The 20th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

Powerful examples of leadership in action was evident at a national sales meeting during a national tragedy. On the 20th Anniversary of the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center we reflect on the lives lost and our country coming together in solidarity.

I was on stage in the general session when news of the World Trade Center bombings began to circulate. I could see the commotion, but I did not know why. The news rapidly moved through the crowd, as we began to piece together the entire horrific event.

We announced the bombings to the General Session. The National Sales Director broke the news to the audience. Individuals who were directly affected were released first, to contact their families. Regional Sales Directors were dispatched to different workshops to discuss the terrible news. You can imagine the shock, terror, and disbelief. Tears rolled down the cheeks of many people, as fear and panic took over.

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.

People were wandering in the hallways. Many rushed to their rooms to follow 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? Who were the terrorists?

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

The VP of Sales and Marketing took the stage. He requested a flip chart and markers to record information to develop our strategy. With marker in hand and flipcharts, 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?

He elicited the key areas we needed to address. Some of the categories were travel, agenda, communications, updates, security, accountability and miscellaneous. Each category became a team with a leader to explore all the key issues in that area.

We were fortunate enough to have two members of our Sales Team who had anti-terrorist experience. Additionally, our Chief of Corporate Security was present at the meeting. He had contacts within the FBI which would come in handy during the week.

Each team had a leader with individuals to provide input. The message to everyone, was “When you formulate your recommendations, remember cost is not a concern. Our people are our number one priority.” The VP demonstrated something that was in the DNA of our company. We were phenomenal in a crisis.

The accountability team ensured that we knew the location of every employee for the next 24 hours. 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, we needed a record of their departure. We used the “buddy system” to keep track of everyone; which was easier said than done. We wanted to make sure everyone was present and accounted for.

The dynamic interchange during the presentation facilitated was a pleasure to behold. Senior Leadership eliciting and contributing comments and suggestions, motivated by how we could 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 manage our mission. We had over 1500 people at a the meeting. Many of the representatives were young in their careers. They had not faced any national emergencies in their lifetime; this was a significant challenge for all of us.

We developed 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. The National Sales meeting was scheduled to last until Friday, and this was only Tuesday. No airplanes were flying and rental cars were not available.  It became clear that air travel was not going to be an option for an indeterminate period.

The stories appeared. 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. Everyone reassembled at 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 salespeople who are action oriented.

What follows is another example of leadership at its finest. The depth and professionalism of the presentation to the audience led many to wonder how we could put together such a professional presentation is such a brief period. Most commented that they worked for a great company. We decided to continue with the meeting for that was the best option to care for our people. We conducted an interfaith religious service, for those who were interested. We worshipped together across differences with various faiths represented

The travel team created an incredible plan to get everyone home safely. The travel team rented twenty luxury travel busses to send to twenty parts of the country to get our people home. Busses were stocked 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. We were successful in completing the meeting and addressing the mental, physical, psychological and spiritual needs of our people during this horrific national tragedy.

Leadership lessons

– A structured well conceived plan provides comfort

– Take care of your people – take the necessary steps to meet your people’s needs

– Money is not an object and should not stand in the way of caring for your team

– Provide structure for your people until more information is available

– Note the location of everyone

– Provide frequent updates to share recent communications

– Delegate responsibilities to those most gifted to lead in their area of expertise

– Understand people’s emotions and relate with empathy

– Establish a timeframe to report progress

– Allow people time to release and relax

– Value people and show concern for their families

– Determine the key areas on which to focus your attention

–  Strong leadership created stories and pays dividends in loyalty and performance

Watching this tragedy unfolds and our reaction to it validated our history of being phenomenal in a crisis. Leadership came through when it was most important. At that moment, we truly made our people feel that they were our most important asset.

The total story, my step by step recollection can be found in an earlier blog: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/myozonelayer.com/1314.

The Magic Words to Openness and Belonging

One of my favorite stories was Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. What I remember most is the secret words that opened the side of the mountain and revealed a phenomenal treasure. The magic words were, “Open Sesame.” I often wish there were such a phrase we could use in our interactions with people. This iconic phrase would make them feel comfortable enough to share their inner treasures with us. When they are comfortable, accepted, and included, suspicion would disappear. Defense mechanisms would not be activated, and evasive tactics would not be employed.

In our current environment, we need to understand people who are different from us. We value diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, employees often wear invisible self-preservation armor for protection. How can we share our interests if we are not comfortable with each other? Silence, lack of participation, and minimal interaction are diversionary methods. They may seem like a good idea, but the lack of openness may be counterproductive. I support an environment which is an OASIS (Open And Share Information Safely). People in this climate will unleash their full potential and feel a sense of belonging at work.

A constant refrain I heard early in my career, was that people did not know me. People wanted me to tell them more about me, so that they could identify with me. They wanted information outside of work, about family, interests, beliefs, and hobbies. But I was reluctant. Initially, I felt full disclosure, would lead to overexposure. Eventually lowered my shield with certain people, after I developed trust in their intentions.

There are reasons for being guarded; reserving or withholding feelings. We may hear, see, or experience events that prevent us from revealing too much. I engaged in many conversations over lunch. During these discussions I learned the difference in perspective that existed among my peers. During one such conversation, we discussed discrimination. The opening premise by a well-intentioned manager, was that the only kind of discrimination that existed in the United States was economic. They went on to say that if you have the money you can live anywhere without any difficulty. This perspective differed from my personal history and my knowledge of many celebrities who encountered problems in certain neighborhoods. There were broken windows and graffiti and reckless damage to their property. It became clear to me, from this discussion and others, that our different experiences shaped our perspectives, which caused us to view the world differently.

People retract like a turtle or armadillo when they do not feel safe. They will not take a risk or step out on a limb with their perspectives and opinions. I knew someone who went as far as to not place family pictures on their desk. They wanted to separate work from home and keep the company out of their personal affairs. When we open ourselves, we will see the similarities that accentuate our differences and create a powerfully productive connection. I would call this a piece offering. By piece offering I do not mean peace, as in the absence of war, but piece, as in giving them a part of ourselves, to open to a greater dialogue and understanding of each other.

There was a manager who told every ethnic joke imaginable. He was humorous at the lunch table and people enjoyed his witty stories. One day, I pulled the manager aside and said, “I am probably depriving you of some of your best material, by being present here.” He paused, thought, smiled, and looked me in the eyes and said, “you’re probably right.” He did not receive points for sensitivity and not bringing up those stories in my presence. I could argue that he was careful, but the stories may have been told, but not in my presence. If the stories existed for others, they also existed for me and should not have been part of the workplace.

If we are to understand each other better, we must open to each other. If we are to open to each other, we must create a climate where people feel comfortable, accepted, included, and treated equally. There are not any magic words to convince people to be vulnerable. However, by giving of ourselves, even small amounts, and to create the right climate, we can set the stage for a marvelous relationship based on trust and reciprocity where people feel safe. Ultimately this results in a workplace with productivity and innovation that is beneficial for everyone.

Copyright © 2021 Orlando Ceaser

Check out my web-sites at OrlandoCeaser.com and Watchwellinc.com for more content and resources. Contact information is also available at the sites.

Cameo Leadership™- The Power of Positive Presence

Alfred Hitchcock, the noted film director, was known for making a cameo appearance in his movies. A game among many moviegoers, was to watch the films and locate the scenes where Mr. Hitchcock made his guest appearance. Celebrities use this technique, to gain publicity, boost interest in a movie and to increase sales. Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame adapted this philosophy to playfully engage with his Marvel fandom.

The concept of cameo appearances can also be applied to leaders. The idea of brief appearances fit the style of many leaders. Cameo Leadership could be defined as a positive or negative leadership style, characterized by a leader influencing direct reports through a series of brief exposures. The style is condoned or condemned by subordinates, based on their value to employee development.

The Cameo Leader™ may fall into two categories, negative and positive. The Negative Cameo Leader is like an absentee landlord. They abdicate their responsibility, and you can’t find them when you need them. The Negative Cameo Leader shows up for a moment without warning. Their interactions lack positive values and developmental opportunities. They arrive on the scene, ready to take center stage, absorbing all the attention and accolades available. They poison the environment in a dictatorial and authoritarian manner. They relish being the boss, as they give orders before practicing their disappearing act.

The Negative Cameo, the NC Leader will give out an assignment without instructions or supervision. When recognition is dispensed upon their department, they will accept the praise and bask in the limelight and refuse to share the glory. Employees are frustrated because they are deprived of encouragement and developmental opportunities needed for their growth. Careers suffer because the Negative Cameo Leader is not familiar with their employees, their work ethic, or their work product. They cannot vouch for their direct reports performances for they do not have an intimate knowledge of their career aspirations.

The Negative Cameo Leader does not take an interest in the work of their employees or in their lives outside of work. Therefore, they do not deserve or receive loyalty from their people. The Negative Cameo Leader can become a micromanager when they pop up on the scene, drop a few demoralizing comments and quickly disappear. What they label as independence is a dereliction of duty.

The Positive Cameo, the PC Leader is admired because they are with their people in the beginning during the planning phase. They share the vision and provide the resources and support to do their jobs. They give them responsibility and hold them accountable for the completion of their assignments. They value and trust their employees’ skills, abilities, and judgment. They are encouraging and believe in their people and provide independence because they trust their ability to do the job and forgive them when they make mistakes. People know where they stand with the Positive Cameo Leader, for they have an open-door policy and dispense feedback generously.

The Positive Cameo Leader will visit periodically to see if their people need anything. The job and the responsibilities belong to the employee. The PC Leader creates a culture of collaboration and ownership. They ensure that people think and act like an owner, for they will be held accountable for results. They are not unnecessarily visible; however, they are accessible through a variety of methods.

The Positive Cameo Leader ensures that those who do the work, receive the credit, and the accolades. They look for ways to set their people up for success through encouragement. Positive Cameo Leadership when practiced, requires the leader to unselfishly accept their role in working for their people. They are willing to act and pay the price as they practice what they preach.

Cameo Leadership can have a negative or positive perception based on how employees respond to this leadership style. If it is negative, it is corrosive and is a barrier to career development. The Rosenthal effect created by Dr. Robert Rosenthal of Harvard University, is the phenomenon in which experimenters treat subjects differently based on their expectations which has a positive or negative influence on subject performance. The Rosenthal effect is evaluated in four categories. They are climate, input, output, and feedback.

Cameo leadership may be present at various stages of an organization, team, or individuals’ development. For example, Positive Cameo Leadership is ideal for an individual or team that is highly skilled and does not require much supervision. A negative cameo is not desirable in most situations.

Cameo Leadership impacts the workplace environment. The leader’s expectations of their people determines the climate. Favorable or unfavorable expectations will create a positive or negative interpersonal climate for each individual. Secondly, leadership input, in the form of information and opportunities, is based on positive and negative expectations. Leaders teach more to those whom they expect more and conversely. Thirdly, output is defined by the level of questions accepted or encouraged from their subordinates. We give them more opportunities to express their questions. This is also based on expectations. Lastly, the Cameo Leader gives feedback that builds or diminishes self-esteem and performance and will praise or criticize for mistakes, in accordance with their level of expectations.

Copyright ©2021 Orlando Ceaser

2021 – A SEA Change For Better Results

The calm waters may arrive after stormy seas. They may present an image different from the turbulence that must be navigated to reach your objective.

A Sea Change is a transformation, an improvement, an adjustment in perspective or performance. The definition is comprised of input from dictionary.com, en.wikipedia.org and idiom.thefreedictionary.com.

The change can be the result of evolution, growing skills or advancement derived from instruction, intense study, practice, consultation, and perseverance. The adjustment may be due to trauma, where someone is thrust into accelerated growth by necessity.

 A SEA Change can be as simplified with an acronym SEA (Sustainable, Explainable, and Attainable).

S – Sustainable

E – Explainable

A – Attainable

 A SEA Change should be Sustainable and therefore have a long – lasting effect. When it becomes a habit, this change in behavior creates a new modus operandi (method).

A SEA Change should be Explainable. An individual should be able to tell someone how it happened. The pathway to this transformation should be written, verbalized, or transcribed in such a way that they can coach and mentor others. It should not be a secret, nor should it be a mystery. We are obligated to share the mechanics and motivation for the SEA Change.

A SEA Change should be Attainable. It should be the byproduct of a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). The observation should be realistic with relevant milestones to monitor progress through smooth and rough waters along the journey.

A SEA Change requires the right vision, resources, and people to assist in professional and personal development. An implementation of the 3 attributes should be undertaken to help people become seaworthy on the voyage, to achieve outstanding results.

Many of us are contemplating a SEA Change to help us deal with turbulent and unprecedented challenges. We recognize the need to bolster skills to cope with the current pandemic and the precipitating fallout.

2021 is a phenomenal opportunity for a SEA Change. The SEA Change is on the horizon and in transit. Commit to growing the necessary skills to ensure the change is Sustainable, Explainable and Attainable. Success will have a profound effect on survival skills and the growth of positive interactions and greater influence, while illustrating and illuminating the path to success.

Copyright © 2021 Orlando Ceaser

More content available, including books, CD’s and other resources at OrlandoCeaser.com and watchwellinc.com

Rudolph the Red – Nosed Reindeer – “Uniqueness is not a Weakness”

Gene Autry was a military hero, who became an actor and singer. He sang the Christmas classic, “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.” It is a delightful song, enjoyed by young and old. However, this cheerful song delivers a powerful message about encountering and handling differences. Let us examine Rudolph the red nose reindeer and its meaningful conversations about diversity, inclusion and accepting others.

The song begins with a reference to the reindeer popularized in Clement Clarke Moore’s, “The night before Christmas”, also known as “A visit from St. Nicholas.” It begins with a roll call of Santa Claus’ reindeer that of course omits the name of Rudolph. As you recall, Rudolph was different from the other reindeer because of the luminescent quality of his nose. His nose was so shiny that it had either reflective qualities or it glowed like a light. This was enough to make him the object of ridicule and ultimately ostracism by the other reindeer.

This lack of acceptance is seen when children and adults are confronted with someone who is different from them. Our initial response is to make fun of the person and then to isolate them because of their characteristics, traits, heredity or idiosyncrasies. Many of us recall when we were young and begged for acceptance and approval. Even to this day, if there is something about us that makes us stand out from the crowd. We feel self-conscious and wish that our difference could go away. If possible, we will change our stories and appearance so others will like us. When we are new and different, we carry a tremendous unnecessary burden. We view our “uniqueness as a weakness.“

At work or is school, simply being the new person, the new kid on the block, the person who is an unknown, becomes a source for teasing or isolation. We often wondered,” if they would only get to know me, they would see that I’m just like them. I am a good person. “Rudolph was a reindeer, so he surely had a similar appearance, except for his nasal peculiarity. But suppose he was of a different color, from a different region of the country or had a different ability. We usually ask the different party to fit in, when the real focus should be on including and accepting them into the group.

Bullying is also a response shown toward those who are different. The song does not indicate that Rudolph was bullied, but we can only assume that preventing him from “playing in any reindeer games” was not accomplished in the most delicate manner.

The song does not tell us what Santa Claus was doing during the hazing or if he even knew about it. But, as a good leader, he engineered a very strategic response. He knew the talent and value of all of his reindeer. He evaluated the weather system for his next journey and realized he was going to encounter numerous blizzards. He knew the problem could be solved by the reindeer, but he needed to show his acceptance of Rudolph the talented reindeer. The leader has vision and can often see what others cannot.

Santa Claus knew the skills and abilities of each reindeer. He knew that the appropriate circumstance would allow for each skill to be revealed. He knew Rudolph had a special gift and could provide navigation assistance on those wintry nights when delivery of toys to boys and girls around the world, would be difficult. Snowstorms would provide opportunities where others, including the reindeer could benefit from the gift of Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer.

We can give Santa credit for waiting for the appropriate time to unveil his strategy. He could have given the reindeer the opportunity to work it out amongst themselves, as so many people do in similar situations. We would say such things as,” kids are just being kids, learning to navigate difficult situations will only make the recipient stronger and teach them valuable life skills. We say that which does not kill them will make them stronger, to paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche the philosopher. Maybe the reindeer performed similar initiation rites to others in the group that had other distinctions from their peers. Maybe they saw their treatment of Rudolph as being harmless and natural.

The defining moment came,” one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say: Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Many managers, leaders and parents look for the opportune moment to use the skills of their people. The right moment to show the world and the individual their true value.

We can only assume that in the fictitious conversation, Santa’s encouraged Rudolph and told him about the value of his difference. He made him feel that he was something special and should never feel that he was not important and did not have a place. I’m sure he made him feel like an essential member of the team. He validated his worth by asking him to lead the team by moving up to the front of the line.

You remember the happy ending to the song. “Then all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history!” We know that in life, responses to differences may not always lead to a happy ending. Sometimes the individuals have lingering insecurity, damage to their self-esteem and underlying resentment from the initial exclusion. But, when the difference that is ridiculed or denied is used for the benefit of the group, the organization, institution, family, or community becomes stronger. Everyone learns a valuable lesson about diversity, inclusion and acceptance. We are hopeful that when the person is accepted they don’t become complicit and act in the same manner when they encounter other people who are different.

If we remember the Rudolph days of our lives and commit ourselves to prevent them from happening to others, we will maximize their future contributions to our teams, families, organizations and communities. We will perform a noble act when leading by example with the lessons learned from Rudolph the red-nose reindeer.

Unlock Your Leadership Greatness and other leadership resources can be found at www.OrlandoCeaser.com or www.amazon.com.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

Take My Advice and Be Nice

I have a twist on a common adage. Nice guys finish, instead of nice guys finish last. Many times, we attach a negative to the concept of being nice. We view niceness as a form of weakness. If someone is nice, we see them as vulnerable, and subject to being exploited. But the definition of nice does not concede toughness and effectiveness.

Dictionary.com defines nice as, characterized by, showing, or requiring great accuracy, precision, skill, tact, care, or delicacy. Miriam-Webster dictionary lists synonyms for nice to include kind, polite, pleasing, agreeable, appropriate, fitting, socially acceptable, virtuous, and respectable. We could also include trustworthiness.

The definitions and synonyms paint a picture of attributes that we should admire in each other and our associates. But something is lost when we decide to filter nice through the lens of our prospective, and degrade, mislabel, and misinterpret information. These misconceptions may cause us to be condescending and devalue the people who work for us and underestimate their performance.

A company surveyed their customers in a customer satisfaction exercise. They wanted to see, through surveys and interviews, how their sales representatives were perceived by their customers. The word nice came up consistently relative to their competitors. Each group of interviewers reached the same conclusion. The clients enjoyed being with the sales of representatives and thought they were, nice.

The company decided that the word nice was a deficiency and needed to be changed in the minds of the prospects. They viewed nice as weak and therefore, ineffective in a maliciously competitive environment. Nice was a part of the corporate brand in the minds of their customers, which needed to be changed. Nice was not good, and everyone knew that nice guys finished last.

An anti-nice message was delivered to the sales team. They were made to feel inadequate versus competitor companies. Tension was created between the Home Office and the sales force, as they launched allegations against each other. This was a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the relationships built by the sales team with their customers.

Since they owned the nice space in the minds of customers; rather than viewing nice as a negative, building on this favorable perception was an option. Rather than work on a make-over to change their sales representatives into the image of the dominant competitor, exploit the niche of being nice. They should use the perception of nice to gain permission to ask the right questions. They should use the attribute of nice to increase customer interactions and create a space to ask for more business.

Relationships are a key part of the sales process. Individuals with high emotional intelligence can translate this skill into greater customer service, greater customer confidence, customer loyalty and greater sales performance. People like to buy from people whom they know, like, trust and respect. Nice individuals may have skills that are admirable attributes to their clients. You generally like to hire nice people, because it is difficult to create nice people, if you do not have them. You may teach people nice habits and practices, but if they are not nice by nature, in the middle of a crisis or difficult situation, they may relapse to their original tendencies. How often have you heard someone compliment someone who was not a nice person?

The Marriott Corporation’s excellent customer service reputation was addressed in an interview with a business publication. They were asked how they were able to train people to be personable and nice, which attributed to their superb customer service. The head of their training department indicated that they did not have a training program to teach this skill, they addressed this skill in the hiring process. In other words, they hired nice people and trained them on the other things, they needed to know.

There is value in hiring and developing nice people, for they are usually seen as trustworthy. Their personality, service acumen and ability to get along with others, makes them potentially strong members of your team, company/organization, or partners in your relationships. There are individuals who are “too nice” and cannot ask tough questions, take risks or be persistent. These individuals may not be the ones appropriate for your business. But likability alone should not be a detriment to a person’s success.

Nice people finish with relationships that can be created and strengthened. They can be there in the end because people want them around. Nice people have a commitment to service and to people, which makes them desirable members to help you in your quest toward greatness and serving clients. They can often go places and gain business where others have not earned permission. If someone comes across as too good to be true, too nice to be right, vet them as you would any other individual. Do not discount them immediately because they are nice. Because the right nice guys/gals have a reputation or the potential to finish strong.

Copyright © 2020 Orlando Ceaser

Leadership in a Crisis – 9/11 Lessons in Leadership

September 11, 2001 was a shocking day in our country’s history. The violation of our sovereignty and sense of safety will forever haunt our memories. I was at a National Sales meeting in Dallas, Tx. The leadership response and lessons learned has served as a reservoir for crisis management. It is amazing how comforting and timeless these lessons are as we relate to the Covid – 10 pandemic.

The total story, my step by step recollection can be found in an earlier blog: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/myozonelayer.com/1314.

I will highlight the key lessons below.

– A structured well conceived plan provides comfort

– Take care of your people – take the necessary steps to meet your people’s needs and help[ them feel safe

– Money is not an object and should not stand in the way of caring for your team

– Provide structure for your people until more information is available

– Note the location of everyone

– Provide frequent updates to share recent communications

– Delegate responsibilities to those most gifted to lead in their area of expertise

– Understand people’s emotions and relate with empathy

– Establish a timeframe to report progress

– Allow people time to release and relax

– Value people and show concern for their families

– Determine the key areas on which to focus your attention

–  Strong leadership created great stories and pay dividends in loyalty and increased performance

May you find them of value as we grow as a country, with leadership, compassion, love, unity and safety as guiding principles.

MSU (Making Stuff Up) – Credibility and Creativity

MSU C (2)

I began speaking about the concept of MSU in 1986 when training sales representatives as a Regional Operations Manager. A few representatives, when faced with a difficult question, tried to bluff their way through their answers to tough questions. Their responses contained misinformation and outright lies. A few of them demonstrated unbelievable creativity under pressure to make up fantastic stories but distorted the facts. I was rather angry because we took the truth very seriously. We boasted to have one of the best trained sales forces in the industry. You had to achieve 90% to pass our product examinations. We stated the company policy around misinformation. Their credibility and the company’s reputation was on the line, therefore MSU was forbidden. We would not tolerate MSU (Making Shit Up). I apologized for the language, but it was a profoundly serious matter. Additionally, we told them that it made them look stupid because the doctors probably forgot more about medicine then they would ever know.

I must admit that some of the responses were rather creative. We applauded creativity but not in the dissemination of product information and following company policies and procedures.

MSU was such a catchy concept that we included it in our regular training vocabulary. We would openly talk about Making Stuff Up and the dangers of resorting to that practice in answering physician questions. MSU had value as it related to creativity and other areas. When I introduced the concept of MSU I would state that it did not stand just for Michigan State University.

Years later we were training physicians on presentation skills. I decided to drop in on one of the sessions. I noticed that on one slide were the letters MSU. This piqued my curiosity and I sat for the session. The presenter opened the session by saying he wanted to talk to them about MSU and it did not just stand for Michigan State University. It stood for Making Stuff Up. I was impressed but, I sat there speechless. I did not recall reading about MSU before that fateful day in 1986 in our sales training seminar.

15 years later I was in my office as an Area Sales Director. One of our trainers (Field Development Leaders) gave me a book. The book was titled MSU (Making Something Up). And 10 years later in Zambia, South Africa, one of our pastors conducted a workshop on MSU, Making Stuff Up; obviously, it was a well-established concept.

MSU is therefore a viable practice. It is a catalyst for creativity and a warning. We must use it wisely because authenticity and transparency are required to enhance your credibility. As a leader, is important to be aware of MSU and how adopting this mindset can be used to make decisions, answer questions, solve problems and enrich our world through creative thinking and innovation.

Copyright © 2020 Orlando Ceaser

Websites: OrlandoCeaser.com

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7 Steps to “Suck Less 4 Success™” Pandemic Reflections

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Pandemic reflections uncover instances where we are extremely hard on ourselves. I spoke to a group of restaurants servers when they were notified that they may be furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You could hear the sentiment that “this sucks” (job loss) or their life to that point was below expectations.

In today’s vernacular if something does not go well, meet expectations or seems unfair, we say it sucks. When the employee says, “This sucks” referring to performance, company, manager, team or their job, it is synonymous with dissatisfaction with effort, treatment or results and must be addressed.

The word “sucks” is part of our vocabulary and describes our displeasure with the current situation, especially when it falls short of the results we want. We can use the word suck in a manner that can be delivered with humor to take the sting out of our disappointment. Or we can speak it to show serious anger and dissatisfaction with performance or circumstances.

There is a quality component to our work. Growth in our performance is often a function of reducing the number of errors. If we can cut down the number of mistakes, we will not suck as badly. Therefore, we will be in a better position to succeed.

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7 Steps to Suck Less

There are 7 Suck Less Factors (SLF’s) we should consider to improve performance. This is not a comprehensive list but should contain practical tactics and strategies. They will serve as step down therapy, so we suck less and less until we achieve the desired success we need. These 7 Suck Less Factors are:

  1. Be the CEO of the Ego
  2. Adopt a Decision-making System
  3. Avoid Repeatable Offenses
  4. Be Open to the Truth.
  5. Suppress Unproductive Thoughts and Actions
  6. Minimize Mingling with Morons
  7. Consult an Oracle

Be the CEO of the Ego

We should be Command and Control of our thoughts and actions. Manage our ego and keep it in check, aligned with our purpose. Ego is accountable for the pride we have in our performance. Use it to ensure that we complete all the relevant actions with the quality necessary to achieve excellence.

As the CEO of the ego we must minimize deficiencies and effectively manage time and other resources. Lead and manage by focusing on our Vision, Mission and Goals (VMG’s).

Adopt a Decision-making System

A decision making, and problem-solving methodology could work in our favor, to add structure to our thinking. I am an advocate of The Know System™ featured in my book The Isle of Knowledge.

The Know System™ is a simple and intuitive decision making and problem-solving model based on the word know. On a sheet of paper, flip chart or computer screen we can write the word Know at the top. We should list the two, three and four-letter words found in the word Know (Won, Know, Now, No, On, Own, Ow, OK, Wok). We can use the words to address the problem or decision we want to address. For example:

Won:   What does success / winning look like? (Vision)

Know: What do you Know or need to Know?

Now:   What are you doing Now? Is it the right priority?

No:      Who or what do you have to say No to?

Wok:   Are you stirring things up, disrupting and changing?

OK:      Are you good enough? Only works on checklist

On:      Are you turned On, passionate, focused and excited?

Ow:     What are the pain points and pain threshold?

Own:   Are you committed, responsible and accountable?

TKS V Chart (2)

Avoid Repeatable Offenses

We must learn from our mistakes and recognize that they are mistakes. This heightened self-awareness will be good for us. Smaller doses of stupidity are necessary. It is viewed as stupidity only when demonstrating the definition of insanity by performing the same actions and expecting different results.

Be Open to the Truth

We should be open to information that is given in a manner to help our development. We also tend to look disparagingly on those who try to tell us what to do. We should remove barriers that impede acquiring the information we need to succeed. Don’t weed whack feedback. Feedback is essential to gain an accurate perspective of our current reality. Feedback is also needed to assess progress and increase self-awareness, for it is an important aspect of emotional intelligence.

Suppress Unproductive Thoughts and Actions

We need to ween ourselves from unproductive thoughts and actions. They are like speed bumps on a highway of achievement. They will curtail our ability to reach posted speed limits for success. We should curb our cravings for negativity, unproductive thoughts and actions which are the empty calories of performance. Ensure that we concentrate on those activities that support our priorities (VMG’s – Vision, Mission, Goals).

Minimize Mingling with Morons

The people we associate with are key. Those who add value and optimism over negativity are helpful. We should inoculate and isolate from ignorance, by limiting our exposure to the misfortune tellers, who always predict a negative result.

Consult an Oracle

We should surround ourselves with people who can fearlessly review our performance and offer advice. They can challenge us with scenarios and potential situations that will help us anticipate the future of present and proposed responses to our actions. They will ensure that we are not satisfied with a level of performance that sucks. They will encourage us to do better and to believe that we can do better.

We must incrementally reduce the number of times we fall short of expectations.  We must pledge to put practices into place that will enable us to suck less in the long run. When we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, our reflections should lead to practices that enable us to Suck Less 4 Success.

Copyright © 2018 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

 

A Call to Decency & Integrity (D&I)

The 4th Monkey (3)

Decency is not a trade he frequently discuss. Yet, people know what it is when they see it. We would agree that people who are decent are trustworthy, with strong character traits, such as integrity. They are respected and held in high esteem. Decency is an acquired state. It is a function of diligence, conditioning, and a propensity to do the right thing. It is combination of characteristics, attitudes, and positive personal values, which causes people to gravitate to the as a magnet.

You may not have it as a goal, nonetheless it is a byproduct of being a good person. Decency is a positive side effect of good behavior. The individuals possess high moral standards and a solid reputation and track record.

Google defines decency as “behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability.” It is often used in the context of someone being modest.

Decency surfaced on my first interview trip as a district sales manager. I was sent to help a district manager fill vacant sales of territories. The company had a structured interview program based on behavioral questions. We looked for competencies or behaviors necessary to do the job. Past performance / behavior was a predictor of future performance. Whereas there were no questions related to decency, it was evident, among the candidates.

One candidate rose to the top of my list. He had the requisite potential to be an outstanding sales rep. This was during a time when we were hiring recent college graduates for sales positions. There was one sales territory that was hard to fill. My favorite candidate evoked the word decency. He had the requisite skills, but I kept thinking, he is a thoroughly decent individual.

Decency translated into a culmination of many positive character traits. His overall demeanor was supported by quantifiable, specific behavior related outcomes.

Our interviewing questions covered such areas as presentation skills, product knowledge, administrative abilities, persuasion, teamwork, tenacity, resilience, creativity, and organizational skills.

Sandwiched between his answers were examples of

  • Fairness, equality, and good judgment
  • A hard-working personality
  • Faith centered living
  • Integrity and moral behavior with clients and competitors

Decency is an attribute, we relish in people who lead us, serve us, and befriend us. They have integrity which is characterized by the 4th Monkey (Shizaru) which is “Do No Evil”. Decency is not something we feel we can teach, but believe it was necessary for longevity and success in the long term. It may be a function of upbringing, conditioning, modeling behavior, practice, and reinforcement. Decency is often described as; you know it when you see it, or you can feel its presence in your gut.

In a highly competitive marketplace, decency can be a tiebreaker in hiring employees and building relationships and collaborations. We should determine whether candidates can play well in the sandbox, are good listeners and strong team players. They could essentially play well with others, driven by a sense of fairness and purpose, emotional intelligence, likability, and a desire to excel and achieve their inner greatness.

When we visually survey our workers and coworkers, if we find they have a sense of decency we could probably see the following.

  1. Authenticity
  2. Integrity
  3. Honesty
  4. Strong work ethic, based on productivity, quality and execution
  5. Treats people fairly, with dignity and respect
  6. Moral character as reflected in the stories they tell
  7. A sense of fair play

Answer the following question. Are you a decent human being? How do you know this to be true? Asked the coworker, relative or friend if they would consider you a decent person. Ask for examples.

The decent human being is the team player that people like to work with and want on their teams. Strong character individuals are sought after in every interaction that is important to us. It is advantageous to associate with decent people and hire, develop and promote in our organizations.

Copyright © 2020 Orlando Ceaser