Woman by the Pole

Key Point: We need to expect kindness and compassion to be a fundamental principle in organizations; not a “nice to have” quality, but a “must do.” Why? It’s the right way to treat each other as human beings AND it makes a difference to business results (a research/data based comment, Google it).

My wife Kathleen, visits her 94-year-old mother most every day. She often takes her on a walk to the main cafeteria. Kathleen noticed that there is an elderly woman who comes to the dining area and stands next to a pole by herself for long periods of time. As Kathleen sat down with her mom for tea the other day, another woman resident sharing the same table, pointed to the woman by the pole. “Ah… There’s my friend.” She went on to explain that the woman by the pole was very lonely, a recent widow, and couldn’t speak any English. “How do you communicate with her?” Kathleen asked. Her friend responded, “Well we don’t talk, but everyday I go up to her and just give her a hug, a long smile, and stand beside her.” Hmm.

Over my career, I’ve seen meanness more often than I’d like to believe in the workplace: People make fun of others’ appearance (too fat, too ugly, too skinny, too skanky, too whatever). And of course there is the ever popular gossiping. Even worse though, emotionally immature managers have somehow talked themselves into believing that giving someone “hell” is an acceptable way of treating those who they disagree with, have made a mistake, or they simply don’t like. But kindness and compassion are key ingredients in learning from failure, because they increase what researchers call “psychological safety.” Innovation depends on people learning from failure. Want people around you to “shut down?” Yell at or humiliate them a few times, and that’s exactly what will happen. They will stop sharing their ideas or views with you. (Keep in mind I am a huge fan of tough-minded feedback and coaching; just do it with respect).  

I recently saw a presentation from a Facebook executive, and I was curious how much EMPATHY is a theme throughout this social media giant. The goal is to have Facebook employees better understand what it’s like to use their own product under challenging conditions (for example, the one billion disabled customers, people using Facebook with little bandwidth, etc), and help them take this under consideration for their work. It got me thinking. Maybe we need an empathy lab to help all employees emotionally develop through designing and practicing kindness and compassion. There are still too many disenfranchised workers “quietly standing by the pole.” See them.

Character Moves: 

  1. Kindness, empathy and compassion are values that require intentional practice and we have a right to expect that from each other. Of course, we need to get results. As I often say, “no results means no job.” But I also want to add this: “Be a jerk, and no job either.”

Empathy Labs in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I recently wrote a fairly “aggressive” piece of feedback to one of our voice over talents. Ultimately, I felt bad about my tone, and knew I could have handled it better. The person needed the direction they received, but just like there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, there’s a line between “c’mon, I know you got this next time,” and being a jerk about it. Everyone knows it’s not all accolades and roses out there (and it shouldn’t be), but there’s no pride in being a punk.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Data Driven Leadership

Key Point: One of my proudest milestones as a Chief People Officer was to intentionally declare the following to all in our organization: “People have a right to great leaders and leaders have a responsibility to be great (not perfect).” We did a lot of research in developing a leadership framework that declared exactly what we meant by “great leadership.” We were very flattered when the giant of “leadership” John Maxwell stated very publicly, that our framework, was “one of the best he’d ever seen.” Therefore, I was gratified to read the following Stanford article, which also validates key elements of leadership we strongly endorse. The Stanford article states:

“Most leadership advice is based on anecdotal observation and basic common sense. Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Kathryn Shaw tried a different tack: Data-driven analysis. Shaw, along with fellow Stanford GSB professor Edward Lazear and Harvard Business School’s Christopher Stanton, published a 2015 paper titled ‘The Value of Bosses,’ in which they gathered data from… in an attempt to see whether they could show that bosses matter and, if so, how much. As part of their research, the authors asked company employees and managers, ‘What are the traits of a good boss?’ They found that bosses matter substantially.

Three Things Good Bosses Do:

The first thing an effective manager does is to vividly describe the company’s vision and mission, and to explain in detail how each employee fits into that vision, Shaw says.

‘The next thing they do is drive results,’ she says. To ensure that individuals (and teams) are productive and have a sense that their contributions are valued, attentive bosses set-aside time to coach, guide, and motivate.

An often overlooked aspect of strong people leadership is to help employees achieve their personal career goals.

The third aspect of strong people leadership is to help employees achieve their personal career goals. Shaw says it’s ‘incredibly motivating’ when an employee’s long-term career vision and values are aligned with those of the organization. ‘A good boss will share that vision with them and give them guidance and feedback to help them along the path.’”

Our research adds one other key thing good bosses do. They are collaboration magnets. People want to work for and with them, and are lined up to do so.  

Character Moves: 

  1. Great leadership in our organization involves six practices and three key outcomes: Achieving sustainable results, continuously developing oneself and others, and becoming a magnet in attracting others to work with. Rate yourself on all three. What does the data (not opinion), tell you?

Note: If you or anyone you know wants a one-page copy of what I believe is the best leadership framework outline anywhere, email me at lrubis@atb.com. I will happily share it with you.

Magnetic leadership in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: At the end of the day, it seems that our departments and individual contributions, are only as successful as the mindset of the leader that manages them. Maybe we feel lucky and thankful just to have somewhere to show up and work, but “settling” can be a trap, and if we’re serious about wanting to improve, we should develop very high standards regarding who our leaders are. I’m not sure if we always remember, think about, or follow this.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘Leading’ With a Dinosaur’s Tail

Key Point: Command and control leadership is no longer the way to effectively run an organization. However, my observation is that many self-proclaimed contemporary leaders buy this idea on paper, nod their heads in vigorous agreement, but behave very differently. I think too many current managers really like the idea of being “the boss,” not necessarily being a true LEADER, but definitely the BIG BOSS. They mostly just expect people to do what they’re told. And they really think, even when outwardly presenting a “team” belief, that they’re smarter and know what’s best. And if you disagree too much, or step on their egos, there will be consequences. 

In 2004, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed head of Joint Special Operations Command for the US military in Iraq. He subsequently recorded his experience in 2015’s Team of Teams. The following is a quote from McChrystal’s best selling book:  

“I would tell my staff about the ‘dinosaur’s tail’: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.” 

In our current whirlwind environment, traditional command and control structures are no longer very effective. The decision makers at the top of the command chain are too far removed from the relevant information, and are two slow to react. When Gen. McChrystal recognized this to be true, he changed the organizational and decision making structure of the task force to a “Team of Teams” approach. The two primary principles underlying this philosophy are transparent communication and decentralized decision-making. For those making the decisions under Gen. McChrystal, the maxim was simple: “Use good judgment in all situations.” While this may sound overly simplistic, the irony is that in a scrambled world, simple trumps complexity. 

Gen. McChrystal recognized that his role needed to change too. He viewed his primary responsibility as creating a “shared consciousness” or common purpose. One of his great quotes: “Purpose affirms trust, trust affirms purpose, and together they forge individuals into a working team.” Rather than being the master strategist, the general saw his role as being similar to that of a gardener. He needed to create the right environment to allow these teams to flourish and decisions to be made within the context of this shared consciousness and purpose. 

Team driven leaders do NOT demand loyalty to themselves. They DO, however, demand loyalty to the organization’s purpose and expect team members to have the courage to fiercely fight for what they deeply believe best contributes to that purpose. The idea that loyalty is exclusive to people who “do what we say” and “blindly follow us,” is a misguided and outdated concept. It leads to people lining up to where the command power is politically perceived, versus doing the right thing. In organizations, particularly at executive levels, this spurious loyalty is outright dangerous. 

Character Moves:

  1. Determine how much of a “garden leader” versus “dinosaur leader” you and others are. Do you develop and promote shared purpose, values and a networked culture? Are expectations, goals, and projects both clear and transparent? Do you allow for a free flow of information, feedback and expect loyalty to the greater good and purpose? Do you recognize and reward people for their results, collaborative skills and a growth mindset? Or ultimately do you just want to be the “Big Boss?”

Garden leader in the Triangle, 

 – Lorne 

One Millennial View: From a Millennial standpoint, we’re likely to be dealing more with middle management experience… I don’t want to be disparaging to all the great middle managers that are probably out there, but that faux “big boss” attitude seems to start manifesting here. As we start climbing ladders and earning more responsibility, if we pretend to jump into some “big boss” shoes, I predict they’ll likely be way too heavy, we’ll sink in the mud and wind up stuck.

– Garrett Rubis

The ‘Gig Work,’ the Free Agent Model and You

Key Point: Things are changing so dramatically that the required mix of competence and skills in organizations is also in flux. Yes, having the right DNA and values supporting the company culture is absolutely necessary for employees. However, that may not be enough? As an example, the current requirement for team members to have digital skills, a data science perspective and/or an innovative mindset may require organizations to inject people with those characteristics into the system. Developing incumbent personnel based on these rapidly emerging market needs is also necessary, but often not sufficient to help organizations change fast enough . The need for “new” and “better” ways of running a business is more urgent than ever. Intuitions that are too slow and complacent will disappear. This evolving dynamic is somewhat at odds with traditional loyalty considerations between employee and employer. That is: “I continue to grow and improve and the employer gives me ongoing employment?” Hmm… Maybe not?

And what about pay? I’m not sure current compensation systems are flexible and agile enough either? Part of attracting new talent with highly sought after capabilities puts pressure on the traditional pay process and ultimately material differential and exceptions to the compensation plan starts to happen. Along with this, the idea of annual pay increases may be too limiting and inadequate.

Additionally when leaders are looking to transform their business they often want someone “different.” It’s not that they necessarily believe current people are seriously underperforming, they just know new people coming in (assuming the required cultural values are resident in the newbie), will have a different angle and subsequently challenge the way things are done. My experience is that current people are often excellent performers and yet leaders just want to “upgrade,” which often translates to “different.” On the other hand, total replacement of people means valued institutional knowledge is lost. And who wants to be looking over their shoulder wondering whether their boss is going to simply decide they want a change?

I’m wondering if organizations might need to start thinking about something like a five-year contract for most, if not all employees? As employees enter their final year, they would be able to look for renewal. If after six months of the final contract year the employer does not confirm another 5-year renewal, the employee can trigger an exit leave with six months pay. This would change the relationship between employers and employees into a more of a pro player/team arrangement. If in five years you haven’t made yourself exceptionally valuable and/or if the business just needs someone with a different mix, it makes the change easier for both. Also, pay can be more individual, performance and market driven. Obviously the idea needs a lot more work, but you get the drift.

Character Moves:

  1. Recognize that the volatility and dramatic change pressures on organizations is going to impact traditional employer/employee relationships. The free agent model will get more traction, and traditional employer loyalty/retention models will significantly change. How will this impact you? If your five-year contract was up, would you be renewed?
  2. The U.S. government reports that around 40 percent of workers are contingent in some fashion. A huge market growth involves gig work networks: That is, vendors who try to match workers to gigs or projects. Companies such as Github (for software engineers), Pixelapse, and others are building similar community worksites. It may be beneficial to get to know more about “gig works” and the future relationship to you. 

Free agent in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: What truly is ideal? Nowadays, do we really want to be with the same organization for 20+ years? I think it depends on the industry. We know there’s comfort in routine, but unless there’s a clear ladder to climb, the norm can be dangerously unprogressive. This is a case-by-case situation, “grass is always greener” predicament, but then again… Have you ever met someone who made a professional change after five years and truly regretted it?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Lorne Rubis

Lorne Rubis

The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ...
Read more about Lorne Rubis


Revolutionizing Relationships - with Trevor Crow radio host, 3/27/2012

Mind Your Own Business Radio - with Debi Davis, WLOB 1310 AM, 3/10/12

Paul Miller Morning Show, WPHM-AM, 12/5/11

Dr. Alvin Jones Show, WHFS-AM, 12/1/11

Kathryn Zox Show, VoiceAmerica Network interview


The Character Triangle Companion


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The Character Triangle

Character Triangle Book CoverBuild Character, Have an Impact, and Inspire Others


hudson-news-character-triangle-bookAlso available at all Hudson News Bookstores in major U.S. airports.



Character Triangle

Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.

What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?

The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:

Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame.
Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process.
Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.

Read more about the Character Triangle


Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

Free Resources


The Character Triangle Companion Worksheet

NEW! The Character Triangle Companion Worksheet – Google Docs Version 


Revolutionizing Relationships – with Trevor Crow radio host, 3/27/2012

Mind Your Own Business Radio – with Debi Davis, WLOB 1310 AM, 3/10/12 radio interview of Lorne Rubis

Paul Miller Morning Show, WPHM-AM, 12/5/11 radio interview of Lorne Rubis

Dr. Alvin Jones Show, WHFS-AM, 12/1/11 radio interview of Lorne Rubis

Kathryn Zox Show, VoiceAmerica Network interview of Lorne Rubis



Take Responsibility For Yourself; Others Will Follow

Use the Character Triangle to inspire your team

Leadership Excellence articlein the January 2012 issue

Mercer Island author inspires others with ‘Character Triangle’

Problem Solving STP Model – click to download (304KB pdf) 



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