Upside Down Leadership

Accountability Be Accountable

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Key Point: Overall, leadership isn’t getting much better. Even though organizations are spending tons of money on leadership development, statistically we aren’t seeing much leadership improvement. According to a recent HBR article: “70 percent of leaders rate themselves as inspiring and motivating – much in the same way as we all rate ourselves as great drivers. But this stands in stark contrast to how employees perceive their leaders. A survey published by Forbes found that 65 percent of employees would forego a pay raise if it meant seeing their leader fired, and a 2016 Gallup engagement survey found that 82 percent of employees see their leaders as fundamentally uninspiring. In our opinion, these two things are directly related. There is a vast upside to human leadership. As data from McKinsey & Company shows, when employees are intrinsically motivated, they are 32 percent more committed and 46 percent more satisfied with their job and perform 16 percent better.”

The idea that there is a vast upside to human leadership is a head scratcher. I guess somewhere along the road we signed up for inhuman leadership? And 65 percent would forego a raise to see their boss fired? Holy cow! So, how might we rapidly change this so-called inhuman leadership?

Based on 40 plus years of real world experience and leading research, I suggest the following:

  1. Allow employees to transparently rate leaders in confidential ways. The data trend would be your friend, or not. If we used a minimum number of input (10 people?) to openly rate leaders, we would see leadership improve dramatically. The audience is usually right. People have a right to great leaders. Continued poor ratings would require leaders to improve or be replaced.
  2. Expect that every leader should ask for feedback FIRST. Leaders like the ability and even expect to give feedback to direct reports. However, modern research reinforces the value of leaders creating psychologically safer environments, by setting the foundation for meaningful conversations and asking how they might improve first!
  3. Change one-on-one meetings to have leaders ask only two questions: How might I help you? What might I do better to advance our purpose?
  4. Adjust the span of leadership control to a minimum of 20 to 1. Leaders spend too much time “checking up” rather than adding value. Most of the time meetings are for leaders’ need to know and command/control. In more modern systems, leaders are more like gardeners than commanders.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. How are you rated as a leader by your direct reports? Would you be recommended to a friend? Family member? If Uber drivers are rated, shouldn’t you, me and all leaders be too?
  2. Get out in front and ask for feedback first. Say “thank you,” and go forward.

Turning things right side up in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: For Millennials, it seems that the most attractive organizations to work for offer as much autonomy as possible. If a leader doesn’t trust that their employees know how to do their job, then why the heck did they hire them? That said, leaders should also be revered. It’s FUN to have a great leader: A mentor you look up to, a person you want to perform well for, and someone with the ability to give you occasional positive acknowledgment or a kick-in-the-pants if need be. Leaders should strive to be bragged about by their employees at happy hour, not the subject of a “screw them” toast.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Leaders: Connect the Friggin’ Dots

Accountability Be Accountable

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Key Point: Leaders, stop whining there is too much to do, and start translating and connecting the dots. Most often, it’s NOT that organizations are asking too much. The challenge is that leaders can be better at explaining and linking the initiatives so that they are accessible to all. And team members, get over yourselves and learn this stuff.

Organizations are like layered cakes, and activities flow at every level. Is it possible to have the people in an organization focus on the following elements at the same time?

  • Purpose.
  • Values.
  • Exponential.
  • 10x.
  • Customer obsessed.
  • Growth mindset.
  • Digital competence.
  • Agile.
  • Lean.
  • Engagement.
  • Collaboration.
  • Flow.
  • Transformation.
  • System thinking.
  • Minimal viable products.
  • 85/10/5 consumption.
  • Big data/data science.
  • Silo busting.
  • Cult brands.
  • AI/Machine learning.
  • Cloud.
  • Massive Transformative Purpose.
  • Etc.

The answer is YES, and effective leadership has to TRANSLATE and CONNECT so people at all levels understand the relationships, along with helping people make personal, emotional connections to each concept or initiative, while they do their jobs. It is much more of an inclusive than additive exercise.

The above is hardly an exhaustive list, and my explanation in the appendix below (if you care to read it), is cursory at best. However, understanding and decisively applying each element is VITAL to people in organizations, regardless of industry, location or size.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Leaders: Stop being big babies and complaining about capacity and the challenge of translating/connecting. If it’s too much, go somewhere off the grid and grow cabbage.
  2. Team members: Stop whining about consumption. Be self-accountable enough to absorb and relish ALL (and more). If not, join your pal above in the cabbage patch

Connecting the dots in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

Appendix – Lorne Rubis brief translation/connection to the list:

In ATB Financial’s case, our purpose is labelled as our Story. Its 94 words outline every single person’s WHY. Our values are described in 10 ATBs. These guide our behaviors and commitment to each other. Everything else translates into and connects to the Story and ATBs. Having a growth mindset, exponentiality and 10x, is a way of thinking and working that addresses personal and organizational behavior as it applies to both innovation and transformation. Exponentiality is defined mathematically, while an MTP outlines a very big idea often tied to exponential technology. Agile and Lean involve both prescriptive methodologies and philosophical mindsets. One needs to be clear whether applying an approach and/or the literal tools (where agile words like sprint/scrums, etc. take on literal meaning). MVP is a very fast product or service that can be rapidly customer tested prior to full production. Being customer obsessed is a strategic intention and can also involve very distinct actions based on customer experience science (like customer journey mapping). Big data and data science involves the application of algorithms and predictive data search. Collaboration includes teaming in advanced ways using visual and connective tools residing in modern productivity/communication platforms like Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s 365. Digital competence includes a digital technology understanding that enables leveraging of advanced digital technology. Flow, systems thinking and silo busting is a way of looking at how an organization works as a connected system rather than disconnected functions (silos). Engagement can be a way of describing how much people feel they can trust and contribute. It can also have a literal meaning like in ATB where it specifically refers to 5,000 people responding to six consistent survey questions. Cloud computing, of course, refers to all data being stored in multiple locations and servers somewhere outside the organization firewall. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are related but different applications of bot technology. 85/10/5 refers to our ability to do daily work and consume new learning expressed in percentage terms. A company becomes a cult brand when its customers feel indispensable loyalty. 

Please add this to the above list to make it more complete and/or accurate.

One Millennial View: No new player has ever been drafted to a sports team and then refused to learn the playbook. This has to be a similar mindset. First of all, you should be going into an interview for the position with an understanding and appreciation for an organization’s mission statement. Incase you squeak through the hiring process without this step, then connecting the dots for yourself is day one stuff. Yeah, it would be helpful if leaders assist with this process, but make a point of doing it yourself. You shouldn’t just do it, you should like it. Or else, I guess people still buy cabbage.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Other Side of Epic Failures  

Abundance

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Key Point: Risk and reward go together like two sides of a coin. If you want to experience great rewards, you need to take calculated risks. The last few blogs have been examples of some personal, epic failures. I want to balance that perspective with some of the rewards associated with taking those risks. Please allow me to share a few of them:

Epic Failure 1: Fortune 50 Company

  • Worked directly for the Chair/CEO and facilitated strategic discussions like determining whether to purchase 25 percent of Time Warner; Facilitated the potential outcome of splitting the company into two distinct entities (growth and value). Both resulted in tremendous value increase for shareholders.
  • Participated in the growth of the wireless/cable telephony business in eastern europe and observed entire countries dramatically change commerce and personal communications.
  • Experienced and observed the board of directors meetings/private dinners of this company and connected with iconic board members like Mary Gates (Bill’s mom), the chair/CEO of Dow, 3M, vice chair of Ford etc .
  • Worked daily with incredibly talented office mates like Tom Bouchard ( became world wide HR of IBM) , John O’Farrell (Now partner in big time Silicon Valley VC, Andreesen Horowitz).

Epic Failure 2: Catalogue IT Company

  • Learned how to sell low margin IT infrastructure to both consumers and business.
  • Established a reference and framework for transforming a mid-size company in mid flight.
  • Led a team of believers to win the contract to procure IT for all of MICROSOFT ($100 million plus/annum), and helped the company crossover to a true IT Business reseller.
  • Experienced the nuances and operating responsibility of running a publicly traded company end to end.

Epic Failure 3: Voice over IP startup:

  • Learned what running a hungry tech startup meant/felt like.
  • Experienced the challenge of selling emerging technology into a legacy market.
  • Appreciated never to take anything for granted and to be grateful for all.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Remember that risk and reward go together and the key determiner of success is YOU. Others may have a view and even data as evidence one way or another. However, the criteria of success that is most important is your own .
  2. The biggest regret expressed by the dying, based on research by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, was the wish to have the courage to NOT live the lives others expected. Be intentional about what YOU want to do; not what you think others want you to do.
  3. Consider the following quote by Meg Cabot; ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, BUT THE CAUTIOUS DO NOT LIVE at ALL!”

Have the courage to live in Personal Leadership

Lorne

One Millennial View: It’s amazing to realize how many of the courageous people died in WWI and WWII. Think about it. Now, we’re the generation that lives way after, but hopefully not without remembering those who truly were not cautious and saved the world for us.

–  Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

A Series: Learning From My Epic Failures (Part 3)

Be Respectful Respect

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Key Point: Timing is everything. And sometimes things happen that can best be explained as plain, bad luck. Epic Failures No. 1 and No. 2 outlined in my last couple blogs, ironically played into No. 3. When I was with the Fortune 50 Company, (US WEST), I met lots of brilliant Telcom engineers and business people. A few of them I really respected started a voice over the internet startup, and they asked me to join the team. This was essentially Skype (before Skype), circa late 90’s, and the “dot.com” world was on fire. I was being recruited by all kinds of startups, and company valuations were crazy high. Stock options/payouts and buyouts/IPOs, were the news of the day. It was a modern day gold rush, and many of the so called .coms were proven to be .cons. They were being hyped with little or no profit performance. Still, the bubble seemed unstoppable, and we believed our new company (AuraServ) was better and different than a lot of the other hype out there.

AuraServ seemed like a no lose deal. Great technology, an excellent value proposition, superb management team, funded by one of Silicon Valley’s premiere VCs, etc. I then was the COO of a technology company (epic No. 2), and had earned a ton of stock options. However, I was in my early 50’s, our girls both in private U.S. universities, Garrett still in high school. Probably not the best personal time to take a big risk. On the other hand, my due diligence determined (along with the assessment of many others I got advice from) that this was a sure bet. And, if I was going to be part of a tech startup, it seemed like now or never? The plan:  I would sell my options upon leaving my current company (a little back up nest egg). Then, with this new voice internet powerhouse, I would experience building a super company with great purpose and potentially make a financial home run, too.

Then it happened: The .com market bubble burst almost overnight and severely discounted and penalized most technology stocks, including the company I left. My stock options were now ALL under water and I had to exercise them within a time frame that was unfavorable (no nest egg and a BIG ouch). And, if you are old enough to remember that time, almost all investment capital immediately dried up. Even though AuraServ was getting customers and meeting revenue commitments, we could not get our next round of funding. Uh oh! We ran out of cash, and out of business. Over 100 employees now without work. Disappointed people I deeply cared for who believed in me. Our family investment, gone! Holy %#!*!  It took me two months without a pay check to ensure every person working for me that wanted to have a job, found one. Now, I had to recover personally. It was a miserable time for me. 

The good news with a supportive wife and family, a little good luck, personal perseverance, and hard work, I bounced back and became the CEO of another company. While the AuraServ outcome was disappointing, I was proud of the results we achieved and learned a lot about myself. I recognize how much I am a blessed and fortunate man with way more than anyone could ask for.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Sometimes all the due diligence and analysis are impacted by events totally out of one’s control. Be mentally prepared that this could happen at any time. Know your risk tolerance. How much are you willing to lose? How resilient are you if the worst happens? Well run organizations intentionally manage risk. We need our personal risk plan too. Do you have yours? By the way, the flip side of risk is opportunity.
  2. The essence of purposeful living involves progressing on things that the market or other commercial endeavors cannot take away from us. Love, purpose, family, adventure, learning… Everything material goes away in time. While we all know that, sometimes we get to practice experiencing it before we die. And I believe we become better for it.
  3. Please read Dan Pink’s new book, “When,”which puts more science behind the issue of timing. 

Grateful and Resilient in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: In Tony Robbins’ new book “Unshakable,” (which is primarily about financial wealth), he emphasizes the importance of “real wealth” extending to being emotionally, psychologically and spiritually sound, too. Other wise words I’ve heard recently pertaining to when things get tough: “Tend your garden. No one can take that away from you.” Certainly something to keep in mind when you’re in the grind. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

A Series: Learning From My Epic Failures (Part 2)

Be Respectful Respect

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Key Point: See the intro from Part 1 in this series for an explanation as to why I’m sharing these stories. I hope you find an insight or two.

It was 1996, and I had recently become the COO of a publicly traded (NASDAQ) computer reseller. I was promoted from the VP of Sales position. To my surprise, the Chairman and CEO who hired me was abruptly removed, and the company was now being led by the principal shareholder, who I had no real history with. (He is an exceptional businessman, and I came to admire him). He had never run a company in this market before. What we both realized, was that the organization had to be completely transformed. We had to urgently reinvent ourselves from a catalogue company, selling computers primarily to consumers, to a direct sales company selling computers and IT infrastructure to businesses. This market was being defined by IBM, Dell and Microsoft. The internet e-commerce world was just beginning. Apple under John Scully was struggling. CDW and Insight were leading the business reseller channel. Catalogue selling computers to anyone was rapidly disappearing. Everything was uphill for us.

My natural strength as a leader was to enrich the culture and increase the engagement of our team of 600+ folks. I threw everything I knew into recognizing, informing, developing and including employees. I leveraged every ounce of my leadership team’s energy to muster productivity improvements so we might compete more effectively. So, here’s what I learned in retrospect: Focusing on getting people to work more productively within a flawed business model is the wrong thing to do. While we were vigorously changing the entire business framework, I would have doubled down on that effort. This work has to be done at the top of the house. I was unwittingly asking too much of people before the strategic foundation was dramatically improved. (I recognize that this is very tough, kinda like changing the engine on a plane mid-flight). There is a difference between hard work and things being too hard. When the customer value and business model is right, hard work and productivity improvement builds momentum. When things are just too difficult, extraordinary effort results in survival more than progress.

(P.S.  Based on the work started by the Chairman and our leadership, the company did reinvent itself and thrives today, some 20+ years later).

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. When you leave for what looks like a great opportunity and promotion, really look under the rocks and do your due diligence before saying yes. You may get a title and pay raise only to find that the strategic model makes it really hard to win. The reverse is also true.
  2. Make sure the trifecta of company purpose, business model, and values are right for you. If not, you might end up asking way too much of yourself and teammates. Hard work does not mean everything needs to be like walking in mud.

A great business model in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I wonder how many Millennials really consider the company’s purpose, business model and values while they attempt to work their way up the ladder. This is a great reminder that no matter what position you hold at the organization you work for, it’s better to keep turning over stones to see what you’re really standing on.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis