A Bump in the Culture Road 

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This is another blog in the series on culture transformation following my experience as Chief Culture and Transformation Officer at NorQuest. As promised it will be real and transparent including the good, bad and ugly (without sharing material confidential to the college). 

The Challenge: One reason the culture transformation at my last organization was regarded as successful had a lot to do with the capability, commitment and support of the CEO. He was remarkable. The same principle held true in my deciding whether to contribute at the college. The President, Dr. Jodi Abbott, has proven to be an innovative and action oriented leader. With her vision and support, the chances for culture advancement increase materially. This past week Jodi resigned to take another opportunity. Uh oh! (At a personal level, I fully applaud her decision btw). Congratulations to Jodi! At the same time this is a “speed bump” regarding one big assumption in the transformation plan. 

What Am I Going to Do About It?: Jodi is not leaving until January, and the Board of Directors has fully endorsed our strategy. The current culture plan based on following up to the intensive investigative listening campaign undertaken by the Culture Champions remains foundational. Regardless of who the next President is, taking action on what we’ve heard from the college community is important. Furthermore, applying the 10 elements as a framework is solid and we will continue to apply a unique recipe at NorQuest. In the spirit of openness, where we have to give much more thought to is the depth and speed of the purpose and value work underway. The President needs to be the number one model and purveyor of both. So stay tuned regarding what we’ll do and learn about navigating this situation. This a good reminder that every transformation journey will have curves and swerves. Key people come and go. Strategic environments can change overnight. It could be a public policy directive or a merger/acquisition, etc. And that is the interesting, yet messy aspect of applying culture intentionality. At the same time, the primary purpose of focusing on culture, is to improve an organization’s ability to be highly adaptive in the best possible way. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our resilience. I will keep you posted.

Think Big, Start Small, Act Now. 


One Millennial View: This will be a great journey to follow. While the challenges are new and unexpected, the shake up is an interesting surprise that will make for more compelling chapters to this story. I look forward to hear how it’s navigated as the new President is introduced. 

– Garrett 

Blog 999

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

All Together… Lets UN%$CK Work! 

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The Challenge: 2020 is on the horizon and way too many workplaces are still screwed up. Hence my passion and commitment to help create great workplaces and cultures. Essentially we need to unf#%k work. As a public figure, I suppose I should be more dignified in describing it. However if it helps get the point across, so be it. The following is an excerpt from an excellent book: Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan. Do any of the 12 points below ring a bell? 

1. “Insist on doing everything through ‘channels.’ Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
2. Make ‘speeches.’ Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
3. When possible, refer all matters to committees for ‘further study and consideration.’ Attempt to make the committees as large as possible—never less than five.
4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
5. Haggle over the precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
6. Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question of the advisability of that decision.
7. Advocate ‘caution.’ Be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
8. Be worried about the propriety of any decision—raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
9. When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
10. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
11. Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, paychecks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
12. Apply all regulations to the last letter.”

What we can do about it? I have huge confidence that my 10 Elements for Building Extraordinary Cultures is a framework that when applied, works to smash the aspects of work that crush our souls. However, as a foundation we also collectively need to declare that we’ve had enough of the 12 stinkies Dignan outlined above. We don’t need a culture strategist (although people like me can be helpful catalysts). Let’s all just start confronting the stupid aspects found in our work, and continue taking small steps to remedy. As an example, this very week, kill one dumb zombie meeting that sucks the life out of you. If it’s your meeting, stop it. If your supposed to attend, just don’t go and explain why. Keep going up and down the 12 things noted above. Don’t stop. You’re worth it!

Y’all good? 

– Lorne 

One Millennial View: Pretty simple, but so true. It seems many of these issues stem from cultures abiding by fictional red tape. There seems to be a lot of trepidation to rewrite blueprints that everyone knows could use improvement. Why? What’s the hold up? “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” applies to plenty of things, but not zombie meetings. 

– Garrett 

Blog 998 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Lead in With Lorne – How to Go Above and Beyond to Host Your Teammates

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Welcome to another Lead In With Lorne. This week we’re discussing the “what if?” if we went the extra mile to make our teammates feel welcome in the workplace. Think about this new perspective on how we can boost company culture by small things that might mean the world to the people we work near every day. 

Enjoy it on the YouTube video embedded below, or audio listeners can hear it on SoundCloud now too. We hope it enriches your Monday!

Kindly subscribe to the YouTube channel and SoundCloud to make sure you start your week with a leadership story.

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


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Note: Refreshing intentional values is a key part of the culture journey. This is NOT a 1980’s re-do activity. It’s much more meaningful. This connects with last week’s blog

The Challenge: Going deep on refreshing our values is hard work. The chair of a board I’m on and I exchanged emails on that very matter recently. Enlightened board members get it and govern accordingly. A values “check in” challenges us to the core if we’re serious about the exploration. As we undertook this initiative when I was Chief People Officer, our CEO was the lead investigator. We visited other advanced companies, learned what values they framed, why they did so, and how they were implemented. It was a rigorous focus that took several months. It was business, not fluff!

What We Can Do About It: It is definitely beneficial to visit other companies. Although, if we’re not careful, it can become a thesaurus exercise. In this spirit, I strongly suggest also looking beyond the boundaries of commercial enterprises. For example, in my geographical area there is much to learn from thousands of years of wisdom from the First Nations Cree. The Cree way, wahkôhtowin, is described as the safe path leading to healthy and balanced relationships between all of us, through what the elders describe as the Seven Sacred teachings. These are sometimes referred to as the Seven Grandfather teachings. These lessons are foundational to Cree traditions and in the heart of most Indigenous People in Canada. The seven sacred values are

1. Peyak: Respect.

2. Nîso: Courage.

3. Nisto: Truth.

4. Newo: Honesty.

5. Nîyânan: Wisdom.

6. Nikotwâsik: Love.

7. Tepakohp: Humility.

If one digs into the narrative of each of these Cree values, it is profound. While I’m a proponent of building a unique recipe of values particular to each company, I would happily exchange uniqueness to conformity if each workplace adopted these. They are based on so much historical wisdom AND the Cree present them as an interconnected system. Hence we are all related through these seven teachings! How profoundly cool is that? 

Wahkôhtowin… Think Big, Start Small, Act Now! 


One Millennial View: We often turn to history for present guidance and wisdom. It’s great to recognize that values like the seven listed above are still available for us to encourage, share and be interconnected with. While companies fight to become as modern as possible, sometimes foundations should be built on something ancient. 

– Garrett 

Blog 997

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

An Advanced Organization’s Values Can Kick Butt 

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Hi, we’re back after a summer break! Thanks for joining us again. As always we’re sharing with you our most valued and authentic insights relative to culture and leadership. 

The Culture/Leadership Challenge: I keep an Enron values cube on my desk as a reminder of how hollow, empty and cynical organizations’ values can be. Enron, of course, was an energy company that reached dramatic heights at $90+/share in 2001 and disintegrated into bankruptcy almost overnight based on unethical leadership and systemic fraud. The infamous values cube beautifully captured so-called Enron values (like integrity), that were obviously anything but what the company really stood for. The western business world is populated by stated values. They are usually well intended, yet rarely well applied. At worst, they are symbols of contradiction and fuel cynical distrust among employees and stakeholders. 

What to Do About It: The main thing about declaring values is that they need to be a unique recipe and a non-negotiable guide for EVERY person’s core behavior in an organization. It’s not the quantity (people believe that there should be only three or four), because it’s not about recital similar to a 5th grade memory contest. It’s not simply a memory game. It is about a deeply held belief that the behavior associated with all the values is a system, and fundamental to the success of the business. It’s obviously not the only element of business success, however it is a vital component. The secret sauce is fully integrating the values into the soul of the institution, and to introduce them to help people become better human beings first and foremost. How can we resist investing in that which makes us better? People ask me if people bought into the 11 stated values of an organization I was previously at, and my answer is always “yes.” Every single value we declared and reinforced made us better as individuals AND as a group. Furthermore, it is important for people to recognize that consistently living a value is life long exercise. One is never “done” achieving the necessary self-awareness and emotional maturity to truly live the value set in the moment every day. We stumble and celebrate how much more consistent we become. The commitment is relentless, everyday learning at a very personal level. Leadership needs to set the example and reinforce this. Every employee needs to commit from the inside out. When one can execute on this, you really have done something important for the culture. 

Think BIG, start small, act now. 


One Millennial View: I mean, no one can deny that core values are important and crucial for all of us, and great organizations to possess. That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult, disciplined, and painstaking to uphold. As mentioned above, there will be times of falter, but if we don’t have values then what do we have? 

– Garrett 

Blog 996

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis 

Hot Topic Friday: August 9

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Happy Friday! Here are my August 9 Hot Topics and how they relate to advancing culture or leadership.

Hot Topic 1: Hunting for Easter Eggs All Year. 

Source: The New York Times. 

What It’s About: Do you know what an “Easter egg” is in the tech world? It is an undocumented feature in a production, set in motion by a sequence of commands that nobody would hit accidentally. Software engineers over the years have occasionally built in surprises for the user, who have to hunt for them. David Pogue’s article in the NYT gives an interesting outline of this phenomena. Using Tesla as an example, Easter eggs include but are not limited to: “Romance Mode (the screen in the car displays a crackling fireplace as a mood-setting pop song begins to play), Santa Mode (your car’s icon on the screen becomes a sleigh, snowflakes fall, and the turn signal produces the sound of jingle bells); and what Tesla engineers call Emissions Testing Mode (you, the driver, can trigger the sound of flatulence emerging from any of the car’s seats).” Apparently Tesla engineers have made Easter eggs easier to find, yet their cars still contain Easter eggs that nobody has yet discovered. Kinda cool. 

Why It’s Important:  We could all benefit from using our creativity for more intentional fun. What if we explored applying the Easter egg idea in the work we do (not just software development) so that we might surprise people who use our services in a delightful way? I’m not sure how yet, but I’m planning to do that. We’re building a new lornerubis.com website….Hmm. 

Hot Topic 2: Big Learning from 10,000 Leaders.

Source: Inc. 

What It’s About: This Inc. article refers to lessons learned from conducting coaching sessions with more than 10,000 organizational leaders across 300 companies in 75 different countries. The reflective analysis noticed three qualities the most effective leaders have in common:

They have a willingness to improve their leadership skills.

They play a game worth playing in life.

They have a desire to elevate those around them.. 

This totally connects with my observation about effective leaders. 

Why It’s Important: While there is an overwhelming amount of leadership content in the universe, these common traits are worth reflecting on and are accessible to ALL of us. Great leaders are never ever “done.” They are constantly pursuing greater self awareness and are intentional learning machines. I find that they think BIG and play BIG. Most importantly, advancing as leaders in life and work become one in the same mission. And the very best always develop and elevate others in the most generous way. They literally never waste time putting down others. They do eliminate or avoid toxicity and always look to bring people forward. This is a simple article and there is something important we can really learn from it.   

My Weekly Wine Recommendation (Thanks to Vivino):

Badge Proprietary Red Santa Barbara 2016

[Picture and ratings provided by Vivino.]

And finally! Here’s Cecil’s Bleat of the Week!

“A meal becomes good by starting with quality instructions. It becomes great when you add a quality chef.”Erica Ariel Fox

Bye for now!

– Lorne Rubis

Incase you Missed It:

My Lead In podcasts

My latest blogs

Season 3 of Culture Cast

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