The Delusion of Being Self-Accountable

Accountability

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This is another blog on our company values (from our 10 ATBs), a series underscoring a more modern look at value driven organizations.

Story: I personally know about six people right now, who for one reason or another, are looking for work. Even though the economies in the U.S. and Canada are relatively good, and unemployment is quite low, these talented people are having a hard time landing their next job/careers. And to a tee, they have all experienced one very frustrating thing about the process. People do NOT get back after interviews with the courtesy of a “NO,” at minimum, let alone feedback. This is usually after the interviewer makes a commitment like, “I will get back to you by Tuesday next week.” Tuesday comes along, and crickets. The interviewee not wanting to appear too anxious, just waits. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. By The following Tuesday, the interviewees feel compelled to leave texts, emails or social media DMs for the interviewer. After all, for each person, this is an urgent matter. And guess what? They typically never get any response. How disrespectful! And how come the value of being self-accountable within the interviewer has gone so seriously missing?

Key Point: Why do people describe themselves as very self-accountable, yet if you watch their behavior, the value is inconsistently applied? I think it’s because people end up confusing wanting to be a certain way, versus actually being. True self-accountable people are imperfect, like all of us. However, these folks consistently display the following behaviors:

  1. Take responsibility for both making and meeting their personal commitments.
  2. First question asked relative to the way things are is, “what can I do about it?”
  3. Never spend time blaming others, or themselves, for situations; they are serious, serial learners.
  4. Take action in an urgent and timely way on things that deeply matter.
  5. When missing a commitment, authentically own it; sincerely apologize and learn from it.

Obviously in the example above, there is some serious self-accountability of the hiring manager missing. Please call those unsuccessful interviewees today!

At ATB, one of our 10 ATBs is to be personally and fiercely accountable! It is my favorite.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Give serious thought before personally committing. Your self-accountability value is too important to put it at risk if you miss.
  2. Make the trend your friend on the other behaviors defined in the steps above. Be fierce about behaving this way.
  3. If you are an interviewer, for goodness sake, be self-accountable and personally call back those “no’s” in a timely, courteous way. Ideally, give them personal feedback so the interviewee might grow.

Always learning to be more self-accountable,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This is one of those “out of sight, out of mind” lessons that people know they should improve, but it’s just so easy not to. This type of self-accountability takes discipline, courage, the confrontation of discomfort, and more. On paper, most hiring managers probably believe they have this quality. But just like a detail on a resume or cover letter they might be rejecting, self-accountability is a credential many list, but may not be practicing consistently. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

The Pain and Promise of Goodbye

Gratitude Respect

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Story: I have been at hundreds of airports around the world, experiencing more than 10,000 or so trips in my life. That’s an opportunity to observe a lot of “hi’s” and “goodbyes.” And like most business travelers, I’m head down, focused on getting to and from my next obligation. Yet, one cannot help but notice and be touched by the tears of departure and arrival that make up every airport scene. Perhaps it’s an excited child running to mom who’s been on that road trip, or a long hug from that aging parent, barely letting go of a grown child living too far away. If a person is present enough to really notice, it is one poignant scene after another, each meant to be felt and watched.

Today I’m saying goodbye to my children and grandchildren after a wonderful family celebration. The pain of that soft kiss and extra long hand-hold is so bittersweet. Knowing that adventure is in front of all, yet not wanting to let go for even a second. If only that embrace could be eternal. Each goodbye is a process of grieving.

It is also a season of goodbye’s at work. Our exceptional CEO, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with the last six years, and a number of other colleagues whom I’ve come to appreciate so much, are all leaving. And I will be retiring from the company before too long as well. It is such an emotional roller coaster to deeply commit, and then one day, literally close the door for the last time. Organizations, as they should and must, swiftly fill the void. Someone steps in and carries on in their own unique way. We are all irreplaceable and replaceable at the same time.

Key Point: Something very important happens at the moment of greeting and leaving in both our personal and professional lives. We have to be exceptionally present and self-aware to fully ingest the experience. What am I feeling? Why? What about the other or others? What am I bringing of myself and leaving behind? What am I receiving from the other(s), or having to give up? Why does it matter? While our work is so important to us, I remind us all of a searing message from a former colleague, living his last hours in palliative care. He notes that in lying and waiting to die, he hardly thinks about work and people he toiled with at all. It’s family and friends that appropriately take up the dwindling space that matters most.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Relish the genuine beauty in each greeting and exit. The experience associated with both emphasizes and confirms that we are truly alive.
  2. Remind yourself that work and those associated, while important and deserving of our genuine care, will more rapidly come and go from both our experience and memory.
  3. The best long-term investment for our total wellbeing is in family and friends. That means making the most of what happens between each greeting and goodbye. To be fully loved, we have to love FIRST. Do so generously, and without expecting anything in return. Perhaps, that is a perspective we need reminding of, and that’s what the pain and promise of “hi” and “goodbye” presents. 

Loving abundantly in personal leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: It’s too true. I can confirm that saying goodbye to a large number of loved ones can certainly leave its mark, especially after a great celebration. However, thank goodness for the capability to use FaceTime, and a variety of other forms of communication to see and speak to those far away and in different time zones. Thankfully, a “goodbye” is far from a disconnection in 2018.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

FUD Yourself!

Abundance Authenticity Organizational culture

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Story: The picture of the guy I’m hanging with above is Michael Katchen, the co-founder and CEO of Wealthsimple. He is one of Canada’s scintillating young leaders: Top 40 under 40, MBA, McKinsey alum, instrumental leader at Ancestry.com, and now heading one of the hottest robo-financial advising firms in North America and the UK. He has done a lot to build a very modern company and culture. I heard him speak about Wealthsimple’s inspiring purpose and values at the Great Place to Work conference I had the honor of hosting in Toronto this week. He noted almost as a “throw away idea,” that once a week he has “FUD Day” for the entire company. What is FUD Day? And why does Michael do it?

Key Point: More than ever, emotional/psychological safety is taking on much greater importance and focus within leading organizations. This is understandable in that work/life is becoming more integrated than ever, and exponential change/disruption has enveloped us all. There is just more volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) in the world. So, what is emotional or psychological safety? The definition according to one eminent scholar, William Kahn, is: “A shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as ‘being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.’”

In psychologically safe teams, members feel accepted and respected. Creating conditions for emotional safety does NOT invite complacency or entitlement. On the contrary, it is fundamental for meaningful inclusion, a sense of belonging, and an environment of sustainable innovation. No less than four current research based works I am aware of, (although I know there are many more), reinforce the vital nature of intentionally establishing the foundation of emotional safety and well-being: Google’s extensive study on teams, Daniel Coyle’s work in his recent, excellent book, “The Culture Code,” the Great Place to Work For All, research as emphasized in their analysis with well known behavioral economist Dan Ariely, and in Tasha Eurich’s terrific, “Insight.” All the data, which makes total intuitive sense, reinforces the idea that if people are fearful, they just can’t do their best. Yet, my experience is that many leaders have not given sufficient attention to this matter. I think that executives have become more anxious/pressured to increase performance through bringing in the right DNA (aka replace “underperforming” people more often), and also because I’m not sure they know what else to do to get results. The long standing idea to counter workplace anxiety, is that we tell the “survivors” that they’re “ok” after a round of firings. I actually believe, that while well intended, this is disingenuous. We all know this year’s super stars, including each of us, might be replaced next year for whatever reason. Furthermore, creating an emotionally safe culture goes way beyond the concept of job security. We all know that there is no such thing as pure job security, and that’s part of the issue. So what can we do about intentionally taking steps to create conditions for greater emotional safety in our organizations?

At a minimum, we need to consciously recognize that people at all levels, must be able to work in an environment where they are invited to openly express their views in a supportive, accepting atmosphere. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we’re all in agreement on things. However, respectful listening and frank dialogue are BOTH necessary ingredients. The conversation is indeed the relationship.

And now back to FUD. At Wealthsimple, it stands for Fear, Uncertainty or Doubt. On FUD Day, Katchen simply reads out any FUD he has received (which he intentionally invites to be sent directly to him beforehand) to the entire company. He encourages transparency ,and that people self-identify. Anonymous FUDS are also accepted. What’s unique about this process is that neither he nor anyone answers or offers a solution to the FUD at the time of disclosure. It is simply read out, a momentary pause is taken after each one, and they move to the next. Just the idea that one is invited to express a FUD and that ALL people openly hear it, adds to the emotional stability of the company. The CEO admits some are hard to read, and that he has to bite his tongue occasionally. Still, that’s the key, a non-judgmental acceptance of any FUD. It’s a great example of one small step for creating a more emotionally healthy atmosphere.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Learn/read more about the role both leadership and team members have in creating a truly emotional/psychological/physically safe environment.
  2. Why not try applying a FUD process? I am going to try it.
  3. Ask for feedback first! Lead the way. The very act of asking sets an example.
  4. Think of increasing the use of “YES, AND,” rather than “NO, BUT.”  
  5. Celebrate well intended failures with authenticity.

Addressing FUD in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think this is an outstanding concept. It makes sense that anyone in a workplace has plenty of fears, uncertainties and doubts, and if we’re able to just “rip the band-aid” off by addressing them from the top, then how great is that? I just would hope that FUD Day doesn’t turn into “Why does George in Accounting have to eat tuna and hard boiled eggs at his desk every day?”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

My Company. Want to Join?

Accountability Organizational culture Purpose

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Story: So how are we doing in terms of creating great places to work? The following are stats for the U.S. as of 2017. (Let’s assume for the purpose of this blog, that the numbers for Canada and Europe are in the same ballpark).

51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged (Gallup).

Disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion dollars annually (The Engagement Institute).

16 percent of employees said they felt “connected and engaged” by employers (EmployeeChannel).

There’s a lot more data, and little of it is sterling in terms of really positive trends. We don’t seem to be making much progress creating great workplaces.

Key Point: Most organizations are still struggling to create workplaces where participants are treated as fully functional, self-accountable, highly capable, trustworthy, well-intended adults. When one stand backs and looks at most institutional structures and processes, you realize they were built for an industrial era rather than modern one. How would you like to work for an organization that had the following attributes? 

  1. Purpose matters most. You join because you want to make the purpose more true everyday. Not just for a job. WHY the company exists, is clear, inspirational, and advances humankind. 
  2. Three values drive every part of the company; Self Accountability, Respect and Abundance. Every day starts for all with a quick reflection on the purpose and values.
  3. The business model constantly evolves to achieve the purpose. People are always first AND focused totally on how everything they do impacts the customer experience.
  4. Jobs and roles are fluid. Expectations are clear at both the individual and team level. Work constantly pivots to get the right stuff done for the customer.
  5. Every development conversation is aimed at helping people do what they’re good at, passionate about, and how value is created.
  6. Each leader is publicly rated by all, daily. The results are transparent and there for everyone to see. The same goes for each team member. There are NO stupid annual performance reviews. Results and behaviors are transparent, respectful, candid and deeply appreciated. When trends are negative, people are expected to reach out for help. All team members need to help and move the trend in a positive direction. Peer coaching in the context of work, is an everyday practice.
  7. Anyone can leave the company with a fair, pre-determined severance package at any time. Every team member has total control. The organization can also remove anyone at anytime with the same formula. No any one person can hire or fire (unless an egregious act of disrespect requires an immediate firing). Both hiring and firing is done after careful data-driven assessments by a small panel of team members.
  8. Pay and compensation benefits are fully transparent, and on a platform designed for a person of one, based on individual changing needs. 10 percent of all compensation is added for personal learning investment determined by each employee at their discretion. 
  9. Personal Time Off and vacation is determined by each person. Take what you need, when. Of course, the company values are thoughtfully applied. Employees are considerate and keep the impact to team members, customers and results in mind.
  10. Health care is aimed totally at keeping people healthy in every way. No designated sick time off. Take what’s needed. Stay as healthy as possible.
  11. Work where, when, and how you need to for the best results. Dress code is what helps you get stuff done.
  12. There is an annual profit share open and transparent to all. The more profit, the more everyone wins.
  13. Don’t be an ass.
  14. Ensure the customer becomes your best advertiser. 

Leadership Moves:

  1. Seriously consider the framework and rules behind the way you work. Do they make sense? Would you work for a company with the above framework? Why? Why not?

Loving and advancing humans everyday,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think everyone can be extremely attracted to the autonomy, freedoms, and values that this company offers. We Millennials, especially, would need to keep in mind that this also requires a ton of discipline, transparency and honesty. Perhaps at a more extreme level than we’re used to. How long till answering No. 6 above just turns into a “yeah yeah, everyone’s performing great,” when maybe they’re not? How long till that negatively affects No. 12? This is an inspiring system, but is human nature ready for it? If not, let’s individually ask ourselves what we need to do so we can be. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Make Me Rich or Die Trying!

Accountability Productivity Well-being

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Key Point: “9 to 5 is for the weak.” That is the slogan on a popular t-shirt. And my recent three-week vacation gave me a little white space to reflect on how people, including me, use their precious 24 daily hours. It’s duly noted that some people like “Crush It” guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, tells his disciples of hustle; that if they want the “bling,’ they should work 18-hours a day, continuously. And of course Silicon Valley and every other startup/venture driven “valley” anywhere, inspires much of that thinking and behavior; sometimes to a ridiculous degree. Uber competitor, Lyft, posted a blog bragging how one of their drivers went into labor and kept picking up rides on the way to the hospital. After considerable criticism, Lyft pulled down the post. Hustle and good judgment are not necessarily related. 

Chinese start-ups are now becoming notorious for outworking start-ups in other cultures. It’s about working all-in, every day, including weekends for most new Chinese ventures. This start-up reality is even impacting national strategies. The new French president, Emmanuel Macron, has vowed to take on the country’s infamous labor code (the 3324 page, Code du Travail), in order to spark more globally competitive ventures in France. And much of their work force is pushing back.

On the other hand, counter to this obsessive “grind it up” thinking, are successful companies like Basecamp, where workweeks are capped at 40 hours and reduced to 32 in the summer. The founders are publishing a second book celebrating their company culture, entitled the “Calm Company.” And there is much research that questions real productivity gains after 50 to 60 hours of weekly work. So what does this all mean?

My genuine belief is that there is no wrong or right answer to this debate. 9-to-5 is irrelevant to being weak or strong. If “bling,” or some other purpose/outcome turns you on, then be prepared to out grind and outhustle; and recognize that giving up vacations, sleep, relationships is a conscious decision. Choices are made. No complaints or whining with the consequences. Contrary to most pop culture B.S., one usually can’t have it all at the same time. Also, if you want a more integrated work/non-work experience, then that’s cool too (and also possible in both start-up and more traditional environments). Of course, at different stages of life, sometimes fate matches us up for the pace and focus that works for us at that very time. It’s recommended not to judge others through our unique filters.

Character Moves:

  1. Think about how much you are living and working the way you want to right now. Is your pace and focus right for you? Or are you just in a pattern and let the rapids take you along? Consciously choose your 24 precious hours.
  2. One way or another, do not do what you’re doing to essentially/exclusively make someone else rich (or whatever) at your personal expense. I believe that is when we really lose our way; giving up everything we truly value, without getting the mental and financial equity we deserve. 

Just working in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I too do not believe there’s a right or wrong answer for this, and it’s also a reason why this blog talks a lot more about putting in value than specific amounts of time. We know long hours certainly don’t guarantee you major financial success (just ask a nurse or fireman). I guess all we can do is produce the best work we can, and pay far more attention to our quality of contribution versus eyeing a clock.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis