FUD Yourself!

Abundance Authenticity Organizational culture

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Story: The picture of the guy I’m hanging with above is Michael Katchen, the co-founder and CEO of Wealthsimple. He is one of Canada’s scintillating young leaders: Top 40 under 40, MBA, McKinsey alum, instrumental leader at Ancestry.com, and now heading one of the hottest robo-financial advising firms in North America and the UK. He has done a lot to build a very modern company and culture. I heard him speak about Wealthsimple’s inspiring purpose and values at the Great Place to Work conference I had the honor of hosting in Toronto this week. He noted almost as a “throw away idea,” that once a week he has “FUD Day” for the entire company. What is FUD Day? And why does Michael do it?

Key Point: More than ever, emotional/psychological safety is taking on much greater importance and focus within leading organizations. This is understandable in that work/life is becoming more integrated than ever, and exponential change/disruption has enveloped us all. There is just more volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) in the world. So, what is emotional or psychological safety? The definition according to one eminent scholar, William Kahn, is: “A shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as ‘being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.’”

In psychologically safe teams, members feel accepted and respected. Creating conditions for emotional safety does NOT invite complacency or entitlement. On the contrary, it is fundamental for meaningful inclusion, a sense of belonging, and an environment of sustainable innovation. No less than four current research based works I am aware of, (although I know there are many more), reinforce the vital nature of intentionally establishing the foundation of emotional safety and well-being: Google’s extensive study on teams, Daniel Coyle’s work in his recent, excellent book, “The Culture Code,” the Great Place to Work For All, research as emphasized in their analysis with well known behavioral economist Dan Ariely, and in Tasha Eurich’s terrific, “Insight.” All the data, which makes total intuitive sense, reinforces the idea that if people are fearful, they just can’t do their best. Yet, my experience is that many leaders have not given sufficient attention to this matter. I think that executives have become more anxious/pressured to increase performance through bringing in the right DNA (aka replace “underperforming” people more often), and also because I’m not sure they know what else to do to get results. The long standing idea to counter workplace anxiety, is that we tell the “survivors” that they’re “ok” after a round of firings. I actually believe, that while well intended, this is disingenuous. We all know this year’s super stars, including each of us, might be replaced next year for whatever reason. Furthermore, creating an emotionally safe culture goes way beyond the concept of job security. We all know that there is no such thing as pure job security, and that’s part of the issue. So what can we do about intentionally taking steps to create conditions for greater emotional safety in our organizations?

At a minimum, we need to consciously recognize that people at all levels, must be able to work in an environment where they are invited to openly express their views in a supportive, accepting atmosphere. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we’re all in agreement on things. However, respectful listening and frank dialogue are BOTH necessary ingredients. The conversation is indeed the relationship.

And now back to FUD. At Wealthsimple, it stands for Fear, Uncertainty or Doubt. On FUD Day, Katchen simply reads out any FUD he has received (which he intentionally invites to be sent directly to him beforehand) to the entire company. He encourages transparency ,and that people self-identify. Anonymous FUDS are also accepted. What’s unique about this process is that neither he nor anyone answers or offers a solution to the FUD at the time of disclosure. It is simply read out, a momentary pause is taken after each one, and they move to the next. Just the idea that one is invited to express a FUD and that ALL people openly hear it, adds to the emotional stability of the company. The CEO admits some are hard to read, and that he has to bite his tongue occasionally. Still, that’s the key, a non-judgmental acceptance of any FUD. It’s a great example of one small step for creating a more emotionally healthy atmosphere.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Learn/read more about the role both leadership and team members have in creating a truly emotional/psychological/physically safe environment.
  2. Why not try applying a FUD process? I am going to try it.
  3. Ask for feedback first! Lead the way. The very act of asking sets an example.
  4. Think of increasing the use of “YES, AND,” rather than “NO, BUT.”  
  5. Celebrate well intended failures with authenticity.

Addressing FUD in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think this is an outstanding concept. It makes sense that anyone in a workplace has plenty of fears, uncertainties and doubts, and if we’re able to just “rip the band-aid” off by addressing them from the top, then how great is that? I just would hope that FUD Day doesn’t turn into “Why does George in Accounting have to eat tuna and hard boiled eggs at his desk every day?”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Shaking and Rumbling Before the Breakthrough

Abundance Resilience Transformation

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Story: Chuck Yeager, the famous US pilot credited as the first to soar through the sound barrier, describes the unbelievable ruckus before the actual breakthrough. Accounts by Yeager and numerous others describe the incredible shaking, rocking, noise and general turbulence at 700 mph before cracking through. Then, there’s the wondrous beauty, relative silence and smooth sailing in the aftermath.

Key Point: Everyone of us will have numerous barrier breaking experiences in our lives (if we’re fortunate). And right now, many people I know and love, seem to be feeling Chuck Yeager’s turbulent moments. When you’re in it, whatever the circumstances, and however long, it will feel like eternity. It will feel like everything will bust apart and you will literally, in some form, crash and burn. The fact is, unless you choose that outcome, it rarely happens. At the moment, never ending crap and bad luck actually feels relentlessly real. Yet, when one is given the perspective from the future, which we unfortunately don’t have, it will viewed as a blip in our lifetime journey.

Some studies suggest that if you’re under 50 years of age, unless unlucky, you will likely live to be more than 125 years old. Those of us over 50 all have a good shot to beat 100. The few years of shakiness one may be going through momentarily will feel like an anthill in the rear view mirror.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Ok… I get that there are obligations and bills to pay. That is just one problem in a lousy situation, and it often involves taking a huge gulp of humility. Someone I love dearly has a graduate degree and more initials at the end of his name than anyone I know. After his job situation blew up, he spent almost three years as a greenskeeper on a local golf course, humbly waving at executives he knew from his prior role playing 18-holes and drinking beer. I admire him. Five hard years later (after getting laid off again in the oil recession), he’s back at full-swing doing what he’s great at. He’s a better human/leader for it. Allow for carving out the obligation strategy from the overall personal reinvention strategy. 
  2. This personal “shaking” time has to be your sweet opportunity to self-learn AND add to your adaptive resilience. What new content/skills will you acquire? Why? What personal values will you extend, adjust and embrace? What stories will you be able to tell? As you attend to number one above, you need a parallel plan for YOU! DO NOT waste the time just frantically throwing out resumes and network. Of course, you have to do that. But if that’s ALL you do, you’ll just get another job. If helps number one above for a while but…
  3. If you have a friend going through this, for heaven’s sake reach out and be a true friend. Your ignorant silence speaks all the judgment you may be trying to avoid. Don’t worry, it’s not contagious. However, I promise you one thing, even if you confidently deny it at the moment, your Chuck Yeager time will come. I hope your friend that you ignored in his/her time, will be there just to care and listen to you.

Breaking the sound barrier in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Yeah, it’s crazy to understand or grasp the full amount of time we have to be personally and professionally malleable. We Millennials likely still remember school (where everything was given a letter grade and improvements could be managed and calculated accordingly). Now, it’s a little more complicated. But, hopefully our values, positive attitude, work ethic, and goals can help get us through turbulence… Even if it’s shaking for an uncomfortable amount of time.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Getting Flatter Than Ever

Abundance Organizational culture Transformation

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Key Point: Familiar vertical leadership models are rapidly disappearing. As business models are being disrupted, so are the organizational structures many of us have grown up with. Modern companies are recognizing that new, collaborative communications and productivity tools along with the serious need for more adaptive, agile, and innovative cultures are quickly turning org charts inside out. The idea that people progress from worker to supervisor to manager to director to exec director to maybe VP is going bye-bye. Why? Connecting problems to solutions and necessary information flow is way too slow if it has to move up, down and across functions. If formal leadership is essentially command and control, is it really adding value? I don’t think so.

New leadership models like Holacracy and Agile are getting traction. These emerging leadership and governance principles involve much broader spans of control, more team/individual autonomy, accelerated peer-to-peer initiatives/coaching, teaming versus teamwork, and more. The thought that formal leaders have a few direct reports who they provide day-to-day direction is both inefficient and not adding value. It may make sense that formal leaders have at least 25 or more direct reports. These leaders would then have to focus on value added strategic support instead of daily direction. Who reports to whom becomes much less important than who is best equipped to get things done.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Ask yourself the hard questions as what value formal leaders in your organization really add. What’s the evidence? Is your leadership structure most efficient?
  2. What do you really need from a leader? Are you getting that? If not, what better contribution might you receive? From who? How often?
  3. Consider whether technology/skills/attributes are coming together for more autonomous, and greater contributions for all. How might we unleash that?

Unleashing all in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is interesting. It seems to me that most Millennials can get on board with more autonomy, and it’s fine if the typical progression or “ladder climbing” is done differently. But most importantly, there are still ladders that we want to ascend, so it would be great if whatever new leadership platforms take over still have an avenue to promote, compete, grow and succeed.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Garbage Men Dave and Rudy Teach Us WOW

Abundance Community Kindness

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Key Point: Our company has a value based on WOWing each other on a daily basis. I often have people look at me in bewilderment when we discuss this, like “how could I possibly do that in my role?” Well, look for guidance from Nova Scotia garbage men Dave and Rudy. You may want to watch the video in this CTV News article:

Every Wednesday, three-year-old Hiro Getson walks to the end of his driveway, sits down and waits for the garbage truck. Like many kids his age, the toddler from Eastern Passage, N.S. has developed a love of big trucks. But even stronger than that early fascination is his unlikely friendship with two garbage men he greets each week.

Dave Nickerson said he and his colleague, Rudy, have developed a weekly ritual.

Hiro Getson, 3, and his mom check out a garbage truck at the end of their driveway.

‘Rain or shine, he’s at the end of the driveway. So we started watching for him, honking the horn for him, getting out and letting him play with the handles,’ Nickerson told CTV Atlantic.

Since Hiro took an interest in the garbage truck and its drivers last year, he’s baked them cookies and, most recently, gave them cards on Valentine’s Day. To repay the little boy’s kindness, the garbage men brought Hiro a special gift this week for his birthday: a toy garbage truck that resembles his favourite ride. They painted the truck the same shade of green and included small, personal details.”

So now, Hiro has a cool garbage truck with Dave and Rudy decals on the toy doors. And, Dave and Rudy make this child happy every Wednesday while getting his affection, occasionally expressed in cookies. If you Google this trend, there are actually quite a few stories where garbage men see themselves as more than people who take away our refuse. They bring cleanliness and friendliness to the community. They could just be cantankerous workers, feeling victimized by their role and frustrated by the underlying aspect of garbage. It’s even likely some days are that way for Dave and Rudy. However, what a difference when we have the ability to reframe what’s in front of us. Let’s face it, everyone of us picks up garbage in our work. What if we challenged ourselves to reframe our jobs with a little bit of WOW?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Pause to think how we might WOW someone we interact with regularly. It doesn’t have to expensive or big. It is often just the statement that: “I see you, and appreciate that you’re there for me.”
  2. Be like Dave and Rudy this week. Wow someone who faithfully comes out to see you “every Wednesday.” Buy ’em a toy truck. Yay for Dave and Rudy’s inspirational act.

More than garbage in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I remember when one of my co-workers (who I didn’t really interact with much at the time) attended The Masters golf tournament with her husband. I was the only worker on my team interested in the event, and most other employees didn’t understand the appeal. Well, when I returned to my desk the week after, the co-worker who attended The Masters left me a small, green, plastic cup she acquired while there. It was likely free, but it was the idea that she hauled it back from Augusta, Georgia that meant so much. I still use it as a water cup on a regular basis. Definitely a WOW move.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Wing Nuts and Cultural Contribution

Abundance Management Organizational culture

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Key Point: “You’re a bunch of extraordinary leaders and wing nuts.” That was the comment from a leader in the community I was having breakfast with the other day. She was commenting on the success we’ve had growing a phenomenal culture at ATB Financial. Her view is that members of the senior leadership were individually a bit odd; certainly the CEO and me, if not the rest. I took that as a compliment. It got me thinking about the paradox of being alike, yet different.

Wharton’s top leadership thinker, and best selling author, Adam Grant, notes the following:

Hiring like-minded employees can be unifying and motivating for a startup powered by the momentum of its first, disruptive idea. But a growing body of evidence questions that approach for scaling companies, says Grant. ‘Culture fit’ becomes a proxy for non-boat-rockers whom everyone likes, and feels comfortable around. That way, stagnation lies. Grant prefers ‘cultural contribution.’ ‘Instead of asking, ‘does this person fit our culture?’’ he says, ‘We should be asking, ‘What is missing from our culture, and is this person going to enrich it?’”

I agree with Professor Grant. We do need boat-rockers and people that make us think differently. In my view, I want people to be alike on core values like self-accountability, respect and abundance. However, I also want people who challenge the heck of out of me and others. I consider myself to be a respectful challenger, and yes, a bit of a wing nut. And I hope that makes all of us better.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. When you add to your team or organization, give more serious consideration to cultural contribution. What’s missing? How might this next person enrich it? Consciously seek out the diversity they might bring.
  2. Celebrate your constructive wing nuts. You might even be one.

Wing Nuts in Personal Leadership,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I’ve certainly heard the theory that commonly makes its way into informal conversation: “There’s something a little ‘off’ about CEOs, political leaders, etc.” Some people suspect Elon Musk isn’t even from this planet. Personally, I do not view this as a negative adjective or descriptor. Various cynics even like to attribute high levels of success to stages of narcissism and autism. Who knows? There might be pieces of truth in all of that. But as Millennials, why would we say this? To me, it sounds like an excuse. Is it because we have big hills to climb and it’s easier to preemptively decide we can’t than put in the work (and possibly fail)? We can seemingly comment “#Goals” when we see a desirable achievement on Instagram, but then what? Rationalize that they must be a psycho for putting too much effort into work, appearance, relationships, etc? I sure hope I can rock the boat by being a wing nut, and I care way more for that idea than joining any like-minded group that cares not to try. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis