Principle of Inversion and Anti-Goals

Key Point: Let’s learn from Warren Buffett’s business partner, Charlie Munger, and the co-founders of Tiny. First, reflect on these three Munger quotes: “1. A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid: Early death, a bad marriage, etc…” “2. It is remarkable how much long-term advantage we have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent…” “3. Problems frequently get easier if you turn them around in reverse. In other words, if you want to help India, the question you should ask is not ‘how can I help India,’ it’s ‘what is doing the worst damage in India and how do I avoid it?

Munger is talking about inversion in the last quote; the idea that problems are best solved when they are reversed. It’s often easier to think about what you don’t want before what you do. My experience is that both people and organizations are out of balance regarding the amount of time spent determining what they want to achieve versus what they’d like to avoid or stop doing. And strategic legacy planning processes often just add stuff up without declaring anti-goals. The outcome becomes lists of stuff to do/measure and are made up of executives’ favorite ideas that reflect compromise more than clear intent. 

I loved the blog by Tiny co-founder, Andrew Wilkinson, where he put Munger’s wisdom into action. In his words:

“So, instead of thinking through what we wanted our perfect day to look like, we thought about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it. We inverted and came up with what we call Anti-Goals.

Our worst possible day looked like this:

  1. Full of long meetings.
  2. A packed calendar.
  3. Dealing with people we don’t like or trust.
  4. Owing people things/not being in control/obligations.
  5. Having to be at the office.
  6. Travel.
  7. Tired.

Working backwards from there, we made this set of Anti-Goals:

  1. Never schedule an in-person meeting when it can otherwise be accomplished via email or phone (or not at all).
  2. No more than two hours of scheduled time per day.
  3. No business or obligations with people we don’t like—even just a slight bad vibe and it’s a hard no.
  4. Never give up voting control of our businesses, no favors from people who could need something from us (ensure the rule of reciprocity doesn’t kick in).
  5. Work from a cafe across from a beautiful park where we can come and go as we please with nobody to bother us.
  6. Video conference or pay for people to come visit us.
  7. Never schedule morning meetings, sleep in when needed.

Problem solved.

Of course, we still have the odd unavoidable crappy day, but these simple Anti-Goals have made our lives immeasurably better by setting an Anti-Goal instead of a goal. Try it sometime, it’s insanely simple and strangely powerful.”

Character Moves:

  1. Try inversion and anti-goals. As Wilkinson notes, it is a simple yet powerful process. Sometimes to be crystal clear about what you want, the best starting route is to get there through declaring what you don’t want first. I do argue however that establishing BOTH goals and anti-goals are important. The processes are related, but different. Connect them. 
  2. Don’t be become that person that whines about how stupid your schedule is, how crazy hard you’re working, and how everyone/thing else is making you miserable. Be self-accountable and do something about it. Try inversion and anti-goals. It will help you break the cycle and move forward with more control over your situation than you might realize. 

Anti-goals in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I love Munger and Wilkinson’s quotes and the freedom they’ve allotted themselves with anti-goals. Some Millennials might read this and say, “But, I don’t have the professional control to accomplish my anti-goals.” That could be the case at the moment, but, at least by “setting” anti-goals, you can get a better sense of where you’d like to make your professional life more malleable as you further your career.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Ban All “Just A” Jobs!

Key Point: Every role and job in every organization is vital. There is no room for what I call “just a” type jobs. Of course, some jobs pay better than others for a variety of reasons. However, from a company’s “brand” perspective, every job counts big time.

Many of my readers know I work in the financial services sector. In our retail business, we have a frontline customer-facing position called a CSR (Customer Service Rep). When we first held Culture Days (our on-boarding event for new hires), as people introduced themselves, some might say, “I’m JUST a CSR.” As the exec sponsor and facilitator, I would politely intervene; asking the CSR to take out “just a.” Why? This position creates the brand impression for our company due to the number of customers they touch each day and every minute. It is an essential and vital role! You and I see this at other workplaces daily. For example: The coffee barista, bus driver, receptionist, call center person, flight attendant, waiter, etc. Regardless of what companies advertise as their brand, the real brand “smell test” starts when we interact with the frontline customer-facing folks. How could we afford to have anyone of these people see himself or herself in “just a” job?

I remember when I first became the Chief People Officer of the company in 2012, and attended one our prescheduled on-boarding sessions. I sat down at a random table for lunch, and asked people why they joined the company. The very first response came from a CSR and it was, “my mom wanted me out of the house.” “Holy cow” is the politest response that immediately came to mind. I had to squeeze hard to keep my inner voice under control. If this is how we recruit for our customer facing positions, we had huge work to do. And we did. As a result, we are at a much better and different spot today. Every role is vital, and direct customer-facing ones, even more so.

Character Moves:

  1. As a leader, it is your job to make sure every role is a vital one based on the impact to customers and other teammates. Ban “just a” jobs. Help every person in every role connect to the organization’s purpose.
  2. As a team member, you also have a responsibility to connect to your company’s purpose and to act as if you matter… Because you do. Think big. Be big. Do not “mail it in,” as the saying goes. 
  3. Have the highest standards of recruiting for every position including “dishwasher.” Do not let anyone in just to fill for “just a” job. Unless, of course, you do not care about your brand.

No “just a’s” in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I’m sure some Millennials might be told by peers or even society that their position is “just a” job. You can see how that’d be an easy mindset to trap yourself in, especially if you’re still searching for a position that fully utilizes your earned skillsets, or find yourself between jobs and needing to pay bills with work you’re overqualified for. But, I suppose that’s when you have to lend a nice middle-finger to anyone who tries to knock you down a peg, and believe that anything you do that (legally) keeps the lights on is something to find pride in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Evangelist Phenomena

Key Point: We may need to reinvent the way we engage teams to create “movements” within organizations. The company I work for made a commitment to move our productivity and communication application platform to Google’s G Suite. In order to transform the institution, we knew we had to reimagine and work in profoundly better ways, with much better, more modern tools. This included applying a software tool set that facilitated the full democratization of networked ideas, imagination and contribution. While we already had a culture that honored collaboration, connectivity and engagement, we knew that we needed a platform to accelerate innovation and exponential results. This called for a “movement” to cause a work renaissance that we branded as “Work Reimagined!”

A dedicated team of leaders assigned to this movement created a mini transformative purpose (mTP) that included: “Freeing and unleashing the ideas and contribution of 5,000 plus people, with the outcome of creating a work revolution to drive an exponential transformation of the company in making our Story (purpose) true.” We then created three major phases to fully engage all 5,000 team members: “Ignite and Listen,” “Excite and Discover,” and “Adopt and Master.” Each phase was populated with numerous tactics that will be further elaborated on in another blog. Additionally, we knew we needed a network of team members that would evangelize and propel the movement. Hence the birth and rise of our now famous “G Evangelists.”

Over a five-day period, we invited all 5,000 team members to “audition” for the G Evangelist role, which essentially asked for their commitment to become a spark for the Work Reimagined movement. While we outlined a role description, it essentially asked potential candidates to be willing to participate in a 30 day boot camp (starting two weeks after selection), commit to fully learn G Suite, help the company journey through the three stages noted above, and then be open to support assignments after. We told them NOT to seek approval from their next up manager, and promised, with the CEOs support, that we would clear the forward passage for any successful candidates. The response from the team community was incredible, and the sub-team leading this recruitment and selection process was remarkable. My following description will underwhelm the profoundly powerful outcome of this initiative. However, these are the highlights:

  1. Thousands of team members expressed interest.
  2. Over 300 people auditioned with the most creative applications imaginable. 
  3. Over 200 interviewed, and a final 50 were selected (we could have hired 300 exceptional team members).
  4. The 50 represented the most inclusive slice of the company possible; what proved to be a perfect blend 
  5. They came together as an inseparable cohort through the boot camp, and created a fiercely connected community to lead our movement: True G Evangelists.
  6. They have become teachers, coaches, experts, and facilitators (both individually and collectively), filled with deep knowledge and empathy.
  7. We have just entered the “Adopt and Master” phase, and to some extent their work is just beginning. 

While the jury regarding the long term effectiveness of the G Evangelist cohort is still out, so far the learning involves the extraordinary superhero powers of a self-nominated/carefully selected group of inclusive team members from all levels, positions, geography, generation, background, tenure, etc. to fully connect, collaborate and contribute. The learning content and boot camp facilitation was genius, even magical. And the groups’ road trip to Google HQ and Singularity was highly impactful. Further study and research on the effectiveness of these troops will likely reveal other insights. In the meantime, it is absolutely clear the G Evangelist 50 are leading the Work Reimagined movement with almost super human energy. Their momentum has created peer-to-peer flow, and the conditions for the work renaissance we are “star shooting” for. 

Character Moves:

  1. If you’re a leader, experiment with the idea of selecting a cohort of self-nominated, passionately committed people to sprint (outside of their day-to-day job) for a short period of time on a focused challenge. They will likely amaze you with their ability to get results; probably in highly inventive, even 10x ways. Give them the support and air cover to fully connect, collaborate and contribute without interference from upper management or other distractions. Expect greatness not sameness from participants, and they will deliver.
  2. As a team member, look to raise your hand and get involved in addressing gnarly problems and/or initiatives you have deep passion for. If your leadership is timid, find like-minded “Evangelists” and get s#!* done anyways! What are you waiting for? What have you really got to lose?  

Evangelists in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Wow, what an impressive project! My favorite part is the “if your leadership is timid, find like-minded ‘Evangelists,’ and get s#!* done anyways.” That is just plain always an option, no matter what you’re doing, and it’s applicable to more things in life than just work. An extra “to-do?” You bet. But, c’mon, if you’re a regular reader of this blog then you know what you should/can do. Let’s make it happen.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Just Friggin’ Dance

Key Point: I think one of the benchmarks of great company culture is when an entire group of people regardless of connection, age, tenure, gender, affiliation, etc. has the ability to literally dance with each other. I have been part of at least five great cultures in my career, and that has been one key common component – We have loved to dance in each other’s company. I’m actually talking about flat out arms flailing, spinning, twirling, unabashed dancing. Often, singing at the top of our lungs too.

I’m hardly a great dancer. However, there is something magical, even surreal, when a team puts on the tunes (perhaps too loudly) and just lets loose on the dance floor. I think I like it so much because we have to be vulnerable. We get to unravel a little, and that puts us on a level playing field. How glorious it is. 

I don’t sponsor any event that doesn’t involve music. It moves us, and because we are verbs, I think it feeds us like oxygen. All of us have something inside us that makes us want to move and music/dancing sets us free. I put no judgment on the folks sitting on the sidelines. Sometimes part of enjoying the dance is in the people watching. That is adding to the experience too. We all embrace dance in different ways. 

My last team was notoriously badass for dancing. Our annual conference post-dinner dance is legendary. I loved heading to my hotel room, mopping the sweat off my head after a couple of hours of just flat out grooving. There is something cathartic about the freedom, autonomy, trust, and self-confidence that is unleashed through dance. 

I’m writing about this because corporate life must involve huge amounts of fun. And when leaders let go and show their true, goofy, authentic self, then good things happen. Freeing ourselves sets others in the culture free. I know sometimes when I’m lost in my total “dance,” the music pulsating through me, I look like a “fool.” Maybe people are laughing at me? I do NOT care! The freedom… The authenticity… The movement… My letting go in pure, sweet joy, is most important!

Character Moves:

  1. Just close your eyes and dance… Play loud music every chance you get. Let go and have fun. Be real. 
  2. Consciously make music part of everything. It makes a difference. More importantly, have the courage to get up and dance your ass off. Like I always say, you’re worth it! 

Dancing in the Triangle,

Lorne

P.S. If you think I’m exaggerating, ask my last team. I’m betting testimonials appear. They make me happy!!

One Millennial View: For my money, there’s one true inspiration for the perfect way to get after a dance floor… (Other than Dad, of course…) Here it is:

If anyone finds a “Dan Aykroyd School of Dance,” let me know.

– 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 ...
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Confidence, Patti Smith and Dylan: Failing authentically

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Lessons from Dot: Integrating technology into workplace culture

 

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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

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