Celebrate ‘Whoops’

Key Point: Sometimes I talk too much instead of listening more, and I need to work on being a better judge of where to jump in as a leader versus “helping.” The other day I was on a call/”hang out” with a large number of people. A colleague answered a question in a manner I thought was incomplete. So, I attempted to diplomatically clarify for the “betterment” of the audience. The result was that I likely “improved” the answer by 10 percent, and in the process, unintentionally undermined my teammate. The feedback from another colleague who cared enough to give me straight, tough, caring feedback: “You might have been a more encouraging leader if you would have let the first explanation stand?”

The hard thing about feedback for me is to NOT take it personally. Rather, I need get better at genuinely letting the advice soak into my head and then consciously choose to do or not do something about it. I know all about the theory that feedback is a “gift.” Heck, I’ve written about it in my blogs multiple times over the years. The dirty little secret for me though, is that I have a little bit of a “perfection” complex, and rather than accepting the critical viewpoint of others, my mental processing starts with defensively rationalizing my behavior and judging the merit of the opinion. And of course, personal feedback is just that – one viewpoint, and it needs to be considered accordingly. However, if we listen hard enough, trends will inform and guide us where to act. I have never ending work to do when it comes to embracing feedback more effectively. 

In their excellent book, “Option B.”, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant have a wonderful chapter called “Falling and Learning” at work. One story Sandberg writes about refers to the notion of building resilience through learning from failure, and the story includes a character named “Whoops.” A colleague Sandberg worked with at Google used to ask her team to share a failure or mistake they made each week, and then the team would vote on the biggest screw up. The “winner” got to keep a stuffed monkey nicknamed “Whoops” at their desk for the week. The idea is that mistakes and learning need to be openly shared and discussed. It reminds the team of the importance of trying hard things and embracing authentic, vulnerable transparency to promote team and individual learning. My honest experience is that most organizations talk a good game on this idea, yet acute listening followed by fast action based on learning is not what really happens. Too often, customer feedback and complaints result in apology at best and blind avoidance at worst. Great leadership includes a serious capability to get results, to slurp up complaints and problems with a zealous, fierce, self-accountability. 

Character Moves:

  1. Start with going after your own personal critical feedback with a vengeance, not taking it personally. Then, make it personal to ACT on what you learn about yourself.
  2. Translate this fierce personal feedback attitude at every level in the organization. Be relentless about searching for every way to be better. Find a way to get “Whoops” sitting in every one’s area. Love “Whoops” at the personal and organizational level, and great things will happen. 

Loving Whoops in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: It seems like fearing personal feedback can only become a handicap when attempting to grow, learn and move forward. I feel like there’s this myth perpetuated by media (movies, TV, etc.) that if you screw up a procedure at work, that’s it, you’re done, “you’ll never work in this town again!” Ummmm, I have yet to see that ever happen (Oh, I’m talking about legal, ethical and accidental mistakes). I try to bat 1,000 at work at all times, but I have messed up plenty. The point is, if you don’t swing and miss sometimes then you’re not playing the game, and that’s a way quicker way to not be needed on the roster anymore.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Turn On the Radio

Key Point: Organizations are currently working in parallel streams of reality and in almost different “centuries” at the same time. There is a work revolution going on; some say it’s the fourth industrial revolution. Emerging institutions like Singularity University and leading companies are helping to bring an exponential mindset to advanced organizations and their leaders. Companies like ours are flattening out, looking to drop decision making to the most appropriate levels, facilitating unprecedented forms of team work, moving at lightening “start-up” speed to get things done, helping people integrate work and life, and much more. This includes huge investments in people and feeding their insatiable curiosity and hungry growth mindset. We are getting rid of restrictive and backward thinking like seniority based holidays and sick time. People work from where the need to in order to achieve the best results. Everything in organization design and people/technology systems is about driving a high adaptability and results quotient, while we become obsessive about delivering relentless value so that customers FEEL we are indispensable. This is stimulating, hard, and even mind-bending work. It is necessary for survival and not some goofy egalitarian system gone wild. We are constantly looking to disrupt ourselves for a greater good! (And yes, of course, we are committed to being sustainably profitable). 

At the same time, I talked to someone recently who works for an organization where people could not get top leadership permission to turn on the radio in the “shop,” because workers might get distracted or pampered. Everyone knows working while listening to music results in a downward shift in productivity? Huh? People work in places just down the road from us where they still punch time cards. Or leaders genuinely still believe that people are out to screw them and have to be watched. I know employees who work for “bosses” that believe they ought to “kick ass” everyday and “recognition is for sissies.” Some organizations still require people to ask for permission to act like an adult. They believe people are replaceable and simply just a necessary component to running a business. If you ask the people managing those organizations what their purpose is, they will often describe what they transact at, rather than passionately outlining a deeply important reason to exist. Their “vision” is most often defined by EBITDA or revenue/net income (or the ever elusive “exit strategy”). Up-sell, cross sell, spin sell are part of their everyday vocabulary. And many of these companies are very financially successful, sometimes for decades. My question is, for how long? 

My hope and encouragement is for every entrepreneur out there to fiercely attack and put these backward organizations out of their fat, lazy, margin rich business. Look at companies that have high margin and yet have lots of friction and go after their market with a vengeance. Define a higher purpose, and be obsessively compulsive about real value for your customers. Measure how much you’ve helped and made a difference to them rather than squeezing them for every sales dollar. Your most important sales pipeline are crazy, happy customers that will publicly want to associate their brand with yours. Develop a people first system that attracts teammates who care about customers and the purpose of the business as much or even more than you!! And, right from the beginning, put in the latest technology and processes that make your customers literally say… “Wow.” Be relentlessly committed to having customers line up, metaphorically or actually for your product and service. Now here is the fun part: Create a business model that makes you 10x better than your competitors. This is not fantasy. It’s what the best entrepreneurial companies are doing! If you’re not willing or able to be an entrepreneur, then go work for someone who is. Stop working for people that treat you as a replaceable part because they will gladly oblige; it’s just a matter of time. Also, the “Christmas party” and mysterious annual bonus is NOT reflective of an advanced company. Here is a situation where size does NOT matter. A five person electrical contractor can apply all the modern leadership and reflect a great culture just as much as Google, Facebook, or ATB. Some might argue it’s even easier. 

Character Moves:

  1. If you haven’t already, join the revolution! You’re worth it! Become part of and fiercely contribute to something you deeply care about, and be sure that organization also deeply cares about the authentic, unique you! 
  1. Remember that you’re already an entrepreneur in a lot of ways. You likely are always looking to make things better (and not just a little better, but insanely better)!!  We are BIG VERBS! Be 10x big and think 10x BIG!

Tuned in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I’ve never worked directly in sales, but I know that if I was selling I’d have to completely, 100 percent believe in the product. I would have a tough time selling anything I didn’t fully understand, buy into, or hold dear. That said, an important question might be: Could you sell yourself your own job? Why is it worth 40 plus hours a week of investment to you? Or do you just own it because it’s better than nothing? First question: Do they even let you listen to the radio?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Thinking Harder and Smarter!

Key Point: Having a growth mindset is vital to successfully embrace continuous transformation. However, we need to be sure that we understand what a growth mindset really is. Note the following by Eduardo Briceño, the Co-Founder & CEO of Mindset Works, which he created with Carol Dweck, Lisa Blackwell and others to help people develop as motivated and effective learners. 

“When we ask people to tell us what the growth mindset is, we often get lots of different answers, such as working hard, having high expectations, being resilient, or more general ideas like being open or flexible. But a growth mindset is none of those things. It is the belief that qualities can change and that we can develop our intelligence and abilities. The opposite of having a growth mindset is having a fixed mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and abilities cannot be developed. The reason that this definition of growth mindset is important is that research has shown that this specific belief leads people to take on challenges, work harder and more effectively, and persevere in the face of struggle, all of which makes people more successful learners.”

One aspect of mindset research that intrigues me is the following: “Students often haven’t learned that working hard involves thinking hard, which involves reflecting on and changing our strategies so we become more and more effective learners over time, and we need to guide them to come to understand this. For example, a novice teacher who sees a student trying very hard but not making any progress may think ‘well, at least she’s working hard, so I’ll praise her effort,’ but if the student continues to do what she’s doing, or even more of it, it’s unlikely to lead to success. Instead, the teacher can coach the student to try different approaches to working, studying, and learning, so that she is thinking more deeply (i.e. mentally working harder) to become a better learner, and of course the teacher should do the same: reflect on how to adjust instruction. ‘It’s not just about effort. You also need to learn skills that let you use your brain in a smarter way… to get better at something.’ (Yeager & Dweck, 2012.)”

Leaders in organizations can learn from this insight. People at all levels in companies are asking for more meaningful coaching and often well intended leaders do appreciate and recognize hard work. However, if you want to be a great coach, as noted in the research above, help people learn how to think harder and better! Ultimately coaching is aimed at improving performance. And learning how to think harder and better changes the mistakes we accept and make. Too often organization leaders (in the same spirit of encouraging learning), suggest that mistakes are always “good,” and this can confuse learners, as not all mistakes are the same. As an example, the people at Mindset Works are encouraging folks to start distinguishing stretch mistakes, sloppy mistakes, aha-moment mistakes, and high-stakes mistakes

Mistakes

 

Sloppy mistakes are connected with sloppy thinking and both the intentionally and learning outcome is low. So, accepting those mistakes does little for anyone. Stretch mistakes are the highest in both of learning opportunity and intentionality. There is much to be learned from stretch mistakes.

Character Moves:

  1. Remember the definition of a growth mindset. We ALL can grow intellectually, emotionally and by capability. Massive social transformation requires each of us to have a growth mindset. If you are stuck in a fixed mindset, then enjoy staying in that position.
  1. Having a growth mindset requires thinking harder and better rather than just working harder. Yes, we can further develop our intelligence and capabilities. But, it requires thinking differently along with doing differently. Challenge yourself about how you are developing as a thinker!
  1. Not all mistakes are created equally. Learn more about what a stretch mistake is versus other mistakes, and relevance to accelerating a growth mindset.

Harder and smarter in The Triangle 

Lorne

One Millennial View: Not only are growth mindsets extremely appreciated and crucial in the workplace, but fixed mindsets are transparent. It’s very obvious to workers when their leaders aren’t thinking hard, and just going through motions. It makes us feel equally stuck, and wonder “how can this place ever progress if our leaders aren’t willing to?” A leader’s lack of a growth mindset isn’t only keeping him or her stuck, it can negatively impact the whole team.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

I Love Purple Chicks!

Key Point: Innovation and even disruptive ideas are often right in front of us; just not in plain sight. The trick is to find ways to set these ideas FREE. Too often, they’re hiding in the wonderful minds of ALL the people around us. 

What would you do if predatory hawks were continuously eating over half of your baby chicks, the essence of sustaining your life as a chicken farmer? That was the recent experience of African chicken farmers. Raptors had come to treat their farms like an “all you can eat” chicken buffet. So these Tanzanian farmers, somewhat at their wit’s end as what to do, sat with an open mind to hear what their tribal elders might suggest to solve this big time problem. And what did these sage folks come up with as a solution? Hide the chicks in plain site! Huh? Yup, they brilliantly recommended painting the chicks with a bio degradable purple dye, thereby confusing the birds of prey. 

Purple

 

So the deal is hawks cannot recognize anything purple as edible to them. They can literally land in front of a purple chick and see something moving, just not lunch. The strategy had been very successful for the farmers. From losing 80 percent of their chicks they are now saving 80 percent; a huge turnaround and literally life changing (for both the farmers and baby chickens). 

This story was told by Terry O’Reilly after a customer dinner our company hosted this week. Terry is widely known as an advertising guru and the host of the hugely popular CBC radio show, “Under the Influence.” His soon to be released book “This I Know,” is a guaranteed best seller. Terry’s message in the purple chicken story was to stress the importance of ensuring psychological safety in all organizations so people at any level can freely propose ANY idea. This needs to be coupled with modern organization leadership, encouraging and expecting employees to unleash their own “purple chicken” ideas. Then leaders need to be open to receiving those ideas and putting that creativity to work. It is unacceptable to open up and promote more creativity with no way of executing. Painting the chicks was a great idea AND the farmers had to get the paint and then do it! 

Terry’s closing question to the dinner audience was: Imagine if you were the person in your tribe with the unorthodox proposal of painting the chicks purple. Who would really listen? Would people be open or would you get ignored and/or thrown out of the tribe? How does your culture really support innovation as a way of life?

 Character Moves:

  1. When it comes to finding solutions the best ones can be right there in the most obvious places; hiding like purple chickens right out in the open. We just need to be present enough to find and receive them. How good is your organization in tapping into your entire employee community for innovative solutions? How do you know? What evidence do you have? How do you do it? Improve on it? 
  1. Most of us are living in a world where the metaphorical hawks are circling above and happy to eat us for lunch. We actually do need innovation to come from outside and to assign people to help with that task. However, the biggest opportunity is INSIDE and finding ways to have people at every level think and act like there is no box. What can you do to better set ideas free? How many of your personal ideas have been executed on? How many are still hidden and out of sight? 

Painting purple in the Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: One of my favorite components of working in digital media is the ability to try, adapt, and try again. Thanks to low overhead, a failed idea or project doesn’t always cost much in digital. It can also be improved upon in real time… Look at your favorite podcasts, YouTube channels, and other digital productions. They’ve likely changed format, evolved, dropped some segments, adopted others, and responded to user feedback. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just chicken feathers turning purple over time, and fortunately no hawks get to gobble up the entire coop in the process. It’s gratifying when we know feathers can change colors.

– 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 ...
Read more about Lorne Rubis

Listen to Lorne's latest podcasts

Confidence, Patti Smith and Dylan: Failing authentically

Breathe fire: Leading and inspiring ourselves

Asking for feedback: The why

Taking on a new role: Lorne's journey

Lessons from Dot: Integrating technology into workplace culture

 

The Character Triangle Companion

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The Character Triangle

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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.

Read more about the Character Triangle

 

Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

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