Hiding in the ‘We’eds!

Key Point: There must be an “I” in team. I am totally committed to effective, high performance teamwork as the only way to win and sustain success in any organization. However, I have become somewhat concerned that the vitality and urgency of individual contribution can get lost when we focus exclusively on “we.” A team can only be great when individuals are fiercely self-accountable about their personal contribution. It is important that the “I” in team does not skid into narcissism. This demands that our individual contributions include results that positively impact the team for the greater good.

People are attracted to self-accountable people because they lead and take responsibility for their own performance first. The “I’s” in team set the pace, step up, and avoid trying to fix the “we” in advance of fixing themselves first. My antennae go up when I hear “we” in the same dysfunctional way as when the infamous “they” is thrown about. The phrase, “I wish we could/should…” is only marginally better than, “I wish they could/should… ” I’ve come to label this thinking and behavior as “hiding in the ‘we’eds.’”

I’m not a fan of people who say, “I did this,” “I did that.” But I’m a huge fan of people who quietly “do.” These types of folks just fire up in the morning and get it done. And when it’s time for recognition they gladly share it with the “we.” Here’s what I’ve come to appreciate about the best “I’s” in teams; these people keep one eye (“I”) on the higher purpose, while working autonomously, loving what they do, and really connecting with others. Coincidentally, the research denotes that these four behaviors are the key ingredients of personal happiness.

Character Moves:

  1. Help define your team by what YOU personally do. Look in the mirror first. Set the bar. Be the example. Give and do not expect anything in return. Do it because it will bring genuine happiness to you and the “we” you care about. 
  1. Let go of fear, keep your compass aimed at the greater good, and just friggin’ “bring it.” Be the “I” that your teammates just love to be around. Occasionally you will run into people that will be scarcity folks. They will try and diminish you. Sometimes, it will hurt. Breathe deep and just keep giving it. Things will work out in the long run. How could they not? 

“I” Teamwork in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: I really appreciate the phrase, “act like you’ve been there before.” You know, the idea that when you personally achieve something positive, you don’t NEED to make a spectacle of it. Certainly no, “hey, I did that. It was me.” Thanks to the roots you’ve already planted, it’s expected of you. Being a clutch teammate isn’t a surprise, and you have the confidence to know that too.  Obnoxious individual excitement would seem forced, and you sure don’t need a parade. This is often attributed to sports, but it can really apply to any facet of life. Whether it’s a customer or clerk saying “wow, thanks” for helping an old woman at the grocery store, or the next time you play a key role helping your team to that next big accomplishment at work, you can use that positive energy to fuel the next well intentioned step. After all, you’ve been there before, right?

 – Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

It’s Not My Fault But it’s MY Problem!

Key Point: If you want a simple and straight forward way of describing “leadership,” then embrace the title of this blog: “It’s not my fault but it’s MY problem.” This is the essence of the “self-accountability” leg of the Character Triangle. It is always refreshing and even inspirational when one runs into someone who leads themselves this way. And it’s a gateway for earning the ability to effectively lead others. You and I do NOT need a formal leadership role or title to think and behave like this. We just need to ignore fault or blame (which is different from the importance of determining root cause) AND take responsibility to work the problem confronting us. Could you imagine how much better customer service and life would be in the world if people consistently practiced this mantra?

You may or may not like Maureen Dowd‘s op-ed in the Sunday New York Times. It is usually entertaining if not right on point. This Sunday August 2, she reminded me of the importance of acting versus explaining and concludes her provocative column this way: 

“The Bushes did not want to be put on the couch, but the thin-skinned Obama jumped on the couch at his news conference, defensively whining about Republicans, Putin, Israel and Hamas and explaining academically and anemically how he’s trying to do the right thing but it’s all beyond his control.

Class is over, professor. Send in the President.” 

I remember a challenging situation in my career where I was positioned to lead, and for a variety of excuse driven reasons, I chose to explain more, rather than act more. I definitely did not cause a major problem in this Fortune 50 Company, but I certainly had a formal and informal mandate to lead. I missed an opportunity to step into a vacuum that was waiting for my strength of conviction and action. It took years and much personal reflection for me to understand that I chose to explain more than lead in that situation. I have taken that personal leadership lesson forward in everything I do. What the organization was saying to me at that time was (which I did not fully recognize): “Class is over… Send in the (LEADER).” Ouch! 

It may be unreasonable and perhaps even unfair that people (as Dowd painfully points out) want Barack Obama to lead more than explain. However, this is the essence of leadership and most of us respond and are inspired by those who lead themselves first by taking action to “work the problem.” We usually do not expect a “silver bullet” or even trust that Big Bang approaches are effective. But we typically rally around people who methodically and tenaciously move matters forward because of a self-declaration to “own” the challenge. When we explain while accelerating matters forward, it is understood as context. The height of the formal leadership perch is most often related to the complexity and difficulty of the problem. If you want to be a leader, practice taking on the little problems every day and eventually you will earn the privilege of leading on the big juicy ones. Unless you like to stop at, “it’s not my fault.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Think about whether you embrace the principle, “it’s not my fault but it’s my problem.” How much is this the guiding premise behind all you do? Or are you better at explaining to emphatically ensure people understand that “it’s not my fault and therefore it’s not my problem.” 
  2. Work it! Take a self-accountable approach to every problem. Ask yourself what you can do about it. As the self-accountable chapter in The Character Triangle emphasizes, it’s the “what, how, by when” response and action YOU personally take that makes the leadership difference. 
  3. Step into the void. Remember that timing is important too. There is an opportunity window as problems arise. Powerful leaders know how to fill that vacuum with confidence and assurance at the time others are on “stand-by.” Do you do that? 

It’s MY problem in the Triangle, 


One Millennial View: There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a leader display a lack of action and instead point fingers… It seems almost cowardly. I love learning this lesson early. Thinking back to high school football, we’d talk about the type of people we wanted “in our foxhole.” You want to step into the huddle with people who attack the problem and derive a plan for a solution, not rely on another squad to get the job done. The office is no different than the gridiron or a foxhole in that regard. Let’s all make the problem ours despite what/who may be at fault, and win together. 

– Garrett Rubis 

Edited and Published by Garrett Rubis

Are We Becoming Too Darned Soft?

Key Point: I’m starting to wonder if we have collectively lost some level of mental toughness we owe ourselves. Employee engagement scores are at all time lows, in part because more than ever, employees are blaming companies for inadequacies (some well deserved). “It is someone else’s fault that I’m not thriving at work.” “It is somebody else to blame because my career is not progressing.” Apparently, the mysterious “they” is out to prevent people from achieving something or another.

I was struck by Thomas Friedman‘s Op Ed in the New York Times. Essentially teachers are being blamed, more than ever, for students’ inability to get their work done and completed well. If students get D’s and F ‘s, the administration and parents now find “it’s mostly because the teachers haven’t found the key to performance.” “Students don’t get assignments in on time because they are burdened with Facebook and text time.” Huh? Read the article. I hope it makes you stop and think about what this means.

Hey, I’m a big fan of giving feedback effectively and all the enlightened things a good coach should do. But be self-accountable enough to recognize your part in the scheme of things. If you are not clear on your assignment… Get clear. If you’re not engaged… Do what you can to get there. Stop being such a big baby and so darn soft. I’m not asking you to apply self-blame either. That’s destructive. But be honest with yourself. Just do your part to step up. If you’re getting a “D” at work, figure out how to fix it. And if you get feedback that it’s not going well, have the mental toughness to understand your part. I owe the organization A+ work, not B work. If not, I need to suck it up, and fix it… No excuses.

Character Moves:

  1. Take a mental toughness check. How do you think about grading? Demand self-excellence? You can do so and still be kind and empathetic to yourself and others.
  2. Ask yourself if you are taking on the right balance of responsibility for the success of others. (Including your kids, etc, in your personal life).
  3. Getting an A is earned, not a given right. Are you mentally tough enough to demand excellence of yourself and others?

Mentally tough in The Triangle,



The Person Writing on the Whiteboard Has the Eraser!

Key Point: Please be aware that your and my name is on a whiteboard, either literally or figuratively. And the person writing on the whiteboard has the eraser. If you are an employee, your boss (if he or she is doing their job effectively) is evaluating whether you and I are the right fit. This may not happen daily, but it is occurring a heck of a lot more often than yearly. Why? It is not personal (although the outcome for you and me is), but business models are changing so rapidly that job roles and priority business requirements are doing the same. Yours and my skill set might have been the perfect match yesterday but is it as valuable today?

Recently, an executive friend of mine, who is the CEO of a privately owned business, sent me a picture of a whiteboard in his office. This person was going through an exercise determining what was required for the business, matching the key individuals/roles on his/her executive team with what was needed to accelerate the organization. On the whiteboard were the names of people who were great matches for the next 12 to 24 months, those that were question marks, and those (unknowingly to them) who were going to be asked to leave.

All of those folks who were going to be terminated, at one time were perfect matches for what the company needed, and assessed as high performing. But their micro world changed faster than they did. So what does this mean to you and me? We can never get complacent about job security. There is literally no such thing these days in the hyper competitive, global marketplace, and none of us can believe we are indispensable. This can be disconcerting or freeing. Let’s focus on the latter. Think of yourself as a valuable free agent in the marketplace, on an ever renewable, daily contract with your current employer or customers.

Character Moves:

  1. Recognize that no (or very few) organizations can sincerely offer long-term job security. You and I are more responsible than ever for ensuring WE have job security based on the attributes and skills we have and are continuously developing, rather than the security offered by the company we keep. Think of yourself as a growing, ever improving artisan/expert rather than an employee. Love the company you’re with, but recognize that the relationship is based on your value today and potential for tomorrow. Not what you did yesterday. Seniority means almost nothing.
  2. Face the fact that you and I have our literal names written up on a whiteboard, restructure document, etc. all the time for “keeping,” “developing.” or “removing.” And do not take it personally or feel offended. That’s just the way it is. The assessments will happen in rapidly increasing time intervals. Our self-accountable responsibility is agility through growing our marketable skills and attributes. This doesn’t mean living in the shadow of insecurity. On the contrary, it is living and working, with “eyes wide open.” No fear because we put ourselves in control.
  3. Work for an organization committed to growing your personal equity (rather than implying or hinting at job security). In reciprocation to bringing your best contribution to the company, you need to come out “richer” the other side of employment. If the company culturally cares about you, the system (your boss and others) will invest in you and support you investing in yourself. You should have opportunities to grow financially, experientially, in relationships, wellness, and more. One day you will leave (on your or the organization’s terms), confident you will be more valuable than ever in the broader market place when you go.
  4. If you have not developed and increased your market place value in the last 12 months, proactively plan to get out of your situation ASAP. Don’t be dumb through avoidance. You are likely being employed as a commodity rather than as a growing, valuable asset and therefore you will be replaced by technology, or someone less expensive/easier to get along with, etc. sooner than later. You need to move with the needs of the company and to be of continuous value. If not, know you have added to your equity for participation in the broader market place. You must proactively be holistically richer today than when you joined your employer! (This applies to entrepreneurs too… Some competitor wants to dislocate you… So while you may not have a “boss,” the same pressures apply to you and the value proposition of your company). Grow your equity or go somewhere where you can. You and I must. We are worth it!

Always on the whiteboard in the Triangle,



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

Breathe fire: Leading and inspiring ourselves

Asking for feedback: The why

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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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