Can You and I Light a Flame For BETTER Character?

Accountability Authenticity Kindness


Key Point: The answer to the title is a resounding, “YES.”

Take a few scenarios from the news over the past week as examples. First, the Lance Armstrong doping saga, then the bizarre Manti Te’o scandal. We see character breakdown on the big public stage everyday. An athlete cheats and does not take full responsibility. Politicians attack each other instead of the issues. An investment advisor greedily steals from his clients.

We also see the other side. This week I was inspired by the story of Spanish runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, who gave up victory to let a deserving opponent win after they accidentally stopped short of the finish line. 

There are a number of other stories like the Anaya story. An athlete wins clean and overcomes adversity in doing so. Politicians meet and respectfully connect for greater good. High profile people do show incredible generosity.

We can do little to influence the behavior of others, but we do have control over how we act in our own sphere of influence. Most of us touch and interact with many. We certainly impact them. Sometimes, and more often than we think, we even inspire them by what we say and do. When we constantly work at improving ourselves and our character it moves us forward. That is enormously rewarding.

That’s why I’ve made it my purpose in life to reinforce the values of self-accountability, respect and abundance. They are not the beginning or the end of what defines character. Obviously traits like integrity, perseverance, will, and others make up the entire spectrum. Research tells us that these values are foundational and have extraordinary impact when connected.

With this in mind, I love it when I come across inspiring stories of great sportsmanship and character. I like to share them when I see them. These small incremental wins are oxygen for the character flame.

Character Move:

  1. Think about what stories about character have inspired you lately. Please share them with me and others if you can!

Light a flame in the Triangle,



Do You ‘Upsell’ or ‘Upserve?’

Authenticity Contribution Respect


Key Point: Upselling is essentially getting people to do more for your benefit. Upserving is elevating what you can do for others. I promised you more from Dan Pink‘s new book, To Sell is Human, so here it goes:

One of the more dehumanizing terms in business is “upsell.” In my role as a leader I have mindlessly used this term often. For years it has been standard fare in most sales processes and training manuals. But, think about how we feel when we’re on the other side of “upselling.” When we go to buy a retail product, we often have to fend off getting sucked into purchasing accessories and warranties we don’t want or need. A lot of times, post transaction, we get bit by that dreaded bug we all know as “buyer’s remorse.” It can literally make us feel sick to our stomach.

What would happen if in a buy/sell transaction, the focus of the seller was to upserve? This would involve the seller elevating what they could do for the buyer and seeing the buyer as a highly valued friend. We would want to enrich, not diminish the relationship.

Pink suggests always asking two questions to guide us in a buy/sell relationship and in doing so, it reinforces the concept of upserving:

A. If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will their lives improve?

B. When your transaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?

Now this may seem soft headed and naive for those who cling to old sales models of maximizing margin on every transaction… “Buyer beware,” right? But in today’s world of mega choice and mobility, buyers are too smart and savvy to repeat one sided buy/sell relationships. The person who really needs to beware is the seller.

Character Moves:

  1. Recognize that when we are asking or persuading others to give something of value (including time and focus) for something we have, we are “in sales.” New research suggests that we all spend much of our time “in sales” each day.
  2. Become more proficient helping others move themselves to a better state of being. This is really the new and desired skill of selling.
  3. Most importantly, enter a transaction from the viewpoint of upserving. This involves a genuine care for the benefit of the others involved. It does NOT mean servitude or suppressing one’s individual needs (like making money in a commercial transaction). But it is a different angle and approach that sincerely drives the seller and buyer to reach the “BETTER” for all involved.

Upserving in the Triangle,



What Does MLK Mean to You and Work?

Contribution Respect


Key Point: This past Friday, in honor of Martin Luther King Day in the U.S., our 5-year-old grandson and his kindergarten class went on a short freedom march. What a great, early metaphor for understanding the importance of moving forward. It reminded me that we should all be marching towards BETTER, and sometimes we forget that. Often MLK Day passes by and I don’t give it a lot of thought. Many of us see this is a worthy celebration of a very inspirational and impactful man. And most of us associate Dr. King with his courage and influence during the civil rights movement in the U.S. However, if one does a search on MLK’s quotes, and reads a little more about his grace and insight, we are reminded that few historical leaders have ever been able to use the power of words to stop us in our tracks, and in paradox, propel us forward.

As you know I mostly write about leadership and character in the context of work. Today, it is an honor to connect a little of MLK to those themes. (Yes I know, some of you will point to MLK flaws… He wasn’t a perfect human… Neither are you, I or any person… As an example, Mother Teresa was a notorious “sour puss,” but that does not diminish her contribution).

Character Move:

  1. Reflect on the MLK statements below. What do they mean to you personally and people you work with? If we individually and collectively worked with a vision to make things BETTER for OTHERS, came to really know and understand each other, had the courage to do what was right and to speak and listen to each other with grace and understanding, we would accelerate the progress of organizations everywhere. We could all benefit from some MLK inspiration:

 “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

 “On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?”

A little MLK in The Triangle,



Do You Take It Personally?

Empathy Organizational leadership Respect


Key Point: We are ALL sales people… Get over it. It’s a great thing! Exceptional sales people connect solutions to problems. They love to make things better for others. Those who know me have heard me introduce myself as a salesman, regardless of the formal positions I’ve had, whether it be CEO, COO, VP Quality, teacher, CPO, founder, etc… I’m proud to be a salesman… I don’t mean the pressure-packing guy with white loafers, wanting to manipulate you… I mean the “solution” person that finds your pain point and relieves it.

I deeply respect Dan Pink. His work as a researcher and author has had a profound impact on me. His book Drive, is a reference for my strategy on compensation and motivation. And now his latest book, To Sell is Human, provides additional perspectives that are significant to both individuals and organizations. Why? He connects research to insight and sends us on fresh and important paths. I will blog on a number of key findings from this book over the next few months.

Essentially, sales is a service function. But for the best sales people, this is a deep commitment to make peoples’ lives better. Dan Pink shows us research on this, and highlights two principles that reinforce a dedication to serve others. 1. Make it personal and 2. Make it purposeful. Let’s focus on the first. 

My wife rented out a house to a wonderful couple in their late 70’s. As you would expect, age and life had made them bent over and fragile. One day when we visited with them, they showed us pictures of their time, long ago, in Iraq. They stood next to the British Ambassador and his wife; it was a black tie affair. They looked Hollywood glamorous in the photograph, (movie star beautiful… All of them). I always looked at our tenants differently after that. In Pink’s book, he cites a study about radiologists who were much more precise and comprehensive in their findings when they saw photos of the people attached to x-rays they examined. The “pictures” made their diagnosis much more personal, and ultimately effective.

Character Moves:

  1. Personally connect with the people you’re trying to serve. Whether it’s your boss, teammate, partner, customer or whoever you are trying to impact. Do everything to see the humanness of the other person. Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, ensures that there is an empty chair in every meeting he attends. That empty chair represents the customer and it is the responsibility of Amazonians to recognize the customer has a face, and a life. We need to be able to fully comprehend and fill that “empty chair” in our world with deep understanding. We must care. And you can’t fake it.
  2. Put yourself personally behind what you’re selling. If you don’t give your customers, clients, teammates, partners, your 24/7 availability to warranty what you stand for… Forget it. Then you’re not serious about your commitment to serve. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have protected private time, but I am saying if you are in the service business, it has to be personal… Both ways!

More lessons to connect with Dan Pink to come!

Make it personal in The Triangle,



Want to Test Your Market Value? Try It

Abundance Personal leadership Transformation


Key Point: I believe there is huge value in thinking and acting as an entrepreneur in any environment. Constantly ask yourself who would pay for your personal “offering” if you weren’t being paid by someone else tomorrow. Let’s say you lost your job today and the only way to get a paycheck was to put your skill into the market place. How would you do?

I was 29 years old, my wife was six months pregnant with our second child, and we had just bought a house with an unbelievable 17 percent interest rate on our mortgage. My business partner and I started a consulting company, using our two weeks vacation and $250 dollars as working capital. I remember the delicious mix between fear and excitement. We never looked back and built what became a very successful business for 10 years. In some ways it was more luck than brains, but the best thing about having been an entrepreneur is that I NEVER worry about whether I can “put food on the table.” It is gratifying to know that one can thrive with no corporation or public entity paying your way. You learn to take action that creates value. There is NO “THEY.” Sometimes I want to throw up when I hear coddled and entitled employees whining about this and that. The less sensitive me wants to say, “Shut up and do something about it or leave and go do something of value. See if anyone wants to pay you for it?”

The following are key things to put in place to build that entrepreneurial you.

Character Move:

  1. Consciously build your brand. I am privileged to be the Chief People Officer at ATB Financial. But I am also the Lorne Rubis brand inside and outside the company. That’s one reason I continuously develop We are all individuals, but unless we are also a brand, our individuality will be invisible. According to Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s blog, The Future of You, a brand “means showcasing that which makes you special, in a way that is distinctive (recognizable), predictable (consistent), and meaningful (it allows others to understand what you do and why).”
  2. Commit to being known for building, creating and making things better. Who really cares if you are a lawyer, doctor, candlestick maker, teacher, laborer, etc? What are you known for? How do you make things better? Why would anyone care? And don’t mope around thinking you’re just ordinary. You may not be flashy but you are the only YOU. And we are hard wired to create and connect. Have the courage to be responsible for your own state of being. Don’t be afraid to get support. I could not have been successful starting that company without my wife’s encouragement and business partner’s competence. 
  3. Become a super connector. If you can rapidly and effectively connect solutions to problems, people to each other, ideas to money, etc. you will attract buckets of value. Do not isolate yourself. If you’re by yourself literally and/or digitally, you will get in a dark, unproductive hole… It’s only a matter of time. That doesn’t mean we don’t need alone time. Of course we do. But we are built to be with each other. In today’s digital environment we have the opportunity to embrace the world. Do that AND make room for feeling the personal energy of the people. Embrace them. They deserve you and you them.

Personal market value in The Triangle,



Do You Have the Courage to Quit Your Job?

Accountability Purpose


Key Point: Everyone wins when you quit your job. No one wins when you “quit” on the job.

“Here’s the cold truth: Deciding you want to quit is usually just the first move in a sometimes long and arduous cerebral chess match you’ll play with yourself. The reasons that over 70 percent of Americans stay in jobs they hate might surprise you. I’ve found that people’s inability to quit their current roles had little to do with the perceived riskiness of their new professions, their financial situation, or general economic conditions. The real barrier for most of us is not external. It’s our own psychology: We over think decisions, fear eventual failure, and prioritize near-term, visible rewards over long-range success.”

The above quote is from Daniel Gulati, author of How to (Finally) Quit Your Job. It was one of the most read Harvard Business Review blogs in 2012. Why? Because almost all of us have been at this intersection before. If not, we’ll likely be there one day. Navigating through the decision of staying or going is relatable. My belief is when people stay with jobs, organizations or bosses they deeply dislike, they are seriously wasting the organization’s and their personal resources.

It is ok if a job, profession, trade or organization does not fit for us. In fact, it makes sense. Our personal circumstances and perspectives evolve. And so do organizations. Business models, and turbulent environmental factors dictate continuous change. “It’s not like it was before,” is an accurate reflection of most organizations we work in. However, do you think you are doing your organization or colleagues a favor by sticking around if you detest your work? And please don’t think that your “honest day’s work” is enough for people to notice your absence. If any of us think we are indispensable, we will be surprised how quickly our spot is taken up. But forget about your organization for a moment… What about you? Your happiness and well-being is the most important result. And in the world of work there definitely is an intersection between what you’re good at, what you like to do and what is valued by others. Find it. I know it’s easier to say than do. But staying miserable is worse.

Character Moves (Gulati’s and my suggestions):

  1. Quit for a better long-term trajectory, not a quick win. Develop a game plan. Map out what the rest of a long-term journey would ideally look like. Outline an attractive “next step” and make sure you’ll value its rewards. Don’t quit into an empty space and hope it will turn out. YOU will be the constant variable, so determine how the next step will be better for you, not just a change. But don’t look for “perfect” conditions either. There will always be a reason not to act.
  2. Quit after hitting calendar milestones, not performance-based ones. Once you accept that you want to go, set a date based on having a good plan. Do not wait for the year-end bonus, or some other “carrot” if it just keeps the cycle of hate going. Execute on the game plan. Don’t hope to win the lottery.
  3. Quit discreetly and avoid the Facebook fireworks. Settle into your new role privately, and gradually update your friends in person, not over Facebook. If you don’t share it, they can’t spread it. More importantly recognize that you will likely cross the bridge with past colleagues and your organization again. And recognize that your relationship with your employer was a two-way exchange. Sometimes it happens in unpredictable ways. Be welcomed as an alumni.
  4. Quit or recommit. Please stop hoping, whining, blaming, complaining and regretting. Have the courage to change the situation by leaving. If not, working through the above can sometimes give you an opportunity to recommit with a refreshed approach. In either case you have “quit” and have taken a step forward. That will be good for you and all those around you.

Quit to win in The Triangle,