Do Not Use the ‘C-Word’

Accountability Be Accountable Change Personal leadership

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Key Point: Ok, maybe we should end the abusive use of the “C-word,” and that word is “change.” Honestly, I’m worn out with phrases like “change management,” “change resistance,” “change failure,” etc. Let’s all agree that change can be hard. When we have to do things differently, it makes sense that it’s challenging. Most things worth doing involve overcoming hurdles. Ever run a marathon? Few people before running their first one believe it’s going to be a cakewalk. Yet, if you are dedicated and train, I believe anyone can run the 26.2 miles. It’s only a matter of time. I’ve ran two marathons and always wanted to beat my three hour target. I came close. Were my marathons “successful,” even if I didn’t complete one in less than three hours? Heck ya, as far as I’m concerned. This way of thinking may also apply to organization and personal transformation. 

I really liked Nick Tasler’s HBR blog entitled “Stop Using the Excuse ‘Organizational Change is Hard.’” Here is how he concludes, and I whole-heartedly agree: “We have been learning new skills and adapting to new environments literally since the day we squirmed out of the womb. Every time we feel the impulse to say ‘change is hard,’ we could make a different claim that is every bit as accurateAdaptation is the rule of human existence, not the exception.” 

I have been leading big system adaptation and transformation throughout my career. With the risk of sounding over confident, I genuinely believe I can lead (developing a great team around me at the same time), a giant positive transformation in any environment. Depending on the size of the system it will start immediately and three to five years later it will be measurably better. There are common ingredients and my readers may be familiar with the eight-ingredient system for cultural transformation I’ve written about previously. Here are some minimum conditions that are necessary if you want to join me for the rocket ride:

  1. Be prepared to think and be big.
  2. The purpose or “why” has to really matter and be clear.
  3. Love and breathe adaptation like oxygen. 
  4. Have the ability to change perspective. 
  5. Challenge assumptions and be curious as hell. 
  6. Get s#!& done. I detest procrastination.
  7. Love a relentless pace and get energized by it. Be smart enough to know when to rest.
  8. No excuses. You’re fiercely accountable.
  9. Set targets people think are too high.
  10. When people tell you you’re working on too many things at one time, ask them to get the hell out of the way.
  11. Be compassionate, and accept not everyone wants to go for the ride.
  12. Accept critics, skeptics and quickly remove cynics.
  13. Celebrate milestones and understand that your full work and contribution may not be fully appreciated (that’s part of successful adaption).
  14. Do not accept binary success criteria. Transformation is always on a continuum. 
  15. Embrace the uniqueness and personality of the adaptation process; each is deliciously unique.
  16. Enjoy the highs and embrace the lows; grit your teeth, stay calm, relentlessly move forward.
  17. Breathe, pause, and never stop! 
  18. Avoid leaders like me if this list is exhausting.

Character Moves:

  1. Kill the “C-word.”
  2. Adapt, transform, move; make it who you are and recognize it’s a practice, NOT an event!

Adapting as humans in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I really like this. Sure, “change” is tough, but us Millennials deal with it on such a regular basis that it should be second nature to us in a lot of ways. For example, every social media outlet has changed dramatically since we’ve started using them, and if you pulled up Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter’s interface from a few years ago, they would seem outdated. If you’re not adapting as often as an Apple OS update, then you could probably use a reboot.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Stubbornness of Linear Thinking

Accountability Be Accountable Management

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Key Point: Thinking exclusively in straight lines gets in the way of innovative and exponential performance. A brilliant article by Bart de Langhe, Stefano Putoni, and Richard Larrick appeared in the May/June, 2017 issue the Harvard Business Review. Their conclusion:

“In recent years a number of professions, including ecologists, physiologists, and physicians, have begun to routinely factor nonlinear relationships into their decision making. But nonlinearity is just as prevalent in the business world as anywhere else. It’s time that management professionals joined these other disciplines in developing greater awareness of the pitfalls of linear thinking in a nonlinear world. This will increase their ability to choose wisely—and to help the people around them make good decisions too “

To make their point, they invite readers to test their linear thinking on the following puzzle:

“Imagine you’re responsible for your company’s car fleet. You manage two models, an SUV that gets 10 miles to the gallon and a sedan that gets 20. The fleet has equal numbers of each, and all the cars travel 10,000 miles a year. You have enough capital to replace one model with more-fuel-efficient vehicles to lower operational costs and help meet sustainability goals.

Which upgrade is better?

  1. Replacing the 10-MPG vehicles with 20 MPG vehicles.
  2. Replacing the 20-MPG vehicles with 50 MPG vehicle.

Intuitively, option B seems more impressive—an increase of 30-MPG is a lot larger than a 10-MPG one. And the percentage increase is greater, too. But B is not the better deal. In fact, it’s not even close. 

Shockingly, upgrading fuel efficiency from 20 to 100-MPG still wouldn’t save as much gas as upgrading from 10 to 20-MPG.

But choosing the lower-mileage upgrade remains counterintuitive, even in the face of the visual evidence. It just doesn’t feel right. If you’re still having trouble grasping this, it’s not your fault. Decades of research in cognitive psychology show that the human mind struggles to understand nonlinear relationships. Our brain wants to make simple straight lines.”

If you want the full-Monty on this concept, please read the entire article. I see the stubbornness of linear thinking in people all the time. However, the fact that our brain wants us to keep things on the “straight and narrow” can often hamper our ability to really challenge, experiment and explore. A non-linear thinker tends to embrace a myriad of unrelated thoughts that somehow connect in ways that might otherwise not have been evident. We know the world is getting faster, and more complex. As leaders, we have to intentionally nurture non-linear thinking within others and ourselves to discover novel approaches to daunting opportunities. 

Character Moves:

  1. Challenge yourself with questions like: What other perspectives are there? Who else is talking about this? How would ___ think about it? How might we___? Have we considered or thought of ___? 
  2. Ask people who have nothing to do with your business or who work in tangential fields how they might approach a problem. 
  3. Momentarily walk away from the problem and intentionally put yourself in a position to look at things from a completely different perspective. What do you see now?

Non-Linear in The Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: As the HBR article above states, it’s easier said than done, but tackling something from a new and different angle seems to be one of the greatest weapons Millennials have to make waves in a world that ceremoniously and uncreatively “re-tweets.” Go ahead, call another situation “____gate.” Photoshop another “Crying Jordan” meme for something obvious. Your initial results and “likes” might be gratifying, but in my opinion it’s so tired. Can’t we think a little non-linear and do a lot better than that?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Too Busy to Create

Be Respectful Creativity Productivity

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Key Point: Having a constructive way of thinking about the idea of being “too busy to be creative” is interesting to me. Frankly I’ve had a hard time getting my head around the idea of “too busy” being much more than wasteful blame or an excuse. People that get stuff done (GSD) are just busy. Often, I think people are talking about needing a break more than actually being too busy. We all need a breath… Some space… Some quiet… And it is more than fair to recognize that it’s so darn hard to get off the daily spinning wheel to do so, unless we are intentional about it.

For most of us, a large percentage of the available hours we have are full of obligations we willingly, even happily accept; just the normality of having commitments in work and life. And there is also this background whisper in the mind, “maybe I should call my kids more, visit my Mom more, connect with that friend I’ve haven’t heard from for a while, catch up with more emails, start that project, send out more recognitions…” All the other “should do’s.” So what about room for new ideas for the creativity required navigating all this “stuff“ more effectively? I thought I might listen to a little jazz to help me with an answer.

The following is from Dr. Charles Limb, a professor of head and neck surgery, and the Chief of the Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco…. “I started looking at jazz musicians playing the blues as a way to understand how the creative brain emerges from a neuroscience perspective. When musicians go to an improvisation, the brain switches, and the lateral prefrontal lobes responsible for conscious self-monitoring became less engaged.” His research notes the following when the improv isn’t clicking: “When you’re trying so hard to come up with ideas you can’t do it, you can’t force it… When the stakes are higher and the brain is actively over-thinking something, it can interfere with processes that have become routinized, causing behavior or performance to suffer.” So what helps when we want to a switch on a little more creativity and get into a flow? Well, how about a little QUIET?

Hal Gregersen writes in a recent HBR article, that cultivating quiet “increases your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals.” When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next (perhaps what to play next)? —It’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.

Jazz certainly isn’t quiet. However, quieting the mind leads to better more creative jazz riffs amongst musicians and I believe the same applies in all parts of our lives.

Even incredibly busy people can cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. Here are four practical ideas the HBR article suggests.

Character Moves: 

“1. Punctuate meetings with five minutes of quiet time… It’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.

2. Take a silent afternoon in nature. You need not be a rugged outdoors type to ditch the phone and go for a simple two-or-three-hour jaunt in nature.

3. Go on a media fast. Turn off your email for several hours or even a full day, or try “fasting” from news and entertainment.

4. Take the plunge and try a meditation retreat.”

 5. Invest in your breathing process. Connecting to my previous blog on Wim Hof, the science of having breathing intersecting with a little quiet, is as a powerful way to detox and open up the creativity channel.

 Quiet and all that jazz in The Triangle,

 Lorne

 One Millennial View: I create and write for a living, and recently I had to coach one of my editors how to write articles for the first time. One of my first pieces of advice dealt with how to tackle the end of a piece, the final sentence that can be difficult if you let it. I’ve learned to just write it… Get words on that page. Anything is better than nothing. Sometimes it’ll be great, sometimes it won’t, but just like a jazz song, the tune has to end. If you’re too busy overthinking it, the last riff will never sound good.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

When Leaders EAT First

Be Accountable

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Key Point: The following statement by Ron Carucci published in a recent Harvard Business Review is so true: “For executives to succeed in leading organizational transformations, they must begin with their personal transformation. And that starts with identifying and ‘re-scripting’ those operative narratives that might provoke unproductive behavior.” 

I have seen this so many times. Leaders want their organizations to change behavior. As an example, they are looking for their culture to be highly collaborative, more innovative, transformative, better listeners, etc. Yet, they personally rarely change the way they act or lead. They often do not consciously think that what they desire in others needs to happen within them first. This is particularly true of top execs that somehow think their behavior is above reproach and actually unconsciously find themselves in a parallel universe where they espouse a desired state that is not connected to their own reality. (The contradiction is quite apparent to those around them, however). Carucci has some helpful insights and recommendations. 

  1. Know Who and What Triggers You:

“One behavior that keeps us locked in an unproductive cycle is ‘transference,’ which happens when we transfer our feelings onto someone else. In moments of transference, a leader’s behavior is shaped and motivated more by their past experience than what is happening in the present.” For example, a leader that genuinely wants better listening and then explodes when someone disagrees, or rarely asks questions during meetings, may honestly not fully appreciate the dissonance caused. Responding to triggers habitually gets in the way of the desired change. And as the HBR article notes: “Breaking the cycle of triggers that transfer past experiences onto current situations begins in deep self-reflection. Be ruthlessly honest about who and what those trigger points are.”

  1. Write Out the Narrative:

Carucci shares another helpful insight: “Simply identifying situations or people most likely to trigger you isn’t sufficient to realize change. Many leaders flippantly declare trigger points like, ‘Boy, he really pushes my buttons every time I’m with him’ or ‘I’m fine presenting to anyone in the company, but when it comes to her, I lose a week of sleep.’” But they stop short of uncovering the narrative beneath those triggers that leads to unwanted behavior… Lasting personal transformation demands facing the tapes playing in our heads that lead us to exasperating confessions that sound like, “Why on earth do I keep doing that?” Declaring that you do things you shouldn’t isn’t self-awareness; it’s simply acknowledging that you’ve been told a certain behavior is troubling to others and that you wish you didn’t do it. Genuine self-awareness demands that you dig deeper to uncover the real answer to why you keep doing it and then actually work to stop doing it.

We leaders are more effective when we start a transformational journey accepting that the organization will have to transform us as much as we will have to transform it. This means knowing how we will react during change, being aware of our triggers, and conscious of the power of the actions we take to accelerate rather than derail the very organizational change we desire.

Character Moves:

  1. You and I need to force the trigger narratives or tapes playing in our heads to the surface. Carucci suggests that we actually write out in black and white the story in response to the question: “Why do I keep doing that?” By acknowledging the narrative, we have a chance to rescript it. 
  1. If we want our team (or company) to behave differently, we have to lead differently. We need to reframe or rescript by soliciting feedback from others, tracking the impact our behavior has, and how closely actions match our intentions. When we want to transform, leaders need to “eat” the change first. In this case, it’s appropriate. 

Triggers in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: To “lead by example” isn’t a new concept, but it still sort of stands out as “heroic” because its rarity puts it on a pedestal. It really seems to be all about adapting and changing behaviors with your team. At this point, you’d think it would be a little embarrassing if all the gears are turning, but the biggest, most impactful one is the only part not moving.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

People Versus Workers

Be Respectful

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Key Point: Some employers no longer chant the old mantra “people are our greatest asset.” Instead, they claim “people are our greatest liability.” That was a quote in a popular 2002 HBR article by Peter Drucker, the late, grand sage of organization management. Dr. Drucker noted the rise of the itinerant workforce 14 years ago. (Now often referred to as the “gig” economy). However, I think the more interesting movement Drucker observed was the outsourcing of “employee relations.” The article stated:

“A 1997 McKinsey study concluded that a global Fortune 500 firm—in other words, a very big company indeed—could cut its labor costs 25 percent to 33 percent by having its employee relations managed by an outside company.”

The potential saving for smaller businesses is even greater. So why not keep a very tight core of highly specialized workers, vital to differentiating the company with customers and then sub contract everything else out? In this scenario executive leadership minimizes all the “red tape” caused by the apparently inconvenient requirement of having to manage people, including but not limited to employment regulations, liabilities associated with providing benefits, etc. This also allows management to pay strategically differentiated people (software engineers, data gurus, etc.) much more than interchangeable “transaction” employees (IT help desk, customer service, etc.).

Listening to National Public Radio recently, the broadcaster noted that since 2009, the profits of US companies rose 143 percent while the compensation of the combined workforce in these same companies experienced a feeble 4 percent growth. Perhaps there is a connection to the subtle and not so subtle trend of stratifying roles into relatively easily replaceable ones, versus those that are strategically differentiating. If a company puts out a request for a certain job and receives 200 plus qualified applications, why worry if these “workers” come and go? Crassly speaking, the “rent a worker philosophy” makes certain people insignificant to the institution’s core differentiation.

As a Chief People Officer I OPPOSE this trend. I believe the more important strategy is to turn on EVERY person to the organization’s purpose. However, I also feel strongly that much of the bureaucracy related to “managing” people must be eliminated. The key to that is a ‘People First “philosophy based on attracting and retaining those who are fiercely self-accountable, respectful, and abundant. Examples of applying this thinking includes but is not limited to the following human resource practices: 

  1. Work where and when you need to get the results expected in your role.
  2. Take the time off you need to refuel and stay healthy; Remember though “no results = no job.”
  3. Simplify total compensation by paying at the top of the market (including benefits and savings plans).
  4. Tie everyone’s variable pay to net profit and customer retention.
  5. Invest in the continuous growth of all team members.
  6. Coach each other more and manage each other less
  7. Everyone is on five-year mutually renewable contracts with both parties able to terminate during the final year.
  8. Dedicate experience gained at the company to last a lifetime; proud to be alumni.

Execute on the above and I believe a lot of “stupid” administrative costs disappear.

Character Moves:

  1. Commit yourself to being part of an organization that hires people rather than “workers.”
  2. Believe that all people are strategic rather than only certain roles being strategic. I think if we do that, and apply all or some of the eight principles above, we can save the cost of a lot of “management waste,” and benefit from a thriving, inventive FORCE aimed at accelerating the organization’s purpose.

People more than workers in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Every organization will likely differ, but I know that my friends with the most happy/successful jobs seem to operate as “people” at the office, not just workers. We want to work for “team captains” who will confidently throw us the ball because they trust we can help everyone win. If you can’t depend on your “people” enough to apply the eight principles above, you probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis