Can You Step It Up? Seriously?

Accountability Books


Key Point: Followers of The Character Triangle know that one of the three core values is Self Accountability. It is a belief, state of mind and set of behaviors that really differentiates people at work (and life).

Two top notch leadership gurus reinforce the Self Accountability concept: Marshall Goldsmith and Dr. John Izzo. Goldsmith was recently recognized as the No. 1 leadership thinker and the No. 7 business thinker in the world at the bi-annual Thinkers50 Ceremony sponsored by the Harvard Business Review. Dr. Izzo recently released his sixth book, Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything. John’s book shows how stepping up and being self accountable is good for your career, the workplace, and one’s overall well being. The following is an excerpt from Marshall’s blog, interviewing Izzo, in the Huffington Post:

 MG: What is Stepping Up and why is it the right book for our time?

JI: Stepping Up is seeing a need and deciding you are the person who can, should and will do something about it. We live in a time when we face so many problems such as poverty and climate change can only be solved when each of us steps up in our sphere of influence to create change. What’s more victim thinking has become pervasive in our society with everybody pointing a finger at someone else as the source of the problem. What we need are people at work and in communities who step up and decide they are going to create change.

MG: “It’s not my job,” “it was someone else’s fault,” “she needs to change,” and “someone should do something about this or that,” are phrases that you hear often. What is the impact on a person’s career and life when those words become the norm?

JI: Research shows that people who focus on what they can change rather than the external forces that influence them are more successful, less stressed and happier than those who feel like victims. What’s more we can’t fix anything but ourselves, so the moment we focus on what someone else needs to do we lose our power. In the book I suggest that every time you find yourself saying “someone else should do something about… ” you should instead ask, “What can I do about this?” It’s as true in a relationship as it is in a company or a community.

MG: You say stepping up is good for your career but a lot of people believe that people who stick their necks out at work get their heads cut off. Yet you share some fascinating research that suggests the opposite is actually true.

JI: The myth at work is that speaking up and challenging things will get you in trouble. But in the book I show research that shows that the opposite is true. People who speak up and challenge the status quo by bringing constructive ideas for change are rated more highly by their managers and are more likely to get promoted. But there is a caveat. People who finger point and blame are rated poorly so the key is to be what I call a “constructive irritant.” Speak up with ideas rather than blame and always begin by saying “here is what I will do.” Those are the kind of people who get ahead.

Character move:

  1. Challenge yourself to “step up” at work. Are you really stepping up? Bring constructive ideas and act on them for change and improvement.
  2. Do not blame or point fingers (as seductive as it is). Just work off your personal foundation. Step up on what you can control and influence.
  3. Remember that good bosses want and appreciate constructive help. It is good for your career and personal development.
  4. Reread chapter one from The Character Triangle (now carried by Hudson Booksellers at major airports). Watch videos of some of the people Izzo and team feature in the book Stepping Up. Read anything by Marshall Goldsmith.

Stepping it up in The Triangle,



Making Peace With Our Regrets?

Accountability Authenticity Personal leadership


Key point: “If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them. We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly, it reminds us that we know we can do better.”

Sometimes the best thing one can write is already written. The above quote is by journalist and self proclaimed “wrongologist,” Kathryn Schulz from her wonderful presentation on the topic of “regret” as captured in the TED Talks series. It is 17 minutes long but really worth the watch.

Research shows, as pointed out by Ms. Schulz in her presentation, that the biggest areas of regret are around education, career, and relationships.

Recently I have had to focus on my career journey and of course I have regrets. I still feel pain when I reflect on them. But I genuinely have come to understand how imperfect I am and how important working on my flaws has contributed to my personal growth. My regrets have made me a better person. There are documented stages to the psychology of regret and essentially, as Schulz points out, they include denial, bewilderment, and self punishment. They often play like a broken record, over and over and over again.

My challenge has sometimes been the latter part of the regret process: Replaying a continuous loop, essentially calling myself out with unkind self blame… Something like, “how could you be so stupid?” Over the years I’ve become much better at accepting and making peace with my regrets and STOPPING the replay. It is unreasonable and perhaps not even right to just forget or pretend the past is the past. But it is even more important to accept, learn and not hate ourselves for our regrets. We need to make peace with regret!

Character move:

  1. Apply the make peace strategy as neatly captured by
  2. Remember that many, many people have made the same or similar mistakes, have the ability to laugh at ourselves and our humanness (not because what we did was likely funny), and allow time to add perspective and learning. Regret is a benchmark for getting better.

Peace with regret in The Triangle,



Get Buzzed: The Science of Teamwork

Collaboration Respect Teamwork


Key point: I believe everything is a process and the process is everything. I also believe that optimization comes from system thinking and executing on a defined methodology. Great teams have this. How do you think about teams you are part of? What makes a great team? How important is communication process versus content?

I have been fortunate to be part of some great teams. There is a palpable “buzz” that comes from the “hive” when the team is really working well together. I have felt the “hum” on a team bench, inside of a locker room, and in the board room. Everybody has a role and clear contribution. Each member is expected to do their part and people have each other’s back. Banter and well timed humor rings off the walls even when working on the most serious of matters. The feeling is so good it makes one feel almost euphoric. Trust is high. The team learns HOW to communicate with each other. You just know the team will win. Our challenge is to better understand, develop and replicate great team process and methodology.

MIT’s Alex “Sandy” Pentland and his team at The Human Dynamics Laboratory, are exploring new mathematical driven methodologies on team building by having research participants using wearable electronic sensors called sociometric badges. Note the following from the Harvard Business Review blog entitled “The Hard Science of Teamwork.”

“According to our data, it’s as true for humans as for bees: HOW we communicate turns out to be the MOST important predictor of team success, and as important as all other factors combined, including intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions. The old adage that it’s not what you say, but how you say it, turns out to be mathematically correct.

Just how powerful these patterns of communication are can be surprising. For example, we can predict with eerie precision whether a team will perform well or not, and we can predict with a high rate of success whether or not team members will report they’ve had a “productive” or “creative” day based solely on the data from the sociometric badges. If this seems like a statistical parlor trick, it’s not. By adjusting group behavior based on this data, we’ve documented improved teamwork.”

Pentland’s data shows that great teams:

Communicate frequently. In a typical project team a dozen or so communication exchanges per working hour may turn out to be optimum; but more or less than that and team performance can decline.

Talk and listen in equal measure, equally among members. Lower performing teams have dominant members, teams within teams, and members who talk or listen but don’t do both.

Engage in frequent informal communication. The best teams spend about half their time communicating outside of formal meetings or as “asides” during team meetings, and increasing opportunities for informal communication tends to increase team performance.

Explore for ideas and information outside the group. The best teams periodically connect with many different outside sources and bring what they learn back to the team.”

Character move:

  1.  Observe HOW your team communicates. Recognize that “HOW” the team communicates is the most important predictor of success.
  2.  Determine communication process against the following criteria as noted above: Frequency, balance, informal, and outside learning. Learn more on these from Pentland’s research.
  3.  Continue to practice “crucial or fierce ” conversation skills as emphasized in previous blogs.
  4.  Remember that how you make people feel when you communicate is a vital part of great team and individual dialogue.
  5.  Improving team work involves process, and methodology. Good science can guide and accelerate our success. Develop your team development methodology. Practice getting better.

Team Buzz in The Triangle,


Do Your People Trust You?

Abundance Books Teamwork


Key point: Leadership effectiveness and trust are two sides of a mirror. Establishing trust requires conscious attention and practice. In order to establish trust, we have to work on both our character and competence simultaneously. Are you trusted as a leader? Team member? How do you know? How would you be rated on the competence and character scale?

Upon recently leaving the company I was CEO at for almost eight years, I wrote a farewell note to all team members and thanked them for trusting me at the helm. Trust was their gift to me. They were always there to encourage me in success and pick me up when I failed. It is a privilege to be in a leadership position and one can’t be optimally effective without having the trust of the entire team. To develop additional insight on the trust challenge read the following Harvard Business Review blog by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback, authors of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader.

Their HBR blog focuses on two significant components of trust; competence and character.

“For people to trust you as a boss, they must believe in your competence to know what to do as a boss. At one time or another, we’ve all had bosses whom people said, “he doesn’t know the business” or “she doesn’t understand what we do.” No one would trust you to do brain surgery because you’re incompetent in that context…

Character is equally important. It refers to your intentions, what you’re trying to do, your goals and values as a boss. If, for example, people think you’re only out for yourself, driven by blind ambition, and don’t care about them, the group, or the work, they will distrust your character, no matter how much you know.”

Character move:

  1.  Be aware and present regarding your competence and character “score” as it relates to trust.
  2. To reinforce competence fully engage the expertise around you. People don’t expect you to know everything, but understanding how and why you make decisions and the extent to which you make that clear to all parts of the organization is a vital trust element.
  3. Work on and continue to develop your character. This is what The Character Triangle is all about. However, we’re not perfect. People know we will make mistakes. They will help us be true to our values if we truly care about them in the most genuine way. Remember that you live in a fish bowl and every act, big or small, connects to define our character.

Trust in the Triangle,



Value Card Versus Business Card?

Accountability Contribution Personal leadership


Key Point: As we learn more about real contribution, it is very important to focus less on your job title and contact information on your business card. Instead, demonstrate the “actual value” you’re able to provide employers. Who really cares what the title on a business card is these days? And with digital identity, many people don’t really care about business cards at all. At the same time, I do believe, words like “president,” “director,” “manager,” “partner,” “Dr.,” etc. carry some introductory weight. But as we determine the benefit of a relationship with others, proof and evidence of “value provided” is what really counts.

It is really interesting to be back interviewing for a job after eight years of being a CEO of an international, privately held, profitable company.  I am, by business card criteria, very accomplished. I have CEO and president in my title, three times. COO once, and VP three times. I also have the titles of “founder” and “partner.” I might as well have the title of “Supreme Intergalactic Commander.” The reality is that people who are interviewing me only care a little about those titles. However, they are laser fixed on my ability to demonstrate how I solved problems and achieved results. And they are very sophisticated in separating wheat from chaff.

 Character Move:

  1.  Wherever you are in your career/ job, document problems solved and results achieved. Do it as you go, not after you have left.
  2. Develop a “value offered card” more than a “business title card.” Be great at a few things… Benchmark to be the very best. Practice, practice, practice, and ten years later, few will have your results and skill. This will hopefully allow you to monetize the equity you have built in yourself. (Think ahead… Is anyone going to care about what core skills you currently have a few years from now?)
  3. Most of us are NOT great at everything. Be honest about areas that are not strengths. However, let’s commit to being THE best at what we’re good at and like to do.
  4. Someone out there likely needs what you are good at and like to do. That value, in the western capitalistic society we live in, usually is expressed in monetary terms. For example, the value we bring to the largest group who needs/wants what we have to offer, usually results in the biggest monetary pay out.
  5. Build a value card more than a business card.

Value card in the Triangle,

– Lorne


Be Grateful and Tweet a Beer

Abundance Gratitude Well-being


Key point: Gratitude is directly connected to the value of abundance. In FACT, expressing and feeling a sense of gratitude is good for us. Dr. Robert Emmons and his team at UC Davis have conducted important research to determine the relationship between having a sense of gratitude and our sense of well being. On the other hand, referencing the work of Oxford’s Matt Ridley, the authors, Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, in their book Abundance, note that we have a propensity to embrace pessimism. The concept called “loss aversion,” which is a bias towards putting more emphasis on our losses versus wins, can put us into a “sour puss” rut. Practicing gratitude is a great antidote!

The following summarizes Emmons’ (August 2011) findings regarding the benefits to people who score high on the gratitude scale:

  1. Well-Being: Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feelings more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.
  2. Prosociality: People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathetic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.
  3. Spirituality: Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment and responsibility to others. Gratitude does not require religious faith, but faith enhances the ability to be grateful.
  4. Materialism: Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods. They are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated. They are less envious of others and are more likely to share their possessions.

Character move:

  1.  Practice being grateful by consciously identifying what and who we are grateful for.
  2. Get into the habit of writing down what and who we are grateful for on a daily basis. If daily feels like too much, try it once a week.
  3. Be careful of the negative outcome of having a loss aversion bias. Let’s put wins and losses in perspective. If you focus on loss and lack, that’s what you’re likely to experience.
  4. Have fun being grateful. e.g. When grateful for what someone might do for you, tweet them a beer ….See Tweet-A-Beer.
  5. Read Abundance by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. It makes us more hopeful for the future!

Gratitude in the Triangle ,