Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Lessons in Handling Differences

Reindeer

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.

Please look forward to reading more about differences in my new book due by June 2016, Unlock Your Diversity Greatness. It is based on the premise that your uniqueness is not a weakness and contains strategies to utilize your talents, skills and abilities. More books in the Unlock Your Leadership Greatness series can be found at www.OrlandoCeaser.com or www.amazon.com.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

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.

Leadership and the Ozone Layer – Channeling the heat

O3Logo(1)

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.

Success despite Misfortune tellers and Prophets of doom

You may not have experienced this personally, but you have heard people say they lack confidence because people verbally doubted their ability. Their abilities and value were challenged at an early age. They would never accomplish something. When they were older, they were told they were not qualified to do something or lacked the capacity or skill to achieve an objective. Their failure would be due to their socio-economic status, background, gender, race, culture, appearance or interests. These individuals were devastated and believed the negative remarks, hook line and sinker.

You may share my curiosity about people who go out of their way to predict a negative future about someone. They will not hesitate to tell a person that they will never earn a college degree, get into a particular college or program, and achieve a dream or a job, because of a limited vision of an individual’s potential. These misfortune tellers will frequently volunteer their assessment of a friends potential, as if it was a foregone conclusion. People are told that they will never be a leader, were not bright enough, tall enough, thin enough or good-looking enough to make it in this world.

Lack-of-Vision

I walked into a room of new district managers after a merger. I was struck by the number of individuals present who were never supposed to be promoted. They wore the label of being unfit for management from their previous organization. Hell was to freeze over before some of them became managers. I looked around the room and arrived at the conclusion that the weather forecast for hell called for an ice storm of momentous proportions.

We look at these negative prognosticators, misfortune tellers, prophets of doom and dream killers, and wonder;

• Are they clairvoyant, bona fide, certified Palm readers?
• What is their success rate or track record of predicting events?
• Are they famous because of their success with the lottery, betting on horses or investing in the stock market?
• Do they have the best grades in school?
• Are they the highest performers on the job?
• Are they independently wealthy because of their ability to select winners?

The absence of such data, should disqualify people from seeing into your future and making judgments on what you can or will not be able to do. Why should we listen to these questionable, nonsensical projections without proof of their credibility? We seldom subject people to this kind of questioning. We take their word and grant them the influence to affect our lives. I wonder how they would answer these questions. A

Personal achievement and productivity in many segments of our lives are influenced by what people have said about us. The words of misfortune tellers have stunted the professional and personal growth of countless individuals. The words are devastating, but we give them added power by believing the words must be true. This belief increases the predictive power of words uttered by people who are mean-spirited enough to attack our dreams without offering any constructive criticism to help us grow. Their motives should disqualify them for conflict of interest. It may not be that they believed we would, but they wanted us to fail. Somehow our success might make them look bad, as they take it personally.

We have to be careful around misfortune tellers, prophets of doom and dream killers. Words have power and should not be used to predict a negative future unless they are used to instruct someone in a positive manner. Granted, some people may have unrealistic expectations of their potential and you may feel it necessary to bring them down to reality. This can be accomplished in a positive manner by directing them to an area where you feel their strengths are more appropriate. This of course should be done if you have the right experience, skills and credentials. If you don’t feel someone can do something and it’s just your opinion, you must evaluate the reason for bursting their balloon. You may need to show wisdom by being silent and keeping your opinions to yourself.

The prophets of doom, live in the world of the worst case scenarios. They can be destructive if they only and always paint a picture of the worst case happening to you. Frequently, they point to personal characteristic or circumstance that you cannot overcome. They can depress you and cause you to give up trying, if they consistently fill your head with negative expectations.

The following chart should be helpful when faced with naysayers who are running around with sharp objects, leaping in the air to burst your balloons. The balloons represent your goals, dreams, positive intentions and lofty expectations.

canbelieve
If people say you can’t do something and you believe them, chances are you will prove them right. You will be discouraged and doubt your ability to go against their predictions. You give them the ability to influence personal perceptions and actions.

If someone says you can’t do something and you do not believe them, you will do everything within your power to prove them wrong. Their perception of you will drive you to higher levels of performance. You ask yourself, what gives them the right to say that about you, they don’t know you. You will show them how wrong they are about you.

If someone says you can do something and their belief is consistent with your perception, you will work in concert with their expectations. Your performance will more than likely be inspired, as you validate your personal convictions.

However, if someone says you can do something and you do not believe them, the result would be as if they said you couldn’t do it. Your lack of confidence and weak belief in yourself would undermine your success. There are instances when someone’s belief in you is greater than your belief in yourself. If they are persistent, you may eventually see what they see in you. It is important for you to keep an open mind and consider them a good judge of character. It is very difficult to achieve something if you do not believe it is possible. If you cannot see yourself performing in a certain role, it is difficult to achieve it or succeed in it.

Your belief system is a central part of performing to meet your expectations. There may be instances where outside forces will try to derail your progress, but a healthy self image, positive encouragement from others and a persistent drive to excel, will work to your advantage. In a competitive world where misfortune tellers, prophets of doom and dream killers work to stifle your achievement, you must be vigilant in growing skills, protecting and projecting confidence in your abilities.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Achieve the dream – Unlock your leadership greatness

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was as a civil rights leader. He was an activist who had a powerful transformative dream, which galvanized a movement and a nation toward positive change. Each year on the anniversary of his birth I listen to a recording of his greatest speeches. During his “I have a dream” speech, I clearly see the role that everyone can play. Dr. King emphasized a compelling vision of the future which will require leadership at many levels in society, to bring it into fruition.

A leader is characterized as someone who has a vision for the future which excites people to the extent that they want to be a part of the new reality. Dr. King in his speeches and his actions, challenged us in at least four areas. He wanted us to achieve excellence, focus on economics and equality, as well as improve our circumstances and relationships, through education and nonviolence.

Dr. King’s dream should be placed in the context of a vision for a better nation and a better world. We will achieve this dream and many others through leadership. We therefore, must play a major role in develop strategies and plans to reach lofty objectives. We must unlock our leadership greatness, in order to make the dream a reality.
I have determined at least 10 attributes which would be instrumental in helping us to unlock our leadership greatness, to achieve the dream. I will address six of them in this blog. The entire 10 will be present in my new book “Unlock your leadership greatness.”

• Powered by a dream
• Student of the game
• Set high standards
• Lead by example
• Make others better
• Serve others

Powered by a dream

You must be powered by a dream, which gives you direction and a destination. I have already mentioned the importance of the dream and what this vision could do to energize people. The dream gives us purpose and passion and a strong reason to succeed.

Student of the game

We have to be students of the game, to gain a better understanding of the rules and regulations, as well as the instructions on how to live and relate to people who are different from us. When we understand the game, we increase our self-awareness and knowledge of people and their differences and similarities. When we act like a student, we are inquisitive and continuous learners, always focusing on education. We realize that education is internal and therefore, it is something that people cannot take away from us. Education is something that allows us to qualify for opportunities and if these opportunities are not granted, we have the knowledge and wisdom to make a case for demanding equality and justice.

Sets high standards

When we unlock our leadership greatness, we set high standards because we recognize the value of setting a high bar to push ourselves to unbelievable heights of achievement. We will not tolerate something that is less than what we believe we are entitled. The high standards will cause us to reach higher and prepare better. The high standards will demand us to act in a way consistent with our self-image.

Lead by example

We understand the value of image. We know that reputation is a powerful motivator. When we lead by example, others will follow us and hold us accountable to ensure that our actions are in alignment with our vocabulary. When we lead by example we have the power and capacity to attract others to our leadership. We will recruit people one by one in our passionate pursuit to improve the world.

Make others better

Through our actions we engage in activities where we received a personal benefit. Customarily, we asked the question, “What’s in it for me?” The personal benefit is a driver for our behavior. Individuals, who operate at a higher level, realize that if they make others better, they will receive a benefit in the short-term or somewhere down the road. The benefits are not the reason for their actions, but are coincidentally, a byproduct of their generosity. Dr. King and his leadership, was known for mentoring young men and women. He practiced the art of making others better. If we are good in a certain skill area (subject) and have a neighbor who is not, we are to help them become better. They need to get to a competency level which will allow them to be successful. If they are good in the area where we are deficient, we need to be open and receptive to their instruction. There is strength in numbers and we should never try to tackle difficult situations on our own. When we make others better, at some point in our lives, we will receive appreciation to enhance our situation.

Serve others

We recognize that we are not here solely for our own purpose. When we were children, there were two axioms that were emphasized with regularity. The first is the golden rule. We should do unto others as we want them to do unto us. Secondly, we were told to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, to get a better understanding of their character and the circumstances that shaped them. When we unlock our leadership greatness, we are immersed in a desire to serve others. We have learned the power of humility and being connected in an inter-dependent manner to those around us.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. placed a major emphasis on economics, excellence, equality and education. These areas would be highlighted in the achievement of his dream. One of the catalysts to making his dream a reality are individuals committed to his dream who have unlocked their leadership greatness.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

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

The Affinity Trap – Ways to sabotage the interview

It is common knowledge that people like people like themselves. If you examine a random list of employees you will find a connection between the employees hired and the people who interviewed them. This affinity can be a barrier or a trap when used inappropriately by candidates or interviewer in an interview. It may actually stifle their chance of being hired.

You are human. Therefore, it is not unusual to find yourself sitting across from someone in an interview with whom you have similarities. You should be thankful for the diversity in companies. However, this variety is not a license for candidates to let down their guards and became too comfortable. Some candidates have crossed a line of professionalism and resorted to patronizing behavior and / or inappropriate familiarity. Additionally, some interviewers have used their affinity to trap candidates into saying something inappropriate and eliminating them from the interviewing pool.

It was an amazing sight to see. A person walks through the door, sees that I am African American, and a noticeable calm came over them. I have heard the same comments from Baby Boomers interviewing Baby Boomers, women interviewing women and other ethnicities and athletes interviewing someone who perceives a connection. Most candidates are pleasant and professional, but invariably an exception stands out.

I have seen candidates who were highly regarded from resume screenings, phone interviews and face to face interviews, transform themselves in an interview. Their demeanor changed. Their speech became more colloquial and another personality or alter ego came out of nowhere. I have discussed this phenomenon with a number of my colleagues and they expressed similar experiences and observations. The candidates were excellent and did not have to resort to these tactical errors. I understood their intent, but they lost out reaching for an elusive competitive advantage.

Other manifestations of this strategy are as follows:

• Behavior became more casual in posture and in speech
• They became too familiar through touch or questions
• They assumed that the job was theirs and indicated as much in their comments
• They lowered their guard and disclosed unnecessary information
• They saw the interviewer as a confidant and friend and disclosed unbelievable information
• Favors were expected and requested
• Negative comments, complaints and disclosure of conflicts on other jobs were mentioned as they completely let their guards down

When you notice a potential connection with an interviewer, who is like you, it is wise not to assume instant compatibility. You have to be very careful of the Affinity Trap (race, gender, age, ethnicity, interests, sports, education and schooling, contacts and place where you grew up). You may slide into a comfort zone that could be hazardous to the job interview. There is a book by Judith M. Bardwick entitled, Danger in the Comfort Zone. My wife likes to refer to it as Comfort in the Danger Zone, which is very descriptive. When you have an affinity of any kind you owe it to yourself to:

• Be courteous and respectful of the position of the interviewer
• Be extra careful and on top of your game
• Be professional in your demeanor and questions
• Do not expect special treatment by word or deeds
• Stay focused and deliver the best interview possible (this may be the chance of a lifetime)
• Deliver the same comprehensive profile of your experience you would give to anyone

It is generally OK to ask the interviewer if their affinity (gender or race) has been a challenge in their organization. This is a fair question and helpful in making your employment decision. You may consider getting the answer to this question during your research, before the interview. You don’t want them questioning why you asked the question. Additionally, some interviewers may use it against you, especially if that was the only question you asked.

Remove the prospect of better treatment or special treatment from your mind. This is an entitlement mentality and preferential treatment violates many policies on top of being illegal. Earn the inside track, by the quality of your background and the strength of the interview.

Sometimes the interview is tougher than usual because the interviewer feels they have to substantiate their selection. Many times your toughest interview will be with someone with whom you feel a strong connection. They are not necessarily trying to deprive you of being hired, but to prepare you for the tough road ahead. If you make it past them, you are more ready for the rest of the interviewing process. Also, you may encounter men and women who may feel pressure and extra scrutiny if they pass you along. They may be trying to knock you out or to make sure you are the strongest in the field. Be prepared for anything and anybody.

Respect your accomplishments, the position and the person in the interviewer’s chair. Your interviewer may be able to identify with you without you going out of your way to make a connection. Your greatest compliment to the person and the process is to deliver a powerful interview and perform worthy of the opportunity if hired. Artificial familiarity may breed contempt and therefore, will not give you a competitive advantage.

It may be an affinity or compatibility trap, because you feel someone may understand your position and issues. It could also be a trap because someone is out to get you and look for ways to bring you down and out of the interviewing process. Remember, they are not your friends, yet. They are not your coach or mentor, yet. You do not know them. They do not know you. Be on guard and do not fall victim to the trap. The interview may be slanted, but take nothing for granted. Go after the job based on your talents, abilities, potential and experience.

Maintain your professionalism. Keep your guard up. Let your resume and your record of accomplishments speak for you in your responses to the interview questions. Don’t change the dynamics of the professional interview by adding unnecessary tension and drama. Be careful and authentic as you avoid The Affinity Trap.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

Insight – Leadership and the eyes of the poet

I believe that I can learn from everybody and everything. Therefore everybody and everything can teach me something. That is sometimes the mantra of a poet. They are in search of understanding and an opportunity to contribute in a manner that is a valuable and hopefully, a unique expression of insight.

Insight is described by business dictionary.com as a combination of feedback and knowledge.

“1. Feedback; ideas about the true nature of something In business, product testing sessions are used to gather insight from people with different backgrounds, experiences and feelings, with the intent of finding out how consumers may respond.
2. Knowledge in the form of perspective, understanding, or deduction. Someone may come up with an insight after a long period of thought, or suddenly out of thin air as in an epiphany or sudden understanding. “Management had the insight to decrease its expenses amid falling sales before a scheduled earnings release, so that the company would be viewed in a more favorable light.”

Poets use their senses to cultivate their insight to gain a better understanding and appreciation of their world. They can be introspective, sensitive and deep thinkers able to view a situation from many perspectives. They like to experiment with different approaches in search of a fresh thought.

A poet’s insight is used to teach panoramic thinking. They use magnification and peripheral vision to evaluate many sides to an issue, problem, project or situation. Magnification allows them to see things on a different level and expose certain aspects that were never considered. This poetic viewpoint can therefore, help in brainstorming and innovative thinking sessions, whether alone or in groups. Leadership should capture this brilliance and use it achieve the vision and the mission.

Poets learn to;

• Deal with being different,
• Be reflective, alone and sometimes not appreciated
• Explore different approaches to achieve the ideal word painting
• Use ordinary objects to state their case or make a point
• Constructively use their mind and their senses
• Use memory mechanisms to recall lines, associations and patterns
• Develop an appreciation for the entire object
• Give voice to the other side of a situation or issue
• Search for another perspective
• and expressing inner feelings
• Take an inward journey of discovery to increase self awareness
• Use of structure and routines to organize thoughts
• Use journals, diaries and notebooks to record their observation and thoughts

The poet has inspirational words for winning, has a vocabulary for victory and can speak effectively against the pervasive language of losing. You want them linked to the vision and mission of the organization. Their words will immortalize and internalize the vision, mission and purpose. A poet summed up the vision and the spirit of the company by starting each day with a message to his wife, “I am going to save a life today.” He was a successful pharmaceutical sales representative.

The poet may be the introvert in the room, deriving their energy from absorbing everything around them and processing it later in the day. They are the creative ones, who are insightful, observing and analyzing problems. They may see things that others don’t see, mainly because they are looking. In my book the Isle of knowledge, I tell a story about my friend Buttons from my childhood. During our walks around streets and alleys on the West side of Chicago, Buttons was always finding money and other things of value. I tried to match his skill with little success. His secret was that he was always looking down and therefore, had a greater opportunity to find things. He was looking where the treasure was located. The poet is always looking for treasure in the places where they reside.
Poets are always observing, always using their senses, connected and involved in the world around them. A poet likes to experiment. She is always working with different styles, words, formats, illustrations and images. You need to find them and include them in the high-performance functioning of your team.

You may have heard that poetry and business to not go together. However, if leaders practice this reality it may hinder you in identifying and harnessing this valuable human resource. This power, if channeled properly, will improve the culture within your business.

You want to know the poets, because this knowledge can cause an exponential rise in productivity. Leveraging their talent will help you unlock your greatness. You can utilize this talent within yourself and produce a chain reaction of the skill in others. Max De Pree, former CEO of the Herman Miller furniture company, tells a story in his book Leadership is an art, which is a part of the Herman Miller company history. One day the founder of Howard Miller went to the house of a recently deceased employee. The man’s job was a millwright for his furniture company. While visiting his home, the widow asked if the young manager would mind if she read some poetry aloud. After listening to her read beautiful poetry he asked the author of the work. She replied that it was her husband, the millwright. At that moment the young manager wondered,” was he a poet who did millwright’s work, or was he a millwright who wrote poetry?

Max Dupree goes on to say,” understanding and accepting diversity enables us to see that each of us is needed. It also enables us to begin to think about being abandoned to the strengths of others, of admitting that we cannot know nor do everything. This simple act of recognizing diversity in corporate life helps us to connect the great variety of gifts that people bring to the work and service of the organization.” Unlocking your diversity greatness means you are maximizing the creative talent within yourself and the members of your team. This will help you extract and multiply the greatness around you.

The poet was always looking for ways to explore other opinions, described the people and environments in a new way and using language to encourage and celebrate success. The poet may not actually use the gift to write words of verse or disclose this talent of others. However, it is evident in the way they go through life and perform their vocation. They have a desired to find a creative outlet, especially if their skills cannot be used at work.

It is crucial and beneficial to view the world through the eyes of the poet. Their insight is talent on your team that can add to your success and overall effectiveness. Leaders must recognize the poetic perspective as an aspect of diversity and the ways people present themselves at work which could make the world a better place.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

The Company is last – Sacrificed for personal gain – Part 1of 2

Managers are hired to grow the organization, protect Company interests, steward its resources and provide value to share holders / stake holders. They achieve this by making decisions that benefit themselves personally, individuals they like, their team or the overall organization. When these decisions are made for the right reasons, everyone wins.

Some people treat Company interests as a latter option. They disregard their primary responsibility and make decisions that may harm the corporation in the long run. This mindset is present in people of power, whether serving as a manager, coach, or politician. My focus for this article will be on those serving as a manager or leader.

These individuals in question view resources, influence and assets as their private property. They selfishly make decisions to stroke their personal egos, enrich their bank accounts and advance their personal careers and the careers of their minions.

Let us discuss the decision making practices of many managers when selecting candidates for hire or promotion as an example of this behavior. There are four perspectives and the company may be last. The four perspectives are:

• Personal
• Protégé
• Team
• Organization

Personal

The personal perspective is highly visible in selecting talent. Manager’s with this dominant mode will hire and promote in their image. The candidate reminds them of themselves when they were that age. Also, they have attributes that remind them of someone they admire. Managers select people based on comfort, familiarity and personal identification. They can relate to the attributes shared in common. They feel the person has the potential to do well and they may personally receive accolades for hiring / promoting such a fine talent.

These opportunities are often blatant examples of nepotism because these individuals are in the same club, group, fraternity, sorority or ethnic or racial group. The person is elevated in stature due to an affiliation of some sorts. The candidate presumably has the qualifications, but affiliation or identification on some level compels them to advocate their candidacy.

The idea of reciprocity comes to mind. Someday the person may repay the favor and help them in some manner. The manager may offer the job to a friend of a friend or the referral of a very important person. The concept is to place the job in the hands of someone who owes them and may pay dividends in the future. There is hope that someone will be grateful for this act of generosity and show their gratitude at the appropriate moment with the appropriate stipend.

The personal focus of this perspective is also evident in their daily practices. A person gains accolades for developing a new program. Mind you, a recently introduced program was not given an adequate chance to work. They therefore, convinced the company to make a make a large financial investment in their new program. They do not want credit for implementing someone’s program, so they develop their own. If this happens frequently, it does not allow the company to establish their brand identity due to the revolving door of new managers with new programs to fit their personal agendas.

The perceived personal benefit is the driving force behind their actions. The manager in this mindset is hiring for personal gain, image and reputation. They are executing their job with a short term personal focus on their career. They will duplicate expenditures; make poor decisions and institute practices that may actually cost the company more money, time and resources.

Protégé

People immersed in the protégé mindset are influenced by what is best for the candidate, rather than the company. These candidates may be worthy people, with a compelling story. The manager feels an obligation to help them complete their story, by making the path easier or more open for them. The manager wants to accelerate the person’s learning curve, but the effect may be catastrophic for the corporate culture.

People are placed on a fast track program. They are placed on a short term basis in a series of departments to give them exposure to the company quickly. This allows the person to check off a box that they have experience in various disciplines. The concept makes sense, but they are never in one department long enough to fully understand how it works. Additionally, they are not there long enough to have an impact on the business and to make a significant contribution. They are viewed as lame ducks or worse, someone passing through on their way to the top with an opportunity reserved for a select few.

The protégé mindset espouses that potential will eventually lead to qualifications, but there is collateral damage when following this approach.

In this category, someone may get a job because of who they know, influence plays a role in their hiring or promotion. Patronage and favoritism are focused on the person who may become the protégé.

When there are problems with the protégé, the hiring managers becomes protective, since they are responsible for the hire. They take it personally and defend the new person. They are prone to ignore criticism, justify the poor performance by blaming others and circumstances. They will castigate the messengers who bring bad news about poor performance, regarding their hiring / promotional choice.

The protégé mindset is replete with hiring friends and family members. The CEO of a Charter School was reprimanded when they found many of his family members on the company payroll in key positions. City governments are notorious for this practice.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

Perform or perish – Part 1

I interviewed with a manager from a medium size pharmaceutical company. The DM spoke of sales success as a ruthless priority. There was an intolerance of mediocrity. If your performance was “subpar and under the bar” you were in trouble. He looked at me intently and uttered that familiar phrase, around here, “Money talks and BS walks.”  I had heard the phrase many times before and being quick on my feet, I responded, “What’s the use, if you don’t produce.” I wanted him to know I could swim in shark infested waters and that I was the person for the job.

In research circles and the halls of academia, researchers and professors are told to publish or perish. In sales and marketing organizations all over the world, a variation of this battle cry can be heard. We are in a constant struggle to prove our value by selling our products and services and competing for our jobs. We “fight extinction with distinction.” Our existence or extinction is governed by our ability to meet or exceed the demands of the marketplace. If we are to be successful, we must accept the ultimatum to perform or perish.

Many companies are in a reduction mode; reducing the size of sales forces and other resources. Some good representatives are displaced in the process, but an effort is made to keep the top performers. Territory performance is evaluated and the under performing ones are eliminated, left vacant or absorbed into adjacent geographies. It is imperative to understand how performance is measured, exceed expectations and ensure that management is aware of your full contributions to the bottom line.

How is performance measured?

Everyone should understand how performance is measured in their organization. Sales teams rely heavily on objective factors such as, market share growth, new customers, satisfied clients, new prescriptions, total prescriptions, customer satisfaction or engagement scores, pieces sold, number of calls made, customer conversions and documents or people processed. There may also be subjective factors such as, behavioral traits, competencies or success factors which represent how the employee achieved their goals. 

Performance is captured and referenced in performance reviews, (formally once or twice a year) and coaching discussions on work days and other interactions with the manager. Frequent performance discussions against objectives will eliminate surprises at the end of the year and ensure that the latest document accurately reflects your results. You may want to initiate these fireside chats if your manager does not do this routinely.

Understand the evaluation system

Many companies will force rank their employees based on their overall performance. If there are 10 people in a District, they are ranked from 1 – 10, with the top representative occupying the #1 position. This process is helpful in distributing performance ratings, merit increases and incentive compensation. This process may also be used to determine the lower 10% of performers. Some companies will remove the lower performers if they are at the bottom of the list two years in a row.

Companies may categorize employees as A, B or C players. Thomas DeLong and Vineeta Vijayaraghaven in their Harvard Business Review article defined A, B and C players as follows:

A’s are star performers. They are employees who put their professional lives ahead of their families and personal lives because they are striving to accomplish more or move upward in the organization. They are the risk-takers, the “high potentials,” and employers enjoy finding and hiring them. They are also the players most likely to leave the organization for opportunities elsewhere.

B’s are competent, steady performers who balance their work and personal lives while still doing the bulk of the work of the company. They tend to stay put, don’t require a lot of attention, and they get the job done. Because they stay, they tend to carry the corporate history with them.

C’s are performers who are not achieving enough to satisfy their employers and are most likely to be asked to move along.” In hard times Companies try to keep their A & B performers.

There are other variables in assessing your performance and that includes comparing it to your peers who may work for other managers. Calibration is a process used to discuss employees in an effort to measure employees against their peers. There are some managers who are hard on their people and therefore distribute lower ratings and incentive payouts, but they have stuff standards. Other managers have been known to be easy on their people and rate them higher and reward them with higher incentives whether they earned them or not. To even the playing field a process of calibration was established. This is considered a more equitable system because it allows managers to discuss their ratings with the peers. In this scenario people of comparable performance are compared to ensure equity in the system.

Managers are challenged to evaluate performance in a pay for performance environment. Force ranking and calibrating are ways to ensure that people are reviewed, rated, rewarded and retained based on their performance. Your objective is to ensure that you are viewed near the top of the pack, as an A or B player which is validated by the calibration process. No system is perfect, but assessment is here to stay and necessary to provide data for promotions and when tough personnel decisions, such as staff reductions have to be made.

Tooting your own horn

In Philosophy 101 the professor asked, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? In business if you are making a contribution, you want the world to know about it.

There is a feeling in our culture that you should not toot your own horn, let others do it for you. We label those that do, arrogant and braggarts. Ironically, some of these individuals get promoted, because management has a better assessment of their ability. We may become disillusioned and accuse management of favoritism.

Copyright © 2009 Orlando Ceaser

Perish or Perform – Part 2 on December 3, 2012