Wake Up: Inclusiveness is a MUST

Respect

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Key Point: We still have plenty of leaders that think of “inclusiveness” as “politically correct,” and mushy headed, phoney bologna. I recently participated in a panel discussion involving top execs and executive MBAs. The execs were primary C suite folks and (not surprisingly), mostly older white males.

On the panel, I firmly stated my belief that leaders could not afford to brush off the importance of intentional inclusiveness. In order to have adaptive cultures, we need massive cognitive diversity and psychologically safe, inclusive environments. At the dinner table after the panel discussion, a senior exec who listened to our panel discussion suggested that I was “patronizing” and that he “was very inclusive.” He emphasized though, competence trumped all other considerations and some pools (like engineering/technology) limited inclusive possibilities… Hmm… So, I checked out some research to help us explore the question of how objective and self-aware leaders stand on the matter of inclusivity.  

The consulting firm Zenger/Folkman (as published in the Harvard Business Review), analyzed one large organization with an excellent track record of hiring and promoting diverse candidates, with a reputation for inclusion. Zenger administered 360-degree feedback assessments for roughly 4,000 leaders, and the company agreed to let them use that data for this analysis. A summary of the findings as noted in the HBR article:

“1. Leaders are not good judges of their own effectiveness on valuing diversity; and those leaders who are poorest fail to see the problem, while those who are the best don’t realize their skill and effectiveness…

2. Leaders who were rated very poorly on valuing diversity and inclusion were rated in only the 15th percentile for their overall leadership effectiveness, while those who were rated in the top 10 percent of those two items were rated in the 79th percentile…

Valuing diversity is an attitude and mindset. Practicing inclusion involves a set of behaviors that can be developed in leaders. Our research has shown that self-perceptions in this arena are not highly accurate. While it could be argued that individual leaders may best know what’s in their hearts, others are in a far better position to objectively evaluate whether and how they practice inclusion in their day-to-day work.”

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Put the tired, old-school arguments about diversity and inclusion negatively competing with competence to rest for good. Value identity and cognitive diversity as a necessary investment in cultural adaptability and innovation.
  2. Do not accept the B.S. that leaders can accurately self-assess how much they really value diversity/inclusion. Others need to help us see our blind spots on this topic.
  3. Intentionally work on understanding what it means to be inclusive. Invest in very credible assessment tools to really find out where you stand on the diversity/inclusion continuum.

Inclusively Competent in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: As a Millennial, there has always been a huge amount of inclusiveness and diversity in the places I’ve worked. I’m thrilled to say that from my experience, our main concern and priority was getting the job done, and all anyone cared about was performance quality. So, perhaps that’s a good indication we’re already moving forward.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Unintended Stupidity of ‘Empowerment’

Respect

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Key Point: Well intended leaders may have unwittingly confused the heck out of many employees, and degraded customer experience with so called “empowerment.” Huh? Let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s say you want a certain standard of behavior in providing your customers a “WOW” experience. So, after eating all the leadership development “candy,” you decide to “EMPOWER” your team members to use their good judgment and just “WOW” the customer. Sounds good in theory. After all, you want to be a Level 5 service leader (or whatever). Ironically, what you will likely get is a “dog’s breakfast” of behavior from good intentions all around. Let me give you some mundane examples:

As the big boss, you want a “WOW” greeting for every customer that enters your retail stores. Your empowered guidance to store managers is; “use your head and give a great greeting.” At one store, every customer is met with eye contact and a warm welcome when they enter. Individuals make a personal connection. At another store, they do the same AND have a small, fun greeting gift for each customer. At the next store, staff interprets greeting differently because the empowered store manager believes customers should be left alone and not badgered. Etc etc. Empowerment results in mixed, varied experiences by well meaning, “engaged” employees, committed to the customer service ethos and a great customer experience. To make matters possibly worse, a customer complains about being ignored at the store where there is no greeting. So what does the top brass default to? The explanation is that the store manager doesn’t have the “DNA;” let’s replace the person with “someone who gets it.” It’s actually the top leadership that needs a shake.

Another example might be in a financial institution where expert credit adjudication scores allow for customers to receive loans or credit up to $x limit. Yet, when the data is reviewed, top leaders find out that time and again, well intended, highly engaged, “empowered” team members continuously turn down “approved” customer loans and/or underfund well below guidance. Why? Well one explanation is that empowered employees feel very protective of the institution and become very risk averse, even though experts and guidance tells them otherwise. Top leaders, while very well meaning and “evolved,” exhort loan officers and tell them they are fully empowered to make loan/credit decisions. But that “empowerment” results in consistently under performing loan portfolios and disappointed customers. Subsequently, with best intentions all around, everyone loses. The root cause is likely faulty thinking and guidance at the top.  

Leadership Moves:

  1. Leaders need to be absolutely clear and definitive on minimum acceptable experience/performance standards. There should be little if any discretion on the minimum. Inviting employees to be empowered is most effective when people are able to use judgment exceeding minimum thresholds. In that case variation can be (although not always) very constructive. In the situation above involving the financial institution, minimum loan limits ideally would be set by artificial intelligence, ever learning algorithms. NO discretion below the minimum would be allowed. It is more than ok to tell loan officers that they are NOT empowered to adjust down. Empowerment should be granted in other areas where judgment and human intervention upgrades rather than diminishes the customer experience.
  2. Be absolutely clear where you “empower” and provide meaningful autonomy. Do not burden your employees with “empowered” license when in reality you want something very specific. That’s when “empowerment” becomes an excuse for lazy leadership that has NOT done the hard work to be clear connecting purpose with very defined expectations. Do not hope empowered employees will deliver the experience you want when you primarily lead and give feedback on what you “don’t” want.

Right Empowerment in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This reminds me of the popular fast food franchise, Chick-fil-A, and something I’ve noticed as a patron at their restaurants. All employees are empowered to have a minimum requirement for politeness. You’ll hear “please” and “thank you” from employees, but most notably: Instead of saying “you’re welcome,” you’ll always hear a Chick-fil-A employee say “my pleasure.” It’s very subtle, but this extra courtesy absolutely stands out. And this simple (and free) customer service upgrade is why Business Insider and other publications have written articles about how the average annual sales per restaurant reach $4 million, compared to the $1 million average their competitor KFC brings in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Dinner of Truth

Books Respect Video

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Key Point: Becoming more self-aware is just plain hard. I’m reading Tasha Eurich’s great book “Insight”, which is a comprehensive tour on the subject. It’s an important read.

The painful truth is that we all have blind spots and yet most people around us are reluctant to share insights or feedback that might be perceived as undesirable. In the book, the author refers to a term coined by her researchers as the MUM effect; keeping Mum about Undesirable Messages. Findings confirm that when we’re in possession of information that might make someone uncomfortable, we tend to chose the path of least resistance and decide to say nothing. In fact, people are willing to tell white lies rather than the cold, hard truth. Of course, that avoidance does little to help you and me become more self-aware and positively grow.

Perhaps equally unfortunate is that many of us actually prefer the MUM “rule” being in effect. Why? Feedback can be and often is painful. When someone asks if we want feedback, our brain actually sends out physical pain signals. But avoiding feedback does little for us. The way people see us still exists whether we become aware of it or not. So, why not choose to learn the “truth” on our own terms?

You and I need loving critics. These are people who will be honest with us while having our best interests at heart. People like this are not necessarily someone we are closest to. However, there is a high level of mutual trust when this individual is willing to go out of their way to help us. This loving critic also needs to have sufficient exposure to behavior we want feedback on, and a picture of the impact of that behavior. They must be willing, based on a foundation of trust, to be totally honest.

How brave are you? If you have identified a loving critic, how about participating in a “Dinner of Truth?” Over a meal, ask your guest to tell you one thing that annoys them most about you. The rules include telling them why you’re asking, that nothing is off the table, and that you are NOT ALLOWED to respond defensively. You can only listen with an open mind and heart. How about a few Dinners of Truth?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. If you venture into the Dinner of Truth, it is helpful to mentally prepare for what might be said. Decide how deep you want to go, and remind yourself and loving the critic that this is about personal growth. Ask questions to clarify and better understand.
  2. Really really listen by applying Eurich’s “Three R Model:” Receive, Reflect and Respond” to the feedback. How you choose to respond and both learn and unlearn from feedback is an intentional practice. Read more about the “Three R Model” here. If you don’t do anything with the dinner feedback, you’ve wasted time with a very valuable ally.
  3. Recognize that being self-aware is understanding both who you are AND how others see you. That’s darn hard work, and we’re worth it.

Dinner of Truth in Personal Leadership

Lorne

P.S. Please click on and enjoy this video below of more Leadership Moves, and stay tuned for an upcoming embedded Lorne Rubis YouTube channel, and Instagram stories/Snapchat videos that will feature many more.

Watch: What If and How Might We

One Millennial View: It’s great to see “loving critics” can be embraced, and feedback be encouraged instead of censored. I’m so glad Eurich can define the MUM effect, develop the “Three R Model,” and how we can learn to incorporate a good meal with it. A “Dinner of Truth” might be tough to swallow, but it’ll only make us stronger and personally improve.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

What Competition Really Looks Like 

Be Respectful Culture Innovation Respect

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Key Point: People that lose their way “turtle,” and like to pretend and/or protect. They become fear-driven folks with a scarcity mentality. They pretend that things will eventually go back to the way things were in the “good old days,” and are dupes for every snake oil huckster that promises the “turn back the clock” lie. They also look for ways to try and protect their turf by most often crying out to the government to do something; create a regulatory fence to preserve their dwindling resources. In the meantime, what is happening around them is disruptive and rapidly advancing competition. At the macro-level, let’s take a look at what China’s market is like now, particularly in the entrepreneur sector. The following is borrowed from co-founder of Singularity University, Peter Diamandis’ blog

“9-9-6: Work Ethic

While I love the Silicon Valley work ethic, what I found in China was unparalleled.

The mantra is 9-9-6… Or 9-12-6…

Meaning, entrepreneurs are working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (or midnight), six days per week.

Seriously, no joke.

Another important difference I found was the more militaristic, “all-powerful CEO” in China’s startups. 

While in the U.S., a CEO may “guide” or “influence” his team, in China, what the CEO says is gospel. No discussion.

And when a CEO makes a decision, the company takes it and runs.

Chinese Innovation on the Rise:

While a decade ago, it might have been true that China was a copycat ecosystem, today that assumption is 100 percent wrong.

Chinese companies are innovating at a faster pace than I could have imagined, and it’s this innovation that has maintained a 9.71percent GDP annual growth rate.

One factor that is driving a vibrant entrepreneurial engine is the massive availability of capital. 

Because the Chinese government has imposed very strict restrictions on the outflow of capital, the wealthy in China are investing more and more cash into Chinese entrepreneurs, driving a frenzied ecosystem and driving up valuations.

‘The typical Series A there ranges from $15 million to $100 million. 

China has also committed to becoming a world leader in Artificial Intelligence. Just this past week, it laid out its development plan to achieve this by 2030, aiming to surpass its rivals technologically and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion.

Amazing Startups:

My host (and friend) for my recent visit to Beijing, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, the head of SInnovation (a $1.2B venture fund). Kai-Fu, a former Apple and Microsoft exec, was also the founding president of Google China.

Kai-Fu has an amazing record in investing in, and creating, a new generation of Chinese Unicorns (and pre-corns). He was kind enough to introduce me to three of these amazing companies: UISEE, VIPKid, and Face++.

UISEE takes a different approach on the self-driving car. Instead of aiming for public roads, UISEE has built autonomous driving vehicles for campuses, communities, parking structures, and more. This isn’t just a concept — their vehicles are operating and generating revenue.

VIPKid is massive and experiencing exponential growth… This startup has achieved $500 million in annual revenues in just two years! What do they do? They pair up, talented, underpaid American schoolteachers with foreign (mostly Chinese) students who want to learn English. But they do it with an amazing, easy interface. Last month they received over 80,000 applications to become teachers.

Face++ has built a revolutionary machine learning facial recognition system. Their software can recognize your face from live video better than any other software in the world. They have ranked No. 1 in almost every metric and competition. Already working with companies and the government, their ultimate goal is not just facial recognition, but to model the entire human brain.

These are just a few of the companies I came across that represent the radical innovation coming out of China.

My message to American entrepreneurs is don’t underestimate China as competition, or as an important future marketplace.

While most American entrepreneurs focus on the United States and ignore China, the opposite is not true… Chinese entrepreneurs are focused on China in the near term and America in the mid term.”

Character Moves:

  1. Be aware of what’s happening at the edges of your personal and business boundaries. If you become too introspective or local, erosion may cause you to become weakened and defensive. Be a curious pioneer, relentlessly seeking abundant opportunity. As Diamandis points out regarding China; “an opportunity to ‘co-Innovate’ is important. Either develop a joint-product for China with a Chinese partner, or to partner with a local giant to bring your product/service to this massive and growing market.”
  2. “China is going from ‘deceptive’ to ‘disruptive.’” Who at a micro or macro level is doing this to you personally and in business? If you do not actively use your mental and literal passport, you’re going to be replaced. It’s just a matter of when. Why? You are blind; so “pretend and protect” rapidly becomes like buying a lottery ticket to get rich; a hopeless strategy of hope. 

China-like in the Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Oh great, we thought so-and-so over in accounting had a target on us, and turns out it’s a whole country of more than one billion people. Really though, I guess as Millennials, it’s just a great reminder to stay sharp, refrain from being complacent, and try to remain on the frontline of trendsetting.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Why Can’t Organizations Believe This?

Be Respectful Culture Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: The very first point in the eight “cultural ingredients” or “recipe” I follow to drive a great culture is: People First. Most organizations pretend to believe this, but do not really act that way. They genuinely don’t know what being “People First” really looks like. Too often, it’s about the quarterly share price first (and exec bonuses, of course). These days, customer obsession is competing a little more for first amongst equals. However, very few top leadership teams look at everything through the eyes of what’s best for People First. And I’m not talking about mush headed thinking where People First becomes interpreted as an absence of high performance and great results. It’s quite the opposite actually. One consistent example: Southwest Airlines. 

Note the following from Forbes: “Earlier this year, Southwest Airlines announced it would be sharing $586 million in profits with its 54,000 employees – which equates to about a 13.2% average bonus for each employee, or roughly the equivalent of six weeks’ pay. And that doesn’t even count the extra $351 million the company contributed to its employees’ 401(k) plans.

In an era marked by squabbles over the minimum wage and the gap in pay between executives and front-line employees, those numbers stand out. (The company paid out a record $620 million the year before). Is it any wonder that Southwest employees always seem so happy when you’re checking into your flight?

As Gary Kelly, Southwest’s CEO said: ‘Our people-first approach, which has guided our company since it was founded, means when our company does well, our people do really, really well. Our people work incredibly hard and deserve to share in Southwest’s success. Remarkably, it’s the 43rd year in a row that Southwest has shared profits with its people, who also reportedly own about 10% of the company’s shares as well. The airline has also never laid anyone off or cut pay.

The company has long been lauded for its strong workplace culture and engaged workforce – which might also have something to do with getting employees to think and act like owners by sharing the profits of their shared success. (It’s worth noting that Southwest also has a union workforce, which sometimes leads to conflict from time to time.)

Herb Kelleher, the airline’s founder, is quoted in the book, Nuts by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg, about the fact that in 1973 Southwest became the first major airline to introduce profit-sharing to its employees, as saying: Profit-sharing is an expense we want to be as big as possible so our people get a greater reward.’

(If you’re a fan of Podcasts, I’d also recommend listening to Kelleher’s interview with NPR where he talks about the early days of starting his groundbreaking airline).

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, to hear stories about flight attendants picking up trash, gate agents tracking down borrowed staplers, or pilots cutting back on fuel usage precisely because they know that will impact their company’s profits.” 

In Canada, WestJet Airlines followed the Southwest cultural and business model to the letter and had similar results for most of its history. Some recent critics suggest that the current leadership has abandoned this People First ethos and the company has clearly become “shareholder first.” Those arguing that there has been a cultural deterioration point out that the pilots of WestJet recently unionized because they no longer trusted the executive team to look at the world through their eyes. Apparently, one example was the implementation of a pilot scheduling software system where pilot efficiency was optimized at the expense to pilots’ well being. I love flying WestJet, and time will tell. You can’t fake “People First” though.

Character Moves: 

  1. Do not pretend you can really create or live in a great culture without a People First strategy. Challenge yourself to learn what the attributes/behaviors of a People First organization looks like. How would you measure that? What companies fits these criteria? 
  2. To be People First, you have to personally lead yourself and others that way. What’s something you’ve done in the last week to prove it? 

It’s always People First in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Asking why all organizations don’t commit to a People First culture is a great question. Happier employees should equal better work, right? I too love flying Southwest, and you can definitely tell that they’re sitting at the “cool kids table” at the airport, and well, some other airlines are likely envious of their People First skies.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis