Are You a First-Class Noticer?

Accountability Contribution


Key Point: It takes an intentional and mindful process to become a first-class noticer. A vital part of effective leadership is seeing the signs and acting proactively. Warren Bennis, perhaps the definitive first-class noticer, when speaking about leadership, said that the best leaders are “first-class noticers” (a term borrowed from Saul Bellow’s novel The Actual). That means they pay close attention to what is happening around them. They see things that others miss and understand when to dig deeper so that they can make informed decisions about whether action is appropriate. 

When I was the CEO of a mobile technology company, we made the best margins by reselling refurbished gear and providing third party repair on Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products. The business was so good that we were slow to react to dramatic changes impacting mobile technology and other factors that would rapidly change the business model. Add the 2008 recession to the mix and our company almost went under. It took a Herculean effort from people at all levels to reinvent the business model, save the company and eventually thrive again. In retrospect, we knew the change was inevitable. We saw the signs. We talked about the possibilities. But we were late to act on the insights. Why? 

As noted in his HBR blog, Max Bazerman has spent the past decade studying why some people notice and act on organizational threats and opportunities while others do not… The author goes on to identify three core challenges to being a first-class noticer:

“My research identifies key barriers that can cause even the most upstanding employee to ignore, overlook, or misinterpret important signals. Failure to ‘notice’ and take action can mean losing an important customer, getting edged out of a market, or even going to jail: 

Ambiguity: Important executive decisions rarely require deliberation among options that are clear and unambiguous. Often the data provide only strong hints, but not convincing evidence, that something is amiss…” (In my case, even though the signs were there, we kept making a lot of money doing it the same old way. The change happened in less than six months but the signs were there at least three years in advance).

Motivated blindness: When we have a vested self-interest in a situation, we have difficulty approaching it without bias, no matter how well-calibrated our moral compasses may be…” (In our case the company pioneered the refurbished business… Hard to change something you invented… Ego is a “first-class” noticer killer).

Conflicts of interest: Extensive research shows that our desires influence the way we interpret information, even when we are trying to be objective.” (See “motivated blindness” above). 

Being a first-class noticer applies to your business AND yourself. Often times we know the world is changing around us and the personal value we can offer is under assault. Our skills, competency and personal contribution has to change. We need to reinvent ourselves. But are we first-class noticers? 

Character Moves:

  1. Commit to improving your skills as a first-class noticer for you and your business. In my case I know people need banking, but not necessarily banks. What does that mean to the financial institution I’m part of and me? The Human Resources role is dramatically changing. How does that impact the Chief People Officer role I have? How about your role and industry?
  2. Build in a process and attract people around you to challenge ambiguity, motivated blindness, and any conflict of interest to change you might have. Do it with intention. Find a personal coach to challenge you. If you’re leading a business or group… Intentionally establish a system to test your biases and comfortable assumptions. 
  3. Have a growth mindset that makes reinvention of yourself or business a regular way of life. Notice the signs. Find a way to embrace them rather than avoid them. Try to become a disrupter rather than someone disrupted. Be self-accountable. Be first. Do it now.

First-class noticing in The Triangle, 


Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Get Ready to be Publicly Rated!

Collaboration Personal leadership Respect


Key Point: Thanks to the Internet’s relation to everything, there are a number of emerging realities. The following are two of these “truisms.” 1. If it can be publicly posted, it will be. 2. If it can be publicly rated, it will be. (You may remember these from a previous blog). 

As a leader, you are likely to experience public posting and rating of your leadership capability from both specifically known and anonymous sources.

One way or another, leadership performance is going to be much more transparent in the immediate future. Public websites like Glassdoor are just the beginning. So get yourself ready to have your performance level for all people to see. And if you’re not in a formal leadership role, expect your public employee rating to be out there for other people to see too. Yup…. Transparency is more than a buzzword or fad. It is likely to have good and not so good aspects, but overall, it’ll have a positive outcome for leadership and team member effectiveness. 

In a recent book, Leadership 2030, Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell examined the repercussions of the convergence of major forces like globalization, climate change, increased individualism, and accelerating digitization.

Among their findings is that leadership in the future will involve increased personal and business-level discomfort. Leaders will have to cope with the blurring of private and public life – and they will have to forge new relationships with competitors and employees. This requires new skills and mindsets. Ego is on its way out. The following excerpt is from their HBR blog on this topic:

“Leaders motivated by power over others will not thrive in this new world. We will see more “altrocentric” leaders, who understand that leadership is a relationship and will therefore primarily focus on others rather than themselves. Adept at engaging rather than commanding, they see themselves as just one integral part of the whole. Altrocentric leaders will be capable of long-term vision encompassing both global and local perspectives.

David McClelland points out that both emotionally intelligent leaders and their egocentric counterparts tend to be motivated by power; they enjoy having an impact on others. The difference is in the type of power driving them: Egocentric leaders tend to be concerned only with personalized power – power that gets them ahead. Altrocentric leaders, on the other hand, derive power from motivating, not controlling, others.

The altrocentric leader who is intrinsically motivated by socialized power, and who draws strength and satisfaction from teaching, teambuilding, and empowering others, will be able to handle the increased pressure of tomorrow’s business environment. They understand that they need not “have all the answers” themselves, and this mindset and willingness to turn to others for help better equips them to handle the stress of the uneasy chair.

All leaders will see life become more chaotic and overwhelming, and their struggles and management will be more visible than ever. Egocentric leaders will have a difficult time evolving, if they even can, and will be unable to thrive in such discomfort. Organizations need to develop leaders who are motivated by altrocentric leadership. They will be better prepared to succeed in 2030 and beyond.” 

Having industry, job or technical skills will be table stakes and expected. Our personal attributes and ability to connect expected technical skill through others for valued results will become the differentiator. And other people around us will very openly evaluate how we’re performing at this. 

Character Moves: 

  1. As a formal leader get ready to be publicly rated on at least four major areas: A) Ability to develop effective relationships. B) Ability to achieve great results. C) Ability to develop others. D) Ability to attract others who want to work for you.
  2. As an employee get ready to be publicly rated (at minimum) on the following key areas A) Ability to create and contribute lasting value/results B) Ability to build relationships. C) Hunger to continuously grow, improve and develop. D) Others’ willingness and fight to have you on their team.
  3. Be sure your emotional intelligence is high and as noted in the article above: Put your ego on the back burner where it belongs. Learn what altrocentric means for you. 

Rated in The Triangle,


Published and edited by Garrett Rubis

Homing From Work

Accountability Contribution Productivity


Key Point: A friend recently wanted to return to work after maternity leave, but continue her inside sales job from BOTH home and the office. (It was previously all in office). She is a high performing producer and had more than 10 years of experience with the company. Starting a family meant moving to the more affordable suburbs, but also a two-hour commute to her “old office.” Upon returning, she felt that the role from home would still get great sales results, but also support her needs as a new mother, and minimize non-value added time like commuting. The manager wasn’t comfortable with this idea because he “couldn’t see the whites of her eyes in the office every day.” Outcome: She now works for a competitor, mostly from home.

An organization that focuses on results achieved from working versus time spent at work has a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining excellent people. Why is this? Well, the best people want an environment that gives them reasonable personal control and flexibility. For many jobs, we juggle a mash up of personal and work life. Technology enables a lot of us to work from almost anywhere. So why would we artificially attach work to a place and certain hours if we don’t REALLY have to? We need to provide goods and services someone is willing to pay for. That means having the judgment to produce and show up when and where we need to. It seems the standard “nine to five” in the “office” is sometimes limiting and perhaps even a dumb way to work and live. 

Check out a recent infographic by Captivate Network on “homing from work” – Doing personal activities during the workday shows how mixing work and personal time may be the best way to rectify work/life conflicts. Data shows 93 percent of busy professionals took breaks to do personal activities during the workday in an effort to improve their work/life balance. More than two out of three of those surveyed admitted to surfing the net or shopping online while nearly half left their office to run personal errands, including going to the bank, medical appointments, picking up a gift or dropping off dry cleaning. The number of employees running personal errands during the day has increased by 31 percent. Perhaps most interesting is that the number of employees who reported having a healthy work-life balance increased by 11 percent despite a 30 percent increase in the number of individuals working more than nine hours a day.

So more people put in more time to get the desired results, yet reported a significant increase in work/life balance. It makes so much sense. Most of us want to be self-accountable and make a valued contribution. Dan Pink’s writing about the compelling nature of mastery and autonomy reinforces this. This way of thinking and behaving becomes so valuable and meaningful to a work culture that once you start you can likely never go back. I’ve seen A RESULTS FOCUSED philosophy catch fire and take on its own momentum. And like many things in life, there is a continuum, and most of us find the best place to be and work depending on where our life is. They key is a self-accountable personal philosophy and work environment that allows for reasonable freedom. It is a teeter-totter balance of accountability and autonomy. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Seek out or develop an environment where you can “home from work” and “work from home” because the focus is on you delivering results much more than you putting in time. 
  2. Even if you have to go to work at a particular time and place, seek out ways to promote people being able to attend to “life stuff” during conventional working hours. If we work at it, there are many creative solutions.
  3. Become committed to what successful results and outcomes are in your job versus primarily feeling “good or bad” about the time put in. Most of us will put in more than the time needed to deliver great results because we’re wired to achieve them.

Homing from work in The Triangle,