Turn On the Radio

Key Point: Organizations are currently working in parallel streams of reality and in almost different “centuries” at the same time. There is a work revolution going on; some say it’s the fourth industrial revolution. Emerging institutions like Singularity University and leading companies are helping to bring an exponential mindset to advanced organizations and their leaders. Companies like ours are flattening out, looking to drop decision making to the most appropriate levels, facilitating unprecedented forms of team work, moving at lightening “start-up” speed to get things done, helping people integrate work and life, and much more. This includes huge investments in people and feeding their insatiable curiosity and hungry growth mindset. We are getting rid of restrictive and backward thinking like seniority based holidays and sick time. People work from where the need to in order to achieve the best results. Everything in organization design and people/technology systems is about driving a high adaptability and results quotient, while we become obsessive about delivering relentless value so that customers FEEL we are indispensable. This is stimulating, hard, and even mind-bending work. It is necessary for survival and not some goofy egalitarian system gone wild. We are constantly looking to disrupt ourselves for a greater good! (And yes, of course, we are committed to being sustainably profitable). 

At the same time, I talked to someone recently who works for an organization where people could not get top leadership permission to turn on the radio in the “shop,” because workers might get distracted or pampered. Everyone knows working while listening to music results in a downward shift in productivity? Huh? People work in places just down the road from us where they still punch time cards. Or leaders genuinely still believe that people are out to screw them and have to be watched. I know employees who work for “bosses” that believe they ought to “kick ass” everyday and “recognition is for sissies.” Some organizations still require people to ask for permission to act like an adult. They believe people are replaceable and simply just a necessary component to running a business. If you ask the people managing those organizations what their purpose is, they will often describe what they transact at, rather than passionately outlining a deeply important reason to exist. Their “vision” is most often defined by EBITDA or revenue/net income (or the ever elusive “exit strategy”). Up-sell, cross sell, spin sell are part of their everyday vocabulary. And many of these companies are very financially successful, sometimes for decades. My question is, for how long? 

My hope and encouragement is for every entrepreneur out there to fiercely attack and put these backward organizations out of their fat, lazy, margin rich business. Look at companies that have high margin and yet have lots of friction and go after their market with a vengeance. Define a higher purpose, and be obsessively compulsive about real value for your customers. Measure how much you’ve helped and made a difference to them rather than squeezing them for every sales dollar. Your most important sales pipeline are crazy, happy customers that will publicly want to associate their brand with yours. Develop a people first system that attracts teammates who care about customers and the purpose of the business as much or even more than you!! And, right from the beginning, put in the latest technology and processes that make your customers literally say… “Wow.” Be relentlessly committed to having customers line up, metaphorically or actually for your product and service. Now here is the fun part: Create a business model that makes you 10x better than your competitors. This is not fantasy. It’s what the best entrepreneurial companies are doing! If you’re not willing or able to be an entrepreneur, then go work for someone who is. Stop working for people that treat you as a replaceable part because they will gladly oblige; it’s just a matter of time. Also, the “Christmas party” and mysterious annual bonus is NOT reflective of an advanced company. Here is a situation where size does NOT matter. A five person electrical contractor can apply all the modern leadership and reflect a great culture just as much as Google, Facebook, or ATB. Some might argue it’s even easier. 

Character Moves:

  1. If you haven’t already, join the revolution! You’re worth it! Become part of and fiercely contribute to something you deeply care about, and be sure that organization also deeply cares about the authentic, unique you! 
  1. Remember that you’re already an entrepreneur in a lot of ways. You likely are always looking to make things better (and not just a little better, but insanely better)!!  We are BIG VERBS! Be 10x big and think 10x BIG!

Tuned in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I’ve never worked directly in sales, but I know that if I was selling I’d have to completely, 100 percent believe in the product. I would have a tough time selling anything I didn’t fully understand, buy into, or hold dear. That said, an important question might be: Could you sell yourself your own job? Why is it worth 40 plus hours a week of investment to you? Or do you just own it because it’s better than nothing? First question: Do they even let you listen to the radio?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Too Busy to Create

Key Point: Having a constructive way of thinking about the idea of being “too busy to be creative” is interesting to me. Frankly I’ve had a hard time getting my head around the idea of “too busy” being much more than wasteful blame or an excuse. People that get stuff done (GSD) are just busy. Often, I think people are talking about needing a break more than actually being too busy. We all need a breath… Some space… Some quiet… And it is more than fair to recognize that it’s so darn hard to get off the daily spinning wheel to do so, unless we are intentional about it.

For most of us, a large percentage of the available hours we have are full of obligations we willingly, even happily accept; just the normality of having commitments in work and life. And there is also this background whisper in the mind, “maybe I should call my kids more, visit my Mom more, connect with that friend I’ve haven’t heard from for a while, catch up with more emails, start that project, send out more recognitions…” All the other “should do’s.” So what about room for new ideas for the creativity required navigating all this “stuff“ more effectively? I thought I might listen to a little jazz to help me with an answer.

The following is from Dr. Charles Limb, a professor of head and neck surgery, and the Chief of the Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco…. “I started looking at jazz musicians playing the blues as a way to understand how the creative brain emerges from a neuroscience perspective. When musicians go to an improvisation, the brain switches, and the lateral prefrontal lobes responsible for conscious self-monitoring became less engaged.” His research notes the following when the improv isn’t clicking: “When you’re trying so hard to come up with ideas you can’t do it, you can’t force it… When the stakes are higher and the brain is actively over-thinking something, it can interfere with processes that have become routinized, causing behavior or performance to suffer.” So what helps when we want to a switch on a little more creativity and get into a flow? Well, how about a little QUIET?

Hal Gregersen writes in a recent HBR article, that cultivating quiet “increases your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals.” When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next (perhaps what to play next)? —It’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.

Jazz certainly isn’t quiet. However, quieting the mind leads to better more creative jazz riffs amongst musicians and I believe the same applies in all parts of our lives.

Even incredibly busy people can cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. Here are four practical ideas the HBR article suggests.

Character Moves: 

“1. Punctuate meetings with five minutes of quiet time… It’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.

2. Take a silent afternoon in nature. You need not be a rugged outdoors type to ditch the phone and go for a simple two-or-three-hour jaunt in nature.

3. Go on a media fast. Turn off your email for several hours or even a full day, or try “fasting” from news and entertainment.

4. Take the plunge and try a meditation retreat.”

 5. Invest in your breathing process. Connecting to my previous blog on Wim Hof, the science of having breathing intersecting with a little quiet, is as a powerful way to detox and open up the creativity channel.

 Quiet and all that jazz in The Triangle,

 Lorne

 One Millennial View: I create and write for a living, and recently I had to coach one of my editors how to write articles for the first time. One of my first pieces of advice dealt with how to tackle the end of a piece, the final sentence that can be difficult if you let it. I’ve learned to just write it… Get words on that page. Anything is better than nothing. Sometimes it’ll be great, sometimes it won’t, but just like a jazz song, the tune has to end. If you’re too busy overthinking it, the last riff will never sound good.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Cancer and Cancel

Key Point: I read a touching article by someone with late stage cancer the other day. One insight that really struck me was that “cancer” and “cancel” were just one consonant apart, and in some ways the two words “held each other’s hands.” Her view was that all the future plans she had were suddenly on hold. It was like flying down the freeway at 100 clicks and suddenly slamming on the breaks to take an off ramp. Cancer is a big word of course, and everyone’s diagnosis and situation is as intimate and personal as anything might be. 

Last year I had a carcinoma removed. As most know, this is about as a benign of cancer one might hope for. It’s typically slow growing and early diagnosis, along with the right surgical intervention gets rid of it permanently. When I had my facial surgery, it required about 18 stitches and was very noticeable. As I returned to work the morning after my procedure, I had a big white gauze bandage on my face. Of course everyone I ran into asked me or joked about it… Typically, “what did the other guy look like?” I decided to respond by saying, “it was cancer.” Now, if you ever want to shorten a conversation or abruptly adjourn a meeting, try the phrase “it’s cancer.” The likely reaction is an uncomfortable look away from any eye contact, followed by a quick exit. I wanted to yell after each person, “it’s not contagious! I promise! Please don’t run away!!” Ok, I’m exaggerating a little for affect here, but you get the drift. 

I personally know a couple of people in the workplace right now with a late stage cancer diagnosis. They are in one friggin’ big battle with C. And I know they need our compassion and support. Note, this is not the same as sympathy and pity. In most cases, that’s the last thing they want. When colleagues find out about a teammate that has been diagnosed, people are impacted with genuine concern for their co-worker, AND often many become frightened thinking about whether or not such a thing can happen to them.

And yes sadly, people who work during treatment or return to work after treatment may still encounter obvious or subtle workplace discrimination. For example, some employers and colleagues may assume that a person will be less productive or perform below the company’s expectations. And according to some research I’ve read, other examples of discriminatory actions include (believe it or not):

  • Being demoted without a clear reason
  • Being overlooked for new positions
  • Not receiving a promotion that you have earned
  • Finding a lack of flexibility when you request time off for medical appointments
  • Being left out of training or decision-making opportunities when you use sick leave for scheduled medical appointments.

It’s time we learned how to have more thoughtful, transparent strategies on how to better deal with cancer, mental health and other tough health issues. Of course, privacy related to disclosing a diagnosis is a right and privilege of each individual. Nevertheless, clearly supportive organizations and teammates can make such a phenomenal difference. This matters to the team member with cancer AND the rest of the work community as well. We ALL benefit from understanding and acting on the premise of being in it together and knowing we never have to go it alone. We all, if we’re awake, recognize the employee with cancer could easily be you or me. 


Character Moves:

1, If you are an employer/leader, you owe it to yourself, employees with cancer, and all team members to compassionately accommodate. All business is personal. When people are most vulnerable, our policies and care ideally shows up like a giant rescue spotlight on very dark and stormy waters. Advanced companies know how to meet with the employee, perhaps including a patient advocate, to discuss resources and support the person can access, including reviewing issues such as caregiving responsibility, childcare, finances and insurance – and then continuously staying in touch for on-going support. 


2. If you are a teammate, being self-aware and open about your own personal feelings and fear is understandable. Know how to be supportive by genuinely caring and NOT saying well intended dumb things like, “don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” “I had a friend who had the same thing and ___.” In most cases, people just want to be treated with respectful understanding, and never patronized or judged. 

3. Glen Sather, well known NHL hockey player and executive, had prostate cancer and gives out a bracelet to friends with the following phrase inscribed on it: “F…K Cancer.” Perhaps we should all wear that bracelet. For a very touching, authentic experience journey written by a friend going through his personal cancer battle, read Jim Button’s blog. He has been diagnosed with lung cancer. See his story/site here... His “character moves” are the real deal. 4 and 5 are from Jim Button:


4. “Be comfortable talking to the person. Ask questions as it’s up to the person to let you know how comfortable they are discussing. Certainly give them the ‘I hope you don’t mind talking’ opener so they have a way out if need be. It’s better to have been asked, and shown that you care than to be put into that scary cancer corner all by yourself.

5. Somehow it’s not all negatives. There are so many positives and people are great, so make sure this blog post isn’t about the shitty side of the equation. That being said, I am an optimist so I have that view, I have met others that are in a negative spiral and they are their cancer.”

6. Listen to Jim. True to his core values, he is genuinely finding the positives in his cancer journey. He is one of my real super heroes! 


F&$K Cancer in The Triangle 


Lorne 

One Millennial View: A famous Canadian YouTuber is actually going through chemotherapy and vlogging it for his millions of followers. His normal business is fitness and competitive eating, so it’s strange to watch someone who just deadlifted 700 pounds physically deteriorate while battling cancer for the third time. His spirit, however, has not. Thanks to these outlets, we have a better window into these circumstances than ever before… We get to see how human they are, how generally positive those going through it remain, the verbal support they receive, and that subtle/scary reminder that you just never know when it might be you. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

I Love Purple Chicks!

Key Point: Innovation and even disruptive ideas are often right in front of us; just not in plain sight. The trick is to find ways to set these ideas FREE. Too often, they’re hiding in the wonderful minds of ALL the people around us. 

What would you do if predatory hawks were continuously eating over half of your baby chicks, the essence of sustaining your life as a chicken farmer? That was the recent experience of African chicken farmers. Raptors had come to treat their farms like an “all you can eat” chicken buffet. So these Tanzanian farmers, somewhat at their wit’s end as what to do, sat with an open mind to hear what their tribal elders might suggest to solve this big time problem. And what did these sage folks come up with as a solution? Hide the chicks in plain site! Huh? Yup, they brilliantly recommended painting the chicks with a bio degradable purple dye, thereby confusing the birds of prey. 

Purple

 

So the deal is hawks cannot recognize anything purple as edible to them. They can literally land in front of a purple chick and see something moving, just not lunch. The strategy had been very successful for the farmers. From losing 80 percent of their chicks they are now saving 80 percent; a huge turnaround and literally life changing (for both the farmers and baby chickens). 

This story was told by Terry O’Reilly after a customer dinner our company hosted this week. Terry is widely known as an advertising guru and the host of the hugely popular CBC radio show, “Under the Influence.” His soon to be released book “This I Know,” is a guaranteed best seller. Terry’s message in the purple chicken story was to stress the importance of ensuring psychological safety in all organizations so people at any level can freely propose ANY idea. This needs to be coupled with modern organization leadership, encouraging and expecting employees to unleash their own “purple chicken” ideas. Then leaders need to be open to receiving those ideas and putting that creativity to work. It is unacceptable to open up and promote more creativity with no way of executing. Painting the chicks was a great idea AND the farmers had to get the paint and then do it! 

Terry’s closing question to the dinner audience was: Imagine if you were the person in your tribe with the unorthodox proposal of painting the chicks purple. Who would really listen? Would people be open or would you get ignored and/or thrown out of the tribe? How does your culture really support innovation as a way of life?

 Character Moves:

  1. When it comes to finding solutions the best ones can be right there in the most obvious places; hiding like purple chickens right out in the open. We just need to be present enough to find and receive them. How good is your organization in tapping into your entire employee community for innovative solutions? How do you know? What evidence do you have? How do you do it? Improve on it? 
  1. Most of us are living in a world where the metaphorical hawks are circling above and happy to eat us for lunch. We actually do need innovation to come from outside and to assign people to help with that task. However, the biggest opportunity is INSIDE and finding ways to have people at every level think and act like there is no box. What can you do to better set ideas free? How many of your personal ideas have been executed on? How many are still hidden and out of sight? 

Painting purple in the Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: One of my favorite components of working in digital media is the ability to try, adapt, and try again. Thanks to low overhead, a failed idea or project doesn’t always cost much in digital. It can also be improved upon in real time… Look at your favorite podcasts, YouTube channels, and other digital productions. They’ve likely changed format, evolved, dropped some segments, adopted others, and responded to user feedback. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just chicken feathers turning purple over time, and fortunately no hawks get to gobble up the entire coop in the process. It’s gratifying when we know feathers can change colors.

– 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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Listen to Lorne's latest podcasts

Confidence, Patti Smith and Dylan: Failing authentically

Breathe fire: Leading and inspiring ourselves

Asking for feedback: The why

Taking on a new role: Lorne's journey

Lessons from Dot: Integrating technology into workplace culture

 

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The Character Triangle

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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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