People Tell Me This Changed Their Lives 



Key Point: The most effective behavior applications or models are elegantly simple to learn, yet deceptively difficult to execute on. The wonderful aspect of this “simple/difficult” paradox is that once the behavior framework is understood, continuous practice allows us to eventually become masters. But we never get to an end. A commitment to mastery provides a never-ending runway for betterment. Let me give you an example: 

I have the privilege of leading our company’s “Culture Day.” At this monthly session, all new hires attend (usually about 100 folks per month). During this important gathering, along with our CEO and other execs, we focus the entire cohort on who we are as a company. We deeply dive into our institutional purpose and values. At the end of each day, we do a wrap up and ask attendees to highlight the learning that most personally impacted them. (We also survey after). The leading learning, after more than 36 Culture Days, is the following communication framework:


I personally developed this framework a couple of years ago as we were attempting to capture the principle of making a personal, emotional connection between individuals, especially at the customer interface. We just returned from visiting the apparel ecommerce superstar, Zappos, where we were amazed at how much they invest in the principle of starting every customer conversation with a personal connection. (Try calling their customer service to test this yourself, 1-800-927-7671). At the same time, our brilliant learning team led by creative genius Debbie Blakeman, began teaching every leader in the organization how to better advance relationships through intentional conversation. During this “Conversations“ course, we built on an idea first coined by communication guru, Susan Scott. Her daunting premise: 


When people embrace and really soak in the idea that the “conversation is the relationship,” I can literally see the lights in the back of their eyes turn on. And when I ask them to momentarily reflect on recent conversations with loved ones, I see them fold inside themselves in deep thought. Snap! I then invite them to join me in putting their emotional and intellectual energy around a very accessible communication model that when followed, I promise, will advance ALL conversations… Well, actually most folks literally lean forward. And that’s where CONNECT –> UNDERSTAND –> ACT arrives for them. Now, I’d like to give you, our wonderful readers, an abridged version. 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Allow yourself to be continuously humbled and challenged by that piercing phrase: ”The conversation IS the relationship AND the relationship is the conversation.” In EVERY conversation, regardless how small or big, in person or by text, ALWAYS START with an authentic CONNECTION between you and the other. Face to face, it may be as simple as direct eye contact and a smile, or as deep as sharing moments of intense joy or sadness. Always build a BRIDGE. After all, you want to advance the conversation don’t you? Listen to master communicators and they always find the connection FIRST! 
  2. Next… And I do literally mean NEXT, FOCUS and INVEST in creating UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN you and the other. Ask as many understanding questions as possible. Be able to discern between what the other is saying and what they really want. Be deeply present and engage all of your observation senses, (obviously harder when just texting). Your only task in this part of the FLOW is to confirm understanding. You are self-accountable for that. Do not put that burden on the other (hopefully they are doing the same).
  3. NOW and only AFTER you confidently believe mutual understanding is clearly framed up, start exploring how to ACT. Start with describing what YOU might do FIRST. Do not tell OR suggest what the other could or should do (unless personal safety is involved). If you’ve been reasonably successful at flowing steps one through three above, you may have earned the right to use the action phrase: “Have you considered?…”

P.S., I told you this was easy AND friggin’ hard at the same time. I’m continuously working on this and may become a master one day?

CONNECT –> UNDERSTAND –> ACT in Personal Leadership,

Lorne Rubis

One Millennial View: Anyone else feel like they have a homework assignment? As you can tell, this takes effort, care and discipline. You can easily imagine how this method would be incredibly appreciated by those you’re communicating with on a both a professional and personal basis. Wouldn’t it be great if that person on the other end of the line always made that effort for you? Thankfully, we have the choice and control to start by doing it for them, and hopefully they’ll catch on.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

We’re Back!!




Hi Readers,

Key Point: Garrett and I have really missed sharing our collective voice with you. We took a little break and at the same time recognized it was necessary to refresh the “old” website. We had to take the site down, which made our time away a little longer than we planned. So, what’s new with

The legacy site was six years old and outdated in content and functionality. It needed to be modernized in many ways. While we’re still working some minor bugs out, we encourage you to visit the new site and hope you find this route valuable. The site’s searchability has improved significantly, and there is a lot more informative content in addition to the blogs. At the same time, all the blogs we’ve written every week for the past six years are archived for your reference. Our Culture Cast podcasts are there too, (stay tuned for Season 2 starting in late October). Speaking of our podcasts, thank you for responding to our survey and the unanimous support for more. We asked and listened to your suggestions so we will be doing additional topics on leadership, innovation and culture with more real world insights that translate into action. We will be continuously adding new resource content to as the site and your interests evolve. And those of you who have subscribed will automatically get the blog emailed Tuesday and Friday mornings (Pacific Time) per usual.

The new theme of the refreshed website is Personal Leadership. It is based on the premise that the gateway to effectively leading others always starts with each of us first. While the Character Triangle consisting of the values of Self-Accountability, Respect and Abundance will always be foundational, the scope of the website content will focus on the full range of material driving transformative leadership and cultural advancement. We hope to challenge, inspire, provoke, enrich, and meaningfully contribute to your personal leadership journey. Like we often state, “You’re worth it!”

Thanks for being part of our community and helping us to continue improving our voice.


P.S. Special thanks to the great web team at ATB who took this web re-design on as an extra project. This was WAY beyond and added to an already very heavy work load for all of them. You can see their professional work in the design. I cannot express my appreciation adequately.

One Millennial View: I’m absolutely thrilled to be back in the saddle for the new installment of The update looks amazing, and I too would like to thank the efforts of the ATB team that designed the awesome new site. I know we’re both pumped that it’s making a big comeback, especially at a point where Personal Leadership is a topic that’s very important for me to focus on. I look forward to continuing to share a Millennial View with all of our great readers! Thanks for sticking around!

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Hiding in the ‘We’eds!

Be Accountable


Key Point: There must be an “I” in team. I am totally committed to effective, high performance teamwork as the only way to win and sustain success in any organization. However, I have become somewhat concerned that the vitality and urgency of individual contribution can get lost when we focus exclusively on “we.” A team can only be great when individuals are fiercely self-accountable about their personal contribution. It is important that the “I” in team does not skid into narcissism. This demands that our individual contributions include results that positively impact the team for the greater good.

People are attracted to self-accountable people because they lead and take responsibility for their own performance first. The “I’s” in team set the pace, step up, and avoid trying to fix the “we” in advance of fixing themselves first. My antennae go up when I hear “we” in the same dysfunctional way as when the infamous “they” is thrown about. The phrase, “I wish we could/should…” is only marginally better than, “I wish they could/should… ” I’ve come to label this thinking and behavior as “hiding in the ‘we’eds.’”

I’m not a fan of people who say, “I did this,” “I did that.” But I’m a huge fan of people who quietly “do.” These types of folks just fire up in the morning and get it done. And when it’s time for recognition they gladly share it with the “we.” Here’s what I’ve come to appreciate about the best “I’s” in teams; these people keep one eye (“I”) on the higher purpose, while working autonomously, loving what they do, and really connecting with others. Coincidentally, the research denotes that these four behaviors are the key ingredients of personal happiness.

Character Moves:

  1. Help define your team by what YOU personally do. Look in the mirror first. Set the bar. Be the example. Give and do not expect anything in return. Do it because it will bring genuine happiness to you and the “we” you care about. 
  1. Let go of fear, keep your compass aimed at the greater good, and just friggin’ “bring it.” Be the “I” that your teammates just love to be around. Occasionally you will run into people that will be scarcity folks. They will try and diminish you. Sometimes, it will hurt. Breathe deep and just keep giving it. Things will work out in the long run. How could they not? 

“I” Teamwork in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: I really appreciate the phrase, “act like you’ve been there before.” You know, the idea that when you personally achieve something positive, you don’t NEED to make a spectacle of it. Certainly no, “hey, I did that. It was me.” Thanks to the roots you’ve already planted, it’s expected of you. Being a clutch teammate isn’t a surprise, and you have the confidence to know that too.  Obnoxious individual excitement would seem forced, and you sure don’t need a parade. This is often attributed to sports, but it can really apply to any facet of life. Whether it’s a customer or clerk saying “wow, thanks” for helping an old woman at the grocery store, or the next time you play a key role helping your team to that next big accomplishment at work, you can use that positive energy to fuel the next well intentioned step. After all, you’ve been there before, right?

 – Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

It’s Not My Fault But it’s MY Problem!

Be Accountable


Key Point: If you want a simple and straight forward way of describing “leadership,” then embrace the title of this blog: “It’s not my fault but it’s MY problem.” This is the essence of the “self-accountability” leg of the Character Triangle. It is always refreshing and even inspirational when one runs into someone who leads themselves this way. And it’s a gateway for earning the ability to effectively lead others. You and I do NOT need a formal leadership role or title to think and behave like this. We just need to ignore fault or blame (which is different from the importance of determining root cause) AND take responsibility to work the problem confronting us. Could you imagine how much better customer service and life would be in the world if people consistently practiced this mantra?

You may or may not like Maureen Dowd‘s op-ed in the Sunday New York Times. It is usually entertaining if not right on point. This Sunday August 2, she reminded me of the importance of acting versus explaining and concludes her provocative column this way: 

“The Bushes did not want to be put on the couch, but the thin-skinned Obama jumped on the couch at his news conference, defensively whining about Republicans, Putin, Israel and Hamas and explaining academically and anemically how he’s trying to do the right thing but it’s all beyond his control.

Class is over, professor. Send in the President.” 

I remember a challenging situation in my career where I was positioned to lead, and for a variety of excuse driven reasons, I chose to explain more, rather than act more. I definitely did not cause a major problem in this Fortune 50 Company, but I certainly had a formal and informal mandate to lead. I missed an opportunity to step into a vacuum that was waiting for my strength of conviction and action. It took years and much personal reflection for me to understand that I chose to explain more than lead in that situation. I have taken that personal leadership lesson forward in everything I do. What the organization was saying to me at that time was (which I did not fully recognize): “Class is over… Send in the (LEADER).” Ouch! 

It may be unreasonable and perhaps even unfair that people (as Dowd painfully points out) want Barack Obama to lead more than explain. However, this is the essence of leadership and most of us respond and are inspired by those who lead themselves first by taking action to “work the problem.” We usually do not expect a “silver bullet” or even trust that Big Bang approaches are effective. But we typically rally around people who methodically and tenaciously move matters forward because of a self-declaration to “own” the challenge. When we explain while accelerating matters forward, it is understood as context. The height of the formal leadership perch is most often related to the complexity and difficulty of the problem. If you want to be a leader, practice taking on the little problems every day and eventually you will earn the privilege of leading on the big juicy ones. Unless you like to stop at, “it’s not my fault.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Think about whether you embrace the principle, “it’s not my fault but it’s my problem.” How much is this the guiding premise behind all you do? Or are you better at explaining to emphatically ensure people understand that “it’s not my fault and therefore it’s not my problem.” 
  2. Work it! Take a self-accountable approach to every problem. Ask yourself what you can do about it. As the self-accountable chapter in The Character Triangle emphasizes, it’s the “what, how, by when” response and action YOU personally take that makes the leadership difference. 
  3. Step into the void. Remember that timing is important too. There is an opportunity window as problems arise. Powerful leaders know how to fill that vacuum with confidence and assurance at the time others are on “stand-by.” Do you do that? 

It’s MY problem in the Triangle, 


One Millennial View: There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a leader display a lack of action and instead point fingers… It seems almost cowardly. I love learning this lesson early. Thinking back to high school football, we’d talk about the type of people we wanted “in our foxhole.” You want to step into the huddle with people who attack the problem and derive a plan for a solution, not rely on another squad to get the job done. The office is no different than the gridiron or a foxhole in that regard. Let’s all make the problem ours despite what/who may be at fault, and win together. 

– Garrett Rubis 

Edited and Published by Garrett Rubis

Are We Becoming Too Darned Soft?

Be Accountable


Key Point: I’m starting to wonder if we have collectively lost some level of mental toughness we owe ourselves. Employee engagement scores are at all time lows, in part because more than ever, employees are blaming companies for inadequacies (some well deserved). “It is someone else’s fault that I’m not thriving at work.” “It is somebody else to blame because my career is not progressing.” Apparently, the mysterious “they” is out to prevent people from achieving something or another.

I was struck by Thomas Friedman‘s Op Ed in the New York Times. Essentially teachers are being blamed, more than ever, for students’ inability to get their work done and completed well. If students get D’s and F ‘s, the administration and parents now find “it’s mostly because the teachers haven’t found the key to performance.” “Students don’t get assignments in on time because they are burdened with Facebook and text time.” Huh? Read the article. I hope it makes you stop and think about what this means.

Hey, I’m a big fan of giving feedback effectively and all the enlightened things a good coach should do. But be self-accountable enough to recognize your part in the scheme of things. If you are not clear on your assignment… Get clear. If you’re not engaged… Do what you can to get there. Stop being such a big baby and so darn soft. I’m not asking you to apply self-blame either. That’s destructive. But be honest with yourself. Just do your part to step up. If you’re getting a “D” at work, figure out how to fix it. And if you get feedback that it’s not going well, have the mental toughness to understand your part. I owe the organization A+ work, not B work. If not, I need to suck it up, and fix it… No excuses.

Character Moves:

  1. Take a mental toughness check. How do you think about grading? Demand self-excellence? You can do so and still be kind and empathetic to yourself and others.
  2. Ask yourself if you are taking on the right balance of responsibility for the success of others. (Including your kids, etc, in your personal life).
  3. Getting an A is earned, not a given right. Are you mentally tough enough to demand excellence of yourself and others?

Mentally tough in The Triangle,