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

 

Wednesday Q/A on Personal Leadership

Authenticity Personal leadership

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To our readers, 

Welcome to our latest installment of a Lorne Rubis Q/A series. We’ve accumulated some popular leadership questions, and below are Lorne’s answers to them. We plan to release these every-other Wednesday. We’d like to encourage you to participate, see below on how to contribute! 

1. Hey, I’m in a position where I need to deliver bad news to my team. What’s the best way for a leader to approach a situation like this? 
 
“I am such a big believer in trusting in the audience with transparency and truth. People have pretty good BS antennas that they can see through most “spins.” So, be authentic, tell the truth regardless of how difficult, be compassionate and trust that people will be overall appreciative.”
 
2. What kind of criticism about personal leadership do you hear the most?
 
“The biggest complaint I hear about leaders is their perceived lack of courage and self-accountability to confront difficult issues with directness, meaningful specificity and timeliness. They too often confuse patronizing niceness with care. Subsequently the reason they would rather avoid talking about hard stuff is often to protect themselves from the emotional impact. The mental spin in their own mind is to protect others. Instead they make it worse. Leaders have to CARE about others first. That includes addressing the tough issues relative to people.”
 
We hope you enjoyed this Q/A session. We’d like to keep these coming, so if you have any questions, please submit them to CultureCastPodcast@gmail.com, or DM us @CultureCastPod1 on Twitter. We look forward to many more, every other Wednesday.

Dinner of Truth

Authenticity Books Respect

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Key Point: Becoming more self-aware is just plain hard. I’m reading Tasha Eurich’s great book “Insight”, which is a comprehensive tour on the subject. It’s an important read.

The painful truth is that we all have blind spots and yet most people around us are reluctant to share insights or feedback that might be perceived as undesirable. In the book, the author refers to a term coined by her researchers as the MUM effect; keeping Mum about Undesirable Messages. Findings confirm that when we’re in possession of information that might make someone uncomfortable, we tend to chose the path of least resistance and decide to say nothing. In fact, people are willing to tell white lies rather than the cold, hard truth. Of course, that avoidance does little to help you and me become more self-aware and positively grow.

Perhaps equally unfortunate is that many of us actually prefer the MUM “rule” being in effect. Why? Feedback can be and often is painful. When someone asks if we want feedback, our brain actually sends out physical pain signals. But avoiding feedback does little for us. The way people see us still exists whether we become aware of it or not. So, why not choose to learn the “truth” on our own terms?

You and I need loving critics. These are people who will be honest with us while having our best interests at heart. People like this are not necessarily someone we are closest to. However, there is a high level of mutual trust when this individual is willing to go out of their way to help us. This loving critic also needs to have sufficient exposure to behavior we want feedback on, and a picture of the impact of that behavior. They must be willing, based on a foundation of trust, to be totally honest.

How brave are you? If you have identified a loving critic, how about participating in a “Dinner of Truth?” Over a meal, ask your guest to tell you one thing that annoys them most about you. The rules include telling them why you’re asking, that nothing is off the table, and that you are NOT ALLOWED to respond defensively. You can only listen with an open mind and heart. How about a few Dinners of Truth?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. If you venture into the Dinner of Truth, it is helpful to mentally prepare for what might be said. Decide how deep you want to go, and remind yourself and loving the critic that this is about personal growth. Ask questions to clarify and better understand.
  2. Really really listen by applying Eurich’s “Three R Model:” Receive, Reflect and Respond” to the feedback. How you choose to respond and both learn and unlearn from feedback is an intentional practice. Read more about the “Three R Model” here. If you don’t do anything with the dinner feedback, you’ve wasted time with a very valuable ally.
  3. Recognize that being self-aware is understanding both who you are AND how others see you. That’s darn hard work, and we’re worth it.

Dinner of Truth in Personal Leadership

Lorne

P.S. Please click on and enjoy this video below of more Leadership Moves, and stay tuned for an upcoming embedded Lorne Rubis YouTube channel, and Instagram stories/Snapchat videos that will feature many more.

Watch: What If and How Might We

One Millennial View: It’s great to see “loving critics” can be embraced, and feedback be encouraged instead of censored. I’m so glad Eurich can define the MUM effect, develop the “Three R Model,” and how we can learn to incorporate a good meal with it. A “Dinner of Truth” might be tough to swallow, but it’ll only make us stronger and personally improve.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Underneath the Resume!

Accountability Authenticity Management

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Key Point: Have you been “let go” from your job? Ok, I mean fired. I don’t necessarily mean for “cause.” Actually, “just cause” dismissals are not that common (unless egregious) because even when managers think they have a case, organizations don’t want a big “dust up” and often prefer just to pay (as little as possible) to make someone exit. Smaller organizations often use the cover of dismissal “for cause” to avoid a payout, because they can get away with it and/or employees are somewhat defenseless. The most common way people get “let go” includes a continuum of possibilities. People find themselves transferred, given a “new challenge,” and so on. On the other hand, employees often “fire themselves.” They end up at odds with their leader and/or the organization, and leave for something else. The process is different and the outcome is the same. The very worst situation is when people quit on the job. They try to blend with the wall paint, often in prolonged career misery.

I chuckle a bit when I review the resumes of top, highly touted executives. They look pristine. It’s like “wow… This person is perfect, a blemish free superstar.” Of course, when you dig deep enough, you find out that’s not the case. Almost every time I explore why someone left for something else there is “more to the story.” So whoever big shot VP or CEO you work for, there is likely a time or two underneath the words of his/her resume where things didn’t go or end well. When they look in the mirror, they know the real truth. And here is the best part from my perspective; I don’t want anyone working for me that hasn’t had to overcome failure or mistakes. Why? It’s inevitable. If you’re trying to advance or improve, you will scrape your knees and elbows. How else does one really learn? You only trip when you’re moving, as the saying goes.

In my opinion, resume discussions really suck when the person pretends something else and uses career spin “make up,” aka the lipstick on a pig approach to career history. So you screwed up or things didn’t go as planned? Set yourself free by accepting, learning, moving forward and recognizing you are not alone. Resumes and the stories people tell at family gatherings are like a Facebook or Instagram page: Every situation is all smiles, and everyone is at the beach. Yet we know, underneath that page is real life and the messy rawness it serves up.

Character Moves:

  1. Success definition has to come from the inside out. Minimize attaching yourself to a role or a career track you create in your mind. It’s likely not going to work out that way. Dr. Peter Jensen, a sports psychologist, tells Olympians “if you weren’t good enough before the gold medal, you won’t be good enough after you win it either.”
  2. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else’s career ride. They are not you, and try not to judge yourself accordingly. Trust me, where they are in their journey will have a wonderful combination of ups and downs. Without minimizing smarts and hard work, factors like timing, luck, etc. are all relevant too. Every situation is unique.
  3. Define your purpose, live by deeply held values, try and work at what you’re good at, like to do and deliver something of value for others you care about… Then, accept that you WILL enter and exit multiple times… You and everyone else.

Under the resume in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is refreshing to hear. We technically know that no one is perfect, but it seems like a ton of people can’t wait to throw those first stones as soon as they get the opportunity to. No one likes screwing up, but for me, I know the minute I’m stressing about perfection is probably when I’m going to make that nightmare typo where I publish a news story with a title referring to George Clooney’s wife, Amal, as “Anal Clooney.” It hasn’t happened yet, but don’t put it past me.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Take Off the Mask

Authenticity Courage Respect

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Key Point: Vulnerability in leadership involves the courage to be real, authentic and self-aware enough to be able check our ego at the door. Easy to say, well researched and documented, and yet a road less travelled by too many of today’s leaders. Why? It’s scary to be vulnerable for many of us. What will people think of us? Will they see us as weak? Will we be taken advantage of? 

As the Chief People Officer of our organization, our CEO and I recently gathered all of the top management team and their direct reports for an entire day. Our purpose was to take another small but important step to advance our leadership capabilities. We believe people have a right to great leaders and leaders have a responsibility to be great (not perfect). This involves getting fierce feedback and help from those we work closely with. Each of our top team leaders were presented with a data pack that outlined the collective feedback, and an assessment of their leadership competence as viewed by their direct reports and boss (the CEO). Each top leader then shared the unvarnished results with his/her entire team. In intimate circles, each of our CEO’s nine direct reports huddled with their direct teams in deep conversation, sharing strengths and shortcomings outlined in the packs. The common phrase from each executive was, “Thank you for your frank insight.” This past week, approximately 30 days later, we checked in with participants regarding the value of that Leadership Day. One common theme: How powerful it was for the top team to be vulnerable, and openly share areas for personal leadership improvement. For most attendees, that was a “wow,” and a great example of courageous leadership. 

According to professors Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes, who arguably have the richest research based insights on leadership on the planet: ”If there’s ever a place for leaders to ‘model the way,’ it’s vulnerability. When leaders aren’t vulnerable, everyone wears a mask. Encourage vulnerability by practicing vulnerability.” Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, once said, “The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability… When the leader demonstrates vulnerability and sensibility and brings people together, the team wins.” And one of my favorite social scientists, Brené Brown, who is an expert on social connection, conducted thousands of interviews to discover that vulnerability lies at the root of social connection. Vulnerability here does not mean being weak or submissive. To the contrary, it implies the courage to be yourself. It means replacing “professional distance” and “cool” with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Leadership opportunities through vulnerability present themselves to us at work every day. 

The following five benefits and 10 practices of vulnerability, based on Posner/Kouzes work was published in SOLUTION SATURDAY – 10 WAYS TO BUILD VULNERABILITY INTO CULTURE.

Five Benefits:

  1. Self-protective leaders spend their energy maintaining image. It’s draining. Vulnerability enables leaders to spend their energy on energizing others.
  2. Courage to be seen gives others courage to connect. Vulnerability is an open door for those who wish to connect.
  3. Protective silos block teamwork. Vulnerability breaks silos.
  4. People dare to engage when they dare to be themselves.
  5. Strong relationships require transparency.

10 Ways to Build Vulnerability into Organizational Culture:

  1. Extend trust. Trust is given, not earned. The most vulnerable thing a leader does is extend trust. 
  2. Practice optimistic transparency. Don’t pretend things are easy when they’re challenging.People won’t trust you if they think you’re faking.
  3. Reject ridicule.
  4. Listen with empathy. When you feel compassion, let it out.Leadership empathy fuels momentum. Don’t use empathy to validate failure or lack of effort.
  5. Speak from your heart. Organizations are filled with talking heads. Leaders of influence speak from the heart.
  6. Honor constructive dissent. Reject whining.
  7. Welcome new ideas and learn from mistakes.
  8. Share what you’re learning. Expose personal ignorance.Say: A. I never thought of that. B. I’m learning. C. I’m reading…
  9. Give credit.
  10. Live by shared values. The fence around safe playgrounds is built of shared values. Call out public violations of shared values.

Character Moves:

  1. Know what vulnerability is, and recognize when you see it in action. Note that none of the above 10 practices involves walking around with a box of Kleenex (although there is a place for that too).
  1. Accept vulnerability as a strengthBeing vulnerable makes us better leaders because we stop wasting energy protecting ourselves from what we think other people shouldn’t see. (Ironically, everyone knows our weaknesses anyway). By accepting vulnerability as strength, we stop worrying about having every answer. It’s also being real enough to recognize and admit that we will be wrong. Trying to hide that fact is what can make us weak.
  1. Practice vulnerabilityMost of us need to practice being vulnerable because it doesn’t always come naturally. There is a well-established myth about leaders having to lead every charge with the right answers blaring out from our bugles. Nope: Remind yourself that it’s not about you, but the people around you.

More vulnerability in the Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: There’s a term Millennials are likely aware of called a “try-hard.” It refers to the individual that goes way above and beyond to appear to be something they’re not. Was the person who “tried” to be the coolest, ever the coolest? The person who attempted to be funniest, ever that funny? Not in my experience. Pretending to be completely invulnerable is so transparent, it’s so “try-hard.” Having the integrity to be real is so much more respectable.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis