Managing your personal power supply

The Spin class was about to begin. Gayle, the instructor, stated, “I lost power yesterday.” She said she was in her home when suddenly, a loud noise was heard and her electricity went off. We stretched, continued a light conversation and launched into a rigorous routine. I wondered during the class, “How many times, as individuals, have we lost power in our lives? Did we give it away or was it taken from us? Are there certain situations or individuals who cause us to lose power? Who are they and why does this happen? What are the early warning signs before there is a loss of power?

The loss of power is readily detectable. You have that feeling of loss of confidence, which is demonstrated by your body language, vocabulary and actions. Many times the loss of power at home or at work may come as a surprise. However, just as in nature there is a flash of lightning or thunderclaps before a storm, you can rely on certain indicators as precursors to a storm. You can anticipate someone’s presence, behaviors, as a good sign that a storm and potential power loss is on the way.

We should be aware of the signs of losing power and fortify your defenses. This will require us to increase our competence, confidence and network of individuals who will cooperate with us in our efforts to enhance our power position. There are times when we lose power and look around us and everyone seems to have theirs. What can we do to maintain or regain our power during a power outage? Power outages may be due to:

  1. Burnout
  2. Lack of confidence
  3. Power drainers
  4. Power mongers

Burnout

We can lose power by expending too much energy. We may fail to prioritize and try to do too many things at once. Processing too many projects at one time will lead to an increase in stress. Lack of sleep and irritability may negatively affect your disposition. You may become moody and easy to anger. Our lives are running at many revolutions per minute (rpm’s). We create to do lists (TDL’s) to keep track of our obligations. To do lists are getting longer and serve as a repository of unlimited tasks of varying priorities. We may fail to rank the items or every item seems to be important, which will lead to none of them being important. If we don’t put a filter on the funnel, we will be overwhelmed. This state of overload will lead to burnout, a breakdown and a loss of power. You must realize that some items on your list may not be covered or should be delegated or deleted.

Lack of confidence

Sometimes lack of confidence can lead to a loss of power. You may be faced with the possibility that you are not as good as you think you are and are afraid that others will discover your shortcomings. A way to address this fear is to conduct a self assessment of your skills and abilities. Be honest with yourself. You should relentlessly study your craft until we are an expert in your field. This may require study and validation which will give you the necessary credentials to ward off any challenges. If you lack confidence or courage you may doubt your abilities and lose the power of conviction needed to be successful.

Power drainers

Some people exist as leaches in the workplace, at home and wherever you engage in relationships. They will drain your power through constant complaining. Negative thoughts and the complaints will drain your energy supply. Their negative disposition and complaint oriented disposition puts everyone in a bad mood. They are not satisfied with anything and they never bring a solution to the myriad of problems they detect. When they enter the room, you can feel the life being sucked out of the place. Engagement levels seem to go down and the level of interaction and cooperation is reduced. The focus is on the speed of ending the meeting and getting back to work away from this malcontent.

The power drainers are time wasters. They do not respect time. They will barge into your office or workspace and tell you the latest gossip and shortcomings of the organization. Many power drainers have a running conflict with their peers and want you to come in as a peacemaker, which is time consuming and emotionally exhausting.

Power mongers

Power mongers are perpetrators who like to hoard power and use it over people based on their level of influence or authority. They will take the power away from you in a meeting. If you have the floor in a meeting they will ask the questions to shift the emphasis to them. I attended a meeting where one participant had more handouts on my subject than I did and spent the meeting time explaining their handouts which took away my power and control of the meeting. The better preparation and communication skills may address some of the issues of the power mongers.

The manager who asks you to do something because they said it does everything to shut down questions from the meeting attendees. Power mongers also work by using intimidation to get results. They will level threats at people who do not complete assignment correctly. A power monger will embarrass people in front of their peers. They may do this deliberately to show who’s the boss? A new manager at a paper recycling plant announced to his employees that he wanted them to fear him. He went on to exercise this management style as an egocentric power monger.

A power monger believes that information is power and takes this concept to the extreme. They delegate information sparingly. A manager had access to updates from the home office that would have been useful to one of his subordinates making a presentation. Rather than call him off to the side before the meeting and provide the updates, he strategically interrupted during the meeting with the latest news from headquarters. You may need help in dealing with a power monger, who negatively uses power. This can be done by working with mentors, advocates and power brokers. These individuals have the wisdom, insight and influence to assist you in relating to the power mongers.

Power brokers

Powerbrokers are individuals who use power effectively to get results. These individuals should be utilized and studied in order to gain their assistance. You want to use their techniques to minimize personal power outages. These individuals can be identified and cultivated at work, networking groups, referrals from their contacts and through personal introductions.

Work with powerbrokers to increase your confidence; improve your influence skills and knowledge of your area of interest and expertise. Conduct a personal assessment; improve your communication skills and your knowledge of your subject. Your objective is to isolate the individuals and circumstances that drain your power and counteract their affect on you. This will enable you to be stronger and effective in harnessing your power supply and minimizing instances where you lose power.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

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Performance fixing in the workplace – Lost productivity and restricted growth

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Athletes and their sports periodically are plagued by scandal. Athletes may be asked to lose a match, fight, or game by delivering less than their best effort. The tennis world was recently rocked by allegations of match fixing where players allegedly accepted payment for losing or throwing a match. Novak Djokovic, the reigning number one men’s player in the world, said he was offered $200,000 through his previous handlers in 2007 to lose a match.

Boxing has had its share of scandals. Unscrupulous fighters have been known to take a dive, throw a fight or lose a fight on purpose. Controversies have surfaced with football, basketball and baseball.

This tactic of solicitation; altering the outcome of a performance is also prevalent in other aspects of our lives. Performance fixing is not customarily a term used to describe substandard performance at work. We do not accuse employees of collusion, throwing a project or taking a dive regarding their objectives. However, there may be similarities with sports.

Friends or coworkers may ask you to deliberately act in ways that could negatively affect results. They may expect you to limit your participation or productivity, hold back by not delivering your best effort and engage in activities with consequences that will affect your grade, goal achievement, contributions or career.

It is an integrity issues when someone delivers an unearned and unsanctioned discount or illegally influences the score. But failing to bring your best effort is also unfairly influencing results by delivering below expectations.

People may have a variety of reasons for convincing others to take a dive. They may want you to make a supervisor look bad, fail or simply to compromise results for a number of reasons.

As a sales representative my competitors tried to discourage me from working hard and going beyond the call of duty. Ultimately, when I was promoted to management, they told me they thought I was smarter than to take a role in leadership. Their code of ethics was to do just enough to get by, not rock the boat or bring too much attention to the status quo of their comfortable world. They had tried for several years to get me to perform at a level that did not upset their established level of mediocrity. They were in effect asking me to fix the outcome of my selling activities by reducing my effectiveness.

Take a moment to reflect on your life and your performance in school, relationships or in your career. Have there been instances where people have discouraged you from taking a course of action; pursuing an MBA, volunteering for a project, advancing your education or participating in a manner that would improve the outlook for your career? They may not have offered money, but there was an expectation that you would conform to their request and maintain a friendship or relationship. Did they influence you to withhold your best performance or restrict your participation? How did you respond to their subtle influences to maintain the status quo? You probably did not see it as performance fixing.

Can you think of instances where you were reluctant to excel and talked yourself out of delivering your best performance? You may have convinced yourself that inertia, standing still, the status quo was more desirable than going after a promotion or shaming your peers. You may have told yourself the aggravation of more responsibility would be too much work and not worth the small financial payout and alienation from your peers. You may have held back, telling yourself that management would not be receptive to your efforts to improve your opportunities. The result was stabilization and stagnation.  Therefore, you took an internal dive and restricted the release of your talent and failed to maximize on the opportunities available.

Companies have lost productivity and revenue due to people shaving productivity across the organization. Individuals intentionally or unconsciously participated in a conspiracy to hold back on excellence. The payout was not also in money. They may have received resources or items of nominal value. It was for either pleasure or pain.

Pleasure could involve the camaraderie and benefits of connection in a powerful networking relationship. Being affiliated with people who are well known or who praise them makes them feel special. They may want the pleasure of associating with someone they wish to emulate, who makes them feel special.

The compensation could be the avoidance of pain. People are deprived of the discomfort of being shunned by their friends and the humiliation of failing to land a job because they took a risk. If they don’t pursue the job then they don’t have to make mistakes or suffer the failure not reaching it.

Withholding effort and talent is not considered a criminal event. People don’t think of themselves as being complicit in an illegal activity. But, they are assisting other people in activities that hurt themselves, other people or the company. Under the cover of darkness they are essentially breaking into a residence of excellence and stealing from the organization. They are taking a payoff to engage in activities that restrict growth and development.

Professional tennis was struck hard by the accusations of impropriety. The governing bodies of tennis are investigating their handling of this potential blemish on their profession and the parties involved. Other athletic associations, through the years have investigated and disciplined all parties found to be guilty of affecting the integrity of their sport. What must we do to ensure that performance fixing is minimized or eliminated from within our areas of responsibility?

You may consider it unfair to view lack of excellence and substandard engagement, as an integrity issue. But people are hired and expected to bring their best effort to the workplace every day. I had a manager who always asked me,” is this your best thinking?”  We must ensure that we bring our best thinking and best action to the workplace in our interactions with others. The dollar value on waste and on the opportunity costs of lost or poorly implemented ideas.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

5 Self Restraining Tendencies (SRT’s) That Can Hurt You

We are human and therefore, have idiosyncrasies, nuances and eccentricities that come with our personalities. Many of these unique characteristics position us for survival and success. But some of these peculiarities are counterproductive and are detrimental to our growth. I will call them self restraining tendencies or SRT’s. They are not necessarily life-threatening, but they may serve as impediments to development.

SRT’s are indigenous to human beings. They may be formed by life experiences and thoughts and subsequently create insecurities. They may be pseudo-defense mechanisms to allegedly protect us. SRT’s may be categorized as bad habits that may hold us back, restrict growth or work against us. How do we know we have them? Self assessments and times of reflection can increase self awareness and reveal SRT’s, as we examine our lives and impact on others. Additionally, we may receive the gift of honesty from a friend through candid comments. Constant feedback from co-workers, parents and peers can also be useful by adding to our enlightenment. But, we must be objective, receptive and appreciative of their candor.

5 Self Restraining Tendencies (SRT’s)

  1. Procrastination
  2. Poor communication skills
  3. Negativity mindset
  4. Toxic people skills
  5. Lack of Integrity

1. Procrastination

It is interesting to learn that many people are struggling with procrastination. The act of postponing things until later is not intellectually difficult for people to understand. They know that something should be done immediately and to postpone will have consequences. But, nevertheless, they still will delay until later, that which should be done today.

We recognize that we may not feel like doing something right now or we have awarded a greater priority to something else. If we continue to kick the can down the road or delay the inevitable, we will continue to waste time and effort and increase the amount of stress in our lives.

Lisa was interviewing for a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative. She felt very comfortable with the interview. The interviewer asked her about her number one shortcoming. She responded, “I am a procrastinator. I get things done, but sometimes it takes me a while to get started.” Procrastination was her Self Restraining Tendency, but the interview may not be the right place to disclose this particular self restraining tendency.

2.  Poor communication skills

Communicating is something we do every day. It is the currency by which we interact with people in order to state our ideas, convey instructions and build relationships. Those among us, who communicate effectively, actually have an advantage at school, in our careers and in relationships. If we are hampered by poor communication skills, our effectiveness is restricted. This self restraining tendency, like the others featured in this article, must be identified and corrected.

Poor communication skills could be non verbal or verbal to include written, body language and group presentations. Ask yourself, “Am I plagued by poor communication skills? Are there aspects of my communication ability that are hindering my progress?” Conduct a self-assessment. Diagnose your communication ability to see if there is a deficiency. You may seek to solicit feedback from respected sources and trusted friends and colleagues to see if they can identify areas that require improvement. When the SRT is disclosed, a change management process should be initiated. However, rather than go through multiple steps to change we should go directly from denial to acceptance and put a plan in place to correct the SRT.

3. Negativity Mindset

People who have a negativity mindset are not necessarily the individuals who look at the pros and cons of every situation. I am speaking of the people who like to rain on the parade. When the entire group has decided to move in a positive direction, they are the naysayers who constantly focus on what is or could go wrong. They provide excuses rather than explanations. They seldom do anything but complain without the slightest contribution to positive constructive participation to change anything. 

4. Toxic people skills

The toxic people SRT is different from the poor communication skills mentioned earlier. Individuals prone to this tendency will use power to humiliate and intimidate in order to gain the upper hand or to create an environment of fear.

My son worked for an organization where the new boss actually said, “When I walk into a room I want people to fear me.” He wanted people to be intimidated by his presence. This attitude is supported by language and interactions that cause stress, a lack of trust, poor engagement and ultimately subpar performance. Individuals with toxic people skills may speak about people behind their backs, pit coworkers against each other and generate an atmosphere of tension.

People with toxic people skills may be cursed with the propensity to enter every interaction with a transaction mindset. They are constantly thinking what is in it for them, how can they beat the other person by any means necessary and how it can only help them succeed. This is prevalent in relationships where they only socialize or interact with people who can help them advance their position, today. 

5. Lack of Integrity

People with a lack of integrity are flawed in their relational and work performance. They utilize a winning at all cost or any cost approach to work and relationships. People with this tendency view the rules as an inconvenience, something for weak minded people, to be broken and circumvented whenever possible. Breaking rules is seen as a badge of honor, a necessary evil to give themselves the ultimate advantage toward victory.

Invariably, this SRT will cause the downfall of their career and reputation. Oftentimes, the integrity flaw does not manifest itself until well into a person’s career. Please find below a chart illustrating a natural career growth curve and the various points of indiscretion where a lack of integrity can doom a person’s career.

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If a lack of integrity shows itself at the end of someone’s career, a lot of their positive contributions can be discounted and shrouded in suspicion, nullifying their reputation. If a lack of integrity revealed itself early in someone’s career, they may never have the opportunity to make significant positive contributions or to realize the potential present in their talents and abilities.

Ideally, we should establish self restraining orders or SROs for those character traits which are limiting our joy and effectiveness. The five self restraining tendencies listed or others should be addressed if they are a problem for you. They have the capacity to limit your effectiveness and keep you away from realizing your full potential in every segment of your life.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

Managerial Monsters in the Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser

HR is the new ER

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The Human Resources Department in this one organization was reminiscent of a trauma center. Its personnel were extremely busy handling emergencies. People were not necessarily in the facility, but they were backed up on the phone lines and in the e-mail system. HR technicians were anxiously utilizing their expertise to treat each employee for their affliction. When the scene was extremely hurried, calls were routed to the answering service and placed in a queue until the messages could be returned. They often stated that they will get back to you at the earliest convenience. When contact is made, there is the nebulous comfort of knowing that your call is being monitored for quality purposes.

At times the department could have been labeled ER instead of HR. With the ER standing for employee retention, employee recovery, employee replacement or employee rescue. The counselors were there to listen to the grievances, perform attitude adjustments, and recommend strategies that would benefit the patient as well as the organization. Sometimes they had to perform surgery to extract misunderstandings and misinformation and settle claims that could resort from managerial malpractice.

One employee at an insurance company described a situation that reminded me of a trauma center. It was as if she was in a combat zone with warring factions all around her. Some people kept their heads down and continued to fight through the workload. Others went AWOL and left the organization. The climate was similar to a MASH unit. This terminology is familiar to those in the military who fought in combat situations. MASH was also the name of situation comedy which was very popular years ago. MASH in our HR situation stands for Managers Are Stifling Hope or Managers Are Spreading Hostility, as their employees are demoralized and afraid to resign. The tragedy is that these Managers Are Sacrificing Heroes, when they really need their people to deliver heroic efforts beyond expectations in a competitive marketplace.

The ER department’s data bank reveals that many employees have problems with their manager. Their managers are unable to function in a stressful environment without taking it out on their people. They were not given stress management courses in leadership school. Employees are complaining about the way their managers treat them and speak to them. Employees cite circumstances where they feel threatened and intimidated. They describe wounds to their egos and blows to their self-esteem. There are complaints of verbal bashing, name-calling, being betrayed and stabbed in the back by lies and innuendos. The manager’s actions created a hostile work environment that borders on harassment at least in the minds of these individual.

One individual from an insurance company described a toxic climate where the following statements were said to her.

  • “Someone is going to lose their job and it won’t be me.”
  • “If you don’t like it you can leave. There are plenty of people ready to take your place.”
  • “I know I shouldn’t be saying this. And this could get me fired, but……..” (She continued with her inflammatory remarks against her employees)

Veterans of the workforce have commented that they don’t recall seeing things this bad. They are astonished by the lack of trust that exists between employees and management. Some are pessimistic about change in the immediate future. However, some are optimistic and say this is part of a cycle and improvement will occur when business performs better. As sales go up, people perform better at every level and much of the tension is removed from daily interactions between employees and supervisors.

I look forward to the world pictured by the optimist. It will be comforting when people are more engaged and the culture improves at work and at home. I will probably receive fewer telephone calls from people who feel threatened on their jobs and are very nervous because they fear being unemployed. There is hope now that the job market is getting better, but jumping ship is always a nervous thing to do. To the workers who are losing sleep, unable to eat or eat too much and drink to calm their nerves, they want relief. They want the resilience of those who are exercising more to increase the ability to handle the stress until the world improves.

Managers have different ways to handle pressure and stress associated with it. Those who are very skillful and competent, recognize that intimidation is a short term means of getting results. At some point this approach will become counterproductive when the manager really needs his people to deliver their maximum levels of engagement and results. It is easy to say that an employee should control what they can and work to become an indispensable member of the organization. Individuals with superior skills can generally land a job in any economic environment. But employees still need the ER to help them through the tough times.

Periodically, it is important to assess the injuries that are being treated in the Human Resources Department. Responsible leadership should evaluate these cases and the use these data points, along with employee surveys and focus groups to determine the health of the organization.

The question is what can be done to prevent the assault on HR from wounded employees who view it as their Emergency Room where Employee Restoration is practiced before returning them back to work? What can be done for the manager to remove the incentive to intimidate others? How can we turn HR into the ER which is the engagement room, or the empowerment room, where people are revitalized, and energized and anxious to go to work?

The Human Resources Department performs a vital role in the health and well-being of any organization. Its ability to ensure that the company’s greatest asset, its people, are hired, trained, developed, and placed in situations that are best for the individual and the organization, will have a profound business impact.

Organizations must work to ensure that if HR becomes the ER, it is a positive place where people receive the treatment they deserve. If HR becomes a MASH unit may it be because Managers Are Sanctioning Hope. Where the treatment they deserve empowers them to be more engaged, more productive and committed to exceeding the objectives that will make the organization and its members successful.

Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser

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.

Aha moments of a different kind

The Aha moment is that period of enlightenment when you realize a profound truth. The Miriam Webster dictionary defines it as, “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition or comprehension.” The concept is everywhere, ubiquitous if you will. Business conversations around the water cooler, comments made in meetings, and words printed in business literature and popular magazines focus on the aha moment.

Today’s aha moment is only one interpretation of the word that I encountered when I was growing up in the city of Chicago, Illinois. My first perception of the aha moment was not the classic definition around a moment of illumination. I was not trying to solve a problem and the solution eluded me and then out of the clear blue sky, presto! The answer appeared.

I would like to talk to you about aha moments of a different kind. Aha moments in my early days could have easily referred to the word that was shouted at me whenever I was caught. Someone jumped out of the bushes and screamed aha with the emphasis on the second syllable. It was a gotcha moment. I was busted, found out. It was a sound of discovery. My friends had cornered me in a game of hide and seek. I can hear him saying I got you.” I guess you can say my aha moment meant that I was discovered. I did not have a personal revelation, I was the personal revelation. I was the object of a surprise attack and my assailant screamed loudly to punctuate their victory.

In the first aha moment we discussed, equal weight was given to each of the syllables. The second aha moment had a greater accent on the second syllable. I am proposing a third aha moment where the stress is on the first syllable. This is the aha that was used when people laughed at me or ridiculed me. I can still hear the strident sound on the first syllable as they yelled out, “aha!” I heard this mocking sound several times during my childhood. Many times I was the new kid on the block and there was always something about me that caused others to laugh. Additionally, I remember low levels of disrespect occurring early in my college days. Whenever someone wanted to make fun of me, I would experience one of those aha moments which did not elicit fond memories.

There may be value in the three interpretations of the aha moment. In the classic sense, when did you encounter enlightenment and insight when searching for a solution to your problems? If you are constantly focused on your problems and screening potential solutions, you may have the Eureka moment and scream aha!

Secondly, you may recall the times you were caught performing a positive or negative activity. You may successfully devise a strategy to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Strategic planning of this nature can ensure that you stay far ahead of the competition and your adversaries.

Thirdly, you may remember when you were intimidated by those in control who wanted to stifle your influence. This awareness of competitors will keep you on your toes and cognizant of those who want to replace you or thwart your efforts. This awareness can lead to the appropriate counter response to gain credibility and respect.

In our age of seeking clarity in our communications, it is always critical that we are on the same page with the same interpretation of words, concepts and strategies. When we say an aha moment, we have to make sure that people have the same understanding to match our intentions. I know, in most instances, people are generally speaking of an aha moment as filled with profound insight and inspiration. However, in the back of our minds, we may find value in thinking about aha moments of a different kind.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Success despite Misfortune tellers and Prophets of doom

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

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

Lack-of-Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

Strong Leaders: Strong Enough for Their Teams

Strong enough could mean having sufficient energy, capacity and emotional and intellectual fortitude to challenge the status quo, as you look into the future with strategic vision. Strong enough for your team could mean you can be counted on to flex your leadership muscles to protect your team and get the most out of them. Strong enough for your team could describe the charisma and the tenacity exhibited as you demand the performance and execution required for success.

Boot camp for the military and training camp for athletic teams are conducted to ensure their members are mentally and physically fit; that they are strong enough to compete in battle or competition. We need a managerial or leadership equivalent of these events to ensure managers are strong enough for their teams. Are they strong enough to lead? Do they have what it takes to deliver what is required by their team to help them function at their highest level of performance? Are the managers the catalyst to continuously develop teams to deliver world class results?

Performance evaluation

Strong enough for their team is apparent during performance evaluations. Companies encourage employees to provide input which is included in the final written document. This input gives the manager insight into how workers see their performance. If the employee is candid, they outline their strengths and weaknesses, as they perform to reach or exceed their goals. The final document should be largely constructed using a perspective gathered from the boss’s observations. Otherwise, the employee will question the strength of their leader. Also, some people have an inaccurate view of their performance and strength is needed to deliver an unpopular message.

Organizations are concerned about inconsistencies in managerial judgment across their management teams. They want to guard against some managers being easier on their people than other managers. People have been known to receive an excellent rating from one manager which would not be excellent in the eyes of another manager. This disparity leads to some people being rated higher than they deserve. Organizations try to minimize this problem by a process known as calibration. These organizations have meetings with their managers and discuss their team and individual team members. Members of their peer management group will have an opportunity to question, challenge and give input into the performance of people on other teams. Each manager’s interpretation of their team performance is open for discussion and sometimes, a heated debate. Calibration is often a competitive event and the manager who is strong enough derives the appropriate benefits and impressions for his team.

A strong enough manager is required to competently represent their team in these calibration meetings; otherwise their team will suffer when challenges are made. These challenges have performance rating and financial implications. A manager who is strong enough supports their assessments with a strong written evaluation. They also have strong verbal communication skills to state their case and fend off any challenges. Timidity and poor verbal skills may stifle the growth of individual team members if the manager’s peers do not gain an accurate assessment of their abilities.

Additionally, managers also convene to discuss the talented individuals on their team in the succession planning meetings. These meetings are held to evaluate talent to fill vacancies and to ensure they have qualified candidates for promotions to build a pipeline of talent for the future. A manager must be strong enough with their communication and analytical skills to state a solid case for their top talent.

Strong enough to challenge

Managers have to be strong enough to stand up to their people for their own development; to ensure that they are giving their best efforts. They must be tough enough to make the hard calls and replace individuals who are a poor fit for the job and the organization. I heard one manager say, in frustration,” I should have fired him 15 years ago.” He was lamenting the fact that the current leadership would not be wrestling with this problem person if he had done his job many years earlier.

An employee from a major airline was distraught when they discovered that their manager was not strong enough for them during a major restructuring campaign. The team was decimated and many individuals were cut from the organization. A manager, who was strong enough, may not have prevented everyone from receiving a negative verdict, but the people would have received a fair trial.

A creative director was frustrated every time senior leadership disagreed with her when she pitched a new proposal. Her boss was always present and frequently left her on her own to defend her project. She knew she had his support outside of the meeting, but wanted him to come to her assistance when she was under fire. If he had been strong enough for his team, even though her programs were denied, she would’ve been motivated, knowing that he was in there fighting along with her.

Managers who are too strong

Some managers have a bully personality and are disliked and not trusted by their peers. Their reputation could work against anyone associated with them. These managers are viewed as tyrants and suffer from being too strong or too forceful in their business relationships. They make a lot of enemies and sometimes revenge is taken against anyone they support, especially anyone seen as their protégé.

Some managers are viewed as difficult to work with by outsiders. When asked about his leadership style, the employees gave favorable comments. The manager gave them exactly what they needed. He was matching toughness with the needs of his team. They said he was fair, disciplined and had their best interests at heart. The secret was to apply the right amount of strength to the right situation.

The objective of the strong leader is to be strong enough to be effective in every dimension of their job, to achieve the best results.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

A leader should stand by, with and for their team

Stand by your team

A manager felt his people would go through a brick wall for him. He based this on their belief that he would do anything for them. They knew he had their backs. This dedication and loyalty led to higher sales results and productivity. He created a culture of excellence, enthusiasm and trust.

The manager was known to stand by his team. When they are in need of guidance and resources to compete in difficult situations, he was known to stand by them. In today’s marketplace, there is a fair amount of angst about the future and employees role in it. Standing by your team allows you to detect any anxiety and address it with encouragement and skill development.
You can quickly squash rumors that are not true, before they become a morale problem. Immediately provide whatever information you can, within your leadership obligations, to ensure they are focused on the things they can control.

If the team misses the mark and fall short of achieving a goal, they are not thrown under the bus. They are held accountable, but you as their leader, takes them through a rational analysis of what went wrong. You are on the front line developing strategy and corrective measures. Your aim is to exceed the goal, so that the shortfall does not happen again.
You want your team to be a well performing unit, exceeding objectives. This is the best way you can diminish adverse situations. Being focused on excellence and driving productivity will build their confidence on the current job and prepare them to confidently answer interview questions for the next assignment.
Stand by your team as a strong role model who is authentic and committed to their development. This will enhance their performance loyalty and trust.
Stand with your team

It is critical to also stand with your team in skirmishes to drive market share. You have a history with them. Your relationships were strengthened in the trenches. You made sure they were informed about every major decision and the reasons for those decisions. You felt that if they were more informed about the intricacies involving the decisions, it would build trust in your leadership. Patrick Lynn Lencioni in his book, “Three signs of a miserable job,” speaks about each individual’s need to be known, to feel important and able to gauge their progress and level of contribution to the organization. When they feel connected, this has a positive influence on engagement and results.

If you stand with your team, your praise and proximity will indicate that you care about them and they are not just a means to an end. You value them as individuals and are committed to their success. You stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the day-to-day struggles in the marketplace. You are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and help them do the work. You are willing to ask them their opinions and implement their suggestions. Where there suggestions have merited, they are implemented and they are given the credit. They know that you are the boss, but you do not hesitate to show that you are so committed to getting the job done. This leading by example sends a powerful message.

When you stand with your team, you make sure that each individual knows their job and does their job. You are not a micro-manager. You are always open and committed to their development. You want them to be more efficient and effective and willing to offer suggestions to improve their performance while living up to their responsibilities.

Stand for your team

Thirdly, you should stand for your team. Be the proud representative or your team, department or organization. You are aware of the hard work they put into excelling on the job and you want to promote their excellence to anyone who will listen. You want to represent each member and the entire group to people who can have an influence on their career.
When you stand for your team, you openly and willingly engage in conversations about their talents, gifts and skills. You expose your team to knowledge, individuals and other resources that expand their experiences and expertise. Additionally, you are not timid about challenging them to higher levels of achievement. Your expectations are high, because you know they can do more.
There are times when your team will seem to take your performance personally. They want you to stand out among your peers when there is any competition. They watched with pride as you make a presentation on the agenda with other managers. You are their boss. You are representing the team and they are bursting with pride.

When you stand for your people you are loyal and not always looking to change teams for your personal benefit. You are committed to the productivity of the group. You select and develop a strong core of hard-working, ambitious people who crave recognition and rewards for their excellent performance. This strong core is being groomed to work as a team. They have the complementary skills necessary to exceed aggressive team objectives. They enjoy their jobs. They are fully engaged. They look forward to going into battle every day with everyone on their team. They are looking to you as their leader. They see you as their ally, an advocate against any adversary who stands in their path.
To maximize your effectiveness as a leader it is essential that you stand by your people, stand with your people and stand for your people. The results will be amazing and will enable everyone involved to reach levels of performance that are personally beneficial and a windfall to the team and the organization.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser