Wing Nuts and Cultural Contribution

Abundance Be Abundant

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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

Culture Cast: Analyzing Communication Systems

Abundance Accountability Be Abundant Be Accountable Be Respectful Personal leadership Podcast

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Hey Culture Cast Fans! In Season 2, Episode 5, Lorne and Lynette discuss communication systems, and much more. 

Please listen on Soundcloud and iTunes, and don’t forget to rate and review.

If listeners have any questions or thoughts, feel free to email the podcast at CultureCastPodcast@gmail.com.

Also, please follow the podcast @CultureCastPod1 on Twitter, and advance the conversation.

How Much More Meaningful Can Your Job be in 2018?

Abundance Be Abundant

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Key Point: “Purpose isn’t magic — it’s something we must consciously pursue and create. With the right approach, almost any job can be meaningful.” This is a quote from a wonderful HBR article by John Coleman. You may have read this site and/or listened to our podcasts in which we’ve reinforced the importance of “purpose” in organizations over last few years. The complete magic is when it connects with both personal meaning and purpose at work. From time to time, skeptics have challenged me on the reality or utility in finding that personal meaning or purpose at work. Isn’t a job at the end of the day just that, a “job?” Coleman offers a practical response to that question and a framework to help each of us find more of that personal work connection. He comments:

Remember why you work. Most of us don’t have the luxury of working solely for fun. We may enjoy our jobs, but we also work to earn money and pay bills. For most of us, work in and of itself is a meaningful act of service. Parents often work hard to invest in their children; and those without kids often help support aging parents or other relatives. Those without families often use their resources to support organizations they love in the community or their friends in times of need. It’s rare to find someone working with only their personal needs in mind. Who are you working for? Identify that person or group of people. When the hours are difficult or the tasks are unglamorous, remember that your work is an act of service for those you care about in your personal life. Keeping this front of mind will help you tie more purpose into your work, even when accomplishing the most tedious of tasks.

Coleman goes on to offer a very thoughtful and accessible personal framework:

The following advice on how to consciously endow your work with purpose regardless of your profession.

  1. Connect work to service. When I was in graduate school, I once heard Bill George tell a story about how he’d highlight both patients and employees at the Medtronic annual meeting when he was CEO. He’d invite a person whose life had been saved by a defibrillator, for example, to speak to his assembled colleagues and tell them how their work had saved his life. He’d highlight someone in the Medtronic quality control department and explain how her dedication and rigor were saving thousands of lives. He’d connect his colleagues directly to the people they served.

    While everyone may not handle situations of life and death at work, we each do serve someone in what we do… Who do you serve? Connecting our day-to-day jobs — consciously and concretely — to those we’re ultimately serving makes completing that work more purposeful.
  2. Craft your work – and make work a craft. Yale Professor Amy Wrzesniewski once did an in-depth study of hospital custodial staff to determine what helped certain members of the custodial team excel. Her results (recounted by David Zax) were fascinating. Wrzesniewski uncovered a practice among the happiest and most effective custodians she termed ‘job crafting.’ These custodial workers, focused intensely on serving patients, would ‘[create] the work they wanted to do out of the work they’d been assigned—work they found meaningful and worthwhile.’ One would rearrange artwork in rooms to stimulate comatose patients’ brains; others devoted time to learning about the chemicals they used for cleaning rooms and figuring out which were least likely to irritate patients’ conditions. They were pursuing excellence in service to others and would adapt their jobs to suit that purpose. They enhanced their assigned work to be meaningful to themselves and to those they serve..
  3. Invest in positive relationships. Who we work with is as important as what we do. Psychologist Martin Seligman (among others) has written extensively on the importance of relationships to happiness and fulfillment (it’s a core element of his ‘PERMA’ model for flourishing); and the now famous Harvard Grant Study found that happiness and even financial success are tied to the warmth of one’s relationships, with the study’s chief architect famously concluding, ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’”

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Be clear on who you’re serving, working for and why.
  2. Become a masterful job crafter, regardless of role.
  3. Love the people you work with.
  4. Connect your personal meaning with the organization purpose.

As always, it’s that simple and that hard. Happy New Year in finding more personal meaning in our work.

More meaningful work in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is so true and valuable for a personal and positive mindset. It’s easy to be disheartened about some positions “on paper,” and society likes to say things like “well you’re not curing cancer.” Fine. That is likely the case. But for example, surgeons need coffee too, so even if you’re a barista, your good service (and a smile) might highly impact their performance… The point is, you just never know, your role could matter a lot more than you might think. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Principle of Inversion and Anti-Goals

Abundance Be Abundant Productivity Time Management

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Key Point: Let’s learn from Warren Buffett’s business partner, Charlie Munger, and the co-founders of Tiny. First, reflect on these three Munger quotes: “1. A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid: Early death, a bad marriage, etc…” “2. It is remarkable how much long-term advantage we have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent…” “3. Problems frequently get easier if you turn them around in reverse. In other words, if you want to help India, the question you should ask is not ‘how can I help India,’ it’s ‘what is doing the worst damage in India and how do I avoid it?

Munger is talking about inversion in the last quote; the idea that problems are best solved when they are reversed. It’s often easier to think about what you don’t want before what you do. My experience is that both people and organizations are out of balance regarding the amount of time spent determining what they want to achieve versus what they’d like to avoid or stop doing. And strategic legacy planning processes often just add stuff up without declaring anti-goals. The outcome becomes lists of stuff to do/measure and are made up of executives’ favorite ideas that reflect compromise more than clear intent. 

I loved the blog by Tiny co-founder, Andrew Wilkinson, where he put Munger’s wisdom into action. In his words:

“So, instead of thinking through what we wanted our perfect day to look like, we thought about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it. We inverted and came up with what we call Anti-Goals.

Our worst possible day looked like this:

  1. Full of long meetings.
  2. A packed calendar.
  3. Dealing with people we don’t like or trust.
  4. Owing people things/not being in control/obligations.
  5. Having to be at the office.
  6. Travel.
  7. Tired.

Working backwards from there, we made this set of Anti-Goals:

  1. Never schedule an in-person meeting when it can otherwise be accomplished via email or phone (or not at all).
  2. No more than two hours of scheduled time per day.
  3. No business or obligations with people we don’t like—even just a slight bad vibe and it’s a hard no.
  4. Never give up voting control of our businesses, no favors from people who could need something from us (ensure the rule of reciprocity doesn’t kick in).
  5. Work from a cafe across from a beautiful park where we can come and go as we please with nobody to bother us.
  6. Video conference or pay for people to come visit us.
  7. Never schedule morning meetings, sleep in when needed.

Problem solved.

Of course, we still have the odd unavoidable crappy day, but these simple Anti-Goals have made our lives immeasurably better by setting an Anti-Goal instead of a goal. Try it sometime, it’s insanely simple and strangely powerful.”

Character Moves:

  1. Try inversion and anti-goals. As Wilkinson notes, it is a simple yet powerful process. Sometimes to be crystal clear about what you want, the best starting route is to get there through declaring what you don’t want first. I do argue however that establishing BOTH goals and anti-goals are important. The processes are related, but different. Connect them. 
  2. Don’t be become that person that whines about how stupid your schedule is, how crazy hard you’re working, and how everyone/thing else is making you miserable. Be self-accountable and do something about it. Try inversion and anti-goals. It will help you break the cycle and move forward with more control over your situation than you might realize. 

Anti-goals in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I love Munger and Wilkinson’s quotes and the freedom they’ve allotted themselves with anti-goals. Some Millennials might read this and say, “But, I don’t have the professional control to accomplish my anti-goals.” That could be the case at the moment, but, at least by “setting” anti-goals, you can get a better sense of where you’d like to make your professional life more malleable as you further your career.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Ban All “Just A” Jobs!

Abundance Be Abundant Contribution Management

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Key Point: Every role and job in every organization is vital. There is no room for what I call “just a” type jobs. Of course, some jobs pay better than others for a variety of reasons. However, from a company’s “brand” perspective, every job counts big time.

Many of my readers know I work in the financial services sector. In our retail business, we have a frontline customer-facing position called a CSR (Customer Service Rep). When we first held Culture Days (our on-boarding event for new hires), as people introduced themselves, some might say, “I’m JUST a CSR.” As the exec sponsor and facilitator, I would politely intervene; asking the CSR to take out “just a.” Why? This position creates the brand impression for our company due to the number of customers they touch each day and every minute. It is an essential and vital role! You and I see this at other workplaces daily. For example: The coffee barista, bus driver, receptionist, call center person, flight attendant, waiter, etc. Regardless of what companies advertise as their brand, the real brand “smell test” starts when we interact with the frontline customer-facing folks. How could we afford to have anyone of these people see himself or herself in “just a” job?

I remember when I first became the Chief People Officer of the company in 2012, and attended one our prescheduled on-boarding sessions. I sat down at a random table for lunch, and asked people why they joined the company. The very first response came from a CSR and it was, “my mom wanted me out of the house.” “Holy cow” is the politest response that immediately came to mind. I had to squeeze hard to keep my inner voice under control. If this is how we recruit for our customer facing positions, we had huge work to do. And we did. As a result, we are at a much better and different spot today. Every role is vital, and direct customer-facing ones, even more so.

Character Moves:

  1. As a leader, it is your job to make sure every role is a vital one based on the impact to customers and other teammates. Ban “just a” jobs. Help every person in every role connect to the organization’s purpose.
  2. As a team member, you also have a responsibility to connect to your company’s purpose and to act as if you matter… Because you do. Think big. Be big. Do not “mail it in,” as the saying goes. 
  3. Have the highest standards of recruiting for every position including “dishwasher.” Do not let anyone in just to fill for “just a” job. Unless, of course, you do not care about your brand.

No “just a’s” in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I’m sure some Millennials might be told by peers or even society that their position is “just a” job. You can see how that’d be an easy mindset to trap yourself in, especially if you’re still searching for a position that fully utilizes your earned skillsets, or find yourself between jobs and needing to pay bills with work you’re overqualified for. But, I suppose that’s when you have to lend a nice middle-finger to anyone who tries to knock you down a peg, and believe that anything you do that (legally) keeps the lights on is something to find pride in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis