Simply Complex

Key Point: Recently, there has been much political rhetoric suggesting that going backwards will somehow help us go forward; well I’m sorry to upset your rice bowl, but we can’t. Yes, nationalistic platforms like Brexit or “Make America Great Again” may rally an emotional response and outcome. However, it is impossible to go back to the romantic notions that baby boomers and others remember of the 50’s/60’s or other decades. Why? We are becoming even more global whether we like it or not, AND borders cannot effectively stymie the flow of information even though some dictatorships try. According to recent NYT article, “the American economy is inextricably linked to the global economy. It’s estimated that one-fifth of jobs here are now tied to international trade. Moreover, many of the world’s major challenges — climate change, instability in financial markets, food and water insecurity, infectious diseases, migration, war and terrorism — are complex, interdependent and borderless. And with 40 million foreign-born residents, the United States is itself a global society with deep emotional ties to many nations and cultures.”

Organizations around the world are microcosms of this increasingly connected global world. Turn on CNN and watch for just a few minutes. There is so much work we still need to do regarding more respectfully understanding each other. It makes me wonder how we can do a better job in organizations to appreciate the full global diversification that define the full fabric and rich tapestry of our work cultures today. If we do not better understand the world around us, and it’s many perspectives, how can we lead ourselves and companies accordingly? Quickly test yourself on the following:

1. In which of these countries is a majority of the population Muslim?

a) South Africa

b) Armenia

c) India

d) Indonesia

2. Which language is spoken by the most people in the world as their primary language?

a) Russian

b) Mandarin Chinese

c) English

d) Arabic

3. Which country is the largest trading partner of the United States, based on the total dollar value of goods and services?

a) Canada

b) China

c) Mexico

d) Saudi Arabia

4. Approximately what percentage of the United States federal budget is spent on foreign aid?

a) 1 percent

b) 5 percent

c) 12 percent

d) 30 percent

e) 40 percent

5. Which countries is the United States bound by treaty to protect if they are attacked?

a) Canada

b) China

c) Japan

d) Mexico

e) North Korea

f) Russia

g) South Korea

h) Turkey

6. True or False: Over the past five years, the number of Mexicans leaving the United States and returning to Mexico has been greater than the number of Mexicans entering the United States.

*Answers, with percentage of respondents who gave the correct answer.

1. d (29 percent)

2. b (49 percent)

3. a (10 percent)

4. a (12 percent)

5. a (47 percent), c (28 percent), g (34 percent), h (14 percent)

6. True (34 percent)

The above quiz, which appeared in the same NYT article noted above, is obviously presented through an American lens. However, the message applies to all of us. And as noted in the wrap up of the editorial: “The world has changed in such profound ways that developing an understanding of complexity is paramount. Whatever the policy, the idea that things are simple, or black and white, and we can’t put a blanket on them and feel that it’s going to have the desired impact — that idea can become very dangerous.”

Character Moves:

  1. How much do you know about the various cultures and viewpoints in your organization? Get engaged and regularly put yourself in the shoes of someone or group who is different than you. This ranges from small gestures like eating the food of other nationalities, to participating in more advanced initiatives to build understanding. One thing for sure, the narrower or more homogeneous the lens we look through, the less likely will we be able to innovate and solve complex problems. We do need common values around treating each other with love and respect AND the richness of embracing diverse ideas and viewpoints that evolve from our global community. 
  1. Ask yourself “why?” if you scored poorly on the above quiz. (Even if you’re not American, I believe you and I should score 100 percent). Frankly I believe every elementary school child should know the answers to these kinds of questions. How can you and I participate in a conversation solving complex issues if we don’t know what’s going on globally and know how to determine the real facts versus “fake news.” To be an effective leader today, we need to be proactively holonic: Global and local at the same time! Acting on this paradox leads to better organizations and I believe, ultimately a more respectfully connected and advanced world.

Simply complex in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: This sure is a complex issue! I’ve never been accused of having all the answers, and I certainly won’t pretend to. We ideally all have a pretty good grasp on what’s right, and what’s wrong, and it’s up to us to uphold the great values we’ve hopefully been taught. As Millennials, sometimes we take all our information from headlines or 140 characters, then follow a crowd to selfishly go to the “like farm,” where we get 100+ approval notices on social media. That’s no way to live either. Research, be smart, and stay educated… As a trained journalist, I know there is a ton of “fake news” out there, and we have to have the diligence and patience to filter and be better than that.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Stand Like a Rock!

Key Point: Seth A. Klarman is a 59-year-old value investor who runs Baupost Group, and the fund manages some $30 billion in assets. He maintains a very low public profile and has been profitable in all but three of the 34 years he has led Baupost. He is considered, in spite of his under-the-radar behavior, a giant within investment circles. According to a recent NYT article on Klarman, “he is often compared to Warren Buffett, and The Economist magazine once described him as ‘The Oracle of Boston,’ where Baupost is based. For good measure, he is one of the very few hedge managers Mr. Buffett has publicly praised.”

Klarman writes a regular newsletter that investors pay a lot of money to subscribe to. According to the same NYT report, Klarman’s last news letter, which raised concerns about the unpredictability of the Trump presidency, ended with the following quote, originally attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Today I hosted a virtual “hang out” where 400 plus team members listened and virtually chatted with one of our most revered executive leaders who’s retiring after 41 years with our company. That alone, is amazing. However, it was such an honor for me to listen to him reflect on his journey and share rich life/career lessons with all in attendance. The following are just a few: 

  1. Become as self-aware as early in your career as possible. Know what your core strengths and limitations are. Build mightily on your strengths. Have the courage to put yourself in uncomfortable situations to test and add muscle to those strengths.
  2. Create effective teams that are truly diverse. High performing ones take advantage of the unique skills of each person on the team and subsequently the group flourishes, becoming much bigger than the sum of its parts. 
  3. Purpose matters and creating a vision towards that purpose rallies and binds all. 
  4. Setting clear expectations so people really understand what’s expected increases overall morale and confidence. 

And much, much more. 

Perhaps the most memorable moment and an inflection point in this fellow’s career was a time when he was put in a position to tell the Chairman of the Board, with overwhelming evidence, that the existing CEO was stepping well outside of reasonable ethical bounds. The CEO was subsequently replaced and the hero of this blog post likely saved the company based on his integrity and strength of conviction. This was a classical example of “standing like a rock.”  It can be seductive to give up and fundamentally compromise on key principles. However, it is a slippery slope to do so. Integrity is vital with any organization and leader. This gentleman is a positive example for the world. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Become very self-aware. Appreciate and define your personal strengths/shortcomings in depth, with the understanding it’s a long and extraordinary journey.  Focus on building on your strengths. 
  1. On your core values/principles: Know them and stand like a rock!! They define you and your legacy. 

Like a rock in the Triangle,

Lorne 

P.S. please enjoy a new podcast release. This unpacks some key questions tied to character move No.1. Enjoy it, and let us know what you think.

One Millennial View: Lessons from life-long experience like the one above are incredibly valuable, especially to us millennials who are still learning how to navigate. To me, the resonating message is when you’re hesitant and believe you can’t do something, shut up and try it. There’s an angle, there’s an answer, there’s an approach. Figure out all the ways you CAN, before you jump to the conclusion that it’s “stupid” or can’t be accomplished. Grit and resilience are principles I stand for, and I think the distinguished retiree above would connect with that as well. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Positive Pride and Hunger to be Needed

Key Point: The hunger to be needed and positive pride are very good emotions, and powerful motivators. On the other hand, insecurity can drive heuristic pride and that’s problematic because arrogance and egotism overshadows. The following is from a thought provoking op-ed by the Dalai Lama, published in the Nov. 4 New York Times:

“Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger… A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed… Being ‘needed’ does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women.”

Pride is an emotion that I believe is related to our hunger to be needed and is positive when it motivates us to work hard and achieve. It can also be negative if it’s is based on insecurity and unbridled egotism. Jessica Tracy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, looks at both sides of pride in her book, titled — Take Pride: Why the Deadly Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success. She notes the following:  “What we found is that pride is a positive. It is what motivates us to work hard and achieve. I like to think of it as the carrot, this thing that we want to feel in our sense of self. We feel it when we’re doing or working or putting in the effort to become the person that we want to be… It’s a long story to say it’s the awareness that there’s a sense of pride I’m not getting in my life that I want to get, that’s what causes people to change their behavior and perform better.” 

I am in the process of leaving one executive role for another. Those of you who read my blog know how much I have loved being the Chief People Officer of our company. Being asked to do something else has put me in front of the mirror. That has been both unsettling and uncomfortable at times. Questions like, “why am I really resisting?” and “what am I really fearful of?” made me squirm a little and wrestle with the dark side of confronting insecurity and hubristic pride. Hmm. On the other hand, confronting those questions is when I came to learn more about myself. I have a healthy hunger to give, be needed and an authentic pride to do great work. If I keep that at the forefront, the world will unfold as it should. How fortunate I am to be fully alive and feel that way. If I start to respond to unfounded fear and insecurity and it becomes about “me,” I will lose my way. 

Character Moves:

  1. Allow yourself to accept that the hunger to be needed is a wonderful human attribute. The following Buddhist teaching is so simple and powerful: “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
  1. The pride of doing something well helps us create the best sense of self. It’s what we’ve heard from our wise elders forever: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” No one needs to validate us when we do good work. We know it. That is authentic, positive pride. Apply that prideful work to the benefit of others, and looking in the mirror will invite a well-earned smile. 

Needed Pride in The Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: If you’re not taking any pride in what you’re doing, then what’s the point? How sad would that be? Sounds like a pretty miserable existence. I think we can all see how “negative pride” could transform into arrogance, cockiness or other ugly traits, so… You know… Just, don’t cross that line. That’s where self-accountability comes in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

Workplace Narcissism Versus Compassion

Key Point: Compassion is good for the bottom line. There is a battle taking place between narcissism and compassion and it is very evident in the workplace. I view narcissism and compassion as the opposite ends of a continuum. Research clearly shows that compassion should be the obvious winner but narcissism is no slouch and seems to be gaining ground. Where are you on the continuum? Do you really know how to observe the difference?

Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an interesting article on what may be a narcissism epidemic in the Feb. 14, New York Times:

“In their book ‘Narcissism Epidemic,’ psychology professors Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell show that narcissism has increased as quickly as obesity since the 1980s. Even our egos are getting fat…This is a costly problem. While full-blown narcissists often report high levels of personal satisfaction, they create havoc and misery around them. There is overwhelming evidence linking narcissism with lower honesty and raised aggression…

The 18th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote about ‘amour-propre,’ a kind of self-love based on the opinions of others. He considered it unnatural and unhealthy, and believed that arbitrary social comparison led to people wasting their lives trying to look and sound attractive to others.

This would seem to describe our current epidemic. Indeed, in the Greek myth, Narcissus falls in love not with himself, but with his reflection. In the modern version, Narcissus would fall in love with his own Instagram feed, and starve himself to death while compulsively counting his followers…”

Hmm… And fighting in the other corner…

In her wonderful new book, The Happiness Track, author Emma Seppala describes compassion as being profoundly “other focused” rather than “self-focused.” Compassion is defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help. It includes empathy AND a compelling sense of wanting to alleviate the suffering of others. As a business concept, it is somewhat foreign but exceptionally relevant and meaningful in the workplace.

Kim Cameron and his colleagues at the University of Michigan have studied the effect of compassionate practices in the workplace. Cameron defines these compassionate practices as:

A. Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.

B. Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.

C. Inspiring one another at work.

D. Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work.

E. Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.

F. Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust and integrity.

In a research article published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Cameron explains that when organizations institute these practices, their performance levels dramatically improve: “’They achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and productivity.’ He adds that the more compassionate the workplace, ‘the higher the performance in profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.’”

Character Moves:

  1. Take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and pause to reflect a little. Ask, “Is this the person I want to be?” Do I want to score higher on the narcissistic continuum? Or?
  1. Read (at minimum) the last chapter of The Happiness Track, and note the latest science and research on compassion. Take the time to reflect. Do I want to score higher on the compassion continuum? Will you consciously strengthen your compassion muscle? Do you know how to? 

Compassion KO’s Narcissism in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: It would be a flat out lie if I said I didn’t both understand and appreciate the importance of “likes” on an Instagram or Facebook post. It’s social currency these days, and us Millennials are obsessed with it, right? Well… That shouldn’t automatically make someone narcissistic; it’s just 2016 being 2016. What happened to the value of compartmentalization? I can enjoy a “like” on social media AND be compassionate at work/in life. Here’s something interesting: “Narcissism Epidemic” author Jean M. Twenge has no easily Google-able social media presence, while her co-writer W. Keith Campbell has a measly 117 Twitter followers (not great for an author referenced in the Sunday New York Times)… Compassion author Emma Seppala has 58,300 Twitter followers and nearly 9,000 likes on Facebook. So who’s spreading their message further? Good thing compassion KO’s that one too.

– 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

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

 

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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