior and the judgment related to them to improve the climate in our organizations, homes and places where people meet. Correct action is essential to achieving healthy results in our relationships.

The imagery and practices espoused by the 4th monkey holds the key to making this possible. I am hopeful that by emphasizing the fourth monkey, we can improve our behaviors, connections, interactions and relationships with everyone.

 

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

Conversations with Your Super Hero

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I enjoyed reading for recreation as a young person. There were sophisticated fables and fairy-tales that transported me to distant lands and cultures. I also, enjoyed reading comic books with super heroes who had super powers from birth, mutations or another planet. These books expanded my creativity, vocabulary and imagination. Being different on several levels, I could identify with some of the emotional issues they experienced. There were recurring themes of identity struggles, lacking confidence and feeling like an outsider, a freak, as if they did not belong.

The super heroes realized they were different from their peers and they also wanted very badly to be accepted and to fit in. There were times, I felt isolated and different from my peers. In these moments of exercising my imagination, I felt connected to the characters in the stories; therefore, I felt important.

I noticed an interesting development in the back story of some of the super heroes. There were conversations with a parent, guardian, confidante or mentor. Sometimes the super hero was involved in self-talk and personal reflections. They needed someone to talk to and make them feel accepted and important. They needed assurance and encouragement.

The script of a conversation usually went something like this. “Special One, you are not like other children. You have gifts that are more developed than normal humans or mortals. You are different and unique. You are stronger, faster, smarter or a combination of several attributes, that exceed the performance of others. They don’t understand you. They may not appreciate you, but there is nothing wrong with you. They may tease you, but you must forgive them, for one day it will be your calling to serve them.”

The conversation would continue. “Your super powers enable you to do wonderful things. Your gifts may at times seem like a burden or a curse, but they are a blessing. You must shoulder the responsibility. Knowledge of your powers may cause complications for your family, so you must be secretive about your full range of powers. They may not be able to handle the information. Therefore, you must be careful and not let them see you expressing your total powers.”

And lastly, “Special One, you have been chosen to receive these gifts and you must use them wisely, not for your own benefits, but to help others and make this world a better place. I am proud of you and how you will use your difference to make a difference.”

This conversation is like the talks given by parents, to many children around the world. It is therapy and necessary when children feel different from the rest of a group.  The same talk is given to children who relocate and are the new kids on the block. Their distinction and newness are unknown to others, but can be considered as possessing super powers. Children must discover their natural gifts, interests, talents, abilities, proclivity or skills developed from hours of practice. The parents will generally say, “You are different and unique. But you are just as strong, fast, beautiful, smart and talented as other children.”

The fervor and enthusiasm around the monumental success of the Black Panther and Wonder Woman movies, shows the power of story and the arts. There are many articles, commentaries and conversations about the value of the movie in the context of diversity, inclusion and racial and gender pride through displaying positive imagery and story lines. There are the uplifting accounts of pride, promise and great expectations as self-confidence rises. I hope the overwhelming positive imagery will energize a generation to exercise the super heroes within each of us. Wherever these are differences, there is power. There will be a need to conduct conversations and self-talk to build up the human spirit to build confidence in our capacity for connection and greatness.

Whatever differences we possess can be viewed in the same context as a super power. However, just as the super heroes privately worked on improving their abilities, they must also strive for excellence and understanding themselves and others. They must work within their talent, hone their skills, to take it to a higher level. The opportunities will present themselves, when they may be pressed into action to save the day.

When children are wrestling with the distinction they have from others, parents will usually paint it in a positive light, so it can be used as a source of strength. Their difference should be identified as a source of power and pride, even when it seems like a curse.

When youth and adults decide to express their artistic, athletic, intellectual or leadership skills they may encounter negative reactions and reservations. When they stand out from and step up to a challenge, they may face opposition. Why are they upsetting the apple cart? Why do they bother? Why don’t they leave well enough alone? Who do they think they are? Do they think they are special and better than everyone?

Conversation with your Super Hero are important for their growth and development and well-being. When we view movies like The Black Panther and Wonder Woman look for language and imagery to go beyond entertainment, to mine educational opportunities and the inspiration that is there to generate positive action to change the world. We are the parents, guardians, confidantes and mentors required to encourage and comfort the next generation. We must help them identify who they are and who they are expected to become, to reach their destiny and fulfill their promise.

Copyright © 2018 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

The Core of More™ – Be Awesome from the Inside Out

There are crucial components to your development that must be examined to accelerate your progress. There is a core set of skills, values or principles which can be debated, but factually, these key ingredients build on your present state.

Let’s place four elements in this Core of More™. These elements confirm there is more in your core than you can imagine, yet you periodically ignore one or more components. They are Let it glow, Let it grow, Let it flow and Let it go. These ingredients will enable you to gain rather than regress and achieve surplus, that is not necessarily excess.

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Let it Glow

Your light, however you define it, must be allowed to shine. Your talent, skills, abilities, capacity and resources must be a beacon of hope, a living positive example. Your light must be an indicator of your presence, purpose and performance. As we sang in Sunday School, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” When it shines, it has a glow, a luminescence that grabs people attention, pinpoints your location and potentially influences your behavior.

Let it Grow

Skill level and impact will expand and enlarge your contributions. Influence grows as your abilities are refined and increased. You will devote the time, effort, energy and insight received from teachers, mentors and coaches to improve knowledge and the quality of your work.

You will become a continuous learner and communicator, passionate about getting better in the priority areas of your life. Your light will get larger and brighter and more will take notice of you and more will be expected of you, as more are influenced by your presence. Your abundance will become a windfall to others, as you realize you are slated to get better, so others can benefit from your brilliance.

Let it Flow

As it glows and grows, it will flow in the execution of your skill set and in helping other people. Work will become easier and more natural. Executing your tasks will appear effortless, mainly because you are in your sweet spot and you are letting it flow. It is captured in an acronym SMILE (So Make It Look Easy). An athlete will comment that they let the game come to them or the game slows down for them as they improve their craft.

When you let it flow, you remove the barriers to your performance. Your actions are as a well-trained athlete, gliding through the race; a musician who makes playing the instrument look easy; a world class professional speaker in their comfort zone, delivering a powerful message. You are caught up in the flow.

Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi , has a concept of flow which is defined as follows, “In positive psychology, as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity”1. It is a state where skills are consistent with the challenges presented to you. In the state of flow, you lose track of time and you are consumed in passion”2. Simon Sinek says, “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”3 When you Let it flow, your passion shows, as you let it flow.

Let it Go

Along your journey, there are nouns you must displace. There are people, places or things that are excessive weight that must be discarded. As a hot air balloonist will tell you, if they want to increase their altitude, sand bags must be cast over board or they will hamper your ascension.

There are personal situations that try to hold you back and hold you down. In earlier articles I refer to them as the Hindre™ a person or spirit of negativity that attempts to hinder or restrict your progress. They must be released if you are to soar to the rightful heights of your achievement. You may know these impediments, or you must be open to people giving you a second opinion on people who are plotting against you.

You must let go of destructive habits, attitudes, the wrong crowd, the wrong mindset or other roadblocks that are impeding your progress.

Let it glow, Let it grow, Let it flow and Let it go, are part of the Core of More™. Apply these principles to help you achieve success in the professional and personal realms of your life.

Copyright © 2018 Orlando Ceaser

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1998). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life
  3. wordpress.com/2014/08/24/working..

 

A Tale of Leadership Perspectives – Lessons from Head Quarters

Head Quarters is an excellent environment to observe leadership in action. Newly promoted individuals should take advantage of opportunities  to develop and add to their personal management system (Strengthen Your Skills To Effectively Manage).

My HQ experience gave me opportunities to learn from different leaders. The tutorial was an amazing experience and exposure to leadership and mentoring. This exposure was instrumental in the formation of my personal leadership philosophy and personality. I would like to highlight a few scenarios featuring various leadership styles and the lessons associated with them.

Scenario Number One

One of my duties was to evaluate sales representative performances in a retail sales contest. The objective was to see who was most effective in acquiring sales orders, as well as the highest dollar sales average. Each of the sales representative totals were divided by the regional and national averages, respectively. I would select the district, regional and national standings of each representative and determine the overall winners.

After the preliminary calculations I realized that two of the calculations were unnecessary. If you divided each person’s number by the national and regional averages, you were dividing by a constant. You may as well be dividing everybody’s number by one. These two calculations did not change anyone’s rankings. Imagine my delight when I realized this discovery could reduce my workload. This was before computer programs, so the calculations were made by hand, my hand, on a calculator.

I told my boss who agreed with me. He asked me to present this information to one of the sales leaders. In my enthusiasm, I presented my discovery to the sales leader, indicating that to the calculations were not necessary. He took one look at my calculations and slid the paper back to me. He looked straight ahead not establishing eye contact and simply said, “The calculations are necessary.” I thought maybe I had done something wrong and he misunderstood my presentation. But I could judge by his demeanor that he did not want to discuss the matter further.

After the meeting I discussed my experience with my boss. He left my office, presumably to talk to his boss. He returned and simply said, “The two calculations are necessary.” Judging from his demeanor, I knew the topic was no longer open for discussion. I went back to my office and wondered what I had done wrong. I doubted myself for a moment and then I realized what happened. The sales contest rules and regulations were written by that very same sales leader. He was not going to admit to me that I discovered a flaw in his program.

I learned several vital lessons.

  1. Be very careful in criticizing the architect of a program, to dial down my enthusiasm and not to expect praise at the expense of someone else.
  2. Do my homework
  3. I did not have enough seniority or credibility to question the program written by someone in senior leadership
  4. Sometimes I should not be the messenger to suggest change
  5. It takes a strong leader to realize that someone has improved upon their performance
  6. Be open to accepting suggestions or changes from someone at a lower level in the organization

Scenario Number Two

I was the ghost writer for five letters sent to the winners of this same sales contest. These letters were sent out under the signature of the National Sales Manager. First, I took the letters into my manager’s office. He took out a red pen in front of me and began striking out words with bold red strokes. I asked what was wrong. He did not look at me as his red pen continued to violently edit the pages. He said, “People will not understand these memos.” I suggested we had hired college graduates and words like kudos and accolades were in the vernacular of sales people. He continued, “The National Sales Manager does not talk like this.” I left his office feeling I had done something wrong, because there was no praise or instruction, just condemnation and emotionless critique.

I learned to behave differently when I became a leader. Additionally, I learned that eye contact and praise should accompany praise and that feedback should be given before it was solicited.

Scenario Number Three

I carried the finished letters into the National Sales Manager’s office. He slowly read through the letters and made one change. He looked up at me and said there was nothing wrong with the letters I presented to him. Actually, they were well written. But what he said next stuck with me. “Because of the nature of my position, when you put something in front of me, I feel obligated to make a change.” I thought of the many times this happened to me over my career. Others may have been motivated to do the same thing, but no one ever told me why. This seminal bit of wisdom encouraged me to perform higher and taught me how to use my leadership and the power of feedback to help others. People need to know why we do the things we do. The more we can tell them the more supportive and understanding they will be. They will feel like a part of the team. This will improve their decision making and demonstrated that we valued their opinions and contributions .

When I look back on these situations I learned;

  1. Do not take things personally
  2. If someone comes up with a good idea tell them, they need to hear it
  3. Explain when something needs to be improved and not in a condescending manner
  4. Look at your people when you give feedback
  5. Encourage, praise and challenge when you give feedback
  6. Insert the why behind your actions

Those who work for us and those in our line of sight will learn how to lead more effectively if we provide interpretation to accompany our actions.

Copyright © 2017 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

Unconscious Bias & Micro-inequities – Strategies Using The Know System

Do you want to create the right climate for your employees? Worker satisfaction and operational objectives are influenced by the culture in the workplace. Do you feel your employees are your most important asset? If they feel valued, employees will increase their level of engagement and tap into their discretionary effort to increase productivity. Leaders may have good intentions around workplace climate and culture. However, leadership success may be compromised by factors they may not have considered, such as, unconscious bias and micro-inequities.

Leaders may blunt their effectiveness by shutting out people and creating walls that block the contributions of individuals and groups within their teams. Unconscious bias and micro-inequities may cast a negative cloud over their culture, work environment and work life balance/effectiveness. The Know System™ (TKS™) will help you ask key questions to gather information to solve problems and make decisions. TKS™ is a philosophy to help you develop a strategy to address barriers to success. Leaders, who create a safe environment, are in position to discover and capitalize on the potential in their talent pool.

Unconscious bias

The subconscious mind takes in over 11 million bits of information per second. The conscious mind is only aware of about 40 bits of information per second. Therefore, 99.99% of our thinking is at the subconscious level. The mind uses bias to help us process the sheer volume of information it has to handle. It makes shortcuts to a new in processing the data quickly, but sometimes speed causes it to make mistakes. Additionally, the mind uses past experiences and other bits of information to fill in the gaps where there is missing data. This automatic processing can give rise to misinformation, invalid conclusions and inappropriate decisions.

Tesia T. Marshik, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, in her lecture, Unconscious Bias and the Mind: Challenging the way we think about thinking1 (available on YouTube), mentions four distinct attributes related to our biases.

  1. We don’t always see the world as it actually is
  2. We often see the world differently from other people
  3. When told there is a another perspective, it affects our opinion
  4. How we expect the world to be, changes how we see it

We know that biases are thoughts, ideas or beliefs that cause us to prejudge an individual or group. Sondra Thiederman, PhD, in her book 7 steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace2, defines bias as an inflexible belief about a particular kinship group. She also says that biases are attitudes not behaviors. When biases are negative, they can cause us to unfairly interact with the target of our bias.

Unconscious bias by definition is bias that is outside of a leader’s awareness. It can undermine the corporate culture and create tension that works against goals and objectives. Therefore, a strategy must be instituted. It must contain a system that minimizes harmful effects on the current culture. This strategy should address unconscious bias and micro-inequities.

Joseph Greeny, et al, in the book Crucial Conversations3 describes the relationship between our thoughts and actions. Initially, we see, hear or experience something which causes us to create a story around it. This story creates feelings that in turn are converted into actions. Unconscious bias affects the stories that we tell ourselves, which ultimately affect our behavior.

There is a large body of evidence to validate the existence, prevalence and effects of unconscious bias. Individuals involved in the studies would have categorically denied that they were biased, yet data conflicts with their impressions. These results may explain why women, people of color, those with age differences and disabilities may be at a disadvantage in some companies.

  • US orchestras – 50% more women selected in first round with the implementation of blind auditions4
  • Resumes with white sounding names received more call backs than ethnic sounding names for interviews5
  • 58% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are six feet or taller compared to 14.5% in the US population6

The Implicit Associate Test, IAT, developed by Professors Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greewald has compiled data on millions of people. The results validate that we are a product of our experiences, conditioning, cultural and societal messaging. Additionally, we have a subconscious tendency to display preference toward or against individuals or groups. The summaries of their research are presented in their book, Blind spot7. You may take the test at Implicit.harvard.edu. Some of the findings are;

  • 76% of us associate male with career and female with family
  • 70% associate male with science and female with arts
  • 75% have an implicit preference for white people over black people
  • 76% have an implicit preference for able bodied people

Micro – inequities

Micro-inequities are the negative micro messages that we communicate to others. They represent the manifestation of unconscious bias. Our conditioning, experiences and advertisements are embedded in our subconscious mind. Our actions are the fruit of our innermost thoughts and feelings.

Micro-inequities was coined by Dr. Mary Rowe8 in the 1970’s to explain behaviors identified while working with female and minority students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Rowe was an ombudsman who noticed many complaints from students that did not fall under the classic definition of discrimination.  She discovered a pattern of behavior of subtle slights which could be verbal or non verbal. The cumulative effect of these devaluing messages affected the student’s self esteem and self confidence. The actions of others made them feel unimportant, devalued and irrelevant.  Micro-inequities is an apt description of their encounters.

Micro-will inequities are the subtle, persistent slights that may be unconscious or conscious9. They make the recipient feel insignificant, not important, not valued the, invisible and inconsequential. Individuals, who experience micro-inequities, may become frustrated, isolated and retaliate by reducing their level of engagement and withholding vital information which, could be necessary for the success of the enterprise. They may feel invisible, like an outsider, unwanted, as if they don’t belong. These individuals do not feel included and may withhold vital information or adopt, what I like to call, an OMDB (Over My Dead Body) mentality about sharing their ideas. A few examples of micro-inequities10,11,12 are listed below;

  • Stealing ideas or not giving credit to the originator
  • Multi-tasking when talking to some individuals
  • Leaving people names off of memos
  • Some are not invited to the meeting before the meeting or the one after
  • Introductions by name only, while others get name / title and a story
  • Constantly checking their watch
  • Avoiding eye contact or rolling their eyes
  • Constantly interrupting in mid sentence
  • Forgetting a person’s name or using the wrong name
  • Don’t listen when some individuals speak
  • Closed to some suggestions but open to others
  • Comments ignored unless voiced by others
  • Selectively withholding praise
  • No small talk – selectively given
  • No time or very little time
  • Look for ways ideas won’t work, while others receive why their ideas may work
  • Communicate low expectations
  • Impatience in interactions
  • Always rushing when certain people want to speak to themUnconscious bias and micro-inequities must be identified and minimized. Systems must be put in place and a language instituted to build commitment and accountability. Unconscious bias and micro-inequities may be addressed using The Know System™.

The Know System™

The Know System™13 is a technique to assist in developing a customized or standard standards method of addressing these issues. Organizations are implementing programs to address unconscious bias and micro-inequities. The Know System™ is a decision-making, problem solving model that can assist individuals and institutions in addressing unconscious bias and micro – inequities. The model can contribute to individual, team and organizational strategies to improve culture. It will allow them to use their creativity to tailor a training program that fits their needs.

The Know System™ can be used to: 

  1. Define evidence of unconscious bias and micro-inequities
  2. Develop strategy and tactics to address them
  3. Set up programs, procedures or structure to minimize
    1. Performance management implications
    2. Interviews for hire or promotion
    3. Customer service
    4. Client and consultant selections
    5. Embed into corporate culture through standalone training programs
    6. Embed into corporate culture by inclusion in all training programs
  4. Establish accountability measures

The Know System™ is an intuitive methodology for gathering crucial information. It can help you create a mind map for data collection for analysis and implementation. Companies can use the creativity of their leaders and other employees to customize programs to address these issues at a local or national level. An opening exercise will familiarize everyone with the decision-making platform.

Opening Exercise

The following is a simple means to become comfortable with the Know System™  

  1. Write the word Know on the top of a sheet of paper or on your tablet or computer screen
  2. Write down words you can pull from the word Know
  3. Use your imagination and include 4, 3 and 2 letter words, which may include a few colloquialismsThe words identified may include the following: Won, Know, Now, No, On, Own, Ow (pain), Wok, Ok, Wonk, KO (Knock Out), Wo (slow down). It is not necessary to use all of the words, but only those pertinent to your situation. Only use the words you feel are related to address the unconscious bias and micro-inequities in your culture.

Write each word at the top of its own page or column and answer the relevant questions. You may review The Know System™ diagram for assistance.

TKSjpeg

The Know System™ will have a positive influence on individual reflections and group conversations and discussions. Once you have selected the words, start thinking of how they apply to your situations. I will give you a few examples to get you started.

Won

The first thing you may want to do is to select the word Won. This represents your vision, goal or objective. You want to determine what success or excellence looks like to you? Write this down to guide your thinking.

Know

What do you know and what do you need to know about your organization and employees? What you need to know may be in areas crucial to maximizing our relationship with our employees. The next step is to apply Who, What, Where, When and Why.

Now      

What is the current state of the organization? Describe the climate as seen through the eyes of your employees. How is the client?

No

It is critical to establish priorities and to maintain focus by removing or deflecting assignments that detract from your objective. Employees need to know what is important, so that they can maintain their vigilance on the matters that are truly necessary to achieve your vision and your goals.

WOK

Sometimes you have to stir things up a bit. Just because something is always been that way, does not mean that it always has to be done that way. There are instances when the status quo must be revised. There may be a need to disrupt the traditional way of doing things in favor of something better.

The Know System™ can be applied to strategy development, problem solving and decision-making. This also pertains to unconscious bias and micro-inequities. Additional information can be found in my books The Isle of Knowledge14 and Unlock Your Leadership Greatness15.

Copyright © 2017 Orlando Ceaser

 

Bibliography &  References

  1. Tesia T. Marshik, Unconscious Bias and the Mind: Challenging the way we think about thinking lecture at Learning Technologies Conference, 2016 (available on YouTube).
  2. Sondra Thiederman, PhD, 7 Steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace (Chicago, IL: Dearborn Trade Publishing, A Kaplan Professional Company, 2003).
  3. Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, Crucial Conversation (New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002).
  4. Cecilia Rouse & Claudia Goldin, Blind Auditions Key to Hiring Musicians, American Economic Review, September – November, 2000.
  5. Marianne Bertran & Sendhil Mullainathan, Employers’ Replies to Racial Names, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004.
  6. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, (New York, New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005).
  7. Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald, Blind Spot (New York, New York: Delacorte Press, 2013).
  8. Mary Rowe, “Barriers to Equality, the Power of Subtle Discrimination to Maintain Unequal Opportunity,” 1990.
  9. Brigid Moynahan, Go Ahead: Sweat the Small Stuff, The Conference Board, 2005.
  10. Brigid Moynahan, Go Ahead: Sweat the Small Stuff, The Conference Board, 2005.
  11. Stephen Young, Micro Messaging (New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007).
  12. Janet Crenshaw Smith, 58 little things that have a Big impact – What’s Your MicroTrigger™? (Rockville, Md: Ivy Planning Group, LLC, 2006).
  13. Orlando Ceaser, The Isle of Knowledge (Belleville, Ontario, Canada: Guardian Books, 2009).
  14. Orlando Ceaser, The Isle of Knowledge (Belleville, Ontario, Canada: Guardian Books, 2009).
  15. Orlando Ceaser, Unlock Your Leadership Greatness (Chicago, IL: Watchwell Communications, Inc., 2014).

 

 

 

Cartoons for the Chaos in Corporate Communities – Cocky and Rhodette

Corporations are communities of citizens who are ideally committed to a common vision. They are able hopefully resilient, with the capacity to withstand change, reinvent themselves and introduce new business paradigms, in order to succeed. These companies are survivors. They truly represent the “survival of the fittest” mentality. Corporations are staffed with individuals who have the survived a myriad of corporate reorganizations, growth spurts and culture adjustments. They have demonstrated the ability to adapt to change by adopting techniques necessary to avoid extinction.

Cockroaches and rodents have existed on this planet for millions of years. Cockroaches have been around an estimated 240 million years and rodents were probably chasing them for a good number of those years. They are truly survivors, exhibiting adaptive behaviors that have enabled them to adjust to changing circumstances.

The personification of these two characters is in the form of a cockroach named Cocky and a rodent known as Rhodette. They represent and will articulate the thoughts and feelings of employees in Corporate America. They will speak through reenacting scenarios that happen every day in some company around the world.

Cocky is a male and Rhodette is female. They are co-workers. Their biographies speak to their diversity. They manifest their diversity in many ways, such as gender, thinking styles, age, genus, species, educational levels and introversion versus extroversion, to name a few distinctions. Cocky learned business from his father Coach (co is from cockroach and ach is from roach), whereas Rhodette received her business acumen from her mother Rhoda. Cocky and Rhodette are close friends who spend many hours talking about business and comparing and despairing over the current environment in their company where the emphasis on production has a few casualties among the rank and file. They have revised their personal strategies for growing their careers. They speak for the masses although they also, have leadership responsibilities.

Cocky does not totally live up to his name. Whereas, he is self confident, he is also quiet and introspective; a true introvert. He knows when to keep his mouth shut. He may appear to be low key, but this is an adaptive quality, survival tactic. He can be commanding, when necessary. He will frequently sit in meetings and speak only when he has something significant to say. He is appalled by the amount of hot air released in meetings, as people speak to hear themselves talk. He is also disappointed when management condones and rewards this type of behavior. He sees his role as a pioneer to help others to adjust to corporate life. He has been promoted numerous times based on his productivity and the support of advocates, coaches and mentors. He says he is a realist, who fears he will go only as far as the company will let him. He is ambitious and has no desire to leave the organization.

Rhodette is flashy, extroverted and her electric personality makes her the major energy source in any gathering of employees. She can seemingly get away with outrageous statements. She is a strategic thinker and her mind and forceful presentation demeanor are threatening to others. She is aware that she has to be careful in how and when she states her views. She has been coached on her need to increase her self- awareness. She is a team player and her actions are usually to benefit the company or her teammates, not to acquire power, stroke her ego or build a fiefdom. She is a great sounding board for Cocky and their interactions are insightful and at times hilarious. They look out for each other and provide constant feedback, which helps them grow personally. Through their networks they are also able to gather information on internal competitors who may try to undermine their performance and career growth.

Cocky and Rhodette are both managers in a large corporation but their escapades and situations are found in smaller organizations. Their poignant comments and witty observations are thought provoking with educational lessons for everyone. They have coaches and mentors to assist them in their development. They are also connected with many employees within the company to help them report accurately on performance and levels of engagement.

Cocky and Rhodette have given birth to a new creation, Cocky, Jr. The perspectives of teenagers are expressed through the eyes of Cocky, Jr. and Rhodesia. They are hilariously representing thought-provoking issues experienced by teenagers and the adults who interact with them.

 

Copyright © 2007 Orlando Ceaser