Mindful Leadership and the World Series

Accountability Transformation Well-being


Key Point: Learn mindfulness. Be intentional about it. Leaders are under more pressure than ever based on the term VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous). Which is now somewhat commonly known. That’s the world we live in. Executive responsibility can almost feel like we’re in a never-ending, “sudden death” World Series championship game. So technical competence is vital for leaders: You have to know your business. What is even more daunting (and/or exhilarating for those of us that thrive in it) is the increased need and capability to become high performing, adaptive leaders. The paradox of extremely effective adaptive leadership is to be able to slow everything down in real time, become highly focused, while having “bat like” radar when surveying the surrounding environment. And the research is clear , mindfulness training is now becoming necessary for leadership effectiveness. Why? Check out this research.

Mindfulness helps leaders to know they’re thinking, when they’re thinking, to know what they’re feeling, and to be aware of what they’re sensing at the time they’re sensing it (all while allowing for empathy). It is not a buzzword or psychobabble. In fact the U.S. Marines and Special Forces are investing in “cognitive control development ” (mindfulness) as imperative preparation for combat, perhaps the ultimate test of effective adaptive leadership decision making.

The following from Yahoo Sports describes the final game of the 2015 World Series… “As the clock passed midnight and Sunday turned into Monday, the game grew even more odd. Already the questionable decision of Mets manager Terry Collins to leave in starter Matt Harvey for a shutout attempt in the ninth inning came back to bite him. After mustering four hits against Harvey over the first eight innings, Lorenzo Cain walked to lead off the ninth and stole second base. Hosmer, who had only two hits all series, smoked a double over left fielder Michael Conforto’s head to score Cain and halve the lead…”

Of course, we know what happened… The Kansas City Royals went on to become champions. If you watched the game, you could see New York Mets manager Collins struggle with his decision to let Harvey, who was almost unhittable until the moment of truth, continue. Who knows what would have happened if he had decided to remove Harvey in spite of the pitchers strong protestations. And who really knows if Collins was totally present and fully mindful in that pressure-cooked situational moment? At the same time, and with the risk of being unfairly judgmental of Collins, you can’t help but wonder if he let the emotional Harvey and the situation overtake him. And yet, we all know that if Harvey had struck him out, Collins would have been celebrated for his gutsy call and loyalty to Harvey. That was not the case. The Mets lost. In retrospect, the situation called for a different decision. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Understand that habitual ways of understanding things produce habitual reactions. In the VUCA world, leaders are being put in situations where adaptive challenges demand that leaders open themselves up to go beyond what is known and understood. Do you know how to do that? Are you aware when you’re in such a situation? It’s like that saying, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
  1. Be very cautious and watch for signals when you’re on autopilot. You might get run over. That applies to organizations as well… Like banks that think customers will continue to give them their money and think the situation is simply demanding better execution on an overplayed business model. 
  1. A growing body of research is showing that mindfulness actually changes the brain, allowing us to be more present, less emotionally reactive, and more purposeful/deliberate. Right now, I’m learning and practicing how to be more mindful. I must get better at this. My team deserves it. How about you? 

More Mindful in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: The phrase “well, hindsight is 20/20” exists, but we all know that’s just a clean up crew of sorts for our own conscience. It’s a way to calm our inner panic when things go awry. “Hindsight is 20/20” sucks, and it never seems to win life’s championships. When things really work out for people, it seems mindfulness is strongly at play. Sometimes it’s chalked up to luck, hard work, right time/right place, but consciously or not someone knew how to get there, what to say, and how to stay. The fact of the matter is life and work is very much a “sudden death” World Series game, in a lot of ways. Fortunately, the game usually lasts a lot longer than nine innings, and we can always have a different pitcher warming up.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Winning the Podium in Inches!

Accountability Growth mindset Transformation


Key Point: It is important to understand how our business can be disrupted so we can become offensive rather than being on our “back foot” in the market place.  However, there is still much to be accomplished by focusing on all the “inches” of progress out there. It’s a parallel process: Look for inventive, even disruptive processes, while making continuous improvements everywhere.

I was interested in an Harvard Business Review article interviewing Sir David Brailsford, the successful, now legendary coach of British Cycling. Note the following from the HBR blog that outlines his thinking in more detail:

“When Sir Dave Brailsford became head of British Cycling in 2002, the team had almost no record of success: British cycling had only won a single gold medal in its 76-year history. That quickly changed under Sir Dave’s leadership. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, his squad won seven out of 10 gold medals available in track cycling, and they matched the achievement at the London Olympics four years later. Sir Dave now leads Britain’s first ever professional cycling team, which has won three of the last four Tour de France events.

Sir Dave, a former professional cycler who holds an MBA, applied a theory of marginal gains to cycling — he gambled that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%, they would achieve a significant aggregated increase in performance.”

Within the blog, Brailsford goes on to say: 

“We had three pillars to our approach, which we called ‘the podium principles.’ The first one was strategy. The second was human performance; we weren’t even thinking of cycling, but more about behavioral psychology and how to create an environment for optimum performance. The third principle was continuous improvement…

For strategy we analyzed the demand of each event and spent a lot of time trying to understand what it would take to win. So as just one example — what is the power needed off the line to get the start required to achieve a winning time, and how close is each athlete to being capable of generating that power? For this and other metrics, we looked at our best athletes and identified the gap between where they were and where they needed to be. And if it was a bridgeable gap we put a plan in place. But if it was not a bridgeable gap we had to be pretty ruthless — compassionate, but ruthless. Not all athletes are destined for the podium and we weren’t interested in fourth place.” 

Notice that Sir Brailsford approaches cycling performance as a complete system. To achieve great results, the British team focused on all three of the “podium principles.” It takes relentless attention and progress in all three principles to WIN!! 

Character Moves:

  1. Strategy: Understand in detail what it takes to win. This involves very rigorous data science application. Then be compassionate, fair, and decisive in determining “house cleaning” if you have “athletes” that just won’t get you there. If gaps in people performance are unlikely to close or take too long, leaders have a responsibility to act accordingly! Have the courage to respectfully move people out if they can’t help you WIN in the system. 
  1. Human Performance: Learn in detail what it takes for “‘athletes” who have all the desirable skills and attitude, to then flourish and thrive. Create an environment that does just that.
  1. Continuous improvement: Kaizen, every day continuous improvement, was introduced by Japan Inc., and is at least a 30 year old idea. However, think how much progress an organization could make if every single person improved the processes they were involved with by inches everyday. As the British cyclist leader notes, it’s all about winning by inches.

Winning by inches in the Triangle, 


One Millennial View: A cycling team is a perfect metaphor for standard job progression because of course it takes that “rigorous data science application” to succeed. (Which, btw, also might be why it’s historically the most “cheated” sport on the planet). I don’t think people often “cheat” in the work place, but it’s tough out there and sometimes folks don’t want to take all the steps! You’re not exactly throwing “Hail Mary’s” for wins. Success as a cyclist is measured through this simpler, but more difficult question: Are you fast enough or not? And frankly, I think most of us would like to live in a more “Hail Mary’s can win” world, where sometimes you can just wing it and get lucky. But real work is more annoying. It might be headache inducing to face the task of data analysis, meticulous but steady continuous improvement, and slowly winning by numbers. But we’re in the race already, so might as well pedal for the podium, and we likely know what type of efforts we need to get there. Like a big hill on a bike ride, it’ll burn, but it’ll be worth it. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis