Will You Be a System Leader?

Organizational leadership Respect Teamwork


Key Point: I recently looked over some qualitative research on what it takes to be a superb leader and there was little insight on the importance of system leadership. So in the spirit of being provocative, I believe the following: If you’re not a system thinker and leader, your ability to lead deep, meaningful and impactful change is limited.

The Indo-European root of “to lead,” leith, literally means to step across a threshold—and to let go of whatever might limit stepping forward. Today, more than ever, we need leaders who inspire people towards greatness and who have the courage, conviction and SYSTEM LEADING competence to do so. In their recent, brilliant article, “The Dawn of System Leadership,” the authors (Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton and John Kania) describe what the core capabilities of system leaders are:

  1. “Though they widely differ in personality and style, genuine system leaders have a remarkably similar impact. Over time, their profound commitment to the health of the whole radiates to nurture similar commitment in others. Their ability to see reality through the eyes of people very different from themselves encourages others to be more open as well. They build relationships based on deep listening, and networks of trust and collaboration start to flourish. They are so convinced that something can be done that they do not wait for a fully developed plan, thereby freeing others to step ahead and learn by doing. Indeed, one of their greatest contributions can come from the strength of their ignorance, which gives them permission to ask obvious questions and to embody an openness and commitment to their own ongoing learning and growth that eventually infuse larger change efforts.
  1. The second capability involves fostering reflection and more generative conversations. Reflection means thinking about our thinking, holding up the mirror to see the taken-for-granted assumptions we carry into any conversation and appreciating how our mental models may limit us. Deep, shared reflection is a critical step in enabling groups of organizations and individuals to actually “hear” a point of view different from their own, and to appreciate emotionally as well as cognitively each other’s reality. This is an essential doorway for building trust where distrust had prevailed and for fostering collective creativity.
  1. The third capability centers on shifting the collective focus from reactive problem solving to co-creating the future. Change often starts with conditions that are undesirable, but artful system leaders help people move beyond just reacting to these problems to building positive visions for the future. This typically happens gradually as leaders help people articulate their deeper aspirations and build confidence based on tangible accomplishments achieved together. This shift involves not just building inspiring visions but facing difficult truths about the present reality and learning how to use the tension between vision and reality to inspire truly new approaches.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Recognize that deep meaningful change involves a movement that is both inside and outside of us and the two are connected. The following is a BIG THOUGHT for many. The authors of this article state: “Continuing to do what we are currently doing but doing it harder or smarter is not likely to produce very different outcomes. Real change starts with recognizing that we are part of the systems we seek to change. The fear and distrust we seek to remedy also exist within us—as do the anger, sorrow, doubt, and frustration. Our actions will not become more effective until we shift the nature of the awareness and thinking behind the actions.” 
  1. Investigate what system leadership is about. I’m currently part of leading a large system change. I’m committed to learning more about profound system leadership and sharpen my abilities to embrace, apply, and have lasting impact. My colleagues and I deserve that. What about you? 

System leadership in the Triangle, 


One Millennial View: I love the idea of a rookie needing to earn his or her keep. In a firehouse, a police station, a dugout or the military (to name a few), new members need to prove they’re worth their salt. Great. That doesn’t mean their chief, coach or sergeant doesn’t also completely depend on them, utilize them, and expect them to perform alongside the vets. I was recently asked, “What motivates and demotivates millennials in the workplace?” A system leader seems to motivate. They didn’t hire us to just sit around, and we don’t want to. But, leaders who keep me uninvolved have me swiveling in my desk chair, wondering what I’m even doing there. Look, I’ll “fetch the coffee,” but when the real action is happening, let me get in there too. I feel like a system leader understands that. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Stay left of your BUT!!

Accountability Books Courage


Key Point: It is important for us to be thoughtful and aware of our self-talk.  Most of us spend an awful lot of time talking to ourselves. Yet we may not appreciate how our self-talk creates vivid images that evoke feelings, which often powerfully translate into self-fulfilling behavior and performance. You’ve likely heard the story about golfer’s who negative self-talk… “Geez, I’m likely going to shank this shot.” And of course, the body is happy to comply. Somehow if one says, “don’t bonk,” our action somehow forgets the “don’t” part.  On the other hand, we know that visualizing an outcome we desire can result in remarkable performance. Audience griping musicians, gold medal winning athletes, life saving surgeons and others often visualize the preferred ending before starting their “performance.” 

Dr. Peter Jensen is an internationally recognized authority on high performance. Since completing his Ph.D. in sports psychology, he has attended seven Olympic games as a member of the Canadian Olympic team and has worked with more than 40 medal-winning athletes and coaches. He is the author of The Inside Edge, which offers advice on improving personal and organizational performance under pressure. Recently Peter posted a white paper that included five things we can do to move the stories we tell ourselves from hindering to helpful. Here are Dr. Jensen’s recommendations: 

“1. Challenge what you believe.

American sociologist Louis Wirth said that the ‘single most important thing you need to know about yourself is what assumptions are you operating on that you never question?’

2. Reframe your inner dialogue.

Consciously work to make your self-talk more ‘action oriented’. Self- talk oriented around ‘what else can go wrong’ or ‘now what?’ is less helpful than seeing a problem for what it is, a puzzle to be solved. The truth is that we all have a long history of solving the problems put in front of us and dealing with change. A quick level- headed look back at how we felt about other changes when they were first introduced and where we are now in relation to them demonstrates that we are very good at this but don’t have to go through it with the same angst we did last time.

3. Breathe!

When you find that your inner stories or choice of words are creating stress or pressure, follow your mother’s advice, step back, take a few deep breaths, and move to a more appropriate mindset.

4. Stay left of your ‘but.’

A hockey coach I know encourages his players to ‘stay left of your ‘but.’ What he means by this is on those occasions where you are telling yourself a story such as, ‘I know I should be 
more patient with her but…” Simply stay left of your but and do what you need to do.

5. Question your self-talk.

Finally, spend some time asking yourself questions about what you’re saying to yourself. ‘Where did this come from? Is it helpful? Do I have to, want to, think like this?’”

Character Moves: 

  1. Start with no. 5. Become much more aware of your self-talk. How do you talk to yourself? What are you saying? Why? Is that how you would talk to your most loved ones?
  2. Really try staying to the “left of your but.” Watch and listen to others (to learn rather than judge). Once people cross over to the right side of the “but,” we often forget what was on the left. The same thing happens inside our heads, hearts and hands. Stay to the left!! 

Staying left in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: You’ll hear phrases like “fake it till you make it,” “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission,” and “you can’t win if you don’t play.” Part of me loves advice like this, it fires me up and motivates. On the other hand, it can also be frustrating because guess what? It demands risk, it’s not easy, and it’s all action-oriented that dares you to “just go for it.” If you notice, it also encourages you to disregard the “but.” When it comes to significant issues like our employment, the absence of a “safety net” in these situations can evoke hesitation… At its worst, it can cause us to stand still. The next time my inner monologue is second guessing itself, I want to remember I’ve gotten this far, so perhaps I can jump more often… At the very least, keep marching forward.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Are They Becoming Better People?

Abundance Personal leadership Teamwork


Key Point: One of our roles as leaders AND teammates is to inspire people who work for, with or around us to become better people. There is a renowned story about John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach. Coach Wooden, away from the court, met a young coach who was in awe. The star struck newbie sincerely complimented Wooden for being so great at his profession. Wooden’s response (after winning an unprecedented 10 NCAA championships, including seven in a row), was that it was too early to tell whether or not he was a great coach. His humble and sincere comment was essentially, “Wait until 20 years after my last player graduates to see what kind of men my players have become, and then we will know if I was a great coach or not.”

Jack Welch, renowned for what he accomplished as CEO of General Electric was most proud of the number of GE executives that went on to lead Fortune 50 companies. He claims that to be his biggest accomplishment.

Most of us will never be a Wooden or Welch. That doesn’t matter; we all have the capability to positively influence those around us. There is so much to learn from others. And I’m not talking about perfection. We all are capable and likely to act like asses occasionally, including Wooden and Welch. However, if people feel and see us as continuous contributors to their personal growth, then it is very gratifying for all. Think about how meaningful it would be if everyone felt that working with YOU helped him or her become a better person.

Perhaps a somewhat different angle on this idea is to be more intentional in doing so. If we actively think of this as part of our personal accountability, it will likely invoke a clearer picture of what it means to “develop others.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Paint a vivid and clear picture of what it means to develop others through our own leadership behavior. Be thoughtful about what that looks like. It is never too early or too late to embrace this mindset. What do you stand for? What will people learn from being around you? Why will they become better human beings? Not necessarily by trying to emulate you, but to understand what you embody and how that may translate through their unique selves. You’re worth the rewarding personal equity that comes from abundantly sharing yourself.
  1. Surround yourself with people who help make you a better human being, not just a better “basketball player.” And respectfully avoid toxic people who by association and extension drag you away from positive personal growth. You’re worth the forward motion… The gratifying movement attached to becoming… “I am”… A better person. 

Better in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: This takes me back to running the 40-yard-dash during football two-a-days… We’d partner up, running side-by-side with a teammate (mostly so coaches could expedite the process, probably)… But, that gave us a choice. Do you partner up with someone you KNOW is slower than you? (This way you’ll win the 40, and look good for a minute in front of coaches/teammates). Or, do you pick the person you KNOW is faster than you? That means you’ll be left in some dust, finish in defeat, for everyone to witness. I found that if you choose the faster partner, chances are they’ll motivate you to compete harder, and you’ll wind up with a better individual 40-yard time on paper than if you were just pacing your own self. That’s all that truly matters at the end of the day anyways.

Whether it’s a gym buddy, a mentor, a co-worker, your friends, your whatever… I want to partner with those that’ll challenge me to reach my personal best at the finish line, and hopefully I’ll be able to offer the same for them and others. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Chief People Officer Insights on Winning Interviews

Accountability Authenticity Organizational leadership


Key Point: Most of us only have job interviews on an irregular basis. We don’t necessarily become practiced at it. Frankly, for most of us, it’s not a skill we want to be seasoned at because we’re interested in holding jobs, not interviewing for them. Yet, there are those key occasions when we want to “sell” ourselves to be selected for an opportunity we really want. My observation is that for even the most senior positions, people could do much better if they followed a few guidelines and practiced. The 10 below are not necessarily comprehensive and are primarily table stakes, but they’re a great foundation to build on:

  1. Do deep research on the organization and people interviewing you. Be fully capable of reciting the vision, mission, value proposition, and go to market strategy of the company. Know something important about each of the interviewers and be able to connect with them personally. Then consciously make an emotional connection with the group interviewing you, both individually and collectively.
  1. Be able in less than three minutes, to answer EACH of the following:

*Give specific data driven examples of how you achieved results including solving a nasty problem or bringing exceptional value in past or current roles.

*Identify how you have collaborated, built relationships and got things done with others.

*If you’ve been in a leadership position before, be specifically capable of identifying how people working for you have progressed and developed under your coaching.

Then be able to effectively translate and connect this past behavior/ experience to the role you’re applying for.

  1. When someone asks you a question, listen very carefully to be sure you understand what exactly he or she is asking (check for clarification until you have it right) and then answer it succinctly and directly. Any answer over three to five minutes is too long. Practice, practice, practice on possible questions before the interview.
  1. Be absolutely authentic. Everyone is going to ask you what strengths and shortcomings you have. Be self-aware enough to reference feedback you have sought and received from others. And tell them about your personal development areas like it is. Don’t be coy with lazy, often disingenuous responses like: ” people tell me I work too hard,” “I have too high of expectations of myself.” Blah blah, bye bye. 
  1. While some nervous energy is good, become relaxed through proper preparation for the interview, getting there early and having everything with you. Don’t overlook the basics. Bring a pen and pad to take notes and politely explain beforehand if you’re going to do so on a mobile device. For goodness sake, look each person in the eye and shake hands like you mean it. Dress according to the culture. Ask what the best practice is beforehand if you’re not sure. 
  1. Understand that the interview begins with how you walk in the door, treat other people to and from the interview area, and ends when you leave the parking lot. I have personally not hired people based on the way they’ve treated receptionists and wait staff during lunch. True story… One interviewee threw his gum wrapper on the ground after leaving our offices. We just happened to be watching out the window. Wow… Bye bye.
  1. Be able to specify and explain how you have fun during and after work, why you’re going to make the place better and give concrete examples of how you will continue to self develop, improve yourself and why.
  1. Demonstrate that you can be a great storyteller by referring to crisp, engaging examples. And be prepared to tell the interviewers exactly who you are (your core values) and vision (what you aspire to bring to the opportunity if selected).
  1. Be prepared to present a strong close, explaining why you’re the best match and candidate, in less than one minute, while looking at every single person (ideally with a genuine smile). Remember you’re there because you’ve passed all the technical filters. People are mostly determining how well you will match up with the team and culture.
  1. Remember if you do all nine above to the best of your ability and still don’t get the job, that’s probably a good thing. You’re doing the selecting too. It’s as important that you match and fit versus just getting the job. However, put your best foot forward. Prepare, practice, prepare, practice… Then practice some more. The higher the job, the more experienced and accomplished you are, the more you have to exercise this. Like any business deal, the interviewers are looking primarily for the “NO,” or how come they should reject versus select.

Character Moves:

  1. Even if you’re not applying for any new role soon, it’s good mental practice to go through the above 10. How well could you go through one to nine if you were applying for your current job? Hmm. Anybody out there who might do better?
  1. I’ve seen candidates for a “C” suite job search I’ve been recently involved with miss on most of the above, Seriously. Their credentials and experiences are impeccable. However, their ability to really present themselves in compelling, attractive, and authentic ways leave much to be desired. They certainly have not demonstrated applying a framework like the above and as a result we haven’t seen them at their best.
  1. And don’t expect to win opportunities if you aren’t great at executing on the above 10 basics. Someone else will be. And the best organizations will patiently wait to find them.

CPO interview tips in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: As much as we’d like to separate our professional and social lives, I’ve recently heard a business guru discuss how important it is to “fit in” with a potential organization. Interviewers apparently ask themselves, “can I hang out with this person?” Know and find your niche. Think about being on a road trip with friends… That car is a specific group of people you’re willing to be in close proximity with for a long period of time. I feel like we sometimes overlook this and think credentials alone are the best way to lock down the position. Yeah, you’re primarily there to do business and be an employee, but not unlike a group of friends, I think we can be most successful when we’re in environments that just click, with likeminded individuals,  similar interests, life experiences and attitudes. I want to work and win with a team I can road trip with. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

A Listening System by Shooting 3’s!

Communication Empathy Respect


Key Point: Learn and apply a powerful listening system and people will think your ears are growing in the best way. Below you will find three GIANT and CONNECTED tools for the first time in one blog. 

I’m a big believer in the power of three (hence the Character Triangle). And I promise that you will go a long ways down the road of becoming a master communicator if you consciously apply the following three listening tools. Don’t worry about making everyone a better communicator. Instead, become one yourself and you will model it for others. People won’t exactly be sure how you do it. Some will say that you’re just naturally good at listening, but you and I will know that it’s because we are self aware, able to reach into our tool kit and apply this system. As technical requirements and competence expectations dramatically change in a digital way, being a master communicator will keep us relevant, key players in the game. Super communicators and listeners will be even more valuable and somewhat future-proof by helping people and organizations navigate dramatic change.

Tool One: Personal Emotional Connection (PEC) 

This involves three fundamental things. 1. Find and make a connection to the person (group) you’re listening to. You have something in common. Find what it is that genuinely bridges you to the other person (something as simple as a smile, or complex as a shared philosophy). 2. Empathize with the other person. Show you can genuinely stand in the other person’s shoes. Note: This most often does NOT mean sympathy… It can be as simple as, “you look like you’re in a hurry.” You don’t have to share grief and anguish to show empathy. 3. Move forward together. This can be agreeing on a solution or even agreeing to disagree… Or, simply looking forward to talking again. 

Tool Two: Presence, Process and Response (PPR) 

This involves showing you actually care what the other person has to say by: 1. Being very present, and totally absorbing what the other person is transmitting, including recognizing verbal and non-verbal cues radiating from the other. 2. Processing involves working hard to make sense what the person is really trying to communicate. If your mind is drifting into what you want to say while the other person is talking, stop! Refocus! Find the nuggets. 3. Response is play back… Confirming what you heard. This does not have to be phony paraphrasing or patronizing if you deep down disagree. It is a genuine response to demonstrate you have listened and understand. 

Tool Three; Situation, Target and Proposal (STP) 

This tool is great for convening small talk or navigating the most difficult problem solving. 1. Exploring the situation is agreeing to the salient observations about what’s in the environment impacting the conversation topic. 2. Determining TARGET involves finding out common objectives and mutual desires. 3. Proposal development includes coming up with ideas or recommendations that help achieve targets while keeping in mind the situation. (See the resource section on my site for a more complete explanation).

Here’s the real secret sauce: Learn to apply the 3×3, (all three tools, and each group of three principles at the SAME time). A master communicator can unconsciously apply all the behaviors rocking back and forth between all three categories. The nine principles connected together become a listening engine you can really rev up. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Commit to becoming a master communicator. Recognize where and how to proactively apply all three tools and nine principles. 
  2. Practice all of them everyday at every listening opportunity; including when you talk with yourself.  Be aware of what worked well. What didn’t. How you might better apply them next time. 
  3. Celebrate the improved relationships you’ve developed!

Shooting listening 3’s in The Triangle! 


One Millennial View: Someone was speaking recently about how it was an annoying pet peeve of theirs to receive texts about a specific time, place, or previously mentioned specific that was recently discussed via text already. Depending on their relationship with the person, their immediate response would likely be, “Hey, just scroll up!” Or, if it was Google-able, like an address, then they’d appreciate if the person could do their own research. Is that a tad intolerant? I suppose… But, I think we can all see this person’s point to a degree. And, in comparison, applying the 3’s in conversation is almost a real-life version of being able to “scroll up,” and remember those details from past conversation to prevent being redundant. Sure, a reminder is always nice, but it’s really appreciated if when already briefed, you’re ready to take the conversation into uncharted territory. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Get Personally Ready for ‘Rateocracy’

Accountability Growth mindset Organizational leadership


Key Point: You and I will be rated on the Internet and it will be there for all to see. It’s not “if” but “when.” Those following my blog have heard this before and the concept, labeled by some as “Rateocracy,” is definitely trending.  Sodexo’s 2015 Workplace Trends Report reveals that employees and consumers are gaining greater influence over corporations’ behavior thanks to this new form of public accountability. This is putting unprecedented pressure on companies to act with much more transparency. Soon it will put more pressure on leaders and eventually it will come down to you and me. Every day folk’s performance and contribution will be there to search and see. To some extent a Google search provides a little insight today, and of course companies like Glassdoor rate employers and at minimum, the CEO. However, I’m talking about it being more direct and intentional at very personal levels; the “Glassdoor for all.”

As an example I could see a website emerging where you might:

“Rate Lorne Rubis as a Leader.”

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10 how well does he get results, develops strong relationships, and helps others improve? 
  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, would you recommend a friend to work for him? Would you be a net leader promoter or leader detractor of him? 
  1. What are his best strengths? Why you really like working for, beside, or in his area?
  1. What drives you crazy about him sometimes? 

Implications? Will this be good for us? It can be a little intimidating. I’d be personally troubled if I got low scores on the above and somewhat embarrassed if it was there for all to see. However, it is what it is. Just because it’s not visible right now doesn’t mean the reality doesn’t exist. So, I believe the most important consideration will be our mindset. If we see this transparency as a way to continuously improve and learn, it will likely be helpful. It will be important to have a strong sample size and some cumulative history so we get meaningful trends. If only five people rate us, the data may not mean much. And currency is important. I wonder when restaurants leave their “Best Rated” sign up from 1997.

Character Moves: 

 1. Work as if you were being publically rated right now. Find out how you would do. Start preparing by going through one daily checklist. Ask yourself: 

Did I bring value today? To whom? Did it matter? Ask what results did I achieve? Did I exceed expectations? Did I create a “wow,” or just show up?

How did I make people feel today? Did I further my relationships?

Did I give more than I took today? Who did I thank or coach? 

Rateocracy in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I heard a viewpoint I liked recently where someone said they tried to operate where “everyone they worked with would have something good to say about them with whoever they were out to dinner with that night.” Sounds simple, but get it? Their goal isn’t only a positive review, but to deliver a nice enough experience where they’d come up during dinner. It’s so obtainable, but takes the effort suggested above. Let’s become positive dinner conversation. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis