How Would You Do on the E Test? Your Boss?

Empathy Management Respect


People quit bosses not companies. This adage is an accepted reality of organization life. And even if people don’t quit, they can become compliant versus motivated when having to deal with a boss who lacks respect and empathy.

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found by using the E test and other experiments, that a surplus of power (that bosses often have) led to a deficit of empathy.  To learn about the E test go to Dan Pinks article in The Telegraph.

Great leaders and managers have to be strategic and decisive. Yet they are also superb at the so called “soft stuff.” Accomplished observers of leadership like Tom Peters have said over and over that the soft stuff is the hard stuff.

Character Move:

  1. Talk less and listen more. Care about the people we work with. Look at things from the perspective of others.
  2. Be nice. Being tough, decisive, and quantitative does not mean we have to act with arrogance.

Try the E test. Which way is your E pointing? Try this with your boss. How did he/she do?

Respect is part of the Triangle,


Horrible Bosses and Us

Accountability Management



I must admit that I really enjoyed the movie Horrible Bosses and found myself laughing out loud at the absurd craziness of the boss characters played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell, in juxtaposition to their three direct reports. Yes, I admit this may be a comment on my depth of intelligence ha-ha.

However, as I began to read actual stories about the number of horrible bosses people are currently working for, it actually surprised me how real these “movie character” bosses may be. If the many tweets and blog posts are true, they actually do exist and perhaps even in bigger numbers than I might imagine. With almost 10% unemployment in America, the long term uncertainty of our economy, allegedly 48 million people in the U.S. on food stamps, and a depleted or out of touch union movement, etc., one begins to wonder if bosses are acting in more unacceptable ways than ever, some just because they can. This is not so funny, and certainly not a movie. In fact I do know people, particularly those new to the work force, that are “just happy to have a job” and don’t want to rock the boat. So what should you and I expect from our boss?

A great boss (i.e. a rating score of 10) will deeply care about our personal growth and development. They will be exceptional coaches and proactively work to make us even greater than them. Of course they will be superb communicators and we will know what’s expected of us. They will not be perfect, and have off days or behavior. But we will trust them because of their fair-minded consistency and personal integrity. Of course in my language they will be self accountable, respectful, and abundant; they will embody the Character Triangle in all that they do.

Less than great bosses fall somewhere down on the “great continuum” (let’s say between 5 and 10) and we will likely work with quite a few of them in our career. Hopefully most of them are closer to a 10 than not. These bosses deserve our best and often we can help them improve too. They are usually open to learning, and working with them is most often at least tolerable. What we CANNOT do is work for the people below 5. And here is what I believe constitutes a less than 5.

Horrible bosses are bullies. They will attack us personally and consistently (or even worse, inconsistently), and blame and diminish us for whatever is wrong in their world. They will play on our well meaning desire to succeed and will grind on us until we lose our personal way. They will berate us and behave in ways where we begin to doubt ourselves and feel like we deserve what we get. They will think that our options and alternatives are limited and will behave accordingly. The worst of this kind will consciously exploit what they see as our vulnerabilities.

Character Move: if we have a horrible boss like this, we have only one reasonable strategy (and it’s obviously not the one employed in Horrible Bosses), and that’s to get out. My experience is that horrible bosses are unlikely to change. They feel that might is right. Most often, people like this hide as managers or owners in small to medium businesses. But that’s where most of us work in America. Make a concerted plan to divorce yourself, and I use that term somewhat deliberately. Make a detailed plan on how to get out and find a work environment you deserve. Most often we need a support team to help us build that plan. I am practical and realize how tough this is in our current economic environment. But, find a way to leave. Life is just too darn short as they say… (for help go to

No Horrible Bosses in the Triangle,


Do You Have an “ANT” Infestation?

Accountability Growth mindset


“Many people suffer from an ANT infestation, which stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts. Our self-talk is often automatic and can be difficult to notice. We go through life making decisions and behaving based on these automatic thoughts, and instead of controlling what we think about, our thoughts control us.”

-Joe Wilner at

This blog is so important that I want to repost most of it. The reason is that I believe that many people are burdened by negative self thought and may do so almost unconsciously. An important foundation for applying the Character Triangle is one where we recognize that our mind is not us. Our mind is just a tool and our thoughts are ones that we need to be more in control of. Please read the following and determine if you have a bit of an ANT infestation.

“The thoughts than run our life are often self-defeating, irrational, and simply not true. Negative self-talk leads us to believe we must be perfect, that we’re helpless, or that we’re a victim. If we’re not careful, negative self-talk will lead to anxiety, worry, and depression.

You can learn to identify your ANTs and begin to separate and rationalize your negative thoughts before reacting to them. There are four types of ANTs:

The Worrier

Do you ever think, “What if something bad happens?” Worrying promotes anxiety and tends to magnify problems. If you’re always focusing on and preparing for all the bad things that “could” happen it makes it very difficult to have any joy in life. Remember that 95% of what we worry about never comes true, so if you’re going to use your imagination to tell stories, you might as well make them positive.

The Critic

The critic is our ANT that tells us we will never be as good as someone else and that we might as well quit. When we judge and criticize ourselves it leads to a sense of low self-worth and we tend to ignore the positive traits we all have. Be careful not to always compare yourself to others, and be willing to cut yourself some slack and validate how you feel.

The Victim

When you encounter an obstacle do you believe you can make progress, or does it seem too difficult to work through? We have all played the role of victim in our life. It comes out during those times when we feel helpless and out of control about something. It’s easy to tell ourselves “I can’t do this!” Playing the victim role can lead to feelings of depression because we feel hopeless and incapable of making change.

The Perfectionist

Are you good enough? Have you achieved enough? This ANT is always pushing you to do more and do it better. The perfectionist is never satisfied and always expects more. This is the voice that tells you you’re no good when you get second place instead of first, or you get a 95% instead of 100%. The perfectionist ANT leads to burnout and chronic stress, and will always steal your happiness despite wonderful achievements.”

Character Move:

I am going to also re post the action steps suggested:

  1. Learn to question your negative thoughts. It’s time to terminate these ANTs and replace them with positive supportive statements. You can learn to take a step back, rationalize, and create effective mental habits. You are going to be attached to these thoughts, but you must realize that despite how attached you feel, the validity of these thoughts are based on how they hold up under scrutiny. Develop some counter statements that can offer a more realistic and empowering perspective. If you notice any of these ANTs infesting your life, ask “What is the evidence for this?” Develop a counterstatement that can help you bring your thinking to a more rational place. One where you know you can handle it and that you’re good enough. The negative statements from the worrier, critic, victim, and perfectionist have little basis in reality. Once you can discredit these ANTs you can begin to incorporate more positive and supportive statements. 
  2. Develop mindfulness. Anytime you are feeling vulnerable or stressed it can impact how you respond and what you think about. So, developing greater self-awareness will help you to recognize what’s leading to negative self-talk and help you stay focused and present in order to manage these thoughts. Mindfulness is being fully aware of what is happing internally with our mind and body, and externally in our environment. In essence, it is as if we are stepping outside of ourselves and becoming an objective observer of our self and surroundings. Learning to develop mindfulness of thought is a little more advanced stage of mindfulness practice, though when you’re able to do so, it offers a chance to gain greater awareness and simply experience our thoughts without having to react emotionally. As you begin to direct your attention to the thought processes taking place you will see how quickly your thoughts and feelings shift from one moment to the next. We often live such busy lives we don’t pay attention to the signs of our emotional response.
  3. Ask yourself:

What was going on in the environment?

What were you thinking? Did you have worry thoughts?

What were you feeling?

What were your actions?

Paying attention to the feeling or the valence of our emotions can be a great signal into the type of thoughts you are having. Do you feel positive or negative? Is what you’re feeling pleasant or unpleasant?

When you feel unpleasant don’t get caught up in this. You can relax and step back instead of unconsciously brooding in this state. You can simply acknowledge how you feel and bring your attention back to your body or breath.

You can begin to go below the surface of the tumultuous waves of the mind, where there are calm waters, and develop peace and serenity by learning to be in control of your mind as opposed to the mind controlling you.”

The above actions take conscious and purposeful practice. We are not our minds!

No ANT infestation in the Triangle,


Why Earners are Learners

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


What if you and I approached every day as if we were an empty bucket and we consciously filled ourselves up with the insight and knowledge from the people we met and things we did? What if we had the humility to have a beginner’s mind with the eager openness that a great student has? We would define our sense of being by what we were becoming as much as what we achieved and contributed.

I’ve come to understand, as a practical example of great learners, that the best sales people I know understand their customers often better the customers know themselves. They tirelessly educate themselves and go into incredible detail about the customers and can anticipate needs with uncanny insight. The best sales earners are no doubt super learners.

I’m not talking about you and me trying to be perfect. We can be content and happy and still be famished and thirsty for personal learning and development.

Character Move:

  1. Be more active about learning rather than passive in our daily activities. As an example, when we meet any one new make it a point to learn something from or about them.
  2. Be purposeful about what we learn and want to learn. This doesn’t mean that we all need to be academics but we need to see ourselves going to school daily. ANY activity we choose to invest in (from what we read, watch, listen, and do) is a source of curricula. Make each day “class time.”
  3. Write it down. Whether it’s a journal, a blog, or whatever, there is enormous value from noting what we’ve learned daily. Give yourself a test.
  4. Our talents and skills can deteriorate if we don’t continuously develop them. We should never retire from personal development.
  5. Recognize that becoming a super learner is more investing in a student mind set than in a “student loan.” We can be better students starting right now.

Be a student in the Triangle,


PS. Did you sign up for G5’s leadership learning programs?  Why?  Why not?  For 12 months of free learner use the code “g5lornerubis”.

Embarrassment at Work – What Do We Do Now?

Abundance Personal leadership


Over my 40 plus years at work I have done some dumb-ass things. As an example, in my early days as a teacher, I froze giving an announcement over the school intercom. I can still hear the kids snickering. Much later in my career, I remember the feeling of nausea while walking 30 minutes late into a meeting with the Board of Directors of a Fortune 50 company. It was my first meeting with them after getting promoted. Geez! Aaaaaaargh!!

I remember when I was the COO of a public company and injured from a fall, and the wife of one of the directors a few levels down asked me how my scrotum was doing. She clearly referenced the wrong body part, she meant sternum, and turned a crimson I have yet to see replicated. I thought her husband was going to cardiac arrest. I have more examples ha ha. So what’s the most constructive way to handle this? Let me capture and paraphrase the advice of psychologist Therese J. Borchard, Associate Editor of The World of Psychology.

  1. Get to the present moment asap. The past is gone. Regardless of how hard you try, the moment is gone. You can’t get it back.
  2. If you need to apologize, do so once ONLY. It’s in the past. Apologizing continuously makes it worse. Stop it!
  3. You are who you are. When you’re genuine, you will likely do something that’s unique to you and perhaps embarrassing. That’s the way it is.
  4. Past embarrassments didn’t kill you. Neither will this one. People are concerned enough about their own world.
  5. Don’t lose a beat. Heads up eye contact and keep going.
  6. Laugh about it. Enjoy the craziness of it.
  7. Recognize and accept you’re not and never will be perfect.
  8. Recognize and welcome the fear associated with embarrassment.
  9. Do not try and guess what other people think. Most people have likely forgot about it long time ago.
  10. Ask others for embarrassing experiences they’ve had… this will make you feel better fast.

Character Move: we only trip when we’re moving. Don’t let embarrassing acts slow us down. Recognize, accept, learn, laugh and move on.

No dwelling on embarrassment in the triangle!!


Would You Get Your Hands Dirty? Or, Are You a “Blind Passer-by”?

Abundance Kindness


You may recall from previous blogs that I ride a road bike for fun and exercise. The other day I was riding along and darn… I got a flat tire. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to get in a long ride. I hadn’t had a flat for while and was little rusty at changing my back tire. So I knew it was likely 15 to 20 minutes before I fixed it and was back on my bike, soaking in the sun (flat tire pros will scoff at this amount of time). There is a protocol in road biking: when you ride by someone who is off their bike on the side of the road, you ask them, “Do you have everything you need?” Or, “Do you need any assistance?” This is especially true on a country road and or when services are not easily accessible. Unfortunately, it’s not always convenient for the person riding by. We are all busy people, but it is the right thing to do. A tool or an extra pair of hands can really make a difference to a stranded biker. Ideally we go out biking prepared to be self sufficient, but circumstances can leave us in a tight spot from time to time. We all are likely to need help sometime.

On this particularity perfect day for riding, about 30 bikers passed by me while I was on the side of the road working on my tire (Mercer Island, Washington is a hot spot for road bikers). Interestingly about fifty percent asked me if I had everything I needed and/or stopped to see if they might help. One rider actually helped me with my chain which somehow got tangled up in the process. I could have managed it by myself, but the extra hands were really appreciated. This rider, as part of being generous, ended up with a hand full of grease; stopping to help meant “getting their hands dirty.” Chain grease is messy and something to be avoided. I greatly appreciated the support.

The other fifty percent rode by without saying a word and usually avoided trying to have any eye contact with me whatsoever. A few had an uncanny way of looking past me like I really didn’t exist at the side of the road. It was like I was the invisible man. Now I would be naïve not to think a lot of people who asked were actually hoping I would decline. I believe that if I did ask, most if not all, even if reluctantly, would have stopped to help. I did however become curious about the fifty percent that didn’t. Why not ask? Why not stop? There are probably lots of reasons unique to each person. However I do want to focus on and applaud those that were prepared to get their hands dirty.

Character Move: Who do you think at work may be struggling and needing a little assistance? Who might have a metaphorical flat tire? I know they are there “struggling on the side of the road.”

  1. Be observant. Make that eye contact. Care about them (and yourself).
  2. Genuinely ask if they have what they need and/or if they need help.
  3. Be prepared to stop and get your hands dirty. They might take you up on it.
  4. Helping does not mean you have to become the “fixer;” perhaps just a little encouragement, a lending hand, or a little listening is all that is needed.
  5. Recognize that your schedule may be impacted but your character will be too!!

Get your hands dirty on the Triangle,