The Professional – 5 Reasons Why Emulating Ben Simmons Won’t Fly in the Workplace

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Well, the NBA season is underway, and it is one of the more anticipated seasons in recent memory. There are a myriad of competitive head-to-head matchups that have fans salivating. This season is also filled with some interesting controversies and headlines that exploded throughout the world of sports before the season even began. One of those controversies involve Ben Simmons and his tumultuous relationship with the Philadelphia 76ers. Following a dreadful playoff performance that witnessed him literally avoid touching the basketball, passing up open shots, and passing immediately to teammates if he did get his fingertips on the ball.

Simmons lost confidence in his shot and was petrified of going to the free throw line. Already a bad free throw shooter at 61%, that average plummeted to a woeful 34% during the playoffs. The Philadelphia fanbase and media were merciless. To be honest, Simmons was shook mentally, and I seriously felt remorse for the guy. I am old enough to remember a similar mental block occur with former NBA star Nick Anderson. However, as bad as the press have been, Simmons has exhibited a glaring lack of accountability and self-awareness. Simmons is fortunate. He is still a superstar with a ton of talent, so he can still be an asset to any team seeking a championship. Nevertheless, the average employee works in the real world absent multimillion dollar contracts, agents, and basketball talent to leverage demands. Exhibiting behavior like Ben Simmons just may get you terminated. Here are some behaviors one should definitely avoid when working in the office.

Bad Work Performance – If you are gainfully employed by a company, there is a logical expectation that you perform your job suitably enough to receive compensation. Now, whether or not those wages are fair & competitive is subject matter for another blog post. Nevertheless, if you are an employee with suspect work ethic and inadequate work performance, a company can reserve the authority to separate you from the business. Unlike Ben Simmons, it is highly doubtful you will be afforded the same opportunity to dial in bad performance after bad performance without meaning repercussions. People also have a self-inflated sense of their worth. Sure, one should always have confidence in oneself. However, you can’t have Craig Ehlo skills with a Michael Jordan attitude.

Lack of Growth & Development – Now, if bad work performance is one issue, lack of self-awareness is certainly another problem. If you are performing poorly at work, management should be providing feedback regarding expectations and suggestions for personal improvement. An ambivalent or otherwise adversarial attitude is not in your best interests. Failing to improve and better yourself will only lead to career stagnation. You don’t want to be viewed as expendable. You must be able to step back and identify your weaknesses if you wan to become a better version of yourself.

No Showing At Work – Unless your company has a union that has strategically planned a walkout or strike, it is in your best interest to show up to work. Failing to show up to work for a certain number of days can be viewed as job abandonment. Unlike Simmons, the average worker cannot skip training camp and the preseason. It is either you show up to work or find other means to make a living.

Alienating Coworkers – It is not unusual for an employee to have some sort of beef with management. However, if you have bad relationships with your coworkers, you could possibly be contributing to a toxic environment. No one wants to work with a malcontent. If you are a disruption to the mission, vision, and team; management will sooner sever all ties with you for the good of the team. This is known as addition by subtraction – removing a cancer from the team in order to move in a positive, constructive direction. 

Insubordination and Disrespectful Behavior – To be sure, there is a chain of command in the workplace. And unless you are at the top of that chain, an employee has a leader to whom they report. Noncompliance with a directive from leadership is a surefire way to earn a pink slip. Disrespecting your leadership is a surefire way to earn a pink slip.

I understand that some of these points may not be popular, but this needs to be read by someone. Because, as social media and celebrity figures continue to influence and empower, the every day employee may believe they can operate like said celebrity. That is simply not the case in the real world. And as Dave Chappelle alluded to in his latest Netflix special, but in a different context, Twitter is not a real place. And thinking you can move like the famous or people who are social media famous might get you fired. My suggestion: Go to work and be fully present. Practice some self-reflection and humility as you become the best version of yourself. Ensure that you build meaningful relationships and respect leadership. And if the fit is not right for you; seek other opportunities in a professional manner. 

The Professional – Business Never Personal – Quintessential Advice For Managing Workplace Conflict & Challenges

I am absolutely confidant, if you are an individual with a management position, you should be all too familiar with resolving conflicts involving direct reports. Sometimes, management receives a bad reputation. We are perceived as aloof, power-hungry individuals that are woefully disengaged from their staff. We wield our perceived power to make ourselves feel better and we have no clue about the work being performed around us. Honestly, some of us are just regular folk, straddling a fine line between company policy and managing a motley crew of employee personalities and behaviors. I have advanced my career throughout the years, starting as a laboratory assistant and achieving a position in lower tier management as a supervisor. I know a thing or two because I have seen a thing or two.

And while management may not be viewed positively by many, here is a newsflash, sometimes the staff can be pretty problematic and toxic too. As a leader, managing the core work is sometimes the easiest aspect of the job. Things become complicated when a challenging employee personality, bad behavior, and company rules collide. It is enough to drive a manager or supervisor insane. And if you are new to management, sometimes you have to learn to navigate this world through live-fire. Here, I wanted to share what I have learned throughout the years as a supervisor. It is not an exhaustive list, and if you are a manager reading this, please share some of your views that I may have missed. It is my hope that the following insight is helpful to someone.

  • This first piece of advice cannot be overstated; it is absolutely paramount that a manager remain calm and refrain from fervent displays of agitation or direct anger towards a colleague. No doubt, depending on the specific circumstances, adhering to this task can be quite daunting. Nevertheless, given your position of authority, your standard of professional behavior is definitely and expectedly higher. In my particular case, speaking bluntly, I cannot afford outward displays of indignant belligerence as a black man – it’s not a good look. And that may sound cynical, but historical stereotypes of black men still exist today, therefore I am very cognizant of managing my temperament. A manager must remain measured and calm in the presence of direct reports.
  • If you are delivering one-on-one coaching or disciplinary action, another colleague in leadership accompanying you in the room is highly recommended. Your immediate peer in leadership should be impartial and removed from the specific situation; acting only as a witness and perhaps as a buffer between the acting manager and colleague should the atmosphere becomes inflamed. If you feel your impending engagement has the potential of becoming hostile, recruiting assistance from your director/manager or even human resources may also be necessary.
  • If the engagement becomes heated and not conducive to an actionable, constructive outcome; never be afraid to table the conversation and revisit the matter at another time.
  • Maintaining a clear and fair thought process, it is important for you manage the situation and behavior – not the colleague. Hold on, wait, that does not make sense if you are “managing” colleagues. What I am saying is this: You must be separate the colleague from the issue that requires resolution; only acts or behavior should be addressed. It is wise to omit any personal opinions or views about said colleague. You should stick to the facts and only what can be proven. Clear any negative thoughts you may feel about the colleague and stick to the issue. Do not shift or allow the colleague to shift the conversation away from the issue at hand. Once you allow the conversation to stray from the subject being discussed, you will lose sight of the resolution that needs to be determined. 
  • A manager should never rush into conflict unprepared and off the cuff. You should take a moment to gather all pertinent facts before you begin the process of conflict resolution. If a colleague engages you for an immediate sit-down, your primary function is to listen and observe. This should be a part of your fact-gathering process. Thank the colleague for bringing the matter to your attention and convey that you will further investigate the incident. 
  • Document, document, document. It is important to keep detailed records of events and incidents. If you are meeting one-on-one, a summary of the meeting should be communicated to all involved parties. All details of the event in question should be recorded and kept on file.
  • It would be wise to lean heavily into your company’s mission and core values to help guide you through managing a given situation. This harkens back to my previous advice of managing the situation and not the colleague. Your role as a manager or supervisor is to ensure that company policy is being recognized and followed. Your personal views are not your own. You are a representative of the company whose responsibility is to remind, enforce, and ensure company culture is being observed and practiced. You must provide clear and concise feedback that align with the company mission and vision. Also remember, you are in a position of authority, so consequences should be clearly conveyed.
  • To be sure, managers or supervisors are not robots. We have emotions too. We have personal opinions. It is vital that we express those feelings regarding any particular circumstance. However, this expression is best suited for an audience outside of your employment. It’s best to save your raw, unfiltered observations for a spouse or significant other within the confines of your own home. Never vent or bad-mouth a subordinate to another subordinate. Never disclose personal, confidential information about a subordinate or anyone else. Do not broadcast grievances on social media. Do not utilize company technology such as e-mail or messaging to disparage colleagues. 

The Professional – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 5 Ways to Keep a Team Motivated & Engaged While Working From Home

To be absolutely certain, SARS-CoV-2 has altered and disrupted contemporary life as we know it. Our daily routines have been cast into disarray; so we steel ourselves daily with the resolve and steadfastness to answer different challenges we all face. As I stated in my previous post, working remotely from home is not as glamorous as it may appear to the public. Trust, those of us that can work remotely are blessed. However, there are some challenges that cannot be ignored. Locked down utilizing whatever space is available to conduct work efficiently and effectively can be challenging. For example, my role and responsibilities require a consistent carousel of interaction with suppliers, hospital personnel, sales representatives, executive leadership, and fellow colleagues. These tasks are not an issue within the comforting confines of a cubicle or meeting room. Now, at home – not so much. Without a doubt, the concept of work-life balance has been disrupted. Coupled with the elimination of in-person team collaboration and the specter of furlough or termination; the combined stress can deplete what little remains of a worker’s drive and enthusiasm. As leaders, how can we keep a team motivated and engaged when the energy just isn’t there given the current environment? I am not an expert, but I offer 5 tips below that might be helpful.

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No More Mr. Nice Guy Misconceptions- 5 Effective Leadership Approaches For a Nice Guy

Broadly speaking, every gentleman has perhaps struggled with some form of insecurity at a particular juncture in life. And I am certainly not a beneficiary of any special exclusions. To be sure, I am not immune to episodes of uneasiness and internal distress with what I perceive as personal character flaws. I put forth the best effort to manage and suppress feelings of uncertainty and dissatisfaction; sometimes with success and other times falling short. In many ways, writing is very therapeutic, and it is always my hope that my musings serve as encouragement and empowerment to readers. A circumstance this week prompted some self-reflection regarding certain insecurities that are a source of a long-standing internal battle. This is going to sound odd, but I struggle with being a nice guy. I understand that may seem strange, but allow me to explain further in detail.

If I may make the assumption, I am quite confident that my family, friends, and associates would describe me as a nice guy. And in many instances, that designation would be a compliment. I consider myself respectful, pleasant, courteous, and kind. These should be considered noble traits. However, being classified as a nice guy also has a negative connotation. In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, I can also be described as a guy that is soft-spoken, quiet, and non-confrontational. All things combined, well, now the moniker of being a nice guy takes a turn for the worse. When some individuals have referred to me as a “nice guy”, I am intelligent enough to decipher the context. Weak. Passive. Soft. When I became a supervisor, there wasn’t a question of knowledge or work ethic, but some individuals questioned whether I possessed people management skills necessary to lead a team. After all, I was a nice guy, and nice guys are pushovers.

The prevailing and misguided philosophy regarding management is one has to lead with bluster, aggression, and micromanagement. Colleagues disdain those types of leaders, yet subconsciously, people tend to believe those traits get the job done – for better or for worse. This typifies toxic leadership, so it is usually worse. Now, those adjectives don’t describe my personality, as I am a laid-back and easy-going individual. Now what occurred recently (centered around a work issue) was a subtle implication that my nice personality prevented me from making hard decisions, especially when friends within the department are involved. Admittedly, this tapped into my insecurity of being perceived as the “nice guy”. In other words: passive, soft, hesitant, and weak. I am fully aware of the perceptions, and I would not be truthful if I were to say the perceptions didn’t irritate me and cause some second-guessing of my work skills.

However, you might find it interesting to know that perception does not necessarily align with reality. The reality is that amongst management, I am one of few with the most corrective actions, and unfortunately, I have had to separate a colleague from the company. This belies the perception of being a pushover, as theoretically I should not be able to address difficult colleagues or situations. Trust me as I tell you that my initial years being a supervisor were wrought with challenges that I never envisioned – it was insanity. Nevertheless, I was able to navigate the most problematic circumstances and colleagues, yet the perception of being a nice guy remained unchanged. How?

The label bothers me, regardless of the facts, and I even contemplate adopting a harder edge from time to time. I eventually regain my senses and dispel the silly idea. I cannot betray my character and integrity. And I suppose that it is a testimony to my leadership style that I have been able to deliver some unsavory actions, yet my name and reputation remain unsullied. I’ll probably continue to struggle with the nice guy moniker, going back and forth within myself in search of an imaginary solution. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in the same boat as me, here are a few tips to help you navigate rough waters and stay true to yourself.

5 Effective Leadership Approaches For a Nice Guy

  • A leader should never demean, disparage, or defame fellow colleagues. Good morale in the work environment is essential to the overall health and productivity of a business. If a leader is contributing to poor morale and a toxic work environment; that is definitely an issue. I ensure that treat every colleague with decency and dignity – even when delivering hard truths regarding work performance or behavior.
  • A leader must ensure that his or her management style is guided by company policies and regulations. I am confident in my decision-making because it is supported by company protocol. I make sure I am familiar with pertinent documentation offered up by human resources, and I seek clarity when it is necessary. Any accusations of shenanigans on my behalf will be hard to prove because I adhere strictly to company guidelines. Yes, I’m a square. But I don’t play favorites, as I am fair and just across the board.
  • A leader must be transparent. I will never ambush a colleague. If there are foreseeable issues on the horizon, I try my best to speak with a colleague to avoid any corrective actions. Confrontation makes me uneasy, so I attempt to avoid it. I am always honest with colleagues. I do not tell them what they want to hear. I tell them what they need to hear – no matter how uncomfortable the conversation.
  • Leaders must demonstrate follow through on their word. Declarations of punitive measures without the proper consequences are meaningless. No one will ever take you seriously because colleagues will conclude that you never enforce warnings. Trust, I still get butterflies in my stomach, but I cast away whatever emotional responses I have toward the situation, and address the issue (not the person) directly per company policy. Before a serious conversation, it is not unlike me to script out talking points the day before so I can stick to the subject and never stray off the designated topic. I maintain an even, measured tone and I keep the conversation streamlined to the subject at hand.
  • A leader must be willing to help their fellow colleagues. I am a strong believer in the growth and development of their careers. It is not unusual for me to undertake the task of performing a corrective action, yet later assist that same colleague with a resume or interview preparation. I believe everyone should be treated justly and fairly regardless of previous work indiscretions.
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