Leaders: Connect the Friggin’ Dots

Accountability Be Accountable

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Key Point: Leaders, stop whining there is too much to do, and start translating and connecting the dots. Most often, it’s NOT that organizations are asking too much. The challenge is that leaders can be better at explaining and linking the initiatives so that they are accessible to all. And team members, get over yourselves and learn this stuff.

Organizations are like layered cakes, and activities flow at every level. Is it possible to have the people in an organization focus on the following elements at the same time?

  • Purpose.
  • Values.
  • Exponential.
  • 10x.
  • Customer obsessed.
  • Growth mindset.
  • Digital competence.
  • Agile.
  • Lean.
  • Engagement.
  • Collaboration.
  • Flow.
  • Transformation.
  • System thinking.
  • Minimal viable products.
  • 85/10/5 consumption.
  • Big data/data science.
  • Silo busting.
  • Cult brands.
  • AI/Machine learning.
  • Cloud.
  • Massive Transformative Purpose.
  • Etc.

The answer is YES, and effective leadership has to TRANSLATE and CONNECT so people at all levels understand the relationships, along with helping people make personal, emotional connections to each concept or initiative, while they do their jobs. It is much more of an inclusive than additive exercise.

The above is hardly an exhaustive list, and my explanation in the appendix below (if you care to read it), is cursory at best. However, understanding and decisively applying each element is VITAL to people in organizations, regardless of industry, location or size.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Leaders: Stop being big babies and complaining about capacity and the challenge of translating/connecting. If it’s too much, go somewhere off the grid and grow cabbage.
  2. Team members: Stop whining about consumption. Be self-accountable enough to absorb and relish ALL (and more). If not, join your pal above in the cabbage patch

Connecting the dots in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

Appendix – Lorne Rubis brief translation/connection to the list:

In ATB Financial’s case, our purpose is labelled as our Story. Its 94 words outline every single person’s WHY. Our values are described in 10 ATBs. These guide our behaviors and commitment to each other. Everything else translates into and connects to the Story and ATBs. Having a growth mindset, exponentiality and 10x, is a way of thinking and working that addresses personal and organizational behavior as it applies to both innovation and transformation. Exponentiality is defined mathematically, while an MTP outlines a very big idea often tied to exponential technology. Agile and Lean involve both prescriptive methodologies and philosophical mindsets. One needs to be clear whether applying an approach and/or the literal tools (where agile words like sprint/scrums, etc. take on literal meaning). MVP is a very fast product or service that can be rapidly customer tested prior to full production. Being customer obsessed is a strategic intention and can also involve very distinct actions based on customer experience science (like customer journey mapping). Big data and data science involves the application of algorithms and predictive data search. Collaboration includes teaming in advanced ways using visual and connective tools residing in modern productivity/communication platforms like Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s 365. Digital competence includes a digital technology understanding that enables leveraging of advanced digital technology. Flow, systems thinking and silo busting is a way of looking at how an organization works as a connected system rather than disconnected functions (silos). Engagement can be a way of describing how much people feel they can trust and contribute. It can also have a literal meaning like in ATB where it specifically refers to 5,000 people responding to six consistent survey questions. Cloud computing, of course, refers to all data being stored in multiple locations and servers somewhere outside the organization firewall. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are related but different applications of bot technology. 85/10/5 refers to our ability to do daily work and consume new learning expressed in percentage terms. A company becomes a cult brand when its customers feel indispensable loyalty. 

Please add this to the above list to make it more complete and/or accurate.

One Millennial View: No new player has ever been drafted to a sports team and then refused to learn the playbook. This has to be a similar mindset. First of all, you should be going into an interview for the position with an understanding and appreciation for an organization’s mission statement. Incase you squeak through the hiring process without this step, then connecting the dots for yourself is day one stuff. Yeah, it would be helpful if leaders assist with this process, but make a point of doing it yourself. You shouldn’t just do it, you should like it. Or else, I guess people still buy cabbage.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

My Message to Students (And You)

Accountability

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Key Point: Live the life you want, NOT the life you think others expect you to live. This advice is based on research from the wishes of the dying. The biggest regret or “do over” mentioned by those in palliative care is that they spent too much time looking for approval from others, rather than being fully intentional. This is easier said than done. Parents, teachers, family, friends, all play a big role on what we could and should do with our lives.

If you examine the slide at the top of this blog, you can see the intersection and sweet spot that most often results in the most happiness. Doing what you’re good at, love to do, give and receive value for – is a great spot be in. My argument is to also work on the very core of that intersection. Work hard to discover your purpose or “why.” What is your life’s mission? (I’m not specifically talking about a job, or even career). What are your core values? These beliefs guide your daily behavior. What are yours? Who are your others – the positive impact people that you hang with? Who cares about your well being? Who are your loving critics? This includes organizations you invest your time in. All this is never ending personal discovery, and constant work. Your purpose, values and others evolve. We are never done.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Write out what you’re good at and love to do.
  2. Outline how you give and receive value (including a pay check or monetary gain).
  3. Outline your purpose and values.
  4. Specifically name five others who help you thrive, and how organizations you involve your time at are contributing to you.
  5. Stand back and give yourself some reflective time. What ah-ha did you get from putting this down on paper?

Finding the sweet spot in Personal Leadership

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is outstanding advice. While we may not still spend time in a classroom, I think the point is that we never stop being students when it comes to personal leadership development. We might internally voice what our values are, know who our others are, and spend time reflecting. But physically creating a cheat sheet for yourself, and outlining this on paper may truly deliver that ah-ha moment you’re looking for. This seems to be a homework assignment with no due date, because the final draft can always be updated.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Tackle the Hard ‘Nut’ First!

Accountability Be Accountable

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Key Point: The very first thing you should do each morning is tackle the most difficult issue on your agenda. If there is a” fierce conversation,” you need to have it. If you have bad news, share it. If it is something ugly that you hate to do, and/or like to procrastinate on, learn how to get it off your plate immediately.

Today, a very respected colleague of mine shared a great story with more than a hundred new hires about tackling the hardest “nut” first. After he graduated from university, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He explored apprenticing as an auto-mechanic where a wise journeyman taught him the lesson of unscrewing the most difficult “nut” first. (This was when mechanics were not computer scientists and actually fixed cars). The “nut” that was the hardest to get at, toughest to unscrew, etc. was the place to start. Why? When you got that difficult step of the job over first, the rest of the “nuts” come off easier, and the overall job is much more successful. 

In our organization, one of the biggest behavioral disappointments we have is the failure of team members to get back to customers within 24-hours. Especially when these customers have a pending deadline and/or ask for help. In most cases, the primary excuses regarding team members failing to return that call, is the fact that they “have to have a difficult conversation” to move forward. They may have to reject a loan application, call about an overdraft, confirm a bad credit score, ask for more customer information, etc. Therefore, we provide no call back at worst, or a very late one at best. Of course, our customers subsequently get very upset when we don’t meet our commitments. We fail to tackle the “hard nut” first. The same outcome occurs when leaders fail to have difficult conversations with direct reports. Avoidance leads to festering aggravation, and eventually a much bigger problem.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Learn that simple, yet hard approach of getting the toughest issue off of your lap ASAP. Don’t wait. Make it so. It will likely come back to haunt you if you don’t. This sounds easy, but most of us like to do the easy stuff first and push off the tough stuff. It’s understandable, yet problematic.

Tackling the hard “nut” first in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think if there was one skill I wish I could improve on overnight, it would be this. It truly is one of those “simple” things that proves easier said than done. More recently than I care to admit, I now start my day by making my bed. This was something I’d typically put off till later, but it is one of those subtle tasks that lets you achieve something bright and early, and come home to something clean. Of course, making a bed isn’t a hard “nut” by any means, but it does get things cracking.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Employees Have the Right AND Accountability to Expect Great Processes!

Accountability

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Key Point: I was listening to an executive from one of the global, big-name consulting companies the other day. He is in most boardrooms with all the world’s largest banks and other financial service companies. His observation: For the first time, financial service companies have almost the same strategy; to provide profitable financial services from a scalable platform to a customer of ONE. Mass personalization is the nirvana outcome for both businesses and retail customers (think Netflix and Amazon individual customization). However, on a global stage, the competition is crazy intense and increasing. An efficiency ratio of 40 percent may have been the benchmark, and then you find out some competitor is way more productive with 20 percent efficiency, while providing equal or better service. Yikes! And, in spite of recent trends towards national protectionism or thinking that regulation is going to protect inefficiency in markets; well these constraints in the historical sense, are just blips. So what?

If you’re in charge of any group or organization, high performance, execution and getting results is taking on advanced meaning and requiring more elevated leadership. Execution is NOT blindly or simplistically about annual performance reviews, exhorting or inspiring people to greatness, or just getting rid of poor performers and leaders. Nor is it sufficient to only have great technology or processes. It is no longer reasonable to expect sustainable success by relying on any ONE part of an organization system. More than ever, it is necessary to be exceptional in every aspect!

The purpose and value of the company’s business model must be compelling. The organization’s processes are ideally the HEROES in giving customers a memorable experience and commercial entities an attractive financial margin. Of course, employees need to be there to make hero processes really “wow” customers. They need the courage and self-accountability to finally demand that processes must make them look competent in the eyes of the customers. For too long, organizations have been asking employees to cover up and excuse continuous crappy processes. Every year, the same lousy practices persist and too often the explanation from “leaders” is that people just aren’t working hard enough or don’t have the right “DNA.” On the flip side, employees break a process or compensate for inadequate ones and then get rewarded for being the heroes for putting “out the fire” they created. No more.

Personal Leadership Moves:

1. As a leader, demand that the processes you deliver to others make you and teammates look competent, and THEN use people attributes to “wow” and create memorable differentiation. Do not allow yourself to continuously make up for poorly designed/flawed processes. It is not sustainable, and will not lead to high performance and execution.

2. Have the expectation that every part of the organization achieves greatness: People, data, technology, processes, purpose, and valued business models. Any weakness makes you and the company vulnerable. To have a truly great culture, EVERY part hums and creates a lasting symphony.

Heroes in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: It feels lousy to just skate by! You know it, I know it, and everyone feels worse off for doing it. As Millennials, we have an opportunity to train ourselves early in our careers to do our best to make sure the processes we follow are actually keeping ourselves challenged, learning and growing. As well, we have the right and accountability to be proud of processes we are part of.  This blog likes to reiterate, it’s “that easy, and that hard.” But it’s also that much more rewarding.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

How Groups Can Make Fatal Decisions

Accountability

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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