Hug a Board Member Today

Accountability Management Organizational leadership

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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,

Lorne

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

 

The Wake We Leaders Leave Behind

Kindness Organizational leadership Respect Teamwork

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True Story: (NOT from my current organization). An executive runs into her direct report on the elevator and it’s only the two of them going up 10 floors. The team member says a cheerful “good morning,” to her boss. The response from the so called leader… Nothing. She “ghosts” her employee by totally ignoring her. Why? Because she wants the employee to transfer or quit, and doesn’t want to pay severance. This executive somewhere learned that this disrespectful process is somehow a viable technique to restructure a team, or eliminate an employee. One thing this “big” boss did say to this same employee – “well if you lost a few pounds, you might have more energy.” Wow. Even though the details have been altered, I know the essence of the story is true, and a facsimile of this happens in many organizations TODAY.

Key Point: Leaders leave a wake behind them that people remember forever. And as acclaimed poet Maya Angelou famously noted: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. How will people remember you as a leader? How will you make them feel? 

I co-facilitate a leadership session about once a month in our organization. During the workshop, we ask people to talk about leaders that have had a positive or negative impact on them. The conversation immediately ignites and many stories are shared. The stories of leaders are about one positive to five negative. You can feel the heat of the negative stories by observing tears, flushed cheeks, head shaking, shrinking back in chairs, and much more. Often these recounted negative leadership stories are decades old, yet in an instant, the storyteller rapidly descends into the painful emotions of that experience. While the details of the memory may have diminished, the impact never goes away.

Leaders may benefit from being reminded about how much of an impact we have on how people feel. Sometimes we forget and think “it’s just business.” Yet, as we practically know, it’s never just business and ALWAYS personal.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Remind yourself what a privilege it is to lead, and that we have a lasting effect on how people feel (good and bad) under our leadership.
  2. Be intentional in defining your leadership brand. What will your leadership legacy be? One way or another, you will leave a wake behind you.

How you feel in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I appreciate this and hope that leaders do realize they will leave a wake. However, to us Millennials, we should prepare and know that not all of our leaders will be aware or care about this. Bad leaders are going to happen. They just will. The cool part, is you can learn a whole lot about how NOT to lead from a superior doing a terrible job. It’s our job to keep learning no matter what the circumstance.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Wednesday Q/A on Personal Leadership

Growth mindset Organizational 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. “Lorne, I love the insight and candor you offer in your blog. Do you have any public speaking engagements, or offer any leadership workshops outside of ATB, that people can attend and hear your messages in person?” 

“Thank you. I often speak at outside engagements although most are by invitation and not open to the general public. I hope to do more public speaking in the future. The events are usually listed on my website. Our podcast is also a way to participate with us.  Thanks for your interest.”

2. “Regarding the recent Getting Flatter Than Ever blog, is there a type of new leadership model that you personally prefer more than others? What if the bosses in my organization still practice vertical leadership, and are just fine with that?”

“Your bosses will eventually change because they likely will have little choice. Adaptability and speed to new technology absorption will compel them to flatten. The new, more modern leadership model expects people to be futurists, innovators, technologists and humanists while being strategic and tactical at the same time. Bottom line: Profit only thinking leaders are rapidly going the way of the Dodo bird.”

 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.

Why Do Organizations Fib?

Accountability Communication Organizational leadership

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Key Point: Why do organizations consistently choose to replace versus helping people adapt and improve? Most companies convince themselves that they want to coach and develop folks based on timely, direct, caring feedback. While well intended, this statement is actually… Ok, I’ll call it as a I see it – an organization fib. I’ve watched this dishonesty thrive over the last 40 years. Why do we too often prefer to fire and hire someone new, rather than have the tough conversations involved in real development coaching?

Maybe you know this person? At some time he/she is designated a “keeper” in the organization, and perhaps even placed on the high potential list (that most companies claim do not exist). They likely even received some company award or recognition along with a number of promotions. Then, somewhere or time, they become very replaceable and are eventually asked to leave the company. Frankly, some of these folks do fail to personally grow, and become complacent, or even entitled. And they probably do need to exit. However, I wonder if leaders become “psychologically lazy” when it comes to really helping people reinvent themselves. The hard truth is that giving meaningful, caring, tough minded feedback is very challenging. Tasha Eurich in her great book, INSIGHT, describes how most people would rather tell a white lie than the painful truth. Hence, too many people think they are doing just fine in a job, even great, and then they get called into that meeting room, where the boss and HR person are sitting with a glum look and a closed folder on the table in front of them. The formerly excellent employee suddenly realizes they’re going to get fired.

I talked to one of these fired people this past week. A month before being dismissed, a review from his/her leader stated that although results were not perfect, things were going in the right direction. The employee’s impression leaving the review, was that overall they were doing ok. My belief: His/her leader was not directly and explicitly frank, and the team member was not very astute reading between the lines. Result: Fired one month later. Could this have been avoided? I think so.  The sad truth is that this person’s replacement will likely be a “star” for a while, and eventually experience the same outcome. Organizations repeat this nonsense too often, and somehow talk themselves into a belief that they are “upgrading the company.” I have my doubts. (We need some more research to test this premise).

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Please, if you’re a leader, be explicit and direct with people reporting to you. Point out where they are doing well with specificity. Where they are not, tell them exactly the behavior that’s out of step. And when they are at risk of losing their jobs, DO NOT SUGAR COAT IT. Tell them that exactly. And then ask them if they understand the situation. No improvement equals no job.
  2. Never assume that what you’ve done in the past is a gateway to future employment. Constantly reinvent, develop yourself and confirm you are meeting or exceeding your leader’s expectations. Ask them directly for that confirmation. Be constructively paranoid (not fearful).

Less fibs in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: The problem with riding on the “no news is good news” philosophy that I believe many Millennials would prefer, is that we are likely not going to be told any bad news before it’s too late. I think there’s a lot of ego and pride with not expecting or asking for any feedback at work. After all, we’re simply just doing our jobs. But when it comes down to your professional livelihood, it might be best to just check and see once in a while how your boss feels about your recent performance. Maybe at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

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