The VW Defeat Device

Accountability Authenticity Management


Key Point: Do you actively employ a “defeat device” in your life? I’ve never heard the term “defeat device” before, but I guess the idea has been around forever. It’s a fancy term for cheating, lying, manipulation and deception. That’s what Volkswagen, rated by many pundits as one of the most notable, green and socially responsible brands in the world, was caught doing: Employing a DEFEAT DEVICE. How clever of them.

Most of us have now heard reports that VW used a device which allowed diesel cars to achieve stellar emission tests in the lab, while failing miserably in the real world. According to the Globe and Mail, over 11 million VW diesel cars have been spewing out toxic emissions at levels approximately 35x greater than those achieved in lab results. The negative and far reaching environmental, health and financial impact is yet to be fully determined. The VW CEO was appropriately terminated and the overall impact to VW’s reputation still hasn’t hit the bottom. Further investigation hopefully will provide additional insights and impact assessments, but if one knows anything about the working of organizations, a lot of employees at Volkswagen had to know about this defeat device. I can’t imagine this work being the deceitful and manipulative project of a rouge engineer (or even a few). What makes people gag even more is knowing that VW is actively promoting itself as a leader in developing fuel efficient cars. It even launched the “Fun Theory” initiative a few years ago, where it encourages customers and the public at large to make suggestions on how to connect “fun and green” together. The theory is that people will want to drive environmentally friendly cars if it’s fun to do. Wow!

Why would VW knowingly allow this to happen? As Warren Buffett has famously noted, there is so much money to be made within the boundaries of integrity, why play at the edge? VW is the result of what a collection of actual human beings does. This deceitful behavior emerged from some VW people consciously deciding that a “defeat device” was acceptable. So the idea of a defeat device ultimately begins at a very personal and individual level.

Character Moves:

  1. We are of course all very human and fallible so it might be worth reflecting where we might be aware of or perhaps even be involved in applying a “defeat device” in our personal daily lives; portraying one result in the “lab,” while living another way in real life? Of course, as painfully demonstrated by VW, the “defeat device” eventually lives up to its name… It defeats us personally.
  1. We have an obligation to call out for help and seek counsel when determining the right thing to do in organizations. Defeat devices of any kind are a slippery slope of deceit. When we know it’s wrong in our gut, it likely is. And soliciting the help of others to check our thinking and call it out is necessary. I have to believe that VW wishes somebody or group would have vehemently protested applying a defeat device to trick the emission results. As proven time and again, it takes years to build a valued brand (personal or otherwise) only to have it trashed in minutes/hours based on the wrong behavior.  And intentional deceit is a true defeat device, personally, professionally and organizationally.

Against Defeat Devices in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Despite working in the entertainment industry for years and covering every “cheating” scandal since 2011, I still get surprised that some people cut corners and play shady games when they can. Disappointingly, it’s usually people you hope and wish would never… Then, these stories are even worse when obviously people break their moral fiber in order to downplay their risk of negative consequences or legal liability. If you’re a leader breaking the rules, have the self-accountability to make sure you aren’t dragging down the masses with your scummy plan. Punch buggy, no return… I’m glad this VW Bug finally got squashed.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Yogisms: Tenants to Guide Our Work Life

Happiness Personal leadership Respect


Key Point: We have likely all benefited from the locker room wisdom and comic philosophy of the legendary Yogi Berra. He died on Sept. 22 at the age of 90, and the event touched an affectionate memory lane nerve among baseball fans and many others. Berra was a Hall of Fame baseball catcher and manager. While Yogi’s athletic prowess is legendary, he is equally renowned for his “Yogisms.” The hilarious quips are deliciously comical and have a jumbled up way of conveying insightful and perhaps even profound meaning. I’d like to share a few, and give a little tribute to Yogi by translating them as I think they may best apply to the world of work and organization life.

Yogism 1: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” 

This phrase could guide all career planning. We could have it become the final statement of everyone’s personal development plan.

Yogism 2: “90 percent of the game is half mental.” 

This could be the opening and closing statement of every performance coaching session.

Yogism 3: “You wouldn’t have won, if we’d beaten you.”  

What we could say by default to the competition when they beat us in the market place.  “Na na nana na, you wouldn’t have won if ___” 

Yogism 4: “Make a game plan and stick to it. Unless it’s not working.” 

The practical reality of all strategic plans is summed up in this one phrase.

Yogism 5: “We made too many wrong mistakes.” 

What we should use as the opening statement in response to every customer compliant.  The self-accountability would be refreshing. 

Yogism 6: “Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.” 

This would save a lot of confusion at baggage claim when we’re all waiting for our fancy black Tumi bags. A productivity strategy for frequent fliers. 

Yogism 7: “All pitchers are liars or crybabies.” 

We just change it to: “All sales people are liars or crybabies.” Everyone agrees (haha)!

Yogism 8: “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.”

A reminder to be confident AND very humble.

Yogism 9: “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” 

This is the phrase we should carve in a giant boulder outside all of our offices. We each would have to touch it on the way out.

Yogism 10:  “It was impossible to get a conversation going. Everybody was talking too much.”

This ideally would be a huge poster in every meeting room. Company efficiency and productivity would dramatically improve if we listened to it. (My own little Yogism… Haha).

Character Moves: 

  1. Every once in a while, when things are crazy busy, chaotic and seemingly out of control, it might be helpful to think what Yogi Berra might say to put it all in perspective. The pause and laugh might be very therapeutic. 90 percent of the stuff is “half mental” anyways, right? 

Yogi in The Triangle

– Lorne Rubis

One Millennial View: People like Yogi Berra just “got it.” These quips are so tongue-in-cheek, observational and smart: They are the sneakiest wolf in a dumb sheep’s clothing. Every organization needs people like Yogi: The icebreakers, the ignorant bliss advocators, and the stress relievers. I’m a fan of “Dad jokes,” and elderly “bahhh, get off my lawn!!” rants. They just crack me up. So, of course I knew of Yogi Berra and his famous quotes, but since his passing, it’s proven that this guy was just one of those top notch individuals that transcends generations. He has fans of all ages who will forever refer to Yogisms to celebrate his life.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Hip Hip Hooray for Lies and Deceit?

Accountability Authenticity Organizational leadership


Key Point: Jeffrey Pfeffer is a well-known Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. His new book is Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time. Unless I’m missing something, Pfeffer is apparently suggesting we could all be better off accepting a little more lying, inauthenticity, arrogance and deceit. After all, that’s the real world I guess? 

According to a Sept. 9, Stanford blog by Eilene Zimmerman, in Leadership BS, Pfeffer argues that one reason the leadership industry has not been successful is that its recommendations are based on an “ideal world,” rather than the real world. “Among the prescriptions for better leadership is that leaders need to be truthful, when in reality, the ability to lie can be very useful for getting ahead. Pfeffer emphasizes manipulation skills are a foundation of social power. In fact, he says there is a reciprocal relationship between power and lying: The powerful deceive more often, and the ability to deceive effectively creates social power.

In the end, Pfeffer suggests we would all be better off accepting that our leaders are generally not truthful, authentic, modest, or trustworthy. Instead, they’re largely the opposite of the message we get from popular motivational leadership stories we hear. ‘All those stories and the inspiration we get from them change nothing,’  he says. ‘The fundamental problem with this industry is the disconnect between what we say we want from our leaders and how they actually manage organizations.'”

So I guess Stanford should add “Effective Lying and Manipulation 101” to their elevated curriculum? Why? That’s the “real” world? I must admit that that I have not read Pfeffer’s entire book, so maybe the summaries I’m reading miss some key context. However, I do agree with one thing he says: There is too much of a disconnection between what we say we want from our leaders and how they actually manage organizations. Still, I strongly feel the answer is MORE authenticity, modesty, truthfulness and trustworthiness: NOT less! I am part of a profitable 77-year-old company with leadership that absolutely believes and behaves that way. And we make lots of money for our shareholders too. We’re not perfect, but people who intentionally lie, manipulate, act arrogantly or breed mistrust, will not succeed in our workplace; regardless if Pfeffer thinks that’s the real world.

On a related note, Pope Francis, who is in the spotlight as he visits the U.S. this week, is the leader of a large institution and community. Authenticity and transparency has been his personal theme and one that has not always been the way of his predecessors. His personal behavior from the very moment of taking on that role is consistent with that theme, and he’s definitely driving spiritual and even social change among his constituents. I’d be deeply disappointed if in his private life he dined nightly while sipping Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru, etc. I just believe he’s the real deal, whether I agree with his religious tenants or not. He’s proving to be a very effective leader to date. I hope I’m missing something in appreciating your work, Dr. Pfeffer, but let’s not give up on authenticity, truthfulness, openness, and humility because you think it’s not real. Let’s just all get better at leading that way. We need more leaders demonstrating that we can achieve extraordinary results without having to compromise ourselves.

Character Moves: 

  1. Authentically stand for values that are genuinely meaningful to you. Accept that you are human and will occasionally lapse. Forgive yourself, and get back on track. If you think someone “gets ahead” because they’re better liars, more manipulative, skilled actors and arrogant, well…?
  1. You and I deserve to work for an organization with top leadership that declares in detail what it stands for and acts that way most if not all the time. This does not mean hollow plaques and words on the inside of an annual report. 

Truth in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: You know when you watch network news and they’re desperately trying to fill their 24/7 media agenda with stories or polls that are clearly just ridiculous time fillers or devil’s advocacies? This research seems similar. Millennials like myself may not always be in the “know” with the inner workings of upper management, and can be quick to be cynical and distrust the information that is trickled down to us. Being uninformed why a deal didn’t go through, or why some new project disintegrated can be fuel for this, but we don’t HAVE to assume it’s because we’re being manipulated or lied to. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Kid Next Door Walks the Moon

Abundance Happiness Organizational culture


Key Point: It is healthy to laugh heartily and often, hopefully many times a day. And with the right mindset we can see humor in just about everything. Of course, we all have days or moments that are not funny in any way. Thankfully, for most of us, that is not usually the case. Work is a huge part of our life and I believe having intentional, authentic fun everyday is actually a leadership matter. Why? Leaders create an environment for fun to exist and thrive. The best leaders I’ve worked with have a great sense of humor and love to see it in others. They rarely take themselves or their positions too seriously. Additionally, they work at having fun. Even when your job is walking on the moon, humor can be there to share with the world (sometimes years later). In that spirit, I hope you enjoy the following story:

On July 20, 1969, as commander of the Apollo 11 lunar module, Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon. His first words after stepping on the moon, “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” were televised to earth and heard by millions.    

But, just before he re-entered the lander, he made the enigmatic remark “good luck, Mr. Gorsky.” Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival soviet cosmonaut. However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs.

Over the years, many people questioned Armstrong as to what the “good luck, Mr. Gorsky” statement meant, but Armstrong always just smiled.  

On July 5, 1995, in Tampa Bay, Florida, while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question about Mr. Gorsky to Armstrong. This time he finally responded because his Mr. Gorsky had just died. So, Neil Armstrong felt he could now answer the question. Here is the answer: 

In 1938, when Armstrong was a kid in a small mid-western town, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit the ball, and it landed in his neighbor (the Gorsky’s) yard by their bedroom window. As he leaned down to pick up the ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at her husband… “Sex! You want sex? You’ll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!” 

This story created, as you can imagine, quite a laugh in the room… Neil Armstrong’s family confirmed that this is a true story. Although some believe it’s a hoax, the story is funny regardless, and an example of humor in the most “extreme” of work environments. 

Character Moves: 

  1. How much do you laugh on a daily basis? Do you consider yourself fun to be with even at the toughest times? If you’re a leader, how do you promote it? 
  1. Make fun natural but intentional in your work environment. Go to sleep reflecting on at least one great laugh you had that day.

P.S. Some of you may know that I did my graduate work at the University of Oregon. It is well known for its stirring academic and athletic programs… And the iconic movie, Animal House, was filmed there. So Garrett saw this, knew I’d enjoy it, and sent it to me. Considering he’s an Arizona Wildcat, that is unusually friendly.

Fun at Work in the Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I do have to give credit where credit is due. Funny enough, here’s another couple cool pictures. (I’m not sure I’ve shared these before). They’re from my personal camera roll back in 2007, when I rushed the field in Arizona after my unranked Wildcats upset the then No. 4 Oregon Ducks on a brisk, beautiful Thursday Nov. night. The win effectively ruined Oregon’s post-season hopes, and started a fun and lasting rivalry. How perfect. Can’t wait to Duck hunt and keep and laughs going again this season!imageedit_1_3398663926



– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Never Peters Out!

Accountability Communication Empathy


Key Point: The art and dedication to real listening is under appreciated and still too absent from the workplace (and overall life).

Some leadership “stuff” just needs to be repeated and repeated I guess. The picture below is of 72-year-old leadership sage, Tom Peters.


He has been preaching mostly the same “stuff” since Waterman and he wrote the iconic “In Search of Excellence” in 1982. Why? Well the skeptic might say that he is just riding the skirt of success; like a cash cow, milk it until it’s dried out. However, I genuinely believe Tom passionately speaks about the “stuff” for one main reason: It works and helps people. (He doesn’t need the money, that’s for sure).

One of the focal points that he just drills his audience on, is the eternal challenge of effective LISTENING! To make the point, he notes that it takes exactly 15 seconds on average for a doctor to interrupt you during a visit. The experience is similar in many meetings at work and/or in life. And of course we all know that mobile devices and related distractions make the listening challenge even more daunting.

Virgin founder and celeb CEO, Richard Branson, devotes over 100 pages in his book to this topic. See Peter’s slide below:


Character Moves:

1. Try writing, “LISTEN” on the top of whatever you use to take notes before going into any meeting. Silly? Never mind then.

2. Use a notebook and carry it with you everywhere. (Not a note pad). Branson has hundreds of notebooks. I’m no Branson, obviously, but I’ve used hundreds of books over the years too. I write key points, connect ideas into graphic systems, circle, underline and any number of things to help me listen. I am shocked to see people sitting and “listening” but not taking notes. (I wonder where their mind is? They must have exceptional memories too).

3. Ask active listening questions. Your questions versus comments should be in the range of 10 to one. Use a listening model like STP (See my video) to help you listen.

4. Practice, practice, practice listening.

Forever Listening in The Triangle


One Millennial View: When I first started working where I do, I had some co-worker give me directions and I took out a notepad to write them down. He goes “Dude, don’t be a guy that takes notes, just listen.” Frankly, I looked at him like he was out of his mind, but I just shut up, then jotted down the directions once he walked away. His reasoning has never been significant, and of course I take notes in meetings with zero resistance from any higher up. What my co-worker never understood, apparently, is there’s a reason Tom Peters’ lesson is timeless and transcends generations. It’s a good tool with a proven success rate no matter what old school or new school technology you use to write stuff down.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Blindsiding Hurts All!

Accountability Kindness Personal leadership


Key Point: There is no reason to intentionally hurt someone because you or someone else feels it’s justified. This principle should apply to your work and life. Watch the embedded video where two high school football players in San Antonio hammer a referee from behind.

Their explanation for their behavior includes: The ref deserved it because he made bad calls, their coach implied the official needed payback for poor officiating, and/or the referee used racial slurs. Even if they’re true, none of these are legitimate reasons to harm anyone, and certainly not from a blind angle. In this case, the surprise hit could have caused serious injury. (This situation is still under investigation by school board and the police).

According to the New York Times, the internal phone directory at Amazon instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about their inflexibility and they openly complain about minor tasks”). In this example, the hurt is not physical but it’s potentially every bit as damaging as the abuse experienced by the Texas High School football referee.

How many times a day, in some work environment, is some one getting verbally trashed from behind? We all have witnessed the gossip machine work overtime. We see people complain about someone to others without ever having the courage to respectfully face the person and attempt to work out a resolution.

It is easy to blame anyone or anything for our frustrations, fears, disappointments, and losses. Sometimes we feel that blindsiding and hurting someone is acceptable because they “deserved it.” Really? Blame is waste. Blindsided abuse is worse. What do you do to prevent this behavior in any environment?

Character Moves:

  1. People with integrity constructively confront people they have a dispute with. They face the individuals and conversation head on in frank, and even fierce ways. Constructive conflict is not easy, but it can often have a positive outcome. Do this. Become good at having fierce conversations.
  1. Never “hit from behind,” blindside” or “sucker punch.” Physical blindsides, like the behavior of the misguided football players in the video, is obviously very wrong (perhaps criminal). However, verbal blindsiding like gossip is not much better. Don’t do it or stand for it. When your hear people talking about people behind their backs at work, picture that referee’s head getting snapped back after the hit in the video. The feeling is about the same for the recipient. And trust me, the bad taste left in your mouth as a participant will diminish you too. I can only imagine the shameful feeling (assuming they are empathetic beings at all) the two high school football players felt upon watching the video. Sickening, actually.

Straight on in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: The amount of passive aggressive, behind the back “finger pointing” that seems to seep into adulthood should be extremely frowned upon. Do we really not remember how we’re not supposed to “tattle?” Wasn’t that a big part of childhood? I remember it being so. Sometimes life just isn’t that fair, and that’s ok. It’s not an even playing field. Sometimes people around us will squeak by on an easier path, they’ll find a loophole, they’ll get the break we wish we had, or we’ll face rejection we don’t think we deserve. That’s going to happen. And you know what? It should happen. It makes us improve, maneuver, and learn. But if we blame anyone else for our setbacks, we’re focusing our efforts in the wrong direction. If you’re spending any time trying to call out or pin something on another individual, you’re doing it wrong. Redistribute that energy on figuring out a plan for yourself, and you’ll likely tackle the issues you need to – not some poor ref from behind.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis