Homegrown Feelings, TRUST & Great Organizations

Accountability Be Accountable Personal leadership

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Story: Last week I sat with nearly 40 people, each of whom run a small business in towns across southern Alberta, Canada. We gathered in a circle, and each participant shared a story about their beautiful little communities. They lovingly described the way people are mostly there for each other, how neighbors TRUST, put each other first, often greet with a hug, and personally connect before any business is transacted. Of course, not everything is perfect in small town life. People know each others’ business, small town politics, etc. Their stories made me a little homesick for these “homegrown” feelings. Coincidentally, I concluded the week visiting one of our smallest bank branches in the wonderful town of Daysland (pop. 824 people), where I also ran into a teammate from my college football days. For 40 years, he was the town pharmacist and proudly showed me around his former store and the world class medical clinic he was generously instrumental in developing for the greater good of the community. This overall experience made me pause… What did it teach me about expectations we might have for aspiring organizations?

Key Point: Great companies and institutions are often like the very best of these outstanding little towns. Yes, people are there for themselves, yet they thrive with meaningful purpose in advancing the community at large.

During the same week, I sat on a panel with the CEO of Edelman Canada, a leading journalist, several other execs, and a host of invited leaders to discuss the results of Edelman’s (world’s largest PR agency) annual Trust Barometer (33k respondents in 28 world markets). The Trust index conclusions are fascinating and concerning. To sum it up, trust is eroding amongst all institutions in most western democracies (a startling drop of 23 points in America). More than ever, especially in Canada, the US and Europe, there is a vacuum inviting business to urgently step up in leadership, while advancing trust amongst ALL stakeholders, not just shareholders. 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. If you’re an executive leader, you must have the courage to create an organization purpose that really matters because living it clearly advances humankind. Additionally, you must create a sense of TRUST throughout the entire organization community and its ecosystem. Decisions about who fairly continues to be a member or not, is part of the hard work in maintaining that trust.
  2. If you’re an organization participant, not just a formal leader, you have a responsibility to be part of creating an environment of trust as well. Each of us is a vital part of the “village.” Ideally, going to work feels somewhat like living in a great little town… We feel at home.

P.S. You may enjoy listening to the Zac Brown song titled “Homegrown.” For me, it captures some of this feeling.

Homegrown in Personal Leadership,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I completely agree that humans perform best when working in small tribes. That’s kind of what thousands of years of evolution has ingrained in us. There should be as much diversity, opposing views, different backgrounds, various upbringings and experiences as can be in these groups, but common values and purpose are what small towns really thrive on. And that’s what I want in an organization too. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Humbled with Humboldt, and Heartbreak For All

Accountability Be Accountable

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Note: The cartoon above is by Bruce MacKinnon, an award-winning cartoonist with the Halifax Chronicle Herald. It shows a hockey player dressed in the Broncos green and gold slumped over on his skates with the word “Sask” across his back. He is supported by 10 other players dressed in red with the provinces’ short forms on their jerseys.

Story: The Humboldt Broncos tragedy, where 16 coaches, trainers, and players on the junior hockey team’s bus, died in a horrific collision with a semi-trailer truck on April 6, has triggered something extraordinary across an entire country. This heart crunching, soul searing story seems to have painfully touched us all in very personal and profound ways. This week, I was leading one of our sessions on company culture and nearly 40 of us were circled together, ready to kick the meeting off. One of my teammates had gone out the night before and purchased a hockey stick, and on the blade tape wrote #HumboldtStrong. (Someone in the country had started this symbolic gesture of putting hockey sticks out on the front porch as a statement of compassion and care for the team, families and community. I genuinely believe millions hockey sticks will be placed on the front doors of Canadians everywhere). I put the hockey stick in the middle, kind of like at center-ice, and asked for a moment of reflection. Not a dry eye in the house.

Key Point: They say a change in perspective can increase our IQ. Perhaps one shred of good from this mind-numbing wreckage will be a wee change in perspective for some of us. We are grief stricken. To help underscore our national sense of loss, I’ve shared the following excerpt from the editorial board of The Toronto star:

“…It may be that Canadian hearts have never ached together in quite the way they have these last few days for a little hockey town in Saskatchewan and the 15 souls (NB now 16) lost when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos to a playoff hockey game collided with a transport truck at a Prairie intersection.

For Humboldt, history divided forever in that moment — to time as it was before, and the time after.

And a nation grieved because it knew that the Broncos were us and, but for chance, we and ours were them.

Such horrors are inherently humbling. They show us how fragile even the strongest of bodies are. They make mockery of our plans and, in the lottery of things, our delusions of control.

They remind us, if only for a time, what’s important. And, always, it is love.

If the loss and heartbreak are beyond measuring, it is also the case that this vast country felt very, very small this past weekend…”

Personal Leadership Moves :

  1. Remember that what you experienced at work today, the job you have or you don’t, the career progression you’re on or not, is just NOT that important. Please allow yourself just to humbled by Humboldt just for a moment, even if all too fleeting of time. Wait until next week before you float back into the proverbial rat race. It’s LOVE that counts over all. Fate is often there to make a mockery of our perfectly coiffed plans.
  2. Be present, be grateful, and live the life you deserve to live NOW. Make that small gesture as a lasting tribute to the memory of the people on that bus, their loved ones, and the forever changed community. Please embrace some small goodness from this unspeakable carnage.
  3. And also consider, if you haven’t already, putting a hockey stick on your front porch or balcony to remind you and the rest of us… If for just a while.

Heartbroken in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: With one Twitter or Instagram search, it’s amazing to see the outpour of support for Humboldt from all over the world. Even here in Austin, there are a variety of examples of local Texans lending their participation to the #PutYourSticksOut movement. Keep in mind, this is a city with only one regulation sized hockey rink. It’s primarily football country, and frankly, it’s probably easier to ride a horse or bull around here than organize a hockey game on ice skates. Nevertheless, there is not one of us who can’t feel, fear and be humbled by a tragic crash with a young sports team, just trying to get to a playoff game. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Don’t Forget About the Don’ts!

Accountability Be Accountable

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Story: I was listening to a relatively inexperienced leader explaining why he was having a hard time getting stuff done on major projects. As he outlined the obstacles, it was always somebody else’s fault. After the meeting, I respectfully took him aside and told him NOT to do that. Yes, I also positively suggested what he might say and do instead. However, I explicitly and unapologetically told him what NOT to do and explained the consequences. I believe he appreciated the specific examples and frankness of me saying flat out, “don’t do that and here’s why. And here is a way you might approach the matter to demonstrate you are personally self accountable instead of laying off blame on others.”

Key Point: I wonder if we have become so concerned about being so positive and nice that we have gone soft on the “don’ts.” Yes, I know we want to catch people doing things right instead of wrong, and all that well-intended encouragement. Yet the positive “do’s” often become clearer when accompanied by the additional insight supplied by a “don’t.” As a trivial example, “clean up and buss your dishes” might also need an explicit “don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink; rinse and put them in the dishwasher.” It’s obvious, you say? I don’t think so. For some, people cleaning up dishes and putting them in the sink, more than meets the “do.” Yet additional clarity sometimes comes with the “don’t.” “Be more specific on the ‘do’,” you say. Perhaps… Yet, the most efficient and impactful communication might come from the “don’t”. Outlining don’ts doesn’t necessarily mean one is negative, unless that is the only mantra. Lonesome “don’ts” can rapidly drain our energy.

We have 10 explicitly stated values outlined, and we call them our 10 ATBs. They are stated in positive terms like ATB No. 3, which is “Think Yes First.” To have people understand this completely, we tell stories that illustrate what behavior demonstrates this action. We also find stories that demonstrate thinking “no” first, and this better frames up the full value statement. It’s old fashioned “do’s and don’ts” that bookend a more complete understanding. When I watch great sports or music coaches, they balance both. When we engage people respectfully and they understand that our intentions are being fueled by helping them advance, they normally relish a healthy balance of “do’s” and “don’ts.”

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Be more positive than negative. However, recognize that calling out a “don’t” is legitimate, and may be the best way to achieve a more clear understanding.
  2. If you are on the receiving end of a “don’t,” say a genuine “thank you” for the feedback and then look at it more objectively. Don’t be so thin skinned that when you hear a”don’t,” it bothers you. You don’t have to score an “A” in everything. This is easier said than done.

Accepting the value of “don’t” in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is specifically helpful for my perma-positive generation who just plain LOVES being triggered by everything, and likes to believe they can do no wrong. In reality, there are plenty of rights and wrongs, and do’s and don’ts. It’s our duty to learn these things. If we don’t recognize this, we’re simply lying to ourselves. Sometimes a little gut-check and a “don’t” is exactly what we need to improve.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

The Wake We Leaders Leave Behind

Accountability Be Accountable

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True Story: (NOT from my current organization). An executive runs into her direct report on the elevator and it’s only the two of them going up 10 floors. The team member says a cheerful “good morning,” to her boss. The response from the so called leader… Nothing. She “ghosts” her employee by totally ignoring her. Why? Because she wants the employee to transfer or quit, and doesn’t want to pay severance. This executive somewhere learned that this disrespectful process is somehow a viable technique to restructure a team, or eliminate an employee. One thing this “big” boss did say to this same employee – “well if you lost a few pounds, you might have more energy.” Wow. Even though the details have been altered, I know the essence of the story is true, and a facsimile of this happens in many organizations TODAY.

Key Point: Leaders leave a wake behind them that people remember forever. And as acclaimed poet Maya Angelou famously noted: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. How will people remember you as a leader? How will you make them feel? 

I co-facilitate a leadership session about once a month in our organization. During the workshop, we ask people to talk about leaders that have had a positive or negative impact on them. The conversation immediately ignites and many stories are shared. The stories of leaders are about one positive to five negative. You can feel the heat of the negative stories by observing tears, flushed cheeks, head shaking, shrinking back in chairs, and much more. Often these recounted negative leadership stories are decades old, yet in an instant, the storyteller rapidly descends into the painful emotions of that experience. While the details of the memory may have diminished, the impact never goes away.

Leaders may benefit from being reminded about how much of an impact we have on how people feel. Sometimes we forget and think “it’s just business.” Yet, as we practically know, it’s never just business and ALWAYS personal.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Remind yourself what a privilege it is to lead, and that we have a lasting effect on how people feel (good and bad) under our leadership.
  2. Be intentional in defining your leadership brand. What will your leadership legacy be? One way or another, you will leave a wake behind you.

How you feel in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I appreciate this and hope that leaders do realize they will leave a wake. However, to us Millennials, we should prepare and know that not all of our leaders will be aware or care about this. Bad leaders are going to happen. They just will. The cool part, is you can learn a whole lot about how NOT to lead from a superior doing a terrible job. It’s our job to keep learning no matter what the circumstance.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Why Do Organizations Fib?

Accountability Be Accountable

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Key Point: Why do organizations consistently choose to replace versus helping people adapt and improve? Most companies convince themselves that they want to coach and develop folks based on timely, direct, caring feedback. While well intended, this statement is actually… Ok, I’ll call it as a I see it – an organization fib. I’ve watched this dishonesty thrive over the last 40 years. Why do we too often prefer to fire and hire someone new, rather than have the tough conversations involved in real development coaching?

Maybe you know this person? At some time he/she is designated a “keeper” in the organization, and perhaps even placed on the high potential list (that most companies claim do not exist). They likely even received some company award or recognition along with a number of promotions. Then, somewhere or time, they become very replaceable and are eventually asked to leave the company. Frankly, some of these folks do fail to personally grow, and become complacent, or even entitled. And they probably do need to exit. However, I wonder if leaders become “psychologically lazy” when it comes to really helping people reinvent themselves. The hard truth is that giving meaningful, caring, tough minded feedback is very challenging. Tasha Eurich in her great book, INSIGHT, describes how most people would rather tell a white lie than the painful truth. Hence, too many people think they are doing just fine in a job, even great, and then they get called into that meeting room, where the boss and HR person are sitting with a glum look and a closed folder on the table in front of them. The formerly excellent employee suddenly realizes they’re going to get fired.

I talked to one of these fired people this past week. A month before being dismissed, a review from his/her leader stated that although results were not perfect, things were going in the right direction. The employee’s impression leaving the review, was that overall they were doing ok. My belief: His/her leader was not directly and explicitly frank, and the team member was not very astute reading between the lines. Result: Fired one month later. Could this have been avoided? I think so.  The sad truth is that this person’s replacement will likely be a “star” for a while, and eventually experience the same outcome. Organizations repeat this nonsense too often, and somehow talk themselves into a belief that they are “upgrading the company.” I have my doubts. (We need some more research to test this premise).

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Please, if you’re a leader, be explicit and direct with people reporting to you. Point out where they are doing well with specificity. Where they are not, tell them exactly the behavior that’s out of step. And when they are at risk of losing their jobs, DO NOT SUGAR COAT IT. Tell them that exactly. And then ask them if they understand the situation. No improvement equals no job.
  2. Never assume that what you’ve done in the past is a gateway to future employment. Constantly reinvent, develop yourself and confirm you are meeting or exceeding your leader’s expectations. Ask them directly for that confirmation. Be constructively paranoid (not fearful).

Less fibs in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: The problem with riding on the “no news is good news” philosophy that I believe many Millennials would prefer, is that we are likely not going to be told any bad news before it’s too late. I think there’s a lot of ego and pride with not expecting or asking for any feedback at work. After all, we’re simply just doing our jobs. But when it comes down to your professional livelihood, it might be best to just check and see once in a while how your boss feels about your recent performance. Maybe at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis