ALL of Us Can Get Better at This!

Accountability Be Accountable

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Key Point: We all spend time suffering unnecessarily (although understandably), because most of us have such a hard time receiving and giving feedback. Families and organizations swirl in dysfunction based on this reality. 

Just the other day, I was talking to someone about giving important feedback to another. These two people care deeply for each other. Frankly, the person who could benefit from the insight has a blind spot. This individual (feedback receiver) literally can’t see, or is unaware of certain behavior. The biggest trepidation of the feedback giver in this case was the anticipated negative response. Essentially, giving the feedback was perceived to be more painful than allowing the person to continue in ignorance. So, everyone loses to some extent. Why is feedback exchange so hard?

Sheila Heen, “feedback author/ guru,” and Lecturer at Harvard Law, reflects on two core needs: “Human beings are wired to learn and grow. Getting better at something is what makes life satisfying. The other core human need is to be accepted, loved and respected for who we are now, as I am.”

And as my colleague and exec coach Michelle Steil, who teaches this stuff with me, emphasizes: “We require feedback to learn and grow, yet our personal beliefs about providing constructive feedback can create a conflict with our need to feel accepted for who we are.” This partly explains why it’s hard to both give and receive feedback. You also may have heard the term “Amygdala Hijack?” An oversimplified version of what essentially happens when we feel threatened is that our survival-trained brain responds, pumping out hormones that contribute to reactions like fight, flight, freeze and/or appease. So the negative reaction from feedback receivers is a “natural” response (amygdala hijack) at work. So what can we do about this paradox? 

Personal Leadership Moves (As Feedback Receiver):

  1. Put yourself in a position of control by reframing all feedback as an opportunity for you to grow. You can accept the feedback or not. Learn how to simply say “thank you.” Understand the perspective being presented to you. Be curious so you might better understand and give yourself time to determine what you may learn about yourself. Then do something about it. 
  2. Avoid or minimize the amygdala highjack by ASKING for forward feedback first. You can’t do anything about the past. However, you can always ask for one or two things you might do better in the immediate future. YOU are in control. Be a forward moving, always learning, feedback receiver. By acting this way, you make it safer for the feedback giver. 

Personal Leadership Moves (As Feedback Giver):

  1. Make sure the feedback is really about deep care for the receiver (and not about you). Intention and being a loving critic is way more important than style. Feedback giving is sometimes clumsy and messy. 
  2. Have the courage to give. It shows how much you care. Recognize it may not always go well. Yet that’s what loving leaders do. 

Always working on it in Personal Leadership 

– Lorne

One Millennial View: Sounds like a “mind over matter… over mind” situation. Some feedback might not always be the best you’ve ever heard, but be “thankful” for the opportunity to then improve. Speaking of, Happy Thanksgiving!

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Wake Up: Inclusiveness is a MUST

Respect

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Key Point: We still have plenty of leaders that think of “inclusiveness” as “politically correct,” and mushy headed, phoney bologna. I recently participated in a panel discussion involving top execs and executive MBAs. The execs were primary C suite folks and (not surprisingly), mostly older white males.

On the panel, I firmly stated my belief that leaders could not afford to brush off the importance of intentional inclusiveness. In order to have adaptive cultures, we need massive cognitive diversity and psychologically safe, inclusive environments. At the dinner table after the panel discussion, a senior exec who listened to our panel discussion suggested that I was “patronizing” and that he “was very inclusive.” He emphasized though, competence trumped all other considerations and some pools (like engineering/technology) limited inclusive possibilities… Hmm… So, I checked out some research to help us explore the question of how objective and self-aware leaders stand on the matter of inclusivity.  

The consulting firm Zenger/Folkman (as published in the Harvard Business Review), analyzed one large organization with an excellent track record of hiring and promoting diverse candidates, with a reputation for inclusion. Zenger administered 360-degree feedback assessments for roughly 4,000 leaders, and the company agreed to let them use that data for this analysis. A summary of the findings as noted in the HBR article:

“1. Leaders are not good judges of their own effectiveness on valuing diversity; and those leaders who are poorest fail to see the problem, while those who are the best don’t realize their skill and effectiveness…

2. Leaders who were rated very poorly on valuing diversity and inclusion were rated in only the 15th percentile for their overall leadership effectiveness, while those who were rated in the top 10 percent of those two items were rated in the 79th percentile…

Valuing diversity is an attitude and mindset. Practicing inclusion involves a set of behaviors that can be developed in leaders. Our research has shown that self-perceptions in this arena are not highly accurate. While it could be argued that individual leaders may best know what’s in their hearts, others are in a far better position to objectively evaluate whether and how they practice inclusion in their day-to-day work.”

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Put the tired, old-school arguments about diversity and inclusion negatively competing with competence to rest for good. Value identity and cognitive diversity as a necessary investment in cultural adaptability and innovation.
  2. Do not accept the B.S. that leaders can accurately self-assess how much they really value diversity/inclusion. Others need to help us see our blind spots on this topic.
  3. Intentionally work on understanding what it means to be inclusive. Invest in very credible assessment tools to really find out where you stand on the diversity/inclusion continuum.

Inclusively Competent in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: As a Millennial, there has always been a huge amount of inclusiveness and diversity in the places I’ve worked. I’m thrilled to say that from my experience, our main concern and priority was getting the job done, and all anyone cared about was performance quality. So, perhaps that’s a good indication we’re already moving forward.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘You Better Read This or I’ll Kick Your A**’

Be Respectful Culture Management Respect

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Key Point: Being sustainably exponential and transformative does not have to include being mean spirited, disrespectful, and culturally conflicted. The title of this blog was in the opening paragraph of Uber’s then CEO, Travis Kalanick’s, now infamous “Miami letter,” sent to 400 plus employees celebrating Uber’s rollout to its 50th city in 2013. I will refer back to the content of the letter, perhaps some foreshadowing as to where Uber is now. 

As of June 2017, Uber has officially started a total rebuilding of its culture after what’s been by most measures, a disastrous first half of the year. As part of the overhaul, the CEO has announced he’s taking a leave of absence and allowing a group of executives to lead the company through the implementation of sweeping changes. The following summary of Uber’s cultural status is noted below, as reported by PitchBook:

“In an all-hands meeting Tuesday, the company presented employees with recommendations from Covington & Burling, the law firm that conducted an independent investigation into the company after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler published a blog post detailing unchecked sexual harassment during her tenure. Uber’s board of directors had committed to instituting all the recommendations during a board meeting a few days earlier… The Covington report proposes many remedial measures for the $68 billion company, from changes in upper management to better board oversight to cultural changes such as earlier on-site dinners and options to work remotely. Uber has already implemented some changes from a separate internal probe, including the termination of 20 employees who were let go after investigations into sexual harassment, bullying and other types of claims. 

In a statement, HR chief Liane Hornsey wrote, ‘Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. While change does not happen overnight, we’re committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers.’ The 13-page Covington report can be accessed here.”

I specifically want to refer to the following recommendation regarding culture, as per PitchBook:

“Even before Fowler published her scathing blog post, Uber was widely known as an aggressive place to work. The Covington report suggests reworking the company’s values. Specifically, the report proposes letting go of values that have been used to justify poor behavior, including ‘Let Builders Build,’ ‘Always Be Hustlin’’ and ‘Toe-Stepping.’ One example of a symbolic cultural change is the re-naming of a conference room from the War Room to the Peace Room, per a Bloomberg report.”

And to help understand why Uber needs to culturally reframe, the following is an extract from Kalanick’s 2013 Miami Letter noted above:

“DON’Ts:

1) No lives should begin or end at 九

2) We do not have a budget to bail anyone out of jail. Don’t be that guy. #CLM

3) Do not throw large kegs off of tall buildings. Please talk to Ryan McKillen and Amos Barreto for specific insights on this topic.

4) Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic “YES! I will have sex with you” AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip. #CEOLife #FML

5) Drugs and narcotics will not be tolerated unless you have the appropriate medicinal licensing.

6) There will be a $200 puke charge for any public displays on the Shore Club premises. Shore Club will be required to send pictures as proof.

7) DO NOT TALK TO PRESS. Send all press inquiries to Andrew – anoyes@uber.com Additionally, stay vigilant about making sure people don’t infiltrate our event. If and when you find yourself talking to a non-Uber (look for the wristband), keep confidential stuff confidential… no rev figures, driver figures, trip figures… don’t talk about internal process, and don’t talk about initiatives that have not already launched.

DOs:

1) Have a great fucking time. This is a celebration! We’ve all earned it.

2) Share good music. Digital DJs are encouraged to share their beats poolside.

3) Go out of your way to meet as many of your fellow uberettos as you can.

4) If you haven’t figured it out yet, Miami’s transportation sucks ass. #Slang as many Miamians, drivers, influencers as you can as passionately as you can and let them know why Uber will make this great city an even better place. Every slang matters. #MiamiNeedsUber…

5) If someone asks to meet the CEO and Founder of Uber, kindly introduce him to Max Crowley.”

Character Moves:

  1. The CEO and leadership set the tone. My belief is that being truly exponential  includes a deep commitment to advancing humankind inside and outside the organization. Values like speed, adaptability, disruption can and should co-exist with inclusiveness, respect, accountability and abundance. Yes, we humans are imperfect AND we still can achieve 10x performance without bullying and harassment. Do not let so called “start-up values” justify lousy behavior. What values need to be revisited and/or are missing in your culture? How will you influence that?
  2. Commit to advancing humankind as a key element in 10x thinking. What good is disruption if it is harmful? We want modern companies to be about more than just money… And that applies to Uber, otherwise, I’d rather take a taxi. 

Read this in The Triangle,

Lorne Rubis

One Millennial View: I wasn’t aware of this 2013 “Miami letter” or Uber’s recent Q1/Q2 struggles, but I have heard rumors of shady play in that company. You can sort of tell this Kalanick guy probably thought he was pretty cool after sending that email: A rebel rousing, foul-mouthed executive turned “man of the people.” A real “CEO chum” that can still be everyone’s bud. I think we can learn that when it might come across as inappropriate, it probably will and likely come back and bite. There’s just a fine line… No one really wants to work for an out of touch Puritan, but you want someone who knows where the edge is. In Kalanick’s words, “Don’t be that guy.”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Celebrate ‘Whoops’

Accountability Be Accountable Personal leadership Self-improvement

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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

Be Respectful Culture Organizational leadership Respect

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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