Juice it Up!

Accountability Resilience Teamwork


Key Point: I detest playing “not to lose” versus “playing to win.” The mindset difference between the two positions is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. It’s been a while since I’ve written about this, and the U.S. election just fired me up on the topic again. I do not want to over simplify a very complicated political situation, but from my perspective, Hillary Clinton (after having a double-digit lead just weeks before the election) went into a “prevent defense,” (playing not to lose), while Donald Trump left “nothing left on the table,” to win. 

Just several days earlier, the world observed Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon take enormous risks. He might have been run out of town if the Cubs lost, but he played to win. As an example, he used his relief and closing pitchers against conventional thinking, and risked losing the series on a questionable, suicide bunt call. You may not know baseball, but trust me; he let it all out. He played to win rather than avoid losing. As most of us now know, the Cubs ended a 108-year drought by winning the 7th game of the World Series in extra innings. Cubs fans are still celebrating.

According to a 15five.com article, the difference between playing to win versus playing “not to lose” is often a matter of knowing how to reframe threats as a challenge. This is more than silly semantics. Based on the article, the following is the difference:

“A threat situation alters the way the brain sensitizes to risk and reward. The amygdala, deep in the limbic system, is highly attuned to fearful stimuli. The risks of a situation become prominent in the mind. Meanwhile, the brain’s reward center–though activated by the opportunity – is still the lesser partner. All this changes in a challenge frame of mind…

‘In a challenge state, you’re NOT expected to be perfect, and NOT expected to win, but you have a fighting chance to rise to the occasion. You’re free to take risks and go for it, which activates the gain-orientation system. A cascade of hormones is released that suppresses l-TPJ activity, and the brain gets comfortable, as if everything is familiar. Decision making shifts back to automatic mode. The hormones dampen the amygdala, making you fearless, and they juice up the reward networks, making you highly attuned to the spoils of victory. Competitors breathe freely, feel energized and approach opportunities…’

Based on this knowledge, creating a threat situation greatly impacts your ability to perform. Think about how often we create our own ‘threat’ situations. We sometimes think or expect the worst, and mistakenly, feel it’s a way to avoid failure – hoping to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed by dreaming too big.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Think BIG and frame up desirable opportunities as a challenge. When we think challenge versus threat, we often find the capacity to win. Juice up the reward networks and become fearless.  
  1. The idea of bringing heat will never ignite when our orientation is just to “get through the day.” Competitive fire will flourish when long-term goals are high, and when it’s accepted that risks and mistakes go hand-in-hand, and we are free to let ambition reign. Let it #%%} go! 
  1. Believe in yourself. Give it! Bring it! Leave it all on the field, and you owe it to yourself and others to play to win. Focus on the challenge versus the threat. If you do lose, it’s an opportunity and challenge to win next time.

Juicing up in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Well, with the election being literally the most important story in the whole world, how could we not touch on it? But ALL political opinions aside, please, I bet we can see the point here together: It’s not over till it’s over, and you have to run till the whistle blows. Whether it’s gunning to lead the free world, win the World Series, or closing that next big deal… Play to win it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘Leading’ With a Dinosaur’s Tail

Management Respect Teamwork


Key Point: Command and control leadership is no longer the way to effectively run an organization. However, my observation is that many self-proclaimed contemporary leaders buy this idea on paper, nod their heads in vigorous agreement, but behave very differently. I think too many current managers really like the idea of being “the boss,” not necessarily being a true LEADER, but definitely the BIG BOSS. They mostly just expect people to do what they’re told. And they really think, even when outwardly presenting a “team” belief, that they’re smarter and know what’s best. And if you disagree too much, or step on their egos, there will be consequences. 

In 2004, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed head of Joint Special Operations Command for the US military in Iraq. He subsequently recorded his experience in 2015’s Team of Teams. The following is a quote from McChrystal’s best selling book:  

“I would tell my staff about the ‘dinosaur’s tail’: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.” 

In our current whirlwind environment, traditional command and control structures are no longer very effective. The decision makers at the top of the command chain are too far removed from the relevant information, and are two slow to react. When Gen. McChrystal recognized this to be true, he changed the organizational and decision making structure of the task force to a “Team of Teams” approach. The two primary principles underlying this philosophy are transparent communication and decentralized decision-making. For those making the decisions under Gen. McChrystal, the maxim was simple: “Use good judgment in all situations.” While this may sound overly simplistic, the irony is that in a scrambled world, simple trumps complexity. 

Gen. McChrystal recognized that his role needed to change too. He viewed his primary responsibility as creating a “shared consciousness” or common purpose. One of his great quotes: “Purpose affirms trust, trust affirms purpose, and together they forge individuals into a working team.” Rather than being the master strategist, the general saw his role as being similar to that of a gardener. He needed to create the right environment to allow these teams to flourish and decisions to be made within the context of this shared consciousness and purpose. 

Team driven leaders do NOT demand loyalty to themselves. They DO, however, demand loyalty to the organization’s purpose and expect team members to have the courage to fiercely fight for what they deeply believe best contributes to that purpose. The idea that loyalty is exclusive to people who “do what we say” and “blindly follow us,” is a misguided and outdated concept. It leads to people lining up to where the command power is politically perceived, versus doing the right thing. In organizations, particularly at executive levels, this spurious loyalty is outright dangerous. 

Character Moves:

  1. Determine how much of a “garden leader” versus “dinosaur leader” you and others are. Do you develop and promote shared purpose, values and a networked culture? Are expectations, goals, and projects both clear and transparent? Do you allow for a free flow of information, feedback and expect loyalty to the greater good and purpose? Do you recognize and reward people for their results, collaborative skills and a growth mindset? Or ultimately do you just want to be the “Big Boss?”

Garden leader in the Triangle, 

 – Lorne 

One Millennial View: From a Millennial standpoint, we’re likely to be dealing more with middle management experience… I don’t want to be disparaging to all the great middle managers that are probably out there, but that faux “big boss” attitude seems to start manifesting here. As we start climbing ladders and earning more responsibility, if we pretend to jump into some “big boss” shoes, I predict they’ll likely be way too heavy, we’ll sink in the mud and wind up stuck.

– Garrett Rubis

Visual Thinking Versus Typical Meetings

Accountability Productivity Teamwork


Key Point: The most creative and productive meetings I have ever participated in usually involve a visual component. Whether it’s on a napkin, white board, plastering a wall with post-it notes, something extra seems to positively emerge when the discussion becomes visual. The CEO I work for embraces visual thinking. When you’re “clicking” with him, the white board or iPad Pro is filled with very visual pictures of a desired future we jointly developed. It got me thinking about why having a visual element is so effective? So a little research journey introduced me to both visual thinking and NeuroLeadership

Visual Thinking is drawing in order to make sense of the world. When we visualize something, it becomes more concrete. Complex concepts become easier to understand. Visual Thinking has been widespread in science and mathematics for many years. Along with NeuroLeadership, and design thinking, visual thinking is emerging as one of the best practices in leading-edge organizations.  

A great article by David Gray, the founder of xPlaner, a company that teaches people how to apply visual thinking and NeuroLeadership, references the SCARF model developed by David Rock, author of Your Brain at WorkQuiet Leadership, and Coaching with the Brain in Mind

“Some social needs are as important to the brain as air, food and water. If these social needs are not being met, the brain reacts in the same way as it would if you were literally starving or gasping for air.

SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

Status: People need to feel important, recognized, needed by others.

Certainty: People need to feel confident that they know what’s ahead, that they can predict the future with reasonable certainty.

Autonomy: People need to feel like they have control of their life, their work, and their destiny.

Relatedness: People need to feel like they belong, to trust the group they are in will look out for them.

Fairness: People need to feel like they are being treated fairly, that the ‘rules of the game’ give them a ‘fair chance.’”

Gray suggests that typical business meeting triggers anxiety and emotional distress, activating the fight-or-flight response and causing people to shut down, while visual thinking sessions address and resolve many of those issues:

“Status: In a typical meeting, status and hierarchy create distance between people. Sitting around a table increases the sense of direct threat.

A Visual Thinking session flattens the hierarchy. As soon as people start drawing, it’s ideas and insights that matter, not status. Also, because people are focused on the shared picture as opposed to each other, status takes a back seat to creating something together.

Certainty: In a typical meeting, abstract language, diagrams and complex PowerPoint slides create a sense of uncertainty about the future. It’s difficult to translate abstract ideas into concrete action. Without a clear picture, people procrastinate or act in ways that are counterproductive.

Visualizing the future makes it more tangible. Drawing a plan is thinking it through. Drawing what ‘good’ looks like, who will do what, and how, makes the future less abstract, and reduces anxiety and uncertainty about next steps, reducing resistance and making it easier to move forward.

Autonomy: In a typical meeting, the boss or presenter is in charge of the agenda and the dialogue. Other participants are reduced to listening and asking questions instead of actively contributing. This reduction in participation leads to reduced commitment and makes it less likely for people to carry the ideas forward after they leave the meeting.

In Visual Thinking sessions, everyone is involved in making ideas and plans more tangible and concrete. This increases people’s sense of control. If everyone participates in creating the picture of what will happen, it is easier for them to take ownership and run with it.

Relatedness: Typical meetings are focused primarily on the exchange of information, not team-building. Most business meetings are dry affairs. It’s blah blah blah, until it’s over. When a group of people works together to create a shared picture of their situation, their vision, and a plan to get there, they are simultaneously building a sense of who they are as a team. Creating a vision together makes it easier to take action after the session is over.

Fairness: In a typical meeting, the extroverts — people who like to talk — often get the lion’s share of the airtime. Introverts, who may have great contributions to make, may not get the time and space they need to share their ideas.”

Character Moves:

  1. Consider making visual meetings versus typical meetings a more regular part of your involvement and contribution process. In fact, if you are aren’t collectively creating pictures, models, and graphics, you may be accepting meetings in their lowest form of “blah, blah, blah.” How effective are they really?
  1. Consider where and when facilitating a meeting in which a “conversation and visual thinking” process is the best medium; where everyone is up and having a “voice.” Find out how leading organizations are applying this.
  1. The best visual thinking sessions ensure there is time for both individual reflection and group discussion. Consider referencing the book “Gamestorming” for more ideas and approaches you might apply. 
  1. Meetings need to get reimagined and reinvented. Consider visual thinking as a process to do that. We need more connected and faster moving organizations. Visual thinking and NeuroLeadership can accelerate us. Learn more about both. 

Visual thinking in the Triangle, 


One Millennial View: I happen to enjoy meetings, but I’ve certainly exited some of them saying “Yeah, that could have been addressed in a two paragraph email.” Now, considering my entire business is visual (for those that don’t know, I work in an online and TV video creation department), I know how crucial “seeing” something is. However, it does take time, and no business wants to or can afford to waste resources on quality, creative production if the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. As Gray alludes though, a voice-only platform can be “blah blah blah.” Meetings are great when done well, so how about this solution? If it can just be said in an email – email it. If the meeting involves visual thinking, then we’ll GLADLY put in the work. I’ll even order pizza.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Nudging People’s Behavior

Accountability Communication Teamwork


Key Point: How can you and I change people’s behavior? Well it’s a trick question, because of course; we can’t change people’s behavior. We can only change our own behavior. However, we can help people make better choices and act in ways that lead them toward their desired outcomes.

Victoria Fener is a co-founder of stickK.com, a firm dedicated to applying behavioral economics and related tools for better outcomes. She recently spent some time with our team and shared some important insights.  

Fener notes how research shows that people behave in irrationally, but somewhat predictable ways. The following are a few examples: 

  1. Default choices, like “opting out” work better than “opting in.” For example, if you wanted permission from people to allow for organ donations, the results are much better if people can intentionally opt out versus intentionally opting in. We are kind of lazy.
  1. Loss aversion is more powerful than the equivalent gain. Most us would take stronger action to avoid losing an already awarded free plane ticket than do something to earn an equivalent new one.
  1. People are less patient as time decreases. Most of us would rather have one sure thing immediately, than more of the same if we waited. This is the “bird in the hand versus two in the bush” idea.
  1. Most of us are more attracted to winning experiences than cash. Research shows more of us would rather buy lotto tickets to win a dream home or safari, than tickets for the cash equivalent. 
  1. Framing is a vital component when helping people make choices. For example, if we knew there was a possibility that 600 people would die and we were given two options. A: Saves 200 people, or B: 400 people die. Most of us would choose A. Of course, 400 people die either way, but framing the positive “saving” option is more appealing.
  1. We do better with a head start even when the distance is the same. If we had one of those stamp cards where we get a free drink after buying 10, we would be more likely to use a card requiring 12 drinks but with two free stamps already on it, than one with 10 and no free stamps. Of course, in either case, one has to buy 10 to get a free drink, but we do better with a little success already built in.
  1. We are biased by what we’ve recently seen or heard. If a 20 percent tip option is put in front of us, we are likely to choose that versus tipping at our own discretion. Our mind tricks our body a little when the sub-conscience is influenced, hence subliminal messaging. 

All of us design things, and therefore we become architects in impacting choices people make. We are recognizing more and more that information and knowledge alone do not necessarily help us change. Nutrition knowledge and obesity trends validate that. We often know what we should or would like to do, AND still need a nudge. If not, we’d all be skinny with six pack abs.

Character Moves:

  1. Really dig into understanding “what’s really in it for ourselves and the other person” to help us better understand how to help and encourage a desired outcome. Remember, we need to be humble enough to appreciate that knowledge and information does not automatically lead people to better outcomes. Of course understanding “why” is vital, but not necessarily sufficient.
  1. Invest in understanding behavioral economics and recognize the importance of design and choice architecture. Learn how to give people a positive nudge. When we combine knowledge with experience and choice design, then people will be more motivated to change… Including developing new habits. Design intentionality and choice architecture are going to get a lot more attention than they have before. Get ahead of the curve. 

Nudging in The Triangle, 

One Millennial View: As a Millennial, I’m aware it’s my generation that would be the first to challenge this… “How dare you challenge my behaviors? Where’s my safe space?” Blah blah blah. But really, we all know a million ways we’d like to improve ourselves. It just comes down to whether we’re willing to curb our laziness, selfishness, fears, comfort, routines, etc. in order to walk toward what we know will be a tough, uneasy, unpredictable journey. It’s scary, but this is where that whole “no one told you it would be easy” comes to play. And we could all benefit from a positive nudge.

– Garrett

The Co-Worker Code

Productivity Respect Teamwork


Key Point: Do you know about the “co-worker code?” Well, probably not, because I just made the term up as a way of describing something I’m paying more attention to these days. It’s the magic that happens when the relationship between co-workers transcends almost all else. It is more than teamwork, yet it is fundamental to becoming a great team. The “code” is like an unspoken secret handshake, where people working together come to understand that what happens between them matters most. They will never intentionally let each other down. While the views of managers and others count, the “thumbs up” approval of the co-worker code is at the top of the ladder of importance.

Recently, I was presented with some data that reinforced (more than any other factor) a great place to work is influenced by what happens between teammates. Obviously having a compelling purpose and great leadership is necessary, but is surprisingly insufficient for achieving workplace greatness. Have we really paid enough attention to what takes place between co- workers?

I really do pay attention to what Google does in part because they throw incredible resources and analytics behind what they focus on. The following refers to a team productivity study Google recently undertook, and I think it might be related to my early thinking about the co-workers code. As per the Feb. edition of Quartz:

“Google wants to know the secret to building a more productive team. The tech giant charged a team to find out. The project, known as Project Aristotle, took several years, and included interviews with hundreds of employees and analysis of data about the people on more than 100 active teams at the company… Google’s data-driven approach ended up highlighting what leaders in the business world have known for a while; the best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally. It has less to do with who is in a team, and more with how a team’s members interact with one another.”

The obvious and simple “aha” behind this, seems to be a nest of psychological safety that high performing co-worker teams ideally achieve. The magic or “code” happens when teammates deeply care for one another, and accept the authentic contributions of all. When that happens, in consort with a compelling company purpose and great leadership; well, it becomes cultural magic. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Pay more attention to the co-worker code and conditions for psychological safety between teammates. Allow for co-workers to invest in it. If you’re a leader, promote it. And consciously advance it with your own co-workers.
  1. Remember that after every meeting, co-workers are texting or talking to each other starting with the question… “What did you think about that?” We know the answer to that really matters. Make it matter more by promoting the co-worker code to find the magic. 

Co-worker Code in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Good, relatable co-workers aren’t always going to be in our control. They’re not exactly a group of friends we can pick out, but maybe it’s one of those things that we might want to be more picky about. When I hear stories of friends who have co-workers they enjoy spending time away from work with, I know that wherever I wind up next, I’ll be looking for a similar situation. I can’t wait for that job interview where I find a company who spends weekends like I do, or has similar past experiences and passions. I feel like a company with likeminded individuals “on and off the field” will likely create the best results and be a pleasure to be part of.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Your Job… For Now…

Abundance Organizational leadership Teamwork


Key Point: I think job titles may be limiting organizations. Perhaps they’re slowing things down when we need agility and speed more than ever. Institutions need the best people working together to get things done. Selecting and connecting people to get excellent (even extraordinary) results, is and will always be a trait of superb leadership. What would happen if we just put the best people together, paid them for achieving results and worried much less about antiquated organization structures and status driven titles? I wonder if statements like: “I need to be a VP so other people know I mean business and have top support…” “This role should be at a ___ level…” “That person can’t do that job because they are jumping levels…” “Joe can’t work for Mary because you can’t have a (you pick the title) reporting to a person at the same level.” Etc, etc. I’ve heard all of the above comments and more.

I’m thinking that our organization ought to have only three titles:

  1. Head of… (For now).
  2. Team Lead… (For now).
  3. Impact Player in… (For now).

The above doesn’t mean we would have fuzzy roles, vague expectations or chaotic compensation systems. On the contrary. People must have a very clear and measurable understanding of results they are accountable for. The impact of the area of responsibility assigned ought to connect to the biggest financial payout as well. No results equals no job. The more one achieves continuous results, attracts people to work for them and develops others; the larger the reward. Sometimes people try to clarify or specify responsibilities and impact through titles. I think it often works counterproductively. By having more generic titles people would have to work more effectively and collaboratively to know who they need to connect with and why in order to get results. And people would work in a more networked or “hive fashion.” Having communication flow up and down would give way to more peer-to-peer work.

The reason I favor “for now” on every business card is to remind everyone that nothing is permanent and everyone must grow and advance results to continue employment. I like the term “Team Lead” because people need to know who they are formally coached and served by. My argument for “Impact Player” on every business card is to remind people that all jobs must have a positive impact. If not, why have the role?

Character Moves:

  1. Examine your career by how much you’re contributing, personally growing, having an impact and inspiring others. Worry less about a title. The money and bigger roles will come if you’re continuously doing important, result driven work and advancing your skills/experience.
  1. Take on and proactively sign up for the tough challenges that impact your organization’s results. You will skin your knees and likely scare the heck out of yourself while learning like crazy and growing in confidence.

Always “For Now” in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: In all aspects of life, true leaders seem to reveal themselves whether or not titles are in place. During operations, you naturally know who to trust, who to listen to, who to follow and who to learn from. That observation may not be automatic to all, so titles likely aren’t going anywhere and in most cases it makes sense that they exist. It simplifies things. But, if we’re all striving to be “Impact Players” and understand our individual expectations with a passion for shared success, then that’s far more important than what’s printed on a business card.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis