Let’s Take a Walk Together



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,


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


Hug a Board Member Today

Accountability Management Organizational leadership


Story: I’m just finishing up Module 3 of the University of Toronto’s, Rotman School of Management, highly touted ICD Directors Education program. I’m learning a great deal from a world class faculty and classmates, all current or aspiring Board members. One thing I’m quite surprised about is the number of Boards that are underperforming relative to CEO succession. That is one of the most important responsibilities of a Board of Directors, and it’s stunning to learn how many examples where that is not the case. (I’m proud to say the Board of the company I work for is an all-star group of directors. They have won prestigious Governance awards for that very reason, and are proving that as we go through our current CEO succession). Ideally, Boards oversee a CEO succession process that has at least the next 20 years covered with potential internal candidates (assuming minimum five year CEO terms). Furthermore, the Board has an obligation to ensure the company has a sustainable strategy and reviews the performance of a CEO in that context. This includes proactively planning for the new CEOs succession the first day they start. This accountability is part of the fiduciary responsibility and duty of care expected of any Board of Directors in public companies.

Key Point: Most of us will never be CEOs or Board members. Yet, we are well-served to know and understand the membership and duties of Boards in the organizations where we work. They set the tone from the top with the CEO. When you work in organizations where the culture, strategy, and results are excellent, you can be quite sure the Board and management are highly functional and well aligned. The opposite is also true. High performing Boards are exceptionally engaged, proactively lead governance, risk, audit, and all aspects of human resources including, but not limited to, the compensation framework. And fortunately, in Canada, the Board is accountable to do their best for the entire corporation, including keeping in mind the impact to employees, customers, shareholders and all other stakeholders. This is more comprehensive than simply looking after the shareholders’ interest. They do all this while being accountable for any liability that might occur. Most Board members commit because they care about the institution and its purpose. Except for a few big Boards of high profile public companies, their pay is not commensurate with the personal obligations, tremendous workload, and potential personal liability involved.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Take some time to know who the Board members are in your organization. Appreciate why they personally have been selected, what they do, and what committees they are on. Recognize that they are there to do their best in good faith, and to keep your organization thriving.
  2. Appreciate that well-run Boards go through a rigorous self-evaluation process, often including tough-minded peer review. If they aren’t performing and continuously developing, the Chair will replace them. They also undertake a very thorough review of the CEO’s performance.
  3. One of the well-used operating guides for Board members  is “nose in, hands out.” The CEO runs the company, while a great Board rigorously shepherds along the way.

Hugging Board members in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: This is a great lesson from upper management that most Millennials likely overlook. Even most team managers might have a hard time finger pointing, or naming the Board members in their organizations. Even though the action is metaphorical, it’s tough to hug someone when you can’t even pick them out from a crowd at the next company event.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


Friggin’ Obvious in 1916

Accountability Books Productivity


Story: Our Company Chair is a very wise and accomplished man, perhaps a bit of a curmudgeon, and full of insight based on years of doing the hard work of the hard work. One of his trigger points is complexity. If someone presenting to the board does so in a web of tangled nonsense, the potential of you-know-what hitting the fan is likely. As I come to know him more, I better appreciate his love of the obvious and simple. I also better understand that the Chair’s philosophical management bible is largely based on a book called Obvious Adams, by Robert Updegraff, which was first published in 1916! Wow, and why? (Obtain a free digital copy here). 

Key Point: If I critically examine my life’s work, the more simple and obvious the initiative, the better the outcome. The more complex my ideas or approach, the less accessible and effective. I wish I would have had a “simple and obvious” coach my entire career. What would the Obvious Adams book say to better guide you and me in becoming more obvious and simple?

“5 Tests of the Obvious:

  • The problem when solved will be simple, and when found will be obvious
  • Does it make sense to the simple direct and generally unsophisticated mind of the public? If you can’t easily explain it to your “mother,” it maybe too complex?
  • Put it down on “paper.” Can you write it down and explain it in plain english in three paragraphs or less?
  • Does it explode in people’s minds? People ideally say, “why didn’t I think of that?”  
  • Is the time right? Timing, like in most things in life, is so important.

5 Creative Approaches to the Obvious:

  • What is the simplest possible way of doing it?
  • Supposed the whole process/thing were reversed?
  • What would the public’s vote on it be?
  • What opportunity is being overlooked because no one has bothered to develop it?
  • What are the special needs of the situation?”

Today we have so much cool, breakthrough technology, arguably way more brain power, and certainly more knowledge than in 1916. Still, the great inventions or reimagined work are often so darn simple, and in retrospect, very obvious. Take Uber, Airbnb, and even Snapchat as current examples. Yet, in organizations I often see problems addressed with total complexity. And while I believe management concepts like Lean, Agile, etc. are helpful, they can also become counterproductive when process and taxonomy overwhelm common sense. People get so hung up on form they can forget to ask the best questions, like those published in 1916.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Be confident and humble enough to fiercely challenge, based on the concepts of simple and obvious. (Does not mean simplistic).
  2. If your or my idea takes a long winded slide deck or PowerPoint to explain it, be self-critical and suspicious as to whether we have done enough work on it.
  3. Be wary of fancy language, overly technical jargon and/or so called solutions that seem to make the audience feel stupid. If you and I can’t understand it, we know what’s stupid… And it’s not us.
  4. Get a “simplicity coach.” P.S. – It might be your mother.

Simply Obvious in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: I remember in journalism school we were encouraged to write as simply and briefly as possible, because studies showed that the average media consumer read at about a 6th grade level. That might be surprising to those who like to dive into academic journals. Simple, concise, and to the point is statistically what people want. A strict and great professor of mine once told me, “if an article is more than 800 words, it better f*!$ing sing.” How’s that for obvious and simple advice?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


Why Your Glassdoor Score is So Important

Accountability Management Organizational culture


Story: Salesforce.com is flying high at the moment. It’s not intentionally in the award winning business, but it is cleaning up on “trophies” in a variety of prestigious and significant categories. The widely respected Great Place to Work organization has selected Salesforce as THE best place to work in both Canada and the U.S. They are also recognized as the most innovative organization in the world, which is impressive when competing against Apple, Google, Amazon, etc. At the GPTW conference in Toronto last week, a Salesforce executive, during her compelling presentation, pointed out that their research on employee retention was quite straightforward. They lost top talent to companies that had a higher Glassdoor score, and successfully recruited top talent from companies that had a score worse score than theirs. It is that clear and simple. Salesforce’s current Glassdoor score is 4.3 and Marc Benioff, the CEO, has a 97 percent approval rating. For most of the last six years, ATB Financial’s Glassdoor rating was 4.4, and CEO Dave Mowat had an amazing 99 percent approval. Last year, GPTW picked ATB as the No. 2 company to work for in Canada.

Key Point: If it can be rated, it will be rated. If it can be posted, it will be posted. To the extent one believes this premise to be true, what’s rated and posted on Glassdoor should matter greatly to leaders. According to its website, Glassdoor’s mission is: To help people everywhere find jobs and companies they love, through the power of transparency. The company’s numbers from Q1 2017, show 41 million unique users and 5,800 paying employer clients/partners. The average company rating is 3.3, on a five-point scale where 1.0 is very dissatisfied; 72 percent of employees rate their job/company “ok,” and the average CEO approval rating is 67 percent.

Glassdoor holds a growing database of millions of company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, interview reviews and questions, benefits reviews, office photos and more. Most of this information is shared by those who know a company best — the employees. Add to that millions of the latest jobs — the site allows you to see which employers are hiring, what it’s really like to work or interview there according to employees, and how much you could earn. According to the website, what differentiates Glassdoor from other recruiting channels is the quality candidates and the company’s influence on candidates’ decisions as they research jobs and companies.

Glassdoor’s transparency and integrity is vital, and has to be above being manipulated by trolls, bots, etc., where it might be gamed or faked. From my understanding, they have done a great job in this regard. While smart companies work at proactively encouraging favorable reviews, and are able to respond to negative comments, Glassdoor’s ratings and results are very real and demand serious attention. Would you work for a company that was more or less than___? What’s your minimum number?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Be aware of your company’s Glassdoor score.
  2. Read the rating/reviews, and have the leadership courage to non-defensively discuss both openly.
  3. Have a Glassdoor strategy. Not for the purpose of strategic trickery, but to really know and understand what current, past, and prospective employees are publicly declaring on this important platform. Then take action accordingly.

Aspiration: Higher than 4.5 on Glassdoor in Personal Leadership, 

– Lorne

One Millennial View: Glassdoor is definitely a useful window into what to expect from the company you might work for. I’ve been surprised to see some of the low, and high numbers from a variety of workplaces. Like with all social media, bots and trolls are likely involved, but if we Millennials are good at anything, it’s filtering through electronic nonsense.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.


My Company. Want to Join?

Accountability Organizational culture Purpose


Story: So how are we doing in terms of creating great places to work? The following are stats for the U.S. as of 2017. (Let’s assume for the purpose of this blog, that the numbers for Canada and Europe are in the same ballpark).

51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged (Gallup).

Disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion dollars annually (The Engagement Institute).

16 percent of employees said they felt “connected and engaged” by employers (EmployeeChannel).

There’s a lot more data, and little of it is sterling in terms of really positive trends. We don’t seem to be making much progress creating great workplaces.

Key Point: Most organizations are still struggling to create workplaces where participants are treated as fully functional, self-accountable, highly capable, trustworthy, well-intended adults. When one stand backs and looks at most institutional structures and processes, you realize they were built for an industrial era rather than modern one. How would you like to work for an organization that had the following attributes? 

  1. Purpose matters most. You join because you want to make the purpose more true everyday. Not just for a job. WHY the company exists, is clear, inspirational, and advances humankind. 
  2. Three values drive every part of the company; Self Accountability, Respect and Abundance. Every day starts for all with a quick reflection on the purpose and values.
  3. The business model constantly evolves to achieve the purpose. People are always first AND focused totally on how everything they do impacts the customer experience.
  4. Jobs and roles are fluid. Expectations are clear at both the individual and team level. Work constantly pivots to get the right stuff done for the customer.
  5. Every development conversation is aimed at helping people do what they’re good at, passionate about, and how value is created.
  6. Each leader is publicly rated by all, daily. The results are transparent and there for everyone to see. The same goes for each team member. There are NO stupid annual performance reviews. Results and behaviors are transparent, respectful, candid and deeply appreciated. When trends are negative, people are expected to reach out for help. All team members need to help and move the trend in a positive direction. Peer coaching in the context of work, is an everyday practice.
  7. Anyone can leave the company with a fair, pre-determined severance package at any time. Every team member has total control. The organization can also remove anyone at anytime with the same formula. No any one person can hire or fire (unless an egregious act of disrespect requires an immediate firing). Both hiring and firing is done after careful data-driven assessments by a small panel of team members.
  8. Pay and compensation benefits are fully transparent, and on a platform designed for a person of one, based on individual changing needs. 10 percent of all compensation is added for personal learning investment determined by each employee at their discretion. 
  9. Personal Time Off and vacation is determined by each person. Take what you need, when. Of course, the company values are thoughtfully applied. Employees are considerate and keep the impact to team members, customers and results in mind.
  10. Health care is aimed totally at keeping people healthy in every way. No designated sick time off. Take what’s needed. Stay as healthy as possible.
  11. Work where, when, and how you need to for the best results. Dress code is what helps you get stuff done.
  12. There is an annual profit share open and transparent to all. The more profit, the more everyone wins.
  13. Don’t be an ass.
  14. Ensure the customer becomes your best advertiser. 

Leadership Moves:

  1. Seriously consider the framework and rules behind the way you work. Do they make sense? Would you work for a company with the above framework? Why? Why not?

Loving and advancing humans everyday,


One Millennial View: I think everyone can be extremely attracted to the autonomy, freedoms, and values that this company offers. We Millennials, especially, would need to keep in mind that this also requires a ton of discipline, transparency and honesty. Perhaps at a more extreme level than we’re used to. How long till answering No. 6 above just turns into a “yeah yeah, everyone’s performing great,” when maybe they’re not? How long till that negatively affects No. 12? This is an inspiring system, but is human nature ready for it? If not, let’s individually ask ourselves what we need to do so we can be. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis