That Little Chip on Your Shoulder

Accountability Growth mindset Transformation

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: Folks like Steve Jobs, who want to put a “dent in the universe,” have a little chip on their shoulder. I have nicknamed people like this, “Chippers.” They are not happy with mediocre or average. They’re not even satisfied with just winning. They don’t want to ever just settle and have a deep belief that they can and will create something exponentially better. Less informed people might even confuse their confidence and persistence with arrogance.

I’m fortunate to be working with a group of leaders who think like that right now. Individually and collectively, we have a chip on our shoulder. We have no intention of just “being a bank.” We actually want to transform banking so that people rave about us being that much better and different than any other comparable financial entity. It’s a fun and exciting place to be. I like to be around “Chippers.” They dream big, have fun and get s#^t done! 

We can’t all be Steve Jobs (and as we all know, he was far from perfect in many aspects) but we can work with a constructive chip on our shoulders. You may have heard the quote, “good is the enemy of great.” Well, “Chippers” don’t ever accept just “good.” And they become tenaciously tied to a set of principles or “Isms…”; key action-guiding principles they intensely believe in. You get hired or fired on these “Isms.”

Quicken Loans is known for lots of things, from torrid growth (the company closed a record $80 billion worth of home loans last year, up from $70 billion in 2012), to much-praised customer service (it is a perennial J.D. Power customer-satisfaction winner), to its intense and outgoing corporate culture. I believe the company’s founder and current CEO are big time “Chippers.” As an example, see this excerpt from a recent HBR article:

“Dan Gilbert and Bill Emerson urged their new colleagues to embrace the idea that, “The inches we need are everywhere around us” — in other words, there are countless small opportunities for people to tweak a product, or improve a process, that lead to big wins in the marketplace. They insisted, no excuses allowed, that everyone agree with the Ism, “Responding with a sense of urgency is the ante to play.” Gilbert personally emphasized again and again, sometimes with jokes, sometimes with withering disdain, the absolute requirement that Quicken employees return every phone call and every email on the same business day they were received. “We are zealots about this,” he thundered, “we are on the lunatic fringe. And if you’re ‘too busy’ to do it, I’ll do it for you” — at which point he gave out his direct-dial extension and promised to return phone calls for any overwhelmed colleagues.” 

Character Moves: 

  1. If you want to “dent the universe,” I think you have to have a positive, big chip on your shoulder. This is a hungry, fierce desire to be exponentially better. It is first and foremost a mindset. Do you have it?
  2. Develop a few personal “Isms” that are both simple AND incredibly powerful if you follow them. For example, I believe a lot of people quit before the finish line. One of my “Isms” is “always finish!” What are your personal, zealot-like “isms” that differentiate you and/or your organization? 

Being Chipper in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I like how this blog notes some “less informed individuals” might confuse “their confidence and persistence with arrogance.” These days, some very successful people like to boast about their superior intelligence, discuss their plans for industry domination and go as far as to compare themselves to deity (what’s up, Kanye West)? That mindset can sound delusional, cringe worthy and infuriate some who may just be like “dude, you have achieved enough ALREADY! Chill out.” Well, to the successful, maybe they’re doing “good” and they still strive for “great.” Who’s to limit or define that for them? Who’s to say you can’t be great too? I don’t condone arrogance, but I sure love confidence, and that fine line is an awesome thing to learn how to balance. I also don’t believe another person’s success will limit your own. If you have a problem with striving for greatness, that’s ok, I’ll take a tip from the Quicken Loans guy and just “do it for you.”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis 

Kiss My ALS and The #IceBucketChallenge

Abundance Community Kindness

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: Abundance by nature is more than being positive. It includes the spirit of being generous and expansive. When you have this value built into your character, you make the world a better place.

The #IceBucketChallenge has overtaken North America the last few weeks. And I believe it is a powerful, fun way to bring attention to the devastating disease, ALS (commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease). You may have had your fill of ice bucket videos, but if you want to watch a couple, the following by a 26-year-old diagnosed with ALS and the one by Bill Gates are two ends of the continuum… Literally. And if you want a more literary trip to better understand the incredible toll the disease takes, read a previous New York Times best seller, Tuesdays With Morrie, which has been enjoyed by millions.

Recently, I was listening to a radio show interviewing critics of the challenge. The complaints ranged from the “silliness of the stunt” and the selfie focus, to the most oft sited concern that the attention to ALS would take away from contribution to other charities. Really? The reason I want to comment on negativity towards the viral #IceBucketChallenge is that it is representative of another “disease” I see all too often… SCARCITY. That’s when people like to diminish or contract versus celebrating and expanding. In the world of organizations, scarcity includes people who like to minimize the success or accomplishments of others for whatever reason. Cultures that are riddled with a scarcity mentality are prone to put more energy into resisting and attacking the success of others. It’s surprising how negatively effective they can be.

Character Moves:

  1. Embrace abundance as a way of thinking and acting (even though there can be underlying pull towards being cynical or critical). This doesn’t mean being naive or turning a blind eye to constructive criticism. However, the lean towards emphasizing the goodness of something successful or excellent most often leads us to a better place to build from. Regarding the ALS challenge, why not try and understand what caught the imagination of people versus criticizing the viral nature of this phenomenon?

Note: To date the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $79.7 million (and growing)… In comparison, Time Magazine reports that the group only raised $2.2 million during the same period in 2013.

Dumping ice water on scarcity in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Yeah, I’ve heard the criticisms too. I work with or have been around those who argue the #IceBucketChallenge is “self serving,” or even a “waste of water.” REALLY?  If you find it self-serving, don’t post your video to Facebook, just send your video to the person that nominated you. Also, check out my favorite by #43, G. W. Bush. BTW I think that millennials are the most active in this challenge for the right reasons to bring attention to ALS while also having fun. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Contextual Intelligence

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: Contextual Intelligence is as important as IQ, Emotional Intelligence and other aspects of intelligence that help us develop our whole selves. To quote a recent HBR blog:

“Context matters… There is nothing wrong with the analytic tools we have at our disposal, but their application requires careful thought. It requires contextual intelligence: The ability to understand the limits of our knowledge and to adapt that knowledge to an environment different from the one in which it was developed.” 

I just read a wonderful piece of fiction by the acclaimed Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami. In his new novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, he reinforces this notion of context, by referring to a famous photo taken by a photographer for a national US newspaper in the 90’s. It was captured during a winter morning in Shinjuku Station, Tokyo, where 3.5 million people pass through daily. Murakami scribes in his book, “as if by agreement, all the commuters were gazing downward, their expressions strained, and unhappy, looking more like lifeless fish packed in a can, than people. The photo in the American paper quipped, ‘Japan may be affluent, but most Japanese look like this, heads downcast, and unhappy looking.’”

The irony of this photo, is that daily Japanese railway commuters have to seriously concentrate and look downward to keep from stepping on the person in front of them (heads down). If one looses a shoe during the crushing commute, there is no going back. You physically can’t retrieve it and literally spend the rest of the day with one shoe. Looking downward and lifeless has nothing to do with Japanese disposition. But without applying contextual intelligence, ignorance might win out. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Developing contextual intelligence is about developing your ability to be inclusive. When we learn to be highly inclusive, we learn to search for context in understanding people and situation. The lack of context means you likely filter everything through the lens of your personal view. Your worldview is only one. It is important to look through many lenses. 
  2. Develop your capacity for situational leadership. It is related (although not sufficient) for developing contextual intelligence. 
  3. Get out of your insular world so you can appreciate context more. Ideally you can travel the world, but if not, the local Moroccan restaurant, a smudge ceremony, walking in the Gay Pride parade, playing a game of wheel chair basketball, etc, etc, can teach you lot about context. It won’t happen if you aren’t intentional about developing your contextual intelligence. 

Contextual Intelligence in The Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: You’re in a debate. You’re winning. You’re confident you’re right… That winning surge envelops you, let the hypothetical confetti fly. Then, as if your audience is sitting with a hidden bear trap, you’re informed of crucial context you overlooked, didn’t know, or didn’t take the time to learn… All you can say is “ooohhhhhhhhhh…” Let the backtracking begin… Is there a worse feeling than that? I think anyone who has been in that situation can understand that we may be in a hurry to make points, grasp concepts, or just “prove we know.” Taking the care to build Context Intelligence feels a whole lot better than that “ohhhhhh…” feeling. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

TOGETHER NOW: Love People & Use Things vs. Love Things & Use People

Abundance Collaboration Happiness

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: Love people and apply the power of TOGETHER. This principle may be so obvious that we are missing fully optimizing the “happiness opportunity” right in front of us. It is accessible and inclusive versus unattainable and exclusive. 

The 30th president of the United States Calvin Coolidge, and Mrs. Coolidge were touring a poultry farm. The first lady noticed that there were very few roosters, and asked how so many eggs could be fertilized. The farmer told her that the virile roosters did their jobs over and over again each day. “Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge,” she told him. The president, hearing the remark, asked whether the rooster serviced the same hen each time. No, the farmer told him — there were many hens for each rooster. “Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge,” said the President.

This amusing and perhaps even embellished story is apparently the genesis of something actually called “The Coolidge Effect,” the idea that more and variety (in this case sex) somehow leads to more happiness (moral considerations not withstanding). The research actually proves the opposite. For more on this and other research, please read a wonderful article in the New York Times on what drives happiness and unhappiness. The punch line is that obsessively chasing fame, money and hedonism of all excess leads to unhappiness. This of course has been the wisdom often cited through the ages, and contemporary research validates what the wise have concluded. Nevertheless, it is a constant battle for most of us to keep our egos and priorities in check.

As Arthur C. Brooks so eloquently states in the article: “It requires a deep skepticism of our own basic desires. Of course you are driven to seek admiration, splendor and physical license. But giving in to these impulses will bring unhappiness. You have a responsibility to yourself to stay in the battle. The day you declare a truce is the day you become unhappier.”

Digging for “happiness insight” in a completely different vein, I found another compelling piece of research. This is from a superb HBR blog:

“David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, has identified relatedness — feelings of trust, connection, and belonging—as one of the five primary categories of social pleasures and pains (along with status, certainty, autonomy, and fairness). Rock’s research shows that the performance and engagement of employees who experience relatedness threats or failures will almost certainly suffer. And in other research, the feeling of working together has indeed been shown to predict greater motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation, that magical elixir of interest, enjoyment, and engagement that brings with it the very best performance.” 

We are hard wired to work TOGETHER and connect. This does not mean working side by side, or having lots of meetings, etc. It means actively working together like the joy many of us find preparing a meal in the kitchen TOGETHER. When one takes a step back and honestly examines how organizations work, lots of people are around each other but how much do they really do TOGETHER?

Character Moves: 

  1. The simple principle of loving people and using things versus loving things and using people is a great reminder. Pursuing the value you bring to others each day will help you (and me) stay on the tight track. The counter intuitive irony is that focusing on giving and creating value as a purpose gives most of us the “things we need.”
  2. Examine your TOGETHER quotient and consider increasing it at work and other parts of your daily life. Going to Starbucks, plugged in besides a bunch of other people on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or texting doesn’t count. Around is not together. TOGETHER means connecting hands, mind, and heart where we matter to each other’s success. 

More TOGETHER in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Finding this balance is definitely tricky. I feel I’m personally trying to move a million miles an hour, and find ways to earn greater success in all elements of my life… Technically almost everything I do can be attributed to the idea of ME getting more for myself… I’d like to look for more opportunities to work TOGETHER while still obtaining my goals, even though that doesn’t always seem practical or possible. It’s that whole “(excess) MAY not buy you happiness, but having none of it will certainly buy you misery” mentality… Fortunately, reminders about the value and importance of working TOGETHER helps me rethink how I can do more of that now, and still keep moving forward in a better way. 

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Really Angry and Hate Someone at Work?

Kindness Respect Well-being

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: Being angry or hating someone at work is understandable, but such a waste of precious personal energy and focus. It’s likely that most of you are emotionally well beyond this, but you may want to gently share it with someone who is less enlightened. I like this story about anger: 

“One day Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. ‘You have no right teaching others,’ he shouted. ‘You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake.’

Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man ‘Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?’

The man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, ‘It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.’

The Buddha smiled and said, ‘That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.’

‘If you want to stop hurting yourself, you must get rid of your anger and become loving instead. When you hate others, you yourself become unhappy. But when you love others, everyone is happy.’”

Cynics might read this and think: “How naïve? Business is for tough-minded people, in a state of simmering anger, that enjoy beating others, including taking revenge and sticking it to your enemies.” And when you watch pop culture, like the very successful TV shows Suits, House of Cards, etc., it causes most “normal” people to wonder. I’m not going to pretend that win/lose behavior involving hateful anger isn’t based on reality. However, in 40 years of business experience, I’ve found that there is much LESS sustainable success related to chasing anger/hate than there is when achieving exceptional results through perusing emotionally balanced, positive collaboration and creating value for as many people as possible. 

Character Moves: 

  1. If you feel anger/hate towards anyone, regardless of how “justified,” acknowledge it and then let go. Focus on value you can create for others, not on how you can “win” by deploying your hate/anger. 
  2. To the extent you can, avoid people that are negative and “punch your anger buttons.” Keep in mind, the most effective leaders learn how to constructively work with all kinds of team members and navigate forward without anger. The ability to divorce your ego from the behavior of others is important. Take the challenge as a personal leadership development experience. (That doesn’t mean that you should allow people to treat you badly and walk all over you but hate/anger is not the answer).   
  3. If you find yourself hateful and angry, focusing on a negative relationship more than creating value, take it as a signal that you are likely on the wrong track. Like the Buddhist story wisely points out: You are only hurting yourself.

Less hate/anger in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I work in a fish bowl, just mere feet away from my boss and four or five co-workers… There’s constant banter, some of it positive, some negative. Our personalities can clash, and it. Can. Get. CHALLENGING at times… Still, anger towards a co-worker would mess up our whole system, and it’s just not worth it… Little breaks, solo walks to Starbucks, or a lap around the office is necessary sometimes… But in that proximity, negativity and misery spread like a contagious disease, so, for your own sake, remember anger isn’t getting your team results or building personal value.

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis