July Lessons 4: Find and Free the Unfound

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: On July 10, our company celebrated the one year anniversary of switching over to G Suite. It was massive, and by all accounts, a highly successful enterprise undertaking involving 5,000 plus dedicated and growth-minded team members. The entire initiative was one of the most rewarding experiences in my 40 plus year career. One very important part of the entire project involved recruiting and selecting more than 50 “transformers” we called G Evangelists. They had to audition, and came to represent every possible identity and cognitive diverse aspect of our company. The one rule was, if they were selected, their leaders could only say “yes.” And they were assured of a walk back to their roles at the conclusion of their secondment. A few of the people chosen to be G Evangelists were well-known, and high fliers. However, most were buried in the organization, and some were even on the bubble. Others were unsure and even ambivalent about their careers. One year later, almost to a person, they have been promoted and are doing amazing things in the company. Their bond as a cohort is unshakeable, and they still get together once a month on Google Meet, even though the official project has been operationalized since March.

Key Point: Organizations have to get better at finding, freeing, and engaging the unfound. They are everywhere in the company. They often don’t fully understand how talented they are. Even worse, top management is often incapable of reaching deep and taking the smothering blanket of outdated vertical structures out of the way. We need leaders that open opportunities to people who want to raise their hands from any place, any time, any level. There is so much unrealized talent just needing a nudge and leaders who say, “I know you can do it,” “I’m here to support you,” “I’ve got your back.” These men and women are everywhere, and it’s about time we develop new systems and processes to find them, free them and watch them flourish. Imagine if we could do that with more than 5,000 people. It’s a matter of asking “how might we?”

One more thing. I’ve almost never had a lousy performer. People have told me things like, “fire ___, they’re not a leader.” “Working closely, I find ___ to be indispensable when optimizing their strengths. Or, “___ can’t execute.” Yet, somehow working with me, I challenge ___ and, “nothing but net.” I’m no special leader. However, I believe given the right situation, ALL can be great contributors. That’s my job as a leader. Frankly, I’ve found leaders who talk tough about how the company needs way better people are usually the lousiest managers. No one raises their hands to work for them. They mask it well, but prefer fear over development. 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Find the unfound. Please know someone is out there needing an opportunity just like you. Free them up to contribute in ways they might not imagine they could. They will surprise themselves, and you.
  2. Your job includes offering opportunity to others in order to advance them. Abundantly give daily.

Found in Personal Leadership,

One Millennial View: It’s too true. In my experience, we all want a chance to be thrown in the water to see if we’ll swim. With the right coach, most of us will. Nevertheless, we’d rather drown trying than be stuck on a safe, dry dock.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

My Company. Want to Join?

Accountability Organizational culture Purpose

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Story: So how are we doing in terms of creating great places to work? The following are stats for the U.S. as of 2017. (Let’s assume for the purpose of this blog, that the numbers for Canada and Europe are in the same ballpark).

51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged (Gallup).

Disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion dollars annually (The Engagement Institute).

16 percent of employees said they felt “connected and engaged” by employers (EmployeeChannel).

There’s a lot more data, and little of it is sterling in terms of really positive trends. We don’t seem to be making much progress creating great workplaces.

Key Point: Most organizations are still struggling to create workplaces where participants are treated as fully functional, self-accountable, highly capable, trustworthy, well-intended adults. When one stand backs and looks at most institutional structures and processes, you realize they were built for an industrial era rather than modern one. How would you like to work for an organization that had the following attributes? 

  1. Purpose matters most. You join because you want to make the purpose more true everyday. Not just for a job. WHY the company exists, is clear, inspirational, and advances humankind. 
  2. Three values drive every part of the company; Self Accountability, Respect and Abundance. Every day starts for all with a quick reflection on the purpose and values.
  3. The business model constantly evolves to achieve the purpose. People are always first AND focused totally on how everything they do impacts the customer experience.
  4. Jobs and roles are fluid. Expectations are clear at both the individual and team level. Work constantly pivots to get the right stuff done for the customer.
  5. Every development conversation is aimed at helping people do what they’re good at, passionate about, and how value is created.
  6. Each leader is publicly rated by all, daily. The results are transparent and there for everyone to see. The same goes for each team member. There are NO stupid annual performance reviews. Results and behaviors are transparent, respectful, candid and deeply appreciated. When trends are negative, people are expected to reach out for help. All team members need to help and move the trend in a positive direction. Peer coaching in the context of work, is an everyday practice.
  7. Anyone can leave the company with a fair, pre-determined severance package at any time. Every team member has total control. The organization can also remove anyone at anytime with the same formula. No any one person can hire or fire (unless an egregious act of disrespect requires an immediate firing). Both hiring and firing is done after careful data-driven assessments by a small panel of team members.
  8. Pay and compensation benefits are fully transparent, and on a platform designed for a person of one, based on individual changing needs. 10 percent of all compensation is added for personal learning investment determined by each employee at their discretion. 
  9. Personal Time Off and vacation is determined by each person. Take what you need, when. Of course, the company values are thoughtfully applied. Employees are considerate and keep the impact to team members, customers and results in mind.
  10. Health care is aimed totally at keeping people healthy in every way. No designated sick time off. Take what’s needed. Stay as healthy as possible.
  11. Work where, when, and how you need to for the best results. Dress code is what helps you get stuff done.
  12. There is an annual profit share open and transparent to all. The more profit, the more everyone wins.
  13. Don’t be an ass.
  14. Ensure the customer becomes your best advertiser. 

Leadership Moves:

  1. Seriously consider the framework and rules behind the way you work. Do they make sense? Would you work for a company with the above framework? Why? Why not?

Loving and advancing humans everyday,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think everyone can be extremely attracted to the autonomy, freedoms, and values that this company offers. We Millennials, especially, would need to keep in mind that this also requires a ton of discipline, transparency and honesty. Perhaps at a more extreme level than we’re used to. How long till answering No. 6 above just turns into a “yeah yeah, everyone’s performing great,” when maybe they’re not? How long till that negatively affects No. 12? This is an inspiring system, but is human nature ready for it? If not, let’s individually ask ourselves what we need to do so we can be. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Getting Flatter Than Ever

Abundance Organizational culture Transformation

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Key Point: Familiar vertical leadership models are rapidly disappearing. As business models are being disrupted, so are the organizational structures many of us have grown up with. Modern companies are recognizing that new, collaborative communications and productivity tools along with the serious need for more adaptive, agile, and innovative cultures are quickly turning org charts inside out. The idea that people progress from worker to supervisor to manager to director to exec director to maybe VP is going bye-bye. Why? Connecting problems to solutions and necessary information flow is way too slow if it has to move up, down and across functions. If formal leadership is essentially command and control, is it really adding value? I don’t think so.

New leadership models like Holacracy and Agile are getting traction. These emerging leadership and governance principles involve much broader spans of control, more team/individual autonomy, accelerated peer-to-peer initiatives/coaching, teaming versus teamwork, and more. The thought that formal leaders have a few direct reports who they provide day-to-day direction is both inefficient and not adding value. It may make sense that formal leaders have at least 25 or more direct reports. These leaders would then have to focus on value added strategic support instead of daily direction. Who reports to whom becomes much less important than who is best equipped to get things done.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Ask yourself the hard questions as what value formal leaders in your organization really add. What’s the evidence? Is your leadership structure most efficient?
  2. What do you really need from a leader? Are you getting that? If not, what better contribution might you receive? From who? How often?
  3. Consider whether technology/skills/attributes are coming together for more autonomous, and greater contributions for all. How might we unleash that?

Unleashing all in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is interesting. It seems to me that most Millennials can get on board with more autonomy, and it’s fine if the typical progression or “ladder climbing” is done differently. But most importantly, there are still ladders that we want to ascend, so it would be great if whatever new leadership platforms take over still have an avenue to promote, compete, grow and succeed.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Upside Down Leadership

Accountability Organizational culture Organizational leadership

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Key Point: Overall, leadership isn’t getting much better. Even though organizations are spending tons of money on leadership development, statistically we aren’t seeing much leadership improvement. According to a recent HBR article: “70 percent of leaders rate themselves as inspiring and motivating – much in the same way as we all rate ourselves as great drivers. But this stands in stark contrast to how employees perceive their leaders. A survey published by Forbes found that 65 percent of employees would forego a pay raise if it meant seeing their leader fired, and a 2016 Gallup engagement survey found that 82 percent of employees see their leaders as fundamentally uninspiring. In our opinion, these two things are directly related. There is a vast upside to human leadership. As data from McKinsey & Company shows, when employees are intrinsically motivated, they are 32 percent more committed and 46 percent more satisfied with their job and perform 16 percent better.”

The idea that there is a vast upside to human leadership is a head scratcher. I guess somewhere along the road we signed up for inhuman leadership? And 65 percent would forego a raise to see their boss fired? Holy cow! So, how might we rapidly change this so-called inhuman leadership?

Based on 40 plus years of real world experience and leading research, I suggest the following:

  1. Allow employees to transparently rate leaders in confidential ways. The data trend would be your friend, or not. If we used a minimum number of input (10 people?) to openly rate leaders, we would see leadership improve dramatically. The audience is usually right. People have a right to great leaders. Continued poor ratings would require leaders to improve or be replaced.
  2. Expect that every leader should ask for feedback FIRST. Leaders like the ability and even expect to give feedback to direct reports. However, modern research reinforces the value of leaders creating psychologically safer environments, by setting the foundation for meaningful conversations and asking how they might improve first!
  3. Change one-on-one meetings to have leaders ask only two questions: How might I help you? What might I do better to advance our purpose?
  4. Adjust the span of leadership control to a minimum of 20 to 1. Leaders spend too much time “checking up” rather than adding value. Most of the time meetings are for leaders’ need to know and command/control. In more modern systems, leaders are more like gardeners than commanders.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. How are you rated as a leader by your direct reports? Would you be recommended to a friend? Family member? If Uber drivers are rated, shouldn’t you, me and all leaders be too?
  2. Get out in front and ask for feedback first. Say “thank you,” and go forward.

Turning things right side up in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: For Millennials, it seems that the most attractive organizations to work for offer as much autonomy as possible. If a leader doesn’t trust that their employees know how to do their job, then why the heck did they hire them? That said, leaders should also be revered. It’s FUN to have a great leader: A mentor you look up to, a person you want to perform well for, and someone with the ability to give you occasional positive acknowledgment or a kick-in-the-pants if need be. Leaders should strive to be bragged about by their employees at happy hour, not the subject of a “screw them” toast.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Wing Nuts and Cultural Contribution

Abundance Management Organizational culture

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Key Point: “You’re a bunch of extraordinary leaders and wing nuts.” That was the comment from a leader in the community I was having breakfast with the other day. She was commenting on the success we’ve had growing a phenomenal culture at ATB Financial. Her view is that members of the senior leadership were individually a bit odd; certainly the CEO and me, if not the rest. I took that as a compliment. It got me thinking about the paradox of being alike, yet different.

Wharton’s top leadership thinker, and best selling author, Adam Grant, notes the following:

Hiring like-minded employees can be unifying and motivating for a startup powered by the momentum of its first, disruptive idea. But a growing body of evidence questions that approach for scaling companies, says Grant. ‘Culture fit’ becomes a proxy for non-boat-rockers whom everyone likes, and feels comfortable around. That way, stagnation lies. Grant prefers ‘cultural contribution.’ ‘Instead of asking, ‘does this person fit our culture?’’ he says, ‘We should be asking, ‘What is missing from our culture, and is this person going to enrich it?’”

I agree with Professor Grant. We do need boat-rockers and people that make us think differently. In my view, I want people to be alike on core values like self-accountability, respect and abundance. However, I also want people who challenge the heck of out of me and others. I consider myself to be a respectful challenger, and yes, a bit of a wing nut. And I hope that makes all of us better.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. When you add to your team or organization, give more serious consideration to cultural contribution. What’s missing? How might this next person enrich it? Consciously seek out the diversity they might bring.
  2. Celebrate your constructive wing nuts. You might even be one.

Wing Nuts in Personal Leadership,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I’ve certainly heard the theory that commonly makes its way into informal conversation: “There’s something a little ‘off’ about CEOs, political leaders, etc.” Some people suspect Elon Musk isn’t even from this planet. Personally, I do not view this as a negative adjective or descriptor. Various cynics even like to attribute high levels of success to stages of narcissism and autism. Who knows? There might be pieces of truth in all of that. But as Millennials, why would we say this? To me, it sounds like an excuse. Is it because we have big hills to climb and it’s easier to preemptively decide we can’t than put in the work (and possibly fail)? We can seemingly comment “#Goals” when we see a desirable achievement on Instagram, but then what? Rationalize that they must be a psycho for putting too much effort into work, appearance, relationships, etc? I sure hope I can rock the boat by being a wing nut, and I care way more for that idea than joining any like-minded group that cares not to try. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis