Are We Really That Necessary?

Accountability Purpose Well-being


Key Point: Peter Bregman, highly regarded psychologist, author, and consultant, recently wrote the following in Forbes: “Many of us are unhealthily—and ultimately unhappily—tied to mattering. It’s leaving us overwhelmed and over-busy, responding to every request, ring and ping with the urgency of a fireman responding to a six-alarm fire. Are we really that necessary? Relevancy, as long as we maintain it, is rewarding on almost every level. But when we lose it? Withdrawal can be painful. As we get older, we need to master the exact opposite of what we’ve spent a lifetime pursuing. We need to master irrelevancy.” 

I write a lot about the importance of bringing value to others every day. It’s vital. However, if we define who we are and feel happiness exclusively by whether we matter to others or not, we will likely be setting ourselves up for a fall. It does feel good to be wanted by others and to really matter at work (and life). However, one day, for whatever reason, that will change. We will matter less at work and elsewhere. Then what? For those that thrive allowing whether they “matter” to be defined by others will, as Bregman states, “experience a lot of pain… Self doubt… Disappointment… Fear, and even depression.” 

It’s a challenging paradox because we need to matter more by mattering less. First and foremost we need to matter to ourselves. We need to accept that we are all “good enough,” while continuously advancing emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically. The purpose of self-advancement is about character development rather than being in perpetual self-judgment of being “good enough” to matter and be accepted. We need to accept being “good enough” and really matter to ourselves. In doing so, we can become better at mattering less to others. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Fully appreciate the value we bring to others, and be cautious about becoming addictive to “matter feedback” to confirm our necessity. One day we all become less relevant to someone. Like Bregman says, “How we adjust — both within our careers and after them — to not being that important may matter more than mattering.” Contentment may be most attainable when WE accept we really do matter, even when less relevant. 
  1. If you and I left work tomorrow because, let’s say, we won a big lottery, how long do you think it would take to replace us? I promise our former colleagues will say in a shockingly short time after our departure things like: “We miss ____, but (our replacement) brings a different approach that has its own unique value.” Let’s face it; we’re not as necessary as we like to think. It’s ok. Master irrelevancy. 

Not necessarily necessary in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: Not to get into big hot topic issues, but sometimes I laugh when people I know say they are “worried” about the government “reading our texts,” or “listening to our calls.” Not because I necessarily agree the government should or not, but let’s just assume they are. In my mind, that means some poor NSA agent has to mull through your latest late night texts with so-and-so you met, or try to decipher your sports arguments from that group text with 100 inside jokes and funny throwback pictures from 2007. While that’s entertaining to you, you’re just not “that” important… No one is flagging it up. And if you ARE being closely monitored, well, you’re probably up to something extremely bad. In this case, guess what? You don’t WANT to be that important. Feeling valued and wanted is critical, but not EVERY part of everyone’s day is or needs to be Instagram worthy.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Do You Pay the Right Attention?

Accountability Contribution Productivity


Key Point: The ability to concentrate and focus attention is a vital skill for becoming a high performing contributor. Yet we do not assess for this capability as much as we should. The Attentional and Interpersonal Style Inventory (TAIS) is a very insightful self-evaluation tool. It is unique in that it incorporates concentration skills along with intra and interpersonal characteristics in its overall assessment of performance. To concentrate effectively, we need to be able to shift both the width and direction of how we focus attention in response to the changing demands of performance situations. The Attentional scales on TAIS measure two things: 1) Your ability to develop the different types of concentration required to perform effectively, and; 2) Your ability to shift back and forth between the different channels of concentration at appropriate times. Because TAIS measures the basic elements of concentration, scores from the inventory can be used to identify the specific skills individuals need to work on to improve their performance. The following are the key Attentional categories in the TAIS: [Editors note: High and low does not equate to good and bad].

1. Awareness

This scale measures an individual’s sensitivity to what is going on in the environment. Low scorers show little awareness of what is going on outside of their immediate task, and may fail to make adjustments to performance. High scorers on the other hand are aware of what is going on, even when focused on another activity. They are sensitive to subtle interpersonal cues.

2. External Distractibility

This scale measures how easily an individual can be distracted from what they are doing by external factors, such as noise, interruptions and other activities. High scorers find they are fairly easily distracted from their main task by interruptions and may be more comfortable in one-on-one interpersonal situations. They may also need to stay away from busy or chaotic situations. Low scorers are not easily distracted by interruptions, and are able to keep their focus on their main task.

3. Analytical/Conceptual

This scale measures an individual’s ability to engage in big-picture analysis, planning, and complex problem solving. Low scorers tend to react to events, rarely plan ahead and are uncomfortable when forced to use analytical abilities for sustained periods. High scorers on the other hand consider all aspects of a situation and are able to put current events into a bigger context. They enjoy conceptual and complex problem solving.

4. Internal Distractibility

This scale measures an individual’s tendency to be distracted by irrelevant thoughts and feelings. High scorers lose their current track of thought quite easily by focusing on irrelevant thoughts or feelings and may experience their own thoughts happening so fast they cannot keep up with them. Low scorers can keep a clear focus on their current task without irrelevant thoughts or feelings intruding.

5. Action/Focused

This scale measures an individual’s ability to narrowly focus attention on one thing. They’re able to discipline themself, follow through, and to avoid being distracted. Low scorers may not be able to pay attention to one thing for very long and may fail to follow through or adequately attend to details. High scorers can pay attention to one thing for sustained periods. They are dedicated and able to follow through on even boring routines and can be counted on to pay close attention to details.

6. Reduced Flexibility

This scale measures how likely an individual is to make mistakes because of narrowing attention too much, thereby either not noticing other relevant factors or focusing exclusively on irrelevant thoughts and feelings. Low scorers rarely make mistakes because they fail to shift attention from external to internal and vice versa. High scorers make mistakes because they fail to shift attention frequently enough from external to internal or vice versa and make decisions without adequate information. 

As the TAIS document notes: “It is important to remember that we humans have definite limitations in our ability to pay attention. Yet we forget our limitations. We try to talk on the phone and listen to someone in our office but no one can listen to two, brand-new, complex messages at once. Thus, we must make choices — choices between being aware of our surroundings, going inside our head to think, and following through on details.”

Character Moves:

  1. Understand your Attentional capability and ability to switch and adapt to the environment as needed. Overall we want highly aware people who rarely get distracted by external and/or internal factors, but are still in tune enough to do so if necessary. Increasingly, we want people who can fully manage complex problem solving, chaotic situations. And we like people who can get things done, have a bias to action, and follow through. How would your rate on these factors? 
  2. Understand your capability to shift your attention from external to internal and vice versa so you can stay close to having the most relevant information to apply high performance driven decision-making. Know how and when to concentrate! 

Paying attention in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: My position usually requires me to balance two to four tasks at once, and constantly prioritize them in real time. It’s something I very much enjoy doing, but occasionally it can lead to simple mistakes and/or that “I need to take a quick step away from my desk” headache. I’ve learned that as awesome as it is to be “the guy” that can seemingly do 400 things at once, I think most managers and bosses would appreciate you gathering the time it takes for that extra “double check,” that cool down, that “quick step away.” It’s better than a speed that eventually leads to those dumb little mistakes. Those small screw ups, while also rare and seemingly “no big deal,” do require extra work for someone else (at least in my case). Everyone keep it cool out there, you’ll go home happier.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Spirit of a Great Leader

Abundance Authenticity Purpose


Key Point: I strongly believe one cannot be a GREAT leader unless you lead spiritually. I’m not talking about religion or human perfection because you and I both know that’s a contradiction. As people, our very imperfection defines our humanness. I believe really GREAT business leaders, in spite of their imperfections, achieve profit more often through abundance than scarcity. They are more interested in growing, expanding, creating and giving than taking from others. They are more driven by the sustainable, people value they create than simply beating a competitor.

I appreciate the viewpoint of Rev. Scotty McLennan who is a minister, lawyer, author and the former dean for religious life at Stanford. As a lecturer in political economy at Stanford Graduate School of Business, McLennan uses literature to help students explore the moral and spiritual issues in their own careers and he emphases the following in a recent Stanford blog:

“Business people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, and many of them want to find it meaningful. I wrote a book with a colleague at Harvard Business School where we tried to help readers integrate their spirituality and ethical commitments with their daily work lives. Ultimately, I believe this leads to more successful businesses and to greater satisfaction of customers and other stakeholders… Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, has spoken and written about how he has been influenced by the Buddhism of the Dalai Lama. He considers the number one management principle in his own work life and for his company to be managing compassionately. This goes beyond empathy to walking in another’s shoes and taking collaborative action together. He is convinced that compassion can be taught not only in school, but also in corporate learning and development programs. A fellow minister who heard Jeff Weiner speak on ‘The Art of Conscious Leadership’ at the 2013 Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco described Weiner as making the most inspiring contribution to the conference. Not only was his spiritual commitment to his employees and customers strongly evidenced, but also he has a business leadership dream to expand compassion worldwide through his powerful social media company.” 

Character Moves: 

  1. What is your spiritual IQ? This is every bit as important as your IQ, EQ, PQ (Positive Quotient). If you want to measure this, the best work out there is by Cindy Wigglesworth. Take her SQ21 assessment. It’s an eye opener. 
  1. Develop or refresh your organization and personal purpose statement around the concept of making things better for people. If you do that, most employees will rally around the business. If your purpose statement is only or primarily about creating shareholder financial value and return, I promise your organization will eventually stumble. Why? Very few people jump out of bed in the morning to dedicate themselves to making shareholders richer. On the other hand, many feel terrific when their meaningful work creates sustainable value… Including a strong shareholder return. 
  1. An organization’s priority and purpose should center on creating meaningful value for humankind, followed by a commitment to team members, customers and finally shareholders… In that order!! What is your purpose and value being created for other people? 
  1. As I’ve noted repeatedly in recent blogs, put your technology away for a few minutes each day, and find time to quietly refuel. A little meditation will contribute to your spiritual quests. 

Be an intentional spiritual leader and be proud of it. 

Spiritual leadership in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: It may sound cliché or over preached, but there is a certain value and benefit that attaches itself to helping others. When you do it, it “feels” great, which in turn sparks that spiritual connection to the task. You hear about businesses doing a little something extra for their clients or customers, and that little “something” makes all the difference. It keeps your customers returning, and in turn, you profit in more ways than just through monetization.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Stress Versus Burnout… Below the ‘Green Line’

Productivity Respect Well-being


Key Point: Energy and mental fatigue at work continues to be a hot topic. And while I believe this emotion is prevalent at all levels of an organization, this feeling of deep fatigue is extra raw in “middle management.” Executives certainly have unrelenting pressure to get results, and this expectation is definitely stressful. However, these folks also have access to more resources that somewhat can mitigate the pressure. Middle management on the other hand lives with immense “downward” pressure to deliver on shifting strategy and tactics coming from a myriad of directions. And, they still have to stay tuned to the demands and frustrations of front line employees, as they too cope with never ending change. This “sandwich syndrome” can wind stress levels up and perhaps even accelerate burnout below what I call the executive “thin green line.” So, what’s the difference between stress and burnout? The following is from Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A.’s Preventing Burnout article.

“Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. Stressed people can still imagine, though, that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up. While you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens. [See the table in the article for stress versus burnout comparisons].

You May Reach Burnout if: 

Everyday is a bad day. 

Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.

You’re exhausted all the time.

The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.

You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

The authors suggest the following as actions for preventing burnout:

  • Start the day with a relaxing ritual.Rather than jumping out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend at least 15 minutes meditating, writing in your journal, doing gentle stretches, or reading something that inspires you. Or, end the day with this.
  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands. Careful about alcohol, and other mood modifying drug use! Be honest with yourself! 
  • Set boundaries.Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say, “yes” to the things that you truly want to do. You can legitimately think “yes” and still say the appropriate “no” when you have decided to stop working for the day and invest in yourself.
  • Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email. Take a break from back to back, non-stop meetings. Try asking people close to you about your smart phone habits. What do they say? 
  • Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work. You’re worth it! 
  • Learn how to manage stress.When you’re on the road to burnout, you may feel helpless. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. Learning how to manage stress can help you regain your balance. Or, I guess burnout is ok with you? 


Character Moves: 

  1. The most important thing is to be self-aware and to take control of our energy and stress management. How are we really feeling? What are we doing about it?  Most times we have more control over mental fatigue and stress than we think we do. We do NOT want to get to burnout. We therefore have to INTENTIONALLY refuel DAILY. This isn’t just a weekends and holidays thing.
  2. You and I need people. Friends and intimate relationships are not just nice to have; we NEED to have our “peeps.” All of us. Going it alone will get you into the burnout zone eventually. 
  3. Do not expect the speed/flow of work/life change or your workload to lessen. It will not unless you quit working. However, as the saying goes, “wherever you go, you will still be there.” So embrace the wonderful challenge of navigating stress and creating more personal energy. 

Energy plus in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Ever have a more experienced person explain that “you don’t even know yet?” I find that this phrase is recurring and evolves. It’s possible we’ve been “stressed” since, well, confronted with any challenge or deadline. Remember cramming for that test in high school? Our college selves would be like, “bud, you don’t even know yet.” Recall pulling an all-nighter for that final in University? Our post-grad selves might be like, “dude, you don’t even know yet.” The fun thing about life’s previous stressful dilemmas is we’ve likely found a way to persevere, find a way, and make it work. If we can just utilize what we’ve learned to avoid a burnout, our future selves will laugh at our current hindrances, and say, “told you, you didn’t even know yet.”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘I Really Need Your Help’

Accountability Collaboration Courage


Key Point: How do you feel when someone asks you for help? (I didn’t say, ‘ask you for money’). I usually feel darn good that someone has the trust and confidence in me that they would ask. And I do not recall ever turning anyone down when they do. 

It was very hot in the church we went to this Sunday. Half way through the service, an elderly parishioner slumped down in the pew a few rows in front of us… Fainting spell? Heart attack? Stroke? Of course, no one was sure but at least six very knowledgeable people jumped in to help. Legs up, cold compresses, pulse check, ambulance called. And of course, the woman didn’t have a choice to ask for help. But, when she slipped into unconsciousness, help was there, and she needed it. I guarantee you everyone felt better as the event concluded. (The patient was ultimately ok).

It made me realize that often people at work (and life) really need help but are reluctant to ask for it. We think we can go it alone. I’ve lived and repeated this mistake in work and life. There have been times when the best thing I could have done is to realize I needed the support of others and wish I’d had the strength to request it. Frankly, my resistance went beyond hard headed perseverance.  I was just too proud, and as the wise saying aptly goes, “pride precedes the fall.” 

Margie Warrell is a keynote speaker and bestselling author of Brave, and she noted the following in a March Forbes article:

“When you don’t ask for help when you need it, you personally assume all of a burden that might easily (and gladly) be shared by others. And you also deprive those who’d love to assist you of the opportunity to do so. Everyone is worse off… Not only can it help us when times are tough and we’re struggling, but it also gives others the opportunity to make a difference while helping them feel more comfortable to ask for help themselves. When we support other people to be more successful, we discover opportunities for collaboration that ultimately enable us to be more successful ourselves. Everyone is better off.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Know when to ask for help and have the courage to do so. Don’t let your ego deprive others from contributing. It is important that you are genuine and honest when describing what you need help with. This includes identifying that you are struggling without knowing exactly what you require. When you go down for the count, asking for help can often be too little too late. 
  1. If someone asks for help, be a great listener BEFORE you offer solutions. Cross the bridge to stand as close as you can to the person requesting help. Stand in their shoes as best as you can. Be present, notice, and inquire. Clarity on how to best help follows empathetic listening. Do not blindly try to “fix it” for the other person. 
  1. Also have the courage to let someone know that they may require help. Often times, people are so stuck in mud, they can’t “back the car out far enough to look at what a mess they’re in.” They honestly don’t understand how much they need the support of others. Describe what behavior you see and what indicates they may need help. Offer it. Do it. 

Help in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: A fraternity buddy and I created a show for our university’s TV network, and during one of the segments, we invited a local psychic as a guest. He read my palm, and immediately told me I was “very independent.” That’s probably the only thing he had right, but, needless to say, even (probably fake) psychics can tell that asking for “help” with pretty much anything is not my strong suit. Ironically, I love helping others, but, still, I’m generally too darn stubborn to ask for it myself. That, however, doesn’t mean I’m always smart enough to mask it, or in a place where I don’t need it. The courage to ask for more help is something I’ll probably have to work on forever, but, in the meantime, I hope to help as many others as I can so at least it would justify any assistance that comes my way.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Are You MEAN Business?

Communication Kindness Respect


Key Point: How hard is it to be civil? Kind? Really?? What the heck has happened to us? Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times Sunday Review entitled No Time to Be Nice at Work. I guess we have enough time to behave stupidly at work but not enough to treat each other with respect. The quotes below are from that NYT article, which has caused a stir amongst readers. 

What prompted me to write this happened minutes before I sat down to blog. A clerk at a book store (Audrey’s in Edmonton , Alberta) was unfortunately the inspiration. There was literally no one in this downtown location on a Saturday afternoon. My wife (one of the politest people on Earth) wanted to buy a book called The Mosquito Brothers for our 8-year-old grandson. She asked if the store carried it. The reaction of the employee was shocking… “Yes, they had it,” and then she dismissively went about her “business.” Out we went… No book for us, and no sale for her (I guess the retail book business is just too good to bother treating customers well?) Rude people treat employees poorly AND that rolls down to customers. Back to professor Porath’s article:

“People who treat others with disrespect have succeeded despite their incivility, not because of it. Studies by Morgan W. McCall Jr., a professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California, including those with Michael Lombardo, while they were with the Center for Creative Leadership, have shown that the No. 1 characteristic associated with an executive’s failure is an insensitive, abrasive or bullying style… More… Although in surveys people say they are afraid they will not rise in an organization if they are really friendly and helpful, the civil do succeed. My recent studies published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, show that behavior involving politeness and regard for others in the workplace pays off. In a study in a biotechnology company, those seen as civil were twice as likely to be viewed as leaders…” And, Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford professor and the author of ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,’ argues that when people experience intermittent stressors like incivility for too long or too often, their immune systems pay the price. We also may experience major health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and ulcers.”

Porath goes on to point out, “Bosses produce demoralized employees through a string of actions: Walking away from a conversation because they lose interest; answering calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room; openly mocking people by pointing out their flaws or personality quirks in front of others; reminding their subordinates of their ‘role’ in the organization and ‘title’; taking credit for wins, but pointing the finger at others when problems arise. Employees who are harmed by this behavior, instead of sharing ideas or asking for help, hold back.”

Character Moves: 

  1. It’s so simple and yet obviously hard because respectful behavior requires both self/external awareness and INTENTION!! Small actions we can all take include listening, smiling, sharing and thanking others more. In one unpublished experiment Porath conducted, a smile and simple thanks (as compared with not doing this) resulted in people being viewed as 27 percent warmer, 13 percent more competent and 22 percent more civil.
  1. The second element of the Character Triangle is RESPECT. It’s not so much about treating others as we want to be treated, but treating others as THEY want to be treated. It may be hard to believe that it’s necessary, but in our organization we are intentionally reacquainting EVERY team member with the skill of how to make a personal emotional connection with others. Don’t assume you or others you work with know and have the skill to do so. Research says many of us have lost our way. It’s NOT time that’s missing, it’s awareness and thoughtful intention that’s been overwhelmed by all the distracting “noise” in our heads. Be RESPECTFUL and really know that you are. 

Civility in The Triangle 


One Millennial View: Not only is it so much EASIER to be nice versus being mean (read: drama avoidance/bridges in tact), it’s most beneficial for you too. Let’s play devil’s advocate and pretend there’s an argument otherwise. If you truly have a tough time justifying being kind, that’s too bad, but let’s pretend you feel challenged to stand your ground and don’t want to seem weak (we have an old blog refuting that btw). Here’s a trick: By being nice, being considerate, being the “bigger person” when you’d otherwise want to be rude, it also makes you come across as the “cool and collected” one, the one “above it” with the confidence and desire to progress further. So you choose, do you want to seem level headed and moving forward? Or is it better to just be known as the “mean person?” I know which one I’d rather work for.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis