Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Lessons in Handling Differences

We are often started with the commercialization of Christmas. We are reminded to not lose sight of the reason for the season. This is valuable advice for Christians and others during this reverent time of year.

We grew up with Gene Autry Christmas classic of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. It is a delightful song, but also delivers a powerful message about encountering and handling differences. This song could start meaningful conversations about 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 approval. Even to this day, there is something about us that makes us stand out from the crowd and the crowd lets us know it.

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. “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.  He would have manifested a difference that would have caused him difficulty until he was accepted. We usually ask the different party to fit in, when the real focus should be on them being accepted by the group.

Bullying is also a response shown toward those who are different. The song the does not indicate that Rudolph was bullied, but we can only assume that preventing him from “playing in any reindeer games” was not always 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 that the solution to his problem existed among the ranks of his reindeer. He knew he had one reindeer that could help navigate the wintry delivery of toys to boys and girls around the world. This opportunity would be well received it if every reindeer benefited from his gift.

We can give Santa credit for waiting for the appropriate time to unveil strategy. He could have given the reindeer the opportunity to work it out amongst themselves, as so many people do in similar situations. They 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 and 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 solve 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, that they recognize their true value and wish to share this value with every member on the team. 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 important member of the team. He validated his value 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 real 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, so often when the difference that is ridiculed or denied is used for the benefit of the group, the organization, institution, group or community becomes stronger. The people learn a valuable lesson about inclusion. 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.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

More works from Orlando Ceaser in Unlock Your Leadership Greatness and Unlock the Secrets of Ozone Leadership available at amazon.com and http://www.orlandoceaser.com.

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Leadership and the Ozone Layer – Channeling the heat

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Managers often talk about the heat generated in many organizations by their superiors. A solar fire storm comes down from on high, whenever Senior Leaders are dissatisfied with results. These measures vary within companies, but usually relate to financial outcomes.  When pressured, these leaders want immediate improvement. Their words may be indelicate with crude language and their words and demeanor may be threatening.  This intimidating method of getting higher performance has been successful in the past and is a knee jerk reaction to falling profits.

Employees of these fire wielding executives need an ozone layer, like the one that circles the Earth. Science classes from the past and the current discussions on climate change make us aware of the ozone layer. The American Heritage Science dictionary defines it as “A region of the upper atmosphere containing relatively high levels of ozone, located mostly within the stratosphere. It absorbs large amounts of solar ultraviolet radiation, preventing it from reaching the Earth’s surface.” It is essentially a protective layer that prevents the full burst of the sun’s rays from striking the Earth. The earth’s ozone layer does not filter out all of the heat, just the harmful ultra violet rays.

The ozone layer in our context can also be described as a supportive culture that protects employees from intimidation and excessive pressure from people in authority.  In my book, Unlock the Secrets of Ozone Leadership I assigned five attributes to Ozone Leadership. They are;

  • Protective
  • Selective
  • Corrective
  • Effective
  • Directive

These attributes lay the premise and the foundation for the philosophical rationale behind Ozone Leadership. Like the Earth’s ozone layer, a business ozone layer administered by an Ozone Leader working effectively, can protect the organizational culture. The results are greater productivity, higher morale, which holds everyone, including, leadership accountable.

Middle managers jobs are based on their ability to implement strategy and tactics to achieve share holder and stake holder value. In organization where senior leaders employ an intimidating management style, their managers may be required to serve as the ozone layer for their people.

Managers as effective leaders must regulate the heat to see that if falls appropriately. They know their personnel and realize that some individuals in the organization may need a hole in this ozone layer to feel the additional heat. If they are not performing properly they cannot be pampered and allowed to give less than their best. Some people may need to be shocked into working at expected levels. This must be done in the context of a respectful workplace and honoring them without bullying, intimidation or harassment. There may be a window in the ozone layer to allow them to be excised from the organization, as skillfully as a surgical strike with a laser beam.

When the solar winds cascade down the leadership chain the Middle managers feel the full brunt of the energy surge. One manager recalls being told, “If you are not tough enough to get the job done, we will replace you with someone who will.” Threats are generally a part of the vocabulary of solar expectations. Fear is believed to be a potent motivator. For years we have learned that the KITA (Kick in the Ass) approach only works temporarily and the stick part of the “carrot and stick” approach also has limited sustainability. When people can leave an organization, they will leave if their current organization abuses these methods.

The middle managers know their people are hard working and that some of the shortfall in performance is a shared responsibility. Leaders and the rank and file may have under estimated the size of the challenge. It is therefore, a shared responsibility to fix the problem. Local leaders modify the threats in the message for they realize the negative effect it has on morale and productivity. They know from recent literature that positive expectations and clear focus will allow people to think better. What are needed are calm minds to solve the problems. These leaders therefore, form a force field around their people to shield and buffer them from a direct hit. They usually channel the heat. They;

  • Gather their teams together and explain the dire situation around performance
  • Evaluate the current state to determine how they got there
  • Brain storm ideas and establish a list of things they should stop or start doing
  • Work to develop strategies and tactics to improve sales and financial performance
  • Adjust the tone of the demands from Senior leadership, while developing solutions to address the concerns of upper management

The company achieves its objectives due to the passionate, insightful work of the managers and their teams. People recognize that they dodged a solar bullet and everything is fine until the next crisis. When Senior Leadership sees the positive results; the reversal of negative trends, increased market share, they are pleased and complimentary. However, they are convinced that their firebombing directives caused the change. Senior leadership are prepared to reach for the flame thrower and use whatever draconian methods necessary to keep their organizations focused on reaching the results required to keep share holders happy. Therefore, with the next crisis they can be predicted to respond the same way, but with greater intensity. To minimize potential over reactions, it is incumbent upon the Ozone Leader to equip the team to minimize deviations from the corporate goals and objectives.

Solutions

If the practice of leaders in your organization is to respond the same way to every crisis, the objective should be to eliminate or minimize the number of crises. It is incumbent upon leaders to keep their teams always anticipating competitive and market pressures to prevent the initial crisis. Otherwise the fire drill will repeat itself and they may not be able to blunt the impact and consequences. This will require a change in mindset at all levels of the organization. All leaders, including middle managers should control the area within their jurisdiction. They should;

  • Ensure that their people exceed their stretch goals (effective)
  • Conduct simulations and “What if” drills to anticipate competitive responses
  • Ensure that employees are clear on the leader’s expectations (directive)
  • Eliminate competing priorities, being selective in what affects their time (selective)
  • Be willing to change course and admit when the leader makes a mistake (corrective)

All followers should:

  • Develop a “What else” mindset directed toward other things they should do to tackle or prevent a problem. This mindset will also help generate and evaluate alternative solutions
  • Monitor competitive activities
  • Ensure that customers are steadily assessed and surveyed to determine their level of satisfaction
  • Highly value customer service and customer surveillance as a high priority to provide the kind of market intelligence needed to make better decisions

The ozone layer mentality should be a part of the corporate culture. This will prevent the untoward effects of leadership striking the panic button and forgetting everything they learned about motivating people and driving behavior. Or it will ensure that local measures are put in place to achieve the objectives of senior leaders without torching and scorching the very people responsible for correcting the problems and creating the solutions.

Leadership needs to construct an environment of innovation and a culture that inspires people to give their best and offer solutions with fear of reprisal and ridicule. Trust and respect will go a long way toward eliminating a culture of fear and intimidation and ultimately produce the ideas and innovations needed to exceed objections.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

Learn more about Ozone Leadership by ordering my book The Secrets of Ozone Leadership which is available at www.orlandoceaser.com and www.amazon.com. The information is available in a hard cover, e-book and as an audio book, which is also available on iTunes.

The Impact of Personnel Decisions on Employee Morale and Team Performance

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People are fired every day. The remaining employees were witnesses to the personnel decision and the aftermath. Coworkers may not be familiar with the whole story. They may suspect a person had performance issues, but were not aware of all of the particulars. However, they will form an opinion. Their opinion can affect their morale and the overall performance of the team.

The grape-vine and the rumor mill are the primary sources of information. It may present a jaded, slanted, one-sided day and misguided view of what happened. If they only hear the side of the affected person, the company may not get a proper hearing. Employees may see their peer escorted from the building or received a phone call about an employee’s departure from the organization. Their interpretation of the event will send a buzz of communication throughout the company.  How management responds to these events will keep people focused and committed to the company and its goals and customers.

There are a series of personnel issues that management has to address. There are situations when a person violated company policies in an egregious manner. They may have a person in a job well over their heads. The situation is complicated when the person is personable with a long career with the organization. If they were no longer able to keep up with the workload, the job separation may have been a humane decision.  Termination was an act of mercy, putting them out of their misery, whether they saw it that way or not.

Some people will not discuss their status change with their peers or drag the company name in the mud. However, in an effort to look like a victim, some will blame the company for unfairness and cite a history of false claims which have nothing to do with their situation. They portray themselves in a positive light.

A sales representative was fired from her company for just cause. In order to save agents and preserve their ego she spreads lies to her peers. Additionally, she contacted the customers in her territory and made unfair, untrue accusations against her management and the organization. This caused a reduction in sales, as she was truly liked by her clients.

Human Nature

Human nature causes many of us to preserve our ego when we leave an organization on bad terms. People will rarely acknowledge their role in a termination. It is unusual to hear people say;

  • I was in over my head
  • I no longer had the necessary skills to perform the job
  • I lost my passion
  • The job had passed me by
  • I’ve violated company policy and was caught

It is more convenient to paint themselves as a victim and the company as the villain. Sometimes, people are fired for cheating or violating some of the companies’ rules and regulations. Invariably, Management will hear stories about the manager being a jerk, unfair and untrustworthy. If the person was highly regarded by their peers, there is a drop in trust and morale. Some people feel that if the affected person could be terminated, their own position may be very shaky or tenuous at best. “If they could let her go, I better watch my back.”

When people do not trust the company to do the right thing and feel decisions are made in a vindictive manner, employees will work out of fear. This fear increases anxiety and does not necessarily give the best performance and may show up or breakdown in other ways.

Professional Etiquette

Employees do not have access to the whole story, for it is not their business. However, if someone was struggling on the job, as a peer, they may have wondered, why the person was hired or why it took management so long to get them. If the person was not pulling their weight or were violating policies, their peers are usually the first to know. Many times after a person is terminated, the co-workers would ask, “What took you so long?” To which I would respond, “If you knew the person was a problem, why didn’t you come to us?” They would usually answer that it was not their job and they did not want to be responsible for someone losing their job.

Respect for employees and potential legal issues for the company, are good reasons to not discuss everyone’s performance issues. The best thing an organization can do is to discuss their overall personnel philosophy. If people trust the company and believe the company has their best interest at heart and act in a fair and impartial manner, they will assume the personnel decision was made for the right reasons. Companies candidly state they do not discuss individual performance levels of employees with their peers. However, they want everyone to know that personnel decisions are not made in a haphazard manner. They have a respectful workplace with an open door policy to allow all employees to discuss their performance with their manager and the Human Resources Department, when necessary. Some companies will allow employees to go over their supervisor to discuss performance with higher levels within the organization. This is a cultural matter which varies within companies and departments.

A Trusting Culture is the Key

I believe that prevention is the best intervention. This also applies to morale issues regarding terminations. The best response actually occurs on the front end. Within a high-performance culture where leadership is transparent and respectful, people are less likely to panic when someone is terminated. When a company has firmly established core values, people know what is expected of them. When these values are communicated, a culture develops that creates an environment of trust. David Horsager, in his book, The Trust Edge, says,” Everything of value is built on trust, from financial systems to relationships. He states eight components of The Pillars of Trust. They are clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution and consistency. When these eight pillars are strongly present, employees have to trust in their organizations.

The more employees know about the values behind decisions, the more trust and relaxation are present in the face of job actions. They realize that a termination or resignation is the result of an exhaustive, extensive series of events and soul-searching that may lead to the end of employment. Employees also realize that if they perform their jobs to the best of their ability, they will be treated fairly. They also, know that when people leave the organization, it is probably for a good reason.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Free e-book, Leadership Greatness through High Performance Poetry, http://www.OrlandoCeaser.com

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Embarrassed in your career or Routed in pursuit of your dreams

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How many times have you suffered an embarrassing defeat in your career or on the journey to achieve your dreams? Imagine your career or dreams as a sporting event. There are many similarities you can make to use this metaphor to examine your performance. Reflect objectively on a time when you did not deliver your best performance. You can then use the sporting analogy to analyze your performance and subsequent actions to get back on the right track, to outstanding results.

I was watching one of my professional sporting teams experience a severe defeat. They lost 55 to 14 to a division rival. It could be classified as a beat down, embarrassment, retiring on the job or surrendering on national television. Whatever the classification, it was hard to watch. The coach looked confused. The quarterback was stunned. Offense and defense collectively were disappointed and the fans were upset. I wanted to gain something positive from this experience, since I invested time watching the game. I searched for a correlation in the world of business and personal achievement.

I knew there would be many commentators, patrons, fans and armchair quarterbacks who would list a number of reasons for the debacle. They would want the coaches and general managers fired. They would want someone to pay for the spectacle that humiliated the city and its inhabitants. Someone had to lose their job because of this performance or the lack of performing. Have you ever been routed by the competition? Are you secretly being annihilated at this moment? Have you ever wanted to fire yourself or put someone else in your position? Are you, in some area of your life, losing out to someone more strategic, better prepared with equivalent talent? Is their game plan a superior document? Are they marching to victory with superior execution, preparation and passion? Think about this honestly.

Imagine your career and dreams as a sporting event. Wouldn’t it be wise to make first round draft choices to benefit the team? If some failed to pull their weight, you could counsel and replace them if necessary. They should be making actions to benefit the team, not focused on individual achievement and unnecessary celebrations to the detriment of the group.

There was a time when you failed to execute your strategy. You knew what to do, but failed to rely on your fundamentals and your abilities to work together as a team. You assembled a team of advisers, coaches and friends who were not skilled at their positions. They were nice enough. They did not give you candid advice when you needed to receive it. They were more concerned with staying in your good graces and benefiting from associating with you.

In the face of watching my favorite team gets spanked. I was forced to look inwardly and ask myself, where have I played a game that was not competitive and was not representative of my career goals, dreams or expectations? When did I disappoint my fans and let myself down? Where was I routed by an embarrassing act of incompetence, lack of passion and poor execution? Where did I collapse in the face of a stronger rival, due to intimidation or lack of preparation? After I face the reality that I have personally been routed by the competition, I can examine my response.

I was able to turn my season around. What did I do to make that happen? My responses to set backs are swift, instinctive and decisive. I don’t often think about them, but there is value in exposing the techniques I use. I can use this analogy and blueprint to help others. What tough choices did I make to get back on the winning track on the road to respectability? What tough decisions did I have to make pertaining to my personal habits and the individuals who influenced my behavior? Something happened. New habits were formed. Execution of the fundamentals was mandatory. I proved to myself that things could be and would be different going forward. I committed myself to excellence in preparation and execution. My past taught me to be patient with others, and I guide them recover from their own personal debacles and defeats. The objective is to instill the skills and strengthen the will and discipline to prevent it from happening again.

I go through life viewing the world from three perspectives. I want to entertain or be entertained, educate or be educated and inspire and be inspired to achieve dreams and career fulfillment. I can use setbacks such as a demoralizing performance of an athletic team to educate and inspire, even though it lacked the necessary entertainment value.

We are going through life continuing to hone our skills as a student of the game. This principle is at the center of the core messages delivered in my book Unlock Your Leadership Greatness. There are 10 principles to keep you from being embarrassed in your career or routed in your dreams. They are:

  1. Be fit for the role
  2. Be powered by a dream
  3. Be a student of the game
  4. Master the fundamentals
  5. Set high standards
  6. Always be creative
  7. Execute with passion
  8. Lead by example
  9. Make others better
  10. Serve others

 

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

6 Personalities on the Path to Progress

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You will encounter a variety of people along the path to progress. There are a number of personalities on your journey willing to provide assistance or to be an impediment to you. Six profiles are highlighted based on personal and group observations. They are the relaters, waiters, haters, traitors, debaters and spectators. No one is exclusively one profile all the time. You may vacillate among the characteristics depending on the situation and the people involved. It is important to identify these personalities in order to enlist their assistance or to avoid their negative attacks on your well-being and your ability to achieve outstanding results.

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Relaters

These individuals relate to your dreams, goals and aspirations. They are in sync with your mission to succeed. There is a connection, commitment and compatibility with your dream. They relate positively to your intentions and seeking the best for you. They are on the sidelines and in the game as supporters, cheerleaders and advocates. It warms your heart to look in your corner and see relaters wanting you to make it.

Waiters / Waitresses

Waiters and waitresses have ‘. They are not individuals hired by you, but people who voluntarily serve you on your journey. They are your friend, parents, teachers, coaches, mentors and positive peers. They may be anonymous or strangers say a kind word or perform a good deed. These individuals derive satisfaction from being of service to and being a part of the delegation responsible for your achievements.

I ran the Chicago Marathon twice and the streets were lined with people with signs encouraging the runners. They screamed out the numbers of the runners and some of them provided us with water and beverages. You may recall a waiter or waitress who gave you outstanding service. They asked poignant questions in order to serve you better. They went out of their way to make your visit an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Haters

You may have come in contact with these individuals. They are outwardly against you. They may be jealous, insecure or just plain malicious in their attitude toward you. You may not have done anything against these people, but they see you and immediately resent you and your accomplishments. Haters are committed to bringing you down. They celebrate and laugh when you stumble. They have the resentment to match your contentment and find great satisfaction whenever you experience difficulties. Haters are prone to go to great lengths to place barriers in front of you and to turn people against you. They are constantly questioning your motives, while developing conspiracy theories to discredit your work.

Haters are very dangerous because of their capacity to spread malicious lies, rumors while attacking your reputation. Their outward expression of contempt may not be to your face, but many people will be exposed to their feelings.

Traitors

Traitors may get very close to you and win your confidence. You may trust them only to find out that they were false friends. They will work inwardly to unravel and discredit your progress to success. They will secretly try to undermine your efforts and tell people about your innermost secrets and weaknesses. Traitors may start out as relaters, but somewhere along the way they turn against you. Hopefully you will find out soon enough that they cannot be trusted. They are back biters and back stabbers. They may be passive aggressive, sneaky and secretive. Traitors may ruin your reputation by selling your secrets to the highest bidder.

Because traitors are believed to be your friends, their words ring with truth and credibility to an unsuspecting audience. Traitors will break your heart because of their proximity to your inner circle. They are on the inside and privy to your thoughts, feelings and actions.

Debaters

While you are committed to your journey, you will find a number of people challenging you every step of the way. They try to talk you out of success. They will question your sacrifice and try to discourage you from wasting your time. They will give you countless counter arguments and examples of others who failed through no fault of their own. They will persistently challenge the value of your dreams and the foolishness of your work ethic. Debaters will make you question your intelligence and qualifications for your objectives.

Debaters, however, can strengthen your resolve and survival skills. When you successfully counter their arguments, you will be stronger against other opponents. They actually prepare you for meaningful discourse with the conscientious objectors who are against your desire to be successful.

Spectators

In many respects your journey to succeed is a competitive event. There are spectators who are on the roadway in the field. There are other individuals who are in the stands watching the game. They do not get involved in the activities. They may cheer, but the cheers may not be for you. You may see the spectators in the stands, but you do not know their allegiance. You just know that they are present. They do not personally give you words of encouragement, as is the case with relaters and the waiters. You may not know if they are against you like the haters, debaters and the traitors.

Haters and traitors are potentially destructive. You need to find out who they are and develop strategies, structures and individuals to shield you from their insecurities. Haters and traitors attack you from different positions. Haters are outwardly against you. Traitors are inwardly against you. They gained your confidence and many times, you were unaware of their insidious nature.

Some debaters are convinced they are trying to protect you by talking you out of your dream. They may feel the dream is too dangerous and you may be hurt and they want to spare you the grief and humiliation associated with failing. However, many debaters are insecure and don’t want you to succeed because they will take it personally. If you succeed and they do not, they will see themselves as failures.

The spectators may be harmless, but they should be more than a witness along your path to progress. Spectators should get involved in the game and become relaters and waiters to support your cause. It is wonderful when spectators decide to be a part of the success of others. This service to others could be a major personal development growth opportunity on their path to becoming a leader.

These six personalities are present any time you try to accomplish something. They are the people you meet along the path to progress. The supportive personalities such as the relaters and waiters are essential to give you the moral support and technical proficiency, you need to succeed. Words of encouragement and acts of kindness from these individuals are instrumental in giving you the confidence and competence to achieve your goals.

Copyright © 20014 Orlando Ceaser

The “A” Game Chronicles – Discover and deliver it

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How often have you heard someone say or someone is told to bring their “A” Game to the competition? They don’t say bring a game, but the capitalized “A” game. I wonder if people know what their “A” Game looks like. How often have they seen it? Would they recognize it when they saw it? I wonder if they have ever challenged themselves at such a high level that it brought out their “A” game. Then they would know what it looked like and could therefore, duplicate it upon demand. They are told to get an “A” for effort, but you need the results to back it up

Their “A” game is heavily in demand. “A” is for action or “A” is for achievement. “A” is for the highest performance. I knew managers who were never rated at the top performance tier within their organization. Yet many of these managers would distribute these ratings without hesitation. My questions were always two fold. First, “How could you?” and secondly, “Do you know what awesome looks like, since you never received the rating? The same applies to someone’s “A” Game. Do you know what it looks like and does a manager know when it has arrived and how to bring it out in the open? An accumulation of “A” games should lead to the highest performance ranking and rating within the group.

There are apparently different standards for an “A” game. I suppose it is in the eye of the beholder. What measuring device are you using for an “A” game? Your “A” Game could be a function of the following:

• Attitude – your disposition spells confidence and could cause your best performance to explode out of your potential.
• Awareness refers to self – awareness, for you are in touch with your physical and mental capabilities. Your emotional intelligence (EQ) involves knowledge of people and relationships. When combined with competitive knowledge and personal or self knowledge you create a climate for your “A” game to develop.
• Aptitude – (IQ) – intelligence referring to mental skill and thinking enhances by hours of hard work, reading and analyzing your performance and expectations.
• Alignment – consistent with goals
• Achievement focused
• Action oriented – execution, passion and initiative

What the “A” Game is not – pseudo “A” Game or false positive

• Avoidance – hiding from your best performance and abdicating to other work you should perform yourself
• Absent – missing and engaged in inaction when you are expected on the job. When people are depending on you.
• Awkward – uncoordinated, undisciplined due to a lack of practice and poor technique.
• Average – In the same level as others. Your “A” game should be a moving target. The best you have today should be better than yesterday and below the high bar, you have established for tomorrow. This gives you something to aspire to within the range of your potential.

In delivering your “A” Game on a bad day you may be slightly short and deliver an “A-“Game, which is an A minus Game. But this is a whole lot better than a negative “A” Game. For this is the polar opposite to your best performance. This is essentially an “F” Game which is not acceptable.

Everyone brings a game to the arena, but you should make sure that it is your “A” game; an awesome effort that leads to an astonishing performance.

Copyright © 2011 Orlando Ceaser

Quick decisions – Decisive or deceptive

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Speed is often admired in the communication process. A leader who makes snap decisions is seen as forceful, decisive and endowed with qualities that command attention and admiration. However, in some instances the quick decisions may mask insecurity, incompetence, lack of authenticity and integrity issues. The observer may miss the signs as they focus on the flashy presentations.

Difficulties in business relationships arise when the false and manipulative motives are discovered and revealed. Lack of integrity violates the rules of emotional intelligence as portrayed by Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership. The snap decision from a disingenuous leader is pretentious and undesirable. They may be hiding something.

People with cruel intentions will ultimately be discovered. Perceptive people are everywhere. They will play the role of an investigative reporter and will eventually unmask the leader through the clues provided through their communication style. The early signs of skepticism may be initiated when snap decision are made without collaborating with others. This could be the tip of the iceberg that will lead to their downfall. A gut feeling may signal that something is wrong. The observer may decide to register their actions as suspicions and commit to keeping an eye on the leader. The unscrupulous leader may use their quick decisions to impress people, shield their incompetence or to ward off threatening opponents. But, their dishonestly will be discovered, because someone is watching them.

Quick decisions on their own are not a problem, particularly if based on familiarity with the situation and subject matter and a reputation of sound judgment. Snap decisions do not automatically mean a character defect. They may be the result of a keen business mind that thinks through multiple options with split second timing. These traits must be respected and appreciated. However, people have been known to make knee jerk reactions without thinking through all of the data and evaluating the options in order to hide their selfish or libelous intentions.

Let us take a moment to review, explore and extol the benefits of a leader being decisive.

If the leader is an effective communicator and demonstrates balance in their decision making, people are impressed. People are not tempted to look for problems. They analyze the messages from formation, to delivery, receipt and response and nothing seems out of order. When messages are filtered through the receiver’s value system, experiences and beliefs, the communicator seems perfectly in line.

People look up to and study the leader. They innocuously look for signs to learn how to communicate better and to ensure they are properly following the leader. Additionally, people;

• Pay attention to, notice and respond to more than the leader’s words. By this I mean, they watch the leader’s facial expressions. The non-verbal signals are launched before the verbal. It’s like lightning arriving before the sound of thunder.
• Messages incompatible with the leader’s intent are intercepted and clarified. They will clarify by saying,” I don’t think if I made myself clear.” They may ensure understanding by asking, “May I restate what I said?” They place the onus on the leader rather than on the receiver for the accuracy of the communication, which should minimize misunderstandings.
• The leader has an obligation to do their best to clear the arteries of communication. Then it’s up to the person hearing the message.

The first time the perceptive person (investigative reporter / listener) suspects there is something improper about the leader, they may feel uncomfortable. They know biases and prejudgments cause us to think the worst in human interactions. If they are objective, they may feel they could be biased against the leader because the leader may remind them of someone else, who dealt them a dirty deed. Initially, they may question their own judgment and objectivity.

The investigative reporter recognizes that it is wise to go slowly in such serious matters. They are patient and thorough, as they compile the information. They look for a trend in certain behaviors before jumping to conclusions. When they consistently see snap decisions made that devalue people, witness inconsistent messages that seem illogical, they are pressed into a deeper state of scrutiny. They do their homework and move carefully to gather data on relationships and careers that were trashed by the leader’s impulsive and damaging words.

There is a certain rhythm and communications in the workplace. There is a standard of how people should perform and how people should be treated. Invariably, you may find a leader with character issues, such as a lack of integrity and this will upset the rhythm of the environment through their communication style. Snap decisions in their hands are a weapon and a shield. When they are discovered, they should be replaced or the organization risk losing credibility for a lack of commitment to standards.

Snap decisions, that are the wrong decisions and those delivered for the wrong reasons, may cause continuous stress and conflict. They will create a constant state of turmoil due to internal and external pressure. But they may be an indicator of a major cover-up that is happening right before your very eyes

Don’t forget. Be impressed by quick decisions made by skillful leaders with the gift of discernment and execution. However, where they are made with insufficient data with a disregard for people, they may reflect a skill deficiency or the leader is hiding a major insecurity or character flaw.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Secrets of Success in Sales and Leadership

This interview was given to Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Magazine and contains information that is still current and vital for today’s professional in any field.
“How do you describe your job? Do you feel that you are simply a salesperson whose only real duty is to sell as much of your products as you can? If so, this month’s column is for you! The average rep might get away with this mindset, but the best reps in this industry see their jobs in terms of both sales and leadership.

This month we speak with Orlando Ceaser, author of Leadership Above the Rim: The Poetry of Possibility. He has authored numerous articles, books and CDs, and has a comic strip on leadership, motivation and personal development. Formerly the Senior Director of Diversity for AstraZeneca, he is now a motivational communicator for Watchwell Communications, Inc, We speak with him this month to tap into his over 30 years of experience to learn how the best reps use leadership skills to get to the top of their field.

Orlando, you have worked with reps from a variety of vantage points. Why don’t we start by giving us a definition of leadership as it pertains to a pharmaceutical sales representative?

Leadership is defined in the eyes of the customer. The pharmaceutical sales representative, who helps their clients reach their vision of quality patient care, will be perceived as a leader. They will lead by example and develop credibility through technical expertise and outstanding customer service. Their responses to questions will be in the best interest of the customer. Their objectivity will create meaningful trusting relationships. They will be in the upper echelon of sales reps by using their talent, skills and resources to provide value and exceed customer expectations.

How do you see the industry’s most successful representatives using their leadership skills to advance their careers?

These individuals are not afraid to take risks. They will openly ask questions in meetings, volunteer for special projects and coach and challenge their peers. They recognize that each interaction is an interview, so their time in front of senior leadership is used as an opportunity to demonstrate their talent and tactics. They realize that the first step to a promotion is doing their current job to the best of their ability. The most successful representatives know that advancing their careers does not necessarily require a promotion or relocation. They may accept a lateral move, as well as a higher rung on the career ladder.

The successful sales representative will use a mentor or coach to help them improve their performance and counsel them on their career. They will develop advocates who are aware of their track record. These representatives are continuously learning and looking for ways to excel among their peers, by being competitive, but not in a negative manner.

If a rep doesn’t have a lot of experience in leading other people, where can he or she begin to get that experience?

Experience leading people can be gained on the job by taking the lead on projects and volunteering to assist their manager on special teams and with field training new representatives. They will gain valuable experience leading a team and learn to influence without authority. Additionally, there are opportunities away from the job where they can hone leadership skills. Sales representatives may volunteer in local community, religious, social, military and sports programs.

Sales representatives should let management know the scope of these leadership opportunities and the skills being developed. It is a good idea to have leadership development as a career objective and read books, take classes, attend seminars to help fulfill the leadership objective.

What do you think are the top one or two qualities and/or habits that make a great leader in this field?

Great leaders have the ability to rally a team to a cause greater than themselves. Marcus Buckingham, the author of First break all the rules and The one thing you need to know, says, “Great leaders rally people to a better future.” This vision of the better future is passionately presented, designed and executed. People follow because they can see how it will benefit them. Clarity in defining the future and optimism as they alleviate the fears of their team is necessary to keep them focused on achieving corporate and personal objectives.

What one or two qualities or habits do you think are very destructive in people who are in leadership roles?

I have noticed a number of leaders lose control of their organizations lacking integrity and trustworthiness. These are more than moral failing; they strike to the core of motivating a team to strive for the future espoused by a leader. If people don’t trust the leader this will impact morale, levels of engagement, productivity and sales results. It will also prevent the leader from retaining their top talent.

Additionally, in a global economy, leaders who are not inclusive or culturally competent will be a liability to their organizations.

What would you tell a representative who feels that they don’t have the basic skills or characteristics to be a leader? Perhaps they don’t like to be in the spotlight, or lack confidence in speaking out and giving their opinions, for example.

I would suggest reading books on leadership and discussing leadership skills with their manager. They may be mistaken regarding their ability to lead. In these current economic times, it may be a competitive advantage to acquire leadership qualities. For example, speaking up at meetings is a skill set that can be developed. Some people are introverts who like to process information differently and may take time to think through a response before commenting. Participation strategies and tactics can be devised to increase confidence and engagement. I know people who write down questions before and during a meeting to structure their thoughts. Others role play their responses before a meeting through mentally rehearsing their questions or practicing out loud.

Senior leadership makes decisions about the value of sales representatives from their ability to sell and their ability to lead. Expertise in selling today will cause leadership to ask the question, “Do they have what it takes to lead, tomorrow?”

The Humility Obsession – Suppressing your greatness

As children we were told to downplay emotions and not to brag about our talents. We were to temper our enthusiasm and refrain from taunting and trash talking. Too much celebrating was unsportsmanlike and might make the other players feel bad. Additionally, we did not want the other party to return the favor and celebrate in our faces. If we won, we should be humble and defer a lot of our positive comments to the performance of team. The more we could transfer the secrets of our success to the team, the better. Individual greatness was to be placed in the background. We should be graceful in victory or defeat. However, if we are not careful, this could work against us.

If we are talented, we should display the talent and refrain from arrogance, I get that. It is character building and appropriate to put team first, I understand the principle. But, unless we have a solid self image, a strong will and self confidence, we might develop a humility obsession, which could diminish our level of participation in various situations.
No one likes a braggart. This concept is clear. We are haunted by virtual and physical images of people being loathed for their “I am better than you” attitude. We have become so worried about being perceived as being stuck on ourselves that we run in the opposite direction. We feel out of place talking about our contributions, which could affect our self image and self-esteem. We don’t want to become unpopular. Therefore, some of us overcompensate and use excessive humility to project an incomplete, less potent version of our true self.
Have you encountered people with great ideas, but will not bring them up in meetings? They are not particularly shy or soft spoken. They often have many of these innovative thoughts, but do not want to come across as a know it all. They were told to be humble and this meant to keep a low profile.

A woman in the health club made the comment, “why can’t I see myself as my friends see me.” They told her that she was intelligent, creative and attractive, but she could not embrace those words for herself. She was caught up in the humility obsession and could not feel good about her appearance and intellect. Many of us tend to resort to self-deprecating words and behaviors because of the guilt we feel around placing ourselves at a higher level than those around us. We don’t want to be perceived as a target for ridicule which is often the case when people display a lot of confidence.

There is untold and untapped talent within our communities and corporations that will not step forward because of an inappropriate perception of humility. Some of these individuals are not shy or insecure, but may be driven to holding back their greatness because they were told to be seen and not heard.
This humility obsession causes us not to be satisfied with certain aspects of our career achievement or personal accomplishments. A humility obsession makes us afraid to take credit for our success. We fail to disclose the full range of our competence. We may not acknowledge the value of our role in achieving and exceeding objectives.
There are numerous solutions to the humility obsession. First, we need to concentrate on our motives and our intentions. Secondly, we should bask in our blessings and realize our gifts are to be shared with others to entertain, educate and inspire them to take positive action. We concentrate too much on the fall from grace if we jinx ourselves by being too proud of our work. “It is best to be humble rather than to be humble.” This is the mantra we repeat in our heads. We have what we have because of fate, so we shouldn’t get carried away with our role in the process. However, we must be thankful for our blessings and not feel guilty. Thirdly, we need to stop and celebrate who we are and what we’ve done. Our positive achievements should be a matter of record and we deserve accolades for the discipline required seek and secure excellence.

In my seminars on the Know system™, I take approximately 10 words from the word know to illustrate the Know System™ Decision Making Model. One of the keywords found in the word know is the word “on”. We have to be on at all times, which enables the people and resources we need to find us. When we are on message, on fire, on target or simply turned on, we are closer to being fulfilled. This also unleashes the winning instinct within us which drives us to become successful.

Humility has its merits. I am not advocating arrogant, obnoxious or condescending behavior. We should not be self absorbed or condescending. It is true that a bad case of arrogance can propel people from you rather than draw people toward. However, we must not use the humility obsession to deprive us of participating in life to the fullest. We should not use it to diminish our progress, success or achievements or to deprive the world of our skills, talents and abilities.

Humility is good, but a humility obsession makes us feel inhibited and unnatural when we want to express our greatness. We need to be secure in to allow people to utilize their talents and abilities and celebrate excellence without fearing ridicule from others. Humility if improperly used prevents us from appreciating the work we’ve done and the results we’ve achieved. We are worried about what people will say about us. We don’t want to be that person who is arrogant. But this aversion to arrogance can affect our confidence and self-esteem in the long run and cause us hours of discontent.
Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Leaders are not mind readers

There is value in leaders being aware of critical issues in the workplace. The quality of leadership decision-making is based on the quality of information or data on hand. You may feel that any leader worth their salt should have access to information that will help them do a better job. Leaders have many talents, but clairvoyance and mind reading are not within their skill set. Therefore, it is important for their teams to practice full disclosure on matters critical to the success of individuals, teams and organizations.

There are three areas I would like to emphasize to make my case. They are career status and updates, environmental hazards and new ideas.

Career expectations and updates

Current aspirations

Is your manager aware of your career expectations and personal goals? An employee became frustrated when he did not receive an assignment he cherished. He felt his performance would convince his boss that he was the ideal candidate for the job, but he never stated his interest. When I sold encyclopedias, I often used the ‘B’ volume for its excellent article and pictures about birds. The article began with a picture of a mother bird with a worm in her mouth. There were several baby birds in the nest. The question on the page was which bird will get the worm? The answer of course was the ones who made it known that they were hungry, by screaming with their beaks open. Individuals must vocalize their interest and make them known to their leaders by their actions.

Career alerts – changes in expectations

If you have career aspirations that have changed, wish to lead a project team and possess insight and ideas that could benefit the company, you must let them know.
Leaders have an understanding of your career limitations or restrictions. If this information becomes outdated or you have changed your mind, the only way they will know this, is if you bring it to their attention.

If you have changed your relocation flexibility, please keep your manager informed. Leaders are not like the notice included in your monthly bills. The notice asks if there is a change of address, please provide the new information. You must adopt the same procedure regarding career updates. It is also important for you to be objective when others around you are promoted who do not have your restrictions. You cannot be frustrated when others are moved ahead of you because of their ability to relocate to accept choice assignments.

Greg was very upset when a person with less tenure was promoted and relocated to the home office. He spread negative comments and felt it was unfair. When confronted with his displeasure, he indicated that he should have been considered for the job. When he was asked if his relocation restriction had been removed, he lowered his head and said it had not. He was reminded that he would have been in consideration if he could relocate. He was challenged to be more positive and to represent himself as the kind of leader who could be promoted in the future. He stated that that he wanted someone to ask him if his status had changed. He agreed to take responsibility for this task, since it was his career.

A reluctance to keep leadership informed on key aspects of your career can cause you to develop an unhealthy and unwarranted negative attitude towards leadership and the organization.

Acquisition of new skills

If you have acquired new skills through education or volunteerism outside the company, these new skills should become a part of your corporate resume. Skills such as organizing, administration and facilitation acquired on large civic, association or church projects might be transferable to the workplace.

Environmental hazards

A leader may not know about the poor working habits of some of your coworkers. These employees may not be shouldering their fair share of the work load. These individuals could be a drag on the team by damaging the morale of the group. These people are environmental hazards who could erode the culture of the unit. The attitude that says,” the leader is being paid the big bucks, so let them figure things out on their own,” undermines the effectiveness of hard-working individuals, the team and the organization. Failing to expose inefficiencies and ineffective people will eventually harm everyone.

If there are time wasting and budget draining activities, they should be discussed with your leadership as soon as possible. Ineffective procedures should be disclosed in a tactful manner.

A leader may inadvertently offend someone in your department or group. The manager may not be aware of this. Find a way to bring it to their attention, rather than allowing it to fester and endanger productivity.

The presence of such dangers may impair the well-being and effective functioning of the team. It is incumbent upon you to step forward and tell the leader. When you are close to the situation, you have the best view. The leader cannot read your mind and extract the necessary information. You must tell them.

New ideas

If you have talent and a skill set that is not been shared, maximum benefits are being minimize. Find a way to inform people about your gifts, whether in a meeting, by memo or through your mentor. If you have an idea or a better way of doing something, which could cost the company time and money, it would be a travesty for you not to disclose this information. The personal recognition and praise you receive could be financially rewarding.

Sharing information should not pose a threat to your career. If the organization punishes the messengers, you have to be very careful, but the information must be disclosed. You may handle this by participating in employee, satisfaction and engagement surveys, writing anonymous memos in suggestion boxes and / or relying on a trusted member of leadership in another department. The leader is not a mind reader, so you must adopt creative and straightforward measures to keep them informed about information vital to the well-being of everyone.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser