Author Archives: Rossina

“Happy Chemicals” at Work

Happy Chems

Happy people don’t leave organizations.  Why? Because they enjoy what they’re doing with others who value what they bring to the table.  How is that relevant to the company?  Because literally billions of dollars are lost annually from attrition, gatekeeper recruiter time, interview travel costs, relocation expenses, learning curve/training time, cultural assimilation, possible visas/attorney fees, loss of productivity, and further fallout from the change of talent.  Has your company ever measured the cost of poor organizational health?  If not, be prepared that today’s talent is checking organizational culture reviews on Glassdoor before they even apply or accept interviews.

So, what is happening internally which causes people to stay?  Some companies (surprisingly) still believe it is about the money, despite several studies indicating the contrary.  Scientists across several fields of study concur that human beings strive for homeostasis, i.e. a balance, which helps us feel safe.  While we can be motivated by fear, our strong preference over “fight or flight” is to dwell and enjoy.  The four chemicals that our bodies physiologically produce when we enjoy our environment and the variables within it are the following: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, and Serotonin.

 

OFFICE YIN YANG

The SELFISH chemicals are dopamine and the endorphins.  They get us to where we need to go as individuals.  The SELFLESS chemicals are oxytocin and serotonin.  They get us to work together and develop feelings of trust and loyalty.  If only one side dominates, your organization has either chaos or stagnancy.  The balance of selfish and selfless chemicals is one of the successful CEO’s primary tasks.

Let’s examine each one:

Dopamine – DOMINANCE.  This is the Incentive for progress.  The positive is it enables us to set goals, focus, and achieve.  For those who like “the chase” and the cave man feeling of “conquest,” they have to monitor a possible addiction to dopamine. How does your organizational culture promote win-win goals?

Endorphins – ENDURANCE.  These mask physical pain.  They are released during a “runner’s high” and when your stomach is contracting strongly during a good laugh. Imagine: It is impossible to simultaneously laugh and be afraid. What keeps your office smiling?

Oxytocin – AFFECTION. This forms bonds of love and trust.  Oxytocin is produced through acts of service, sacrifice, and selflessness on behalf of others. Organizational cultures which implement these behaviors into a daily practice have a high chance of pre-empting the emergence of toxicity in the workplace.

Not only does oxytocin keep us healthy (no sick days), they make us better problem solvers. It is #10 on the Gallup Q12: “I have a best friend at work.”  This means someone who we can trust as an ally.  This chemical makes it more about “us,” instead of the addictive quality of “me” that dopamine fulfills.  When we share joint challenges, our bodies release oxytocin, which forms bonds.  Leaders must offer talent a reason to grow.

Serotonin – PRIDE.  It’s the feeling of pride and leadership.  Serotonin is produced when those we lead in the workplace develop into more skilled professionals under our guidance.  True leaders are supportive and do not undermine their direct reports.  (Managers do).

Serotonin only exists in symbiotic relationships – each person feels like s/he is gaining a benefit from their association.  Much like Confucianism’s five bonds (father to son, elder brother to younger, husband to wife, ruler to ruled, friend to friend), a burst of serotonin provides the feeling that others like or respect us.  This is why time is allowed to each Oscar winner at the Academy Awards, before the symphony plays them off stage…the winner feels like s/he couldn’t have accomplished what they did without the support from others.

 

CHEMICAL IMBALANCE IN THE WORKPLACE

When I was young, I was told “stress will kill you.”  This never made much sense to me until more recently.  Cortisol is the chemical that is produced by our bodies when our workplace offers a constant state of fear and/or anxiety.  This chemical, cortisol, has the potential to reconfigure our internal systems, cause lasting damage, and shorten our lives.  One of my clients ended up in the emergency room, only to be told by her doctor that she was experiencing work-related stress.  She had an interim boss who was a corporate bully.  He did not recognize that fear and/or lack of homeostasis inhibit(s) productivity.

For our own health reasons, we must never accept toxic environments, whether they be inside or outside of the workplace.  Do not attempt to fool yourself that you can become accustomed to the stress.  Low, regular levels of stress (i.e. cortisol) can no only break down our internal organs, it can activate dormant cancer cells.

What constitutes a toxic workplace?  Basically, values which are not being supported from the top-down. Author Simon Sinek: “Hypocrites, liars, and self-interested leaders create culture filled with hypocrites, liars and self-interested employees.  The leaders of companies who tell the truth, in contrast will create a culture of people who tell the truth.  It’s not rocket science.  We follow the leader.”

Mimicry begins in infancy.  Leaders know when to make it stop, and that includes you – know when to walk away from those who have a toxic abundance.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive AdvantageWe increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

 

Resources:

Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D. Habits of a Happy Brain

Simon Sinek. Leaders Eat Last

 

How Stanley Milgram Predicted United’s Behavior

Stanley

“The essence in obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as an instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions.” ― Stanley Milgram

Social psychologist and Yale professor Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted a controversial experiment on obedience and authority in the 1960’s. Following the Nazi war crimes from WWII where the German soldiers defended themselves in court trials as “Not Guilty” because they were just following orders, Milgram’s intent was to expose how willingly people behave towards those in charge. 

EXPERIMENT: Milgram engaged volunteer students to play the role of being electrically charged, where the ultimate charge involved excruciating pain and could potentially kill someone. While they were indeed connected to equipment, there was no exposure to pain – they simply acted. The subjects, unaware of the ruse, believed that the volunteer students could be hurt as they turned a series of “electrical” switches in increasing amounts of voltage under the direction of a “scientist.” The volunteers were placed in an adjacent room, however, their screams, cries of pain, and shouting to make it stop, could easily be heard. Whenever the subjects hesitated to turn the next switch of a higher voltage, the scientist would calmly state, “the experiment must continue.” How many continued?

RESULTS: Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the subjects completed the entire experiment. Not only did they not show concern for the student’s well-being, they insisted that they were not responsible for it, despite having been the one who turned the switch! Their reasoning? “They were just doing as they were told.” Deflection and blame (transference) against the student was also common, e.g. “He was so stupid and stubborn, he deserved to be shocked.”

ABERRATION: So, what about the other 35%? The subjects who refused to continue were those who did not see the scientist as the ultimate authority. They either saw God as who they serve, and/or believed that they themselves must assume accountability for their actions in harming others. This is true leadership, not just whoever is sitting at the top of the pecking order.

SUMMARY: The 65% result demonstrates how the majority of people within a system will ignore how others are hurting if, and when, they feel that they are disrupting their place in the pecking order. They are more prone to following the “rules,” instead of exhibiting empathy and humanity.

 

APPLICATION TO THE WORKPLACE

In a recent debacle with United, a passenger was literally dragged off a plane, because he refused to give up his paid-for seat to crew which needed to be sent to the destination city for work the next day. United had offered vouchers to those four who would give up their seats, but it wasn’t monetarily sufficient for the passengers to volunteer, so the four passengers to be ejected off the aircraft were selected (through algorithms) for “forced volunteerism” – which United referred to as “re-accommodation.” When the fourth passenger refused to deplane, the crew called Security, which ended up forcefully dragging the passenger off the flight, and, in the process, bloodied the passenger. Despite protests from fellow passengers, Security dragged the passenger up the aisle and off the plane.

The United crew, commended by their CEO the following day for their judgment, elected to not incrementally increase the price of the voucher for self-select volunteerism, which could have very well led to four passengers voluntarily agreeing to deplane. Instead, United resorted to treating its customers as cargo.

As Simon Sinek wrote, “We don’t just trust people to obey the rules, we also trust that they know when to break them. If good people are asked to work in a bad culture, people will be more concerned about following the rules out of fear of getting in trouble or losing their jobs than doing what needs to be done. When fight or flight is the name of the game and no broad Circle of Safety exists, then kill or get fired is the best strategy.”

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and author of at least five books on (so-called) leadership, is among several corporate leaders who began treating people as an expendable resource back in the 1980’s. Since then, other organizations believed they should follow suit and use layoffs to meet their numbers for Wall Street. One company in the South (which no longer exists) followed this practice for 8 consecutive years, and, according to its former head of HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems), manipulated the data to falsely represent that more formerly exited employees were wishing to return than those wishing to leave.

 

IMPACT ON THE YOUNGEST WORKFORCE

It is little wonder why Millennials have been dubbed as “disloyal” for leaving companies after relatively little time. Bear in mind the following, which shaped their perspective:

  • Millennials witnessed the fall of “stable organizations” such as Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers – companies to which some of their parents had dedicated their entire careers.
  • Millennials watched their parents’ devastation over losing money to fraudulent stockbrokers, like Bernie Madoff.
  • Some Millennial families became homeless after the Dot.com bust of 2000, or the housing-market crash of 2008.
  • Worst of all, many Millennials lost their parents in the ultimate sacrifice of solely showing up for work at the Twin Towers on 9.11.01.

What they observed is that company loyalty towards its talent for how hard their parents worked or how much they sacrificed or how well they contributed to the company no longer translated into job stability. In a workforce predominantly consisting of egalitarians, loyalty is not a one-way street. Therefore, it is paramount that empathy and humanity be part of the corporate equation in order for retention, productivity, and stock to stay strong. It is a balance that must be remedied in order for our economy and personal health to be robust.

 

Leadership displays empathy and humanity. Praise your talent for those traits; role-model them. Empower them to use their minds to overcome rules which may oppose these traits, and, like United, you could potentially save your company a $800 million public relations disaster.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive AdvantageWe increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

 

Resources:

Stanley Milgram. Obedience to Authority

Simon Sinek. Leaders Eat Last

 

Blue Health™ Videos English/Danish/Spanish

BH Video

Blue Health™ is the newest Leadership Development program created by Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a global consultancy based in the USA.

Here is a 2-minute video in ENGLISH.

Here is a 2-minute video in SPANISH.

Here is a 2-minute video in DANISH.

So, if you are interested in having critical thinkers as leaders (as opposed to mindless foot soldiers) and resilient leaders who can bounce back (regardless of whatever “shizzle” is coming down the pike at work – or at home), then your company needs this program.

We build healthy, functional leaders.

Contact us at info@corporatelookingglass.com.
Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com

Kindle Book

2nd Book Cover

The Change Agent’s Handbook: Insights from the Field of Leadership Development is available on Amazon HERE.

This book contains a series of blogs which have reached 120+ countries, and over 16K readers who are interested in books and topics which relate to leading effectively. Specific recommendations and concrete, current examples are provided to direct the reader into relevant action and to establish clear comprehension of the Behavioral Science theories –which often get lost in academic jargon. Executives, people managers, Industrial Psychologists, Organization Development practitioners, facilitators, and anyone interested in provocative thinking would be interested in this book.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is an inquisitive Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Engage in Nashville

Engage

Engage in Nashville is a strategic plan created as a contribution for America’s “It” city, Nashville, Tennessee.  This post exhibits exemplary work by Corporate Looking Glass, LLC.

Please click on the Engage in Nashville link to see the slideshare.  If you are interested in work for your city, kindly write us at info@CorporateLookingGlass.com, and an associate will promptly contact you.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, cultural integration expert, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

 

 

Sycophant: Tale-Teller about Figs

BrownNoser

Brown-noser, ass-kisser, bootlicker, flatterer, toady, apple polisher, yes-man, parasite, ladder climber, hanger-on, fawner, et al, are all synonyms for “sycophant.”  When a cultural norm (or object) is important to a culture, it is given several names.  The Eskimos have 50+ words for snow, Brazilians have 136 terms (28 categories) for skin color, and so on.  So how did the word “sycophant” originate?

 

Origin of “Sycophant”

Well, if you’ve watched My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, the answer is not in the movie, but the origin of sychophancy came from Greece. “Sykophantēs” is Greek for a “tale-teller about figs.”  In today’s terms, we may call that person a “snitch,” however the social context is more complicated than that.  I shall explain…in ancient Greece, the law of the land had some loopholes. One such loophole, if you will, was the ability for unscrupulous people to take people to court for a crime both parties knew was not committed. It was a way to make money (i.e. blackmail), because it would be cheaper (and reduce the likelihood of a tarnished brand/reputation) to settle out of court. (A-hem!…don’t place that scalding hot coffee between your thighs as you drive away from the drive-thru).

Now 6th-century Greece did not have a police system in place, per se, and it was considered illegal to export any consumable goods other than olives, yet figs were another rich commodity.  If a fellow citizen accused you of fig smuggling, then they, themselves, could prosecute you and gain from the rewards.

The rewards were not limited to financial gain, however.  Being an informant to the authorities was a commonplace effort intended for recognition of civic duty and a behavior of explicit ingratiation.  The strive for power and influence in social circles is a cultural phenomenon found throughout the animal kingdom (that includes us homo sapiens).

Having too much power and influence often lends itself to envy.  Envy, in turn, can lead to slander, ostracism, and – in the case of Socrates (and, later, Jesus) – punishment by death.  In Corporate America, the parallel terminology could be watercooler chatter, false accusation, termination (of employment).

 

Corporate Sycophants

While At Will states create room for chaos by the masses, Right to Work (a.k.a. Right to Fire states) states are breeding grounds for more sycophancy.  This is because state law in At Will states protects the employee, whereas state law in Right to Work states protects the employer.  This social construct leads people to perform more ingratiation (than usual) from the bottom-up, knowing that if they fail to please their superiors, termination can be as simple as Donald Trump’s “You’re fired” – no reason, or paper trail, necessary.  This type of structure keeps traditional (i.e. Good Ol’ Boy) systems in place, and lends itself to conformity – which is, needless to say, lack of diversity of thought.

In a corporate setting rife with “yes-men,” how possible is it to have a robust strategy?

How likely is a sycophantic company capable of out-performing its competitors?

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Outsource Human Relations (HR). There is a grain of truth in every stereotype…social politics (hence, the workforce) will improve when the administrative laborers are off-site (or overseas).  Many HR professionals tend to respond more from a “What do you want to fix?” or a “respond to the urgent” approach rather than a “focus on the important” one.  They often demonstrate reticence, even resistance, to embrace a more strategic, and less transactional, approach, either from lack of know-how and/or fear.
  2. Clamp down on cronyism. Social factions develop as a direct result of “kharis” (Greek word with no direct translation) – which is a feeling of gratitude and loyalty for the extended favor. Self-serving behavior results (loyalty “pay-back” for having been hired by a friend/acquaintance) as opposed to what is best for the organization.
  3. Have a transparent succession plan in place. High-Potentials will stay and work hard when there is a career path outlined for them.  Outright favoritism will drive them away.
  4. Hire Organization Development (OD) professionals. A real OD practitioner does not (always) supply the answers.  Their role is to ask Socratic questions which determine the business need, and to partner with clients to determine the answers.  They facilitate discussions.  They retain objectivity, especially as outside/external consultants.  In essence, they serve as the Center of Excellence (COE), which is responsible for designing the solution, while in-house HR staff implement the solution; not the other way around.  The 5 standard COE areas are the following: Leadership Development, change management, team effectiveness, talent recruitment, and retention.
  5. Make your talent pool reflect your target market. This is so obvious, it is painful to include.  However, the statistics on the emerging markets (“hidden” dollars) contrasted against the composition of most C-Suites are staggeringly incongruent.
  6. Role-model challenging others’ thought processes. Mimicry is the oldest form of learning.  It is an innate ability we can witness in infants.  Press your direct reports, and they will learn to do the same.  (See also A Peak inside the Leadership Development of Facebook).
  7. Commend the challenging of thought process. Rewarded behavior makes it safe to perform, it gets repeated faster, and it becomes a norm.  17th-Century French philosopher René Descartes was famous for having said, “I think; therefore, I am.”  Cartesian logic (named after Descartes) is the act of exploring conceptual thought to hear and practice how the logical path stems and to where it can lead.  If a strategy is to be sound, then no stone must be left unturned, or your company risks losing its foothold on its competitive advantage.  That’s worth praise!

 

A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, cultural integration expert, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2016

 

Leading with Determination: WebMD’s Dr. Paul

Paul

We’ve all heard “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Well, if that holds true, then Paul Seville, MD, MBI, CPHIMS, has super strength.  A urological surgeon turned medical informatics expert, Dr. Paul has survived FIVE brushes with death.  Here’s a quick run-down:

  1. Malpractice. A pediatrician’s erroneous medical judgment led to a severe chronic kidney infection; rendering Dr. Paul to lose both healthy kidneys and be subjected for years to dialysis.
  2. Surgery. In 6th grade, he received a cadaveric kidney from a motorcyclist’s death.
  3. Surgery. Once the first donated kidney reached its longevity, his sister donated her kidney to him.
  4. Car Crash. A speeding, drunk, uninsured, twice-deported illegal resident crashed into Dr. Paul’s car head-on while he was driving around a corner, placing him in the hospital for a couple of days as he urinated blood.
  5. Bike Accident/Brain Surgery. The ecologically conscious doctor was bicycling to work with his helmet on, when something happened to the bike and he ended up head first onto the pavement.  He had 2” by 3” of his skull removed to suction out the coagulated blood that was pushing the left side of his brain towards the right, and now has titanium filling the rectangular space.

Dr. Paul is one of the several medical doctors who have endorsed the newest Leadership Development program created by Corporate Looking Glass, LLC, which is Blue Health™.  While he currently resides in Portland, Oregon, he is originally from the only Blue Zone in the USA, Loma Linda, California.  He read my blog 10 Traits of a Positive Thinker: #7 DETERMINATION, and recognized how he leads with determination.

One of the amusing stories he shared with me is how he was conducting rounds as a hospitalist, and entered a room where the adult daughter of a patient was angrily waiting.  “My father has gone through a lot of pain, and you have NO idea what he has gone through!” she yelled at Dr. Paul.  He calmly addressed her concerns about her father’s post-op care.  She continued to rant about her presupposed belief of Dr. Paul’s inability to relate to her father’s condition.  Formerly ashamed of the long scars Dr. Paul’s surgeons left on his sides (#1 above) when he was a small boy, he opened his white lab coat, lifted his shirt, and revealed the monstrously large cicatrix – which appear as though he was sliced open from front to back on both sides…only because he was.  He answered, “I know what your father is going through, because I went through it myself.  And, multiple times.”

How many doctors can say that?  How many doctors have been on both ends of the knife?

Furthermore, how many of us can say we get back up on our feet to serve others when we could be consumed with our personal needs?  Former Vietnam Prisoner of War (POW) General Admiral James Stockdale said, “Self-realization cannot be achieved without service to the community.” Dr. Paul no longer practices surgery, but continues to serve others with his expertise at WebMD.

Stockdale: “The pre-Socratic Heraclitus said the development of the heart has to do with the capacity to face and experience reality.  The capacity for that experience is also the capacity for courage.  The heart wills, it is the seat of conscience, it introduces purpose.” (See blog on Purpose).

Dr. Paul championed many years of childhood taunts, only to be the bully’s champion in the operating room.  Epictetus (the ancient Greek philosopher): Difficulties are what show men’s character.

When asked how Dr. Paul feels about the mistake his surgeons made when he was a little boy, he echoes Epictetus: “It is unthinkable that one man’s error could cause another’s suffering.  There can be no such thing as being the ‘victim’ of another.  You can only be a victim of yourself.  It’s all how you discipline your mind.”

New Year is not the only time when you can begin anew.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2015

Source:

Stockdale, Jim. Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot.

How to Turn a Dysfunctional Leader into a Highly Functional Leader

BH Blog 1

Jane Doe (Not her real name!) is a VP at a large organization.  Her boss sits in the C-Suite and rewards her for reaching the objectives listed in her job description.  The problem is Jane has had more than two entire team turnovers in less than two years.  Her boss wrestles with the question: How can he let Jane go when she is doing exactly what he hired her to do?

Jane’s boss weighs the actual costs of personnel lost, recruiter time, learning curve and the intangible costs of distrust, watercooler chatter and lack of team cohesion against Jane meeting his annual objectives and goals.  It’s so much easier for him to keep the status quo, so he turns a deaf ear to the complaints streaming in through the uneasy Human Resource directors.  Jane’s workhorse style and “the whippings shall continue until you are all happy” are inconsequential to him, since results matter more than feelings.  In essence, he is teaching Jane to just “get ‘er dun” and she is more than ready to comply.

Let’s be clear here: The dysfunctional leader is not just Jane; it is, firstly, her boss.

Examples like this real-life “Jane” and her boss abound in Corporate America.  Yet, slumped productivity, wide-spread disengagement, and high levels of attrition are costing the U.S. economy an estimated $370 billion yearly, according to Gallup.*

  • How can a company retain specialized top talent AND keep team retention strong?
  • How can the organization avoid ex-employees posting on GlassDoor.com and damaging the organization’s brand and reputation of its ability to manage well?

Blue Health™ is a two-day Leadership Development program that is designed with a heuristic approach – which enables executives to discover how they can improve engagement, productivity, and overall well-being for themselves, their teams, and the organization as a whole.

The Blue Health™ model demonstrates the ancient Greek philosophical foci of Mind, Body, and Spirit (Energy Management); to which we have added the systemic dimension of the Organization.  This Positive Psychology program is a deep dive into optimizing performance and social dynamics. It engages participants in critical thinking and incorporates various methods of adult learning theory to keep comprehension and interaction levels high.

Our associates have conducted primary research from executives within the world’s five Blue Zones (locations known for holding the highest concentration of self-sufficient centenarians), and Blue Health™ is endorsed by multiple medical doctors from the only Blue Zone in the USA; Loma Linda, California.

If you are ready for healthy, functional leadership, please contact us at info@CorporateLookingGlass.com for further information.  Or, dial 615.431.9689.

Be Well.

Rossina Gil is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC, a team of Leadership and Organization Development Practitioners and Interculturalists, based across the USA.  Rossina co-launched the Blue Zones initiative in Des Moines, Iowa (Sponsor: Wellmark); and Redondo Beach, California (Sponsor: Beach Cities Health District).  She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive Advantage (available on Amazon.com), which is required reading at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management.  www.CorporateLookingGlass.com

© Rossina Gil, 2015

*Source:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3009012/the-costs-of-ignoring-employee-engagement

 

Self as Instrument: Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi

Iommi

Naturally, one of the benefits of keeping diverse company is exposure to different tastes from your own.  So it is that, as the parent of two boys, I accompanied my husband to the barber shop and perused through Rolling Stones magazine while I waited.

I came across how Black Sabbath played their farewell tour this September 2015.  Now, I experienced my high school years in the ‘80’s, so I was no stranger to this band; however, the associations I had of this band were all negative, especially given that I lived those years in a community which kept the Sabbath.  As an adult, my programs entail critical thinking, unconscious bias, implicit associations, and dealing with second-hand bias.  In Tony Iommi’s case, there are a lot of explicitly negative associations (in my opinion), and, yet, to retain critical thinking we must examine the origins.  This is the trait of a leader: Be curious.  What follows is what I uncovered about Iommi, who is Black Sabbath’s sole continual band member and primary composer, the man who invented the Heavy Metal riff and is ranked by Rolling Stones as #25 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Anthony Frank Iommi was 17-years old at work in a sheet metal factory when he lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers on the “fretting” hand.  He was more distraught at the prospect of having to surrender his enjoyment of guitar playing than the fact that he lost his fingertips (that’s my female, non-guitarist subjective experience at play).  Recognizing Iommi’s distress, his factory foreman played him a recording of the famous jazz guitarist, Jean “Django” Reinhardt.

Iommi:

“My friend said, ‘Listen to this guy play,’ and I went, ‘No way! Listening to someone play the guitar is the very last thing I want to do right now!’ But he kept insisting and he ended up playing the record for me. I told him I thought it was really good and then he said, ‘You know, the guy’s only playing with two fingers on his fretboard hand because of an injury he sustained in a terrible fire.’ I was totally knocked back by this revelation and was so impressed by what I had just heard that I suddenly became inspired to start trying to play again.”

Unique Sound and timing of consumer readiness/delivery.  Iommi slackened the strings to ease the tension on his fingers, so it wouldn’t hurt so much.  This produced a strange sound, which became a technique and the mainstay of heavy metal music.  The sound has the musical technical term of Tritone, or the flattened 5th (a.k.a. augmented 4th), which spans three whole steps in the scale.  In the Middle Ages, this dissonant music interval was called “diabolus in musica” (the devil in the music).  Diminished chords are often used during the scary parts of horror movies.  Consequently, Iommi became known as playing the “Devil Chord.”

Band Name and the discovery of marketplace demand.  Iommi’s band was called Earth, but they discovered there was another English band named Earth, so they opted to change their name to avoid confusion. It just so happened that the movie theater marquis across the street from the band’s rehearsal room displayed “Black Sabbath”— a 1963 horror film, starring Boris Karloff.  Bassist Geezer Butler commented, “Strange that people spend so much money to see scary movies.”  Light bulb…people want to feel.

Marketing and creating the “stick factor.” Iommi didn’t come up with the concept of the upside-down cross; he always wears the cross necklace rightside up.  However, once Black Sabbath recorded its first album under that name, the marketing group kept with the theme of rebelling against a long-held standard of mainstream tradition.  This perceived Satanism solidified, and indelibly etched, this group’s place in Rock – a musical genre that already attracted a group of “rebels” against traditional culture.

Leaders follow their passions, despite the obstacles.  They carve their place in time by staying true to who they are, and by recognizing that being different may be the greatest asset they have.  Carbon copies are not craved as much as limited editions.  Realizing that sometimes life’s disasters happen for a reason — which are usually unknown to us in the moment – is critical for resilience and success…and, if we are resilient, we place ourselves in a better position to experience a high bounce after a deep fall.

Thank you for being you, Tony.

How do you practice self as instrument?

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, cultural integration expert, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2015

Sources:

BBC interview.  June, 2013.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QEd8CqAmGs

Iommi, Tony. Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Simon & Schuster Ltd. (2011). 

NYRock.com. Ozzy Osbourne: The Godfather of Metal”. June 2002.

Perception Blind Spots

Cat

A large part of my work involves reframing.  That means I help people look at the same situation from a different perspective – one which enables them to feel as though they have a better handle on the situation.  Whether this is achieved through Executive Coaching, a 360-debrief, or a Leadership Development workshop, the aim is to provide relief.  Relief comes from comprehending that we do not need to surrender who we are as individuals in order to overcome what appears to be an obstacle in our path to reach our set goal(s).  Usually, that “obstacle” is another person, or group of individuals, who has made up his/her mind as to who you are, and may be casting aspersions.  Welcome to the corporate sandbox.

In Sara Canaday’s book, You – According to Them, she addresses 9 types of individuals who reach a level of professional competence and then plateau.  After a brief definition of each of the types, I shall provide you with an example from one of my previous clients.  For the sake of anonymity, the subject names alternate between Jane and John – which do not reflect the actual name nor gender of the individuals.

9 Professional Plateaus

  1. “Don’t Fence Me in
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Highly Productive & Innovative Rebellious & Uncooperative

This type strongly desires autonomy and does not like feeling smothered by authority.  This type can be a leader or “solopreneur” working internally who does not cater to office politics.  The dissent may come across as forceful and adversarial.

My example: Jane wanted to provide her client with the deliverables they expected.  The client explicitly stated how the current software Jane’s company provided was not adequate.  Despite not being an IT specialist, Jane was smart enough to create a rudimentary piece of software that services the client’s needs.  The client was happy, but the CTO was outraged and reversed Jane’s efforts.  Jane left the company.

Canaday’s advice: Begin to think about the structure and norms of business in a new way.  You aren’t being forced to change; you are choosing to play the game with a different strategy. Remember that business is a game.  Adopt the mindset that you have chosen to play the game.

  1. “Intellectual Snob
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Intelligent & Well-Qualified Condescending & Elitist

This type comes across as overly critical. They have a naturally competitive spirit with those them deem as intellectual peers.  Elaborate vocabulary and academic explanations may leave some as feeling inferior.  Because of their confidence in what they know, they are often unaware of the tone they project.

My example: John received his degrees from highly reputable schools.  As a self-made man, he worked to put himself through school and learned everything through true grit and effort.  When he landed a position in his field, he did not believe in “dumbing down” his vocabulary, which led him to “shoot himself in the foot.” His style had reminded his colleagues of a previous leader who was condescending, and spoke in the same manner.  They ostracized him; John left the company.

Canaday’s advice: Temper your bold confidence and strong opinions with a little finesse.  Pay close attention to your word choice so you don’t inadvertently undermine your own efforts.

  1. “Frozen Compass”
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Decisive & Candid Abrupt & Insensitive

 This type has just one gear: their natural style.  There is no adaptation, despite the setting or individuals involved.  This behavior displays lack of what is known as self-regulation.  When the person with whom you interact is not the same type of individual you are normally accustomed to, behavior may need to change or perception of performance may be low.

My example: Despite the Ground Rules of the company to put away Social Media during meetings, Jane continued to pick up her cell phone, check messages, and text.  She appeared to be able to still hear the content presented, but she remained unfazed when her much older colleague openly declared (as an indirect message to her) that he felt texting during a meeting was a sign of disrespect.  Jane remained oblivious to how her credibility took a dip; HR made a note of her behavior.

Canaday’s advice: Neither approach is wrong; the problem lies with the inability to change in certain settings.  Unfortunately, they are so comfortable following the same path that has always worked for them that they don’t recognize the roadblock.  Be more aware of your own behaviors and those of the people around you.

  1. “Dust in My Wind
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Extremely Energetic & Driven Relentless & Unrealistic

This type tends to work at high volacity.  They work incredibly long hours, and send/answer emails in the middle of the night and weekends.  Colleagues feel inadequate and/or defensive about not measuring-up or following suit.

My example:  John is a self-declared workaholic.  He gets more pride in his work by demonstrating his commitment to get tasks done.  While he doesn’t expect others on his team to behave in the same fashion, the team became resentful of feeling the need to keep up with his pace.  One time, while they were taking a break to play ping pong, John walked by, and they immediately ended their game to go back to work.

Canaday’s advice:  Successful teamwork requires being ready to “merge”—without running everyone else off the road.  Show your human side.  Divert some of your abundant energy into a different direction.

  1. “No Crying in Baseball”
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Composed & Steady Robotic & Indifferent

This type does not like to show too much emotion, especially tears, at work.

My example: Jane is a high-performer.  She claims to have no time for depressing stories.  Her feeling is that life happens, and one needs to just get over it.  So, when a colleague came to her office to relate a personal incident, Jane literally picked up the box of tissues and threw it into the kitchenette, telling the colleague to dry up her tears elsewhere because that was not what her office was for.

Canaday’s advice: Remind yourself that outdated thought processes need to be upgraded, just like old technology.

  1. “Safety Patrol”
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Methodical & Compliant Inflexible & Overly Cautious

This type believes they are providing a valuable service by playing Devil’s Advocate.  By doing so, they see themselves as realistic and practical.  Their skill is in identifying problems and determining the most efficient solution.

My example: John is a system thinker who often had great solutions.  He felt he was even better at contributing value when he took his colleagues’ ideas to the next iteration or level.  He considered this teamwork.  Unfortunately, his colleagues did not see it that way.  They felt he was constantly “one-upping” them.  He was awash in a sea of resentment.

Canaday’s advice: Build relationships.  Unleash the kinder gentler you. Remember timing, delivery, and tone.  Help others think critically before advising.

  1. “Faulty Volume Control
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Too Low: Understated & Humble

Too High: Assertive & Enthusiastic

Too Low: Bland & Forgettable

Too High: Self-Serving & Inappropriate

This type either doesn’t believe in self-promotion and loses out on opportunities or overly self-promotes and comes across as a braggart.  This is a stereotype that has become somewhat of a norm, when it comes to gender.  Many women expect to be noticed for the excellent work they do, while many men will clamor attention to themselves, whether they perform excellent work or not (or none).  When the behavior is reversed, the negative judgment comes across strong.

  1. “Passion Pistol
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Spirited & Passionate Intense & Overzealous

This type has unbridled exuberance might be diminishing their leadership presence.  Enthusiasm is their trademark.  They feel it shows they have a zest for the life and work that they lead.

My example: John would enter the workplace each morning full of energy.  He was a former pro-tennis player, so athleticism and early morning hours were a core part of how he would show up to the office.  Each day he came in, he would burst out with a loud, “Good Morning!” expecting others to appreciate his vigor.  His boss had a private meeting with him and told him to take it down several notches and not be so intense.  John felt disengaged, wondering how he could still be who he is and fit in.

Canaday’s advice: Just use that passion more strategically.  Pay attention to how your enthusiasm is perceived in different settings, and use that feedback to adjust your behavior for better results.  Being more aware will help you apply your enthusiasm appropriately and minimize misfires.

  1. “Perpetual Doer
PERCEPTION GAP +/- Reliable & High Performing One-Dimensional & Over-Functioning

This type is the kind which loves to dive into the details meticulously, yet struggles to delegate and develop.  In an effort to get everything done, they may come across as anxious to finalize the minutia.

My example: Jane was the best at Project Management in her division.  She was the most qualified, the most educated, and the hardest worker.  And, she drove everyone who worked with her nuts.  Her direct report couldn’t figure out Jane’s filing system because Jane would put folders inside of folders, insides of another set of folders.  Jane’s behavior caught up to her when another colleague perceived Jane’s fastidious work habits as being incompatible with the office culture and recommended that she be let go.

Canaday’s advice: Take on stretch assignments.  Seek out projects that will allow you to show off your leadership skills.  Start delegating.

There are various ways of uncovering your blind spots.  They all come from receiving feedback from those around you.  While Behavioral Science tools are usually quite useful in determining your preferred type, some people become bothered at the prospect of being placed into a category or “box.” Canaday’s categorization doesn’t necessarily relegate you to just one type; and, if you self-identify with one type more than the others, then it may be a useful exercise to try and modify some of your behaviors to expand your “personal market value.”  Perception analysis does hold the key to enhancing this.

Is it a Roar?  Or, is it a Meow with a megaphone?

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.   We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2015