Data Driven Leadership

Abundance Organizational culture Organizational leadership


Key Point: One of my proudest milestones as a Chief People Officer was to intentionally declare the following to all in our organization: “People have a right to great leaders and leaders have a responsibility to be great (not perfect).” We did a lot of research in developing a leadership framework that declared exactly what we meant by “great leadership.” We were very flattered when the giant of “leadership” John Maxwell stated very publicly, that our framework, was “one of the best he’d ever seen.” Therefore, I was gratified to read the following Stanford article, which also validates key elements of leadership we strongly endorse. The Stanford article states:

“Most leadership advice is based on anecdotal observation and basic common sense. Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Kathryn Shaw tried a different tack: Data-driven analysis. Shaw, along with fellow Stanford GSB professor Edward Lazear and Harvard Business School’s Christopher Stanton, published a 2015 paper titled ‘The Value of Bosses,’ in which they gathered data from… in an attempt to see whether they could show that bosses matter and, if so, how much. As part of their research, the authors asked company employees and managers, ‘What are the traits of a good boss?’ They found that bosses matter substantially.

Three Things Good Bosses Do:

The first thing an effective manager does is to vividly describe the company’s vision and mission, and to explain in detail how each employee fits into that vision, Shaw says.

‘The next thing they do is drive results,’ she says. To ensure that individuals (and teams) are productive and have a sense that their contributions are valued, attentive bosses set-aside time to coach, guide, and motivate.

An often overlooked aspect of strong people leadership is to help employees achieve their personal career goals.

The third aspect of strong people leadership is to help employees achieve their personal career goals. Shaw says it’s ‘incredibly motivating’ when an employee’s long-term career vision and values are aligned with those of the organization. ‘A good boss will share that vision with them and give them guidance and feedback to help them along the path.’”

Our research adds one other key thing good bosses do. They are collaboration magnets. People want to work for and with them, and are lined up to do so.  

Character Moves: 

  1. Great leadership in our organization involves six practices and three key outcomes: Achieving sustainable results, continuously developing oneself and others, and becoming a magnet in attracting others to work with. Rate yourself on all three. What does the data (not opinion), tell you?

Note: If you or anyone you know wants a one-page copy of what I believe is the best leadership framework outline anywhere, email me at I will happily share it with you.

Magnetic leadership in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: At the end of the day, it seems that our departments and individual contributions, are only as successful as the mindset of the leader that manages them. Maybe we feel lucky and thankful just to have somewhere to show up and work, but “settling” can be a trap, and if we’re serious about wanting to improve, we should develop very high standards regarding who our leaders are. I’m not sure if we always remember, think about, or follow this.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Talk Back and Stand Out

Management Organizational leadership Respect


Key Point: How skilled are you at talking back? How do you stand out? Over the years, I’ve come to relish and embrace people around me who have the strength, courage and conviction to have a view that might be different than mine. I’m not endorsing behavior that is plain stubborn, negative or simply combative. People who trend that way exhaust me. Rather, I’m describing behavior that comes from deep listening, thinking “yes” first, AND expressing a view that likely gets us to higher ground. People that roll within that framework energize me. When they present a view, however contrary, I do my best to listen and embrace the difference. Sometimes I push back a little harder to determine the depth of their conviction. Most often, the debate helps us travel to ideas or a resolution neither of us started with. Sometimes as the “boss” (although rarely), I thank them and stick to my original position. Ideally, we’ve “fought” well and moved on as one. I just spent an evening reminiscing with my old team (we spent eight years together), and we fondly applauded our ability to “fight” and “rise.”

Over the years, I’ve found that the best leaders and organizations embrace fierce conversations, constructive disagreement and highly spirited differences. When leaders and organizations believe teamwork means “doing what your boss says,” or accepting “bland consensus,” expect underperformance at best and ultimately some material disaster. The most dangerous organization has a CEO where people line up to agree and take orders. Talking back, in that case, means career limitations and a likely exit. If you’re in one of those situations, get out now, as fast as you can. Why? Your growth mindset will be undernourished and your confidence undermined.

The Japanese have a wonderful maxim that loosely translates to: “The nail that sticks out will get hammered down.” I believe this refers to people who are overtaken by their ego and tend to come from an “I” first mentality. Standing out, from my perspective, is to become so competent at something that you distinguish yourself. Becoming known to be an expert at something people and organizations really value is important. This combines technical competence AND behavioral values people would not want to be without. As an example, a communication function can find lots of great writers. However, master storytellers are unique and enormously valuable. Combine that with the ability to reimagine and carry people along on a magic carpet of emotion; well, then you stand out in a way that the group or organization would be diminished without you.

Character Moves:

  1. Are you capable of talking back in a way that moves things forward? Are you a leader that seeks it out? If the answer is no, in either case, get out now! As an individual you’re worth more. If you’re a leader who has to be right all the time, please do something other than lead people.
  1. Learning how to stand out is a planned process. Think beyond a job or some specific responsibility. What distinguishes you? What have you learned this past week to move you further along that path? If you can’t answer that, you’re likely just going for the ride. Good luck, and keep the unemployment insurance website bookmarked.

Talk back and stand out in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: You never seem to see a movie or television show that depicts a boss being reasonable in this department (think Devil Wears Prada or Entourage)… But, that’s why entertainment is fiction. Think about the last time you had a job interview. Did they ask you if you had any questions? Why would it stop there? Respectful conversation  should be appreciated, and since you’re playing for the same team all searching for positive results, hopefully “talking back” and “standing out” is encouraged. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Are You an Inspirational Self-Boss?

Accountability Personal leadership Well-being


Key Point: Are you an inspirational or demotivating boss, to yourself? If we lead ourselves then we can assume we are responsible for our personal level of engagement. There is a ton of evidence suggesting that the most effective leaders show personal care for their employees. They thoughtfully coach and build on their strengths, cultivate strong working relationships, and instill a sense of purpose and hope. There is an abundance of research that shows employees quit their bosses, not their jobs. Most ineffective leaders overload employees with responsibilities, then micromanage, do not connect at a personal level, communicate poorly, and fail to inspire a sense of purpose. 

So, if you (as your own boss) treat yourself with appropriate care and support, will you be positive and engaged? And conversely, if you (as your own boss) treat yourself with disdain and negativity, will you be totally disengaged? Will you essentially quit on yourself?  

Leading Yourself Begins With Self-Talk

I really like the argument on this matter put forth by psychologist, Brett Steenbarger, in a recent “Self-Leadership and Respect” Forbes post.

“Think of the stream of conscious thought as a conversation: It is our way of talking to ourselves. Self-talk shapes our relationship to ourselves; it is also our way of managing ourselves. This perspective leads to an interesting question: Would you want your boss to talk to you the way you speak to yourself?

All too often, our self-talk is filled with frustration (‘How can I possibly get this done?’); disgust (‘I can’t wait to get through this!’); pessimism (‘Nothing works out!’); and apathy (‘Whatever!’). Think of the self-talk of the perfectionist: Nothing is ever good enough and any falling short of (lofty) goals is failure. Some of the most damaging self-talk I’ve heard is from perfectionists: ‘I’m such an idiot!’ and ‘I can’t do anything right!’.

Of course, none of us would want to hear such things from a supervisor. Exposed to that verbal abuse and negativity daily, we would quickly disengage from the workplace and start to look for new employment. But what if we are our own bosses and that is how we talk to ourselves? The result is not so different: We disengage… When we talk to ourselves in ways that leave us disengaged, the loss of energy and optimism is palpable. Conversely, when we challenge ourselves constructively and immerse ourselves in meaningful activity, we become spiritually and emotionally charged.”

Psychologists refer to positive self-engagement as moral elevation while negative self talk leads to moral deflation. And our propensity to treat and talk to ourselves in certain ways may manifest in our daily experience:

*  Emotionally – As optimism versus. Pessimism.

*  Socially – As attachment versus. Detachment.

*  Physically – As vitality versus. Fatigue.

As Steenbarger notes, “Across the board, positive self-management is energizing; self-management grounded in negative self-talk robs us of energy. In many ways, the state of our bodies reflects our mind state.” 

Character Moves: 

  1. Do you like what your self-boss is saying about you? Are you an engaging, inspirational self-boss or are you disengaged and looking for new “employment?” 
  2. The challenge with being a very negative self-boss is that when you quit and become disengaged, your self-boss is still there… Yup, that’s you!  
  3. As always, engagement comes from leadership. In this case, how are you leading yourself? Take the simple test: Are you optimistic? Attached? Vital? If not, your self-boss can get better with intentional help and practice.
  4. If you need to help your self-boss, don’t be afraid to get him/her a coach (in some cases a therapist) so they might learn. You and your self-boss are both (hopefully without sounding schizophrenic) worth it. 

Your self-boss in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Millennials might be some of the best self-bosses out there. I’ve seen self-bosses my age switch careers, follow opportunities, relocate, start businesses, and even say, “screw this, I’m traveling to Fiji and I don’t have a return flight yet.” It seems we’re our worst self-bosses when we’re stuck, hesitant, or without ANY plan. I like to remind myself that these are my “no wife, no dog, no mortgage” years… My self-boss is never going to be able to have as much corporate freedom as he does right now, might as well make the best of it, and be positive. But my “company” (me) has to be in a good enough place to offer those benefits.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Bully and Silent Bosses Aren’t Leaders

Accountability Communication Organizational leadership


Key Point: Hold yourself accountable first and help others improve. I believe the weakest and most ineffective “leaders,” more aptly described as “bosses,” spend their time chest pounding about “holding others accountable.” They are often “yellers” and recognize that their positions of authority provide a platform for subtle or even direct intimidation. I want these people out of organizations because they do little to improve performance, while adding lots of cultural waste, in the form of “ass protecting.”

In fairness, “bully bosses” may not think of themselves that way. They often have lower EQs and frame the world as “soft.” Hence, they believe the rest of the folks ought to be more like them. Now, I fully recognize that we are and should be disappointed by mistakes, poor performance and unmet expectations. We do need to set high bars of excellence and expect it within others and ourselves. However, what I have witnessed in my career is too much behavior at one extreme or another; bully at one end, mute at the other. As unfortunate as the bully boss is, the silent or mute boss might even be worse. This type of boss grumbles and seethes internally about poor performance and most often silently sneaks up on a “poor performer” after finally “having enough” and “gets rid of the problem.”

It is really hard to be a performance coach. It takes care and skill to engage performance issues effectively. It involves huge amounts of personal energy. And I believe that’s what leaders need to do: We need to hold ourselves accountable first AND help others improve. Yes, we’re human and have a right to feel frustrated, disappointed and angry with unmet expectations. However, look in the mirror first. Remember our best outcome is to coach others to higher performance. 

Peter Bregman is a coach, and a consultant to CEOs and their leadership teams. He’s also the best-selling author of 18 Minutes, and his forthcoming book is Four Seconds. I really respect his work. This is what Peter recommends when someone under-performs: 

Character Moves (via Bregman): 

 “1 .Take a breath (that’s the four seconds part). Slow yourself down for the briefest of pauses — just enough time to subvert your default reaction. In that moment, notice your gut reaction. How do you tend to handle poor performance? Do you get angry? Stressed? Needy? Distant? Your role is to give people what they need to perform, not what you need to release.

2. Decide on the outcome you want and be specific. What does this particular person need in order to turn around this particular poor performance or failure? Maybe it’s help defining a stronger strategy, or brainstorming different tactics, or identifying what went right. Maybe they need to know you trust them and you’re on their side. But here’s what people almost never need: to feel scared or punished. And more often than not, that’s how we make them feel when we ‘hold them accountable’ in anger.

3. Choose a response that will achieve the outcome you want, rather than simply making your already obvious displeasure more obvious.”

Performance coaching in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: We’re probably not all lucky enough to work for bosses that are also perfect leaders. But that doesn’t mean we should stop taking notes. Even poor bosses can teach us through bad example, so when we may reach leadership positions, we can model ourselves differently… Bully bosses and “mutes” can be discouraging, but I don’t think we should allow them to shut us down. Like any other relationship in life, it’s about learning and developing tastes and standards. Learn from the duds. What does your boss do that you like? What don’t they do? As our careers progress, we can take that model and keep puzzling together the most ideal fit in a leader, which in turn will hopefully form a successful team and working atmosphere.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Bad Bosses are “Stalkers”

Respect Teamwork Well-being


Key Point: Supervisor abuse generally includes rudeness, public criticism, tantrums, and other inconsiderate actions. And this abuse is proven to cause unreasonable levels of stress at work AND home. If the supervisor shows no or little interest in seriously improving, get out of the relationship as soon as you can. No job is worth this abuse in the long run.

A study from Baylor University, reported in article in the winter 2011 issue of Personnel Psychology, found that the stress and tension caused by an abusive boss at work also filters through to an employee’s personal relationships and ultimately the whole family. When people reported having an abusive boss, their significant other was more likely to report increased relationship tension and family conflict at home. Numerous other studies reinforce this finding. Abusive bosses are “stalkers;” they follow you right to your kitchen table.

Character Move:

  1. Try having a “crucial conversation” with your boss, pointing out abusive behavior. They will demonstrate their commitment to improve through active listening and taking meaningful action to improve.
  2. Determine how and if you can help them self-improve. However they are self-accountable in stopping the abusive behavior. They need to demonstrate improvement.
  3. Do not get caught into a “gripe fest” complaining about the boss’ behavior. This helps no one, least of all you.
  4. Make a plan to get out of the relationship. RESPECT, for yourself and others, is a minimum acceptable requirement in a work environment.

No “stalking” in The Triangle,