Wednesday Q/A on Personal Leadership

Organizational culture Personal leadership


To our readers, 

Welcome to the first installment of a Lorne Rubis Q/A series. We’ve accumulated some popular leadership questions, and below are Lorne’s answers to them. We plan to release these every-other Wednesday. We’d like to encourage you to participate, see below on how to contribute! 

1. What are the most effective ways to help employees learn, understand and practice your organization’s culture and core values?

“Culture is way more about what people in the organization do than say. Watch how people are selected as a new hire, and how people are promoted. That will tell you the behavior a company really values. Also review the recognition and reward system. Who gets acknowledged for what? The executive team lives in a goldfish bowl. How they act and behave together will tell you a lot. Another thing to do is to ask about the legendary stories. As an example, the stories at Uber (throwing kegs of beer off of a hotel roof, etc.), said as much about their culture as other touted entrepreneurial values expressed by their founder. Check Glassdoor comments. Lift up the rocks and listen to actual stakeholders who have real insight into the company.”

2. How do you deal with a lousy boss?

“The key thing is to learn from that person so you know what NOT to do. I co-teach a leadership class and ask people to talk about bosses who have not brought out the best in them. What always surprises me is that the negative impact of a lousy boss lasts forever. People can literally end up in tears recounting the experience. Do NOT hang around a lousy boss too long. You deserve someone you can thrive with. Get out fast. Before you do though, take a hard look in the mirror and make sure you’ve been self-accountable regarding the relationship. Remember that wherever you go, you’ll be there. Some people have self-reported to have had only lousy bosses. Hmm? Really?”

3. What is the best way to seek out a mentor in your organization?

“Have the courage to reach out and ask for help and insight from people you admire. Think of mentors as a group of people you can learn from, and that they care enough about you to be loving critics. I think real world conversations on actual issues are far better than formal mentorship programs.”

4. Are there any fictional TV shows or movies that you’ve seen where you think true “leadership” is conducted the right way? How do shows like “Billions” get things right or wrong?

“I loved the leadership role Tom Hanks played in Saving Private Ryan. I actually took my top team to watch and debrief the character’s leadership behavior when the movie came out. The most recent Abraham Lincoln movie offered important leadership values, Gary Oldman is up for this year’s best actor in portraying Churchill. Meryl Streep has played numerous strong women leaders. It is also instructive to debrief flawed characters like DiCaprio’s character in Wolf of Wall Street. And Billions does a superb job (although perhaps somewhat overstated) of displaying the evils associated with unbridled power from the hedge fund and District Attorney’s viewpoint. Examining leadership attributes of characters in movies/TV is an enjoyable way to learn.”

5. We know you’re an avid reader. Is there one, or a shortlist of books that you find yourself re-reading or referring back to more than most?

“More than just the books, it’s the authors whom I’ve learned from: Brene Brown, Jim Collins, Tom Peters, Warren Bennis, Peter Senge, Dan Ariely, Dan Pink, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Carol Dweck, Marshall Goldsmith; newer authors like Adam Grant, Tim Ferris, Tasha Eurich and many more.

Thanks and keep asking the questions!!”

– Lorne

We hope you enjoyed the first of Q/A session. We’d like to keep these coming, so if you have any questions, please submit them to, or DM us @CultureCastPod1 on Twitter. We look forward to many more, every other Wednesday.

A Series: Learning From My Epic Failures (Part 1)

Growth mindset Resilience Respect


Key Point: Why would I waste my many failures by keeping them to myself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my work and many accomplishments over the span of a 40+ year career. I will leave the evaluation of my success to the judgment of others, and the archives of history, if anyone is really interested. My failures, however, are mostly mine to share and expose. I wish my working career was a big “Facebook fairy tale” filled with one perfect picture after another, but you and I know that would be an incomplete description. I won’t bore you with my mundane failures. Instead, I will stick to several of my “epic” goof-ups, what I’ve learned from them, and what I might encourage you to do to avoid repeating. I must note that I hope you get the chance to create your own big screw ups. Like the phrase goes, “you only trip when you’re moving.”

Frankly, I may have been one of the fastest rising executives in a Fortune 50 company, ever. I started as a 38-year-old director in a division, and less than three years later, I was one of seven execs reporting directly to the CEO and Chairman. During my first career planning session with the CEO, he said to me, “it may be a little early to talk about you rising to my job, but we want to make sure you have all the right steps to get there.” I was head of World Wide Quality, lead facilitator of the global strategy, and coordinated all of my bosses meetings. I was “golden.”  Four years later, I left the company, burnt out and confused as to what the hell happened.

Of course, my view and assessment is only one perspective, and I’m sure other characters in this “play” might see otherwise. The punchline is that I believe I lost my way on the personal value I was providing my boss, and political naivety put me at odds with leaders who were much more powerful and skilled than I was. Because I had risen so quickly, I hadn’t established a loyal tribe and ended up being too dependent on my own insights to navigate. As the corporate leader of quality in the company, our biggest domestic division suffered material deterioration to customer service. While I wasn’t responsible for the action that caused it, I lacked the political strength and/or skills to countermeasure it. And my boss, the CEO, became disenchanted that people weren’t listening to my advice. The problem became bigger than me. The Japanese have a wonderful saying that in loose translation states, “better to button the shirt from the bottom up. If you start too close to the top, you might miss a button hole and have to start over again.” Hmm.

Personal Leadership Moves:

1. Remember that potential and past work means very little going forward. You have to constantly be reassessing the value you bring. Your boss has one vote and usually gets input from others. However, that’s a giant vote and if you aren’t helping your boss big time, loyalty will diminish. It can happen over night. Don’t be paranoid, and don’t be naive.

2. When you find yourself faced with one tough, big ass problem, don’t go at it alone. Do not act helpless either, and never point your finger elsewhere. Bring the stakeholders together as effectively and quickly as you can to move things forward. Don’t wait!

3. Remember that your career will have ups and downs. Very few of us get a free ride or catch the perfect wave time after time. Accepting this precept means that when things change, we put ourselves in a position to say: “Thank you… I can hardly wait to see what fate has in store for me next.”

Failing up in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: This is a great idea for a series. This reminds me of the Jocko Willink clip, “Good.” I’m not sure if I’ve shared this on the blog before, but, it’s always “good” for a refresher. This is a very eye-opening look at failure, and quite a kick-in-the-pants if you haven’t seen it yet: 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Tackle the Hard ‘Nut’ First!

Accountability Personal leadership Productivity


Key Point: The very first thing you should do each morning is tackle the most difficult issue on your agenda. If there is a” fierce conversation,” you need to have it. If you have bad news, share it. If it is something ugly that you hate to do, and/or like to procrastinate on, learn how to get it off your plate immediately.

Today, a very respected colleague of mine shared a great story with more than a hundred new hires about tackling the hardest “nut” first. After he graduated from university, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He explored apprenticing as an auto-mechanic where a wise journeyman taught him the lesson of unscrewing the most difficult “nut” first. (This was when mechanics were not computer scientists and actually fixed cars). The “nut” that was the hardest to get at, toughest to unscrew, etc. was the place to start. Why? When you got that difficult step of the job over first, the rest of the “nuts” come off easier, and the overall job is much more successful. 

In our organization, one of the biggest behavioral disappointments we have is the failure of team members to get back to customers within 24-hours. Especially when these customers have a pending deadline and/or ask for help. In most cases, the primary excuses regarding team members failing to return that call, is the fact that they “have to have a difficult conversation” to move forward. They may have to reject a loan application, call about an overdraft, confirm a bad credit score, ask for more customer information, etc. Therefore, we provide no call back at worst, or a very late one at best. Of course, our customers subsequently get very upset when we don’t meet our commitments. We fail to tackle the “hard nut” first. The same outcome occurs when leaders fail to have difficult conversations with direct reports. Avoidance leads to festering aggravation, and eventually a much bigger problem.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Learn that simple, yet hard approach of getting the toughest issue off of your lap ASAP. Don’t wait. Make it so. It will likely come back to haunt you if you don’t. This sounds easy, but most of us like to do the easy stuff first and push off the tough stuff. It’s understandable, yet problematic.

Tackling the hard “nut” first in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: I think if there was one skill I wish I could improve on overnight, it would be this. It truly is one of those “simple” things that proves easier said than done. More recently than I care to admit, I now start my day by making my bed. This was something I’d typically put off till later, but it is one of those subtle tasks that lets you achieve something bright and early, and come home to something clean. Of course, making a bed isn’t a hard “nut” by any means, but it does get things cracking.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

I Want to ‘DWD’ You!

Abundance Gratitude Kindness


Key Point: Being abundant through appreciating and recognizing other people is so gratifying. We are all rich and our “giving checking account” is flush, when it comes to acknowledging others. The beauty is that this personal bank account for giving and sharing our caring observations is infinite. We are all recognition “billionaires.” Even better, giving recognition is scalable and we never have to worry about getting “appreciation fatigue.” Genuinely recognizing others is an energy booster.

I’m not sharing anything new with this blog. You already know this. I’ve written about it many times. My sole purpose with this post is to encourage each of us to examine how we’re currently doing in this regard, and to take some action today. However, no guilt trip is intended, just a nudge. (I need a self prompt too).

When we think about it, there are so many people that we can acknowledge. This has nothing to do with whether people deserve it, have earned it, receive too much or too little. This is much less a statement about the people we are recognizing than the self-awareness to observe that people do something every day to make our lives better. And we owe it to ourselves and others to SEE these people. One way to confirm our sight is to sincerely let others know. Acknowledging others in a fully abundant way does NOT include “matching,” expected reciprocation, or anything else. A true gift of appreciation comes with NO strings attached. None. Zippo. It is not dependent on anything other than the idea that you and I simply and purely want to acknowledge. It is all about taking action on something we see as the right thing to do. We are the sole determiner of who, what and how. We are simply the givers.

For more than 40 years, I’ve been sending out DWD’s (Darn Well Dones). It’s not my idea. I heard about someone doing this and shamelessly applied the practice. I used to even have a “DWD” stamp that I put on hand written cards. For the last few years it’s been mostly digital. People have come up to me years later with a crumpled DWD card in their wallet or purse. We ALL want to be seen and appreciated for our contributions. It’s not that we need it in an unhealthy way, but we do in our simple human desire to be loved.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Before the day is out, find some way to recognize, appreciate, and acknowledge someone. Sincerely tell them what they do to make your life better. It may be the everyday smile they give you in the morning, and/or something with more heft.
  2. And DWD to all of you for reading this blog, encouraging Garrett and me to keep writing, and telling us we have somehow connected with you, often just when you need a little extra juice for your day.

DWD in Personal Leadership,

P.S. if everyone reading acknowledges someone today, we will have embraced more than 5,000 people. Imagine if we could keep the chain going. We could literally change the world.

– Lorne

One Millennial View: For better or worse, there’s reportedly a biological and scientific reason a “like” on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) is desired by us humans. Apparently, it delivers dopamine to our brains. It doesn’t take much to click a “like” button, but a DWD… That kicks it up a notch. So, it’s no surprise people keep DWD’s crumpled into their wallets as keepsakes. They are a harder earned “like.” 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Employees Have the Right AND Accountability to Expect Great Processes!

Accountability Organizational leadership Transformation


Key Point: I was listening to an executive from one of the global, big-name consulting companies the other day. He is in most boardrooms with all the world’s largest banks and other financial service companies. His observation: For the first time, financial service companies have almost the same strategy; to provide profitable financial services from a scalable platform to a customer of ONE. Mass personalization is the nirvana outcome for both businesses and retail customers (think Netflix and Amazon individual customization). However, on a global stage, the competition is crazy intense and increasing. An efficiency ratio of 40 percent may have been the benchmark, and then you find out some competitor is way more productive with 20 percent efficiency, while providing equal or better service. Yikes! And, in spite of recent trends towards national protectionism or thinking that regulation is going to protect inefficiency in markets; well these constraints in the historical sense, are just blips. So what?

If you’re in charge of any group or organization, high performance, execution and getting results is taking on advanced meaning and requiring more elevated leadership. Execution is NOT blindly or simplistically about annual performance reviews, exhorting or inspiring people to greatness, or just getting rid of poor performers and leaders. Nor is it sufficient to only have great technology or processes. It is no longer reasonable to expect sustainable success by relying on any ONE part of an organization system. More than ever, it is necessary to be exceptional in every aspect!

The purpose and value of the company’s business model must be compelling. The organization’s processes are ideally the HEROES in giving customers a memorable experience and commercial entities an attractive financial margin. Of course, employees need to be there to make hero processes really “wow” customers. They need the courage and self-accountability to finally demand that processes must make them look competent in the eyes of the customers. For too long, organizations have been asking employees to cover up and excuse continuous crappy processes. Every year, the same lousy practices persist and too often the explanation from “leaders” is that people just aren’t working hard enough or don’t have the right “DNA.” On the flip side, employees break a process or compensate for inadequate ones and then get rewarded for being the heroes for putting “out the fire” they created. No more.

Personal Leadership Moves:

1. As a leader, demand that the processes you deliver to others make you and teammates look competent, and THEN use people attributes to “wow” and create memorable differentiation. Do not allow yourself to continuously make up for poorly designed/flawed processes. It is not sustainable, and will not lead to high performance and execution.

2. Have the expectation that every part of the organization achieves greatness: People, data, technology, processes, purpose, and valued business models. Any weakness makes you and the company vulnerable. To have a truly great culture, EVERY part hums and creates a lasting symphony.

Heroes in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: It feels lousy to just skate by! You know it, I know it, and everyone feels worse off for doing it. As Millennials, we have an opportunity to train ourselves early in our careers to do our best to make sure the processes we follow are actually keeping ourselves challenged, learning and growing. As well, we have the right and accountability to be proud of processes we are part of.  This blog likes to reiterate, it’s “that easy, and that hard.” But it’s also that much more rewarding.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis