The Pain and Promise of Goodbye

Gratitude Respect

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Story: I have been at hundreds of airports around the world, experiencing more than 10,000 or so trips in my life. That’s an opportunity to observe a lot of “hi’s” and “goodbyes.” And like most business travelers, I’m head down, focused on getting to and from my next obligation. Yet, one cannot help but notice and be touched by the tears of departure and arrival that make up every airport scene. Perhaps it’s an excited child running to mom who’s been on that road trip, or a long hug from that aging parent, barely letting go of a grown child living too far away. If a person is present enough to really notice, it is one poignant scene after another, each meant to be felt and watched.

Today I’m saying goodbye to my children and grandchildren after a wonderful family celebration. The pain of that soft kiss and extra long hand-hold is so bittersweet. Knowing that adventure is in front of all, yet not wanting to let go for even a second. If only that embrace could be eternal. Each goodbye is a process of grieving.

It is also a season of goodbye’s at work. Our exceptional CEO, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with the last six years, and a number of other colleagues whom I’ve come to appreciate so much, are all leaving. And I will be retiring from the company before too long as well. It is such an emotional roller coaster to deeply commit, and then one day, literally close the door for the last time. Organizations, as they should and must, swiftly fill the void. Someone steps in and carries on in their own unique way. We are all irreplaceable and replaceable at the same time.

Key Point: Something very important happens at the moment of greeting and leaving in both our personal and professional lives. We have to be exceptionally present and self-aware to fully ingest the experience. What am I feeling? Why? What about the other or others? What am I bringing of myself and leaving behind? What am I receiving from the other(s), or having to give up? Why does it matter? While our work is so important to us, I remind us all of a searing message from a former colleague, living his last hours in palliative care. He notes that in lying and waiting to die, he hardly thinks about work and people he toiled with at all. It’s family and friends that appropriately take up the dwindling space that matters most.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Relish the genuine beauty in each greeting and exit. The experience associated with both emphasizes and confirms that we are truly alive.
  2. Remind yourself that work and those associated, while important and deserving of our genuine care, will more rapidly come and go from both our experience and memory.
  3. The best long-term investment for our total wellbeing is in family and friends. That means making the most of what happens between each greeting and goodbye. To be fully loved, we have to love FIRST. Do so generously, and without expecting anything in return. Perhaps, that is a perspective we need reminding of, and that’s what the pain and promise of “hi” and “goodbye” presents. 

Loving abundantly in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: It’s too true. I can confirm that saying goodbye to a large number of loved ones can certainly leave its mark, especially after a great celebration. However, thank goodness for the capability to use FaceTime, and a variety of other forms of communication to see and speak to those far away and in different time zones. Thankfully, a “goodbye” is far from a disconnection in 2018.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Crush Dumbass Rules & Make Them Work for People!

Accountability Personal leadership

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This is the second value in the current 10 ATBs Series.

Story: When I check in at a hotel I regularly stay at, they ALWAYS make me sign the same stupid paperwork that says I won’t smoke in a room (and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t care about). And even though I work for a very successful public company, and pay with a corporate credit card, they take a deposit in excess of my room rate. Our bank, to be fair and brutally honest, also has some dumbass rules. As an example, we are only allowed to email transfer a certain amount of funds per day, even when we have plenty of OUR money in our bank account. To pay an invoice more than $3K, we have to do it over several days. How annoying is that to us and the payee? And who are these rules for? Well, certainly not the customer or service employees. Nope… They are primarily to protect the company.

Key Point: So the the second value in our company (obviously not totally implemented yet, based on the example above ) is to Make Banking Work FOR People. You can exchange the word “banking” for your business. Often times, organizations have a bunch of processes that are there for the organization’s risk-management, NOT for the people who deliver them, or customers who receive them. They have often been designed to prevent the company from being ripped off. So what do companies do to reduce economic pain inflicted by a few? Well, they decide to mitigate by creating a rule (often a goofy one) for ALL? When you ask why or confront the rule/process, the unsatisfactory response is, “that’s just the way we do it.” Or the infamous, “it’s company policy.”

Confront every process and rule by looking through the eyes of people who have to execute, and customers that receive it. When people insist that it must be done a certain way, and you know it sucks, get the data. That will inform you. Push back relentlessly, and design differently.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Look at everything you do through the eyes of people who deliver it and customers who receive it. What is that experience like?
  2. Genuinely ask whether the company really has to do it that way?
  3. Be a maverick and break dumb rules, (except those that are legal or compliance requirements). People will applaud, and you will get ahead.
  4. Remember you are a designer. Every process or rule tells you how really people/ customer focused you are. I bet you people can easily name 10 dumbass rules/processes.

Working for People in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: How about regularly re-writing and designing the top-rated “goofiest” rules in your company. Legal can inform you if they can’t be changed due to laws. Other top-rated stupid rules get replaced every month? Or I dunno, maybe that sounds like a dumbass rule. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

A Series On Our 10 ATBs

Abundance

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Story: We had a serious debate in our company regarding the importance of having clearly articulated values. Some folks had the view that hiring people with the right DNA (basic attributes) was sufficient. Others like myself, felt that we need to be more explicit in declaring what to expect from each other. While we wanted a wide variety of viewpoints, and a workforce that reflected the diverse community we live in, we also determined that we could foster greater inclusion through shared values. Having explicitly published values in organizations is hardly a new idea. However, we felt that being obsessive about them daily, with regular storytelling to showcase and reinforce, was something many institutions did not do well. So we launched what we call our 10 ATBs in 2015, based largely on an initiative led by our CEO. Many outside ATB ask me about them, and even people in ATB appreciate a refresher. So this is for all of you. I will write a blog about each one of them, and even though we number them sequentially, I will pick a random one each time. The important thing to remember is how the 10 work together as a system. I’m a fervent disciple of the notion that a clear, compelling PURPOSE deeply matters, so does obsessive, practiced, and fierce execution of values that both advance the company and employees as “better humans.” Let’s start with:

A: Think Yes First.

Key Point: In banking, it is easy to say NO. As one might imagine in the business of taking in and lending out money, risk management is essential. Subsequently, a bank can become so rule-bound and narrow that a propensity to think NO first can become a default position. This can permeate the entire business. Have you ever worked with people who think NO first? Occasionally, even departments like credit, IT, and HR in some companies get labeled as the NO or CAN’T folks. In today’s disruptive world, organizations need to be THINKING YES first (not necessarily always saying yes). It’s fundamental to achieving minimum innovation and transformation for survival, let alone the ability to flourish.

Key Actions to further establish THINKING YES first as a value in yourself and organization:

  1. Listen, listen, listen by connecting, understanding and THEN acting. (See previous blog on this).
  2. Use the phrase “how might we?” or similar phrases to continuously explore opportunities to get to the possibilities underlying “YES.”
  3. Use the conjunction AND instead of BUT. This technique is practiced by improv comedians, because it keeps the possibilities open.
  4. Ask “why?” all the time, and challenge the current value of all rules, processes, etc. Often, people do things just because. It’s surprising how many things are just activities without any real current value.
  5. Always acknowledge and express appreciation when the person you’re working with is someone who thinks YES first, and finds a way to move forward with you.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Are you a think yes first person? Is that how people think of you?
  2. How well do you apply the five techniques above? That will give you an indication.
  3. Don’t be a putz, and use your authority to think NO first. People will find a way to work around you. If that happens too much, you know how that likely ends .

Thinking YES FIRST in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: There’s little that is more frustrating than when upper management immediately shuts down an idea by saying “no,” or claiming they “can’t” without exploring the proper avenues to “yes.” If we’re working with leaders who “think yes” first, it seems there’s a lot better chance we’ll achieve accomplishments that will have the entire company saying “yes!”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

The Batsh*t Chapter

Respect

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Story: “I’ve never met the CEO of the company I worked at before, let alone taken a selfie with him or her.” “That’s the first time I’ve ever had a conversation with someone at the VP level.” “I can’t believe the CEO actually responded to my suggestion when I emailed.” Those are the comments I hear when the CEO of our company and VPs spend a day with our new hires. We are only 5,000 plus people, so it’s easier in comparison with very large companies. Still, it’s amazing how aloof execs are with the core of the institutions they lead.

Key Point: When you put away the fancy spreadsheets, and big price tag consulting fees from smart “kids” with Ivy MBAs (who usually have never run or built anything), it always comes down to people first. Tom Peters, with his colleague Bob Waterman, wrote the iconic “In Search of Excellence,” in 1982. After 50 years studying organizations, he has published a definitive book called the “The Excellence Dividend.” It has a chapter on people that he privately calls his “batsh*t chapter.”  Why? Because it drives him batsh*t crazy that leaders just don’t get that people must come first. Here are some of his key points:

  1. “It’s people who do the work.
  2. It’s people who make the customer connection scintillating or sour.
  3. It’s people that matter— as individuals as much or more than service providers.
  4. So your brand is your talent!
  5. People before strategy.
  6. Treat your employees like customers.
  7. If you want your staff to give great service, give great service to your staff.
  8. Your customers will never be happier than your employees.
  9. Business has to give people enriching rewarding lives or it’s simply not worth doing.
  10. Leadership function is to produce more leaders not more followers.
  11. Employees are the first customers and most influential.
  12. If you want to wow your customers, first you must wow those that wow the customers.
  13. Don’t hire jerks, or shitheads.
  14. Treat hiring and promotions as life and death decisions.
  15. Develop and train the heck out of people constantly and expect them to develop and  train themselves accordingly.”

Ok, these are just a few of Tom’s passionate perspectives on people, and I mostly support every one of his views.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Stop the merry-go-round regarding who is really first. Double down on People First. If the soul of the organization does not commit and believe in people first, customers and the shareholders ultimately will languish.
  2. Honestly ask why your or any organization may not put people first. What observations do you make? Then, determine what you will do to address the issues raised. Start where you have control.

No Batsh*t in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Think about that show “Undercover Boss.” The whole premise is that CEOs, while disguised, infiltrate their own companies to essentially check off Peters’ 15 points listed above. The disconnect is entertaining enough for a reality show, but flourishing organizations with strong connections between exec teams and the core workers aren’t negatively interesting enough to be featured. If you’re never approached to be on Undercover Boss, that’s likely a compliment. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Let’s Take a Walk Together

Accountability

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Story: “Mr. Rubis, we are so happy to see you again. Thank you for returning to our hotel. We know you’re likely too busy to fully utilize our loyalty program, so we have taken the liberty of moving you to a suite before your upgrade certificates expire this week. And I want to remind you that you’ve earned a spa, complimentary bottle of Cristal, and a 50 percent discount from our fine dining room. Would you like any of these amenities during your stay? By the way, if you like to use Uber or Lyft, the best door to connect is the west one. My understanding is that you’re checking out on Friday morning. If you are going to the airport, we have a limo service that’s the same price as a taxi. Could I book that for you? I also want to remind you that CNN is on channel 21 (they know I mostly watch this), and the Top 5 Zagat-rated restaurants within a five minute walk are on this list. Please let us know if we might make a reservation.”

Now, I’m fortunate enough to stay regularly at a five star hotel, and NONE of the above happens. It’s a made up story. They think “WOW” is an occasional room upgrade, (which I appreciate), but based on the data they have on me, it’s a vanilla experience.

Key Point: We can WOW customers. It’s not that hard, but very few companies do so. I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling lately, and I’ve been more intentionally observing how often I’m truly WOW’d as a customer. Every day, from the moment I get up, to the time my head hits the pillow, there are WOW moment opportunities… Yet, I rarely experience them. When I enter any commercial experience, I generously give the service provider the full opportunity to make my day. On the contrary, I often get agitated by the experience. Here is just ONE thing every company can do: Greet the customer like you actually care, and want them to enjoy your offering.

Recently at the Toronto Pearson International Airport, I bought a breakfast bowl from a merchant. Ok, I know this is a minimum wage job, but honest-to-goodness, this employee actually made me wonder if the food was safe. If a WestJet pilot wasn’t in front of me, I’d have bailed. Is it that hard to smile at a customer and make them feel welcome? And why get mad if you ask for extra guacamole?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Just start by focusing on the greeting process in your company; in person and/or digital. How do you constantly and consistently WOW your customers at that moment? I bet you don’t know. If you are unsure, you likely suck at it and/or hope you’ve got consistently great people at every intersection (I doubt it). Start there, and you will probably have an edge on your competition.
  2. Take a virtual walk with me through your day, looking for WOW opportunities. What will you learn?

Just a little WOW in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I’m lucky enough to live a “yes ma’am, yes sir, no ma’am, no sir” culture, and while that might seem like a mundane detail, it’s shockingly noticeable. The ingrained hospitality and politeness is so pleasant on a customer service level, you truly do leave a grocery store (or anywhere, really), with cordial encounter after cordial encounter. Now, we Millennials aren’t generally expecting bottles of Cristal or a limo service, but the positive energy from the simplicity of a good attitude is at least a W. (Then, the other O and W will build from there). 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis