Let’s Call B.S.!

Accountability Organizational culture Organizational leadership

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Key Point: It’s time to call out companies and organizations that do nothing to advance humankind. And as part of misguided missions, it is also time to scream “B.S” when institutions populate and propagate value statements that are more spin than truth.

“I will work for the hottest company in the world.” That was the statement uttered by a candidate I was trying to recruit in 1999. Unfortunately for him, he chose Enron over us. Before its collapse, Enron marketed electricity and natural gas, delivered energy and other physical commodities, and provided financial/risk management services to customers around the world. In fact, Enron was once ranked the sixth-largest energy company in the world. In 2000, annual revenues reached over $1 billion USD and the stock was trading at more than $90/share. On Dec. 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy protection in the biggest case of bankruptcy in the United States (up to that point). Roughly 5,600 Enron employees subsequently lost their jobs. Most of the top executives were tried for fraud after it was revealed in Nov. 2001 that Enron’s earnings had been overstated by several hundred million dollars. The jury in the Enron case found both the former CEO, and founder, guilty of conspiracy and fraud. Arthur Andersen, Enron’s accounting firm, and at that time one of the so called “Big Five”, also dissolved.

The pictures above are of a plastic cube with Enron’s values stamped on it. This swag was circulated to all Enron’s employees. I’m sure it sat prominently on the CEO Jeff Skilling’s desk prior to his jail sentence. You will note that one side of the cube promises INTEGRITY with a commitment of honesty and openness to customers. Another side espouses RESPECT, where amongst other things, it emphases that arrogance and callousness don’t belong. I won’t even bother to tell you about the other sides of the cube. If you wonder why employees become suspicious, if not cynical, when value statements are created and published, be reminded of Enron and other phony organizations that say one thing but do another. All too often, published values are well-intended wishes that bear little resemblance to what people actually experience. At their worst, they are hollow statements (or even lies), written by PR or HR departments, printed on coffee mugs, posters, annual reports and yes… cubes, that make stakeholders want to vomit!

Declaring and living by meaningful value statements in organizations is hard work, requiring considerable thought and relentless application. They can never be “one and done.” To be real and materially impactful, they have to be soaked into and transparently visible in every part of the institutional fabric. When they live they are celebrated, and when contravened there are consequences. When they really guide ALL people in an organization, they genuinely become magical and mythical. They power the institution by binding diverse thought and behavior into true ONENESS.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. If you declare value statements, compel everyone to relentlessly commit. And when values are contravened (because we are imperfect human beings, they surely will be), insist the entire organization learns from the mistake. Then, recommit to the importance of the value.
  2. Call B.S. if values become empty promises. Do not let them become sad and broken statements relegated to coffee cups or cubes. Remind yourself how easy and slippery the slope is to have values compromised and culture permanently damaged. In Enron’s case, the bankruptcy started the day respect and integrity went out the window, and became ones that eventually had bars in front of them.

No value prisoners in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: The classic talking the talk without walking the walk. I would consider myself a trusting person, and it’s frustrating to know that I have to be wary of employer’s mission statements and values. I hope the hand-shake deal isn’t dead, but in 2018, you do need an antenna up. Millennial core values and truths are still extremely significant, and if they aren’t represented at your place of work, then you might want to rethink why you’re there. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Wednesday Q/A on Personal Leadership

Management Organizational culture 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 Lorne, I’ve just been promoted to a sales manager position and will be responsible for a team for the first time. Do you have any advice for someone stepping into a leadership position for the first time?” 

Yes… Regardless of what leadership level, people around you want to know who you are and what you stand for (your values / personal purpose) and where you’re going (so they can decide if they want to be part of it). The more you can be clear and authentic about the above, the more trust you will develop. And be real. You will be transparently obvious. No one likes a phony. And finally, people will give you lots of room to lead if they believe you deeply care about them first.

– Lorne 

  1. “When attempting to build and advance culture in your organization, is timing important?”

Building and advancing your culture is a never ending intentional focus. It does not have an end. However, there are times (like CEO transitions) or major market shifts when renewed energy or concentration ought to be applied! Key: Be intentional… Be relentless… Think and be humbly BIG!

– Lorne

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.

Upside Down Leadership

Accountability Organizational culture Organizational leadership

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Key Point: Overall, leadership isn’t getting much better. Even though organizations are spending tons of money on leadership development, statistically we aren’t seeing much leadership improvement. According to a recent HBR article: “70 percent of leaders rate themselves as inspiring and motivating – much in the same way as we all rate ourselves as great drivers. But this stands in stark contrast to how employees perceive their leaders. A survey published by Forbes found that 65 percent of employees would forego a pay raise if it meant seeing their leader fired, and a 2016 Gallup engagement survey found that 82 percent of employees see their leaders as fundamentally uninspiring. In our opinion, these two things are directly related. There is a vast upside to human leadership. As data from McKinsey & Company shows, when employees are intrinsically motivated, they are 32 percent more committed and 46 percent more satisfied with their job and perform 16 percent better.”

The idea that there is a vast upside to human leadership is a head scratcher. I guess somewhere along the road we signed up for inhuman leadership? And 65 percent would forego a raise to see their boss fired? Holy cow! So, how might we rapidly change this so-called inhuman leadership?

Based on 40 plus years of real world experience and leading research, I suggest the following:

  1. Allow employees to transparently rate leaders in confidential ways. The data trend would be your friend, or not. If we used a minimum number of input (10 people?) to openly rate leaders, we would see leadership improve dramatically. The audience is usually right. People have a right to great leaders. Continued poor ratings would require leaders to improve or be replaced.
  2. Expect that every leader should ask for feedback FIRST. Leaders like the ability and even expect to give feedback to direct reports. However, modern research reinforces the value of leaders creating psychologically safer environments, by setting the foundation for meaningful conversations and asking how they might improve first!
  3. Change one-on-one meetings to have leaders ask only two questions: How might I help you? What might I do better to advance our purpose?
  4. Adjust the span of leadership control to a minimum of 20 to 1. Leaders spend too much time “checking up” rather than adding value. Most of the time meetings are for leaders’ need to know and command/control. In more modern systems, leaders are more like gardeners than commanders.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. How are you rated as a leader by your direct reports? Would you be recommended to a friend? Family member? If Uber drivers are rated, shouldn’t you, me and all leaders be too?
  2. Get out in front and ask for feedback first. Say “thank you,” and go forward.

Turning things right side up in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: For Millennials, it seems that the most attractive organizations to work for offer as much autonomy as possible. If a leader doesn’t trust that their employees know how to do their job, then why the heck did they hire them? That said, leaders should also be revered. It’s FUN to have a great leader: A mentor you look up to, a person you want to perform well for, and someone with the ability to give you occasional positive acknowledgment or a kick-in-the-pants if need be. Leaders should strive to be bragged about by their employees at happy hour, not the subject of a “screw them” toast.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Wing Nuts and Cultural Contribution

Abundance Management Organizational culture

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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

Wednesday Q/A on Personal Leadership

Organizational culture Organizational leadership Personal leadership

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To or readers, 

Welcome to our second 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. Hi Lorne! As most great companies know, we should hire, fire, and live by our corporate values. When faced with a leader, or better yet a CEO, who exudes the notion, and acts on, hiring, firing, and living by short term-outcomes, or short-term profitability takes precedence over all metrics, what do you recommend is a good approach to help such leaders see the values-based approach, and the long-term benefit of such?

“Sometimes these CEOs are most effectively influenced by personally experiencing successful organizations with a long term more purpose/values based strategy at a personal level. This means site visiting these companies, and talking to their leaders/employees so the ‘short term’ leader sees a better path. There are lots of facts that support long term/values-based strategy. However, these people are often less influenced by ‘facts’ than by some emotional epiphany. Surrounding the CEO with other influencers on these site visits often accelerates the mindset change. The tricky thing is to find a way to influence the CEO to seriously make these visits and to find the right companies to connect with. A seasoned outside consultant that has the contacts at the other companies and can facilitate the right debrief is often necessary. Sometimes you just have to hope for a CEO change, and/or leave if the impact of staying in this environment is toxic. Wish I had an easier answer.”

– Lorne

  1. Hi everyone, I would like to ask Lorne what to do or how to proceed when there are bullies in the work environment. What to do when they are peers and what to do when they are bosses?Thank you!!

“This bullying issue is very troubling to me . It seems to be exacerbated by social media, and public leaders that get lots of media for behaving that way do not help.

Bullying and peers: We have to specifically point out the behavior that is troubling to us and insist on hopefully constructive, yet fierce conversation with the person(s) bullying us. If we let it pass and just put up with it, nothing will likely change. The important thing is not to accuse or blame the bully, rather to point out the very specific behavior you are experiencing and the negative impact it is having on you (and others). Ask the other person first what they think you might do differently so they might treat you differently. Hopefully, the other person will join you in moving forward and propose different actions on their part as well. However, do not be surprised if they do not respond as thoughtfully as you might hope. Often it takes time and more than one conversation. Sometimes nothing works, and you have to make a choice: Put up with it or leave .

If the bullying escalates to the point where you feel harassed you may have to get outside help by approaching ideally a very capable HR professional and/or escalate to higher level leaders. I get very frustrated when I hear of bullying. We have a right to work in psychologically safe environments. Wish I could give you a magic wand.

Bullying and bosses: This is often somewhat trickier than peer bullying because depending on the nature of the leader, they can deal with bullying by negatively impacting your career. However, I believe the same constructive confrontive approach needs to be taken with a bullying boss. The one precaution I might take is that you document every detail of the behaviors and summarize any meeting you have on the matter. If you have a trusted and very capable HR professional, you might advise in confidence that you are having a conversation with your boss about the matter (he or she might have some additional insight).”

– Lorne

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.

 

Wednesday Q/A on Personal Leadership

Organizational culture Personal leadership

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To our readers, 

Welcome to the first 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. What are the most effective ways to help employees learn, understand and practice your organization’s culture and core values?

“Culture is way more about what people in the organization do than say. Watch how people are selected as a new hire, and how people are promoted. That will tell you the behavior a company really values. Also review the recognition and reward system. Who gets acknowledged for what? The executive team lives in a goldfish bowl. How they act and behave together will tell you a lot. Another thing to do is to ask about the legendary stories. As an example, the stories at Uber (throwing kegs of beer off of a hotel roof, etc.), said as much about their culture as other touted entrepreneurial values expressed by their founder. Check Glassdoor comments. Lift up the rocks and listen to actual stakeholders who have real insight into the company.”

2. How do you deal with a lousy boss?

“The key thing is to learn from that person so you know what NOT to do. I co-teach a leadership class and ask people to talk about bosses who have not brought out the best in them. What always surprises me is that the negative impact of a lousy boss lasts forever. People can literally end up in tears recounting the experience. Do NOT hang around a lousy boss too long. You deserve someone you can thrive with. Get out fast. Before you do though, take a hard look in the mirror and make sure you’ve been self-accountable regarding the relationship. Remember that wherever you go, you’ll be there. Some people have self-reported to have had only lousy bosses. Hmm? Really?”

3. What is the best way to seek out a mentor in your organization?

“Have the courage to reach out and ask for help and insight from people you admire. Think of mentors as a group of people you can learn from, and that they care enough about you to be loving critics. I think real world conversations on actual issues are far better than formal mentorship programs.”

4. Are there any fictional TV shows or movies that you’ve seen where you think true “leadership” is conducted the right way? How do shows like “Billions” get things right or wrong?

“I loved the leadership role Tom Hanks played in Saving Private Ryan. I actually took my top team to watch and debrief the character’s leadership behavior when the movie came out. The most recent Abraham Lincoln movie offered important leadership values, Gary Oldman is up for this year’s best actor in portraying Churchill. Meryl Streep has played numerous strong women leaders. It is also instructive to debrief flawed characters like DiCaprio’s character in Wolf of Wall Street. And Billions does a superb job (although perhaps somewhat overstated) of displaying the evils associated with unbridled power from the hedge fund and District Attorney’s viewpoint. Examining leadership attributes of characters in movies/TV is an enjoyable way to learn.”

5. We know you’re an avid reader. Is there one, or a shortlist of books that you find yourself re-reading or referring back to more than most?

“More than just the books, it’s the authors whom I’ve learned from: Brene Brown, Jim Collins, Tom Peters, Warren Bennis, Peter Senge, Dan Ariely, Dan Pink, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Carol Dweck, Marshall Goldsmith; newer authors like Adam Grant, Tim Ferris, Tasha Eurich and many more.

Thanks and keep asking the questions!!”

– Lorne

We hope you enjoyed the first of 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.