Leadership and the Ozone Layer – Channeling the heat

O3Logo(1)

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

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

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

  • Protective
  • Selective
  • Corrective
  • Effective
  • Directive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

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

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

All followers should:

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

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

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

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

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

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

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer – lessons in handling differences

We are often started with the commercialization of Christmas. We are reminded to not lose sight of the reason for the season. This is valuable advice for Christians and others during this reverent time of year.

We grew up with Gene Autry Christmas classic of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. It is a delightful song, but also delivers a powerful message about encountering and handling differences. This song could start meaningful conversations about accepting others.

The song begins with a reference to the reindeer popularized in Clement Clarke Moore’s, “The night before Christmas”, also known as “A visit from St. Nicholas.” It begins with a roll call of Santa Claus’ reindeer that of course omits the name of Rudolph. As you recall, Rudolph was different from the other reindeer because of the luminescent quality of his nose. His nose was so shiny that it had either reflective qualities or it glowed like a light. This was enough to make him the object of ridicule and ultimately ostracism by the other reindeer.

This lack of acceptance is seen when children and adults are confronted with someone who is different from them. Our initial response is to make fun of the person and then to isolate them because of their characteristics, traits, heredity or idiosyncrasies. Many of us recall when we were young and begged for approval. Even to this day, there is something about us that makes us stand out from the crowd and the crowd lets us know it.

At work or is school, simply being the new person, the new kid on the block, the person who is an unknown, becomes a source for teasing or isolation. We often wondered,” if they would only get to know me, they would see that I’m just like them. “Rudolph was a reindeer, so he surely had a similar appearance, except for his nasal peculiarity. But suppose he was of a different color, from a different region of the country or had a different ability. He would have manifested a difference that would have caused him difficulty until he was accepted. We usually ask the different party to fit in, when the real focus should be on them being accepted by the group.

Bullying is also a response shown toward those who are different. The song the does not indicate that Rudolph was bullied, but we can only assume that preventing him from “playing in any reindeer games” was not always accomplished in the most delicate manner.

The song does not tell us what Santa Claus was doing during the hazing or if he even knew about it. But, as a good leader, he engineered a very strategic response. He knew the talent and value of all of his reindeer. He evaluated the weather system for his next journey and realized he was going to encounter numerous blizzards. He knew that the solution to his problem existed among the ranks of his reindeer. He knew he had one reindeer that could help navigate the wintry delivery of toys to boys and girls around the world. This opportunity would be well received it if every reindeer benefited from his gift.

We can give Santa credit for waiting for the appropriate time to unveil strategy. He could have given the reindeer the opportunity to work it out amongst themselves, as so many people do in similar situations. They say such things as,” kids are just being kids, learning to navigate difficult situations will only make the recipient stronger and teach them valuable life skills and that which does not kill them will make them stronger, to paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche the philosopher. Maybe the reindeer performed similar initiation rites to others in the group that had other distinctions from their peers. Maybe they solve their treatment of Rudolph as being harmless and natural.

The defining moment came,” one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say: Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Many managers, leaders and parents look for the opportune moment to use the skills of their people. The right moment to show the world and the individual, that they recognize their true value and wish to share this value with every member on the team. We can only assume that in the fictitious conversation, Santa’s encouraged Rudolph and told him about the value of his difference. He made him feel that he was something special and should never feel that he was not important and did not have a place. I’m sure he made him feel like an important member of the team. He validated his value by asking him to lead the team by moving up to the front of the line.

You remember the happy ending to the song. “Then all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history! We know that in real life, responses to differences may not always lead to a happy ending. Sometimes the individuals have lingering insecurity, damage to their self-esteem and underlying resentment from the initial exclusion. But, so often when the difference that is ridiculed or denied is used for the benefit of the group, the organization, institution, group or community becomes stronger. The people learn a valuable lesson about inclusion. We are hopeful that when the person is accepted they don’t become complicit and act in the same manner when they encounter other people who are different.

If we remember the Rudolph days of our lives and commit ourselves to prevent them from happening to others, we will maximize their future contributions to our teams, families, organizations and communities. We will perform a noble act when leading by example with the lessons learned from Rudolph the red nose reindeer.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

Close strong – When there’s time on the clock

LeaderARCvr2
The year is rapidly coming to an end. You are closing the books, wrapping up your accounts and accessing progress against your goals. You may have mentally vaulted into next year. You may have a tendency to slow down and begin jogging to the finish line, after all it is December and the year is almost over. In some situations, packing it in prematurely may be a mistake.

The temptation to checkout early is present in people running long distance races. They approach the last stretch and decelerate. Whereas, coasting to the end is an option, you may still be leaving some business on the table. Take a few precious moments to look around and see if there are a few vital steps you can make to make a difference for this year or help in the future. Is it really impossible to close a deal, make a telephone call and perform a service for a client? These actions may enable you to favorably close out the year and set the foundation for a strong start in the next quarter.

As long as there is time left on the clock, you should move quickly to break the tape and not wind down to a halt. It is best to run through the tape to ensure that you keep momentum where it can do the most good. It is the beauty of the follow though. In baseball, when running to first base they suggest you run through the bag. In golf they suggest you swing through the ball for maximum results. Persistence is critical to give it all you can until the very end. Craig Groeschel, Founder and Senior Pastor of LifeChurch.tv, has a phrase that he uses, “If you are not dead, you are not done.” I suggest you keep this mind, as you sprint to the end of the year.

I was in a sales meeting a few years ago. We were looking for another way to remind the managers to work toward a strong finish, even though we tome left in the quarter. We made a list of the activities we could perform to close out the year. We asked the managers to encourage their representatives to do the following:

• Make one more call at the end of the day
• Contact their largest customers to get commitments
• Contact customers they may have missed on their last cycle
• Make courtesy calls to thank their customers for their business and support, even if it did not lead to an immediate sale

The managers also reviewed their responsibilities in holding everyone accountable.
One manager was aware of my book Leadership above the rim – the poetry of possibility. There was a poem entitled, “Time on the clock,” which was very appropriate for the moment. The poem Time left on the clock was read to the group. It was a nice way to close out the session and emphasize the power and possibility for high performance by having the right attitude to the end of the year.

I wish you a strong finish to the year and hopefully the poem, “Time on the clock,” will deliver a message that coincides with your belief in an excellent finish and a strong start to the next quarter in the New Year.

Time on the clock
When there is time left on the clock,
The cowards complain and cry foul;
The losers panic and throw in the towel,
But champions persist and hold their blocks,
For they know the score is tentative
Until the game is over, so they give
Everything, for ’til the final gun
There’s unfinished business,
Work to be done.

When there is time left on the clock,
The champions continue to play
Aggressively, to find a way
To anchor confidence so they can rock
The competition out of alignment,
As they execute their assignments.

When there is time left on the clock,
Champions cling to the fundamentals,
They stay in strategy, push potential
To higher levels intended to shock;
As warriors welded to their cause,
They are nourished by internal applause.

When there is time left on the clock,
Thoughts of surrender should be suspended;
Energy on hand should be expended,
Reserves should be exploited to unlock
The genius of skillfully fighting hard,
With valiant effort for the extra yard.

When there is time left on the clock,
You strive tenaciously, always take stock
In your motives for entering the game,
For pride, prestige or personal acclaim;
Though vanquished or victorious, heroes
Are those who fight to the end.
Zeroes on the clock is when the champions say
Is the acceptable time to walk away.

Copyright © 2003 Orlando Ceaser

http://www.watchwellinc.com

Want to save the boss’s job? Perform better

Veterans of watching and playing sports and working in business for a living, remember countless regime changes. The owner or senior leadership brings people into a room or connects with them online to make an announcement. The current boss is being replaced, which could mean, demoted, reassigned or terminated. They inform the workers that it was time for a change. They may deliver platitudes and say such things as, “they were a fine individual and have contributed much to the organization.” This decision may not be linked to performance, but it was time to go in another section. This unleashes quite a buzz within the organization. Both positive and negative comments are made about the person and the decision.

Let’s move our focus immediately from the person making the decision and the person being removed. Let’s focus our attention on the people who work for him or her. On Sports Center and the local news media, one by one former players are interviewed.” “He was an excellent manager, a player’s coach, a person of high intellect and sports acumen. He taught me everything I know. She took a chance on me, when no one else would.” The plaudits and accolades go on and on.

In business and in athletics, there may be factors beyond the coach or the leader, which influence performance. However, one point comes out loudly and clearly, if the person was so great and instrumental in career growth to receive such high praise for their leadership,” why didn’t the people perform better?”

The best way to show a coach or a leader what you think of them is through excellent performance on the field, in the field, on the court, in the office, on the plant floor or in the classroom. Results are the measure of a person’s effectiveness. Is it logical to assume that your performance is an indicator of how you felt about them? If they are not getting the best from you and it is not them, then it must be you.

If you are not delivering up to your capabilities, are you in the wrong job or somehow being hampered by underlying issues. Are you compromising the effectiveness of your team, and placing your job and your manager’s job at risk. Bear in mind, it is the role of the manager to diagnose and treat some of these issues. It is commonly said that somebody has to take the heat and the blame when the team does not perform up to its capability. The leader or coach is usually this individual. Managers cannot fire the whole team or replace every individual over night. Somebody must take the field, sit behind desks or operate the machinery. Often it is believed that firing the manager will jolt the team into an accelerated, escalated level of performance. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it doesn’t.

What can be done?

When you bemoan the fact that, “another one bites the dust or another one got away or another quality coach leaves, think of all of the assistance they gave to you. Remember the instructions and wise counsel. There may have been working above and beyond the call of duty to get you comfortable in your job. Think of their families, as you think of your own. Then I want you to inspire and motivate yourself to give your maximum effort. Energized and engage your team members into working to their highest levels of achievement. You are doing this for yourselves, the organization and the manager you claim to admire and respect.

Performing to your highest level can be very self-serving. It enables you to have a greater role in retaining the best manager for you. If you admire the quality leadership of this individual, make sure that when they leave the organization, is because of some of the reason other than the team not delivering its best. The next person who walks through the door, on to the court or field or into the plant, was selected by you as surely as if you were in the interview making get the job offer. Retaining the manager you want may also keep you from getting the manager from Hell who may be lurking in the shadows waiting the right moment to assume the position you provide for them.

You may know him on both sides of this issue. People have come up to them and stated how unfair it was that they were no longer in the role. They went on to say they will never forget the things they taught them and how it made them a better person or manager. These comments were appreciated and well received. I’m curious; if it meant so much to them, why didn’t it show up in their performance. Why did she choose this year to deliver below prior years? Did they do everything within their power to keep the coach? Are there things that they could’ve done differently that could have led to a different result?

The manager, coach or leader is a part of the team. They set the tone for the velocity of the team and their ability to scale higher mountains of expectations. The team can be compared to a chain and sometimes the manager is the weak link in the chain and should be replaced. Sometimes, there are other individuals on the team that are not living up to their potential and the manager must develop them or remove them from the organization. Failure of the manager to make the tough calls may be an indication that they are not strong enough and should be replaced. In situations where the manager is highly regarded for their character, vision and leadership skills, it is imperative that this bears fruit in the performance of the team.

Post blog assignment

The next time you see a news story, where a person is being removed from a job, you may want to ask yourself a few questions and look for the evidence provided to justify the action.

• What did they do to deserve the termination?
• What information was given to support the action?
• What did the people who worked for them have to say about them?
• Was there evidence of being a good person, but not strong enough to make the tough decisions?
• What information was provided about the performance of the team or the department?
• Did you get a sense that the team was performing below its capabilities?

If you want to keep the manager you have, either as your boss or within the organization, you can contribute to this by performing at the highest level of your capability. This may spare you the inconvenience of complaining about the organization or feeling guilty about your culpability in the demise of your beloved leader, manager or coach.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

Reputation – Working Capital in a Successful Life

Have you ever heard the phrase,” You are nothing like I expected,” or” You are nothing like I was told?” When you heard these questions, you probably received them with mixed emotions. They could indicate positive feelings about you or an underlying misconception or suspicion about your reputation. Why were they surprised?

If you’re like me, you try very hard to establish and protect your reputation. Your reputation is who you are, what you stand for and what you represent. Many times it goes before you and people say such things as,” Your reputation preceded you.” So it is critical that you do everything to keep your reputation pristine and positive.

Your reputation is like currency. It enables you to incur special favors and treatment, assignments, employment and business opportunities, the benefit of the doubt and information, power and influence. A poor reputation can also work against you and deprive you of many of the finer things in life. Reputation can affect what people think of you; a fine person they would like to work with or I wouldn’t work with them if they were the last person on Earth.

A Bad Reputation

A bad reputation, which could relate to a bad driving record, poor credit history or hard to work with, can haunt your work life. You may lose out on a job. Usually, losing out on a job may never be brought to your attention, but it does happen. Another tragedy is that there are times when a poor reputation, is not your fault. A director was asked to hire an assistant, who competed against her for her current job. She was initially reluctant. She had the usual concerns about this individual potentially sabotaging her agenda. But she was open to using the person’s skills to improve the overall department. She also felt that she could groom the individual to one day take her job or a similar assignment. She accepted it as a good a challenge.

Shortly after the person joined her department, she began hearing negative comments from members of the team about some of his remarks. He was undermining her authority. He secretly questioned her decisions and even went as far as to sabotage some of the marketing projects. Additionally, he was personally connected to other directors and began to influence their perceptions of her. He told them she was lazy, incompetent and ineffective, that she was in a job that was over her head. They believed him because he knew marketing and worked closely with her every day. He was eventually reassigned, but the damage had already been done to her reputation. He wanted her out of the job, so he could take her place. He could not beat her in the interview, but he was committed to poisoning her reputation.

Survey your people. Could any of them one day do your job? Assess their talent and interest and dedicate yourself to ensuring they will be ready for future promotions. The right person will be patient and welcoming your assistance and advocacy. The wrong person may try to sabotage your efforts, so do not be naïve. Prepare for any signs of betrayal, such as silent insidious insubordination, in word or deed. People will come to you in confidence. Take well meaning comments seriously, especially if they are warning you about passive aggressive behavior that is being used to discredit your reputation.

A positive reputation is crucial in validating who you are. It is a reflection of your life’s work and therefore should be guarded as you would your bank account or investment portfolio. The concept of acting above and beyond reproach is necessary to support your reputation. This should be done to establish a history of consistency. You must not cut corners where integrity is concerned. You don’t want anyone to doubt your character.

While you are working hard to protect your reputation, bear in mind, there may be individuals trying to give you a bad name. There are detractors or haters, determined to bring you down and remove you from competing with them for a current or future assignment.

A candidate was almost denied employment because his previous employer misrepresented his reputation during a reference check. The new company was so impressed with him in the interview that they allowed him an opportunity to address the malicious accusations lodged against him. He told his version of the story to address the example his employer had given, which were completely taken out of context. He also supplied the names of the zone manager and director of sales who spoke very highly of the candidate. They even went as far as to discredit his supervisor, which enabled him to get the job. This doesn’t usually happen, but the reputation of the candidate came through loudly and clearly in the interview and in the comments from the zone manager and the director of sales.

A manager was astonished to find out that an employee was interviewing his people, in an effort to gather negative information about him. She was planning to file a lawsuit against her manager. She wanted to prove that the organization tolerated bad behavior on the part of its managers. Since the manager’s reputation was beyond reproach, she failed in her efforts to link him to her lawsuit.

Failing to pay attention to integrity and your reputation is a very costly enterprise. A poor reputation may literally cost you thousands of dollars in lost promotions, salary increases, bonuses, key relationships and important clients. You must do everything in your power to keep your reputation positive and of the highest caliber. This involves monitoring and managing your personal and professional image. Just as there are agencies to monitor your credit and issue credit reports, you must find a way to monitor your reputation. You must set up a process, a mechanism or system to collect image data on yourself. There are a few simple techniques you should consider. You have heard them before and they should be repeated because repetition reinforces learning.

Reputation Feedback

Select a few trusted advisors to give you feedback on your character, image, personal and professional leadership. These all add up to your reputation, as you know it. You should gather information the old fashioned way by asking questions in a questionnaire, on the telephone, in a meeting or over a meal. Consider using the following questions.

• Do you feel I am listening to you?
• Do you feel I am treating you and others fairly?
• Have you heard anything that should be brought to my attention?
• What are things I need to change to make things better for you?
• Is there any dissent that has surfaced among your team members?
• What can I do to make you feel a greater part of the team?
• Are my actions in line with my stated values and intentions and your expectations?

Ask different people about the word on the street about you. What are people saying? What have they heard about you? If your company conducts employee surveys, they may drill down to your level to give you feedback. If this is the case, reputation information will be provided to you. If your company provides customer surveys which allow the customer to give data on the company and its representatives, you may get reputation data in this manner. Customer surveys give the perception information which contributes to the corporate image, your personal image and reputation.

360° feedback instruments are available to alert managers to how they are perceived by their people. Climate studies can also be conducted to assess the environment within a team or organization. Personally, you should always be aware of your actions because they are registered somewhere in the hearts and minds of those around you. The collection of your actions will shape your reputation and place you in high esteem or doom you to suffer dire consequences.

• The old adage of “ your word is your bond” should have meaning in your life, as you follow through on your obligations
• Treat people the way you want to be treated
• Remember you are an employee of the company and are always on duty
• Always model the company’s values
• Do not do anything that you would not like to see as a headline in the media
• Cultivate a number of trusted individuals who will advise you on matters that may affect your career
• In personnel matters, preserve the individual’s self esteem
• Cultivate advocate who will defend your reputation and alert you to any assaults on your character

You can bolster your character, image and reputation by sticking to these cardinal principles.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

Leadership and the Ozone Layer – Getting business results without the heat

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. The ozone layer metaphor is useful in many areas of our lives, but we will use it in a business context.

Like the Earth’s ozone layer, a business ozone layer working effectively, can effectively protect the organizational culture and the results for which leadership is 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;

• 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.

A solution

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
• Conduct simulations and “What if” drills to anticipate competitive responses
• 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

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.

The ozone layer 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.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser