The Ally Blog Causes Sparks to Fly!

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


The problem: “Black workers at UPS facility in Ohio faced decades of racial hostility, lawsuit says.” That’s a March, 2019 USA Today headline. “Survey reveals Canada still has a ways to go on workplace discrimination.” That quote is from the Globe and Mail, in case our Canadian audience thinks they have the high ground. Hey, let’s just admit we still have a lot of work to do on the complex challenges related to inclusion and equality. Even as I’m writing this blog, a CNN panel is noting that celebrity democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, ticked off a lot of women with his comment about his “thanking his for wife feeding the children at home.” So for the eye rollers out there who are tired of the topic, we DO need to continue the conversation.

Story: As I noted in my previous blog, we are all at different stages on the inclusion learning path relative to what being an Ally is. Garrett and I got some strong reactions relative to the topic. Two of our readers seem to be on different bends in the road. Reader 1: “I’m aware of the stories of people being mistreated and undervalued, but it would be a flat out lie if I’ve said I’ve ever seen it practiced or celebrated first hand. I’m lucky I haven’t been part of it, but it would be disingenuous for me to pretend I’ve seen it.” Reader 2: “To be a true ally, you have to be able to step out of your experience. You cannot say that just because you haven’t experienced it that it doesn’t exist or is a non-issue.”

What we can do about it?

I asked ATB Financial’s Rachel Wade, Director of Equity and Inclusion for her insight . She shares her wise recommendations:

  1. “By being open to feedback and criticism of how we’ve held others up or failed to do so. It’s easy to become defensive. Try to pause and take in the new perspective before rejecting it – even if it stings a little. If you have the urge to respond with something that sounds like, ‘Well, not all <<insert demographic>> people are like that…’ You probably need to reflect a little longer on the sentiment behind the feedback. You are likely being given this feedback because you belong to a group that enjoys the downstream effects of systemic privilege. This is your time to acknowledge this new information and be a true ally.
  2. While allies can stand up for others they should not presume to to be able to take on the first-person voice of groups they don’t belong to first-hand. Don’t look for a pat on the back for being a good ally and make room for disadvantaged groups to speak for themselves.
  3. We can belong to both privileged and disadvantaged groups at the same time – this is where the intersectionality of of our lived experience and diversity becomes layered. In some ways we may be in need of allies and in some ways we may be able to be strong allies. Being disadvantaged in one way doesn’t mean you opt out of understanding the disadvantages of other lived experiences.”

Each of us is the “other” at sometime in our lives. It’s important to remind ourselves. Thank you Rachel.

Think Big, Start Small, Act Now!


One Millennial View: Rachel’s insight says it best. I’m a person who likes to fix things, but I have to accept that there is no immediate remedy that’ll satisfy everyone. At least if there’s more awareness, then maybe it can reduce the anguish.

– Garrett

Blog 975

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


A Googler Perspective on What Being an ‘Ally’ Means

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Advancing the value of inclusion in organizations is the focus of a few key workshops and events at  SXSW 2019.  And as part of the ever evolving inclusion conversation, more attention is being paid to helping ALL of us better understand and apply the concept of “allyship.” Is that phrase being used more in your work community? It is in mine, and yet do we really understand what it means and when it is actually well practiced? I’d like to share what I personally learned about “allyship” from the SXSW session I attended.

Story: Our “allyship” facilitator was Kyle Alicurrently a Google executive, and a black man who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He remarked that when he left university, he had a self-acclaimed, well-developed perspective on all that was “blackness.” Or so he thought. Turns out, his first teaching job in the center of Baltimore altered that view when one of the very first things a student asked him was, “Mr. Ali why do you look so much like Carlton (from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air)?”


We all translate through an interpretive narrative based on our own unique experience and lenses. So becoming an ally for others is not something we can simply assume or self-proclaim. When we sit in an advantaged or privileged position, it is not sufficient to intellectually declare “allyship.” Although most of us who care about inclusion certainly have the best intentions, I believe there’s a lot more work to do in understanding what being an ally really means. The working definition of allyship presented by Googler Ali is as follows: “Acting for justice through the lens of one’s own membership in an advantaged group.”  I know from listening to the workshop discussion, attended by people obviously enlightened and deeply interested in the topic, that most of us have a lot more work to do on OURSELVES first before those outside our more privileged positions embrace us as genuine allies. That’s a humbling and important base to start from.

What we can do about this:  

According to Kyle Ali, with the help of Google’s research and progress on the topic, we will move forward as we:

  1. Become more self-aware of being a member in an advantaged group.
  2. Better understand what justice means for others outside this membership.
  3. Remember that the first three letters of allyship are “ALL.” Inclusion and allyship are easier concepts to wish for than really do. We must start with the hard work of better understanding ourselves to fully join the ALL.

Think big, start small, act now,


One Millennial View: I think many Millennials, myself included, might respond with a big ole “duh, I know” when the topic of inclusion is discussed. I simply have never been in a professional situation where someone has been excluded for just “being” anything. That said, this isn’t a subject from a clickbait Buzzfeed article, it’s from a stage at SXSW with a lot of invested, interested participants. If we’ve already been told that we’re on the “allyship” train, that’s great, but it doesn’t hurt to stay learning and self-accountable to keep things on track.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


So You Want to be a Transformational Leader, Eh? Part II

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Problem: Lots of people are so called transformation experts, yet have never intentionally led a real transformation. The academic models they espouse are often well founded and usually based on solid research. However, to actually lead in a transformative way, I believe you have to have felt and experienced the messiness of a major shift. In the previous blog, I shared three basic streams in framing up any big or more narrow transformation, moving from a current state to a more desired state. I also promised to outline four levers that integrate within the three work streams. Here they are:

  1. Lever the Learning and Unlearning Platform:

Have you seen this popular video of someone trying to ride a bike differently?

It’s hard. So when we want people to act differently, we obviously can’t just announce it. And this is NOT simply the organization’s learning group’s responsibility. It is both formal and informal. If you hear “what’s the training for this?” and stop there, you’re likely hooped.

  1. Lever the Recognition and Reward System:

You want to start highlighting and sharing stories about champions ASAP. The message is, “this is an example of what we want in the transformative state!” Celebrate people who have applied the new learning successfully. Acknowledge the process and results. Make it fun. And positively respond to screw ups too. Make it safe to try, fail and try again.

  1. Lever the Communication System:

Regardless of the size of the transformation or group, you have a process of telling people what’s going on. Hijack that communication process relative to the transformation. Remember the medium is the message. People want to know how the transformation is working well AND struggling. Be open and transparent. And do NOT rely on email. It has to be omnichannel. Everyone, all the time, everywhere. Personal emotional connections and great storytelling is vital.

  1. Lever the People Engagement System:

Involve ALL people impacted in some personal way. Think of any transformative process as a culture change. If it is technical, it must be more than IT that leads it. If it is customer obsession oriented, it must be more than sales or marketing. In the end, all people want to say and feel they actively and willingly participated.

If this was helpful, here’s what you can do:

  1. Be fearless and get messy. It is never a nice, neat, straight line. Be prepared to be tenacious and relentless. It takes grit.
  2. Apply the three streams, integrating the four levers, and you will bake your own unique, transformative cake!! Relish the process and be brave!

Think Big, Start Small, Act Now!!


One Millennial View: Now that the framework has been laid out, it would be interesting to hear how implementing the three elements and four levers into action goes for anyone running a transformation in their organization. 

– Garrett

Blog 973

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


So You Want to be a Transformational Leader, Eh?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Problem: Lots of people are so called transformation experts, yet have never intentionally led a real transformation. The academic models they espouse are often well founded and usually based on solid research. However, to actually lead in a transformative way, I believe you have to have felt and experienced the messiness of a major shift. To me, “transformation” involves the determined act of going from one state to a predefined, more desirable future state. In some ways, actual transformation is a paradox because while including definitive milestones, it has no real end. This is the premise of constant change being a law or truism in life. This blog includes the basic framework of what I’ve learned as a self-acclaimed, in the trenches, transformative leader. Today let’s also accept that the minimum competence of an effective transformational leader includes the combination of being a futurist, technologist, humanist and evangelist. With those characteristics as foundational, what framework makes the transformation journey successful?

Story: Over my 40-plus years in formal leadership, I’ve considered myself in the core business of leading transformation. This includes very large systems (an entire organization) or a more narrow initiative within. In all cases, I’ve applied the essence of the following model. Most recently in the role of Chief Evangelist, I was assigned the privilege of leading a company wide transition from Microsoft to Google’s G Suite. I had a phenomenal team around me, and the support of 5,000 people that helped make it happen. Google claims in very public ways that it was an enormous success. How did we do it? We followed three streams and applied four levers.

A framework you can apply too:

Three Connected Streams

 1.0 Ignite and Listen:

A. People need to emotionally understand the WHY behind the transformation.

B. People need to emotionally connect with the desired future state and really understand the value for them at a personal level.

C. The desired future state needs to be felt and described in a way that literally appeals to all the senses of ideally every impacted person.

D. Compassion and empathy for individual concerns is imperative.

2.0 Excite and Discover:

A. People need to begin expressing enthusiasm for the desired state.

B. Participants start to self identify with the new state and become very self-accountable for contributing to the transformation.

C. Individuals can safely play and experiment in the new way and confidence increases.

3.0 Adopt and Master:

A. The “student body” is leading the way and helping those at the back of the adoption line.

B. Masters of the new way start to emerge with many stories of success.

C. The overwhelming majority would never want to go back to the old way.

What are the four levers to help successfully apply this framework? Stay tuned for Friday’s blog.

Think Big, Start Small and Act Now!


One Millennial View: The value of frameworks are sometimes underappreciated, and this seems to be a great playbook for someone entering the world of transformational leadership. I look forward to learning the four levers.

– Garrett

Blog 972

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


What You Can Do to Develop Greater Psychological Safety

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


The Problem: Many leaders are not clear on specific action they can take to create a more psychologically safe workplace. Let’s work from the premise that you’ve reviewed the research and you’re convinced that you want to move your organization forward on this very important matter. However, you don’t know what do next. Read on.

Story: I recently had a phone call with an executive leader responsible for company safety, who wanted to kick around my last blog on adding a psychological component to an overall physical safety focus. His concern was that my viewpoint caused people like his boss to embrace this idea at the risk of diluting REAL safety (ie.physical). My response was that I hoped the opposite might be true, that the broader definition would result in a much more effective, productive, adaptive, innovative and comprehensively safe place of work. I’m not sure how convincing I was. Too often leaders, especially middle management, embrace inertia as their best strategy. A cynical leader may view “Psychological Safety” as a trendy topic at best, or mush-headed weakness at worst. Subsequently, rather than digging in and understanding, these leaders prefer to avoid or discount. At the end of our conversation he asked me: “So what the heck do I do next?” Amy Edmondson, widely recognized as the leading expert on the matter, gives us some guidance. I referred my caller to the following, and wanted to share the same recommendations with you.

What are some actions you could take?

Consider Edmondson’s guidance as taken from her book, “The Fearless Organization.” 

“1.0 Setting the Stage

 Framing the work

Have I spoken of failures in the right way, given the nature of the work? Do I point out that small failures are the currency of subsequent improvement?

   Emphasizing Purpose

Have I articulated clearly why our work matters.

2.0 Inviting Participation

Situational Humility

Have I made sure that people know that I don’t think I have all the answers?

Proactive Inquiry

How often do I ask questions of others, rather than just expressing my perspective?

Systems and Structures

Have I created structures to systematically elicit ideas and concerns?

3.0 Responding Productively

Express Appreciation

Do I acknowledge or thank the speaker for bringing an idea or question to me?

When someone comes to me with bad news, how do I make sure it’s a positive experience?

Sanction Clear Violations

Have I clarified the boundaries? Do people know what constitute blameworthy acts in our organization?”

Consciously setting the stage, intentionally inviting participation, and thoughtfully responding proactively will move you, your team and the organization a long way forward down the road. Start with asking leaders to self-assess and act accordingly.

Think Big, Start Small and Act Now,


One Millennial View: I think what could stump many about something like “Psychological Safety,” is the difference and relationship between being uncomfortable and feeling safe. Let’s say someone happens to be terrified of speaking in public and their job requires them to give presentations. Well, then they likely will never feel 100 percent comfortable, and that’s ok, but they can still be in an environment that makes them feel psychologically safe. 

– Garrett

Blog 971

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis