Scary Leaders and Misguided Loyalty

Key Point: The “leaders” that literally scare me are the ones that have an ego-based definition of loyalty. These so called “leaders” evaluate loyalty by the way people agree with them and bow to their personal viewpoints. “Loyal” people, by this definition, always agree with the boss and dare not challenge the “leader’s” ideas, versus doing the right thing. 

Having ALL people in tune with an organization’s purpose, vision and values is vitally important. Leaders should expect loyalty to these elements. Employees that do not align with them should be invited to leave. Why hang around if you do not resonate with the culture? On the other hand, all aspects related to diminishing the culture should be up for fierce conversation. That is honorable loyalty.  

The very best leaders invite disagreement and an unvarnished viewpoint on matters impacting purpose, vision and values. These enlightened leaders know that the most loyal team members are first and foremost committed to the organization. All employees learn that they must be guided by this framework first, and hence are fearless when confronting leadership that (for whatever reason) may be “out of bounds.” The greater good of the institution comes first. If the “boss” is misguided or underwhelming, loyalty means being accountable and rewarded for confronting that behavior.

Here is what to watch for regarding sousing out dangerous “loyalty” leaders: They like to have always affirming, even adorning “yes” people surround them. On the surface, these folks are charming and often appear to be open to different viewpoints, asking to be challenged. Yet, when you examine what really happens, it becomes very clear to everyone that what the boss wants, the boss gets. Furthermore, ego-based leaders are superb at harnessing fear. They know how to subtly (or not-so-subtly) leverage the fact that most people at all levels do not want to lose their jobs. An example: I listened to a VP of HR brag how his CEO banished a procurement manager to stay in an inconvenient location at what this leader deemed a “second rate hotel” for a week. When this procurement manager finally asked for permission to come home, the CEO laughed and said he “forgot” about him being in the “penalty box.” Needless to say, when this CEO blew his horn, the entire company metaphorically hid under their desks. 

The other thing these scary leaders do is limit the number of advisors they listen to. Why put up with the viewpoints of strong characters that may challenge theirs?  Furthermore, these so called “leaders” will lie and/or distort the truth to align with their version. The most glaring current example is sadly, the U.S. President. This recent article and President Donald Trump’s dinner conversation with former F.B.I. director Comey gives you an insight on Trump’s view on loyalty. It appears that this leader puts himself and his ego before everything else.

Character Moves:

  1. Do not under any circumstance allow yourself to work for an ego-driven, narcissist leader. They will bury your soul in the shadow of their ego. They come first, regardless of the situation. 
  2. Enjoy the ride when you are working in an organization where respectful challenge to do the right is genuinely encouraged.

Right loyalty in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: In my line of work, celebrities surround themselves with “yes” people on a regular basis, and you observe from outside and go “wait, how did this person get so out of touch?” That said, stories surrounding these “yes” people often seem speculative, abhorrently complicated, case-by-case, shrouded by misunderstood walls of secrecy, making the truth hard to find. What we can do for sure is start with ourselves… As Millennials, and we achieve more responsibility, we can ask: Are we being honest? Is our ego in check? Can we converse with people that disagree with us? It begins there, or else I guess we can see frustrating examples of how we may act in our future.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Peer-to-Peer Power 10x

Key Point: Peer-to-peer power. I thought I understood how important this idea was and then recently watched this principle blossom into something that made me realize it can truly be exponential in advancing both results and culture. 

My organization needed 50 people to lead a major initiative with the mandate to truly revolutionize the way we work; 5,000 plus team members contributing in much more collaborative and productive ways. We did NOT ask for leaders to recommend candidates. Rather, we outlined exactly what attributes we were looking for and invited people to “audition.”  The result was remarkable… Hundreds of passionate, excited prospects emerged, many that we would likely have never “found” through the normal channels. 

When we selected the final 50, they represented every level and other identity domain of the company; region, age, experience, gender, line of business, etc. We then asked them to leave their roles, titles and rest “at the door” as they came together for a 30 day boot camp. Their final output was to present a detailed framework for revolutionizing the way work; including but not limited to implementing a new productivity technology platform (Google’s G Suite), 10x better processes, measurable milestones, and so on. The “capstone” presentations that represented their work were given thus past Friday, followed by a “graduating” ceremony and celebration. The content of the work was stunningly exceptional. 

As the cohort gathered in a circle to recount how the 30-day boot camp experience impacted them personally and professionally, it was somewhat “jaw dropping” in the most inspirational way. The respect, gratitude, growth and overwhelming sense of collective accomplishment was astonishing. I have seen teams come together in the past, but this was something special… Actually, magical.

The experience and observation reinforced that unleashing more of this peer power is a vital competent of modern organizations. The principles include and are not limited to the following:

  1. Provide for people to raise their hands and audition; transparently invite passion to prevail over managers’ nominations and selections.
  2. Bring people from every part of the company fabric to come together as a dedicated cohort to bust artificial silos into oblivion.
  3. Let titles and position stature become subordinate to the ideas, imagination, and unique skills of a cohort.
  4. Understand that people will come together in deep care and respect for each other if the purpose is clear and values/expectations are intentionally stated.
  5. Recognize that many “hives” of these groups coming together in short powerful sprints will revolutionize the organization.

This is the way work should and will be done. Yes, we will have individual responsibilities and accountability. And we will have a direct “boss.” However, much of our time and contribution will be spent on strategically important initiatives where we can jump in and give our most incredible best. This will involve providing an organization/social platform where a genius collection of skills, attributes, imagination and ideas prevail over traditional vertical structures. How powerful… How democratizing… How profoundly 10x better. It will result in a work revolution. 

Character Moves:

  1. If you could raise your hand and audition for an initiative that could change your organization in a 10x way, what would that be? Who would you like to work with? How fast could you come up with exponential recommendations? What stops you from doing it? How could you change that? 

Peer Power in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Wow, how cool. Y’know? More and more, I’m under the impression that some people make up their own roadblocks and create reasons they are unable to “raise their hand” and propose 10x improvement. It could be fear, or wanting to maintain comfort, or a million other misinterpretations… But I’d be willing to raise my hand and bet that as long as the objective has the intention to benefit the whole company, anyone can deliver their idea to any higher up worth their salt. Auditioning can be scary, but if you never do it, you’ll never get the part. (Little tip straight from Hollywood, ha). 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

More Fellowship and Civilized Leaders

Key Point: This weekend’s horrific and evil terrorist acts in Paris pierced and frayed the nerves of all civil people worldwide. Civilized humanity is sick, frustrated, and angry… You pick the emotion. What can you and I do about this situation? I want to share a viewpoint by Gianpiero Petriglieri from a Harvard Business Review blog. He is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD. He also has a medical doctorate and a specialization in psychiatry. Petriglieri states:

“Fostering civilization means cultivating our curiosity to recognize substantive differences, and our commitment to respect them—within and between groups. For that, we need not more effective but more humane leaders. More conflicted, less conflicting ones. Leaders who can hold on to their voice, and help others find theirs, when it feels riskier to do so… There are plenty of good tribal leaders already. We need more civilized leaders instead… And come to think of it, what we really need is not more leadership as much as more fellowship. The sentiment, that is, of sharing a common predicament even if we don’t share the same history, experience, or fate. A sentiment most necessary precisely when fragmentation and fundamentalism are far more common. Fellowship is an antidote to both, an alternative to otherness that does not imply sameness… It is easy to remain speechless, scream, or strike when words do not suffice. But talking is what we need now; especially about what might be hard to hear… We cannot win a war on intolerance. We can only respect each other out of it.” 

Character Moves:

  1. In our personal spheres, however small or large, we can all foster and promote inclusiveness. We all share in the same predicament of being human.  We must remember that our personal view of the world is only one view. It is not about being right or wrong. It is about genuine compassion for each other.  
  1. Remind ourselves that fellowship like Petriglieri emphasizes is an alternative to otherness that does not imply sameness. We must keep our voice and help others find theirs. Recognize that sometimes (often even), this is risky. However, throughout history courageous people have tenaciously allowed for human inclusion to progress. One only needs to appreciate how much in the last few years the civil world has progressed on a variety of human rights (LGBTQ, etc.) to recognize that advancing inclusive humanness is possible. Calling all civilized leaders to step up. That’s you and me! 

Respect each other in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: What a time… Sure, we may believe things are progressing, but it depends who you ask. Even in the last month, college campuses across the U.S. are exploding with protests and student groups making demands and even holding “hunger strikes” against supposed inequality. To some, the University of Missouri or the University of South Carolina campuses are the most welcoming places on the planet, and to others the very same classrooms are unsafe establishments that harbor hate… Most of these protests are aimed to advance a conversation. They can still be unnerving to a degree. However, it becomes a whole heck of a lot more threatening when a group decides to protest/communicate with AK-47’s instead of words. Tragedies like Paris make us really come together and ask what’s truthfully important, what’s sincerely worth standing up against, protesting, arguing and fighting for. I agree that “talking” is the preferable weapon, and it would be great to “respect each other” out of something as jarring as war… In civilized places like U.S. college campuses, we have the appropriate networks and patience for that. However, some people would argue that the best words leaders used this weekend are the “From Paris, with love” notes scribbled on the bombs used to retaliate against ISIS. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Make the Process the Hero

Key Point: Heroic behavior at work is often an indicator that some process is really broken. Yet we often applaud heroic behavior to recover from a screwed up process, instead of honoring people who build exceptional, flawless practices.

I recently heard about a situation where a FedEx driver won the coveted Purple Promise award. According to the person who was telling the story, the FedEx employee’s truck broke down and in his commitment to deliver every package on time, he flagged down a UPS truck, transferred his packaged goods to the competitor’s vehicle and met the Purple Promise. That’s pretty ballsy! I wonder, however, if the mechanics that put a process in place to avoid any breakdowns ever get recognized for prevention. In my mind, they deserve the Purple Promise.

On a personal note, I just experienced a situation where a sales person drove 10 hours to pick up and deliver contract papers necessary to meet a closing the next day. His personal dedication made the deal closing viable. I bet you want to say “wow,” that sales person ought to be recognized and even rewarded. However, here is the dilemma… The reason the sales person had to take on heroic behavior is because he and his company’s processes are totally messed up. And when I say “messed up,” I mean completely out of control. The same broken processes have people working past midnight, on weekends, doing extensive rework, and enormous repetition and waste for customers. So why should we applaud heroic behavior when it is the result of processes that stink?

Character Moves:

  1. It is important to recognize heroic behavior, but even more important to recognize a heroic process. I prefer a steady capable surgeon who applies a reliable operating process to one who heroically saves my life after taking a “short cut.” Challenge yourself and the team to build heroic process.
  1. Look for indicators of opportunity to create heroic processes: too much overtime, work that has lots of customer recovery, complaints, and “warranty” work that few people want to do. Also, look for people that are considered “indispensable.” That’s likely because they continue to turn a crappy process into a positive result and hence stay heroic.

Heroic processes in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I’ve never worked for a huge company like UPS or FedEx, but I think the reason these individuals are awarded for their “above and beyond” service is because they simply don’t have the voice to do something like “change the process.” Especially in a timely fashion… Should every worker feel like they can be listened to? Absolutely. But, their small heroic actions are going to be heard much louder than any words (read: suggestions) that could trickle up to change a much larger, company wide process. We’re talking about those actions now, aren’t we? That means they made an impact. In my opinion, leaders should be commended when they do actually monitor and recognize lousy processes, because they’re not the broken down driver who’ll be presented with the problem in the field. So, if a leader has to present an “above and beyond” award to a worker, let the leader then also deliver a promise that they’ll do their best to make sure the worker doesn’t have to earn one for the same dumb deed again. Don’t take away the Medal of Honor just because the precarious orders of a general put the soldier in the position to perform. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

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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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.

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Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

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