July Lessons 6: Business is Always Personal

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: I worked for one person for many years and gave this individual every effort I had to create value for the organization. I also made a point of knowing something about this person’s children, partner, and even mother. I thought it was important to care about, and know my boss as a complete person. How might I understand his overall ambitions and interests if I didn’t? However, it disappointed me that the reverse was not true. I’m not a “matcher” though, and believed getting to know him more completely was the right thing to do, regardless. What saddened me was that our connection was incomplete without this person knowing something about my family. I wondered how much he actually cared about me. In the end, my concern was valid. I was mostly there as a commercial transaction. It’s just business, right?

Key Point: I’ve worked with wonderful people everywhere. I am so blessed to have spent time with so many people I’ve genuinely loved. Even though it’s challenging, and unrealistic to expect these relationships to fully continue after leaving each organization, the importance carries on. These personal connections actually accumulate to define us. So, one of my beliefs that has been fully endorsed working at ATB, is the idea that business is ALWAYS personal. It is never “just business,” even though that premise has been inappropriately used as rational for questionable behavior far too often.

In this context of business always being personal, I strongly believe you and I have an obligation to genuinely know the people we work closely with, without crossing privacy lines. This includes and is not limited to the following:

  1. Do they have a partner? His or her names?
  2. Do they have children? Grandchildren? Names?
  3. Do they have pets? Names?
  4. What do they do for fun?  
  5. What do they deeply care about?
  6. What do they like to eat?
  7. Coffee or tea? Cream or sugar? Etc. 

If you can’t answer most of these questions about the people who work for you, how can you possibly fully care about them? How can you help them grow and develop more fully? Don’t worry about whether your boss does the same with you. It’s a shame if he/she doesn’t. It’s most important that you set the example. It shows how much you are invested. How can you ask people to deeply care about you and where you want to take the organization without having personal consideration for them?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Connect with your teammates by genuinely getting to know them as complete people, including but not limited to the individuals they dearly love in their personal lives.
  2. Every conversation you have with these people ideally includes a sincere question about those important to them. Everytime!
  3. At minimum, you should know their partner’s name, and how many children they have (or comparable information). If not, why should they believe that you really care about them? No excuses.

Personal connections in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Even if you’re shy or believe that exchanging basic personal information with co-workers is a form of prying, there’s just no fun in knowing nothing about those you spend a considerable amount of your life working around. You’re seriously going to sit there all day and never shoot the breeze? We Millennials can definitely multi-task, so 40 plus hours a week are much better spent when your team isn’t a pack of total strangers.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

July Lessons 5: Duh… What ‘People First’ Really Means

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: I recently listened to young professional working at a car dealership tell me he was going to quit because, behind the scenes, the only thing his supervisors cared about was the “upsell.” They wanted customers to rate 10 out of 10, but frankly, their single concern was margin dollars. That’s why buying a car still sucks. Reading about the ugly Wells Fargo “fee pressure and sales upsell” scandal a few years ago made us cringe. Or Volkswagen lying about emissions results, etc. Business, free markets and even non-profits, at their best are marvels of value creation. At their worst, they make people last, both employees and customers.

This is a blinding flash of “duh.” I watched our engagement scores go up every year for six years. Yet, one area that proved to be stubborn and remained relatively flat was the feedback we were getting on “best tools to get the job done.” Regardless of the amount of investment we made in giving people productivity tools, we couldn’t move the needle much. On the principle of personal equity however, we were better every year. So what does this have to with putting people first?

Key Point: Putting people first has always been our strategy. People, customers and the shareholder, in that order. However, my learning after 40 years, believing in people first is NOT exclusive to the business’ human resource department. Of course, deeply caring for the well-being of people is vital, and I prefer to wrap that up under investing in the personal equity of each team member. I believe putting people first before the customer, in it’s best sense, is intentionally looking how every product and service the company provides starts with the questions: “What is the team member experience like to deliver the process, product or service to each other and the customer?” And “how does that team member feel presenting that policy, process, program, etc.?” If we make employees feel great, and in an ideal situation, even make them feel like they have super powers, that really IS people first. Then we become people first AND customer obsessed.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Become almost insanely obsessed looking at the customer experience through the eyes of team members first. Even digital properties need that consideration. Imagine what it will feel like delivering that product, device, policy or the customer service contact after the service/product experience.
  2. Think how to make the process, service, and product the HERO, instead of expecting people to be great because we’ve handed them a “turd sandwich” with parsley on top, to then give the customer. We keep grading people on their ability to compensate on poorly designed, over complex, and crumby offerings. In fact, too often we reward for customer recovery instead of a WOW experience for team members and customers. Become REALLY PEOPLE FIRST.

People First in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: As many of you might know, July 16 and 17th is Amazon Prime Day (at least in the U.S.), where all Amazon Prime members are encouraged to take advantage of cyber deals. It’s a huge reminder that human interaction for most goods and services is hardly even necessary anymore. If I want something, I likely can have it shipped to my front door. This suggests that People First is actually more valuable now than in the past, because if the quality of product and customer experience makes things more difficult than clicking a button from the comfort of my own home, then who needs it? People First is a good way to help ensure that you’ll keep seeing people come in at all.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

July Lessons 4: Find and Free the Unfound

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: On July 10, our company celebrated the one year anniversary of switching over to G Suite. It was massive, and by all accounts, a highly successful enterprise undertaking involving 5,000 plus dedicated and growth-minded team members. The entire initiative was one of the most rewarding experiences in my 40 plus year career. One very important part of the entire project involved recruiting and selecting more than 50 “transformers” we called G Evangelists. They had to audition, and came to represent every possible identity and cognitive diverse aspect of our company. The one rule was, if they were selected, their leaders could only say “yes.” And they were assured of a walk back to their roles at the conclusion of their secondment. A few of the people chosen to be G Evangelists were well-known, and high fliers. However, most were buried in the organization, and some were even on the bubble. Others were unsure and even ambivalent about their careers. One year later, almost to a person, they have been promoted and are doing amazing things in the company. Their bond as a cohort is unshakeable, and they still get together once a month on Google Meet, even though the official project has been operationalized since March.

Key Point: Organizations have to get better at finding, freeing, and engaging the unfound. They are everywhere in the company. They often don’t fully understand how talented they are. Even worse, top management is often incapable of reaching deep and taking the smothering blanket of outdated vertical structures out of the way. We need leaders that open opportunities to people who want to raise their hands from any place, any time, any level. There is so much unrealized talent just needing a nudge and leaders who say, “I know you can do it,” “I’m here to support you,” “I’ve got your back.” These men and women are everywhere, and it’s about time we develop new systems and processes to find them, free them and watch them flourish. Imagine if we could do that with more than 5,000 people. It’s a matter of asking “how might we?”

One more thing. I’ve almost never had a lousy performer. People have told me things like, “fire ___, they’re not a leader.” “Working closely, I find ___ to be indispensable when optimizing their strengths. Or, “___ can’t execute.” Yet, somehow working with me, I challenge ___ and, “nothing but net.” I’m no special leader. However, I believe given the right situation, ALL can be great contributors. That’s my job as a leader. Frankly, I’ve found leaders who talk tough about how the company needs way better people are usually the lousiest managers. No one raises their hands to work for them. They mask it well, but prefer fear over development. 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Find the unfound. Please know someone is out there needing an opportunity just like you. Free them up to contribute in ways they might not imagine they could. They will surprise themselves, and you.
  2. Your job includes offering opportunity to others in order to advance them. Abundantly give daily.

Found in Personal Leadership,

One Millennial View: It’s too true. In my experience, we all want a chance to be thrown in the water to see if we’ll swim. With the right coach, most of us will. Nevertheless, we’d rather drown trying than be stuck on a safe, dry dock.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

July Lessons Part 3: Really Invest in Personal Equity!

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: When you’re the Chief People Officer, one of the big responsibilities revolves around compensation. Pay and benefits are often the biggest single expense in any organization. It takes on even greater meaning when one considers this line item as an investment, rather than exclusively as an expense. How does the company get the best possible return for its investment?

Early in 2012/13, we began to introduce the concept of PERSONAL EQUITY into the organization. We knew that the promise of job security was an outdated principle. Heck, we could hardly predict what types of jobs might exist versus offer any employment guarantee. However, we could commit to peoples’ future state becoming better in every way until their very last date of work, whenever that might be. So we chose to make a statement to team members by challenging ourselves to create the best personal equity plan including, but not limited to, the greatest pension savings program ANYWHERE.  

Key Point: Every organization I’ve ever worked at shares one common viewpoint: People would like to be paid more! If you limit compensation to pay and benefits, it can often become an unsatisfactory and relentless chase of market comparison. However, by investing in PERSONAL EQUITY, the lens regarding regarding total compensation becomes much wider. Employees want and need fair pay and benefits. But what if the health benefits feel like they are made just for your situation? What if job experiences, and advancement opportunities are abundant? What if learning, formal and informal is plentiful? What if the leadership treats you like a self-accountable, autonomous adult? What if you are in a highly inclusive, cognitive and identity rich environment? What if there is a commitment to everyones’ financial, physical, emotional, spiritual and experiential well-being? What if the company made the following statement and acted accordingly? “People have the right to have great leaders.” And yes, what if the pension/savings plan was the best in the universe regarding personalization and company matching? With that overall strategy of PERSONAL EQUITY and total compensation, the ability to attract top talent accelerates. The best and brightest people seek that out. During my tenure we have had a few people leave primarily for pay, only to want to find a way back to more personal equity, and ultimately achieve a higher individual return.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Think of investing in people compensation as a comprehensive PERSONAL EQUITY SYSTEM, rather than revolving narrowly along pay/benefits.
  2. At the same time, get highly creative and personal regarding base pay and benefits. Find a scalable and equitable way to customize them for each person. 

Personal Equity and Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Of course money is an extremely important and necessary currency, but I’ve also come to realize that currency has many forms, not just monetary. Health, communication, culture, goals, time, knowledge, experiences, relationships, and others are also significant types of currency. So, while a great salary is desirable, it isn’t everything. A interesting one-liner I’ve heard is, “rich people have the same nightmares, just on a higher thread count.” I’m willing to bet the better the overall personal equity, the fewer nightmares.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

July Lessons Part Two: Once Upon a Time

Accountability

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Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: Two blogs ago, I recounted the story when as a new Chief People Officer, at one of my my first Human Resource Committee meetings, a Board member became exasperated when he read an aspirational story I had placed in the Board “package.” He hadn’t realized it was intentionally visionary, and I noted how fortunate I was that other directors came to my rescue to explain its intent. Please read that very same story in the screenshots below. I am gratified to report that this story has become mostly true, and even more so. This blog is intended to reinforce the power of setting intentions rather than to be bragging. And frankly, any recognition for making this tale more fact than fiction belongs to a great leadership team, and more than 5,000 people who are the characters and heroes. I simply had the privilege to paint the picture and invite everyone along for the ride.

Key Point: Thinking BIG, starting small, and acting now is everything when it comes to execution. I believe you need to set the intention of where you want to go with more than a few phrases. The “painting” needs texture, and enough definition to allow people to see/feel what the design looks like at key milestones along the way. As you read the story below, you will note that I hoped our pipeline of people wanting to join our company would be about 10k per year. We currently get about 50k of solicited and unsolicited applications. I was hoping we might be in the top 10 companies to work for. In 2017, we were chosen by the Great Place to Work/Globe and Mail as the No. 2 place to work in Canada. Our Glass Door (not really on the radar back in 2012), has been a consistent 4.4 out of 5, and our engagement scores (from 69 percent in 2012, to 92 percent in 2018) puts us in the top five percent of all companies using that metric. Club 228 became known as Club Catalyst, with 900 members, up from 500. The idea of working where you needed to to get the best results became a complete reality. (Workplace 2.0). Rapid opportunities for different experiences became what we called experiential bursts. Our dream statement or purpose became our now, quite famous, 94 word ATB Story. And I can go on and on how we exceeded this entire aspirational statement overall.

Yet, I missed on some things too. Although I was successful in getting the idea of personal equity imbedded as a principle, the Equity Story Book idea failed miserably. I just couldn’t get the project over the goal line, although our recognition system has become partly that concept. I also could not get the sabbatical notion off the ground. On the other hand, I kicked off something called My Time (a self-accountable sick leave/vacation system) which I believed was a better and broader system. Still, I couldn’t get that implemented either. I think that was a leadership failure on my part.

Overall, my teammates took the aspirational statement below and made it much better. Illustrating the future picture with enough texture and sensual context helped start a culture  movement. And wow, did Team ATB accelerate that movement into a culture that is just beginning to differentiate us. The best is in front for the new leadership to move forward.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Please read the aspirational story written in 2012 below, and see what you think
  2. Try writing your own aspirational story.
  3. As always,Think BIG, start small, AND act now. Make it happen. Engage the community, and it will become better than you might imagine. Just execute, iterate, pivot, execute again and repeat.

Aspirational in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

Story Here: 

One Millennial View: If that isn’t great inspiration for aspiration, I don’t know what is. As I mentioned a couple blogs ago, I don’t think most Millennials even contemplate sitting down and writing their aspirational story… But why not? Heck, if you’re brave enough, make a YouTube video of it and broadcast it for the world to see. You never know if the right eyes might see it. What have you got to lose? 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis