The Parallel Universe Syndrome

Abundance Organizational leadership Purpose


Key Point: I am always amazed that people in organizations have trouble sorting through when something is a “net new add,” versus integrating another way of thinking. As an example, we have introduced six leadership practices and three expected outcomes. One reaction to this framework is, “I don’t have time to add this to my daily activity as a leader.” My response is, “this is what you DO as a leader, not add to leadership.” I’m not sure how convincing I am. I often think of new ideas and behaviors as substitutes rather than additions. I find that changing habits is the really hard part. 

In a recent Harvard blog article, Deborah Rowland referenced the work of Michael Beer, Magnus Finnström, and Derek Schrader in “Why Leadership Training Fails – And What to Do About It.” She notes that these researchers, “discuss the need to attend to the organizational system as a vehicle for change before companies simply send their leaders on training programs to think and behave differently.” Rowland refers to this as the “parallel universe syndrome,” in which “leaders attend courses that promulgate certain mindsets and ways of working only to go back to the workplace and find that the office (and especially top leadership) is still stuck in old routines.” 

This definitely got me thinking about how we need to be better at connecting the dots in seeing the entire system as fundamental to achieving sticky learning. Integrating a new way of thinking and behaving as a leader will likely always feel like a parallel activity rather than a connected one, if it is considered without context. This is harder to achieve than pontificate on.

Character Moves:

  1. Always connect your personal leadership development into your own purpose and the strategy of the business. It is best when the new behavior to be embraced is actually emotionally experienced and then reinforced. We are often out of balance when receiving new information versus practicing it. Make it a system. Find a way to build in reinforcement when progress is made. 
  1. Learn from a tribe of “faculty” members. Observing others apply a desired way of working and being is often more valuable than relying on “listening” to just one guru (like me). Learn the principles, observe the behavior in action, consciously practice it, keep it connected to purpose, and continue that loop. It’s easier said than done.

Unparalleled in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: After the Chicago Cubs’ historical win over the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series, it was widely observed that the Cubs’ third basemen, Kris Bryant, smiled as he fielded what would be the final out… He knew he was going to make the winning play before he did it. I’d argue that he was able to achieve that ear-to-ear confidence because fielding a baseball and firing it to first base was so second nature, and “consciously practiced,” that there was no doubt. He wasn’t successful because he was “told” how to perform these actions; he ended a 108-year drought thanks to thousands of practice repetitions.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Chief People Officer Insights on Winning Interviews

Accountability Authenticity Organizational leadership


Key Point: Most of us only have job interviews on an irregular basis. We don’t necessarily become practiced at it. Frankly, for most of us, it’s not a skill we want to be seasoned at because we’re interested in holding jobs, not interviewing for them. Yet, there are those key occasions when we want to “sell” ourselves to be selected for an opportunity we really want. My observation is that for even the most senior positions, people could do much better if they followed a few guidelines and practiced. The 10 below are not necessarily comprehensive and are primarily table stakes, but they’re a great foundation to build on:

  1. Do deep research on the organization and people interviewing you. Be fully capable of reciting the vision, mission, value proposition, and go to market strategy of the company. Know something important about each of the interviewers and be able to connect with them personally. Then consciously make an emotional connection with the group interviewing you, both individually and collectively.
  1. Be able in less than three minutes, to answer EACH of the following:

*Give specific data driven examples of how you achieved results including solving a nasty problem or bringing exceptional value in past or current roles.

*Identify how you have collaborated, built relationships and got things done with others.

*If you’ve been in a leadership position before, be specifically capable of identifying how people working for you have progressed and developed under your coaching.

Then be able to effectively translate and connect this past behavior/ experience to the role you’re applying for.

  1. When someone asks you a question, listen very carefully to be sure you understand what exactly he or she is asking (check for clarification until you have it right) and then answer it succinctly and directly. Any answer over three to five minutes is too long. Practice, practice, practice on possible questions before the interview.
  1. Be absolutely authentic. Everyone is going to ask you what strengths and shortcomings you have. Be self-aware enough to reference feedback you have sought and received from others. And tell them about your personal development areas like it is. Don’t be coy with lazy, often disingenuous responses like: ” people tell me I work too hard,” “I have too high of expectations of myself.” Blah blah, bye bye. 
  1. While some nervous energy is good, become relaxed through proper preparation for the interview, getting there early and having everything with you. Don’t overlook the basics. Bring a pen and pad to take notes and politely explain beforehand if you’re going to do so on a mobile device. For goodness sake, look each person in the eye and shake hands like you mean it. Dress according to the culture. Ask what the best practice is beforehand if you’re not sure. 
  1. Understand that the interview begins with how you walk in the door, treat other people to and from the interview area, and ends when you leave the parking lot. I have personally not hired people based on the way they’ve treated receptionists and wait staff during lunch. True story… One interviewee threw his gum wrapper on the ground after leaving our offices. We just happened to be watching out the window. Wow… Bye bye.
  1. Be able to specify and explain how you have fun during and after work, why you’re going to make the place better and give concrete examples of how you will continue to self develop, improve yourself and why.
  1. Demonstrate that you can be a great storyteller by referring to crisp, engaging examples. And be prepared to tell the interviewers exactly who you are (your core values) and vision (what you aspire to bring to the opportunity if selected).
  1. Be prepared to present a strong close, explaining why you’re the best match and candidate, in less than one minute, while looking at every single person (ideally with a genuine smile). Remember you’re there because you’ve passed all the technical filters. People are mostly determining how well you will match up with the team and culture.
  1. Remember if you do all nine above to the best of your ability and still don’t get the job, that’s probably a good thing. You’re doing the selecting too. It’s as important that you match and fit versus just getting the job. However, put your best foot forward. Prepare, practice, prepare, practice… Then practice some more. The higher the job, the more experienced and accomplished you are, the more you have to exercise this. Like any business deal, the interviewers are looking primarily for the “NO,” or how come they should reject versus select.

Character Moves:

  1. Even if you’re not applying for any new role soon, it’s good mental practice to go through the above 10. How well could you go through one to nine if you were applying for your current job? Hmm. Anybody out there who might do better?
  1. I’ve seen candidates for a “C” suite job search I’ve been recently involved with miss on most of the above, Seriously. Their credentials and experiences are impeccable. However, their ability to really present themselves in compelling, attractive, and authentic ways leave much to be desired. They certainly have not demonstrated applying a framework like the above and as a result we haven’t seen them at their best.
  1. And don’t expect to win opportunities if you aren’t great at executing on the above 10 basics. Someone else will be. And the best organizations will patiently wait to find them.

CPO interview tips in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: As much as we’d like to separate our professional and social lives, I’ve recently heard a business guru discuss how important it is to “fit in” with a potential organization. Interviewers apparently ask themselves, “can I hang out with this person?” Know and find your niche. Think about being on a road trip with friends… That car is a specific group of people you’re willing to be in close proximity with for a long period of time. I feel like we sometimes overlook this and think credentials alone are the best way to lock down the position. Yeah, you’re primarily there to do business and be an employee, but not unlike a group of friends, I think we can be most successful when we’re in environments that just click, with likeminded individuals,  similar interests, life experiences and attitudes. I want to work and win with a team I can road trip with. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

Purposeful Practice …Do it or Lose it!

Accountability Contribution Purpose


Key Point: a winning professional football team puts in 40 hours of practice for a 2 hour game, including going over every possible scenario. Renowned symphony orchestras follow a similar pattern. Great speakers do the same. If you want to be great at anything you need to practice with purpose over and over until you can be fully and consciously competent.

A CEO friend runs a company where a year’s business relationship and contract hinges on about 24 hours of intense activity. He supports inventory services for tier one companies. The “moment of truth,” including all his company brand promises, is focused on this intense period of time. The company delivers or not, all in a real time basis. The only way to stay sane and ensure success is to purposefully practice all the way up to “game time.” This includes covering every situation where something could go wrong and having a contingency. Everything is a process (to get desired results) and the process is everything. People who complain about process like to rely on blind chance (good luck). But even the greatest poker players follow a reliable, practiced process.

Character Move:

  1. Determine what competencies you want to purposefully practice.
  2. Define your “moment of truth” (i.e. where your competencies are exposed and tested)?
  3. Practice, practice, practice doing it right. Develop contingencies.
  4. Then, practice more.

Purposeful Practice in The Triangle,



Practice IS Life …Enjoy and Embrace It

Abundance Growth mindset Purpose


Key Point: Pablo Casals, the renowned cellist, practiced his cello three hours every day. One day when the revered Casals was near the end of his life (at age 93), and well after he had achieved world wide acclaim, a neighbor asked him why he still practiced so much. Casals responded, “I believe I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”

Julius Barnes in his beautifully written 2011 Man Booker Prize-winning book, The Sense of an Ending, captures the feelings of the retired protagonist who laments, “Later in life, you think you expect a bit of a rest don’t you? You think you deserve it. Anyway, I did. But then you begin to understand the reward of merit is not life’s business.”

Character Move:

  1. Resolve to purposefully practice the elements of the Character Triangle every day: consciously practice being a better listener, practice using STP, do one kind act with intention every day, and take on one thing you’re avoiding each week (build your own practice plan).
  2. Recognize that “sharpening the saw” never ends. It also means that to go forward one has to sometimes make a mistake. It feels like going backward but often is the foundation for new growth. Persevere; accept and go forward, one step every day.
  3. Make practice part of your life, not a part in your life.

Starting to notice improvement in The Triangle,




Has the Music Found You? What Are You Practicing Right Now?

Abundance Growth mindset


When you purposefully practice, it means you are focused on your goal. Accomplished artists, athletes and professionals intensely work on achieving their goals, to be better at their crafts. We need to think of behaving the same way at work and in other parts of our lives. Some people believe that when you practice purposefully you also naturally attract, or become attracted to, people and resources that accelerate your development. The metaphorical music finds you as much as you make music.

Practice does not make perfect but it makes better.

So what if we applied this practice idea to the Character Triangle? Here are simple examples of what we could do:

Self-Accountability: every day practice taking action on one thing you would have avoided previously. Make that phone call; write that note. Every day do one thing and keep track of what you’ve done.

Respect: every day ask one person for their input that you normally wouldn’t have. Then really listen to what they have to say. Note it.

Abundance: every day look for an opportunity to give freely (kindness comes to mind as an example). Do it proactively. Open a door. Help someone carry something. Look for an opportunity to give, and journal your action.

In all three examples above you are acting with purpose; you’re practicing!

Character Move: for 30 consecutive days journal what you do in each of these three areas, observe how you feel, and how others react to you. Let me know the impact.

Practice, practice, practice in the Triangle,