Find the Bright Spots!

Key Point: Today, more than ever, an essential leadership competence is the ability to advance an organization’s culture. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for lunch.” So what strategies can leaders deploy to “up shift” culture? Harnessing the power of “Bright Spots,” is one impactful and perhaps under-utilized strategy for driving rapid, sustainable cultural improvement. Chip Heath, the Stanford based organization consultant, researcher and author recently spoke to 700 hundred of our leaders. Check out his book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. He told the following story: 

“In 1990, Jerry Sternin, author of Power of Positive Deviance, was sent by Save the Children to fight severe malnutrition in rural communities of Vietnam. The Vietnamese foreign minister, having seen many such ‘do-gooder’ missions in the past, gave him just six months to make a difference. Sternin was well versed in the academic literature on the complex systemic causes of malnutrition – poor sanitation, poverty, lack of education, etc. He considered such information “T.B.U.” – “True But Useless.” There was no way a strategy focused on changing these deeply rooted issues could see results in six months.

Instead, Sternin used an approach that he would later call positive deviance. He traveled to villages and met with the foremost experts on feeding children: Groups of village mothers. He asked them whether there were any very poor families whose children were bigger and healthier than the typical child, even though their families had only the same resources available to all. Hearing that the answer was ‘yes,’ Sternin and villagers set out to discover what the mothers of the healthiest children were doing differently.

They found that the mothers of the healthiest children were indeed doing things differently. First, they were feeding their children smaller portions of food, more often during the day. Second, they were taking brine shrimp from the rice paddies and greens from sweet potatoes grown in their gardens and adding these to their daily soups or rice dishes. They were doing this even though most people avoided these foods, which were stigmatized as ‘low class.’ And third, when serving their children, they were ladling from the bottom of the pot, making sure the kids got the shrimp and greens that had settled during cooking.

Sternin called these families ‘bright spots’ – observable exceptions recognized by their peers as producing results above the norm with only the same kinds of resources available to others. In less than a month, he and the mothers had discovered local practices that were effective, realistic and sustainable. He helped mothers in other villages to study their local bright spots and replicate their behavior. Critical to the success of this process was recognizing that sustainable solutions are already in use, and could be locally sourced by local people. Sternin helped the ‘bright spot’ mothers in numerous villages train others in the most effective practices for their communities. At the end of six months, 65 percent of the children in the villages where Sternin worked were better nourished.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Look for Bright Spots in your team/organization. And then leverage insight you get from them. It is often the fastest, most meaningful way to drive RESULTS. Sometimes it may seem too simple or obvious. Be humble enough to embrace the simplicity. 
  2. In a previous blog, I talked about the importance of extinguishing Dim Spots. However, avoid becoming seduced into exclusively doing so. People who are unwilling or incapable of changing their behavior to contribute to the “up shift” of the “new” culture DO need to leave. Yet, indulging in what could be perceived as a cultural “witch hunt” will likely slow down a meaningful cultural change and be less productive than effectively leveraging the best of Bright Spots.
  3. Invite peers to help discover who and where Bright Spots are and use stories to describe their behavior and results. As the Bright Spots connect and flourish, the momentum will help Dim Spots either switch on or fizzle out. 

Bright Spots in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: The nice thing about being a Millennial (and therefore, lower on most totem poles), is we’re really only looking for Bright Spots. That’s all I want to have mentor me, or really want to pay attention to. I simply don’t care about Dim Spots. For two reasons: 1. Unless they adversely affect MY personal work, it’s a distraction to even let them bother me. 2. We’re not that far removed from the “tattle tale” days, in theory, so it’s still their job to notice it on their own or someone more important probably will. That said, I’m all for Millennial teamwork too, so, if there’s a Dim Spot colleague you notice who can make a quick improvement, go ahead and give em’ a positive, quiet nudge… (Emphasis on quiet: Direct Message, Gchat, catch them in the hall or break room, whatever). But, you don’t need to call out his or her screw up across the office in front of all superiors to hear. If that’s your style, then yeah, that Dim Spot will probably become a lot brighter, and maybe even bright enough to burn you later.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘Cancer Has Changed Me… How About You?’

Key Point: Do not wait for cancer to change you. Change now, today, this moment! Learn from others who have it and want to share their love. A friend posted this, so please read the following as a tribute to her.

I am thinner, eating a vegetarian, almost vegan diet. I am shorter with these two collapsed vertebrae. I move more slowly and cautiously to keep the back and nerve pain in check. I can’t sit or stand for extended periods of time. I keep my head up, as it strains to look down.

I have changed with Cancer. I accept help whenever offered. I ask for help when I need it. Gone is the “I can do it all myself” attitude.

I have slowed down. Although I have been traveling all over the map, it has been at a slower pace and I enjoy the pace. I make sure that I get my siesta time, flat on my back time, every day, wherever I am, whatever I am doing. I am pacing myself so I can make the most of every day. I really don’t want to miss anything. I am packing in as much as possible.

I have let go. All those details, little problems are a waste of time. When stuff comes along that starts to clutter up my head, tense up my body, I say “whatever,” let it go, and move on. Life is short, life is important, clutter is useless. Tension hurts.

I have stopped expecting the worst. Worrying won’t change anything. Worrying won’t prepare me for the worst. I have been at my worst and have found the strength. When the worst happens, we all deal with it and get through it. We find the strength.

This wonderful woman died the other day. As with way too many, it was far too soon. And as with many who have fought the Big C and “lost,” this is a tribute to her victory.

Character Moves (with Jana’s help):

  1. Accept help when it is offered. It is abundant and generous behavior to embrace it.
  2. Ask for help when you need it. NO ONE can go it alone. Get rid of the “I can do it myself attitude.” (All you executives out there… This is especially for you).
  3. Tension hurts! Let all the little problems go. Reframe the way you look at things. You don’t need to win and be right all the friggin’ time. Clutter is waste. Move on.
  4. Stop expecting the worse. Worrying won’t change anything. When s#%^ happens, we usually find the strength. FEAR = False Expectations Appearing Real!
  5. Three more from me: Do it NOW! Why wait? Be nice… You’re worth it. Forgive. Cleanse yourself of the toxicity of blame.
  6. And one more from Jana: Sloowww down. Be present more. Pace yourself. (I need this reminder big time).

Jana… Forever in The Triangle,



Will Fallen Little Angels Inspire Us to REALLY Talk and Act?

Key Point: The indescribable hurt we feel from the horrific shooting at the Newtown, Conn. school this week is palpable. Sometimes “enough” really becomes “enough.” Americans, and to various degrees, the rest of the world, must have a crucial conversation about the devastating relationship between mental illness and assault weapons. We cannot close our eyes and hope “it” goes away. We know this is going to happen again and again if we do not allow ourselves to discuss the situation, with a meaningful path of action towards a more acceptable future state.

What can you and I do? What is in our control? At the most basic level, the one thing we can do is set an example by learning and practicing the skills required to participate in conversations when the stakes are high. We have the tools and knowledge, but it also means possessing the will and respect to be open to the possibility that it’s not just “my way or the highway.” We have to be open to the prospect of other views and paths suggesting a better way.

Character Moves:

  1. Recognize your worldview is only one. We consciously or subconsciously filter what we see based on our deeply held beliefs. At best, this anchors us. At worst, it closes our minds to possibilities and promotes intellectual dishonesty. This kind of ignorance has contributed to much of our inhumanity. As an example, a movie like Spielberg’s Lincoln, gives us a window into how much we gave to change views on slavery.
  2. Commit yourself to learning and practicing how to manage crucial conversations. There are numerous very good models for doing this. Check this out as an example. This is not about how you can learn to convince another person that your view is right, it is about mutually finding a better way to a more desirable state.
  3. Learn how to apply this at home and work first. If we can all get better on a “local” level, perhaps we can increase our ability to effectively have crucial conversations on a broader scale. The alternative is to allow the unacceptable to repeat. If we allow that to happen, it’s because we do not have the will, focus and competence to change it for the best. And that is definitely living without character.

Inspired by little angels in The Triangle,



Change Management Needs Change!

Key Point: If you have a growth mindset, you see change as an inevitable part of life. While change doesn’t exist for its own sake, success is only possible if leaders, employees and organizations embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business. It bugs me when people cry out for “change management,” like an inoculation against whooping cough. It’s like if some one can just magically come up with seven steps, change will be seamless and all good. Often times I hear people actually asking for things NOT to change and impact them personally when they’re seeking out change management. They seem to be saying, “I liked the other way better. I know it is going to be different but why does it have to involve me doing anything differently?” Is this thinking just a bunch of manure? I think so. 

I do believe there are key elements that when applied help us navigate changing circumstances. Harvard’s John Kotter is arguably one of the most well regarded change experts and his eight steps include: 

1. Create urgency.

2. Form a powerful coalition.

3. Create a vision for change.

4. Communicate the vision.

5. Remove obstacles.

6. Create short-term wins.

7. Build on the change.

8. Anchor the change in the corporate culture.

Ok… These are all solid considerations and from a top down approach, they make perfect sense. My argument is that in the world we live in, change is a continuous process and NOT an event. Customers, technology, markets, competition, are so tornado-like that the above model may be too pedestrian, top down, and event based. And it misses they key ingredients for change… You, me and how we think. The key to ongoing successful change is the mindset of all people involved in the eco system impacted by changes AND NOT the mythical “center of change management.” Let me work with people who have a propensity for continuous growth and a commitment to creating value and we will work as a system of continuous, proactive change… Not an old, top down, lazy organization, hoping to compel people that change is needed. By the time organizations look to embrace “change” they are likely spiraling towards less relevance and even dissolution. 

Character Move: 

  1. Define yourself as a never-ending value creating human, adding worth for everyone (including yourself) on an ongoing basis and you will be constantly evolving. You will more prepared when events around you rock your world… And they surely will! 
  2. Do not resist. Determine how to navigate and make changes work for you, regardless of how much it shakes up your routine. Sometimes this means leaving the “system” and starting something else. 
  3. Recognize that everything ends some time. Celebrate the best of what you enjoyed about the past and move on. Stop whining, asking, “why is this happening?” Or wishing “they would have done IT better.” If you look closely there is an opportunity waiting. The longer you resist accepting that things have or are changing, the more you will cloud the opportunity. 
  4. Enjoy the present but do not stand still. Presence and being static are different. 

Change in the Triangle,


Lorne Rubis

Lorne Rubis

The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ...
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The Character Triangle

Character Triangle Book CoverBuild Character, Have an Impact, and Inspire Others



Character Triangle

Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.

What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?

The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:

Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame.
Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process.
Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.

Read more about the Character Triangle


Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

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