Creating Magical Moments

Empathy Productivity Respect


Story: I spend a lot of time talking to execs across a wide variety of industries. Frankly, most of my conversations involve well-intended ideas from leaders who genuinely care, yet are afflicted with exceptionally lousy execution regarding what really matters to employees and customers. We have become so good at wanting to do everything, that we often end up not doing much of anything that really matters. It’s kind of like “participation awards” gone wild. Still, people feel like they are working harder than ever with capacity stretched to the limit. Why are things so goofed up?

Key Point: Be aware when activity and effort become the key measures, versus meaningful results for customers and employees. This often means that “trying” and “working hard” become the default outcomes. Another signal that effort and outcome might be out of sync, is when the same customer and/or employee complaints continue year after year. Or, when there is little growth in revenue from existing customers, while there is an imbalanced effort in finding new ones. High customer and employee turnover is also a big red flag. That’s where making meaningful choices so the team/company can get big results on what I call “magical moments that really matter,” comes into this blog.

Every employee and customer (stakeholder) is on an evolving journey with an organization. Today, with the benefit of big data, we have the ability to dissect and fully understand that continuous journey right down to a customer/team member of ONE. The sustainable, highly adaptive and leading organizations will constantly focus almost all of the resources on the “magical moments that really matter.” It’s that easy and that hard.

As an example, every person has a first day/week at work. There is an opportunity to make that very moment “magical” for every new employee. Research has shown that the entry success into a company can have a huge impact on speed to positive contribution and employment longevity. How well does your organization manage that key moment?

Another example, is what happens with customer greetings (“I know you and see you”) every time they connect with the company. What powerful way does your organization impact the way customers connect EVERY time? Focus on these and other differentiating moments, and the magic does happen. 

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Courageously confront your daily activity. Without being defensive, examine who really cares, and what difference to end user customers or people does your work make?
  2. Do not rest on the idea that you get a lot of recognition for your effort or hard work. That actually may get you out of a job faster if you’re not making a difference to the moments that matter.
  3. Challenge yourself and the organization to prioritize the moments that magically matter, and use data rather than opinion. And not every moment is equal. Spend your time on the ones that really, really, really matter. I know you can.

Magical moments in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: I’d be willing to bet that most Millennials have experienced little to no Magical moments. We know not to “expect” too much, because we don’t want to be perceived as over entitled. That also means our standards are incredibly low. When your friend’s company’s “Taco Friday” sounds way too good to be true, then the magic in your place of work is Hocus Bogus.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


Humbled with Humboldt, and Heartbreak For All

Accountability Community Empathy


Note: The cartoon above is by Bruce MacKinnon, an award-winning cartoonist with the Halifax Chronicle Herald. It shows a hockey player dressed in the Broncos green and gold slumped over on his skates with the word “Sask” across his back. He is supported by 10 other players dressed in red with the provinces’ short forms on their jerseys.

Story: The Humboldt Broncos tragedy, where 16 coaches, trainers, and players on the junior hockey team’s bus, died in a horrific collision with a semi-trailer truck on April 6, has triggered something extraordinary across an entire country. This heart crunching, soul searing story seems to have painfully touched us all in very personal and profound ways. This week, I was leading one of our sessions on company culture and nearly 40 of us were circled together, ready to kick the meeting off. One of my teammates had gone out the night before and purchased a hockey stick, and on the blade tape wrote #HumboldtStrong. (Someone in the country had started this symbolic gesture of putting hockey sticks out on the front porch as a statement of compassion and care for the team, families and community. I genuinely believe millions hockey sticks will be placed on the front doors of Canadians everywhere). I put the hockey stick in the middle, kind of like at center-ice, and asked for a moment of reflection. Not a dry eye in the house.

Key Point: They say a change in perspective can increase our IQ. Perhaps one shred of good from this mind-numbing wreckage will be a wee change in perspective for some of us. We are grief stricken. To help underscore our national sense of loss, I’ve shared the following excerpt from the editorial board of The Toronto star:

“…It may be that Canadian hearts have never ached together in quite the way they have these last few days for a little hockey town in Saskatchewan and the 15 souls (NB now 16) lost when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos to a playoff hockey game collided with a transport truck at a Prairie intersection.

For Humboldt, history divided forever in that moment — to time as it was before, and the time after.

And a nation grieved because it knew that the Broncos were us and, but for chance, we and ours were them.

Such horrors are inherently humbling. They show us how fragile even the strongest of bodies are. They make mockery of our plans and, in the lottery of things, our delusions of control.

They remind us, if only for a time, what’s important. And, always, it is love.

If the loss and heartbreak are beyond measuring, it is also the case that this vast country felt very, very small this past weekend…”

Personal Leadership Moves :

  1. Remember that what you experienced at work today, the job you have or you don’t, the career progression you’re on or not, is just NOT that important. Please allow yourself just to humbled by Humboldt just for a moment, even if all too fleeting of time. Wait until next week before you float back into the proverbial rat race. It’s LOVE that counts over all. Fate is often there to make a mockery of our perfectly coiffed plans.
  2. Be present, be grateful, and live the life you deserve to live NOW. Make that small gesture as a lasting tribute to the memory of the people on that bus, their loved ones, and the forever changed community. Please embrace some small goodness from this unspeakable carnage.
  3. And also consider, if you haven’t already, putting a hockey stick on your front porch or balcony to remind you and the rest of us… If for just a while.

Heartbroken in personal leadership,


One Millennial View: With one Twitter or Instagram search, it’s amazing to see the outpour of support for Humboldt from all over the world. Even here in Austin, there are a variety of examples of local Texans lending their participation to the #PutYourSticksOut movement. Keep in mind, this is a city with only one regulation sized hockey rink. It’s primarily football country, and frankly, it’s probably easier to ride a horse or bull around here than organize a hockey game on ice skates. Nevertheless, there is not one of us who can’t feel, fear and be humbled by a tragic crash with a young sports team, just trying to get to a playoff game. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


The ‘Other’ Angle in Our Daily Life?

Collaboration Empathy Respect


Key Point: The other day, a thought leader I respect suggested that the first order of enlightened leaders is to continuously help others progress/succeed. It got me thinking about how much organizations and the work lives of people would change for the better if we ALL came to work focused on how we might help “others” succeed everyday. This does not mean that we would avoid our own objectives, accountability or obligations. However, what if the lens we looked through was primarily aimed at helping others succeed while we advanced our own causes?

Let’s walk through the mundaneness of a “normal” day to consider how many of us might work through the premise of doing everything we could to achieve this.

  1. Inbound emails/texts: With every email/text we received, what if we asked ourselves what we thought the other person really was asking for and did everything we could to advance their cause by our response? Even if the email was the dreaded sales “spam,” we would understand that there was a real live salesperson with targets at the other end and would respond with the thought process of “how might I help this person,” including perhaps directly saying “no” so they might not waste their time with you in the future. A delete or non-response would be unacceptable.
  2. Outbound emails/texts: What if when crafting an email we questioned “how might this advance and help the receiver to be more successful?” Even if we had to say “no” or disagree with someone, we asked how might we help them find a way towards future success.
  3. Meetings: What if at every meeting our ambition was to help make sure every person in the meeting was listened to and understood. And we did everything we could to make others feel that they successfully contributed to the meeting.
  4. Interactions: On every personal interaction through the day we sincerely challenged ourselves to help the other person succeed in some way or another. (This doesn’t mean we have to pander, be a pushover, or be naive).

I am a deep believer in the following formula to move relationships forward: Personally Connect, Really Understand what the other wants, THEN determine the Right Action to Take. The “AND” to this equation is to ALWAYS find a way to help the person succeed and move forward. Of course, this does not apply when the other person’s intent is harmful. Thank goodness that perspective is rare.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Challenge yourself to help every OTHER person be successful or move forward through every action, every day. Even if we do not feel like donating to the homeless person with the cardboard sign on the corner, we can smile and “see them.”
  2. If you think this is mush headed goofiness, challenge yourself between now and the end of December to better work and live this way. Will you notice any difference in others? In yourself?

Applying the “other” angle in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: There’s no denying the month of December has many people inherently thinking in more of a “giving” way. Whether it’s due to the holiday season,  colder climates, or food-oriented occasions, everyone’s just tuned into the idea of helping others “succeed.” Of course, this fades out as quickly as most New Year’s resolutions, but considering our co-workers are a constant that don’t fade away after Jan. 1, this is an attainable goal with reminders at every cubicle.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

ALL of Us Can Get Better at This!

Accountability Empathy Growth mindset



Key Point: We all spend time suffering unnecessarily (although understandably), because most of us have such a hard time receiving and giving feedback. Families and organizations swirl in dysfunction based on this reality. 

Just the other day, I was talking to someone about giving important feedback to another. These two people care deeply for each other. Frankly, the person who could benefit from the insight has a blind spot. This individual (feedback receiver) literally can’t see, or is unaware of certain behavior. The biggest trepidation of the feedback giver in this case was the anticipated negative response. Essentially, giving the feedback was perceived to be more painful than allowing the person to continue in ignorance. So, everyone loses to some extent. Why is feedback exchange so hard?

Sheila Heen, “feedback author/ guru,” and Lecturer at Harvard Law, reflects on two core needs: “Human beings are wired to learn and grow. Getting better at something is what makes life satisfying. The other core human need is to be accepted, loved and respected for who we are now, as I am.”

And as my colleague and exec coach Michelle Steil, who teaches this stuff with me, emphasizes: “We require feedback to learn and grow, yet our personal beliefs about providing constructive feedback can create a conflict with our need to feel accepted for who we are.” This partly explains why it’s hard to both give and receive feedback. You also may have heard the term “Amygdala Hijack?” An oversimplified version of what essentially happens when we feel threatened is that our survival-trained brain responds, pumping out hormones that contribute to reactions like fight, flight, freeze and/or appease. So the negative reaction from feedback receivers is a “natural” response (amygdala hijack) at work. So what can we do about this paradox? 

Personal Leadership Moves (As Feedback Receiver):

  1. Put yourself in a position of control by reframing all feedback as an opportunity for you to grow. You can accept the feedback or not. Learn how to simply say “thank you.” Understand the perspective being presented to you. Be curious so you might better understand and give yourself time to determine what you may learn about yourself. Then do something about it. 
  2. Avoid or minimize the amygdala highjack by ASKING for forward feedback first. You can’t do anything about the past. However, you can always ask for one or two things you might do better in the immediate future. YOU are in control. Be a forward moving, always learning, feedback receiver. By acting this way, you make it safer for the feedback giver. 

Personal Leadership Moves (As Feedback Giver):

  1. Make sure the feedback is really about deep care for the receiver (and not about you). Intention and being a loving critic is way more important than style. Feedback giving is sometimes clumsy and messy. 
  2. Have the courage to give. It shows how much you care. Recognize it may not always go well. Yet that’s what loving leaders do. 

Always working on it in Personal Leadership 

– Lorne

One Millennial View: Sounds like a “mind over matter… over mind” situation. Some feedback might not always be the best you’ve ever heard, but be “thankful” for the opportunity to then improve. Speaking of, Happy Thanksgiving!

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

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

Great Leaders Are Great Storytellers

Accountability Empathy Organizational leadership


Key Point: If you want to inspire team members, you have to make a personal, emotional connection. One of the key competencies of great leaders is the ability to have team members emotionally relate to a desired future state; ideally a massive transformative purpose (MTP). People literally have to feel, see, and use other senses to “picture” milestones along the way. Data or other so-called points of factual evidence are not sufficient. Emotion needs to be involved. Hence, great leaders are great storytellers. 

Christine Comaford, of the SmartTribes Institute, recently posted an exceptional infographic outlining why leaders need to be great storytellers. Please invest in carefully reviewing and learning from it. See below:

Character Moves:

  1. Every day you have a storytelling opportunity to advance yourself, team, and/or organization. How do you rate on the CURVE model? (Thank you SmartTribes Institute).
  2. Become an intentional storyteller by practicing the CURVE story model. It takes practice, practice, practice. And the end result is: Did you move others to take positive forward action? If not, you’re an entertainer at best and vanilla pudding at worst. Be a more impactful leader by becoming a practiced storyteller. 

Great CURVE in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: This CURVE model is fantastic, especially when it comes to the effects on brain activity, specifically neural coupling and dopamine. A Millennial’s biggest concern at work may just be losing that “thrill,” and slipping into a state of mindlessness that takes away any emotional desire to compete… Oops, we woke up 20 years later and still haven’t progressed. That’s terrifying. That’s surely not the story I want to tell, and it would be beneficial to learn from great leaders who need us to contribute in developing invigorating chapters as soon as possible.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis