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

My Message to Students (And You)

Accountability

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Key Point: Live the life you want, NOT the life you think others expect you to live. This advice is based on research from the wishes of the dying. The biggest regret or “do over” mentioned by those in palliative care is that they spent too much time looking for approval from others, rather than being fully intentional. This is easier said than done. Parents, teachers, family, friends, all play a big role on what we could and should do with our lives.

If you examine the slide at the top of this blog, you can see the intersection and sweet spot that most often results in the most happiness. Doing what you’re good at, love to do, give and receive value for – is a great spot be in. My argument is to also work on the very core of that intersection. Work hard to discover your purpose or “why.” What is your life’s mission? (I’m not specifically talking about a job, or even career). What are your core values? These beliefs guide your daily behavior. What are yours? Who are your others – the positive impact people that you hang with? Who cares about your well being? Who are your loving critics? This includes organizations you invest your time in. All this is never ending personal discovery, and constant work. Your purpose, values and others evolve. We are never done.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Write out what you’re good at and love to do.
  2. Outline how you give and receive value (including a pay check or monetary gain).
  3. Outline your purpose and values.
  4. Specifically name five others who help you thrive, and how organizations you involve your time at are contributing to you.
  5. Stand back and give yourself some reflective time. What ah-ha did you get from putting this down on paper?

Finding the sweet spot in Personal Leadership

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is outstanding advice. While we may not still spend time in a classroom, I think the point is that we never stop being students when it comes to personal leadership development. We might internally voice what our values are, know who our others are, and spend time reflecting. But physically creating a cheat sheet for yourself, and outlining this on paper may truly deliver that ah-ha moment you’re looking for. This seems to be a homework assignment with no due date, because the final draft can always be updated.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Other Side of Epic Failures  

Abundance

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Key Point: Risk and reward go together like two sides of a coin. If you want to experience great rewards, you need to take calculated risks. The last few blogs have been examples of some personal, epic failures. I want to balance that perspective with some of the rewards associated with taking those risks. Please allow me to share a few of them:

Epic Failure 1: Fortune 50 Company

  • Worked directly for the Chair/CEO and facilitated strategic discussions like determining whether to purchase 25 percent of Time Warner; Facilitated the potential outcome of splitting the company into two distinct entities (growth and value). Both resulted in tremendous value increase for shareholders.
  • Participated in the growth of the wireless/cable telephony business in eastern europe and observed entire countries dramatically change commerce and personal communications.
  • Experienced and observed the board of directors meetings/private dinners of this company and connected with iconic board members like Mary Gates (Bill’s mom), the chair/CEO of Dow, 3M, vice chair of Ford etc .
  • Worked daily with incredibly talented office mates like Tom Bouchard ( became world wide HR of IBM) , John O’Farrell (Now partner in big time Silicon Valley VC, Andreesen Horowitz).

Epic Failure 2: Catalogue IT Company

  • Learned how to sell low margin IT infrastructure to both consumers and business.
  • Established a reference and framework for transforming a mid-size company in mid flight.
  • Led a team of believers to win the contract to procure IT for all of MICROSOFT ($100 million plus/annum), and helped the company crossover to a true IT Business reseller.
  • Experienced the nuances and operating responsibility of running a publicly traded company end to end.

Epic Failure 3: Voice over IP startup:

  • Learned what running a hungry tech startup meant/felt like.
  • Experienced the challenge of selling emerging technology into a legacy market.
  • Appreciated never to take anything for granted and to be grateful for all.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Remember that risk and reward go together and the key determiner of success is YOU. Others may have a view and even data as evidence one way or another. However, the criteria of success that is most important is your own .
  2. The biggest regret expressed by the dying, based on research by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, was the wish to have the courage to NOT live the lives others expected. Be intentional about what YOU want to do; not what you think others want you to do.
  3. Consider the following quote by Meg Cabot; ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, BUT THE CAUTIOUS DO NOT LIVE at ALL!”

Have the courage to live in Personal Leadership

Lorne

One Millennial View: It’s amazing to realize how many of the courageous people died in WWI and WWII. Think about it. Now, we’re the generation that lives way after, but hopefully not without remembering those who truly were not cautious and saved the world for us.

–  Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

A Series: Learning From My Epic Failures (Part 3)

Be Respectful Respect

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Key Point: Timing is everything. And sometimes things happen that can best be explained as plain, bad luck. Epic Failures No. 1 and No. 2 outlined in my last couple blogs, ironically played into No. 3. When I was with the Fortune 50 Company, (US WEST), I met lots of brilliant Telcom engineers and business people. A few of them I really respected started a voice over the internet startup, and they asked me to join the team. This was essentially Skype (before Skype), circa late 90’s, and the “dot.com” world was on fire. I was being recruited by all kinds of startups, and company valuations were crazy high. Stock options/payouts and buyouts/IPOs, were the news of the day. It was a modern day gold rush, and many of the so called .coms were proven to be .cons. They were being hyped with little or no profit performance. Still, the bubble seemed unstoppable, and we believed our new company (AuraServ) was better and different than a lot of the other hype out there.

AuraServ seemed like a no lose deal. Great technology, an excellent value proposition, superb management team, funded by one of Silicon Valley’s premiere VCs, etc. I then was the COO of a technology company (epic No. 2), and had earned a ton of stock options. However, I was in my early 50’s, our girls both in private U.S. universities, Garrett still in high school. Probably not the best personal time to take a big risk. On the other hand, my due diligence determined (along with the assessment of many others I got advice from) that this was a sure bet. And, if I was going to be part of a tech startup, it seemed like now or never? The plan:  I would sell my options upon leaving my current company (a little back up nest egg). Then, with this new voice internet powerhouse, I would experience building a super company with great purpose and potentially make a financial home run, too.

Then it happened: The .com market bubble burst almost overnight and severely discounted and penalized most technology stocks, including the company I left. My stock options were now ALL under water and I had to exercise them within a time frame that was unfavorable (no nest egg and a BIG ouch). And, if you are old enough to remember that time, almost all investment capital immediately dried up. Even though AuraServ was getting customers and meeting revenue commitments, we could not get our next round of funding. Uh oh! We ran out of cash, and out of business. Over 100 employees now without work. Disappointed people I deeply cared for who believed in me. Our family investment, gone! Holy %#!*!  It took me two months without a pay check to ensure every person working for me that wanted to have a job, found one. Now, I had to recover personally. It was a miserable time for me. 

The good news with a supportive wife and family, a little good luck, personal perseverance, and hard work, I bounced back and became the CEO of another company. While the AuraServ outcome was disappointing, I was proud of the results we achieved and learned a lot about myself. I recognize how much I am a blessed and fortunate man with way more than anyone could ask for.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Sometimes all the due diligence and analysis are impacted by events totally out of one’s control. Be mentally prepared that this could happen at any time. Know your risk tolerance. How much are you willing to lose? How resilient are you if the worst happens? Well run organizations intentionally manage risk. We need our personal risk plan too. Do you have yours? By the way, the flip side of risk is opportunity.
  2. The essence of purposeful living involves progressing on things that the market or other commercial endeavors cannot take away from us. Love, purpose, family, adventure, learning… Everything material goes away in time. While we all know that, sometimes we get to practice experiencing it before we die. And I believe we become better for it.
  3. Please read Dan Pink’s new book, “When,”which puts more science behind the issue of timing. 

Grateful and Resilient in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: In Tony Robbins’ new book “Unshakable,” (which is primarily about financial wealth), he emphasizes the importance of “real wealth” extending to being emotionally, psychologically and spiritually sound, too. Other wise words I’ve heard recently pertaining to when things get tough: “Tend your garden. No one can take that away from you.” Certainly something to keep in mind when you’re in the grind. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis