Error No. 1: Not Enough Urgency



Key Point: “When is the urgency rate high enough? From what I have seen, the answer is when about 75 percent of a company’s management is honestly convinced that business as usual is totally unacceptable. Anything less can produce very serious problems later on in the process.” That is a quote from Harvard’s John Kotter, arguably the preeminent scholar on institutional transformation. He has studied hundreds of companies undergoing intentional change in a variety of settings over the last few decades. While Kotter has been studying transformation and change, I’ve been instrumentally involved LEADING IT in organizations over the last 40 years. My experience has also been in a variety of settings. In almost every case, these organizations fundamentally transformed themselves into a much better state and/or at minimum survived seismic shocks to their ecosystem. A couple failed; one ran out of money and the other ran out value. That experience has translated into a lot of learning. I believe (hopefully confidently and humbly) that I can credibly execute on a framework to successfully lead an organization transformation anywhere (the not so humble part). It is an exhilarating, daunting and ultimately rewarding process. I agree with most of Kotter’s analysis on the conditions for transformation success and failure and I essentially agree with what he refers to as ERROR No. 1. Here is a little about what he says about that

“Most successful change efforts begin when some individuals or some groups start to look hard at a company’s competitive situation… Then find ways to communicate this information broadly and dramatically, especially with respect to crises, potential crises, or great opportunities that are very timely. This first step is essential because just getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won’t help, and the effort goes nowhere… Compared with other steps in the change process, phase one can sound easy. It is not. Well over 50 percent of the companies I have watched fail in this first phase… A paralyzed senior management often comes from having too many managers and not enough leaders. Management’s mandate is to minimize risk and to keep the current system operating. Change, by definition, requires creating a new system, which in turn always demands leadership. Phase one in a renewal process typically goes nowhere until enough real leaders are promoted or hired into senior-level jobs.”

The reason that I “mostly agree ” with Kotter is that I would add “leadership mindset” to “leadership urgency.” My experience is that some leaders truly want to feel a sense urgency, yet struggle to lead it. They just do not have that fearless ability to jump. They get to the edge, study everything into paralysis and convince themselves that inertia is less risky than moving forward. Staying put is usually a great strategy if you’re physically lost in a survival situation… Let’s say after a hiking accident on an isolated mountain trail. Why? People are usually trying to rescue you and it’s often easier to “take you off the ledge if you stay put.” No one is trying to rescue your organization. Frankly, the opposite is true… They are usually, without personal attribution, trying to displace you. So if the urgency is not there, people will usually talk about it and unfortunately not fundamentally change. And why is it really, really hard? To transform your organization, a leader has to transform him or herself first. That is being fiercely and personally accountable. Top leaders are often the worst urgency saboteurs; their power points slickly describe the need for transformation and when you look at what they’ve executed on, often its too little too late. The same people are doing essentially the same things. And it’s worse when short-term incentives are being met. Do you have a sense of urgency AND a mindset of relentlessly transforming yourself first? If not, get out of the way and prepare yourself for somebody transforming your world.

Character Moves:

  1. Assess your urgency status? Does over 75 percent of yourself feel the urgency? Do 75 percent of the leaders in your organization have the deeply held belief that transformation is vital? How do you really know?
  1. Assess whether leaders know how to fundamentally transform themselves and drive the required change. Start with yourself. How will you need to lead differently? Do you know how to establish an inspiring transformative vision and reset expectations accordingly? If you can’t answer that, you’re risking being an academic voyeur. 

Mindful urgency in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I’ve certainly been in situations at work recently where you want to encourage a leader to “jump! Jump! Jump!” It’s strange when you see where your organization can improve, but you maybe aren’t privy to some crucial details (specific budget figures, long term plans, or even your department’s decision making capabilities). Plus, of course your leader must know better than you, right? Any ideas you have are already being discussed. Must be, right? Well, I don’t know. Perhaps most don’t know, but if we’re all moving towards the improvement of our organization, then a pathway for conversation should hopefully be encouraged and available.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Intentional Goofing Off Makes Us More Successful.

Abundance Productivity Well-being


Key Point: Stop overworking and accepting that you have no choice but to feel overwhelmed. That mindset is a classic lose-lose situation. The people you care about, the organization and you, all lose when you’re in the overworked/overwhelmed position. I’m looking into research on this because it seems to be the current hot topic in many organizations; a mantra of, “How can I sustain this pace and momentum?” The fact is, overworking and the sense of drowning in work is not sustainable and actually is detrimental to achieving great results. The following is from a research-based article on the topic: 

“Here’s how overworking fails our problem-solving skills and creativity: research by former Harvard Psychology professor Dan Wegner suggests that too much concentration on set goals can lead to the exact opposite of the desired goal. He coined the term ironic processes to describe the failure of positive mental processes when performed under conditions of stress. For instance, the more you obsess about having to hit a perfect golf tee shot, the more likely you are to choke; or the more you try to maintain a strict diet, the more likely you are to eventually binge. Similarly, the more pressure you put on yourself to come up with the perfect solution to a challenging problem in your work, the less likely you are to see it– especially if you are already tired, stressed, or anxious. According to a line of research by Jennifer Wiley, too much focus can actually hurt our creative problem-solving skills.”  

Leaders need to intentionally promote fun and a reasonable amount of goofing off as PART of work; NOT something additive. And anyone who tells you they’re overworked or feeling overwhelmed needs support to determine how to do things differently. This includes building in breaks and intentional goof off time. I’m not talking about some projects/times that have a critical deadline or work under life-threatening situations. As an example, most tax accounts feel overworked and even overwhelmed during tax deadline season. They often party hard and take serious breaks after the tax deadline. And I know first responders can find themselves in situations where they are exhausted. They need to “come down” after an intense situation. They are aware constant fire fighting… Literally… Is not sustainable. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Do something different than “work” during “work”: Resting, meditating, dreaming, going for a walk… Anything to “get your mind off of work” and clear space in the brain for new thoughts and insights. If you’re a leader, promote and encourage this! 
  2. Be social and take time to hang out with others as part of work. Socializing deepens relationships and strengthens bonds in our professional network. Instead of non-stop sitting in that cube or working by yourself at home, have that coffee and lunch with others to connect.
  3. Take some time to serve others as part of work. Exercising empathy and compassion for others increases our well-being (and that of others!). I’ve been writing a lot about this lately. It’s important and puts perspective into our jobs.
  4. Most of all, enjoy your time doing “non work” stuff during “work.” The time you enjoy not working on results is obviously not wasted time if it minimizes the sense of being overworked and overwhelmed. 

Goofing off in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: It seems some of the most progressive, best organizations out there all adopt this mentality. It’s why Google’s campus literally doubles as a playground. Yeah, yeah, Google might be the pipe dream, but even small companies I know about have everything from Ping-Pong tables to fully stocked kitchens… Why not yours? I know, sometimes it’s easier said than done. To put it in perspective, I work for a Bill Gates owned company, and I’m still dreaming that Santa brings my office a Keurig this year… That would be a nice start.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Why the Audience Applauds

Accountability Contribution Purpose


Key Point: Leadership is always about people and purpose. Most of us know who Yo-Yo Ma is. This world-renowned cellist is the recipient of numerous awards including 17 Grammys, the Polar Music Prize, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ma is a graduate of both Juilliard and Harvard University. However, what I find profoundly interesting about Ma is his philosophy and framework: Hey says, “My passion is actually for people. So the exploration into different music of different times has to do with trying to figure out who these people are, what this music represents and what context do we want to give it and what does it mean to us right now.”

Nelson Mandela is perhaps the most revered moral leader in modern times. And Mandela was first and foremost about ALL the African people. He says, “I have fought against white domination. I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all people live together in harmony…”

So while the roadmap to guide us in leadership and contribution is quite cluttered with advice, the most impactful leaders in entertainment, politics, business and elsewhere have an uncanny and perhaps unusual ability to make their purpose in life about other people. They focus on what others deeply need, value and appreciate. And by always asking themselves what is most important to the “audience,” they tirelessly dig until they strike some seemingly unassailable vein. Their medium may be music, a boardroom or pulpit but their “story” literally captures the audience in a deep, emotional way. And that inspires people to feel and act.

Additionally, I will argue that the power of having an aspirational ideal and purpose gives renowned leaders an advanced moral identity that makes leadership choices clear. Everything is viewed through the lens of people and purpose. And hence the true leaders’ identity and self becomes synonymous with their purpose, emotionally and meaningfully connecting with people for some greater good. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Few of us will ever be touched by history and become a Mandela or Ma. But all of us can take a moment before we set out for the day to think about the “audience” in front of us. What do they need from us? We can be mindful that our actions define us, state our purpose and define our identity. 
  2. All of us can think of our purpose as the story we want and hope people tell about us. If we are fortunate, someday someone will be telling a story about us at our 85th birthday. What will your story be about? What will they say about what you stood for? How will you have made some deep emotional connection with those singing happy birthday? 

P.S. Last Sunday was my mom’s 85th birthday. What a story you’ve created. Happy Birthday, sweetie. 

People and purpose in The Triangle 


One Millennial View: The phrase “do it for the story” has become some sort of Millennial mantra… In fact, what today, isn’t about telling a story to an audience? Check out the average person’s Instagram. It’s all about connecting with followers, attempting to document the highlights, values and appreciation of everyday life. What we’re probably not doing is sharing the scene of a standard board meeting or our everyday work experiences on social media… It doesn’t “make the cut.” But if we envision our offices as a platform to also naturally build a story, create relationships, and acquire “followers” (aka peers, bosses, and colleagues that appreciate your presence), maybe that’s a good way to approach it. You might not be taking a picture of the moment, but are you creating a story and appealing enough on a regular basis where an audience would deem it “post worthy?”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

You Should Know EUDAIMONIA

Abundance Growth mindset Well-being


Key Point: EUDAIMONIA is what the Greeks referred to as a meaningful well-lived life. I know it’s the time of the calendar when most of us reflect, even for just a moment, on whether we personally are going in the right direction with our lives. If we are heading back to work, facing the vomit-inducing task of polishing up a PowerPoint deck, this self-reflection might be even more poignant.

Ok, I’m a realist. We have bills to pay, others we are responsible for or to, and a host of other practical boundaries. I’m not suggesting we get the St. Francis of Assisi bug, give away all of our possessions and become monks. But, I’m taking up the challenge inspired by big idea people like Director of Havas Media Labs Umair Haque and others to apply a more robust checklist to my personal progress.

As an example, I like driving my convertible. But I know darn well that topless beauty provides little to whether I live a life that’s meaningful and well-lived. As you enter the New Year, as you head back to your job site and revisit your home life, think about the following:

Character Moves (as inspired by Mr. Haque):

  1. Think about better, not just more. How will the stuff you consume or spend tour time doing this year make you meaningfully better? Really? Honestly look at what you spend your money on and time doing. 
  2. Consider becoming, not just being. What are your real measures of progress? What is a truly meaningful measurement index? How will you become a more accomplished self? How will you generously give yourself to others and inspire their progress?
  3. Work at creating and building, not just trading and raiding. When we create and build with a mind to significance, value, and beauty, it often endures. What will you do this year in this realm of creating and building? We are all leaders and regardless of our station in life, we can create and build.
  4. Recognize that we are transitioning from the shallowness of the frenzied world of “more,” “bigger,” “faster,” “cheaper,” to a world demanding and searching for more humanistic wisdom and behavior. Yes I know that big data, total mobility and explosive technology are having a profound impact but we can harness those trends for the advancement of human kind.
  5. It starts with you and me. If we each embrace the spirit of EUDAIMONIA, we will create a very constructive revolution. Why not? Happy New Year.

EUDAIMONIA in The Triangle,



Do You Know the Person You Want to Become?

Abundance Books Purpose


Key Point: I talk to so many people who are confused and/or frustrated about determining their life purpose. Unfortunately a lot of psychobabble has added to the “guilt quilt ” on this topic for lots of folks. It’s like one day you wake up and should know your life’s purpose. The reality is that determining one’s purpose is a uniquely personal journey and for MOST of us mortals, it is a process and not an event. It normally evolves over years. The best work on having a framework for honing in on our life purpose comes from Harvard’s Clayton M. Christensen. Read on for a digestible guide. For a more complete examination read his (along with James Allworth and Karen Dillon) new book…How Will You Measure Your Life?

The Process:

1. Determine Likeness:

Likeness is the definition of who you want to become. The likeness you draw will only have meaning and value if you deeply think and act to become what you aspire to. It can sound like “mush” to an outsider. It is uniquely important to you because you have given deep consideration in adopting it. Christensen’s likeness statement is:

* A man who is dedicated to help improve the lives of other people.

* A kind, honest, forgiving and selfless husband, father and friend.

* A man who just doesn’t believe in God, but who believes God.

2. Becoming Committed.

The likeness statement is aspirational. So how does one become deeply committed enough to make it a guide to daily living? The gratification comes from aspiration translating into day to day practice. You need to know your likeness is right for you by continually asking yourself “who do I truly want to become?” Being committed to the likeness is VERY hard work. It is not always convenient. It takes constant practice and work. You will get challenged all the time. Your likeness takes shape through the application of all the little daily parts of your life. Every once in a while, an elephant size spoonful of “life test” is served up to stress test your resolve. But most comes about in our daily habits. For example, if you want to be a highly respectful and caring person, you can smile to your neighbor in the grocery store, but giving him the famous finger when you’re in a traffic squeeze is a step in the wrong direction. (But hey… It’s not about being perfect).

Stay tuned for next week’s blogs for the rest of the “purpose story.” In the meantime:

Character Move:

  1. Give yourself meaningful time to check in where you are regarding your life’s purpose journey. What likeness aspirational statements have you clearly defined? What could you do to sharpen the aspirational definition if you haven’t done so already?
  2. Honestly reflect on how committed you are to what you aspire to become. What is evolving well? What’s tricky? What could you do more of? Less of? Stop? Start?
  3. Ask a dear trusted advisor how they see you relative to your purpose statements? Try not to be defensive. Learn.
  4. Enjoy where you are in the journey. If you’re breathing, it is NEVER too late to start the rest of your life.

Life’s purpose and The Character Triangle,