July Lessons 6: Business is Always Personal

Abundance Accountability Respect


Over the month of July, I will share lessons learned from my ATB journey, post my retirement announcement effective Aug. 1. The accomplishments and extraordinary results at ATB over six plus years belong to many. However, the learnings I will share are exclusively mine. I hope you will find them thought provoking, and perhaps even instructive.

Story: I worked for one person for many years and gave this individual every effort I had to create value for the organization. I also made a point of knowing something about this person’s children, partner, and even mother. I thought it was important to care about, and know my boss as a complete person. How might I understand his overall ambitions and interests if I didn’t? However, it disappointed me that the reverse was not true. I’m not a “matcher” though, and believed getting to know him more completely was the right thing to do, regardless. What saddened me was that our connection was incomplete without this person knowing something about my family. I wondered how much he actually cared about me. In the end, my concern was valid. I was mostly there as a commercial transaction. It’s just business, right?

Key Point: I’ve worked with wonderful people everywhere. I am so blessed to have spent time with so many people I’ve genuinely loved. Even though it’s challenging, and unrealistic to expect these relationships to fully continue after leaving each organization, the importance carries on. These personal connections actually accumulate to define us. So, one of my beliefs that has been fully endorsed working at ATB, is the idea that business is ALWAYS personal. It is never “just business,” even though that premise has been inappropriately used as rational for questionable behavior far too often.

In this context of business always being personal, I strongly believe you and I have an obligation to genuinely know the people we work closely with, without crossing privacy lines. This includes and is not limited to the following:

  1. Do they have a partner? His or her names?
  2. Do they have children? Grandchildren? Names?
  3. Do they have pets? Names?
  4. What do they do for fun?  
  5. What do they deeply care about?
  6. What do they like to eat?
  7. Coffee or tea? Cream or sugar? Etc. 

If you can’t answer most of these questions about the people who work for you, how can you possibly fully care about them? How can you help them grow and develop more fully? Don’t worry about whether your boss does the same with you. It’s a shame if he/she doesn’t. It’s most important that you set the example. It shows how much you are invested. How can you ask people to deeply care about you and where you want to take the organization without having personal consideration for them?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Connect with your teammates by genuinely getting to know them as complete people, including but not limited to the individuals they dearly love in their personal lives.
  2. Every conversation you have with these people ideally includes a sincere question about those important to them. Everytime!
  3. At minimum, you should know their partner’s name, and how many children they have (or comparable information). If not, why should they believe that you really care about them? No excuses.

Personal connections in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: Even if you’re shy or believe that exchanging basic personal information with co-workers is a form of prying, there’s just no fun in knowing nothing about those you spend a considerable amount of your life working around. You’re seriously going to sit there all day and never shoot the breeze? We Millennials can definitely multi-task, so 40 plus hours a week are much better spent when your team isn’t a pack of total strangers.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis