100 Years Later

January 28, 2016

Today marks one hundred years after women won the right to vote in Manitoba:

Women Get the Vote: January 28, 1916

Never retract, never explain, never apologize – get the thing done and then let them howl. – Nellie McClung


Liz Ryan presented a great piece in Forbes titled, “Six Things Real Leaders Don’t Do (Like Boss People Around)” (Ryan, 2015; Link). In it, she described her point of view for what makes a “real leader”:

  • Real Leaders Don’t Boss People Around
  • Real Leaders Don’t Bark Out Orders
  • Real Leaders Don’t Second-Guess Their Team Members
  • Real Leaders Don’t Blame Their Employees When Something Goes Wrong
  • Real Leaders Don’t Bring the Hammer Down Right Away
  • Real Leaders Don’t Chicken Out of Tough Conversations

So, what is a real leader anyway? The concept reminds me of the old adage that “real men don’t eat quiche” (Feirstein, 1982); in that case, the idea being that we can define men by simply offering up a pithy (yet funny) generalization.

X men

Can we do the same as we aim to understand and categorize our beliefs of leaders? Can we generalize the traits that comprise the ideal leader? The notions about leadership are as varied as the number and nature of individuals that offer up ideas about what comprises an ideal leader. There are countless theories.

Of all the hazy and confounding areas in social psychology, leadership theory undoubtedly contends for top nomination. And, ironically, probably more has been written and less is known about leadership than about any other topic in the behavioral sciences. – J.C. Rost

In reading Ryan’s piece, her argument seems sound and logical. That said, I believe that an ideal leader needs to be more than just a barrier-busting-empathic-trusting-supportive soul. I humbly offer some additional characteristics that in my experience elevate someone from an average leader to an ideal “real” leader:

Real Leaders Express Gratitude: real leaders recognize, express and reward positive behaviours.

Real Leaders Encourage Forgiveness: real leaders maintain a culture of continuous quality improvement. They understand that humans are fallible, forgive mistakes and errors and capitalize on the strengthens of the team to foster true improvements in performance.

Real Leaders Build Meaning Into Everyday Work: real leaders provide opportunities to associate activities that align with an individual’s personal values and that of the organization as a whole.

Read Leaders Encourage Personal & Professional Development: real leaders provide encouragement and foster opportunities to develop their team members.

To self-assess your own leadership capabilities, try: http://chlnet.ca/tools-resources/leads-framework/self-assessment

Works Cited

Claremont, C., Simonson, W. & Wiacek, B. (1983). Uncanny X-Men #171 . Marvel Comics.

Feirstein, B. (1982). Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Collins & Brown.

Rost, J. C. (1993). Leadership for the Twenty-first Century. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Ryan, L. (2015, August 8). Six Things Real Leaders Don’t Do (Like Boss People Around). Retrieved from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2015/08/08/six-things-real-leaders-dont-do-like-boss-people-around








The Power of Networks

July 21, 2015

Interesting tie-in to Darlene Helmer’s piece on Develop Powerful Purposeful Networks:

Catherine Statton

My first experience in forming an alliance had to do with choosing the players that would comprise my dodge ball team during phys. ed. class in elementary school.  Our teacher decided to be cutesy and have my twin brother and I each serve as Captains of the duelling dodge ball teams.  Stuart chose the strongest, most agile and athletic players.  I gave a chance to those who would have normally been chosen last: the underdogs, the bookish, the reticent and the socially awkward kids.

So, it should be no surprise then that my team was annihilated in record time.  The teacher, surely confused by the speed at which the dodge ball game finished, called a re-match…

It was a hard lesson for me to learn about choosing who to associate with.

Your relationships can be a source of emotional support, advice, information, and tangible resources.  The coalitions that you forge…

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Building Business Acumen

December 28, 2014

Over this last year, I have felt quite fortunate to be able to mentor some emerging healthcare leaders.  These individuals are intelligent, driven and they actively dedicate their time and energy to career development.  Yet, they commonly describe that it is a lack of business acumen that is impeding their career progression.  For the purpose of this piece, I will define business acumen as being the knowledge and understanding of how a particular industry works; and for also having a keen perception of what the growth opportunities might be within that sector.

These mentees are classically well trained, with good undergrad degrees (and in some cases also have good graduate degrees) from our country’s finest Universities.  They have honed a number of technical skills and competencies in their particular field of study.   But, they find themselves languishing in a ‘dead-end’ career path.

Does This Sound Like You?

You don’t seem to know enough about [the] business in general… some of the statements and suggestions you make don’t pass the business practicality test.  It may also mean what you’re suggesting is known not to work and you are unaware of that.

…You don’t know enough about this specific business and industry.  That usually means you don’t understand the agenda, issues and concerns of the people you serve inside your organization, and you make comments and have suggestions that don’t match their priorities.  Your contributions are limited because you don’t see priorities as they do… unless you walk a mile in their shoes, they’re not going to pay attention to you.  (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2013, p. 26)

So How Does One Develop?

Stephen Xavier (2014) suggests that there are two paths to learning and development: the traditional academic approach, which can produce a series of graduates who are strong in theoretical (yet weak on practical) knowledge; and learning as one goes – inching along one’s career path with “the “seat of the pants” approach… without any focus or structure” (p. 343, para. 3).

In contrast, there are a number of different ways emerging leaders can sharpen their business acumen and achieve their subsequent career aspirations:

  1. Get informed on industry-specifics: try reading industry-specific journals; following industry-specific business leaders; reviewing the annual business plans of organizational goliaths within your sector (or alternatively attending their Annual General Meeting); and attending conferences that attract the best and brightest from your particular industry.
  2. Mentoring and coaching: seek insights from those that you respect from within your field. If you struggle to find a suitable leader who can serve as your mentor or coach, consider hiring an executive coach who will assist you with your specific development needs.  Of note, there are a number of well-respected mentorship programs that already exist. Take for example, the Canadian College of Health Leaders. The offer their members access to their National Mentorship Program, at no cost, in order to allow individuals the opportunity to “learn to expand their current thinking, become more self-aware and emerge better prepared to lead” (Canadian College of Health Leaders, 2014, p. 3).
  3. Stretch: volunteer (a) for roles, (b) for tasks or (c) to serve on Committees that are outside of your area of expertise.
  4. Network: foster relationships with those outside of your current department or organization. Try understanding the perspective of the policy-makers and funders, or the perspective of the national or provincial association leaders that govern your industry.


Works Cited

Canadian College of Health Leaders. (2014). National Mentorship Program Handbook. Retrieved from Canadian College of Health Leaders: http://www.cchl-ccls.ca/site/member/mentorship

Lombardo, M. M. (2013). FYI For Your Improvement: A Guide for Development and Coaching, 5th Ed. Lominger International: A Korn/Ferry Company.

Northouse, P. G. (2012). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc.

Xavier, Stephen. “Developing Emerging Leaders: A New Solution to an Old Problem.” Business Strategy Series 8.5 (2007): 343-9. ProQuest. Web. 28 Dec. 2014.


A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (How Technology Can Help Work/Life Balance) suggests that use of technology is so intertwined with everyday business practices that many struggle to maintain a healthy work/life balance. The author observed that professionals find themselves struggling as they feel incessantly connected to work through their mobile devices.

The article suggests a handful of ways that we can leverage technology to actually lessen our constant work demands; these include:

  1. Setting rules that limit the frequency of “Reply All“s;
  2. Encouraging that emails be flagged by the sender as “Response Required (RR)“, “For Your Information (FYI)” & “No Response Necessary (NRN)“;
  3. Restricting the hours by which professionals receive their emails (perhaps limiting the emails received during nights and weekends); &
  4. Scheduling the work day so as to limit meetings that consume no more than 65% of the day.  This would allow professionals the time to reflect and respond to their emails throughout the work day.  This would also require that meetings are only called when absolutely necessary, and that the meetings being held are productive in nature.

The tenets of the article remind me of the teachings from the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement’s Productive Leader Series.

The crux behind the Productive Leader series is to release the time to lead. The series encourages leaders to make time to:

  • be more visible amongst your staff and within your organization;
  • foster talent development amongst your team;
  • dedicate time to your own personal and professional development; &
  • Achieve a sustainable work-life balance.

In fact, the NHS identified two key areas for improvement; those being in meeting and email management:

The biggest area in which your leadership team can make improvements and save time is likely to be meetings management. Our findings revealed that NHS leaders spend an average of 70% of their time in meetings with only 27% starting on time and even less, 18%, finishing on time.

Improvements can also be made in email and workload management. During the test phase for The Productive Leader [series], participants reported that… the focus of their emails and the responses they received improved by 32%. 

(NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, 2013)

So, it begs the question, do you think it possible to enhance the efficiency at which meetings and emails are managed in your workplace?


Callard, L. Bevan, H., & Morgan-Cooke, M. (2009, September 9). The Productives: “Releasing Time” series. Retrieved from BC Patient Safety and Quality Council: http://bcpsqc.ca/documents/2013/01/BCPSQC-HQN-Sept-9-2009-Presentations-NHS-Productive-Series.pdf

Deal, J. J. (2014, October 27). How Technology Can Help Work/Life Balance. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/articles/how-technology-can-help-work-life-balance-1414382688

NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. (2013, March 31). Productives. Retrieved from NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement: http://www.institute.nhs.uk/quality_and_value/productivity_series/the_opportunity.html

The Power of Networks

June 25, 2014

My first experience in forming an alliance had to do with choosing the players that would comprise my dodge ball team during phys. ed. class in elementary school.  Our teacher decided to be cutesy and have my twin brother and I each serve as Captains of the duelling dodge ball teams.  Stuart chose the strongest, most agile and athletic players.  I gave a chance to those who would have normally been chosen last: the underdogs, the bookish, the reticent and the socially awkward kids.

So, it should be no surprise then that my team was annihilated in record time.  The teacher, surely confused by the speed at which the dodge ball game finished, called a re-match…

It was a hard lesson for me to learn about choosing who to associate with.

Your relationships can be a source of emotional support, advice, information, and tangible resources.  The coalitions that you forge can be a potent source of power, while the coalitions you are not in can loom as a potential threat.  Since relationships require investment and nurturing, you will have to choose with whom you will interact, how often, and on what terms… (McGinn & Long-Lingo, 2001, p. 19).

Dodge ball of course requires strong hand-eye coordination, agility, dexterity, and a good aim.  These are all purely technical skills.

At the time however, I was not thinking of how to select my team strategically based on the skills needed for the game.  I was not focused on “fit” or on cohesiveness amongst the team members.

As I embarked upon my career, I found the concept of professional networking somewhat distasteful.  I have always had a small group of very close-knit friends.  I have never been interested in fostering more relationships just for the sake of having a wider circle of influence.   In turn, it did not seem particularly authentic for me to initiate relationships with others for the sole purpose of potentially yielding advancement opportunities or some professional reward.

That was until I understood the true value of a network; a coalition of the willing that supports and challenges me.  My network values my strengths, encourages me, allows me to broaden my expertise, and find purpose and balance.

No leader is perfect.  The best ones don’t try to be – they concentrate on honing their strengths and find others who can make up for their limitations (Ancona, Malone, Orlikowski and Senge, 2007).

Thank you to all within my ‘circle’…

Works Cited

Ancona, D., Malone, T. W., Orlikowski, W. J., and Senge, P. M. (2007). In Praise of the Incomplete Leader. Harvard Business Review, 1-10.

McGinn, K., and Long-Lingo, E. (2001). Power and Influence: Achieving Your Objectives in Organizations. Harvard Business School Case, 1-23.

You are Inimitable

March 9, 2014

Health Achieve Day 2At the 2013 Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) Health Achieve conference, Sir Ken Robinson led one of the feature sessions with a talk on Leading a Culture of Innovation.

The crux of his argument focused on fostering creativity and innovation in the workplace as a way to navigate through the many complexities that we all face.

It was a great talk.

But, what has stuck with me was the nature of the commentary that he used to preface his talk.  He described that each and everyone one of us has a unique biography.  No one has ever lived your life.  You are unique.  You have created a life out of your own distinct experiences.  He continued on to describe that to be born is itself a miracle, and then he proceeded to challenge the audience:  So, what are you going to do with this extraordinary opportunity that you have been afforded?  How will you write your own narrative?

It is an interesting notion, as I had always considered that my life has unfolded just like many others before me.  But, Sir Ken Robinson presented a very thought-provoking idea.

Even if two people were born on the same day into the same family and offered the exact same opportunities early on in their lives, it wouldn’t presuppose that their lived experiences would be identical.  What individually drives them, their opinions, and their resulting decisions would surely vary, thus shaping each and every one of their experiences.

So, does this notion change your perspective about your own life?  Do you have any desire to live your life differently, knowing that only you alone will have a chance to experience it?

Health Achieve. (2013, November 5). Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HealthAchieve

Robinson, K. (2013, November 5). Leading a Culture of Innovation. Toronto, ON, Canada.


The Progress Principle presents the case of a “disengagement crisis”, where individual employees are increasingly disengaged in the work that they do and as a result, organizational performance suffers.

The authors describe conditions in the workplace as comprising of one’s “inner work life”; a state where positive emotions result, motivation is fostered and favourable perceptions about one’s work life abound (relating to the work itself, their superiors and colleagues).  When the environment is just right, the authors suggest that these three factors can contribute to a positive inner work life and employee re-engagement.  They go on to posit that when nurtured, a positive inner work life leads to joy, creativity and innovation at work; and overall job satisfaction.  The notion is that achieving a positive inner work life will result in extraordinary individual and organizational performance.

Amabile and Kramer present the hypothesis that what comprises meaningful work is progress, catalysts (stimuli that ultimately assist in achieving meaningful work) and nourishers (interactions that inspire employees).

In contrast, the authors describe that a poor inner work life is characterized by setbacks (actions and emotions that negate the value of one’s work), inhibitors (poor consideration for people and their ideas; poor coordination of systems and procedures; and poor communication) and toxins (disrespect, discouragement, emotional neglect and antagonism).

Their proposed antidote to the disengagement crisis is for managers to model positive work life behaviours on a daily basis and thus “re-energize the workplace and revitalize creative productivity” (Amabile T. , 2011).  Their suggestion is that without daily encouragement and nourishment, individual and organizational progress will stall.  The authors also present a Daily Progress Checklist (and other tools) that can assist managers in monitoring their teams progress and setbacks.

Amabile, T. &. (2011). The Progress Principle. Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press.

Amabile, T. (2011, October 12). TEDxAtlanta – Teresa Amabile – The Progress Principle. Retrieved from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD6N8bsjOEE

For those that are familiar with the movie, Matrix, there is a seminal scene (run time: 2:12) in which Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) is presented with a choice: make a conscious decision to explore one’s truth or choose to return to the safety and comfort of day-to-day life (and continue to conceal one’s authentic self).

Prior to this crucial scene, Neo is portrayed as living a fairly typical existence.  He spends his days eking out a living as a computer programmer for Metacortex, a multi-national software company.  By his own account, he doesn’t “exist”.  He is a “nobody”.

Yet, night after night, he is plagued by the feeling that there is something else out there for him; something for which he cannot understand, nor explain.  He hungers for this “something more”.

So, when Neo is introduced to his mentor (Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne), he is bewildered to be greeted by someone who has such tremendous confidence in him.  Morpheus has an unwavering faith in Neo’s abilities.  He fervently trusts that Neo “is the one”; the one with exceptional gifts and the One with the ability to save humankind.

In turn, Morpheus presents Neo with a choice: the option to take the “blue pill”, a safe choice that would allow Neo to return to the comfort of his day-to-day life or the option of the unknown – Neo could take the “red pill” and make a conscious choice to explore his destiny.

This scene represents to me the perceptible power of a transformational leader.

A transformational leader is one who is “attentive to the needs and motives of followers and tries to help followers reach their fullest potential” (Northouse, 2012, p. 186).  Transformational leadership has the power to motivate followers, like Neo.  It also has the power to expand followers’ level of consciousness “about the importance and value of specified and idealized goals” (p. 190); it inspires followers to transcend their own self-interest and motivates them to fulfill higher-level aspirations.

Northouse, P. G. (2012). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc.

The Wachowski Brothers (Director). (1999). Matrix [Motion Picture].

The Wachowski Brothers (Director). (1999). Blue Pill or Red Pill – The Matrix (2/9) Movie CLIP (1999) HD [Motion Picture]. Retrieved February 10, 2014, from http://youtu.be/zE7PKRjrid4

The Power of Empathy

February 7, 2014

Dr. Brené Brown, Ph. D. in the Power of Empathy (run time: 2:54) describes that what creates an authentic connection is feeling with (empathy).  In essence, it requires:

  1. Perspective taking – being able to manage one’s own thoughts and feelings so as to consider someone else’s perspective;
  2. Being non-judgemental – listening in a non-critical and supportive fashion;
  3. Recognizing Emotion in Other People – understanding another’s feelings; &
  4. Communicating – in order to authentically connect with others, one needs to initially relate to the feelings experienced by others and then genuinely convey that emotion.

It amounts to “feeling with” others as opposed to merely expressing one’s understanding of their feelings.

Empathy is a behaviour that is central to the practice of Servant Leadership (in addition to the characteristics of listening, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others and community development).

Servant leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them.  Servant leaders put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their full personal capacities.  Furthermore, servant leaders… lead in ways that serve the greater good of the organization, community, and society at large.

Northouse, P. G. (2012). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc.

RSA. (2013, December 10). RSA Shorts – The Power of Empathy . Retrieved from You Tube: http://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw