To Our Readers and Followers

Abundance Community Gratitude

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After four plus years, publishing two blogs per week (about 450 blog posts), Garrett and I are taking a vacation until the first Tuesday in September!! We are looking forward to refueling and breathing in “white space” as we reload. We love sharing our thoughts with you, and are grateful for your encouragement and feedback. Thank you!

In the fall, you will see a revamped Lorne Rubis website and the addition of a podcast. Our continued commitment is to bring you thoughts that inspire, and meaningful insights that are both accessible and actionable. Your readership propels us forward everyday.

Have a great rest of the summer. We hope you will continue with us in the fall.

Lorne and Garrett

Have Fun at Work Every Day

Community Organizational culture Respect

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Key Point: If you are not having fun at work most of the time, I have one strong recommendation: QUIT ASAP and find somewhere where you can! So what does having fun at work mean to me? The following may not translate the same way for you, but here is what I believe helps me have fun everyday:

  1. Do not take yourself or your work too seriously! Most of us are not saving lives or the planet. Even if we are, we benefit from being humble and self-deprecating in a balanced way. I enjoy teasing and being teased by others if it is not mean-spirited.
  1. Find the humor in every day things. Point out the quirkiness surrounding you and your team, and enjoy the heck out of it. The team I’m part of pokes fun at the biases we have, language we use, and viewpoints we carry around.
  1. Pull practical jokes. I have punk’d all of my teammates, and most of my direct reports. I could share pranks that would have you doubled over in laughter. We love each other more after. The stories become embellished over time.
  1. Celebrate wins and the idea of togetherness. I remember the first time in the early 90’s when I went to Japan. On Thursday and Friday nights, the streets were filled with happy (often-inebriated) teams, weaving arm-in-arm in the Ginza. I’m not necessarily advocating the incorporation of alcohol, but I am encouraging team celebrations and fun together. Go Bowling! Skeet Shooting! Dragon Boat racing! Any social activity!
  1. Laugh out loud multiple times a day. Every interaction, every meeting, (except with the odd case of a termination), should involve an “LOL.” I’m serous. LOL, many times, every day. Every meeting or interaction has a laugh meter that keeps us real and authentic.

Character Moves:

  1. What is your “laugh out loud factor” everyday at work? If it doesn’t happen at least once per day, ask yourself why.
  1. Embrace the humor in our “EVERY DAY.” Appreciate our personal vulnerability; perhaps even our shortcomings. We all want to be loved, embraced and to be our authentic selves. We are all naturally funny.

LOL everyday in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: In the classroom, we all had to be quiet. Curbing disruption makes more sense there. I wonder if that’s why there’s some myth where “fun at work” means you aren’t getting results, or aren’t doing your job properly. C’mon though. We’ve graduated. Even if you’re stuck filling out spread-sheet after spread-sheet, there’s no way that you can’t find the humor in how boring Excel can be with the person at the cube next to you. If people aren’t finding ways to joke at work, it’s likely because they’re afraid to, and that’s a shame.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Error No. 1: Not Enough Urgency

Abundance

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Key Point: “When is the urgency rate high enough? From what I have seen, the answer is when about 75 percent of a company’s management is honestly convinced that business as usual is totally unacceptable. Anything less can produce very serious problems later on in the process.” That is a quote from Harvard’s John Kotter, arguably the preeminent scholar on institutional transformation. He has studied hundreds of companies undergoing intentional change in a variety of settings over the last few decades. While Kotter has been studying transformation and change, I’ve been instrumentally involved LEADING IT in organizations over the last 40 years. My experience has also been in a variety of settings. In almost every case, these organizations fundamentally transformed themselves into a much better state and/or at minimum survived seismic shocks to their ecosystem. A couple failed; one ran out of money and the other ran out value. That experience has translated into a lot of learning. I believe (hopefully confidently and humbly) that I can credibly execute on a framework to successfully lead an organization transformation anywhere (the not so humble part). It is an exhilarating, daunting and ultimately rewarding process. I agree with most of Kotter’s analysis on the conditions for transformation success and failure and I essentially agree with what he refers to as ERROR No. 1. Here is a little about what he says about that

“Most successful change efforts begin when some individuals or some groups start to look hard at a company’s competitive situation… Then find ways to communicate this information broadly and dramatically, especially with respect to crises, potential crises, or great opportunities that are very timely. This first step is essential because just getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won’t help, and the effort goes nowhere… Compared with other steps in the change process, phase one can sound easy. It is not. Well over 50 percent of the companies I have watched fail in this first phase… A paralyzed senior management often comes from having too many managers and not enough leaders. Management’s mandate is to minimize risk and to keep the current system operating. Change, by definition, requires creating a new system, which in turn always demands leadership. Phase one in a renewal process typically goes nowhere until enough real leaders are promoted or hired into senior-level jobs.”

The reason that I “mostly agree ” with Kotter is that I would add “leadership mindset” to “leadership urgency.” My experience is that some leaders truly want to feel a sense urgency, yet struggle to lead it. They just do not have that fearless ability to jump. They get to the edge, study everything into paralysis and convince themselves that inertia is less risky than moving forward. Staying put is usually a great strategy if you’re physically lost in a survival situation… Let’s say after a hiking accident on an isolated mountain trail. Why? People are usually trying to rescue you and it’s often easier to “take you off the ledge if you stay put.” No one is trying to rescue your organization. Frankly, the opposite is true… They are usually, without personal attribution, trying to displace you. So if the urgency is not there, people will usually talk about it and unfortunately not fundamentally change. And why is it really, really hard? To transform your organization, a leader has to transform him or herself first. That is being fiercely and personally accountable. Top leaders are often the worst urgency saboteurs; their power points slickly describe the need for transformation and when you look at what they’ve executed on, often its too little too late. The same people are doing essentially the same things. And it’s worse when short-term incentives are being met. Do you have a sense of urgency AND a mindset of relentlessly transforming yourself first? If not, get out of the way and prepare yourself for somebody transforming your world.

Character Moves:

  1. Assess your urgency status? Does over 75 percent of yourself feel the urgency? Do 75 percent of the leaders in your organization have the deeply held belief that transformation is vital? How do you really know?
  1. Assess whether leaders know how to fundamentally transform themselves and drive the required change. Start with yourself. How will you need to lead differently? Do you know how to establish an inspiring transformative vision and reset expectations accordingly? If you can’t answer that, you’re risking being an academic voyeur. 

Mindful urgency in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I’ve certainly been in situations at work recently where you want to encourage a leader to “jump! Jump! Jump!” It’s strange when you see where your organization can improve, but you maybe aren’t privy to some crucial details (specific budget figures, long term plans, or even your department’s decision making capabilities). Plus, of course your leader must know better than you, right? Any ideas you have are already being discussed. Must be, right? Well, I don’t know. Perhaps most don’t know, but if we’re all moving towards the improvement of our organization, then a pathway for conversation should hopefully be encouraged and available.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Power of Signature Stories

Organizational culture Purpose Respect

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Key Point: The surprise leadership learning for me over the last few years has been the power of “story.” David Aaker, a professor of business at UC Berkeley and alumnus of Stanford Graduate School of Business notes: “There are many studies in psychology and elsewhere that document that facts are much more likely to be remembered if they are part of a story.”

As the leader responsible for the cultural advancement in our 79-year-old company with 5,000 plus team members, annual revenue of over $1 Billion and net income at double-digit growth levels. I must tell you that the power of “story” has been vital to reimagining our company. And “signature” stories (those that most powerfully capture the feeling and intent of the company and its differentiating values) are priceless. These have more impact with customers than simply listing and highlighting “features” or facts about a particular product or service. Examples of such tales include a young John Nordstrom agreeing to refund a customer’s two “well-worn” snow tires — he later went on to build the Nordstrom company on a differentiating “customer first” ethos. Molson Canadian Beer Company showed its passion for hockey with its customers by building a hockey rink in a remote part of the Canadian Rockies and flying in customers for a game of “shinny.” Every organization is capable of determining signature stories and unleashing character “heroes” if their purpose and values are sufficiently clear. 

We want team members to think of themselves as story creators. Determining “heroes” is the first step to finding a signature story. These are people who create a customer experience that is so impactful that it literally goes viral. Equally, perhaps even more importantly, we want our customers to be signature storytellers about their experience with our company.

So, the challenge of leaders is to efficiently leverage these experiences and connect them to the company’s brand. Furthermore, establishing a “digital story bank” that is well structured and easy-to-use in categorizing different signature stories is important. We are currently doing that in our company. When good, effective stories become part of an active library they can be leveraged continuously.

Character Moves:

  1. Think of yourself as a story creator or even a story hero. And then create one that could become a signature example. What would that story look like? Every day work situations rise up and invite a possibility. How good are you at creating signature stories out of those situations?
  1. Watch Stanford’s Jennifer Aakers video on signature stories (it’s 19 minutes, but worth a view). What did you learn? How valuable will you be to your organization when you are the “author” of one of those stories?

Story Heroes in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Searching for a story is my thing, and everyone has one. Each person/customer is starring in their own movie, and if a “scene” is memorable, they’re going to make it a “signature” one.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Do You Love the Heat?

Accountability Growth mindset Organizational leadership

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Key Point: When reflecting on what’s happened in my career, I realize that I’m a “heat seeking junkie.” I just love standing at the edge not really knowing what the heck I’m going to do to achieve some gargantuan objective. When I was a rookie 21-year-old Phys. Ed teacher, I was assigned to coach every boys and girls team, teach English, and even sex-ed if you can believe it. I had no real experience or template. When I became the VP of Sales for a publicly traded technology company, with more than 400 sales people, I had never led a sales organization before. When reporting directly to the chairman of a Fortune 50 company, I was in a role that was responsible for leading the strategic transformation of the organization. Yikes! Ok, you get the drift.

According to 30 years of Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) research, as noted by Nick Petrie, in the “How-To of Vertical Leadership Development:” “Leaders develop most rapidly when facing what are known as ‘heat experiences.’ You know that you are in a heat experience when confronted with a task or assignment that has the following conditions:

  1. It is a first time experience.
  1. Results matter
  1. There is a chance of success and failure. 
  1. Important people are watching.
  1. It is extremely uncomfortable.

When leaders look back at their careers and describe their time of greatest growth, they invariably tell stories of their most intense “heat experiences.” While most people work hard to avoid the heat, learning-agile people actually seek it, often over three-year cycles:

Year 1:

They take on an assignment in which they are in over their heads. They scramble to work out how to stay afloat.

Year 2:

They start to get the hang of it and performance and results improve.

Year 3:

They experience some mastery. They begin to feel bored and restless. They start looking around for more heat.

In my years doing this work, the greatest developmental advantage I’ve seen is a leader who has learned to love high temperatures. Have the leaders in your organization learned to love the heat? Have you?”

So people tell me based on the data of 360-degree feedback, that I’ve developed myself into a capable executive leader. To the extent that’s true, being a heat seeker has definitely contributed.

Character Moves:

  1. Take the “heat seeking test” as noted above. Have you sought out those opportunities? Often these challenges are not handed too you. You have to search them out and take a risk. The worse good thing that could happen to you is that you will “fail.” I promise you will learn and recover, regardless what stage of life you’re in. 
  2. Look for more heat. What three year heat cycle is in front of you? More of the same? Well, then don’t expect to grow vertically. Repeating the same experience year over year is usually not growing, it’s repeated stagnation.  

Heat in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millenial View: I’ve become a big fan of the desert, and an uncomfortably high temperature is something I’ve learned to appreciate. When it comes to the climate of my office, I’ll be first to admit I talk way more about heat seeking than perhaps practicing it, but reminders like this are always a good push towards a new flame. Most importantly, especially as Millennials, we have to remember that no one is going to necessarily start a fire for us and we have to spark up our own gasoline.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis