Talk Isn’t Cheap

Accountability Communication Personal leadership


Key Point: Learning how to listen and talk to each other is a life long requirement. It requires focus, thoughtful skill development and the mindset, that face-to-face, voice-to-voice conversation is essential to relationship development. An experienced colleague of mine, who has had a very successful executive career, mused to me the other day; “so many of the challenges I was dealing with last week could have been avoided by having conversations with people rather than using the ubiquitous email. If I had a blog, I would blog about the need for everyone to talk more and use email less… It could be a topic for one of your blogs, Lorne?” Ok… Jill… Here it is:

The foundation of successful “talk” starts in childhood. Decades of research shows that parents of all backgrounds do not need to buy expensive educational toys, digital devices and chauffeur their kids to enrichment classes to give them an edge. What they need to do with their children is much simpler: TALK!! But of course, the quality of these discussions counts too. A study conducted by researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health (published in the journal Pediatrics), found that two-way adult-child conversations were six times as potent in promoting language development as interludes in which the adult did all the talking.

Notice the phrase “two-way.” Well, the competence from relentlessly developing effective two-way conversation needs to be continuous. It is instructive to me that two leading companies Quicken and Zappos, prioritize two-way communication while bringing all new employees on board. They do not and cannot assume that their new hires come equipped to know how to constructively talk. Wow! The lead content of the leadership development initiative at the company I work for is called “Conversations!” Why? As Susan Scott has famously noted, “Conversation is the relationship and the relationship is the conversation.” One key to effective leadership is the ability to have crucial conversations and develop relationships. 

Character Moves:

  1. How have you improved your skills or ability to have a two-way conversation recently? Are you more equipped to take on any challenging discussion? What framework or model do you use? Or do you just “wing it” because you assume everyone just knows how to ” talk?” As an example, I’m going to watch the video below: “How to Speak so that People Want to Listen.”
  1. Please STOP hiding behind or inappropriately using email and/or texting. They are typically NOT effective tools for problem solving, creating, or meaningful relationship development. With platforms like Skype, FaceTime , and many other video oriented options, we can have more face-to-face interaction, even at a distance. More listening, and talking… Less email trails that can waste time and result in a relationship deficit. 
  1. Remember if we really value a relationship, we have to invest in talking to each other: That simple AND complex. Right, Jill? 

Watch this video and just talk in the Triangle,



One Millennial View: No one needs to remind me that my iPhone is used less as a “telephone” than anything else… 90 percent of my correspondence is text based, and that’s how I prefer it. Except, there are situations we’ve all been in when tone is ever so important. Unless you’re dead sure how someone is phrasing something, or knows the cadence of your own voice (which implies you likely spend enough face-to-face time anyways where you’re on that level), a call is never a bad idea when communicating something where “tone” could be misunderstood. Heck, iMessage can even record and text audio messages now with the push of a button… Let’s avoid getting caught in the tone-trap, they don’t have an emoji for “digging yourself out of a hole” yet. I would know.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Leadership and Truth!

Accountability Authenticity Teamwork


Key Point: “The biggest challenge we face as leaders is rarely about discovering the perfect strategy or developing a smarter product or figuring out the gaps in the business. It’s about being courageous enough and willing to take the risks necessary to talk about the difficult, sometimes scary truth and do something about it.” 

That’s a quote from Peter Bregman in a recent HBR article. And he goes on to say:

“How could people who have been so successful in their careers not be courageous about communicating the problems they see in a business for which they are responsible? I think that the bar for leadership in most organizations is too low. We allow politics to supersede performance. And it’s hurting good organizations.”

In my career I’ve seen a lot of this. And it’s often worse the higher you go. An eerie silence emerges amongst execs. It’s like they unconsciously agree not to confront issues that might risk another executive poking into their own sandbox. For example, a business division leader thinks, “I’m not going to talk about how I really feel about technology issues if it risks having the CTO point out that my market strategy sucks… Or she potentially screws with my projects even more.” The silence is not only dangerous to the organization’s well being, it’s irresponsible leadership. Great leadership involves having a well-informed view and the respectful skill to both speak and listen to the hard “truths.” And this truth telling requires a safe environment where thoughtful and respectful debate is highly encouraged and desired. Frankly, I seek out people who have a view and the courage to confront mine. In fact, you can’t work for me for long without demonstrating that you are able to respectfully challenge my ideas. Why? It’s the intellectually honest seeking of the “truth” that leads to the best ideas and strategies. No one person can be autonomous in all decision making. None of us are that smart. The higher position we achieve, the more we need guidance from other strong viewpoints. Trust and truth really count when we want tough-minded, transformational leadership.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn the skills required to respectfully listen for and speak the hard truths. Remember Susan Scott’s beautiful and somewhat haunting phrase, “the relationship is the conversation and the conversation is the relationship.”
  1. Attract people who can respectfully challenge you. They will make you a better leader. Respectfully challenge them. They will relish working for or with you. Truth seekers who are self-accountable problem solvers, big thinkers and aspirational dreamers attract others of the same mindset. And that’s a way to build a heck of a strong team and culture.

Truth seeking in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: It seems people need to stop being so sensitive about individual feedback. Listen, we’re all there to learn, get better, and if a colleague brings up alternative ideas or viewpoints, that likely doesn’t mean 1. Your original plan was terrible. 2. They think you’re inefficient. 3. They’re gunning to outshine or replace you. It’s just a discussion, and one worth having. Be confident in your own abilities, but you’re with an “organization” for a reason. You have the same goal as a company. Great teams don’t win without “huddling up” first.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

I See Myself… I Am Here

Authenticity Books Respect


Key Point: What conversations do you have with yourself? Susan Scott’s work in her book Fierce Conversations is so important, but it can be very irritating for me. I’m revisiting her work in preparation for a leadership development session I’m having with colleagues. She always takes me places that I often would like to avoid. Sometimes I’d prefer to have a glass of wine and watch a hockey game rather than think about what she provokes me to confront. Her phrase “the conversation is the relationship and the relationship is the conversation” is one of life’s key guiding principles as far as I’m concerned. Here is where it becomes most challenging for me. I know that the conversations I have with myself are an essential foundation to being able to have the most meaningful conversations with others. Frankly, sometimes I’d prefer just to “leave well enough alone” and to numbly pass. I know that’s wrong but… Geez… Pour the Pinot Noir, please.

Having fierce conversations with ourselves requires courage. We have to be honest and authentic with ourselves first and that takes an investment in time and thought. It usually requires us to empty ourselves of our version of reality and become more grounded. This requires confronting the “official” truth you tell yourself and others versus digging deeper to determine what the “ground” truth is. There is a greeting process of certain tribes in Africa that starts with the following sequence:

The greeter: “I see you.”

The greeted: “I am here.”

The point is, of course, that until you literally get present and fully see the other person, they are not really there. I believe that greeting also applies to the way we might best treat ourselves… I see myself… I am here. In fact, the root of “respect,” as I write about it in The Character Triangle, is “look again.” This self-look however does NOT involve spending ANY useless time on self-blame or judgment. Life is definitely curly and wishing for it to be straight and simple is a fool’s paradise. However being consciously present, authentic and honest with ourselves is the platform for deeper and more meaningful conversations with others.

Character Moves (as inspired by Susan Scott):

  1. Learn how to employ what Scott calls the Mineral Rights model. The four principles are: Interrogate reality, Provoke learning, Tackle tough challenges, Enrich relationships. There are numerous techniques and ways of utilizing this model. Explore more of Scott’s work to discover them.
  2. Dig deeper into understanding and grounding your reality by exploring multiple perspectives without applying blame. Try not to just confirm how you think you should feel or what you should say, but describe how you really feel and identify what you want to say. Are there any differences between your “official truths” and “grounded truths?” What are the implications?
  3. Do a personal integrity scan. Write down your core values (worth spending some time to reflect on). Determine if there are what Scott describes as Integrity Outages between what you state you value and what is really happening in your work and personal life. (E.g. value: You believe in the value of continuously learning…Integrity outage… You haven’t committed to learning or doing anything new for a long time). Determine ways of cleaning up your integrity outages.
  4. Give yourself a refresher on Fierce Conversations. It may irritate you, and make you uncomfortable BUT it will propel you forward with yourselves and others.

I see and I am in The Triangle,



The Conversation is the Relationship

Respect Well-being


Key Point: “The conversation is the relationship.” This wonderful quote belongs to Susan Scott, the author of the best selling Fierce Conversations. Her point is: If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all of the possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller. If we compromise at work or at home and lower the standards about how often we talk, what we talk about, and, most important, what degree of authenticity we bring to our conversations – it’s a slow and deadly slide. Ernest Hemingway stated this so powerfully in his book The Sun Also Rises“How did you go bankrupt? Gradually then suddenly.”

I have to do better at learning how to have deeper, more powerful conversations. And as I grow older I fully realize that relationships are all that really matter. And if the relationship IS the conversation, I’ve got lots of work to do with the many people I so deeply care about. It is so tempting for me to live in my head, visit with my iPad, slouch into HBO, eat dinner with ESPN, and having access to everything digital makes it so easy to go there. Frankly, it is often easier. No one argues, disagrees, and gets into messy or uncomfortable emotions. But the trade off is emptiness and ultimately relationship deficit and at worse, bankruptcy. When I travel, I see a lot of older men sitting by themselves, having a beer and looking awfully lonely. Just saying…

The only way to go forward is to commit to more meaningful conversations. Perhaps as Scott suggests, the opening phrase might be, “how aren’t you?” Hmm. To take this seriously I strongly recommend reading Fierce Conversations and practicing the principles with those you love and care for. (I’ve read it before… Time for a revisit). Hey… It’s a return on investment issue… You get back what you put in. And yes life is squiggly, messy and sticky. The real you and me reflect that complexity. But like you and I, connecting with others in a deep way can be rich, authentic, and ultimately most rewarding.

Character Moves: (As taken from and only partly representative of the principles of Fierce Conversations… Please get the videos, read the book, practice, etc).

  1. Develop an outline of a conversation meant to dig deep (What Scott calls a “mineral rights” conversation): A. What’s going on relative to this issue? B. How is it impacting you? Who else is affected? C. If nothing changes, what are the implications? D. How have you contributed to this situation? E. What is the ideal outcome? F. What is the most potent step you can take to begin resolution?
  2. Debrief a conversation by asking yourself: A. Was I genuinely curious about this person and their reality? B. Did I work to understand reality from where he/she stands? C. Did feelings get expressed? D. What parts of me failed to show up? E. Who did most of the talking?
  3. Avoid these mistakes in one-to-one conversations: A. Doing most of the talking. B. Taking the problem away from someone. C. Not inquiring about feelings. D. Delivering unclear messages, coaching, instructions. E. Canceling the meeting. F. Allowing interruptions. G. Running out of time. H. Assuming your meetings are effective.

After doing intense assessments with top executives over the years, the single biggest hurdle beyond ego self-management, is the intent and skill to have deep meaningful conversations about the REAL issues. In the end, the conversation really is the relationship.

Relationship Conversations in The Triangle,



How Are You Showing Up to Others?

Accountability Teamwork


Dr. Trudi Chalmers is the lead resident psychologist at ATB Financial. Her current and primary role is coaching for mastery by helping financial advisors learn how to better connect with clients using video observation and applying scientific based methodology for improved listening and customer driven solutions. She received her Ph.D in Neuroscience from the University of Calgary. She was also recently picked as an ATB “spark”; a company catalyst and example of inspired leadership. I am pleased to have Trudi be the FIRST guest celebrity blogger on


KEY POINT: Building on Lorne’s Character Triangle, I invite you to start noticing how your body and emotions impact how you show up to others. We often spend a lot of time thinking about (scripting) what we’re going to say to others… Or, we spend time reflecting on what we did say, wondering if we could have said something different. What we forget, or maybe don’t realize, is how we hold ourselves (body), and the emotional place we are speaking from, often has a greater impact than the actual words we use. Practice in this area plays into our accountability (accepting our influence and taking responsibility for how we show up) and respect (for ourselves and the people we engage with).

Susan Scott shares a fantastic insight in her book Fierce Conversations, where she draws to our attention that any interaction with another involves three conversations; the one we believe we’re having (the story we’re telling ourselves), the one the other believes they’re having (the story they’re telling their self), and the literal one taken from the words being spoken. It’s difficult to know the story the other person is telling their self, but rest assured that your body language and emotional tone is having an influence. How we hold ourselves physically (body), and the emotional place we’re acting from creates subtleties layered on what’s actually being said (language) and can drastically influence the interpretation of your words – and the result you get. If you frequently find that you’re not achieving the results you want from your communication/interactions with others… It’s probably time to start noticing what your body and emotional tone are saying. We forget what people say… But, we always remember how they made us feel. The words we use may be great, but if the tone and body is saying something else… That’s what’s going to stick.

Why does our body language and emotional tone leave such a huge impression and colour our communication? Looking at this from a neuroscientific perspective, there are several explanations. Allowing us to unconsciously understand and feel other people’s emotions are our “mirror neurons.” As the name suggests, this network of neurons mirror what we’re observing, allowing us to feel empathy by experiencing what we’re seeing in other people. This is great for building connections, but can be detrimental when we take on the defensive tone that someone is communicating to us. Once we see (and thanks to our mirror neurons, feel) the defensiveness of someone, we assume an attack is heading towards us. This makes good evolutionary sense! We need to protect ourselves, so we’re wired to respond to the emotions of others. If the emotional tone and body language suggest an attack is coming, our fight or flight mechanism kicks in narrowing our attention and preparing us to defend ourselves. Most of the time, this is not the space we want to have our interactions from, and certainly not a space conducive to resolution or exploration.

The words you use may be “I want to give you feedback on how you facilitated that meeting…” But depending on the tone and body language that these words are coming from, you may be inadvertently shutting down the other to opportunities for growth before you even begin.

Character Moves:

  1. Practice centering. Take 10 seconds before you approach someone and notice what you’re feeling. Can you choose where you want your message to come from (what emotional tone)? Can you be in the place where you want your message to come from? If not, maybe now is not the best time for this conversation.
  2. Notice your default tone and body language. How do you hold yourself when you’re conversing with others? Does this change depending on who it is you’re in conversation with? What’s your emotional tone?
  3. Are you getting the results you want with your conversations? Are there any patterns here? For example, is it always the same people who you struggle with? Are there particular types of situations where you can’t seem to get the results you want? If you’re not getting the results you want, it may be time to look at how you’re showing up to the other person.

Showing up in The Triangle,

Dr. Trudi Chalmers

Thank you Dr. Chalmers,


P.S. download the The Character Triangle Companion today!