Hitting the Snooze Button… Over and Over

Accountability Happiness Organizational culture

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Key Point: The search for and “theme” of happiness is definitely trending, and as more science and research is applied, I’m warming up a little more to the discussion. (I’ve been skeptical of some of the fluff and pseudo-psychology connected to the “happiness” buzz). I resonate with the renewed attention and connection to self-accountability and understanding that much of the time, we can choose happiness. And while happiness is mostly a personal mindset, being authentically connected to other people really counts too. This is not to say that others are primarily responsible for our happiness, but they can certainly contribute to it. So the “between people” in addition to “what’s inside people” is also very important.

Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh, has become famous and revered by many for his commitment to delivering happiness. Tony was running another company (which he subsequently sold to Microsoft for $265 million dollars) when he one day found himself hitting his alarm clock snooze button repeatedly. He just didn’t want to get up go to work anymore, and this was his very own company. He wasn’t happy. That led to Tony’s renewed dedication and self-proclaimed purpose of delivering happiness to people, and companies everywhere.

The research shows that the pursuit of happiness is a universal desire of all people and yet we are not very good at predicting what will make us feel that way. However, the collective research points to the following conditions that certainly facilitate and promote greater happiness.

  1. Control and autonomy; having reasonable influence over what and how we do things.
  2. Progress; having a sense of real growth and personal development.
  3. Connected; having meaningful relationships with others.
  4. Meaning and purpose; being part of something bigger than ourselves.

Furthermore, being present enough to savor experiences, practice gratitude, and cultivate mindfulness helps to increase enjoyment and pleasure in what we do, thereby increasing levels of happiness and our day-to-day enjoyment of life. When we can do this particularly well, the belief of many of those who study happiness is that we positively influence our own well-being AND the best interests of our family, friends and wider community.

Character Moves:

  1. Take the free happiness survey. You will be able to become more aware of how you stack up on the happiness scale compared to a large database of others.
  1. Ask yourself what you would be willing to do for the next 10 years without being paid (yet not starving). How does it compare to what you’re doing today?
  1. To what extent are the four conditions above present in your life? What can you do to move forward with each of them? Do you spring out of bed excited for the day? Or do you wish you could keep hitting the snooze button?
  1. In addition to No.3 above, determine whether you are present enough to enjoy daily experiences, able to express gratitude, occasionally find yourself getting wonderfully lost in the flow and glow of doing something you like and are good at. Are you also finding yourself delivering value to others? If so, you are likely very happy!

Awaking happiness in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Let’s relate this to Halloween. The holiday can be enjoyed by all ages for a myriad of reasons… Some adults love parading their young kids around to observe the thrill of candy collection. There are enthusiasts that obsess over house decorations, pumpkin carving, and the simple joy of celebrating the excitement of a scare. Me? I’m dressing up with hundreds of other millennials and going on a zombie themed pub-crawl. I. Can. Not. Wait!! BUT, we all know the few who just can’t wait for Nov. 1. They’ll literally be ghosts for the occasion, without dressing up. For whatever reason, they SEEK a reason to dismiss what millions find joy in… Their reasons and excuses can range from “immaturity” to “rotting teeth.” Perhaps, it is a sign of unhappiness, or distaste for the happiness of others. To me, that’s a whole lot scarier than any monsters we’ll see on this Hallow’s Eve. Happy Halloween!!

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

We Are All a Sergeant-at-Arms

Accountability Purpose

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Key Point: Leadership opportunities present themselves on a daily basis. And sometimes when there’s an incredible combination of events, everyday people are confronted with moments of unimaginable leadership-truth that transform the mundane into heroism (or not). Who will ever forget Captain Sully saving hundreds of lives against all odds, expertly landing his plane on the Hudson River? This past week in typically sleepy Ottawa, a mostly ceremonial security role turns into heroism.

Kevin Vickers, 58, and Canadian Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms confronted cowardice terrorist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and shot him at point-blank range while risking his life. 

According to the CBC, Vickers was in his office when he heard gunshots. He grabbed his semi-automatic pistol and ran out into the passage, where his security team pointed out that Zehaf-Bibeau was hiding around a pillar just meters/feet away.

The sergeant-at-arms immediately ran to the other side of the pillar, and could see the gunman’s firearm poking out. According to witnesses, in one motion, Vickers dove to the floor around the pillar, shooting Zehaf-Bibeau in mid-air, Jason Bourne style.

Vickers is a national hero in Canada. How do you think Vickers was thinking his day would go when he was eating breakfast that morning? I’m sure he wasn’t contemplating he’d be the country’s latest hero, but history has been written. Although unaware, Vickers was prepared.

Character Moves: 

  1. In order to take advantage of leadership-truth moments (small, big and the very unlikely ones), we have to be present in the instant presented to us.  Are you able to calm your mind and intentionally move through your day? It is a developed skill?
  2. Be ready for the unexpected. Vickers was very deliberate. After killing the coward, he calmly went back to his office and reloaded. (The speculation was more than one terrorist). He was clear-minded and totally in the moment. 
  3. Thankfully most of us will not have to make life or death decisions at work. However, having a clear set of personal leadership values and learning how to be totally present will help us be ready and intentional if/when whatever comes our way.

“Armed” and ready in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: News stories like these are some of my favorites. They reestablish faith in humanity, a raw “good versus evil” situation prevailing for the best. We might daydream of someday being a “hero” like Vickers is… But, even Vickers himself would probably prefer the event not to have happened in the first place. Thankfully, he reminded us that we’re not in control of those things, but if it’s ever our time to stand up and take action… Forget heroism, forget recognition, we act because it’s the right thing to do. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

Leadership and Truth!

Accountability Authenticity Teamwork

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Key Point: “The biggest challenge we face as leaders is rarely about discovering the perfect strategy or developing a smarter product or figuring out the gaps in the business. It’s about being courageous enough and willing to take the risks necessary to talk about the difficult, sometimes scary truth and do something about it.” 

That’s a quote from Peter Bregman in a recent HBR article. And he goes on to say:

“How could people who have been so successful in their careers not be courageous about communicating the problems they see in a business for which they are responsible? I think that the bar for leadership in most organizations is too low. We allow politics to supersede performance. And it’s hurting good organizations.”

In my career I’ve seen a lot of this. And it’s often worse the higher you go. An eerie silence emerges amongst execs. It’s like they unconsciously agree not to confront issues that might risk another executive poking into their own sandbox. For example, a business division leader thinks, “I’m not going to talk about how I really feel about technology issues if it risks having the CTO point out that my market strategy sucks… Or she potentially screws with my projects even more.” The silence is not only dangerous to the organization’s well being, it’s irresponsible leadership. Great leadership involves having a well-informed view and the respectful skill to both speak and listen to the hard “truths.” And this truth telling requires a safe environment where thoughtful and respectful debate is highly encouraged and desired. Frankly, I seek out people who have a view and the courage to confront mine. In fact, you can’t work for me for long without demonstrating that you are able to respectfully challenge my ideas. Why? It’s the intellectually honest seeking of the “truth” that leads to the best ideas and strategies. No one person can be autonomous in all decision making. None of us are that smart. The higher position we achieve, the more we need guidance from other strong viewpoints. Trust and truth really count when we want tough-minded, transformational leadership.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn the skills required to respectfully listen for and speak the hard truths. Remember Susan Scott’s beautiful and somewhat haunting phrase, “the relationship is the conversation and the conversation is the relationship.”
  1. Attract people who can respectfully challenge you. They will make you a better leader. Respectfully challenge them. They will relish working for or with you. Truth seekers who are self-accountable problem solvers, big thinkers and aspirational dreamers attract others of the same mindset. And that’s a way to build a heck of a strong team and culture.

Truth seeking in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: It seems people need to stop being so sensitive about individual feedback. Listen, we’re all there to learn, get better, and if a colleague brings up alternative ideas or viewpoints, that likely doesn’t mean 1. Your original plan was terrible. 2. They think you’re inefficient. 3. They’re gunning to outshine or replace you. It’s just a discussion, and one worth having. Be confident in your own abilities, but you’re with an “organization” for a reason. You have the same goal as a company. Great teams don’t win without “huddling up” first.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Have the Courage and Clarity to State Intentions!

Communication Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: An important part of being intentional includes knowing what you want, why you want it and stating it with absolute clarity. At a broader level, I like the definition of intentional living from this “Learn to be Intentional” article. It “involves taking responsibility for our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being as well as freeing ourselves from self-limiting conditioning… It requires gaining clarity about what we want, who we are, owning what we say, choosing how we “show up” in all situations, and for how we want to contribute… Truly being intentional requires understanding that our attitudes, feelings, thoughts and actions (conscious and unconscious) directly impact every single one of our experiences.” 

Frankly, I think it is seductive to fall into traps of vagueness and generalities that often lead to less understanding and more disappointment. I’ve watched and facilitated groups over many years and when the real hard work involves the challenging grind of finding specificity, it is too easy to fall back on vague words that mean “everything” and therefore nothing. How often have you been in a group discussion, and the conclusion is “let’s agree to COMMUNICATE better?” What the heck does that even mean? 

I see this in business all the time. We throw around words or phrases like “customer satisfaction,” “empowerment,” “engagement,” etc. We expect that people know what to do with them. Providing “good customer service” is a common example. Any organization with customers probably declares that intent. So why are our service experiences so unpredictable and varied? Even in the same work setting. Have you been on a plane and received different service experiences during the very same flight? It is likely each person on that flight was self-defining what “good customer service” meant. One flight attendant might think he’s there only for your safety. Another may relish the idea of giving you a great flight experience. They both think they are giving you a customer service performance (unless their organization is very specific and intentional about behavior that is clearly expected). There is a very clear reason and stated expectation why everyone at Umpqua Bank answers the phone, “world’s greatest bank.” Or why a Zappos customer service rep arranges to have pizza delivered for customers. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Examine whether you are clear enough in stating what you want and expect from others. I’m not suggesting we should run around ordering people to “lick the stamps” before mailing letters. That would be dumb and condescending. However, it is very helpful when we can be clear and specific about what we want. The degree of detail is related to the importance and urgency. Putting on and wearing a Hazmat suit when treating an Ebola patient can not be left to using vague directions like, “take it off carefully.”
  2. Practice being more clear and specific with people around you. Care enough about them to state with intention exactly what you want and expect. This can be done in a respectful and thoughtful way. And of course the other person may have views and even the responsibility to also have specific wants and expectations on the same matter. That’s all the better. When we are all stating with the appropriate specificity what we want and expect, the chances for a good outcome increase.
  3. If you are not sure what you want, state that too. The worse situation is to have people try and blindly satisfy your intentions. How often has someone been “mad” at you and expected you to be a mind reader? I’ve worked for bosses that kept sending me out for a “brick” and when I bring them one back, they say, “no… Wrong brick… Go get another.” Huh!? That’s when I have to stop and ask, “Ok, let’s get into more granularity. What exactly do you want?”

Intentionally stating it in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: People need to remember that it shouldn’t be considered insulting to give direct, detailed orders about what they specifically want. There seem to be two common traps… 1. You don’t want to assume someone doesn’t know what to do, so you let him or her wing it. 2. You think, “well they’ve been hired here, they know what the deal is.” Thanks, but you know what’s worse than being specifically told what to do? A giant, misguided waste of time that results in frustration for both parties… I WANT to do what you want, so give me a game plan, coach.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Picking Yourself Up After the Trip

Accountability Growth mindset Resilience

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Key Point: You only trip when you’re moving. I’ve had some great success as a leader. I’ve also failed in small and BIG ways. That’s the plain truth. I’ve learned so much from both. And I am so much more complete as a human being as a result. Am I “perfect?” Hardly and never… But I get better in iterative ways all the time.

Yesterday, I gave a presentation on behalf of a leader I really care about, and I wanted to add so much value to his offsite leadership event. Problem was, I was off my game. I couldn’t seem to achieve a meaningful connection with the audience even though I pride myself in doing that more often than not. The other week, I presented a plan to my boss and he threw up over most of it. I didn’t listen well enough to what he wanted. In between these events I’ve had some nice wins. The goal is to deposit more value than the deficit attached to doing things that diminish it. But trust me, if you’re moving, trying things and have a point of view, you are going to fail; it’s only a matter of when and how big. Don’t believe the pristine press of the perfect “golden child.” Those stories are often made up. The reason we love real and objective biographies is that we see authenticity, humanness and embrace the value or devalue related to the subject. We learn… We relate. 

So what happens when we trip? How do we best respond? To give us some researched guidance, please note the following from a recent HBR blog by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis and Ron Ashkenas:

“We’ve interviewed hundreds of executives who have been fired, laid off, or passed over for promotion (as a result of mergers, restructuring, competition for top jobs, or personal failings). Often, we find them working through the classic stages of loss defined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: They start with shock and denial about the events and move on to anger at the company or the boss, bargaining over their fate, and then a protracted period of licking their wounds and asking themselves whether they can ever regain the respect of their peers and team. Many of them never make it to the “acceptance” stage.

That’s partly because, as social psychologists have found in decades’ worth of studies, high achievers usually take too much credit for their successes and assign too much external blame for their failures. It’s a type of attribution bias that protects self-esteem but also prevents learning and growth. People focus on situational factors or company politics instead of examining their own role in the problem.

Some ask others for candid feedback, but most turn to sympathetic friends, family members, and colleagues who reinforce their self-image (“You deserved that job”) and feed their sense of injustice (“You have every right to be angry”). This prevents them from considering their own culpability and breaking free of the destructive behavior that derailed them in the first place. It may also lead them to ratchet back their current efforts and future expectations in the workplace.

Those who rebound from career losses take a decidedly different approach. Instead of getting stuck in grief or blame, they actively explore how they contributed to what went wrong, evaluate whether they sized up the situation correctly and reacted appropriately, and consider what they would do differently if given the chance. They also gather feedback from a wide variety of people (including superiors, peers, and subordinates), making it clear that they want honest feedback, not consolation.” 

Character Moves: 

  1. The first thing a great pitcher does after throwing a home run is focus on how to make the next pitch better. The same goes for quarterbacks after tossing an interception. The sports metaphors (and others) are endless. Yes, we must REALLY learn from the “trip,” but we have to be both humble students AND fearless going forward. The first step after reasonable grief and frustration is to commit to forward progression. 
  2. As noted above: Do not get stuck in grief or blame. Sure, we must be aware of our feelings of loss, disappointment, etc. But at the right time for each of us, we have to ACCEPT, get up, and look for that chance to “throw again.”
  3. Recognize that you’re writing a rich and wonderful autobiography filled with the fully authentic you. What a boring story if you’re just sprinting on a perfectly smooth highway. And how much would we all learn from that? Relish the TRIP… A true double meaning!!

Tripping and getting up in The Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: As someone starting out in an industry where we don’t “know all the ropes” yet, a little “trip” can be day ruining, but a “big trip” could be career ending. (At least that’s what we scare ourselves into thinking). Really though, we can handle the scrapes… What’s even worse than a “trip,” is not being allowed the opportunity to fall in the first place. I’d rather max out a credit card on Neosporin because I “tripped,” than stand in place because my company doesn’t trust me enough to take that risky jump. Millennials want to jump, so let us. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis