Managerial Monsters in the Workplace

Devil_Deal_CI grew up with a different generation of monsters. The monsters in the movies and television of my day had the same objective as the ones today, to shock and terrify. They strive to literally frighten you out of your mind. Please indulge me for a moment as I ask you to play a game. Answer this question “If my manager were a monster, who would they be?” To play along with me you must have a picture of your current manager, a manager from the past or a manager you heard about from someone else.

I grew up watching a program called Shock Theater. The hosts were zombie musicians who were probably the inspiration for the look of Michael Keaton in the movie Beetlejuice. The program was a prelude to the Creature Features segments on late night television. There were six favorite monsters or categories that dominated the movies in my childhood; the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein and various reptiles or mutated animals that were exposed to radiation. For this segment let’s concentrate on the top four; Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy.

My favorite character was Lon Chaney, Jr. who played the Wolfman. He was a frustrated man who was bitten by a werewolf and had to spend the rest of his life howling at the full moon. He was always seeking a cure and looking for sympathy from anyone who would listen to his tale of woe and help rescue him from his fate. He wanted to be different but was overpowered by the curse. Have you seen the Wolfman Manager in your organization? They appear to be nice, but are tormented by their role. They blame something or someone else for their cruel behavior. They were forced to be tough and it was agonizing for them because it was, out of character and against their temperament. In the presence of their boss, they would reluctantly turned into something horrible, to become consistent with leadership expectations.

Then there was Dracula, the vampire. He was charismatic, smooth talking and mesmerizing. He spoke with a distinctive accent and people were drawn to his charm, appearance and professional demeanor. He was royalty; after all he was a Count. But Dracula was still a blood sucker planned to render his victims hopeless and under his control. His intent was to drain others until they were no longer of use to him, other than to locate another food source. You may have seen a vampire walking around your company with that same arrogant, cold, uncaring look. The look that says they are interested in you for what you can do for them. The Vampire Managers walk around feeling as if they would be there forever and no one would discover their secrets. You may wonder if somewhere, there is a coffin containing their native soil.

The Mummy was cursed to guard the tomb or temple of his beloved. He was slow of foot, but was loyal, relentless and powerful. I’m speaking of the older version played by Boris Karloff. The newer version with Brandon Fraser is a stylized adaptation, but the plot is the same. There is a creature driven by an overpowering love and allegiance for the object of their affection. This person within your organization has an undying love for the status quo and will destroy anyone who tries to harm or change it. They will blindly institute unethical policies and cover them up, especially if an investigation is pending or inevitable. This individual will persistently pursue anyone who has anything negative to say about the company or anyone they personally admire within the organization. They will practice a technique known as delayed retaliation to seek revenge against their enemies.

An organization began a process of offering 360° feedback to its managers. The managers enlisted the help of their peers, direct reports and their supervisor. When they received less than flattering commentary, they smiled and thanked everyone for their contributions. Over the next several months, the Mummy Manager did everything within their power to slowly, relentlessly, strike back against those who offered disparaging feedback. The mummy within the organization is wrapped up, as a metaphor for hiding either their identity or their intentions.

Lastly, there was Frankenstein, named after his creator. He was a collection of body parts, that were sewn together to create a living breathing inhuman being. Frankenstein’s monster was depicted as mindless and easily irritated. He was created to be controlled and to demonstrate the power and influence of the scientist. He was the earlier version of the zombie. Frankenstein became identified with his creation. When the Frankenstein Monster saw his reflection and what he had become, he became angry. He realized how different it was from everyone else and that people were afraid of him. He was deliberately created to be controlled as an example of his creator’s intellect and power. He ultimately turned on his master.

The Frankenstein Manager appears in many organizations as the protégé who was shaped, mentored and created in the ruthless image of their sponsor. Eventually, the protégé will turn on its creator, causing much instruction in its wake. They emulate the same selfish tendencies observed in their Pygmalion. After the monster received or learned all they could from their master, it may cast the mad scientist mentor aside.

Each generation has its own monsters; whether it is the Wicked Witch of the East, Aliens, the Predator, Jason of Friday the 13th or Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street, they can be compared to the leadership styles of many of the leaders seen in organizations around the world. The traits of these frightful creatures are found in the leadership practices of some managers who believe they must resort to fiendish tactics or insensitive methods in order to get results. Where there is a monster, there is fear. Where there is fear, there is an antidote or a strategy possible to eventually relieve people from the threat of the monster and the power it has over the employees in the workplace.

Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser

The Case of the Righteous New Manager

Hammer

A promotion to management is quite an accomplishment. A new manager joins the ranks of leadership, among the most important individuals in an organization. The manager conducts the functions of planning, organizing, staffing and budgeting, to help the company achieve results and expectations. They are accountable for implementing corporate policies and strategies, as well as caring for the company’s most important resource which are its people.

New managers may possess traits that may hinder or delay the development of their teams and the rapid results they desire. Some have an attitude of righteousness, which means they feel anointed as a manager, rather than being appointed to the job.

New managers bring a fresh perspective to their assignment. They may not be mired in history, preconceived notions and the barriers and restrictions on what can’t be done. They bring drive, enthusiasm and a can do attitude along with a desire to prove that their superiors made the right choice when they were selected as the manager.

The righteousness that new managers display can be itemized as follows:

  • They use an autocratic management style to avoid being challenged
  • They try to mold people in their own image
  • Abuse power through favoritism and preferential treatment
  • Never truly left their old job

Autocratic style

The righteous new manager using the autocratic management style believes that the manager is always right. This management style is perfect for it allows some new managers to hide their insecurities. They project a feeling of superiority. They display an attitude that says they deserved the job and should not be questioned. Challenges are seen as disrespectful to their position and they are swift and deadly in their response. The righteous new manager can be detrimental to organizations, departments and teams, when they operate vanity, insecurity or sheer arrogance.

If the righteous new manager is not comfortable with her skill level, she may not want people questioning her decisions. Autocratic managers don’t want to be questioned. They are accustomed to having all the answers in their previous assignment. But they have not achieved that level of competence in their new position. They respond to inquiries, as the parent who says,” Do it because I told you to or because I said so.” They are afraid to be vulnerable and admit they don’t know everything. They view this as a sign of weakness.

I watched a new manager receive a suggestion from a member of his group who was a former manager. When the idea was proposed, he simply responded that it can’t be done and moved on to the next subject. He missed an opportunity to compliment an employee on the idea and work with the group to fashion something that was within policy. The discussion could have been very open and fruitful if he had used a more participative style of management.

Autocratic managers unwittingly shut off information, which is vital to the success of their group. Managers do not have all the answers. An environment open to challenge and scrutiny can be very beneficial. The new manager must learn how to create this environment. This will enable the manager and the team to grow immeasurably from this experience.

The autocratic management style is a very effective style in the right circumstances. There are situations when the manager has to make the call without input from their teams. However the misuse of this style can be a problem.

Mold people into your own image

The righteous new manager may be tempted to over emphasize the skills that got them promoted. They may be experts in data analysis, customer service, strategic thinking, problem solving, administration or sales. If they were a great salesperson, they will demonstrate that they can sell and expect everyone to sell as they did. Sometimes they will not allow their salespeople to sell because they are always showing them how it should be done. The magic phrase,” this is how I used to do it,” eventually undermines the team. A righteous new manager will take over the sales call to the chagrin of their salesperson and the customer.

The biggest roadblock with the righteous new manager may be the veteran employee. The variance between the new manager’s methods and the veterans experience may be the most significant challenge. The veteran employees may not have had the advantage of the new terminology and techniques and the latest training modules, but they know their jobs. They have the advantage of experience and know how to get results.

When a veteran employee is in trouble, it is up to the new manager’s superior to guide them through this delicate personnel issue. This enables the new manager to benefit from the expertise of their manager. A high producing veteran employee can be placed on the verge of resignation or termination because the new managers making their lives a living hell. I remember when the most effective salesperson was demoralized and frustrated because the righteous new manager wanted things to be done their way. This frustration affected the workers ability to do his job. Sales began to decrease and the new manager made a case that to the veteran had lost his touch and needed to be replaced.

Favoritism

The new manager may have a number of people play up to them to gain preferential treatment. We’ve already discussed situations where prior relationships may lead people to think they should be treated differently. The new manager cannot give in to this temptation. There must be a concerted effort to treat employees with the appropriate and equivalent level of attention. If someone always gets the best assignments or is always called on and applauded in the group, this can cause problems in morale nothing can undermine credibility and engagement more than preferential treatment.

There may be instances where you have a natural affinity or relationship with someone in the group due to prior history. Don’t let this circumvent your ability to lead. This is easier said than done. Sometimes when you have made a conscious effort to avoid favoritism, people may initially accuse you of it anyway. There are situations when members of your team are of the same gender, race, ethnicity, city or country of origin, fraternity / sorority, college and personality type. People will assume you have a preference, even if you have not exhibited one. This says more about them than it foes about you. Be patient and steadfast. In time people will see that you are fair in your relationships with your team and their accusations, suspicions and thoughts of favoritism will go away.

Never really left the old job

This person loves to be called on in matters related to their old assignment. They were good at that job and it was a source of confidence. There is comfort and safety and the tried and true, the familiar has its own rewards and recognition. The new assignment is not been mastered, so these good feelings from the old days provide satisfaction to their ego, but can hinder their growth in the new job. They have to cut away and devote themselves to the new position. They also have to lose the mother hen mentality and allow the replacement the room to grow in their new job.

The new manager needs validation. It is important for them to receive encouragement as well as continued instruction until the new job is mastered. Maintaining a foot in both camps may result in doing a substandard job in both positions.

New managers want to demonstrate their effectiveness as soon as possible. In most announcements, it states the effective date of the promotion, but it does not state the effective date of the manager, in regards to their skill level. The reason is obvious. No one knows the effective date, when the manager’s leadership skills are fully grown and they are fully operational. A new manager plagued with righteousness delays their effectiveness and the performance of their team

Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser

4 Directives to Influence Behavior

Instructions since childhood were designed to teach and guide us. Over the years we have noticed remarkable similarities between the directives given in our youth and the requests made of us as adults. In retrospect, their effectiveness varied based on our circumstances and development level. The same is true at work. Leaders and managers give instructions using the same memorable phrases. The objective of these phrases is to elicit our compliance with their demands, commands or requests for action.

“Do as I say, because I said so”

People have used a variety of commands to get the kind of behavior they want. “Do as I say, because I said so,” is the classic power phrase of authority. Parents use it often. The power can be based on position, where they can administer rewards or punishment if someone fails to comply with their request. The sentence could easily end with,” or else.” The job, held by the speaker, confers position power. They are the boss, the parent, the person in charge and when they speak they want others to jump quickly into action. The person using this phrase does not wish to be questioned or challenged. People will also use the specter of fear, brute force, physical strength and threats to persuade people to fall in line. Threats may be physical or assaults to someone’s character or reputation.

Frustrated parents and managers have used this phrase when they run out of answers. When they are busy or in a hurry, they resort to this language to end conversations. They do not want to discuss the matter anymore. They want people to listen, obey and stay quiet.

“Do as I say, because I said so,” is a technique that can influence a number of people. When matched to the right individuals, it is very effective. It is useless when delivered to the wrong person.

“Do as I say, not as I do”

Some people adopt a hypocritical style to exert influence on others. They recognize that they don’t have the discipline or integrity to practice what they preach. Yet, they insist that others listen and obey their dictates and commands. This works in situations stated in example number one, however, the inconsistency and hypocrisy will render it ineffective in some cases. The resistant ones will not comply and they will use the leader’s hypocrisy as justification for refusing to follow their commands.

There is a certain amount of arrogance associated with telling someone to do something that you are not committed to do. The advice may be solid, but the absence of following your own advice, may compromise its impact. They may do what you say, but only when you are watching.

A powerful story was told about Mahatma Gandhi at http://www.witandwisdomstories.com. The blog post “Mahatma Gandhi’s salt less diet” contains the following story. “One day an anxious mother, along with her son visited Mahatma Gandhi. She told Bapuji, “My son is suffering from a kidney disease, Bapuji. I am really concerned. I took him to the doctor and the doctor has advised him to take food without salt.” She continued, “the problem Bapuji is my son refuses to follow the doctor’s orders, but if you tell him he will listen as he worships you and he will not deny you.” The Mahatma asked the mother and son to see him after a week.

After a week or so, Mahatma Gandhi called the mother and the son to his house. He took the boy aside and looked him in the eye and said” You are very important for your mother’s happiness and your health worries her. It is my wish that you follow doctor’s orders and stop taking salt in your diet.”

The boy who was in awe of the Mahatma was so pleased with the Mahatma worrying about him, agreed at once. He turned to his mother and said” no more salt for me Ma.”

The relieved mother stood puzzled for a while and asked Gandhi “But Bapuji, you could have told him this when we came a week ago, why didn’t you?”

To this Gandhi replied, ”But madam at that time I was taking salt in my diet and it has taken a week for me to give up salt myself. How can I advice your son to eat a diet without salt with a clear conscience? How can I tell someone to do something which I myself do not practice?”

Hypocrisy will not be tolerated in today’s climate of transparency and authenticity. Some will follow this request, but must see the benefit or fear the speaker.

“Don’t do what I did – Learn from my mistakes”

It is well-known that experience can be the best teacher. Rebellion is a natural part of the human spirit. Many of us have received instruction, but elected to ignore it to listen to our own voice or the voices of others. Going down the wrong path has caused us discomfort and ultimately we realized we were wrong. Armed with the experience, we wish to let others know the value of staying on the right path. We don’t want them making the same errors in judgment that plagued our lives. We therefore, become an ambassador for the truth. We say to people,” Don’t do what I did. Learn from my mistakes.”

This is sometimes seen as a tough love message or using scare tactics. Former prisoners have used a” scared straight” philosophy to convince youth to stay away from a life of crime. They feel that education on the negatives associated with criminal activity would discourage youth from hanging with the wrong crowd and making questionable decisions. They take the glamour out of disobedience and use their lives as proof.

Conversations in a corporation may involve older employees telling younger employees about the mistakes they made. These mentoring sessions or coaching moments are an effort to steer less tenured employees toward making better decisions on their career path. There is value in information sharing. That occurs when the different generations in the workplace tell their stories of arrival and survival within the context of the organization.

This approach also works on some people, but not on others. There will always be people who think they are too smart, clever, intellectual, lucky, cool or too good-looking to suffer the consequences of their actions. They will view the sad story, as something that only applies to others.

“Do it like I did it – Follow my lead”

This is normally a very potent approach. It is the lead by positive example model. People will look at you, your reputation and your execution and realize the value of your words and actions. Learning occurs through imitation or modeling behavior. “Let me show you how it’s done, makes “Do it like I did it ” even more powerful. Many times, “Do it like I did it” and follow my example, is not verbalized. Yes, there are many occasions where people will issue these words to give a standard to follow, but often its power is in seeing someone act out the phrase. It is the practice that occurs with or without the preaching that makes it work. It is the example exhibited on a day-to-day basis.

Most of the time, “Do it like I did it” and “Follow my example” are positive exhortations. But, it may not work in all cases. People will imitate and follow negative leaders and negative examples. If the culture of an organization is filled with intimidation and a lack of appreciation, individuals desiring to be leaders will pick up on the signals. They will emulate the same kind of insensitivity broadcast by their leaders.

However, leading by example does not work on everyone. Someone will find a way to discredit your work or assign your accomplishments to favoritism or inequality, they cannot duplicate. These 4 directives to influence behavior collectively have been used to get individuals and groups to act and follow orders. They are spoken to move people to action. However, individually, we have found that they may not work on everyone all the time.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Quick decisions – Decisive or deceptive

CreamRises

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

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

Playing to the level of the competition

 

Scrolls-BestWorkI am from Chicago. I am a professional basketball fan; therefore I root for the Chicago Bulls.  The Bulls possess one of the best records in the Eastern Conference. They are tenacious and fiery competitors. However they can frustrate their fans by their inconstancy against the extreme teams in the league. They have a habit of occasionally playing to the level of their competition. For example, one night they beat the Miami Heat, who were world champions. On another night, they lost at home, to the Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte lost 17 games in a row and sported one of the worst records in professional basketball.

This concept of playing to the level of the competition is not unique to world of sports. You can see it in business, academics and many organizations. This practice is brilliant if the competition is among the elite in your field. These skirmishes can be exhilarating and bring out the best in players, students and employees.

Remember when you joined a company, entered a new job or a new department; the manager assigned you to work with the best performer. They wanted you to acquire good habits and a strong work ethic. This move placed you solidly on the road to success. However, in the same company, employees may be performing to the lowest common denominator.

Working to the level of the competition is rampant in many classrooms. Where there is a high standard and the competitive bar is high, students excel. However, where the opposite is found, students with the potential to score higher grades do not want to stand out from their peers.

What causes teams and individuals to give less than their best effort and gauge their performance to the perceive competency of the competition? The following may be answers to this question;

  1. Arrogance and over confidence
  2. Focusing on their next opponent

Arrogance and over confidence

We are told as far back as childhood of the dangers of over confidence. One of my favorite stories was the hare and the tortoise. The hare under estimated the tortoise due to over confidence in his own ability. He had accurately deduced his chances of winning the race and the skill level of the tortoise. His marginal effort was due to arrogance which meant he disrespected the tortoise. In his mind there was no way the tortoise could win. He was too slow. Apparently, he did not take into consideration, how arrogance would affect his decision-making. When you are arrogant you may falsely judge your opponent or misjudge your ability to produce at a high level.

Arrogant people do not believe their maximum effort is required. They are convinced they can beat the other team. They may start slow and spot the other team an enormous lead. They figure they can catch them, but the other team may catch fire and play high above their usual play. In every contest one team may be playing to the level of their competition. They are hoping the other team takes them for granted.  

Focusing on their next opponent

The subconscious mind is responsible for the way we think and react to numerous stimuli. If we believe the current competitor is inferior we may not get our best thinking or response to situations that occur in battle.

If we view the current competitor as a weaker adversary, we may unconsciously wish to conserve our energy for a tougher challenger. We may decide to let down our defenses in order to rest up for the next formidable opponent. The old football adage is true, “On any given Sunday any team in the National Football League can rise up and defeat any other team in the league.” This is valid in sports, business and other aspects of our lives.

The key question is how does a team or an individual conduct themselves to avoid this let down in performance?

  1. Establish great habits
  2. Scrimmage with the best
  3. Treat everyone as the best

Set high expectations

The establishment of great habits through high expectations is a key ingredient in breaking people free from the mold of delivering average performance. Researcher Geoffrey M. Hodgson said “Individuals have habits and groups have routines.” These habits may come from conducting intense practices. Many coaches say, “The way you practice is a reflection of the way you will play the game.” So, the quality of the practice should not vary based on the opponent. Prepare for the opponent, regardless of their record, marketplace or position on the leader board. Maintain a high level of readiness. Hopefully, players will not take off plays during the game because they feel victory is guaranteed.

Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit states that habit is critical in shaping our behavior. “This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Scrimmage with the best

Identify the best in your area and use it or them as a standard. People use or publish best practices and ask their team members to develop similar and greater examples for implementation in their areas. Exercises simulating the actions and response of the major players will keep your edges sharpened. Bring in experts to challenge your department and keep our skills sharp. Instill incentives to encourage those who can deliver more to deliver more. This does not mean abandoning work / life balance by driving people to conduct an inappropriate amount of work at home.

When I played high school football, Coach Ralph Hegner always scheduled a few scrimmages with the top teams from the Catholic League. They were usually well disciplined, larger in stature with excellent technique. Our eyes would become as large as saucers when these humongous players walked on the field. We were over whelmed on the initial players until we gained our composure and began to play better. Coach Hegner felt if we played well against these teams we would do well in our conference. I always remembered this routine of scrimmaging with the best whenever my sales team needed to develop their skills.

Treat everyone as the best

A champion approaches each challenger with the same level of intensity to achieve the victory. They postulated that extreme variances in performance were not the mark of a true champion. A champion should be able to get excited about competing against any opponent, regardless of their won / loss record or position in the marketplace. To do otherwise, showed you were not ready for the mantle of excellence or worthy to win the trophy.

There are benefits and dangers in playing to the level of the competition. If it allows us to achieve excellence, if it stretches us and develops us, it should be encouraged and mandated.  

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

4 Ways to Resist Unwanted Temptation

 The bigger they are the harder they fall.  We heard this phrase when we were children. It was usually uttered by someone facing a larger adversary. It was a phrase to give him confidence. David probably gave a similar battle cry before he confronted Goliath. This comment relates to many areas of our experience; business, politics or in our community work. Not only can we say the harder they fall, but also the more miserable they are when they hit the ground.

Business leaders, politicians, associates and celebrities can be arrogant and obnoxious. They can be self-centered and treat others in a ruthless and dispassionate manner. They may use power as a weapon and hide behind the rules and regulations to justify their behavior. A District Manager from a competitor bragged about firing someone 18 months before their retirement after many years of service. He had a reputation for being heartless and plain old mean.  He never looked for mutual benefits in resolving employee problems. He wore his tough demeanor as a badge of honor. People felt he could have worked out something for the man and his family, but he did not.

Eventually, the District Manager received a new and younger Regional Manager. The new guy was not impressed with his draconian methods and blind loyalty. The Regional Manager felt his current performance was not up to par. He could care less about the historically loyal achievements. He was asked to improve his performance, but was subsequently demoted. The new manager however, gave him an opportunity to save face, which was something he never did for others. The Regional Manager let him a sales territory anywhere in the country.  I saw the demoted District Manager on his last week prior to moving to Florida. He told me, “I did everything I could for this company and look what they did to me. Young man, be careful and don’t ever give your all to a company, because it may come back to bite you.” I thanked him for his advice, but he was a pitiful sight to behold.

 Some authority figures flagrantly disregard ethics and operate, as if they are above the law and will never get caught. When their indiscretion is discovered however, they are on television weeping and asking for forgiveness from their family and their constituents. They are the epitome of sadness; tears are everywhere and the sobbing touches your emotions. The irony is that many of these politicians are on record castigating their colleagues who were caught in similar offenses. Their ruthless nature would suggest they would replace the signs in stores they say “Shoplifters will be prosecuted” to read “Shoplifters will be persecuted.”

Role models who abuse power the most; the haughty, cocky and arrogant ones are the most pitiful on the way down. They did not hear when they were told to be nice to people on the way up, because you will meet the same people on the way down. They did not realize until it was too late that it is better to be humble than to be humbled.

The fallen ones are quick to ask for forgiveness, patience and understanding. They ask for leniency which they frequently denied to others. They somehow feel their situation is different and they should get clemency when others should not, which is linked to their arrogance.

Disgraced individuals elicit mixed emotions from their public. Their constituents may be outraged by the violation of their trust. However, some will caution against being judgmental. They will advise people to forgive, that they are only human and concentrate on the good they have produced. Many of us may be tempted and may give in under a perfect storm when circumstances meet our weakness. To ensure that we are not mired in a hypocritical state, we should consider implementing some of the following strategies.

  1. Greater self and other awareness – Realize your vulnerabilities and the motives of others. Samuel L. Jackson once noted that women may not be after him for his good looks, but his celebrity was the driver of some of his attention. Power attracts people, so understand how it works.
  2. Have an accountability partner or mentor – They will serve as a confidante or sounding board. This could be good friend on personal matters. A variation on this theme is to surround yourself with people who are beyond reproach who are not afraid to challenge you when you get out of line or start drifting from proper behavior.
  3. Control the situation – Focus on how things might look to others. Optics is a word used to describe how it might look to people who don’t know your character or do not know all of the facts. It is not always about your intentions. Innocence can look suspicious under the wrong lights. Evangelist Billy Graham was once said to be adamant about never putting himself in a position where he was alone with a woman other than his wife. There was always another person present. This is not paranoia, but being careful. You might not be morally the strongest person on record, but if you control the optics and the circumstances you can rebuke some of the challenges.
  4. Calculate the cost of the indiscretion. When you are contemplating the power of the temptation, you may want to consider the itemized cost. In order to deliver a pre-emptive strike, consider the total value of your assets and divide this by the time spent with in the indiscretion. It is best to do this before the temptation puts its hooks in you or you are blinded in the heat of passion. You will arrive at an astronomical rate that would far exceed what you would be willing to pay on the open market.

Recognize that power and temptation are often companions on our walk through life. Power causes excessive pride and is converted into arrogance in us and in our leaders. It feels good to flex our managerial muscle and watch people scurry and respond to our will and selfish demands. The ego may swell when power increases and we experience a feeling of entitlement and invincibility. We may develop the urge to abuse power and convince ourselves that we will not suffer the consequences. If we are not careful we will find ourselves if not on camera, in another setting begging for forgiveness and another chance to act responsibly and earn someone’s trust.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser