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

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

Are You an Inspirational Self-Boss?

Key Point: Are you an inspirational or demotivating boss, to yourself? If we lead ourselves then we can assume we are responsible for our personal level of engagement. There is a ton of evidence suggesting that the most effective leaders show personal care for their employees. They thoughtfully coach and build on their strengths, cultivate strong working relationships, and instill a sense of purpose and hope. There is an abundance of research that shows employees quit their bosses, not their jobs. Most ineffective leaders overload employees with responsibilities, then micromanage, do not connect at a personal level, communicate poorly, and fail to inspire a sense of purpose. 

So, if you (as your own boss) treat yourself with appropriate care and support, will you be positive and engaged? And conversely, if you (as your own boss) treat yourself with disdain and negativity, will you be totally disengaged? Will you essentially quit on yourself?  

Leading Yourself Begins With Self-Talk

I really like the argument on this matter put forth by psychologist, Brett Steenbarger, in a recent “Self-Leadership and Respect” Forbes post.

“Think of the stream of conscious thought as a conversation: It is our way of talking to ourselves. Self-talk shapes our relationship to ourselves; it is also our way of managing ourselves. This perspective leads to an interesting question: Would you want your boss to talk to you the way you speak to yourself?

All too often, our self-talk is filled with frustration (‘How can I possibly get this done?’); disgust (‘I can’t wait to get through this!’); pessimism (‘Nothing works out!’); and apathy (‘Whatever!’). Think of the self-talk of the perfectionist: Nothing is ever good enough and any falling short of (lofty) goals is failure. Some of the most damaging self-talk I’ve heard is from perfectionists: ‘I’m such an idiot!’ and ‘I can’t do anything right!’.

Of course, none of us would want to hear such things from a supervisor. Exposed to that verbal abuse and negativity daily, we would quickly disengage from the workplace and start to look for new employment. But what if we are our own bosses and that is how we talk to ourselves? The result is not so different: We disengage… When we talk to ourselves in ways that leave us disengaged, the loss of energy and optimism is palpable. Conversely, when we challenge ourselves constructively and immerse ourselves in meaningful activity, we become spiritually and emotionally charged.”

Psychologists refer to positive self-engagement as moral elevation while negative self talk leads to moral deflation. And our propensity to treat and talk to ourselves in certain ways may manifest in our daily experience:

*  Emotionally – As optimism versus. Pessimism.

*  Socially – As attachment versus. Detachment.

*  Physically – As vitality versus. Fatigue.

As Steenbarger notes, “Across the board, positive self-management is energizing; self-management grounded in negative self-talk robs us of energy. In many ways, the state of our bodies reflects our mind state.” 

Character Moves: 

  1. Do you like what your self-boss is saying about you? Are you an engaging, inspirational self-boss or are you disengaged and looking for new “employment?” 
  2. The challenge with being a very negative self-boss is that when you quit and become disengaged, your self-boss is still there… Yup, that’s you!  
  3. As always, engagement comes from leadership. In this case, how are you leading yourself? Take the simple test: Are you optimistic? Attached? Vital? If not, your self-boss can get better with intentional help and practice.
  4. If you need to help your self-boss, don’t be afraid to get him/her a coach (in some cases a therapist) so they might learn. You and your self-boss are both (hopefully without sounding schizophrenic) worth it. 

Your self-boss in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: Millennials might be some of the best self-bosses out there. I’ve seen self-bosses my age switch careers, follow opportunities, relocate, start businesses, and even say, “screw this, I’m traveling to Fiji and I don’t have a return flight yet.” It seems we’re our worst self-bosses when we’re stuck, hesitant, or without ANY plan. I like to remind myself that these are my “no wife, no dog, no mortgage” years… My self-boss is never going to be able to have as much corporate freedom as he does right now, might as well make the best of it, and be positive. But my “company” (me) has to be in a good enough place to offer those benefits.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Change Agents in the Spirit of Mandela

“I believe that in the end it is kindness and generous accommodation that are the catalysts for real change” – Nelson Mandela at the launch of The Elders on July 18, 2007.

Key Point: Though Mandela’s health was failing for the past few years, his recent death was still met with an emotional response throughout the world. Tata, or “Father” as Mandela was also known, will be remembered as a true leader and human of incredible greatness and justice. “We have lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us—he belongs to the ages,” said President Barack Obama in a speech following Mandela’s passing.

Over the last few days I have read and listened to what people who knew Mandela have been saying in tribute. So many adjectives apply, but the one word that seems to be at or near the top of every list is KINDNESS. It was unconditional love that allowed him to save and transform South Africa after it easily could have burned to the ground during the dangerous transition from apartheid.

Mandela teaches us that the truest freedoms and the greatest liberation are deeply connected to an endless love for humanity. In his own words, as seen in the above quote, “in the end it is kindness.”

There are so many examples of how Mandela lived kindness and how he lit up a room with it. The following story exemplifies this value in a very basic way:

Eddie Daniels was a close friend of Mandela, and he served a 15-year prison sentence on Robben Island while Mandela was incarcerated there. Shortly after Daniels arrived at the prison, he was assigned a duty to empty the chamber pots, or “buckets” of other prisoners. Daniels, a man who was skilled at disabling electrical power grids and thus was considered a dangerous terrorist by the apartheid government, could not bring himself to accept toilet duty. Daniels was desperately struggling with his situation. That’s when Mandela, who did not know Daniels at the time, walked over to the newly arrived prisoner, put an arm around him and told him that he would help him perform the duty. Daniels said he could only marvel and stand in awe at the gesture. Mandela understood his angst and anger. But he also understood the valuable role that Daniels had played in the fight for freedom for black and colored South Africans. Mandela came to his rescue and in this basic act revealed KINDNESS, compassion – and love.” As Mandela notes, this is perhaps the most powerful form of LEADERSHIP.

Character Moves:

  1. How about you and I just work a little more at acting with intentional kindness on a daily basis? We can get so caught up self-judging whether we are really getting the results of a life worth living, etc… We can forget that every day provides so much opportunity for our KIND behavior to contribute. As Marshall McLuhan so aptly said, “the medium is the message.”
  2. Rather than limit ourselves to thinking about acting kindly as a “cute and cuddly” discretionary approach for those attracted to mush headed soft skills, or for people who like websites and YouTube videos involving kittens, how about applying KIND behavior as a catalyst for REAL CHANGE? Kind does NOT mean weak or soft. It is a constructive weapon for change agents.
  3. Do you and I light up a room because people know that we are naturally kind and well intentioned? Do we behave with kindness because that is part of our life’s purpose rather than thinking about it as an “event?” Hey, our individual chances of impacting the world like Mandela are unlikely, but if we collectively breathe in his spirit? Well that is how sustainable change happens.

Mandela is The Triangle (and more),

Lorne

P.S. On the notion of kindness and Respect, Mandela was affectionately known as Madiba by family, close friends, and dedicated South African supporters.

 

Why People Love Dodge’s “Farmer” Commercial

Key Point: Most of us really want to celebrate virtues like those displayed by the authentic, genuine, hard working farming community. The most popular 2013 Super Bowl commercial was Dodge‘s celebration of the American farmer and what they stand for. Pundits like the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, have positively commented on Dodge’s connection to RESPECT for this group of people; something we don’t hear much of these days. If you haven’t seen the commercial, please watch it here.

Of course Dodge wants to sell its products to farmers. But talking about the value provided by their customers rather than transmission torque is refreshing. What does this have to do with you and me?

I was born a farm kid. I watched my parents live the Character Triangle every day. There is no doubt where my value set comes from. If you lived on the farm, self-accountability meant putting food on the table. You essentially survived based on what YOU did, not what you felt entitled to receive. No one auto-deposited a check to your bank account. A farmer also learns to respect everything around him/her. The environment and farmer must work towards mutually reinforcing goals. It is amazing how much grain and animals have to say (not literally of course), but through how the cycle of life works. If you are not present and attentive, something dies or gets damaged. That’s why many farmers who have rarely travelled out of their county know so much about the world at large. Nature teaches them every day. And if you aren’t abundant thinking as a farmer, you will be the ultimate victim. The very essence of farming is about growing and sharing. But the weather, commodity pricing, disease, trade wars, etc. are out there teaching the meaning of humility daily. A farmer has to give back and pay forward because always being on the take will suck the nutrients out of future growth.

Character Moves:

  1. Even if you’re a city slicker like I am now, why not think and practice the essence of being a great farmer? What are you growing and giving back to the community? How do you live “farmer’s values” in the work you do?
  2. Farmer’s aren’t perfect. As an group, they can be notorious complainers, but of course we are not about perfection. What we care most about is purpose, adding value, living with character, having an impact, and inspiring others.
  3. Summing up a solid farmer: Do it now, be nice and give more. And that is the Character Triangle. And while Paul Harvey, the voice of the Farmer commercial, has long passed; his words and their meaning are eternal. And so are the values of the Character Triangle.

Farming in The Triangle,

Lorne

 

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 ...
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Confidence, Patti Smith and Dylan: Failing authentically

Breathe fire: Leading and inspiring ourselves

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Taking on a new role: Lorne's journey

Lessons from Dot: Integrating technology into workplace culture

 

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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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