Leadership Practice is a Joke!

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Story: A priest, a minister, an imam and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this? A joke?”

Ok, I think that joke is funny for a number of reasons, and over the years I’ve learned how hard it is to effectively deliver one. I have so much respect for great stand up comedians because most work exceptionally hard on their acts. I was just listening to an NPR interview with comedian Ken Jeong (you probably recognize him from The Hangover movies). He commented that it “can take 10 years to really write 10 good minutes.” Even when he’s headlining in main rooms, Jeong sneaks off to casinos, open mics, and smaller stand up venues to hear the “up and comers” and fine tune his material. His comedy appears spontaneous but like other memorable performances, it’s totally planned and all about practice, practice, practice.

The Problem: Too many leaders are unconscious about the process of leading. It is separate from title or a job skill. Leadership is a craft, and doesn’t happen by accident for the great ones. So what if all leaders kept exercising and honing their abilities for their role, like the best entertainers or athletes do? There are some common processes every formal leader has to do, regardless of the organization size, market, business model, etc. For example, every leader has to set a course or direction. Everyone in this role needs to coach others. Teaching, recognizing, hiring and firing are all leadership processes that can be practiced.

The Solution: Consider leadership as a craft and give thought to the merit of practicing it. Like the very best at anything, never accept good enough or unpredictable variation of your leadership performance as acceptable.

If this information is helpful, here’s how you might apply it:

  1. Just start with one leadership practice (like coaching), outline the steps for doing it well, and practice. Go from there. 
  2. Just for fun, let’s check out Jeong’s Netflix special (Full disclosure: I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailer suggests it’s for mature audiences).

– Lorne

One Millennial View: Leaders should be aware that their employees are learning both positives and negatives from them as well, whether they’re trying to be mentors or not. If a leader is practicing, adjusting and and applying new processes, they’re simultaneously teaching these actions. If leaders operate with the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mindset, then that gets passed along too. So, if coach doesn’t go to practice, neither do the players. 

– Garrett

Blog 967

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Culture Cast – Deliver High Impact ‘Town Hall’ Meetings in the Workplace

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In Season 3, Episode 2, Lorne and Lynette ask how might they deliver high impact, improve engagement, community and transparency during town hall meetings in organizations. Here are some ideas how to reinvent town halls to increase better facilitation and more meaningful participation from all leaders and employees.

Please feel free to subscribe to this YouTube channel, follow this podcast on Soundcloud, as well as iTunes, and Lorne and Lynette’s social media platforms for all the latest Culture Cast uploads and announcements.

Lorne Rubis is available @LorneRubis on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook

Lynette Turner is available on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn as well as through her site, LynetteTurner.com.

We look forward to sharing Season 3 of Culture Cast: Conversations on Culture and Leadership with you every Wednesday. 

Be Humble Going Forward and Smart Looking Backwards!

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Story: I’m enjoying sharing the learnings accumulated in how to build a great culture. I outline 10 necessary elements to really make a culture move forward. Truth be told, the only way I could really map out this framework was having the time to look backwards. When we were creating and building the culture at the last organization I was at, it felt more like a drunken hermit crab heading north on a wide, sandy beach. We staggered, always pivoted, reversed occasionally, yet ultimately passed key milestones. Often it was more luck than brains, and we also made very conscious choices that were instrumental. Along the way, while tactics changed daily, we never wavered off going “north.”

Frankly, we humans are not very good at predicting, but we’re quite skilled at “retrospectively rationalizing” to explain why a business, project, or product succeeded or failed. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs stated during his 2008 Stanford commencement address: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, only looking backward.”

Key Point: I’m all for planning and recognize the importance of forward looking detail. However, often the very best plans have to change before the ink is dry. Our most important attribute then becomes the ability to adapt and pivot. The same principle applies to starting new organizations. “It’s almost always the case that the greatest firms are discovered and not planned,” says William P. Barnett, a Professor of Business Leadership, Strategy, and Organizations at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. That’s one conclusion from a study Barnett co-authored with colleague Elizabeth G. Pontikes of the University of Chicago. They studied entrepreneurial success rates by researching 4,566 organizations in 456 different market categories over 12 years, and found that entrepreneurs who were willing to adapt their vision and products to find the right market often did the best.

Actions you can take:

  1. Be fearless about pivoting. Stay true to your core purpose and values. However, be prepared to constantly adapt along the way.
  2. Be a great listener and humbly prepared to change tactics and strategy constantly. This is courageous rather than wishy washy leadership. Leave looking smart to when you’re connecting the dots in retrospect.

The wandering path in Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I guess there’s a reason why a book called “How to Build a Perfect Successful Company in One Try” doesn’t exist. Name an organization or product that has stayed completely the same since you started following them. I can’t think of one. Heck, by the time I finish editing this blog, there will likely be an update for the WordPress used to publish it.

– Garrett

Blog 960

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

My Boss is an Algorithm!

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Story: How do you feel about your boss being an algorithm? The algorithm can promote or “deactivate” you based on continuous data assessment. Hopefully this excerpt from a recent article in the NYT by Alex Rosenblat will get you thinking. This is happening now!

There are nearly a million active Uber drivers in the United States and Canada, and none of them have human supervisors. It’s better than having a real boss, one driver in the Boston area told me, ‘except when something goes wrong.’

When something does go wrong, Uber drivers can’t tell the boss or a co-worker. They can call or write to ‘community support,’ but the results can be enraging. Cecily McCall, an African-American driver from Pompano Beach, Fla., told me that a passenger once called her ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid,’ using a racial epithet, so she ended the trip early. She wrote to a support rep to explain why and got what seemed like a robotic response: ‘We’re sorry to hear about this. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us and share details.’

The rep offered not to match her with that same passenger again. Disgusted, Ms. McCall wrote back, ‘So that means the next person that picks him up he will do the same while the driver gets deactivated — fired by the algorithm — because of a low rating or complaint from an angry passenger. ‘Welcome to America.’”

Key Point: The biggest complaint employees have is usually about their bosses, the real live human ones, let alone digital ones. Yet, however imperfect, at least most of us have someone to appeal or talk to as a boss. I’m a big fan of AI/machine learning and big data helping employees to increase productivity or effectiveness. And an algorithm may be more objective and programmed to be more helpful than human managers. What I have serious concern about is if employers begin to remove any human connection from an employment relationship for scale and cost reasons. Uber drivers are people first. It is too convenient and I think irresponsible for organizations to consider people as simply “gig-economy transactions.” Like the NYT article notes, “It’s better than having a real boss… Except when something goes wrong.

Leading Yourself Moves:

  1. Become more aware where algorithms are replacing bosses and what that means to the world of work.

Leading Others Moves: 

  1. Invest in people leadership. And argue for leadership to be augmented by AI, rather than before being fully replaced by algorithms. Unless a person is working exclusively for themselves, I hope we always have a “boss” we can talk to; even if they are predictably imperfect.

Real People in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: It’s crazy to think that due to the enormous amount of content uploaded to YouTube, the company has no choice but to filter it with algorithms. Fortunately, YouTube videos just live online and aren’t cruising down real life roads. I understand why companies like Uber choose to employ algorithms instead of salaried bosses, but when things do go wrong with actual humans, when will the road get too bumpy for a machine to properly drive the situation? 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Bad Blood at the Top

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Story: I’m just completing the Institute of Corporate Directors education program and certification, in the spirit of becoming a more effective Board member. It is a very important initiative, and the content vital for any aspiring or current Board participant. And now, more than ever, Directors need to be actively involved regarding setting the right tone at the very top of the company. In parallel, while convalescing from knee replacement surgery, I’ve been doing a lot of watching and reading of material that underlines the importance of active board members promoting total organization integrity. It is startling to be reminded how corrosive and dangerous it is when ethical standards dissolve.

On the Netflix side, I’ve been watching Dirty Money, with the first episode detailing Volkswagen’s corporate deceit. It profiles the alliance between governments and automakers that allowed the company to risk tens of thousands of lives – for the sake of a $500 dollar part. Watching it and understanding how unethical, corrupt and totally misguided corporate executives in collusion with “blind eye” government officials, willingly putting peoples’ well-being and the environment at risk for greed and profit, made me mad. The phrase “defeat device” is now cynically built into our vocabulary. Shame on Volkswagen and others.

From a reading perspective, I’ve been soaking in John Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood, Secret and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.” It’s about the blowout of one of the valley’s hottest startups, Theranos, and their Steve Jobs CEO wannabe, Elizabeth Holmes. Per the New York Times, “Carreyrou tells… A chilling, third-person narrative of how Holmes came up with a fantastic idea that made her, for a while, the most successful woman entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. She cast a hypnotic spell on even seasoned investors, honing an irresistible pitch about a little girl who was afraid of needles and who now wanted to improve the world by providing faster, better blood tests.” The company was a fraud and the products just did not work, risking the lives of thousands of patients and screwing hundreds of investors. It is almost unimaginable that the company, based on essentially old fashioned bait and switch, ascended to 800 employees with a paper valuation over $9 Billion at their peak.

Key Point: In both cases, the Boards and top management were fully responsible for serious harm to people, and massive loss of shareholder value. Great companies genuinely look to advance humankind. Companies, at their very worst, get lost in avarice and greed, while consciously or unconsciously putting humankind at risk for profit and growth. In hindsight, the signals are always there, and shocking to see how the the tone at the top becomes a matter of deteriorating continuous delusion, lying, deceit, and worse. It is a slippery slope when ethical standards become eroded.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Doing the right thing and knowing exactly what behavior that implies, is a vital value set for ALL people in the company. The top of the house needs to model and teach this. Regardless of what level or position, it is critical to continuously discuss and clarify what this value means. There can only be one standard for doing the right thing.
  2. I continuously endorse a psychologically safe environment, where people can “talk back.” (Read Bad Blood to get a picture of the opposite).
  3. Make sure there is a robust, working “whistle blowing” system, just in case. The reputation of the brand and well-being of people involved with the organization must come first. The tone is always set at the top.
  4. Watch for a breakdown in small matters of integrity. This is often a precursor to much worse.

No Bad Blood in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Sometimes I roll my eyes at the basic and buzz-word splattered mission statements/values of some organizations. They can look like someone just Googled “What Makes Good Company Sound Gooder,” copied and pasted it. While that bland effort can lack flavor, creativity, and a uniquely inspiring, attractive perspective for a workplace… Heck! It’s a whole lot better than anywhere that has misplaced or lost core values and integrity. Knowing right versus wrong is most important. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis