The Humility Obsession – Suppressing your greatness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family leadership, reunions and knowledge transfer

Companies strive to develop stronger leaders. They know the power of leadership to propel their organizations to greater profitability and influence. They also seek continuity and to perform excellently in the area of knowledge transfer.  Expertise in this area is a critical component in their succession planning process.  Necessary skills and information will enhance productivity and minimize any disruption in performance. Successful organizations develop their talent pool or bench, by ensuring the smooth transfer and implementation of institutional knowledge.   

Companies ideally want the new person to have time with the incumbent when a person is promoted. They want them to learn the mechanics of the job and the history of the position. If the new person understands the lessons of the past they are most likely to repeat the right ones. The experts realize this grounding in the past is a benefit. This awareness is helpful before the new person suggests any radical changes. 

New employees gather available information by;

  • reading information on file  and on line
  • one on one discussions with the former job holder
  • interviewing employees and customers
  • formal job orientation programs

A person is admired if they can quickly get up the learning curve and deliver value. They are able to speak intelligently about some matters for a seamless transition within the department. This increases the new person’s confidence during the early days in the new position. Successful knowledge, defined by knowing what was done in the past and current practices is an asset. 

The process of knowledge transfer can also work well in families. Adults in the family acquired years of education, instruction, experiences and expertise. Such information could be shared with their family members. Reflect on the vast amount of knowledge accumulated over the years. Your children have received the benefit of some of this data. But there is still so much that could be exchanged.

Knowledge transfer already occurs in many families, with or without structure. This is especially evident if they are in a business together. They are present and the coaching can be delivered first hand.  On the job training in the form of shadowing or following the relatives around the office or one on one meeting is a helpful practice. Bringing children to work is a great idea to let them see what the parents do on the job. It could allow them to see if their parent’s job is what they would like to do someday.

Most of the time knowledge is transferred through our actions as we live out our values and beliefs in the home. This happens around the dinner table or other places where the family gathers to interact. These opportunities could be intensified, if awareness and structure is added. If we intentionally design content and intent, we could better prepare our families for a competitive future. The world, the workplace and life is more challenging and grows in intensity and complexity each year. 

One of the advantages of children getting older is that you can discuss matters related to your employment. The more we can tell the stories of our workplaces, the better they can learn about at least one job. This sharing of information is not designed to force them to choose the same occupation, but to expose them to the job and the character traits needed to be successful. Children brought up in a supportive instructive environment have an edge when they go into the workforce.

Family reunions are a great venue to share values, family history and coach members about our collective acquired expertise and experiences. We share this information with our immediate relatives, but could accomplish so much more if we shared with more people. The value of these years of experiences and connections could enrich the entire family network.    

Consider setting up a procedure for the working members of your family to discuss their professions with the youth. Many times these gatherings are social, but they can be so much more. The following structure can be used to have adults share their experiences, education and expertise with their relatives at a family reunion. The format is as follows: 

Knowledge & Experiential transfer – Enriching Families with the Talent Within

Premise:

There exists with the collective family, valuable assets that could be a competitive advantage for individual family members. People in the family play many roles on their jobs, in church and in the community. They accumulated knowledge and skill to succeed in these roles. Family members have received intensive training in school and on the job. If we could tap into this wellspring of talent and transfer it to others in the family, we would have a pool of mentors to help our youth perform and compete at a very high level.

Family members are not often aware of the talent that is present across their bloodline. Some do a greater job mentoring people and offering advice outside of the family when the need is also great at home. 

Objective:

To identify and share the wealth of information in the form of knowledge, experiences, expertise and skills within the nuclear and extended family and across the bloodline.

Procedures:

  1. Assess family members who are willing to talk about their jobs in a workshop or panel discussion. This could include the mechanics of the job and their journey to the position.
  2. Solicit questions from family members before the meeting to get everyone thinking and prepared for the session.
  3. Notify family of the objectives of the session and expectations of excellence from all in the family.
  4. Celebrate those family members who have achieved excellence in any area whether on the job or in their education.
  5. Select certain adults to roam through the reunion to answer questions about their profession. They can wear name tags that have jobs or areas of expertise. These individuals can be sought out at the family reunion to tell their story.

This is a brief overview of how we could stress excellence within the family and utilize the talent within to increase our greatness and fulfill our purpose. The self confidence and feeling of collective strength will add to the esteem and image of the entire family.

Family members can models leadership in every interaction with each other. We can intentionally build processes and structure to transfer knowledge. Taking advantage of these interactions will allow us to share our expertise, education and experiences and benefit the group, through living out our purpose.  

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser