People Tell Me This Changed Their Lives 

Accountability Communication Empathy


Key Point: The most effective behavior applications or models are elegantly simple to learn, yet deceptively difficult to execute on. The wonderful aspect of this “simple/difficult” paradox is that once the behavior framework is understood, continuous practice allows us to eventually become masters. But we never get to an end. A commitment to mastery provides a never-ending runway for betterment. Let me give you an example: 

I have the privilege of leading our company’s “Culture Day.” At this monthly session, all new hires attend (usually about 100 folks per month). During this important gathering, along with our CEO and other execs, we focus the entire cohort on who we are as a company. We deeply dive into our institutional purpose and values. At the end of each day, we do a wrap up and ask attendees to highlight the learning that most personally impacted them. (We also survey after). The leading learning, after more than 36 Culture Days, is the following communication framework:


I personally developed this framework a couple of years ago as we were attempting to capture the principle of making a personal, emotional connection between individuals, especially at the customer interface. We just returned from visiting the apparel ecommerce superstar, Zappos, where we were amazed at how much they invest in the principle of starting every customer conversation with a personal connection. (Try calling their customer service to test this yourself, 1-800-927-7671). At the same time, our brilliant learning team led by creative genius Debbie Blakeman, began teaching every leader in the organization how to better advance relationships through intentional conversation. During this “Conversations“ course, we built on an idea first coined by communication guru, Susan Scott. Her daunting premise: 


When people embrace and really soak in the idea that the “conversation is the relationship,” I can literally see the lights in the back of their eyes turn on. And when I ask them to momentarily reflect on recent conversations with loved ones, I see them fold inside themselves in deep thought. Snap! I then invite them to join me in putting their emotional and intellectual energy around a very accessible communication model that when followed, I promise, will advance ALL conversations… Well, actually most folks literally lean forward. And that’s where CONNECT –> UNDERSTAND –> ACT arrives for them. Now, I’d like to give you, our wonderful readers, an abridged version. 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Allow yourself to be continuously humbled and challenged by that piercing phrase: ”The conversation IS the relationship AND the relationship is the conversation.” In EVERY conversation, regardless how small or big, in person or by text, ALWAYS START with an authentic CONNECTION between you and the other. Face to face, it may be as simple as direct eye contact and a smile, or as deep as sharing moments of intense joy or sadness. Always build a BRIDGE. After all, you want to advance the conversation don’t you? Listen to master communicators and they always find the connection FIRST! 
  2. Next… And I do literally mean NEXT, FOCUS and INVEST in creating UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN you and the other. Ask as many understanding questions as possible. Be able to discern between what the other is saying and what they really want. Be deeply present and engage all of your observation senses, (obviously harder when just texting). Your only task in this part of the FLOW is to confirm understanding. You are self-accountable for that. Do not put that burden on the other (hopefully they are doing the same).
  3. NOW and only AFTER you confidently believe mutual understanding is clearly framed up, start exploring how to ACT. Start with describing what YOU might do FIRST. Do not tell OR suggest what the other could or should do (unless personal safety is involved). If you’ve been reasonably successful at flowing steps one through three above, you may have earned the right to use the action phrase: “Have you considered?…”

P.S., I told you this was easy AND friggin’ hard at the same time. I’m continuously working on this and may become a master one day?

CONNECT –> UNDERSTAND –> ACT in Personal Leadership,

Lorne Rubis

One Millennial View: Anyone else feel like they have a homework assignment? As you can tell, this takes effort, care and discipline. You can easily imagine how this method would be incredibly appreciated by those you’re communicating with on a both a professional and personal basis. Wouldn’t it be great if that person on the other end of the line always made that effort for you? Thankfully, we have the choice and control to start by doing it for them, and hopefully they’ll catch on.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis