The 4th Monkey – “Do No Evil”

I am reissuing, with a few modifications, my most popular blog post, for your consideration. The universal application of these age-old concepts is a tremendous value that should guide our behavior and interactions with each other.

We grew up with the story of the three monkeys. I imagine that many of us have the same interpretation of what they represent. We were exposed to pictures or statues. One monkey had his hands over his eyes, the second monkey with hands over his ears and the third monkey’s hands were over his mouth. They were see no evil (Mizaru), hear no evil (Kikazura) and speak no evil (Iwazura). There were actions and behaviors demanded of us based on the three monkeys, but nothing was said about the fourth monkey. The fourth monkey was do no evil (Shizaru).

four-wise-monkeys

The stories of the four monkeys were popular in Japan in the 17th century. Their origin is between 2 and 4 BC in China. The Storyologer web-site (www.storyologer.com) has this account of Mahatma Gandhi who carried around a small statue of the three monkeys.  “Gandhi had a statue of three monkeys in three different postures. One was shutting his mouth with his hands, the other was shutting his ears similarly and the third one had put hands on his eyes. A visitor to his house became curious and questioned Gandhi about the various postures of the monkeys. Gandhi politely replied, “The one shutting his mouth tells us that we should not speak ill of anybody. The one shutting his ears tells us that we should not hear the ill of anybody. And the one shutting his eyes tells us that we should not see the ills of anybody. If we do so, we will have all goodness and nothing but goodness.”

Travelers will often find local markets with carved depictions or artwork featuring the three monkeys. My wife was able to purchase an angelic model of the same concept. There are three angels; one was covering her eyes, one was covering her ears and the other was covering her mouth. However, the fourth monkey was not shown. The 4th monkey, when pictured, is usually shown folding his arms (the body language of being closed) or covering his crotch to signify inactivity.

The different interpretations of the four monkeys is fascinating. In Buddhist tradition it meant don’t spend your time preoccupied with evil thoughts. In the West it relates to not facing up to our moral responsibility, for example turning a blind eye. But in my household, the monkeys were presented to us as a model of proper behavior. Our parents wanted us to identify with the images, to supplement our moral code.

See no evil (Mizaru)

We were told to pay attention to people and location(s). The idea was that if we were in the right location, we would minimize seeing trouble develop before our eyes. This was applicable in school and at work. We were instructed against being at the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place right. We were also told not to look for bad things in people or in certain situations. There are people who see bad things when they don’t exist, which could explain the manifestations of bias, stereotypes and profiling. We were not taught to be naïve, but to be careful and respectful.

Hear no evil (Kikazaru)

We were told to shield ourselves from bad language and bad intentions. We should stay away from people who spoke ill of others and gossiped. If we were not in the wrong place we could minimize hearing things that we should not hear. We were also instructed not to listen to foul or vulgar language. If we heard people language, especially regarding someone’s evil intentions, we could use the evil information to do good or to help others, that would be permissible.

Speak no evil (Iwazura)

Speak no evil was used to discourage gossiping or speaking ill will about someone. We were told to watch our language and to speak kind words. “If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything” was a part of this same philosophy. Adults told us that spreading bad news or malicious information could come back to haunt us. We should also, apply this same advice to the workplace.

There is a misconception around the concept about someone. This misconception has led people to adopt a code of silence in the workplace when a person is not pulling their own weight. We would rather silently complain or resign, before talking about an employee who was not working. We would not want to be labeled a snitch or a stool pigeon. In the streets people would say, “snitches get stitches”. To speak evil of someone means telling a lie, varying false witness or defaming their reputation. However, it is our responsibility to find a way to report injustice, illegal behavior and practices that undermine people and the organization. Our intention should be to speak the truth in love without malice or premeditated negative objectives.

One way to break the code of silence is by offering incentives to whistleblowers. These individuals are people who step forward and report unlawful activities in an organization. They are generally paid a 10% bounty if the measure goes to court and fines are levied against the lawbreakers. In neighborhoods where people know the perpetrators of violence, but fail to come forward, there are no such incentives. Residents may be afraid of retribution, as the rationale for their silence. We must also realize that justice requires telling the truth and this should not be regarded as speaking evil of someone.

Do no evil (Shizaru)

The fourth monkey’s actions are truly related to the others. The workplace is a common place for the four monkeys to be used as an operating system. Employee bullying and intimidation, sexual-harassment claims, the presence of racial discrimination, unconscious bias and sexually charged language and actions exists in many organizations. Where improprieties and liberties are taken with people’s rights in the form of disrespectful words and actions, there are laws in place to prevent and punish these actions. Employees, who adopt a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mindset are not helping to develop a positive company culture or a respectful workplace

Do no evil is a perfect monkey to enforce the values of character and integrity. He reminds us of proper behavior and etiquette. Our choices have consequences and the more we can emphasize a positive corporate culture and a respectful workplace the more effective our organizations will be become. There is conduct and behavior norms which must be identified, emphasized and enforced vigorously. Character will minimize stress in the workplace and reduce the number of lawsuits and discipline related to improper behavior.

The do no evil mindset would influence our participation in the political process. Our dialogue in conversations around those who are different from us or have different opinions would be positively affected. If we operated each day thinking in terms of do no evil, we would be more empathetic in understanding of each other. We would put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors and seek to understand their point of, listen to their words and lay the foundation for greater chemistry instead of conflict.

How can we create an environment in our workplaces, families and communities, where people are held accountable for their own unlawful actions and the private citizens who come forward can feel safe and protected? If the fourth monkey was modeled, we would have less of a cause to talk about Mizaru (see no evil) and Kikazuru (hear no evil).

Do no evil and speak no evil should be magnified and connected to many of our guiding principles of behavior.  The Golden Rule and its equivalent in many cultures advise us to treat people the way we want to be treated. The Platinum Rule which asks us to treat people the way they want to be treated. The 10 Commandments implores us not to do a series of acts which could be seen as evil, such as murder, stealing, etc. you are instructed to love your neighbor as yourself. If we began from a position of love it is easier to think in terms of speak and do no evil.

We must clearly outline expectations of behavior and the judgment related to them to improve the climate in our organizations, homes and places where people meet. Correct action is essential to achieving healthy results in our relationships.

The imagery and practices espoused by the 4th monkey holds the key to making this possible. I am hopeful that by emphasizing the fourth monkey, we can improve our behaviors, connections, interactions and relationships with everyone.

 

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

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The Black Panther Strikes

BlackPanter

The Black Panther movie strikes a chord with movie goers around the world. It is shattering box office records. It is catalytic in its messaging, story-line and visual excitement. People are using it to express profound pride, as it delivers lessons on universal themes, humanity, equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as the pursuit of excellence.

I have seen the movie 3 times, including 3-D and IMAX. Each time I walked away with greater insight. I read the comic book as a youth, so this is nostalgic and a long time coming.

Poetry and the arts allow us the opportunity to express ideas which are magnified with individual interpretation. When translated, transferred and transformed through the prism of our experiences, the results can be nothing short of amazing. Here is my poetic take on the Black Panther experience.

The Black Panther Strikes

The Black Panther strikes;

The images inspire imagination;

Invite, excite and ignite

The embers of genius

Until we remember with fascination

The universal themes and memes

That elicit dreams of excellence

That stream a new ideology;

That emphasizes and empathizes

To aspire desire,

To fire a higher reach,

Through awe and technology.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

As a cultural phenomenon,

For those among us who’d like an icon;

A super hero with super powers

That look like us with a face like ours;

To build confidence and regal speech,

To show what is possible,

When obstacles are breached;

When an illusion is legal,

But is shifted

And confusion is lifted

And giftedness is the new twist

To enlist us in the new success,

Which is true success.

 

The Black Panther strikes;

To the heart of the marginalized;

The underserved and disenfranchised;

The heirs, apparently in poverty,

Seeking their cultural identity;

Phenomenally packaged in energy.

They speak seeking a symphony,

In harmony and synergy.

 

Empathy and intellect can remove

Barriers, as we get involved

And agree to work to solve

The problems that surround us

And have bound us.

We must lift every man,

Woman and child to a place of forgiveness,

Where we can be reconciled;

To share, prepare and repair;

To lift each other from despair.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

Directly to community;

Inciting citizens in unity;

And stirs the blending of generations

Through tribal traditions

And pageantry.

We show young people

Who they can be

And celebrate their ancestry;

Seeking challenges to prove they’re free.

Science, technology, engineering and math;

Can help us blaze a wider path;

To channel the rage

And engage on a stage

That is larger than we

Intended, but to accept

The mantel and comprehend;

What we should support,

What we should defend.

 

The Black Panther strikes

To protect the family

And project the family,

As the center of cultural identity;

The truth is, we are all related,

Although our lineage is debated.

We have the capacity;

To help others improve their lot.

We can’t afford to hoard

Resources, when we’ve got

The power through distribution,

To offer solutions.

 

The Black Panther strikes

A story to which we can all relate;

To entertain and educate

And inspire action

Through universal mores

Of dignity and deliverance,

Eloquence and excellence;

Leadership and tough decisions;

Technology executed with precision.

Ancestors deserving a connection;

Connective tissue is in each of us

Enabling us to adjust,

So that we love and trust.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

Through imagination and truths,

From elders down through our youth;

For Millennials and women have value,

The men and young boys have talent

And though steeped in the values of tradition,

The motives that drive ambition;

They are inspired through art and technology;

That transcends pathology;

And through mythology

Explore new pathways

Beyond injustice and inequality.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

So close to home.

There are delegations of youth

At the screenings;

Reporters postulating the meaning,

As millions with African descent,

Extoll the messages and what they represent

And seeing it as a rallying cry;

A cry to honor our first investors

To honor our elders and ancestors;

Imploring us not to forget,

Their sacrifices, wisdom and toil,

For roots and foundation

Enrich the soil.

 

Copyright © 2018 Orlando Ceaser

The Hindre™ – A Secret Force of Exclusion

the_hindre (1)

The Hindre™ is a person whose purpose is to keep you down, drain your confidence, stunt your growth, hold you back, and prevent you from moving forward. They will hinder you from realizing your potential and living up to your expectations. They are stationed in households and organizations to thwart progress and stymie success by discouraging siblings and offspring from achieving their dreams. The Hindre™ will disillusion people who have the ability and talent to make a positive difference. (The illustration of the Hindre™ is provided by United Press syndicated cartoonist Charles Boyce, creator of “Compu-toon”).

We encounter this nemesis of negativity at various stages of our lives. This individual is responsible for creating a hostile environment of exclusion that says we are not invited, we are not good enough and we are not wanted. The Hindre™ are in businesses and other organizations prepared to sabotage individuals viewed as a threat. They are active when difference enters an organization, so that the status quo is maintained. They are people who place fear in your heart by making you believe you are inadequate and do not have the skills to succeed, unless given special accommodations.

A first encounter with the Hindre™ is during your youth. Exposure is at school or in the home. They may lash out against you in the form of a bully, to hurt your feelings. The experience may have left you angry, embarrassed or ashamed. As you grow in age and maturity they show up in school, relationships, family, and activities and on the job. They are sometimes subtle or bold, undercover or out in the open, covert or overt in their actions. However, they may seem to support you, while discouraging you from taking a risk and disparaging you behind your back to diminish what others think of you.

The Hindre™ show up when people and ideas are the weakest and most vulnerable. In school when you are forming your dreams and goals for the future, they bring their brand of sarcasm, laughter, cynicism and ridicule to shake your confidence, break your spirit and damage self-esteem.

At work they appear in many forms. They may seem harmless, objective and well meaning. But they use their credibility to tear down your ideas and cast suspicion and doubt on your performance. If you are highly regarded, they may use language behind your back such as, “you would think with their education and experience they would know better or perform at a higher rate.” These secret attacks are pervasive, persuasive and slowly reduce your standings in the eyes of peers and supervisors.

Talent will bring the Hindre™ to the surface. Talent activates their discouragement mechanism to hinder high performance. If you are silent and under performing they are dormant and content. But when you flex your creative muscles and express your skills, abilities and talent, they are pressed into action.

Exclusion at Work

In business the Hindre™ lurks in the hallways, meeting rooms and work stations. They are dormant until someone threatens the status quo with new ideas, especially if these new ideas come from the wrong people. The Hindre™ always looks for reasons why ideas will not work and how the ideas of others may work better. They allegedly have the interests of business at heart, when they shift focus and direct their critique to the flaws in your perspectives.

The Hindre™ is sometimes driven by unconscious and conscious biases and prejudices. They restrict access to employment opportunities, neighborhoods, certain groups, membership to exclusive clubs for women and resources to complete a project or proposal.

The work of the Hindre™ has cost companies and countries billions of dollars annually in lost engagement and productivity, revenue and innovation. New ideas are suppressed. People are not fulfilled. Opportunities are passed or missed as the company is deprived of the full richness of its talent pool. On a larger scale entire neighborhoods and countries are deprived of entrepreneurs, leaders and positive role models. The Hindre™ is the ultimate Devil’s Advocate, running unrestrained throughout our lives.

In meetings they shadow your comments. They come to life when their target begins to speak. When others speak they are relatively quiet, but when you talk, they are on the edge of their seats, ready to launch a counter offensive to pounce on your ideas. Many times, they will submarine your ideas as irrelevant and inappropriate, only to repackage as their own at a later date.  Therefore, you should keep track of your ideas, so that when they resurface you can claim credit for them.

When you are aware of the existence of the Hindre™, they are very predictable. Your mindset will to prepare excessively to ensure that your comments are well thought out, yet open for constructive challenge. You can use the presence of the Hindre™ to make you stronger.

The Hindre™ is known for discrediting groups of people and diminishing their accomplishments by saying that they are in over their head, they only got here through a special program and alluding that they may not be qualified.

In Talent Management and succession planning meetings the Hindre™ is present. They shoot down candidates with little objective information, but with a plethora of subjective innuendos. They have done their homework and will twist the facts or limit the admission of positive information that could benefit talent to the organization. The Hindre™ want to restrict your movement and limit and deny access to people, assignments and information that will make you successful.

What can you do?

We must develop the vision to spot them in a crowd and to know that they exist even though we are not sure of their location. Being hidden may give them power if they can catch you by surprise. Sometimes exposure and the knowledge that you know who they are can rob them of their strength. You can develop techniques to question their comments or answer them in a thoughtful intelligent manner. When you are skilled you can cast doubt on their motives, which can be risky, without the audience support. If rendered ineffective, they may go away, go underground and try to discourage others or think of an alternative way to stunt your development.

You must build confidence and surround yourself with people who are supportive, mentors, coaches, true friends and trusted allies. If you do not place this fundamental fortress of protection in place, they will cause you to doubt yourself, especially if no one is coming to your assistance. You must develop effective allies who have your back and will alert you to attacks from unsuspected Hindre™. Occasionally, someone may ask two questions which you should take seriously.

  1. How well do you know a particular person?
  2. What does this person have against you?

This may be a warning advising you to be careful around a particular person. Listen carefully to these comments as they are trying to tell you something significant about the Hindre™ in your midst.

Not every critical person or critique is from a Hindre™. You must subject the comments to a qualifying test. If they are instructive and productive, you would accept them. If their comments mean well and will make you better, you should welcome them. Try to determine the intent and motives of the person, the value and benefits of the comments and the potential consequences of action and inaction.

The Hindre™ may be powerful. We need to resist, but we may not be strong enough individually to withstand their fury. We need advocates and allies to jump to our defense. We need to cultivate teams of believers who will stand next to us when we are challenged inappropriately.

The Hindre™ is active, damaging dreams, poisoning relationships, restricting productivity and stifling the growth of communities, countries and continents. The Hindre™ undermine the joy we could experience without the persistent nay saying, negative nemesis that seeks to deprive us of our greatness. We must be aware of their existence, their presence in our environment and their mission to undermine our effectiveness. They are among the secret forces of inclusion in our environment. Therefore, we must develop tools to nullify their impact and cultivate allies to support us and fortify our positions.

Copyright © 2009 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.

Protectionism in a competitive marketplace

Protectionism is designed to discourage others from competing for your talent or resources. Barriers are put in place to keep markets, company, or department restricted from outside forces. People try to artificially maintain or mandate the status quo, because it is a beneficial, but questionable policy.

Insecure organizations who are afraid to lose top talent will institute external mean to keep their people, which may deny their people freedom, benefits and promotional opportunities.

Protectionism is a preemptive strike aimed at discouraging others from hiring or tampering with your personnel. Countries try to control their markets by setting up impediments to prevent others from fairly competing with their industries and companies.

Protectionism is at work inside organizations. A regional manager was constantly near the top of the organization in sales. He experienced very little turnover in his sales organization, through promotions or resignations. Many in the organization were puzzled to learn that stellar results were not accompanied by promotions. Conversations with the regional manager revealed that the top performers, in his estimation, were somehow flawed and not ready to receive more responsibility. This manager’s protectionism policies were personally beneficial, yet detrimental to the career growth of many hard-working employees. He did not want to go through interviewing to replace them and training a new crew. Careers were inhibited because he had labeled them as insufficient to assume greater responsibility.

A successful sales representative accepted a promotion to the human resources department. She wanted to return to the field as a manager. After several years, she had lunch with a sales manager. He lamented the fact that she wanted to stay in HR. She was shocked at his opinion and asked why he felt she did not want to return to the sales force. He said he had been told by an HR director that she was happy with her new career path and it did not want to leave. Needless to say, she was stunned by the misinformation and the inaccurate portrayal of her career objectives. The protectionist policies of her department backfired and she subsequently resumed her sales career.

Protectionism leads to the creation of policies to restrict the penetration of their borders by competing companies. One company raided another company and hired some of their best sales people, when they started a new division. The losing CEO was angry by their practice. He instructed his lawyers to write a letter to the company stating his displeasure and threatened legal action. The response he received was carefully worded. The acquiring CEO defended his hiring practices. He asked the other CEO to see his actions as the risk of doing business. He suggested the people were leaving on their own volition. If the people were happy they would not have been so anxious to leave. Needless to say, the other company continued to hire his representatives, but at a slower pace.

People will gravitate to top talent. In the era of social media, networking events, savvy recruiters and employee referral fees, the best performers will be identified. There is an incentive to keep people happy and there is an incentive to recruit them to other organizations.

The hiring CEO delivered a very powerful message. What can be done to minimize employee’s propensity to jump ship? What can be done to the culture to make them want to stay with your organization longer term?

Organizations can change managerial mindsets to mandate mutual benefits for all parties involved. This philosophical shift is initiated and enforced by senior leadership. Intuitively, it is difficult to pour a lot of effort and time into someone, only to see them walk away to a perceived better opportunity. As stated earlier, there are risks involved in developing people. At some point, you will have more people than you have promotable positions. This may cause some people to be patient and wait for better jobs internally; however others may be impatient and look for greener pastures outside of the organization. You have to chalk this up to the price of doing business and wish them well.

There are tremendous advantages short and long term for a full scale long term development program. This may ultimately lead to future business alliances and collaborations with companies who have hired your people. It may also be a recruiting tool for prospective employees. A reputation for hiring and developing talent can lead to an influx of extraordinarily qualified candidates. Higher employee engagement levels and productivity is currently seen as a positive benefit of a stronger culture.

If you constantly assess and provide opportunities for personal and career growth, you minimize employee flight. Today, Millennials are subject to career impatience, if you do not sufficiently reward and challenge them, your organization will constantly be under pressure due to rapid turnover.

Sensors can be put in place in the form of stronger leaders and mentors to assess and regulate career development. Employees will gain an up-to-date, real world view of their skills and abilities and prospects for career development. Organizations have established career academies, equipped with resources, such as class room work and online training programs to help employees can grow their technical and life skills.

Protectionism in theory is about holding on to your talent against unfair pilferage, but it will work against you in the long run. You must update your training and development practices to create stronger leaders. Additionally, you must:

  • Pay attention to the company culture to treat people with respect and harness their skills and abilities.
  • Provide an honest assessment of performance through clear cut performance objectives and regular evaluations
  • Career discussions should be held to understand and to share employer and employee expectations
  • Develop confidence in your training and development program to rapidly replace people who leave the organization or leave the team
  • Strong managers and leaders are necessary to ward off protectionist tendencies, as they strive to develop the best teams imaginable

Organizations have been known to offer retention bonuses during a time of uncertainty, such as during mergers and acquisition, to keep their top talent. A variation of this practice is to ensure that the best performers receive the best rewards, whether financial, special projects or greater career opportunities.

Protectionism is usually a policy instituted when an organization fails to put a coherent people strategy in place. In their haste to prevent people from leaving, they  blame outside forces for problems in their culture. Protectionism practices that strikeout at the employee or toward outside forces are rarely successful. Organizations should look internally at their leadership practices and career development strategies, to see if they can be more conducive to creating a culture where leaving the organization is to difficult for an employee to imagine or implement.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser 

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

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

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

Internal Corporate Warfare – Mind to mind combat

In an era of empowerment, engagement and teamwork, there is an internal struggle among people who should be allies. Individuals who should be aligned against the external competitive forces have squared off against their co-workers. This internal corporate warfare is a game of mind to mind combat initiated by managerial favoritism, individual’s ambition, hastily conceived diversity programs and survival tendencies linked to the current economic environment.  Frequently this warfare is undetected by leadership until the damage has been done through poor morale and the loss of key talent.

Managerial Favoritism

When individuals realize that some people or person has an inside track to promotions they are more than slightly irritated. Nepotism is alive and well in corporate America and so is employee backlash. People do not willingly work with someone if they feel they cannot be trusted or that they will arbitrarily move ahead of them on the promotional totem pole. One of the reasons it is uncouth to get involved in an office affair is the impact it has on the other employees. They do not feel comfortable. They are afraid the person is a spy and will tell all of their secret conversations.

If someone is placed on the proverbial fast track, this leads to friction in meetings and in interactions with their peers. Some people want to dethrone the heir apparent, while others befriend them for personal gain. However, the mind to mind combat and verbal sparring are evident in their personal interactions. As a leader, have you thought about the conflict caused by a potential show of favoritism with certain employees?

Individual Ambition

Ambition is not a dirty word or a concept that is frowned upon by people in power. Organizations want employees who work hard to improve their performance and strive to excellence. Corporations want leaders because they will assume the executive positions within the organizations. They will be responsible and accountable to achieve corporate objectives for the shareholders.

There seems to be a resurgence of cut throat career ladder climbing within a number of companies. This is very true in those organizations that pit their employees against each other in a “may the best man or woman win” scenario. Employees realize that the managerial hierarchy has flattened and therefore, there are fewer roles, so the ambitious become more aggressive. The ambitious are savvier in selecting mentors, taking additional courses and networking feverishly to line up an army of supporters and advisors. Whereas, many in the younger generation want work life balance, the unscrupulous ambitious ones are still willing to sacrifice everyone and everything to reach the top of the heap.

Hastily Conceived Diversity Programs

Leaders read the latest business publications and are confronted with leaders who tout the richness of their Diversity / Inclusion strategies. Top companies in their industry are featured on Top 50 lists for diversity and inclusion. The Corporate ego is inflamed and they decide to do something about diversity and inclusion to improve their corporate culture. They may realize that the demographics of their company do not match their customers or the external marketplace. This need to tap into a wider swath of the talent within the minds of their employees is done swiftly and without much research into how it fits into their overall strategy.

Corporate awareness is further enlightened when they consider data on engagement and how, many of their workers are not bringing their entire selves to work. With these factors in mind they decided to hire and promote people without doing their homework and disseminating their strategy to their people. They waste a golden opportunity to use diversity and inclusion as a means to make all employees feel valuable and appreciated.

When people realize that a diversity and inclusion program incorporates everyone within the company and offers equality for the most talented, much of the infighting is reduced. Diversity programs should include all of the ways in which employees are different. The business case should be discussed and the benefits to the entire company should be delineated. When this is not done properly, workers will not accept new people and will sabotage the arrival and careers of their teammates. The conflict, clashes and ostracism create unnecessary tension. The new employee is blind-sided. They have no idea what is going on. They view their co-workers as cold hearted, hostile and unfriendly.  

Survival tendencies

Companies are doing more with less and becoming more creative in achieving their objectives. Talent management strategies have introduced concepts such as forced ranking which can inadvertently lead to internal corporate or departmental warfare. How does widely advertised forced ranking affect teamwork among peers? If you know your assistance could help someone leap frog you and move in front of you in the eyes of management, would that affect your desire to coach your peers?

When I was in sales it was common for sales people in the same industry not to talk to each other. They viewed each other as the competition and the enemy. This helped them make sure they would not give away any secrets on strategy or promotional programs. Is it unreasonable to think this could occur within an organization if people view their peers as the competition? Suppose they see their co-workers as threats to continued employment or promotions, would it affect their actions?

Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot are two of the most notable traitors in history. Many careers have been sabotaged by co-workers who gave disparaging stories about their peers for personal gain. I was told a story early in my career. Apparently a group of employees were complaining about a recent company policy. The most vocal among the group reported the meeting to his manager, conveniently leaving out his role in the meeting.  He sacrificed his peers to make himself look good. He was subsequently promoted to the chagrin of the rest of the group who attended that meeting.

Companies may try to improve their culture, but are unaware of the internal corporate warfare raging within their doors. Self aware leaders and employee surveys may alert them to the potential skirmishes. Enlightened and strategic leaders improve their culture for the benefit of all.  The prevailing peace and cooperation among co-workers will minimize counterproductive exercises and enhance productivity, performance and profits.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser