And in Walked Henry!

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Podcast Respect

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Story: Last week I was listening to a very touching NPR radio piece about a pediatric oncologist, who conducted a precarious cancer intervention on an infant born at 35 weeks. This incredible doctor and support team administered chemotherapy to attack a large spinal tumor the first day the baby was outside the womb. The fear was that without this miraculous act of medicine, the child would die or at minimum suffer severe skeletal and neurological damage. Imagine the feelings of the parents, family, and medical team during this time.

Fast forward a year, and the same doctor was having a fundraiser for pediatric cancer at his home. The family of Henry, the infant noted above, attended and was warmly greeted by the doctor. They had become very familiar but had not seen each other for about six months. The doctor asked the parents how Henry was. They happily proclaimed that he was at the party. The oncologist exclaimed “well wheel him in.” And just as the pediatrician uttered the words, he choked up. Coming right at him was the toddler Henry, ambling through the doorway. In a tender halting voice, the doctor described that profound moment. While he was delighted with the waddle in, it was the size of the SMILE on Henry’s face that radiated ALL. The pure joy of life!

Key Point: It’s the season of Thanksgiving, and all of us know, regardless of how wonderful or difficult things in life may be, it really is important to pause and express gratitude. The benefits of gratitude are scientifically proven, yet when we hear this message, it can sometimes feel like one more thing for an already endless “to do” list. What I loved the most about the Henry story was that at one years old, he was unknowingly the definition of gratitude and a generous GIVER. It was that beaming smile that announced his full of life presence, like “baby, it’s great to be here!” Maybe we can all channel a little from Henry this Thanksgiving?

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. When you walk into a room this Thanksgiving season, why not both naturally and consciously give others your fully alive smile?

Lead Others Move:

  1. Repeat the step above.

Giving a grateful smile in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Yeah, while most pre-Thanksgiving rhetoric revolves around anticipating fierce political debates at the dinner table, or wrangling in drunk uncles, it’s refreshing to reflect on the reality of a big smile and the gratitude most of us can fortunately relate to. Henry would probably sit at the kids’ table, but his story delivers a good opportunity for a grown up discussion. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Who the Heck Cries at Work Anyway? Geez!

Abundance Accountability Empathy Personal leadership Podcast Respect

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Story: JiJi Lee, a New York comedian, contributed a very funny and poignant article in the Nov. 9 New York Times regarding where the heck one goes to cry in an open office environment. The following are a few “best” cry zone places Lee suggests:

“At your desk with your headphones on: The trick is to release your tears one at a time. Tears are a dead giveaway that you’re doing crying stuff and not work stuff.

At Ravi’s standing desk: The dry cleaning he’s always hanging on it will provide partial coverage. Plus, crying at a sit/stand desk is so much better for your posture.

By the water cooler: Boost collaboration with your co-workers by taking turns to openly weep. They might hesitate at first, but remind them it’s easier to cry in person than via email.

Behind your succulent: Sure, the company removed all the walls but at least it added Instagram-worthy décor. The company will be thrilled that you’re getting so choked up over its long-term investment in plants.

Into your poke bowl: Pretend you’re crying about the appropriation of Hawaiian food culture and not the disintegration of autonomy in the workplace.

The restroom: This is where everyone goes to cry. Anticipate long lines.”

Key Point: I’m from a generation where crying at work was generally frowned upon as a sign of weakness. And there certainly was, and perhaps still is gender bias regarding crying being more common and maybe even more acceptable for women. I’m not an easy crier, and yet over 40+ years I’ve had an occasional good bawl at work. A couple of situations have been based on sheer joy, the last being when my team brought in a choir to serenade my retirement. At others, it’s been due to some real personal stuff just accumulating and I couldn’t hold in any longer. On one occasion it was essentially an open space office (my office was totally see through glass), and I probably used a half box of tissue. I could tell from the eyes in the back of my head that colleagues were very uncomfortable. They didn’t know whether to console me, or pretend they didn’t see me. And during my many years as an executive leader, I can assure you almost everyone of my direct reports teared up to the “kleenex level” with me at least once; male and female. (I’m not proud to note that sometimes my demanding expectations caused this reaction). On every sports team I’ve played, including with the toughest athletes, there have been many tears shed.

Is this vulnerable behavior a sign of weakness? My understanding is that there’s is not one bit of empirical evidence that vulnerability is connected to weakness. In fact, open vulnerability is a strength and necessary to be a truly courageous leader. Crying is an occasional subset of being vulnerable, and I certainly don’t want to overstate the connection. Yet, I think it is worth asking when the last time you had a good cry at work? Tim Herrera, who edits the Smarter Living newsletter for the NYT asked this question as a lead in to an instructive article on the subject. Herrera notes: “What we need to realize, however, is that really it’s not a big deal: Just under half of employees have cried at work at some point, according to a study from earlier this year, which also found that about 75 percent of C.F.O.s surveyed thought crying every so often is totally normal.”  Maybe the number should be closer to 100 percent?

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. If you are going to be an evolved leader, your authenticity is vital. This means being very human and subsequently shedding occasional tears may be part of your experience. Acknowledge your emotions and let people appreciate that you are vulnerable. This helps people appreciate that at times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we are ALL very vulnerable, including you. It’s important to be real.

Lead Others Move:

  1. Model that it is ok for people who work for or with you to shed their coat of armor, which occasionally may involve tears and/or a darn good cry. Be empathetic, compassionate and understanding when your team members show that emotion. Do NOT be patronizing, judgmental and/or stupid. Expunge any thinking that that person is weak. It is a myth.

Note: Occasional crying is normal. When someone is very emotional on a recurring basis, we likely need to offer that teammate help that most often includes professionals beyond our personal expertise.

Ok crying in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: Hey let’s face it, the stigmatism against publicly crying has not really progressed since the “Mad Men” days, and I’m guessing that has to do with human nature. It can be awkward for all parties, especially when you just work together. Many female colleagues or friends I know have admitted to retreating to a bathroom to occasionally cry, and in all honesty, if a male co-worker shed tears at the office then people auto-assume a loved one has just died. Biased? Yes. Fair? No. I think at work, of all places, we hope things run smoothly. Ideally, leaders hope they don’t make people cry, we Millennials hope we don’t screw up bad enough to feel like crying, and in either case tears signify something went really awry. The rule isn’t “there’s no crying at work,” but sobbing shouldn’t be scheduled on your Google calendar either. If it is, that truly is a sad place to earn a paycheck.  

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

No Office For You!

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Podcast Respect

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Story: I had an incredible office on the executive floor, with a spectacular view overlooking the river valley at my last company. In fact, upon reflecting over my long career, I marvel at the some of the offices I’ve had in my role as a company officer. As an example, my office at a Fortune 50 company, where I reported directly to the Chairman, was probably 600 sq. feet, had its own bathroom, shower, and the walls were made of exotic wood (geez, likely pillaged from some rainforest). Frankly, I felt a little puffed up at the time (in the early 90’s), with my big office, Italian suits, etc. My office decision making would be much different if I were a CEO today, although my thinking might be unduly influenced by the fact that I’m unpacking (post retirement) too many boxes of souvenirs, books, pictures and other paraphernalia collected in my former position. Yup, if I was brutally honest, the primary utility of my last office was a storage room for my stuff. I was rarely seated there. (Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t need it but I shamelessly liked it).

Key Point: As leaders of people, I believe we ought to be spending most of our time getting results, connecting solutions to problems, disrupting or innovating processes, and developing others. Most leadership activity ideally involves speaking with others face-to-face, or at minimum, digitally. One way or another, leaders are in some form of conversation constantly. Of course, we all need some alone thinking time and our front porch, Starbucks, or a park bench are wonderful surrogates for the traditional office. With cloud based communication and productivity tools, the content a person needs to run a business these days should be accessible 24/7 on a mobile device, wherever one goes. Therefore, I wonder whether leaders should be spending any material time in an office at all, and certainly not on some isolated executive floor? Why not give those offices to the very important, small minority of individual contributors that do specialty, mostly isolated, expert work? Is it time to make ALL people leadership offices go away? Be honest about what you do professionally. Where are or should you be spending most of your physical time? Do you think your ego can handle that assessment? Does your ego say, “you’ve been waiting a long time to get that office, don’t you dare give it up now. You deserve the status difference.”

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. Ask yourself honestly where you should be spending most of your time to do your best work? Go there.

Lead Others Move:

  1. Why not set the example by getting out of your office and spending time where the people you lead and/or your key stakeholders are? When you go to the place where you can visually see how work is being done, you will become more insightful and helpful. It takes courage and the emotional maturity to appreciate that your leadership effectiveness comes from meaningful contribution and not the view.

No offices in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: As someone who has never inhabited a prestigious corner office, I respect the idea that an executive may not need one, however I think it would be extremely petty if I ever thought less of an executive for wanting/earning/having/enjoying a killer workspace. After all, unless you’ve had a say in designing your entire company’s office plan, what control do you have over it anyways? I see a lot of beauty in striving for an awesome office. It’s still a “thing,” and goals are great. I can also comprehend why it’s unnecessary, but I think we Millennials should be a lot more concerned with who our leaders are as individuals, not what’s beyond the door with their name on it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Do We Really Need More Potent Sticks and Carrots?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Podcast Respect

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Story: Why do operating leaders and HR people invest an inordinate amount of resources trying to develop more potent sticks and carrots? It drives me crazy to think about the assumptions made regarding what really motivates people in so many management meetings. Too often, the unfounded and/or unchallenged conclusion is that “a lot of our people are lazy, unengaged, have poor attitudes, and need to get fixed.” The accommodating supporters (often HR pros) then go to work on some or all of the following: Tougher performance review systems and ratings (the stick) and/or improved performance compensation/praise systems (the carrot). Academics and thought leaders like Stanford’s Chip Heath have done interesting research on the built-in biases we have in assuming what motivates us versus others. We seem to be more inclined to describe ourselves as being driven by what Primed to Perform authors Doshi and McGregor define as direct motivators (purpose, learning, play, potential), while we assume most others are more motivated by indirect factors (pay, benefits, praise). Hence, the unbalanced focus or request for developing more potent sticks and carrots?

Key Point: While each of us are thankfully unique, it might serve us well to consider that most people are motivated much like we are. I know that the higher people rise in organizations, it is seductive to (consciously or unconsciously) think that we are somehow elevated from the “unwashed.” So, if we all ask ourselves, regardless of where we are by title or position, what really drives us individually, why would we assume others are motivated by something different? Hey, I do love making lots of money. It just doesn’t make my daily engine run fast. Over 40 years, as much time as my bosses and I spent getting my short and long term bonus criteria “just right,” I hardly ever thought about them after they were administratively completed. Yes, I wanted to get paid my bonuses and I’d be ticked off if they were ever less than 100 percent. Still, the money by itself did not drive me. The message here is that we need to invest more in the powerful motivators of being driven by purpose, learning, potential, play and the surrounding elements. This very much connects with the research in Dan Pink’s great book, Drive. The intrinsic factors Pink emphasizes are Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery. This is where I believe the work of operating leaders and the supporting cast needs to invest. Fancy or more potent sticks and carrots will satisfy our biases, but do little to create exceptional engagement and contribution.

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. Ask yourself what really turns you on? How much of that condition exists in your current situation? Determine what you can do to create more of what really fires you up.

Lead Others Moves:

  1. Whatever you do after reflecting on what you want to more fully motivate yourself, create the same conditions for others. How do you get them fired up over purpose and vision? How can you invest in their ongoing growth and potential? How can you provide them greater autonomy and opportunities for mastery? Let them play, experiment and have fun. 
  2. Make sure your stick and carrot systems are fair. You don’t want people leaving because they suck. Just don’t expect these factors to be your big performance drivers. 

Driven in Personal Leadership,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: One of the theories behind why big lotto winners have a disproportionate tendency to attract tragic outcomes is because, even with all the money in the world, it wasn’t earned. Drive, passion and purpose are replaced by guilt and lethargy, which leads to worse. In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to hear a lot of successful people explain that completing tasks and contributing value with pride and enjoyment is also a great currency, even if it’s not on our bank statement. A good message for all Millennials.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Do You Have a ‘Jump Around’ at Your Work?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Podcast Respect

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Story: Are we currently experiencing a famine of fun and celebration in work organizations, and perhaps many other institutions? Things seem to be extraordinarily tense these days, not the least of which is the fast paced change in almost all parts of our lives. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like we could all use a lot more fun.

It’s the middle of the American college football season, and my co- author/editor Garrett (who lives in Austin, Texas), reminded me of a few celebratory traditions that make college football so enjoyable. There are many examples in all parts of the U.S., so if you have a moment, please watch Wisconsin’s student body’s “Jump Around” tradition, which will put a smile in your face.

Or watch West Virginia fans tradition to stay in their stadium after every win and lustily sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

So what does this have to do with leadership and culture in all countries?

Key Point: I believe most organizations need more celebrations to symbolize, demonstrate and reinforce company purpose and intended values. It is also an opportunity to lift up organization heroes, those who have applied the culture’s core values or purpose in extraordinary ways. These events strengthen everyone’s connection to the organization and reinforces what makes the group special. And sometimes, I think we may overlook the pure benefit of laughter, joy and the fun that can be unleashed under the wonderful cover of a collective ritual. I’m sure that most of the Wisconsin fans don’t deliriously jump up and down by themselves in their homes very often. But at a Badger game, even the most conservative midwesterner can cut loose. Belonging matters and participating in traditions reinforces that sense. What are you doing to create and participate in more celebrations or rituals in your workplace?

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. Be a celebration instigator within your work group. Even if it’s a small thing like “Taco Tuesday,” or the under-appreciated and carbohydrate maligned “Donut Friday.” Have FUN!

Lead Others Move:

  1. If you’re privileged enough to lead others then you can definitely apply all kinds of creativity in this regard. Examine your groups’ purpose and values and think of how you might implement a “jump around.” When I was the CPO of an organization, I liked the experience of music and dancing. In retrospect, I would have made it more intentional and ritualistic. What will you do? How about if we are more intentional about creating more moments for joy and laughter?

Jumping Around in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: The magic of combining traditions with sports has brought entire cities and communities together in ways that seem unmatched in any other field (no pun intended). As for office traditions, I’ve seen everything from Friday dance-offs, to ringing the gong on the sales floor. I don’t think a great office ritual requires 80,000 jumping fans, but if there’s a little effort to celebrate, invoke some nostalgia, create a laugh, or make my other Millennial friends think that I work somewhere really fun – it’s a whole lot more exciting to show up and get the job done.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis