Great Leaders Are Great Storytellers

Accountability Be Accountable Empathy Thought leadership


Key Point: If you want to inspire team members, you have to make a personal, emotional connection. One of the key competencies of great leaders is the ability to have team members emotionally relate to a desired future state; ideally a massive transformative purpose (MTP). People literally have to feel, see, and use other senses to “picture” milestones along the way. Data or other so-called points of factual evidence are not sufficient. Emotion needs to be involved. Hence, great leaders are great storytellers. 

Christine Comaford, of the SmartTribes Institute, recently posted an exceptional infographic outlining why leaders need to be great storytellers. Please invest in carefully reviewing and learning from it. See below:

Character Moves:

  1. Every day you have a storytelling opportunity to advance yourself, team, and/or organization. How do you rate on the CURVE model? (Thank you SmartTribes Institute).
  2. Become an intentional storyteller by practicing the CURVE story model. It takes practice, practice, practice. And the end result is: Did you move others to take positive forward action? If not, you’re an entertainer at best and vanilla pudding at worst. Be a more impactful leader by becoming a practiced storyteller. 

Great CURVE in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: This CURVE model is fantastic, especially when it comes to the effects on brain activity, specifically neural coupling and dopamine. A Millennial’s biggest concern at work may just be losing that “thrill,” and slipping into a state of mindlessness that takes away any emotional desire to compete… Oops, we woke up 20 years later and still haven’t progressed. That’s terrifying. That’s surely not the story I want to tell, and it would be beneficial to learn from great leaders who need us to contribute in developing invigorating chapters as soon as possible.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Become a Connection Master

Be Respectful Community Empathy Respect


Key Point: How many connection points do you have with people you want to advance a relationship with? How do you begin your communication with anyone? Do you start at a connection point and go from there? 

The first time I went to Seoul, South Korea, I was there to work on a consortium between three U.S. companies and a local Korean partner. Shortly after our plane touched down, we gathered with our teams in a hotel meeting room. Our Korean hosts were gracious and well organized. A team of four to five subject matter experts accompanied each CEO. The president of the Korean company then announced without any advanced notice, that the working teams were going to immediately work on our proposal (due at the end of the week), but the plans were different for the four CEOs. Hmm… Ok. So the four of us were shuffled off to an awaiting car, which to our surprise took us to one of Seoul’s most famous spas. No swimming trunks required. Oh, geez. 

Within an hour, we were stripping down to our birthday suits, led from one spa pool to another (some with unusual color… like green tea). This included different types of spa stations (hot rocks, etc.). The four of us knew each other to various degrees from previous meetings and phone calls, however, our Korean hosts made sure we now knew exactly what we looked like without our CEO “uniforms;” just four dumpy, wrinkled, old guys sitting naked in a pool… The last one with water temp at 59 degrees F; our final indignity. (I apologize if this image is causing readers nausea, lol). In retrospect, the strategy of our Korean hosts, while very uncomfortable at first, was quite clever. We needed to be transparent, open, and didn’t have much time to get to a trusting relationship. Getting naked together, while highly unusual for us westerners, helped us get there in a hurry. I wish I could tell you we won the bid. Unfortunately, the RFP (request for proposal) was withdrawn before we could fully compete. However, the four companies had become a team of one very quickly, and I liked our chances if we could have presented our bid. 

Having an emotional connection point is something we teach and encourage as a gateway process in all team and individual learning/development in our company. With anyone we want to advance our relationship (customer, teammate, outside stakeholder), we encourage finding a connection point BEFORE getting into content. It might be as simple as exchanging a smile, remembering names, common circumstances, etc. This applies whether face-to-face, video, voice or text. We want people to connect FIRST. The message is, “I see you,” and “I want you to see me.” After establishing genuine contact, we can really begin to listen to each other. 

Character Moves:

  1. Establish an intentional connection strategy with everyone you want to advance a relationship with. As a real life metaphor, try applying this with strangers that you share the road with. When you see the other car trying to switch lanes, why not graciously let them in front of you? Your action says, “I see you.” How does it work for you when you ignore them, or worse? Present them with your middle finger?
  2. Watch the very best connectors; They have a smile, eye contact, a way of finding a common ground, even when it’s something benign as the weather. The very best are masters regardless of the medium. They remember details, and invest in the bridges between you and them. And we need those bridges to “walk back and forth” on. How else do we begin to really listen and empathize with each other if we do not have a connection point and some emotional place to start from?
  3. The very best communicators are humble and confident enough to recognize the need to advance all relationships, including with those in less advantageous situations and even so called “enemies.” A connection point, however small, begins a bridge and where there is a bridge, however fragile, there is the hope of getting to a better place. 

Master connector in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: When I recently heard that temperatures in Arizona would reach around the 120 degree F mark, a part of me got a little jealous. That type of heat, however miserable, brings a connection between you and everyone else experiencing it. When you burn your hand on a steering wheel, and when your ChapStick liquefies, you can silently pass anyone else in a parking lot and you each give each other the “holy $#!*, is it hot” look. It’s a cool experience, and then whatever meeting you may have with the sweet, sweet relief of air conditioning will automatically be so much better.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Cancer and Cancel

Be Respectful Empathy Kindness Respect


Key Point: I read a touching article by someone with late stage cancer the other day. One insight that really struck me was that “cancer” and “cancel” were just one consonant apart, and in some ways the two words “held each other’s hands.” Her view was that all the future plans she had were suddenly on hold. It was like flying down the freeway at 100 clicks and suddenly slamming on the breaks to take an off ramp. Cancer is a big word of course, and everyone’s diagnosis and situation is as intimate and personal as anything might be. 

Last year I had a carcinoma removed. As most know, this is about as a benign of cancer one might hope for. It’s typically slow growing and early diagnosis, along with the right surgical intervention gets rid of it permanently. When I had my facial surgery, it required about 18 stitches and was very noticeable. As I returned to work the morning after my procedure, I had a big white gauze bandage on my face. Of course everyone I ran into asked me or joked about it… Typically, “what did the other guy look like?” I decided to respond by saying, “it was cancer.” Now, if you ever want to shorten a conversation or abruptly adjourn a meeting, try the phrase “it’s cancer.” The likely reaction is an uncomfortable look away from any eye contact, followed by a quick exit. I wanted to yell after each person, “it’s not contagious! I promise! Please don’t run away!!” Ok, I’m exaggerating a little for affect here, but you get the drift. 

I personally know a couple of people in the workplace right now with a late stage cancer diagnosis. They are in one friggin’ big battle with C. And I know they need our compassion and support. Note, this is not the same as sympathy and pity. In most cases, that’s the last thing they want. When colleagues find out about a teammate that has been diagnosed, people are impacted with genuine concern for their co-worker, AND often many become frightened thinking about whether or not such a thing can happen to them.

And yes sadly, people who work during treatment or return to work after treatment may still encounter obvious or subtle workplace discrimination. For example, some employers and colleagues may assume that a person will be less productive or perform below the company’s expectations. And according to some research I’ve read, other examples of discriminatory actions include (believe it or not):

  • Being demoted without a clear reason
  • Being overlooked for new positions
  • Not receiving a promotion that you have earned
  • Finding a lack of flexibility when you request time off for medical appointments
  • Being left out of training or decision-making opportunities when you use sick leave for scheduled medical appointments.

It’s time we learned how to have more thoughtful, transparent strategies on how to better deal with cancer, mental health and other tough health issues. Of course, privacy related to disclosing a diagnosis is a right and privilege of each individual. Nevertheless, clearly supportive organizations and teammates can make such a phenomenal difference. This matters to the team member with cancer AND the rest of the work community as well. We ALL benefit from understanding and acting on the premise of being in it together and knowing we never have to go it alone. We all, if we’re awake, recognize the employee with cancer could easily be you or me. 

Character Moves:

1, If you are an employer/leader, you owe it to yourself, employees with cancer, and all team members to compassionately accommodate. All business is personal. When people are most vulnerable, our policies and care ideally shows up like a giant rescue spotlight on very dark and stormy waters. Advanced companies know how to meet with the employee, perhaps including a patient advocate, to discuss resources and support the person can access, including reviewing issues such as caregiving responsibility, childcare, finances and insurance – and then continuously staying in touch for on-going support. 

2. If you are a teammate, being self-aware and open about your own personal feelings and fear is understandable. Know how to be supportive by genuinely caring and NOT saying well intended dumb things like, “don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” “I had a friend who had the same thing and ___.” In most cases, people just want to be treated with respectful understanding, and never patronized or judged. 

3. Glen Sather, well known NHL hockey player and executive, had prostate cancer and gives out a bracelet to friends with the following phrase inscribed on it: “F…K Cancer.” Perhaps we should all wear that bracelet. For a very touching, authentic experience journey written by a friend going through his personal cancer battle, read Jim Button’s blog. He has been diagnosed with lung cancer. See his story/site here... His “character moves” are the real deal. 4 and 5 are from Jim Button:

4. “Be comfortable talking to the person. Ask questions as it’s up to the person to let you know how comfortable they are discussing. Certainly give them the ‘I hope you don’t mind talking’ opener so they have a way out if need be. It’s better to have been asked, and shown that you care than to be put into that scary cancer corner all by yourself.

5. Somehow it’s not all negatives. There are so many positives and people are great, so make sure this blog post isn’t about the shitty side of the equation. That being said, I am an optimist so I have that view, I have met others that are in a negative spiral and they are their cancer.”

6. Listen to Jim. True to his core values, he is genuinely finding the positives in his cancer journey. He is one of my real super heroes! 

F&$K Cancer in The Triangle 


One Millennial View: A famous Canadian YouTuber is actually going through chemotherapy and vlogging it for his millions of followers. His normal business is fitness and competitive eating, so it’s strange to watch someone who just deadlifted 700 pounds physically deteriorate while battling cancer for the third time. His spirit, however, has not. Thanks to these outlets, we have a better window into these circumstances than ever before… We get to see how human they are, how generally positive those going through it remain, the verbal support they receive, and that subtle/scary reminder that you just never know when it might be you. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall

Be Respectful Empathy Respect Self-improvement


“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son

And where have you been, my darling young one 

I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains 

I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways…”

– Dylan

Key Point: Confidence is a vital emotion and mindset in business and all parts of our life. I believe that learning how to navigate our personal failures and frequent stumbles is an important skill in building that confidence. Somewhat paradoxically, if we learn how to honestly accept these imperfect moments with humility and curiosity (minus wasteful self-blame), it will help us thrive, build an authentic confidence that will further attract us to others, and help us do better work. 

The following is from one of The New Yorker’s most popular blogs of 2016. It is by the famous, now 70-year-old punk rocker Patti Smith; a self-reflection on her “failed” performance at the very prestigious 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony. Smith accepted the Nobel Laureate in Literature on behalf of Bob Dylan, by singing one of his most iconic songs.

“’A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ is a song that resonates particularly strongly in—as chairman of the board of the Nobel Foundation Carl-Henrik Heldin said during the Nobel ceremony—‘times like these.’” That was the introduction to Patti Smith. Next is the excerpt from her New Yorker blog:

“And then suddenly it was time. The orchestra was arranged on the balcony overlooking the stage, where the King, the royal family, and the laureates were seated. I sat next to the conductor… Then Bob Dylan was announced as the Nobel Laureate in Literature, and I felt my heart pounding. After a moving speech dedicated to him was read, I heard my name spoken and I rose. As if in a fairy tale, I stood before the Swedish King and Queen and some of the great minds of the world, armed with a song in which every line encoded the experience and resilience of the poet who penned them. The opening chords of the song were introduced, and I heard myself singing. The first verse was passable, a bit shaky, but I was certain I would settle. But instead I was struck with a plethora of emotions, avalanching with such intensity that I was unable to negotiate them… Unaccustomed to such an overwhelming case of nerves, I was unable to continue. I hadn’t forgotten the words that were now a part of me. I was simply unable to draw them out.”

I’d encourage you to watch Smith’s performance in the attached video. This is the moment that poignantly demonstrates how stumbling eventually, although somewhat painfully, contributes to a more confident and authentic stride. 

Smith goes on saying, “When I arose the next morning, it was snowing. In the breakfast room, I was greeted by many of the Nobel scientists. They showed appreciation for my very public struggle. They told me I did a good job. ‘I wish I would have done better,’ I said. ‘No, no,’ they replied, ‘none of us wish that.’ For us, your performance seemed a metaphor for our own struggles. Words of kindness continued through the day, and in the end I had to come to terms with the truer nature of my duty. Why do we commit our work? Why do we perform? It is above all for the entertainment and transformation of the people. It is all for them. The song asked for nothing. The creator of the song asked for nothing. So why should I ask for anything?”

And this is my bridge to the previous “New Years” blog on risk taking, moving forward and creating your own path. Take that stage. Sing that song. 

Character Moves:

  1. In 2017, perhaps the same day you read this blog, there will be a personal, imperfect stumbling. We are all very likely to have our “Patti Smith” moments, (although probably not in the same spectacular fashion). If we accept and have the ability with humility to be curious about what happened, we will develop more genuine confidence.
  1. The “patina” from scars, scratches, and nicks makes us more interesting and frankly even beautiful. Why rob ourselves of those moments? We need to put ourselves out there on the stage. As Smith says, it’s the true nature of our work. We all struggle. “Why should we ask for more?”
  1. I believe confidence is most reflected in the tree trunk, branches, leaves and all that’s above the ground. The strength and depth of the roots, however, comes from the learning, curiosity and self-understanding from our struggles, failures and imperfection. And all that’s above and below the ground needs some of that hard rain. 

Lovin’ The Hard Rain in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Patti Smith, Mariah Carey, Ronda Rousey… Just three giant names that come to mind with headline making “fails” in the days before 2017. As terrible as the backlashes may be, hopefully they can have the confidence to remember that they accomplished climbing on stages a lot taller than most of their critics’ soapboxes.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

I Am Here to Be Seen

Culture Empathy Respect


Key Point: Our CEO and I co-facilitate a day with new hires every month. It’s an important day where we focus exclusively on our culture, including our purpose and values. We also put an emphasis on the significance and skills associated with deep listening and reinforce the notion that the conversation is the relationship and the relationship is the conversation. At the outset, I introduce the rookie cohort to a greeting shared by the Zulu people of South Africa. Robert Holden Ph.D, a psychologist featured on Oprah and other channels, does a great job of outlining the essence of this profound way of connecting (I’ve touched on this briefly in an old blog that longtime readers my remember): 

“The greeting is an invocation spoken in two parts. One part is Sikhona, which means ‘I am here to be seen’; and the other part is Sawubona, which means ‘I see you.’ I usually demonstrate the greeting onstage with a volunteer. We stand facing each other, look deep into each other’s eyes, and then I say, ‘I am here to be seen,’ and the volunteer replies, ‘I see you.’ Next, the volunteer says, “I am here to be seen,” and I reply, ‘I see you.’ To appreciate the power of this Zulu invocation, it is helpful to look at it in four parts.

First, it begins with two people looking deep into each other’s eyes. This is powerful by itself. An uncommon depth of connection is established without any words. Eye contact is akin to soul contact. This sense of oneness always inspires better communication.

Second, the Zulu people believe that when a person says ‘I am here to be seen,’ it invokes the person’s spirit to be present. Saying ‘I am here’ is a declaration of intent to fully inhabit this moment. It signals a willingness to engage with integrity. Saying ‘to be seen’ emphasizes ‘no masks’ ‘no editing,’ and ‘no defenses.’ It means ‘This is the real me’ and ‘I will speak my truth.’ It means ‘I will be honest with you,’ and there will be no deception.

Third, ‘I see you’ is a powerful experience both for the person who says it and for the person who hears it. According to the Zulu tradition, to say ‘I see you’ offers an intention to release any preconceptions and judgments so that ‘I can see you as God created you.’ To hear ‘I see you’ is an affirmation that you do exist, that you are both equal, and that you have a person’s respect. Many people say this is the most moving part of the greeting. Some say it strengthens their resolve to be more authentic and visible in their life.

Fourth, this greeting represents the Zulu philosophy of ubuntu, which translates roughly as ‘humanity toward all.’ Ubuntu is a spiritual ethic that advocates mutual support for ‘bringing each other into existence.’ To practice ubuntu is to help your brothers and sisters remember their true identity, recognize their true value, and participate fully. Ubuntu teaches that our purpose is to be a true friend to one another. Through ubuntu we bring out the best in ourselves and others—it is a training in true leadership.”

This greeting is so powerful. The intent and presence underlying it offers so much promise in advancing the relationship. Imagine if we would ALL do that with each other every day? Just think about looking each other in the eye and the possibilities?

As if it was meant to be, I was recently introduced to Amy Herman. She is a former lawyer, art historian, and now author and teacher of visual intelligence. Law enforcement, medical professionals and organizations literally throughout the world revere her. Her book, Visual Intelligence, will soon to be a FOX (CSI genre) television series. Her view is that the intention of seeing is a start but not sufficient. Her ethos: Sharpen your perception, change your life. Stay tuned to the next blog, where I will connect the Zulu greeting to Visual Intelligence.  

Character Moves:

  1. Even though you might not exactly use the Zulu greeting, show and declare your intention to be seen. This means being comfortable who you authentically are; no masks, no editing, no B.S. Be the real you.
  1. We all have biases and must become aware of them. To really see someone else, RELEASE preconceptions and judgments. Observe, be present, capture exactly what you see and hear before you make up a story in your head. Respect! SEE the other person. 
  1. Ubuntu… We need that in this world now more than ever!

Ubuntu in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Hiding behind computer screens and avatars hasn’t done us Millennials too many favors in the eye-contact department. I often see a lack of it (no pun intended). I was fortunate enough to learn the value of eye contact from a young age, but it’s not a skill that should be taken for granted or forgotten. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis