The ‘New Nice’ Through Truth and Transparency

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Podcast Resources Respect

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Blog Learning: How truthful and transparent are you at work? Is this REALLY valued in your culture? Can you be “nice” at the same time?

Story: The CEO of Costco, W. Craig Jelinek, stood in front of the company’s leadership team on a dreary Seattle day, and took on every hard nosed question they had with clear, apolitical and specific responses. He gave them unvarnished answers including some things that weren’t exactly popular with the crowd. At the end, the team gave him a standing ovation. The explanation: “We value the truth here!” Dave Mowat, the former CEO of ATB (with the highest rating of any CEO on Glassdoor in 2017), was great for many reasons, and most of all for being truthful. During my almost seven year tenure, he told 5,000 plus people on two different occasions they were not going to get pay increases, and both times engagement scores went up! People knew Dave would tell them the way it was.

Key Point: Financier Ray Dalio is well known as the Godfather of radical truth and transparency. He is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, arguably the globe’s biggest and most successful hedge fund. The firm practices Dalio’s principles of extreme truth and transparency throughout the fabric of the company. Radical truth is about making sure that important issues don’t remain hidden, which means creating an environment where employees feel free to speak their mind. Dalio is a believer of this kind of transparency as a safeguard against poor decisions, ideally because people at all levels are constantly exchanging criticisms, making improvements and catching mistakes before they happen. This is very connected to the argument we often make in this blog, for respectfully “talking back.” Radical transparency is the sister to radical truth in that both managers and employees treat one another as they would a partner in a long-term relationship. This means showing mutual respect, looking out for what’s in the other’s best interest, and being crystal clear about who’s responsible for what. This is easier declared than done because too many cultures are conflicted between being “nice” versus being clear.

The ugly side of radical truth and transparency is that when practiced poorly it becomes the cover for meanness and disrespectful behavior. Truth and transparency needs to be reframed as the new “nice,” not warmed over sloppy “meanness.”

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. Become known as a person who is truthful and transparent by mastering the skill of attacking situations, processes or problems and never people. When you understand that literally everything is a process, you can more take on tough issues in a more truthful and transparent way.

Lead Others Move:

  1. What are the ways you lead your group or organization to really value the “niceness” of truth and transparency by being hard nosed, yet respectful? Do you believe people want the raw truth and transparency? Or do you believe you should protect them? Watch Dalio’s TED Talk on how he does it.

Truth and Transparency in Personal Leadership, 

– Lorne 

One Millennial View: There seems to be a reason why “behind the scenes” footage and a chance to glance at “how the sausage is made” is so popular. Allowing for full transparency and radical truth may not always be easy, but there’s an incredible amount of appreciation for it. I have a huge amount of respect for leaders who know how to take off the kiddie gloves, because truth can be hard, but avoiding tough but necessary feedback will sting more for all in the end.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

My Boss is an Algorithm!

Abundance Accountability Podcast Resources Respect

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Story: How do you feel about your boss being an algorithm? The algorithm can promote or “deactivate” you based on continuous data assessment. Hopefully this excerpt from a recent article in the NYT by Alex Rosenblat will get you thinking. This is happening now!

There are nearly a million active Uber drivers in the United States and Canada, and none of them have human supervisors. It’s better than having a real boss, one driver in the Boston area told me, ‘except when something goes wrong.’

When something does go wrong, Uber drivers can’t tell the boss or a co-worker. They can call or write to ‘community support,’ but the results can be enraging. Cecily McCall, an African-American driver from Pompano Beach, Fla., told me that a passenger once called her ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid,’ using a racial epithet, so she ended the trip early. She wrote to a support rep to explain why and got what seemed like a robotic response: ‘We’re sorry to hear about this. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us and share details.’

The rep offered not to match her with that same passenger again. Disgusted, Ms. McCall wrote back, ‘So that means the next person that picks him up he will do the same while the driver gets deactivated — fired by the algorithm — because of a low rating or complaint from an angry passenger. ‘Welcome to America.’”

Key Point: The biggest complaint employees have is usually about their bosses, the real live human ones, let alone digital ones. Yet, however imperfect, at least most of us have someone to appeal or talk to as a boss. I’m a big fan of AI/machine learning and big data helping employees to increase productivity or effectiveness. And an algorithm may be more objective and programmed to be more helpful than human managers. What I have serious concern about is if employers begin to remove any human connection from an employment relationship for scale and cost reasons. Uber drivers are people first. It is too convenient and I think irresponsible for organizations to consider people as simply “gig-economy transactions.” Like the NYT article notes, “It’s better than having a real boss… Except when something goes wrong.

Leading Yourself Moves:

  1. Become more aware where algorithms are replacing bosses and what that means to the world of work.

Leading Others Moves: 

  1. Invest in people leadership. And argue for leadership to be augmented by AI, rather than before being fully replaced by algorithms. Unless a person is working exclusively for themselves, I hope we always have a “boss” we can talk to; even if they are predictably imperfect.

Real People in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: It’s crazy to think that due to the enormous amount of content uploaded to YouTube, the company has no choice but to filter it with algorithms. Fortunately, YouTube videos just live online and aren’t cruising down real life roads. I understand why companies like Uber choose to employ algorithms instead of salaried bosses, but when things do go wrong with actual humans, when will the road get too bumpy for a machine to properly drive the situation? 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Bad Blood at the Top

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Story: I’m just completing the Institute of Corporate Directors education program and certification, in the spirit of becoming a more effective Board member. It is a very important initiative, and the content vital for any aspiring or current Board participant. And now, more than ever, Directors need to be actively involved regarding setting the right tone at the very top of the company. In parallel, while convalescing from knee replacement surgery, I’ve been doing a lot of watching and reading of material that underlines the importance of active board members promoting total organization integrity. It is startling to be reminded how corrosive and dangerous it is when ethical standards dissolve.

On the Netflix side, I’ve been watching Dirty Money, with the first episode detailing Volkswagen’s corporate deceit. It profiles the alliance between governments and automakers that allowed the company to risk tens of thousands of lives – for the sake of a $500 dollar part. Watching it and understanding how unethical, corrupt and totally misguided corporate executives in collusion with “blind eye” government officials, willingly putting peoples’ well-being and the environment at risk for greed and profit, made me mad. The phrase “defeat device” is now cynically built into our vocabulary. Shame on Volkswagen and others.

From a reading perspective, I’ve been soaking in John Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood, Secret and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.” It’s about the blowout of one of the valley’s hottest startups, Theranos, and their Steve Jobs CEO wannabe, Elizabeth Holmes. Per the New York Times, “Carreyrou tells… A chilling, third-person narrative of how Holmes came up with a fantastic idea that made her, for a while, the most successful woman entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. She cast a hypnotic spell on even seasoned investors, honing an irresistible pitch about a little girl who was afraid of needles and who now wanted to improve the world by providing faster, better blood tests.” The company was a fraud and the products just did not work, risking the lives of thousands of patients and screwing hundreds of investors. It is almost unimaginable that the company, based on essentially old fashioned bait and switch, ascended to 800 employees with a paper valuation over $9 Billion at their peak.

Key Point: In both cases, the Boards and top management were fully responsible for serious harm to people, and massive loss of shareholder value. Great companies genuinely look to advance humankind. Companies, at their very worst, get lost in avarice and greed, while consciously or unconsciously putting humankind at risk for profit and growth. In hindsight, the signals are always there, and shocking to see how the the tone at the top becomes a matter of deteriorating continuous delusion, lying, deceit, and worse. It is a slippery slope when ethical standards become eroded.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Doing the right thing and knowing exactly what behavior that implies, is a vital value set for ALL people in the company. The top of the house needs to model and teach this. Regardless of what level or position, it is critical to continuously discuss and clarify what this value means. There can only be one standard for doing the right thing.
  2. I continuously endorse a psychologically safe environment, where people can “talk back.” (Read Bad Blood to get a picture of the opposite).
  3. Make sure there is a robust, working “whistle blowing” system, just in case. The reputation of the brand and well-being of people involved with the organization must come first. The tone is always set at the top.
  4. Watch for a breakdown in small matters of integrity. This is often a precursor to much worse.

No Bad Blood in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Sometimes I roll my eyes at the basic and buzz-word splattered mission statements/values of some organizations. They can look like someone just Googled “What Makes Good Company Sound Gooder,” copied and pasted it. While that bland effort can lack flavor, creativity, and a uniquely inspiring, attractive perspective for a workplace… Heck! It’s a whole lot better than anywhere that has misplaced or lost core values and integrity. Knowing right versus wrong is most important. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Oxy Dreams While Convalescing

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Story: I’m a week into my knee replacement and on “Oxycodone,” the notorious pain reliever probably found in far too many medicine cabinets worldwide (but that’s another blog topic). Frankly, I’m recovering better because of its benefits AND I’m looking forward to getting completely off the drug this coming week. Besides helping me with pain though, it’s been giving me some entertaining if not bizarro dreams. The following is the essence of one my “trips” during a goofy afternoon snooze.

Leaders from around the world, and all types of organizations are “kidnapped” by my gang. The only way the captives can be released is when each of them answers the following questions correctly. The passing grade is 100 percent. Close doesn’t count. (In my dream, my persona is James Bond like, haha).  I throw the prisoners in their cells and shove a questionnaire in front of them (Geez… Old school). I announce myself as their captor and insist they get the following right:

  1. Write out out the names of the partners of each of your direct reports. Note if they do not have partners, moms and dads.
  2. If your direct reports have kids, identify how many and what ages.
  3. Pets? What kind?
  4. In the last 12 months, name at least three people working for you that you have helped get promotions or take on bigger assignments.
  5. Name the last three people you gave some form of recognition to in the last week, and why.
  6. For each of your direct reports, what is some favorite non-work hobby or activity they do for fun?
  7. Outline the one thing you are working on to be a better leader, based on the feedback of your direct reports.
  8. Get a 100 percent match between you and direct reports on the top objective of the team over the next 12 months.
  9. Describe one of the happiest or saddest moments in the life of each of your direct reports.

In my “Oxy Dream,” most  leaders struggle to get the answers and begin to panic . They get only one phone call every day to get the answers completed, and are confined until they achieve a perfect score.  A few leaders are sprung immediately. They really know their teams and have made personal emotional connections with each member .

Key Point: Leif Babin, former Navy Seal instructor and co-author of Extreme Ownership, points out, based on tons on Navy research, that there are no bad teams, just bad leaders. Leadership is the distinguishing difference to team performance. Great leaders with intention, personally know and connect with their direct reports. Yet, I doubt the expectation or need for superb leaders to be able to answer the above nine questions are in many leadership books, or in the MBA curriculum of post secondary institutions. I think they should be!

I kind of chuckled after waking up and thinking about the dream. It was quite colorful in retrospect. The kidnapped leaders were in a third world jail cell, and were of course wearing black and white prison suits. I guess in my drug induced mind, leaders who do not really know and personally connect with their direct reports are metaphorical criminals.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Pick one leader in your organization to put in metaphorical jail. How long before they get out?
  2. Put yourself in that jail. How do you do? Better get those answers ASAP.
  3. Stay off Oxy unless you really need it.

Staying out of Leadership jail in Personal Leadership,

Lorne Rubis

One Millennial View: Wow, I have to admit I didn’t think I’d be responding on this blog about a dream induced by “hillbilly heroin,” (actually, that’s OxyContin I think. Similar but different)… Still, that’s pretty fascinating. Truthfully, those nine questions would be simple to be able to answer with a little casual conversation over time, but of course that’s too big of a pill to swallow for some leaders. A lot bigger than Oxycodone, at least.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis