Upside Down Leadership

Accountability Be Accountable

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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

Culture Cast: Discussing ‘the Learning System’ in Organizations

Personal leadership Podcast

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Hey Culture Cast fans! In Season 2, episode 7, Lorne and Lynette discuss (and constructively debate) The Learning System that teaches people how to observe, apply and self-absorb the values of an organization. They go back and forth about certain learning phrases, and plans of action to help improve, reflect and advance an organization’s culture going forward.

Please listen on Soundcloud and iTunes, and don’t forget to rate and review.

If listeners have any questions or thoughts, feel free to email the podcast at CultureCastPodcast@gmail.com. As you can see, we’ve started a Q/A series that will be posted every other Wednesday, and will likely be addressed in future podcasts as well. Please feel free to contribute. 

Also, please follow the podcast @CultureCastPod1 on Twitter, and advance the conversation.

Leaders: Connect the Friggin’ Dots

Accountability Be Accountable

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Key Point: Leaders, stop whining there is too much to do, and start translating and connecting the dots. Most often, it’s NOT that organizations are asking too much. The challenge is that leaders can be better at explaining and linking the initiatives so that they are accessible to all. And team members, get over yourselves and learn this stuff.

Organizations are like layered cakes, and activities flow at every level. Is it possible to have the people in an organization focus on the following elements at the same time?

  • Purpose.
  • Values.
  • Exponential.
  • 10x.
  • Customer obsessed.
  • Growth mindset.
  • Digital competence.
  • Agile.
  • Lean.
  • Engagement.
  • Collaboration.
  • Flow.
  • Transformation.
  • System thinking.
  • Minimal viable products.
  • 85/10/5 consumption.
  • Big data/data science.
  • Silo busting.
  • Cult brands.
  • AI/Machine learning.
  • Cloud.
  • Massive Transformative Purpose.
  • Etc.

The answer is YES, and effective leadership has to TRANSLATE and CONNECT so people at all levels understand the relationships, along with helping people make personal, emotional connections to each concept or initiative, while they do their jobs. It is much more of an inclusive than additive exercise.

The above is hardly an exhaustive list, and my explanation in the appendix below (if you care to read it), is cursory at best. However, understanding and decisively applying each element is VITAL to people in organizations, regardless of industry, location or size.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Leaders: Stop being big babies and complaining about capacity and the challenge of translating/connecting. If it’s too much, go somewhere off the grid and grow cabbage.
  2. Team members: Stop whining about consumption. Be self-accountable enough to absorb and relish ALL (and more). If not, join your pal above in the cabbage patch

Connecting the dots in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

Appendix – Lorne Rubis brief translation/connection to the list:

In ATB Financial’s case, our purpose is labelled as our Story. Its 94 words outline every single person’s WHY. Our values are described in 10 ATBs. These guide our behaviors and commitment to each other. Everything else translates into and connects to the Story and ATBs. Having a growth mindset, exponentiality and 10x, is a way of thinking and working that addresses personal and organizational behavior as it applies to both innovation and transformation. Exponentiality is defined mathematically, while an MTP outlines a very big idea often tied to exponential technology. Agile and Lean involve both prescriptive methodologies and philosophical mindsets. One needs to be clear whether applying an approach and/or the literal tools (where agile words like sprint/scrums, etc. take on literal meaning). MVP is a very fast product or service that can be rapidly customer tested prior to full production. Being customer obsessed is a strategic intention and can also involve very distinct actions based on customer experience science (like customer journey mapping). Big data and data science involves the application of algorithms and predictive data search. Collaboration includes teaming in advanced ways using visual and connective tools residing in modern productivity/communication platforms like Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s 365. Digital competence includes a digital technology understanding that enables leveraging of advanced digital technology. Flow, systems thinking and silo busting is a way of looking at how an organization works as a connected system rather than disconnected functions (silos). Engagement can be a way of describing how much people feel they can trust and contribute. It can also have a literal meaning like in ATB where it specifically refers to 5,000 people responding to six consistent survey questions. Cloud computing, of course, refers to all data being stored in multiple locations and servers somewhere outside the organization firewall. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are related but different applications of bot technology. 85/10/5 refers to our ability to do daily work and consume new learning expressed in percentage terms. A company becomes a cult brand when its customers feel indispensable loyalty. 

Please add this to the above list to make it more complete and/or accurate.

One Millennial View: No new player has ever been drafted to a sports team and then refused to learn the playbook. This has to be a similar mindset. First of all, you should be going into an interview for the position with an understanding and appreciation for an organization’s mission statement. Incase you squeak through the hiring process without this step, then connecting the dots for yourself is day one stuff. Yeah, it would be helpful if leaders assist with this process, but make a point of doing it yourself. You shouldn’t just do it, you should like it. Or else, I guess people still buy cabbage.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Wing Nuts and Cultural Contribution

Abundance Be Abundant

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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

Wednesday Q/A on Personal Leadership

Personal leadership Resources

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To or readers, 

Welcome to our second installment of a Lorne Rubis Q/A series. We’ve accumulated some popular leadership questions, and below are Lorne’s answers to them. We plan to release these every-other Wednesday. We’d like to encourage you to participate, see below on how to contribute! 

  1. Hi Lorne! As most great companies know, we should hire, fire, and live by our corporate values. When faced with a leader, or better yet a CEO, who exudes the notion, and acts on, hiring, firing, and living by short term-outcomes, or short-term profitability takes precedence over all metrics, what do you recommend is a good approach to help such leaders see the values-based approach, and the long-term benefit of such?

“Sometimes these CEOs are most effectively influenced by personally experiencing successful organizations with a long term more purpose/values based strategy at a personal level. This means site visiting these companies, and talking to their leaders/employees so the ‘short term’ leader sees a better path. There are lots of facts that support long term/values-based strategy. However, these people are often less influenced by ‘facts’ than by some emotional epiphany. Surrounding the CEO with other influencers on these site visits often accelerates the mindset change. The tricky thing is to find a way to influence the CEO to seriously make these visits and to find the right companies to connect with. A seasoned outside consultant that has the contacts at the other companies and can facilitate the right debrief is often necessary. Sometimes you just have to hope for a CEO change, and/or leave if the impact of staying in this environment is toxic. Wish I had an easier answer.”

– Lorne

  1. Hi everyone, I would like to ask Lorne what to do or how to proceed when there are bullies in the work environment. What to do when they are peers and what to do when they are bosses?Thank you!!

“This bullying issue is very troubling to me . It seems to be exacerbated by social media, and public leaders that get lots of media for behaving that way do not help.

Bullying and peers: We have to specifically point out the behavior that is troubling to us and insist on hopefully constructive, yet fierce conversation with the person(s) bullying us. If we let it pass and just put up with it, nothing will likely change. The important thing is not to accuse or blame the bully, rather to point out the very specific behavior you are experiencing and the negative impact it is having on you (and others). Ask the other person first what they think you might do differently so they might treat you differently. Hopefully, the other person will join you in moving forward and propose different actions on their part as well. However, do not be surprised if they do not respond as thoughtfully as you might hope. Often it takes time and more than one conversation. Sometimes nothing works, and you have to make a choice: Put up with it or leave .

If the bullying escalates to the point where you feel harassed you may have to get outside help by approaching ideally a very capable HR professional and/or escalate to higher level leaders. I get very frustrated when I hear of bullying. We have a right to work in psychologically safe environments. Wish I could give you a magic wand.

Bullying and bosses: This is often somewhat trickier than peer bullying because depending on the nature of the leader, they can deal with bullying by negatively impacting your career. However, I believe the same constructive confrontive approach needs to be taken with a bullying boss. The one precaution I might take is that you document every detail of the behaviors and summarize any meeting you have on the matter. If you have a trusted and very capable HR professional, you might advise in confidence that you are having a conversation with your boss about the matter (he or she might have some additional insight).”

– Lorne

We hope you enjoyed this Q/A session. We’d like to keep these coming, so if you have any questions, please submit them to CultureCastPodcast@gmail.com, or DM us @CultureCastPod1 on Twitter. We look forward to many more, every other Wednesday.