Stand Like a Rock!

Abundance Organizational leadership Purpose


Key Point: Seth A. Klarman is a 59-year-old value investor who runs Baupost Group, and the fund manages some $30 billion in assets. He maintains a very low public profile and has been profitable in all but three of the 34 years he has led Baupost. He is considered, in spite of his under-the-radar behavior, a giant within investment circles. According to a recent NYT article on Klarman, “he is often compared to Warren Buffett, and The Economist magazine once described him as ‘The Oracle of Boston,’ where Baupost is based. For good measure, he is one of the very few hedge managers Mr. Buffett has publicly praised.”

Klarman writes a regular newsletter that investors pay a lot of money to subscribe to. According to the same NYT report, Klarman’s last news letter, which raised concerns about the unpredictability of the Trump presidency, ended with the following quote, originally attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Today I hosted a virtual “hang out” where 400 plus team members listened and virtually chatted with one of our most revered executive leaders who’s retiring after 41 years with our company. That alone, is amazing. However, it was such an honor for me to listen to him reflect on his journey and share rich life/career lessons with all in attendance. The following are just a few: 

  1. Become as self-aware as early in your career as possible. Know what your core strengths and limitations are. Build mightily on your strengths. Have the courage to put yourself in uncomfortable situations to test and add muscle to those strengths.
  2. Create effective teams that are truly diverse. High performing ones take advantage of the unique skills of each person on the team and subsequently the group flourishes, becoming much bigger than the sum of its parts. 
  3. Purpose matters and creating a vision towards that purpose rallies and binds all. 
  4. Setting clear expectations so people really understand what’s expected increases overall morale and confidence. 

And much, much more. 

Perhaps the most memorable moment and an inflection point in this fellow’s career was a time when he was put in a position to tell the Chairman of the Board, with overwhelming evidence, that the existing CEO was stepping well outside of reasonable ethical bounds. The CEO was subsequently replaced and the hero of this blog post likely saved the company based on his integrity and strength of conviction. This was a classical example of “standing like a rock.”  It can be seductive to give up and fundamentally compromise on key principles. However, it is a slippery slope to do so. Integrity is vital with any organization and leader. This gentleman is a positive example for the world. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Become very self-aware. Appreciate and define your personal strengths/shortcomings in depth, with the understanding it’s a long and extraordinary journey.  Focus on building on your strengths. 
  1. On your core values/principles: Know them and stand like a rock!! They define you and your legacy. 

Like a rock in the Triangle,


P.S. please enjoy a new podcast release. This unpacks some key questions tied to character move No.1. Enjoy it, and let us know what you think.

One Millennial View: Lessons from life-long experience like the one above are incredibly valuable, especially to us millennials who are still learning how to navigate. To me, the resonating message is when you’re hesitant and believe you can’t do something, shut up and try it. There’s an angle, there’s an answer, there’s an approach. Figure out all the ways you CAN, before you jump to the conclusion that it’s “stupid” or can’t be accomplished. Grit and resilience are principles I stand for, and I think the distinguished retiree above would connect with that as well. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Glassdoor Leadership and You

Accountability Management Organizational culture


Key Point: If you were asked to rate your direct leader based on whether you would want your best friend or adult child to work for them, would it be thumbs up or down? What about if the same question was asked regarding you? Now write down or think of one succinct phrase to describe the essence of that leader. What would others write about you?

Inc. Magazine published an article noting that Glassdoor recently released a listing of the highest ranked U.S. CEOs based on employee feedback.

According to Inc, “While every CEO in this group has their warts, this prestigious group has managed to be human while still winning the hearts of their employees. The following is a representative sampling of Glassdoor employee feedback on why these CEOs — and the cultures they’ve created — top the most ‘admired.’”

  1. “Bob Bechek – Bain and Company

Bob holds his people accountable but never leaves them alone. He never lets his employees fail.

  1. Scott Scherr – Ultimate Software

Scott takes care of his employees — and their families — so they in turn feel proud and empowered to take care of their customers.

  1. Dominic Barton – McKinsey & Company

Dominic provides flexibility in the way his employees work, so long as they take ownership for the results.

  1. Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook

Mark maintains a spirit of openness — from secret projects to business metrics. Anything and everything is on the table for discussion.

  1. Jeff Weiner – LinkedIn

Jeff emphasizes career development and company advancement. Every employee is asked a to plan their “next play.”

  1. Marc Benioff – Salesforcew

Marc has his employees spend 1 percent of their time giving back to their communities and charities of choice.

  1. Sundar Pichai – Google

Sundar makes it a practice to allow employees to work on virtually anything they find interesting.

  1. Tim Cook – Apple

At Apple, Tim makes sure employees receive effective coaching, but never let’s his employees feel battered or belittled.

  1. Joseph Sivewright – Nestlé Purina PetCare

When others are cutting back, Joseph invests in tools, resources and training to help his employees become their best selves.

  1. Jim Whitehurst – Red Hat

Red Hat is for geeks, and Jim rewards “hackers” — the lifeblood of his organization.”

When you read the above, some common themes emerge: Deep caring and coaching for the success of others, providing  employees autonomy and room to fully contribute, investing in people above all else, transparency and openness, being self-accountable and expect the same from others.

Character Moves:

  1. Evaluate your personal leadership environment regarding the “Glassdoor 4 Leadership Themes”: Autonomy, care, self-accountability, and transparency. Where can you get better? 
  2. What micro or big bold steps might you take to advance each of these four leadership elements? If living these values work for the top CEOs in the U.S., why wouldn’t they work for you? 

People first in the Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: What a helpful article. I think sometimes people in the work force put these top companies and CEOS on an unattainable, unrealistic pedestal. Almost as though the care, autonomy, self-accountability and transparency is only offered at these top tier places, like that Ivy league school you were never going to get into. There’s no rule that says you can’t expect the same from your leaders, and practice these virtues yourself, just because you’re not walking into a Fortune 500 company every day.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Alternative Facts in Leadership



Key Point: This is a blog on leadership objectivity/transparency and not intended to be a political editorial. 

I recall sitting and having a glass of wine with Marshall Goldsmith, widely acclaimed as one of the most prominent executive coaches in the world. He has been in the boardroom and private offices of the many of the world’s most powerful CEOs. I asked Marshall about his years of observation regarding how CEOs (and ultimately their organizations) get in trouble. He responded without hesitation… “Number one issue is ego. When they start making almost everything about them, and their ego is at the front of decision making, they risk losing objectivity, and worse they surround themselves with people that feed that ego and its version of the truth.”

Imagine a CEO who stands at a company meeting and gives a rousing speech about the strength of their customer service. He declares: “We are the greatest customer service organization in the world. Let me read you some statements from super satisfied customers.” He does, and then asks the audience of employees, “who here knows and believes we are the greatest customer service company ever?” The audience roars and stomps its feet with approval. The CEO, with magnetic charm, charisma, strength of conviction, then piles back into his limousine and asks his loyal staff… “How did I do?” “Oh boss you were friggin’ awesome!” High fives all around.

Now, let’s say the following is the real story: Data and facts show that the company’s customer churn is the highest it’s ever been. Furthermore, customer acquisition is falling off too. However, the last marketing executive who shared that information with the CEO got unceremoniously fired. The CEO’s perspective was that he needed a marketing leader who was with him. He wanted different or “alternative” facts. So sure enough, the new marketing leader showed the CEO a different story. The customers leaving were “not that important…” “Those lost customers were primarily due to just one bad product; a blip.” “Boss, I’m here to tell you that we are and always will be the greatest customer service company in the world.” The CEO is now assured that his beliefs are right. And everyone around the big boss knows the one thing they must do to survive is to tell him what he wants to hear to confirm his beliefs. Truth and objectivity are left behind. This situation and type of environment will ultimately lead to a very bad outcome. Regardless of what anyone wants to believe or hope for, customer churn, and loss, is the worst in the history of the company and fewer customers are joining. So somewhere, sometime the truth will emerge in some very undeniable fashion. Reality will eventually define truth.

Like much of the rest of the world, I’ve been mesmerized watching President Donald Trump through a leadership lens. And putting policy and political principles aside, I am most alarmed by his approach to truth, transparency and objectivity. It’s one thing to bluster and shade facts as the CEO of a real estate company one privately owns. However, when you have arguably the biggest “CEO” (President) of a massive public organization (U.S. government); facts, truth and transparency are vital. PolitiFact scrutinized 365 specific claims by Mr. Trump and found that 2/3 were “mostly false,” “false” and 62 of them “pants on fire false.” The Washington Post found that Trump had made 24 false or misleading statements in his first seven days. Deception and flat out B.S. is worrisome to say the least. What is more troubling, however, is what happens to anyone wanting to point out the facts that may show a different view. If it’s the press, they’re intentionally vilified. (In fact in the world’s worst dictatorships those people of different views end up incarcerated at best, or disappear at worst). I feel sorry for the employees of The National Park Service for showing actual pictures of attendance at the President’s inauguration. They were instructed to search for pictures that confirmed Mr. Trumps claim; that his was the most attended presidential inauguration ever. When a leader sees what he wants to see and nothing else, it’s eventually going to result in a major disaster. It’s not if, but when. Consider this exact quote from Mr. Trump when asked about whether he should feel concerned about his unproven views of wide spread voter fraud: “Not at all because many people feel the same way I do.” Hmm…

Character Moves:

  1. Demand truth, transparency and unvarnished facts/data from our leaders and us. Opinion matters, and facts matter more. 
  1. We advance when we recognize that viewpoints are exactly that… One point of view… Only one. And healthy dialogue and disagreement moves us forward. It’s fighting well and listening well that advances us toward a mutually desired future state. And cognitive diversity is way more important than simple identity diversity (left or right, brown or white, etc). And fighting for then facts and truth really matters; especially when they are not in line with our wishes or belief. That is how we really grow and improve and become richer in the most important way. That makes all of us great… Again, and again. 
  1. Be wary of the egomaniac leader. They often are more interested in being right than doing the right thing. 

 No alternative facts in the Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: There’s a LOT of chatter about facts these days. Here’s a fact: I agree with all of the Character Moves whole-heartedly. Also, I think this humorous Instagram post from a comedian I follow is a deep breath (and perhaps a chuckle) that we can contemplate.  

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 6.30.56 PMThat’s all I have to say about that.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis