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

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The 4th Monkey – “Do No Evil”

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 any body. The one shutting his ears tells us that we should not hear the ill of any body. And the one shutting his eyes tells us that we should not see the ills of any body. 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.

It is fascinating the different interpretations of the four monkeys. 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. 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. There was an exception: if we could acquire evil information and use it 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.

Some of us have adopted a code of silence in the workplace and would not tell when someone was not pulling their own weight. We would rather silently complain or resign, before talking about a employee who was not working. It is our responsibility to find a way to report injustice, illegal behavior and practices that undermine people and the organization.

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.

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 and sexually charged language and actions exists in some 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.

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 the other three monkeys.

Do 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.

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 of all kinds.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

Itemize Individual Contributions to Team Results

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An interview is an excellent opportunity to blow your own horn, trumpet individual performance and brag about your accomplishments in a politically correct environment. However, in our team oriented culture, we sometimes forget that individual accomplishment is important. Frequently in an interview, candidates answer questions highlighting team accomplishments. They falsely believe the interview is a place only to celebrate team achievement. After all, we are constantly immersed in the value of effectively utilizing teams to reach corporate objectives. It seems only logical to use team vernacular in the interview to respond to the behaviorally based interview questions.

Candidates may fail to realize, that it is difficult for the interviewer, especially one who lacks a lot of interview experience, to extract an individual’s role in team centered answers. Therefore it is incumbent upon you as a candidate to isolate and itemize your contributions to the overall success of the team. The interview therefore, becomes a safe place for you to clarify and celebrate your individual accomplishments.

As a member of the team, you are expected to use team specific language while working on the job. We know it is important for you to coordinate your activities and collaborate with others to achieve a synergistic effect. But in the midst of daily activities, it is important for you to keep a record of your unique input to the overall project. This may involve questions asked, suggestions made and challenges delivered to accepted practices or ideas. In a team oriented department / organization, it is sometimes difficult to separate individual results from team performance. However, a strategic approach is necessary to isolate and itemize your contributions, as you climb the corporate ladder or interview for a job in another organization.

You must develop a “We / I” mentality. State that “We achieved a certain result and I was able to contribute in this achievement;” Then specifically itemize your contributions. The “We / I” based orientation is hard to do at first, but with practice and training, it will become a natural part of your conversation. The conversation that helps you develop an up-to-date resume, examples to be used in an interview and information necessary to grow your skills and abilities. It is critical to have an accurate perception of your strengths and weaknesses, so that you will know where they need to be enhanced. If you know your strengths, competencies, abilities, skills and talents, you can utilize them to effectively and accurately assess results and explain your actions.

The objective of “We / I” is not to put yourself in competition with your team members. It is not an opportunity to tell how you are more important to the team than your teammates. Part of the success of the team is the collective contributions of each member and the synergy created to get results. The idea of working in order to get credit for your actions can be counterproductive to the smooth working of the group. I believe the old adage that states,” consider the amount of work that can be done if we didn’t worry about who got credit for the results.” It is important in a team setting for everyone to work for the betterment and efficiency of the team to succeed as a unit.

Many organizations will tout the value of their teams. Some of these organizations will design their incentive programs to reward team performance. However, they will also assess individual performance. They will breakout or itemize individual performance through concentrating on particular behaviors. Recognizing these individual behaviors and distinctions are important when deciding career growth, promotions and succession planning.

Interviewers ask follow-up questions to determine the candidate’s role in their department’s success. When the candidates language and examples are structured in the context of what “we accomplished” the interviewer has to work too hard to obtain information. Many may not be patient enough and place the candidate in the” Not Interested” pile.  not interested”

Do not want the interview to incur the extra effort required to probe for individual contributions. You should provide concrete examples of your ideas; strategies and challenges that helped the team become better. You do not want to make it difficult for them to determine if you were an active member of the team or a member hiding behind the team’s reputation with very few ideas of your own. Interviewers look for the leadership role played in achieving results, rather than someone who just served as a follower or implementer of the ideas of others.

Candidates are frustrated by a perceived inconsistency between a team oriented culture and individualistic specific questions in an interview. When they receive the feedback that they did not specifically itemize their contributions to the team, they are confused. They feel as if the organization is sending mixed messages. Therefore, organizations need to clarify and ask people working in a team environment to track their individual contributions to the team and the reasons behind the request. We can compare this to team performances in other areas of our lives, whether in the field of athletics, academia, music or community activities. Success may be measured by the overall group achieving a goal, but there may be individual statistics, ideas, questions or actions that help the group reach its objectives.

If you’re working in a group where team performance is paramount, undoubtedly you are constantly thinking about achieving team objectives. These thoughts about achieving objectives will lead to actions that will inspire, challenge or push the team toward success, however it is measured. There will come a time when this project, job or assignment is over and you decide to move on to a different role. When you arrive at the different role, at some point in the interview, they will want to know the success of your team and your role in helping that team excel. The more clarity they can gain around your contributions, the better they will be able to determine if you are a person they need to fill the vacant position. Protect your career, assess your contributions and establish a system to itemize your contributions to the overall success of your group, team, Department or organization.  This will lead to better interviews and pave the way for a successful career through clearly stating the scope of your performance.

 

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

Performance fixing in the workplace – Lost productivity and restricted growth

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Athletes and their sports periodically are plagued by scandal. Athletes may be asked to lose a match, fight, or game by delivering less than their best effort. The tennis world was recently rocked by allegations of match fixing where players allegedly accepted payment for losing or throwing a match. Novak Djokovic, the reigning number one men’s player in the world, said he was offered $200,000 through his previous handlers in 2007 to lose a match.

Boxing has had its share of scandals. Unscrupulous fighters have been known to take a dive, throw a fight or lose a fight on purpose. Controversies have surfaced with football, basketball and baseball.

This tactic of solicitation; altering the outcome of a performance is also prevalent in other aspects of our lives. Performance fixing is not customarily a term used to describe substandard performance at work. We do not accuse employees of collusion, throwing a project or taking a dive regarding their objectives. However, there may be similarities with sports.

Friends or coworkers may ask you to deliberately act in ways that could negatively affect results. They may expect you to limit your participation or productivity, hold back by not delivering your best effort and engage in activities with consequences that will affect your grade, goal achievement, contributions or career.

It is an integrity issues when someone delivers an unearned and unsanctioned discount or illegally influences the score. But failing to bring your best effort is also unfairly influencing results by delivering below expectations.

People may have a variety of reasons for convincing others to take a dive. They may want you to make a supervisor look bad, fail or simply to compromise results for a number of reasons.

As a sales representative my competitors tried to discourage me from working hard and going beyond the call of duty. Ultimately, when I was promoted to management, they told me they thought I was smarter than to take a role in leadership. Their code of ethics was to do just enough to get by, not rock the boat or bring too much attention to the status quo of their comfortable world. They had tried for several years to get me to perform at a level that did not upset their established level of mediocrity. They were in effect asking me to fix the outcome of my selling activities by reducing my effectiveness.

Take a moment to reflect on your life and your performance in school, relationships or in your career. Have there been instances where people have discouraged you from taking a course of action; pursuing an MBA, volunteering for a project, advancing your education or participating in a manner that would improve the outlook for your career? They may not have offered money, but there was an expectation that you would conform to their request and maintain a friendship or relationship. Did they influence you to withhold your best performance or restrict your participation? How did you respond to their subtle influences to maintain the status quo? You probably did not see it as performance fixing.

Can you think of instances where you were reluctant to excel and talked yourself out of delivering your best performance? You may have convinced yourself that inertia, standing still, the status quo was more desirable than going after a promotion or shaming your peers. You may have told yourself the aggravation of more responsibility would be too much work and not worth the small financial payout and alienation from your peers. You may have held back, telling yourself that management would not be receptive to your efforts to improve your opportunities. The result was stabilization and stagnation.  Therefore, you took an internal dive and restricted the release of your talent and failed to maximize on the opportunities available.

Companies have lost productivity and revenue due to people shaving productivity across the organization. Individuals intentionally or unconsciously participated in a conspiracy to hold back on excellence. The payout was not also in money. They may have received resources or items of nominal value. It was for either pleasure or pain.

Pleasure could involve the camaraderie and benefits of connection in a powerful networking relationship. Being affiliated with people who are well known or who praise them makes them feel special. They may want the pleasure of associating with someone they wish to emulate, who makes them feel special.

The compensation could be the avoidance of pain. People are deprived of the discomfort of being shunned by their friends and the humiliation of failing to land a job because they took a risk. If they don’t pursue the job then they don’t have to make mistakes or suffer the failure not reaching it.

Withholding effort and talent is not considered a criminal event. People don’t think of themselves as being complicit in an illegal activity. But, they are assisting other people in activities that hurt themselves, other people or the company. Under the cover of darkness they are essentially breaking into a residence of excellence and stealing from the organization. They are taking a payoff to engage in activities that restrict growth and development.

Professional tennis was struck hard by the accusations of impropriety. The governing bodies of tennis are investigating their handling of this potential blemish on their profession and the parties involved. Other athletic associations, through the years have investigated and disciplined all parties found to be guilty of affecting the integrity of their sport. What must we do to ensure that performance fixing is minimized or eliminated from within our areas of responsibility?

You may consider it unfair to view lack of excellence and substandard engagement, as an integrity issue. But people are hired and expected to bring their best effort to the workplace every day. I had a manager who always asked me,” is this your best thinking?”  We must ensure that we bring our best thinking and best action to the workplace in our interactions with others. The dollar value on waste and on the opportunity costs of lost or poorly implemented ideas.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser