Social Physics, Slack, Google and More

Key Point: The nature of work is being transformed right in front of us. One way or another, we are all impacted and involved. The connected digital world is giving us new collaboration and communication tools that are mind-blowing, really. Legacy systems like email may soon be gone from the work place. If you think this is unlikely, ask anyone under 30 how often they use personal email today. 

I’m writing this blog from the Google Next conference in San Francisco. The Moscone Convention Center is filled with thousands of people from around the world, all committed to determine how cloud-based solutions (including new productivity tools like Google’s G Suite) will reinvent business models and ways of working. Honestly, after sitting in one presentation after another, it feels a little like I’ve just dropped LSD. I’m on a somewhat weird and exciting trip where part of me wants to stop the room from swimming, while the other can hardly wait to see what’s next. (I’m a product of the 60’s, and for the record, have never dropped acid).

One simple live demo at the conference today involved seeing a team working together, real-time, from multiple locations, connected visually and collaborating on the rollout campaign for a new coffee company. The live demonstration only lasted about 10 minutes, yet one could actually see how a distributed team of people in both San Fran and New York (including an outside ad agency), could creatively explode from scheduling a meeting to completing one, (with the outcome being a fully completed product launch campaign in HOURS). That historically would have taken weeks, at best. Organizations where people need assistants to schedule meetings (instead of using a meeting bot), or send things to others in attachments, wait for approval from central sources, and have things handed to-and-from other groups, will get CRUSHED.

I am not overstating this. As an example, one of the world’s most prestigious management consulting/accounting firms, PWC, migrated to the G Suite with 250,000 users in 150 countries and their internal study found that on average, employees gained NINE HOURS of increased productivity per PERSON/WEEK.

More importantly, it increased the quality and speed of innovative work from the right people in the right roles at exactly the right time. Case studies showing breakthrough results from companies in all industries are just beginning to get published. Look out if you’re not on this flight path. 

Yesterday, I met with execs from Slack, the sizzling hot Silicon Valley company that millennials and project teams like to use for real-time messaging and communication. Slack has been a viral consumer-type product; now growing up to become enterprise and Google is zipping up their Hangout product to take Slack head on. At Slack, their best thinkers are leaning on research from people like Dr. Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to Pentland, creativity is born of two processes: The first is exploration, where people move out of their comfort zones and actively seek people with different views and ideas. The second is recognizing that engaged groups have a collective intelligence that is mostly independent and better than the intelligence of individual participants. However Pentland, whose book on the matter is entitled Social Physics, also points out that by cleverly processing  “big data,” it is possible to identify patterns of behavior, just as scientists once worked out the laws of the physical world. Pentland asserts that understanding social physics lets people “tune” social networks and obtain the results they want. This allows certain aspects of human life—from how companies operate to even how communities work—to be “re-engineered” to make them more efficient.  And of course if you actually “Google” Pentland, you can watch one of his videos taken from… You guessed it… Google’s campus. My point is that this not just rewarmed “team” stuff. This movement involves the best brains in the world using data and science to reimagine teamwork. 

We know that accelerating peer-to-peer collaboration will unleash greater creativity, harnessing groups that become more engaged and autonomous. Work will likely be more rewarding. In full flight of exploration is the relationship between group effectiveness in conjunction with machine learning/artificial intelligence, and data science. And that whole world is rapidly evolving.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn how to use EVERY part of the G Suite or a similar tool set in your personal life if you can’t at work. Get darn uncomfortable with this new way.  And by the way, I sure as heck am. How fun and exciting! 
  2. Learn everything you can about the Cloud, AI, Big Data, and do not think it’s for tech folks because we are all tech people now. In fact, I think the coolest fusion is “Geeks & Jocks.” Be hybrid (and recognize that no amount of reading helps me understand why the market values Snap at $30+B???? Haha).

Socially Physical in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: This is the best “if you can’t beat em, join em” situation that most of us could ask for. Resisters have already lost without knowing it, so everyone might as well enlist! I certainly don’t see any negatives, and it truly is exciting to start incorporating G Suite and Slack into your professional lives (I use both). Find your gurus, read their stuff, follow their Instagram, listen to their podcasts, and start figuring out how to implement their practices into your own routines. Gosh, remember when science and technology may have been boring in the classroom? Times have changed.

– Garrett Rubis

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,

Lorne 

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

Error No. 1: Not Enough Urgency

Key Point: “When is the urgency rate high enough? From what I have seen, the answer is when about 75 percent of a company’s management is honestly convinced that business as usual is totally unacceptable. Anything less can produce very serious problems later on in the process.” That is a quote from Harvard’s John Kotter, arguably the preeminent scholar on institutional transformation. He has studied hundreds of companies undergoing intentional change in a variety of settings over the last few decades. While Kotter has been studying transformation and change, I’ve been instrumentally involved LEADING IT in organizations over the last 40 years. My experience has also been in a variety of settings. In almost every case, these organizations fundamentally transformed themselves into a much better state and/or at minimum survived seismic shocks to their ecosystem. A couple failed; one ran out of money and the other ran out value. That experience has translated into a lot of learning. I believe (hopefully confidently and humbly) that I can credibly execute on a framework to successfully lead an organization transformation anywhere (the not so humble part). It is an exhilarating, daunting and ultimately rewarding process. I agree with most of Kotter’s analysis on the conditions for transformation success and failure and I essentially agree with what he refers to as ERROR No. 1. Here is a little about what he says about that

“Most successful change efforts begin when some individuals or some groups start to look hard at a company’s competitive situation… Then find ways to communicate this information broadly and dramatically, especially with respect to crises, potential crises, or great opportunities that are very timely. This first step is essential because just getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won’t help, and the effort goes nowhere… Compared with other steps in the change process, phase one can sound easy. It is not. Well over 50 percent of the companies I have watched fail in this first phase… A paralyzed senior management often comes from having too many managers and not enough leaders. Management’s mandate is to minimize risk and to keep the current system operating. Change, by definition, requires creating a new system, which in turn always demands leadership. Phase one in a renewal process typically goes nowhere until enough real leaders are promoted or hired into senior-level jobs.”

The reason that I “mostly agree ” with Kotter is that I would add “leadership mindset” to “leadership urgency.” My experience is that some leaders truly want to feel a sense urgency, yet struggle to lead it. They just do not have that fearless ability to jump. They get to the edge, study everything into paralysis and convince themselves that inertia is less risky than moving forward. Staying put is usually a great strategy if you’re physically lost in a survival situation… Let’s say after a hiking accident on an isolated mountain trail. Why? People are usually trying to rescue you and it’s often easier to “take you off the ledge if you stay put.” No one is trying to rescue your organization. Frankly, the opposite is true… They are usually, without personal attribution, trying to displace you. So if the urgency is not there, people will usually talk about it and unfortunately not fundamentally change. And why is it really, really hard? To transform your organization, a leader has to transform him or herself first. That is being fiercely and personally accountable. Top leaders are often the worst urgency saboteurs; their power points slickly describe the need for transformation and when you look at what they’ve executed on, often its too little too late. The same people are doing essentially the same things. And it’s worse when short-term incentives are being met. Do you have a sense of urgency AND a mindset of relentlessly transforming yourself first? If not, get out of the way and prepare yourself for somebody transforming your world.

Character Moves:

  1. Assess your urgency status? Does over 75 percent of yourself feel the urgency? Do 75 percent of the leaders in your organization have the deeply held belief that transformation is vital? How do you really know?
  1. Assess whether leaders know how to fundamentally transform themselves and drive the required change. Start with yourself. How will you need to lead differently? Do you know how to establish an inspiring transformative vision and reset expectations accordingly? If you can’t answer that, you’re risking being an academic voyeur. 

Mindful urgency in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I’ve certainly been in situations at work recently where you want to encourage a leader to “jump! Jump! Jump!” It’s strange when you see where your organization can improve, but you maybe aren’t privy to some crucial details (specific budget figures, long term plans, or even your department’s decision making capabilities). Plus, of course your leader must know better than you, right? Any ideas you have are already being discussed. Must be, right? Well, I don’t know. Perhaps most don’t know, but if we’re all moving towards the improvement of our organization, then a pathway for conversation should hopefully be encouraged and available.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Fearless Dragon Lady

Key Point: There is so much that can be accomplished when you combine a vivid dream with the ability to spit grit, and have the courage to commit. The flip side of that coin includes being able to take a risk, have the agility to pivot, the chops to face inevitable failure, and resiliency to move on. 

Imagine being a 19-year-old Indo-Canadian woman with a dream to build a beer empire. And to make sure you have enough start up capital, you have to sell your car. Really? That is exactly what Manjit Minhas did. I had the privilege of having a personal conversation with her in front of 100 or so eager listeners this past Saturday. She just celebrated her 36th birthday, and is the ultimate example of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Manjit and her partner/brother Ravinder now own one of the biggest breweries in North America. The Minhas Micro Brewery in Calgary makes unique and specialty beers such as the Lazy Mutt Alberta Wheat Beer and Gluten Free beer. The Minhas Micro Distillery, which opened in 2012, distills and bottles premium spirits and liqueurs such as Platinum 10 times distilled VodkaBlumers MoonshineMaya Horchata and Chinook Rye Whisky. In 2015, Manjit’s liquor companies (and they have other successful businesses) had revenues in excess of $200 million. 

In early 2015, the CBC selected Manjit to star on the highly popular TV reality show, Dragons’ Den, and she is now one of the most followed and recognized business leaders in Canada. If I published all of the accomplishments of this married mother of two, it would fill this whole blog post. Please Google her for more, but you get the point.

When you listen deeply to Manjit, you understand her incredible tenacity. She was a field hockey star in school and her love of sports drives her fearless grit. She has overcome one obstacle after another. There were many times when the business looked like it might fail. She talks about being totally discounted and overlooked in a man’s world. It was tough enough to be a young woman barely above the legal drinking age in Canada let alone being a visible minority. She admits having a lot of nights that included tears of frustration, but they also fueled relentless determination. 

So what does Manjit’s story mean to you and me? Few of us will ever become beer royalty or TV stars. However, every one of us can have a dream with a plan to move towards it. Each of us can choose to take a risk, knowing some failure will be inevitable. And the grit to get up time after time to keep going in the direction of that dream, however big or small, is available to all of us. Here is what I do absolutely know. To move forward, we all have to “jump.” Nothing happens unless we do. Manjit’s version of “selling the car” awaits us all. How long do you want to wait before you do? 

Character Moves:

  1. For heaven’s sake… Jump! It doesn’t mean being reckless, but it does involve courage. We can all get up if the landing isn’t fatal, and it rarely is .
  1. Manjit’s other insight: “Stand out.” Dare yourself to become great. Know darn well that you’re going to have to pivot. Do not make up stories about why you can’t or shouldn’t. Ask yourself this question: “What would you be doing today if you knew for sure you couldn’t fail?” Answer. Then go do it. Be your own fearless Dragon. Thank you, Manjit. Thank you for standing out for all of us. Continue to show us the way!

Dragons in the Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: A “thank you” is definitely in order. Millennials like me need these stories on a regular basis… We talk a lot about “comfort,” and knowing that we should avoid getting stuck. But, all too often, it’s just “talk.” Stories like Manjit’s are like a Groupon for skydiving, we just have to stop talking about it, sign up, and jump.

– 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

Listen to Lorne's latest podcasts

Confidence, Patti Smith and Dylan: Failing authentically

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Asking for feedback: The why

Taking on a new role: Lorne's journey

Lessons from Dot: Integrating technology into workplace culture

 

The Character Triangle Companion

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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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