Leadership and the Ozone Layer – Channeling the heat

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

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

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

  • Protective
  • Selective
  • Corrective
  • Effective
  • Directive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

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

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

All followers should:

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

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

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

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

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

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The Impact of Personnel Decisions on Employee Morale and Team Performance

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

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

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

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

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

Human Nature

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

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

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

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

Professional Etiquette

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

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

A Trusting Culture is the Key

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

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

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Embarrassed in your career or Routed in pursuit of your dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

4 Directives to Influence Behavior

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

“Do as I say, because I said so”

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

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

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

“Do as I say, not as I do”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

6 Personalities on the Path to Progress

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

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Relaters

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

Waiters / Waitresses

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

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

Haters

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

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

Traitors

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

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

Debaters

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

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

Spectators

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 20014 Orlando Ceaser

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

The “A” Game Chronicles – Discover and deliver it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2011 Orlando Ceaser

Quick decisions – Decisive or deceptive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Secrets of Success in Sales and Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Ways to be discovered at work

I remember many stories of people being discovered at some point in their career. This language is often associated with artists, entertainers and movie stars. The person or group was performing in a small nightclub and that night, a record producer was in the audience. The young lady was working behind a cosmetic counter and a modeling agent was stunned by her beauty. The painter’s work is shown in an obscure art gallery when seen by a critic. These situations also happen in the business world. A hard-working employee is brought to the attention of an influential manager, who inquires about their performance and subsequently takes them under their wing. A person delivers a presentation and suddenly, upper management is aware of their existence.

Many times, the act of being discovered was portrayed as being lucky, something beyond the individual’s control. However, life and experience teach us, that there are actions a person can take to put them in a position to be discovered. What is the secret to being discovered? What role can you play to ensure it happens to you or your people? Is it a matter of luck or do you play a major role in achieving the dream you deserve.

There are at least six things that an individual can do that will increase the odds of exposure and discovery. They are as follows:

• Professionalism and expertise
• Market yourself to the right people
• Visit places of the powerful and influential
• Ask people to view your work and give feedback
• Acquire an advocate
• Ask for recommendations

Professionalism and expertise

It is correct to assume that working at a very high level and excel at your craft will attract attention. If you are selling more product than your peers, this will eventually be noticed by people in higher levels of authority. If you are generating more ideas, working longer hours, volunteering for leadership roles on major projects, standing out in the crowd by asking pertinent questions, you will be noticed by influential people. Your expertise will lead to higher performance ratings and greater rewards and recognition.

Display character and a positive work ethic. This will draw attention to your career and people who can help you succeed. They will be attracted to your talent and pristine work history.

Market yourself to the right people

Find the people who make the hiring decisions or pull will the purse strings. Create a career plan that includes the components listed below, as tactics in your strategy. Share your success with the right people. Don’t be bashful; let them know how good you are without bragging. Always remember, “Every interaction is an interview.” My coach James Malinchak has a saying that is pertinent here.”ABM, Always Be Marketing.” Look for ways to perform your job and make people aware of your contributions. Be subtle, but effective in sharing your words to key decision-makers. Being discovered is the reward you deserve for hard work and dedicated focus. The right people can place you in a position to maximize your contributions organization. Position yourself so that people in power or those who have hiring authority can see the impact of your work.

Visit places of the powerful and influential

Place yourself in a position where you can be seen and heard by decision-makers. I know people who join groups and associations or volunteered because it placed them in the presence of important people. They were committed to helping others, but doing it in the presence of some of their managers provided an extra incentive. People in power like to align themselves with people with similar interests. Increasing your visibility and participating in similar activities, can accelerate the process of being discovered. This is a prime motivator for people to take up golf, tennis and other athletic activities. The presence of influential people is a lure for being discovered.

Ask people to view your work and give feedback

Many people love to assist someone who are committed to excellence and are anxious to improve. Hard work and dedication to excellence attracts people who want to play a role in your success. By asking people to observe your work and give feedback, it shows that you are open to improve your performance. The rapid implementation of their ideas will show them that you are sincere and respectful of their suggestions.

Acquire an advocate

If you acquire a person who is very interested in your growth and development, they will refer and recommend you to other people. As a matter of fact, they may be so excited about you that they will tell everyone about your potential, your talent and your ambition. If these individuals are highly regarded, their words of praise will help open doors for you. You will be amazed at the number of people that other people know who can benefit your career.

Ask for recommendations

Show your initiative by asking for the names of people who could help you. When you ask for the recommendation, ask them if they can let the other party know they have their support. I heard a statistic on a radio program that 70% of people landing new jobs were due to employee recommendations. If you want to be discovered, if you want people to know who you are and where you, recommendations can help speed along the process. Over time, you will master the skill of being in the right place at the right time, highly skilled and ready to be discovered.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser