July Lessons 9: Dance Like No One’s Looking!

Abundance Contribution Teamwork

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Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: Those of you who have read my book, The Character Triangle, likely know this story. For folks that haven’t, it’s relevant to my last days at ATB Financial.

I started my career as a 21-year-old coach/phys ed/English teacher at an elementary/Jr. high school in Edmonton, Alberta in 1971. When I arrived, the school was average at best. Four years later, based on the exceptional teamwork of faculty, students and parents, it blossomed into an exceptional school. The morale and academic/athletic results achieved in such a short time period were remarkable. It was a genuine cultural transformation. I left in 1975 to do graduate work, and on my last day at the school, I was treated to the most memorable goodbye. As the touching tributes concluded, 400 crazy kids stood on their chairs, applauded my contributions until the principal finally wrapped things up. I sat on the stage and cried my eyes out uncontrollably. I realize, while I was the beneficiary, we were ALL applauding each other for what we had created. That very experience changed my life.

Key Point: Most people genuinely love to really dance, physically and metaphorically. They want to let go without caring if anyone is looking. Of course, they need music that inspires them to get up and move, an inviting dance floor, others to dance beside and the freedom/safety to let completely go. When a group experiences that recipe, something magical happens.

So fast forward to 2018, to acknowledge my retirement from ATB, a most wonderful group of ATBers (led by Stephanie Horne), brings in a 70-person choir to use music as a way to thank me. In the middle of culture day and 140 new hires, this incredible choir belts out one song after another, and the musical “thank you” feels like a “chair stand.” And once again, decades later, the tears wouldn’t let go. In perfect foreshadowing from decades earlier, I fully understand that while I’m blessed to be a focal point, the celebration is about ALL of us and what we have accomplished together over six and a half years of my tenure. I can tell you without exaggeration, ATB is on the global stage with the greatest of organizations. It took 80 years, and we did it together. We are measurably one of the best companies in the world.

One fun characteristic of the various groups that I’ve lead over the decades, is that we have enjoyed great music and dancing at every stop I’ve been on. Dancing as a team sets the stage for feeling what it’s like when people are dancing to the same music , moving in a uniquely distinctive way while creating magical harmony as a group. Truly something transformative happens. Dancing together at work is hardly a well-promoted or researched strategy. Yet, I know it lets people FEEL what it’s like to be all-in. And, you need to feel the dance to transcend it. Just dance! You’re worth it!

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Find a place to work where you can fully let go and dance your ass off. If it’s too much to expect physically, then at least know you can experience the metaphorical notion of it.
  2. Leave it all on the floor. Dance till you need tissues to wipe your brow, and eventually your tears.

And today, July 31, 2018, I step off the ATB dance floor, leaving the next song for others. How glorious it will be. Thank you for the incredible dance, and the gift of being able to leave both my sweat and tears on that floor!

P.S., the picture above is Emilia, our soon to be 4-year-old granddaughter. The ability to let go and just dance is fully resident in all of us. Go Millie!!

Dancing my ass off in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I mean, how can I not take another opportunity to embed the greatest on-screen dancing to grace the silver screen? Make sure to pick up some moves from the only on-going gag on LorneRubis.com. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Homegrown Feelings, TRUST & Great Organizations

Accountability Organizational culture Teamwork

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Story: Last week I sat with nearly 40 people, each of whom run a small business in towns across southern Alberta, Canada. We gathered in a circle, and each participant shared a story about their beautiful little communities. They lovingly described the way people are mostly there for each other, how neighbors TRUST, put each other first, often greet with a hug, and personally connect before any business is transacted. Of course, not everything is perfect in small town life. People know each others’ business, small town politics, etc. Their stories made me a little homesick for these “homegrown” feelings. Coincidentally, I concluded the week visiting one of our smallest bank branches in the wonderful town of Daysland (pop. 824 people), where I also ran into a teammate from my college football days. For 40 years, he was the town pharmacist and proudly showed me around his former store and the world class medical clinic he was generously instrumental in developing for the greater good of the community. This overall experience made me pause… What did it teach me about expectations we might have for aspiring organizations?

Key Point: Great companies and institutions are often like the very best of these outstanding little towns. Yes, people are there for themselves, yet they thrive with meaningful purpose in advancing the community at large.

During the same week, I sat on a panel with the CEO of Edelman Canada, a leading journalist, several other execs, and a host of invited leaders to discuss the results of Edelman’s (world’s largest PR agency) annual Trust Barometer (33k respondents in 28 world markets). The Trust index conclusions are fascinating and concerning. To sum it up, trust is eroding amongst all institutions in most western democracies (a startling drop of 23 points in America). More than ever, especially in Canada, the US and Europe, there is a vacuum inviting business to urgently step up in leadership, while advancing trust amongst ALL stakeholders, not just shareholders. 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. If you’re an executive leader, you must have the courage to create an organization purpose that really matters because living it clearly advances humankind. Additionally, you must create a sense of TRUST throughout the entire organization community and its ecosystem. Decisions about who fairly continues to be a member or not, is part of the hard work in maintaining that trust.
  2. If you’re an organization participant, not just a formal leader, you have a responsibility to be part of creating an environment of trust as well. Each of us is a vital part of the “village.” Ideally, going to work feels somewhat like living in a great little town… We feel at home.

P.S. You may enjoy listening to the Zac Brown song titled “Homegrown.” For me, it captures some of this feeling.

Homegrown in Personal Leadership,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I completely agree that humans perform best when working in small tribes. That’s kind of what thousands of years of evolution has ingrained in us. There should be as much diversity, opposing views, different backgrounds, various upbringings and experiences as can be in these groups, but common values and purpose are what small towns really thrive on. And that’s what I want in an organization too. 

– 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

How Groups Can Make Fatal Decisions

Accountability Management Teamwork

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Key Point: According to Wikipedia, “Groupthink” is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Most of us are familiar with this concept, yet it thrives and will always be a concern regarding the impact on quality decision making within groups. What are the symptoms of Groupthink? According to the people who teach the Directors Education Program at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, be aware of the following:

  • “Illusions of invulnerability: Members of the group overemphasize the strength of the group and feel that they are beyond criticism or attack. This symptom leads the group to approve risky actions about which individual members might have serious concerns.
  • Illusions of unanimity: Group members accept consensus prematurely, without testing whether or not all members really agree. Silence is often taken for agreement.
  • Illusions of group morality: Members of the group feel that it is “right” and above reproach by outside members. Thus, members feel no need to debate ethical issues.
  • Stereotyping of the ‘enemy’ as weak, evil, or stupid: Members do not realistically examine their competitors and oversimplify their motives. The stated aims of outside groups or anticipated reactions of outsiders are not considered.
  • Self-censorship by members: Members refuse to communicate concerns by others because of fear of disturbing the consensus.
  • Mind-guarding: Some members take responsibility to ensure that negative feedback does not reach influential group members.
  • Direct pressure: In the unlikely event that a note of caution or concern is interjected, other members quickly respond with pressure to bring the deviant back into line.”

This past weekend I was fortunate to be a student in the Directors Education Program and went through a few exercises that highlighted how seductive groupthink is, even to an experienced group of leaders familiar with its dangers. One business case that we used to refresh ourselves had the same elements and conditions that underscored the tragic explosion of NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger. On Jan 28, 1986, the tenth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members. Investigation of this tragedy revealed that key people recommended the shuttle not fly due to quality concerns with the infamous “O” rings under cold weather conditions. But Groupthink, including almost every symptom above, resulted in the right decision being overruled; with fatal consequences. While most groups we are part of do NOT make life or death decisions, we still need to fiercely guard against Groupthink. This aligns with the principle I often write about: The ability of high performing groups to fight well.

Personal Leadership Moves:

Familiarize yourself with the Guidelines for Avoiding Groupthink (also from the Rotman people).

  1. “Assign the role of the critical evaluator to each group member; encourage the sharing of objections
  2. Avoid, as the leader, clear statements about your preferred alternative.
  3. Create subgroups or subcommittees, each working on the same problem.
  4. Require that members of the group make use of the information available to them through their subordinates, peers and networks.
  5. Invite outside experts to observe and evaluate group process and outcome.
  6. Assign a member to play the devil’s advocate role at each meeting.
  7. Focus on alternative scenarios for the motivation and intentions of competitors.
  8. Once consensus is reached, reexamine the next (but unchosen) alternative, comparing it to the chosen course of action.”

No Groupthink in Personal Leadership

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I’m thrilled this is a subject being touched on. I personally believe we should be way more focused on promoting the “individual” instead of any type of Groupthink. Everything at work can be considered case-by-case, and if we’re too quick to just “Groupthink,” it can be a lazy and over simplified way to problem solve that can clearly lead to big mistakes.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Reverse Mentoring… Get Some

Accountability Growth mindset Teamwork

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Key Point: Everyone who is not a Digital Native might want to hang with someone who is. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to have a reverse mentor and her name is Christina. She is a third year business student at the University of Alberta, and she works for me as an intern. In fairness, she is not your average student. Christina is an award winning genius and I won’t get into her resume. Suffice to say, it is ridiculously impressive. However, this is more than a story about how capable Christina is. It is about the way she thinks, works, and how she teaches me.

I’m the executive sponsor of Google’s G Suite in our company, and I should be a master. Everyone knows I’m not, and I am working on it. However, applying all Google applications is like learning another language and my brain just has to stop and think. Christina on the other hand, seems to navigate everything digital first. She is always teaching me something by just the way she does stuff. Sometimes it’s hilarious and I feel like, “oh geez, she must feel like gramps needs a lot of work.” Still, she is so patient and respectful. And my executive assistant feels that way too as she also learns so much from Christina.

Some of the most significant characteristics of Digital Natives according to the Zur Institute are:

  • They are intuitive learners rather than linear. (They do not use or easily relate to manuals).
  • They learn via participation rather than passively, as illustrated in the difference between Wikipedia and Britannica.
  • Their brains have developed a high capacity to multitask and to rapidly task-switch (hopping).
  • They see the world in less hierarchical terms – the Internet levels the playing field, making everyone more equal online.

Companies like Microsoft are formally employing reverse mentoring. For Kristin Ruud, Human Resources Lead at Microsoft Norway, turning to millennials for insight is key to business success. She says, “Generation Y consumes services in a completely new way. Beyond the clear ability of the Gen Y’ers to drive business impact through their day-to-day core work, there are also invaluable insights to be harvested through full engagement with this group, insights that will help ensure we are able to meet the needs of a demanding consumer market.”

Traditional mentoring normally involves a seasoned exec showing the ropes to a younger and often less experienced colleague. With mentoring by Digital Natives it’s the complete opposite: These “kids,” new to the world of work, with completely different social behaviors and backgrounds are coaching senior leaders on what the workplace should look like, what drives younger talent, and how to move forward. Christina does all of the above and hopefully she is getting something from hanging out with me too.

So Christina, this blog is a tribute to you, all your Digital Native colleagues, the way you just get things done and show me what’s possible by the fearless ease by which you approach things with a natural digital lens. Thank you.

(I’ve also had the benefit to be reversed mentored by my son, Garrett, who is also a Millennial. He is teaching me much about the importance of video and storytelling. Thank you, Garrett). 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Intentionally hang with a Digital Native. There is a natural digital experience difference between the oldest and youngest millennials.
  2. Be confident and humble enough to know how much you can learn from these reverse mentors. And while ideally they are respectful, don’t be shocked that these Digital Natives are not overly impressed with your title and office. The Internet does level the playing field. And remember, they’ve been “smarter” than their parents from the beginning.
  3. Be energized and have fun. It’s like getting a little bit of a brain transfusion.

Mentored in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I too have had the pleasure of working with Christina, and I’m definitely on the “old” side of the Millennial spectrum. I consider myself a pretty intelligent individual, but I’m had my brain scrambled a few times learning how sophisticated she is when it comes to social media and technology. I look forward to learning much more!

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis