Seeing Red

by Onyeka Nchege on November 15, 2016

Frustrated ITer with fumes illustration

Frustrated IT Guru with fumes illustration

A multitude of thoughts and emotions are evoked when we see the color red. Seeing the color red can evoke energy, excitement, and even, fear, depending on its context. Red alerts us to danger ahead and influences us to take corrective action before meeting with an unfavorable demise. It can create the perception of a strong, empowered individual and, in the process, lend confidence to those who need it most.

To give more tangible examples, think of how you view someone in a dark suit wearing a red, “power” tie, or the thoughts you have when you visualize our president answering the infamous, red phone – synonymous with urgency and crisis – or perhaps the feelings you had when receiving a graded test marked up in red ink. Over the course of our lives, we have been conditioned to see the color red as an alert. There are so many interpretations associated with the color red, so how do we know that we are correctly interpreting the color in our daily lives? Furthermore, how can we be certain that we are seeing beyond the preconceived notions of red and identify the symbolic nature of the color in its most pure form?

So, why so much talk about the color red? Recently, my team and I worked together to draft an organizational dept. chart to help us assess and evaluate the organization. We color coded the chart – using red, yellow and green – to represent value against a number of forward-thinking criteria. In keeping with feedback we had received from the organization around communicating and sharing information, concepts, and strategies more broadly, we decided to share the value-added evaluation process. My vision for this experience was to give honest feedback so we could identify those things that we need to work on most and therefore take correction action and so this exercise in transparency should have had a very productive and proactive outcome. Instead, the color red interfered and the outcome was less than positive. Everyone was confused, and maybe even more so, concerned and preoccupied with seeing Red.

As an example, the attribute of “confidence” was coded in red, and everyone else was confused as to how to see that as a positive. To me, seeing the attribute of confidence as red simply meant… In that instance, my interpretation of red was seen as an encouragement and not as a threat. Unfortunately, my team interpreted this same attribute as negative.

If only the group could see past the red color and identify the strength and power (developmental opportunity) that corresponds with the color. Everyone has developmental opportunities. My biggest successes have been born out of knowing, acknowledging, and working thru my developmental opportunities. It was almost as if we were back in grade school, reviewing a graded paper. We just couldn’t see past those red marks. There is so much opportunity in those red marks, yet when we focus on the color and nothing else, we see nothing but identified flaws.

Don’t let the color red interfere with your ability to grow. In this instance, a red coding is nothing but a visual representation of developmental opportunities – we can always change or adjust the color code, for better or for worse. But it’s up to the individual to determine whether or not the red in their life is a symbol of control, power or danger.

Take Action: Next time you’re struggling to accept your dose of red, challenge yourself to see beyond the confusion and identify the symbolic nature of the color in its purest form.

Leadership on the GO…..Its O.N.


Being Certain About Uncertainty

by Onyeka Nchege on October 11, 2016

For many – as a result of globalization, outsourcing, contracting, downsizing, recession and even unforeseen circumstances – “job security” may seem a lot more like wishful thinking than a current truth. It’s an unfortunate reality for thousands of workers across the country and that reality is not easy to live with when we have daily reminders from the media, our peers and our personal experiences. 

A sense of “job security” provides us with a sense of certainty and that sense of certainty provides us with a sense of comfort. However, that sense of certainty, not only provides us with that warm sense of comfort, it also tends to usher stagnation and inactivity into our lives. To loosely quote something I read before, “certainty means that we have arrived at a place of static wisdom.” When you are certain about things, then you no longer have to think of creative solutions, which can divert you from innovation.     

I remember some years ago at a previous company when we announced to the IT department that our company was moving in a different technological direction. As the CIO then, I fielded so many questions from entry-level teammates to directors about each of their individual and uncertain fates. The only frustrating answer I could provide with certainty is that I didn’t know what the certain outcome was going to be for anyone, because this was a completely new venture for everyone in our organization. During this time, I made it a point to be more present, visible and accessible to everyone in our department as a help to everyone’s mental transition. 

I noticed that there were some individuals who remained very quiet during this period and that really worried me, because, though we were transitioning to a new, externally-hosted platform, we still needed people with vast Company-knowledge and broad, valuable skill sets. Many of those who were being quiet fell into that category of knowledgeable with great skill sets, and I feared that they were planning for something more certain than their uncertain futures at the company. So I made it a point to have private conversations with some of these individuals, and what I learned from each of them was interesting.

None of them were planning on leaving, at least not at that point; and none of them seemed alarmed by the uncertainty that lay ahead. They all sort of conveyed the same point about when the transition to the new platform was complete and what that meant for their individual fates. To each of them, the transition was not seen as an ending, but as a beginning of something new; and the only uncertainty was whether that something new was going to happen at that company or somewhere else.

I found the mindset of those individuals remarkable, and wanted to understand how they arrived at that perspective versus the many others who walked a very different path. As I thought of each one of them individually, I remembered why I made it a point to reach out to them. Each of these people were vastly knowledgeable and had strong skill sets, which they had made a point to nurture and grow over their years with the company. These individuals had prepared themselves for the certainty of uncertainty. 

As leaders of our lives, and in times of adversity, our perspective can be our only saving grace. Perspective allows us to view unforeseen events as obstacles or opportunities. In uncertainty,

  • We have an opportunity to impact and influence both the change and the outcome. 
  • We have an opportunity to demonstrate tenacity and purpose. 
  • We have an opportunity to continue to carry out our vision with momentum. 
  • We have an opportunity to ensure that we keep pace and stay relevant, avoiding the possibility of becoming stagnant. 

As the old adage goes, “the only thing certain in life is uncertainty.” You cannot control it, but you can control you and the way you handle it – that’s the only thing certain about uncertainty.

Take Action: How are you handling change?  

Leadership on the GO…..It’s O.N


I Saw a Servant’s Heart

September 3, 2016

Business leaders often talk about forward thinking, “seeing the big picture,” or maintaining a 30,000-foot perspective. These phrases are all too familiar, but this week, one man I spoke with offered the highest perspective of all. He removed himself from a very difficult, personal situation and with a single gesture, he left a lasting impression. […]

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High Five Your Neighbor……It’s Time for a New Bus

August 23, 2016

A bus armed with explosives and passengers is traveling down a busy city street. The bus cannot be slowed down or accelerated or the bomb will detonate. The only way to save the passengers is to pull up a new bus alongside the old bus and transfer passengers one by one.” Most people will recognize […]

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Perception is Reality, and Reality isn’t Always Kind

June 15, 2016

“You were not open to feedback. Not only did you come across disinterested in receiving any feedback at all, but you seemed disinterested in any clarity surrounding the feedback you were provided with. In fact, you came across quite strong, you came across as if you were ready for war.” I can still remember those […]

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