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Discover Your Leadership Trail

July 20, 2014

400th Post on WordPress!

Jim Grand Manan Trail We’re living in a technological age where almost any type of work can be outsourced to far-away countries, where labor market skill needs of employers are out of balance with the supply (what people have to offer) and where instantaneity and multi-tasking are robbing us of the down-time so important to personal reflection, inquiry and learning. And it’s having dire effects on productivity and innovation at the nation-wide and company levels.

What’s especially sad–and shocking– about this scene is that no one seems to particularly care, whether CEOs or politicians.

It’s go, go, go, and do, do, do in the misguided belief that somehow that we, as human beings, are capable of making informed, long-term decisions while simultaneously adding more balls to the ones we’re already juggling.

Whatever advancements we were achieving in the nineties and shortly after the start of the millennium from the insights of such people as Peter Senge whose book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, bolstered by other thought leaders as John Kotter, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, C.K. Prahalad, and Gary Hamel (to name just a few) seem to have been largely forgotten.

Grand Manan Lighthouse It’s difficult to repel what may be deemed as the race to the bottom mindset of lowering corporate operating costs while keeping the pedal to the metal. But this applies as well to our personal lives. This was brought home this past May and June during a two week, 3,500 km trip my wife, Sue, and I made to New Brunswick, a Maritime province where we used to live. We spent a lot of time hiking in the wilderness and along the Bay of Fundy’s inspiring cliffs. And for a few days while staying in a cottage on Grand Manan Island we had no TV. It seemed weird at first but we loved it.

It’s amazing how spending time on trails in forests and, my favorite place, along the ocean helps clarify one’s thinking and center one’s personal leadership.

During our trip we also visited Sue’s folks and also saw some of her cousins. I recall talking to some of them at a family event, asking them about their kids. It’s foot to the floor all the time as parents, driving kids to activities and school events, parents’ careers, etc. But that’s no different from parents in cities across Canada and the U.S. And layered upon this “busyness” are growing demands from employers who want more achieved with fewer resources–read, less employees.

Fishing Boat When it comes to corporate decision-making workers typically have zero input. However, while we can’t control what’s beyond our reach, we can control how we react to such events. It’s about how we inject our personal leadership into our workplace to constructively contribute and to enable our adaptability to change. The same applies to our personal lives. To be switched on continuously, foot to the floor, as we juggle the balls of work, family, career development and personal activities leads eventually to burnout. It’s pretty hard to be creative and to think strategically when your brain’s shorting out from overload.

Helping our kids to pause periodically to reflect on where they’re at in life, explore (inquire) into the unknowns and possibilities, and to take calculated risks is to inject our personal leadership into their lives in a positive way.

Encourage your children to explore nature.

Take them on a hike.


Transformative learning, intellectually and emotionally, occurs when we have taken the time to stop and reflect on our prior learning and mental models, in turn validating what is still relevant, and then moving forward with the insights attained.

– Jim Taggart

Red SignsPostscript: Grand Manan Island is one of the three Bay of Fundy Isles, part of the Province of New Brunswick. Before our June 2014 ferry ride to the island, the last time Sue and I had been there was 23 years ago camping with our then four young kids.

The most meaningful part of our hiking along the island’s huge cliffs was to Hay Point at the south western tip of the island. Hay Point looks towards Maine, USA. I last visited there in 1979 with the late Father Tom Daley who took me to Grand Manan Island on two occasions. We were billeted by a lovely and generous couple who lived in Seal Cove.



Jim and Sue Grand Manan This last photo is of Sue and me at Hay Point. For me, Hay Point is the most beautiful place in Canada. And just as we arrived a fishing boat (shown in the above photo) came into view, on its way to herring weirs. It felt kind of odd being back at this bluff, surrounded by meadow, 100 feet above the ocean, surrounded by towering cliffs, 35 years later. But it felt like yesterday.

I will return to Hay Point in 2015.


Photos by Jim Taggart and Sue Butler (Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada).


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Leadership and Three Success Keys for the City of the Future

July 13, 2014

Waterloo Cities come in all shapes and sizes. Trying to rank cities by size gets rather difficult because of municipal boundaries. What’s relevant is using accepted urban boundaries to define a city. In other words, a common labor market is the key driver in determining a “city” and its socio-economic composition.

In North America, the largest cities (urban areas ) in descending order are New York City (20.6 million), Mexico City (20.2), Los Angeles (15.1), Chicago (9.1) and Toronto (6.2). Dallas-Fort Worth is hot on Toronto’s heels with an urban population of 6.0 million. For more on populations click here.

While these large urban areas are indeed big, when one considers other countries the numbers are even more impressive. Consider the top five urban areas: Tokyo-Yokohama (37.3 million), Jakarta (26.7), Seoul-Incheon (22.9), Delhi (22.9) and Shanghai (21.8). When you’re dealing with such massive urban areas it’s useful to keep in mind that they have larger economic outputs than many countries.

Whether a “city” (in most cases we’re talking about urban areas) is a puny one million inhabitants, or a paltry 75,000, each is uniquely different with a combination of natural gifts (e.g., natural resources), location (e.g., port) and people. On the latter, some cities luck out by having generous benefactors who donate large sums of money over many years which contribute to its cultural and educational amenities, not to mention business investment, such as in technology.

Fredericton Two contrasting examples of small cities in Canada can be found in the small province of New Brunswick (population 750,000), bounded by Maine, Quebec, Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy: Fredericton and Saint John.

Fredericton, the provincial capital, has an urban population of about 80,000. With strong British Empire Loyalist roots, Fredericton has had three key factors that have created and maintained a good standard of living and the highest disposable income in the four Atlantic Provinces:

a) a stunningly beautiful location on the Saint John River which splits the city in half;

b) being the seat of government, which provides economic stability;

c) being the recipient of Lord Beaverbrook (Sir Max Aitken) whose generosity contributed greatly to the city’s culture and stature. Fredericton has also benefitted from solid financial management from its municipal government over several decades.

The contrast to Fredericton is only 90 minutes down river: Saint John, an industrialized, blue collar, port city which has struggled economically for decades. Its workforce has much higher unemployment than Fredericton and higher illiteracy and innumeracy. Although it has the advantage of having a deep water port, Saint John competes against other ports, from Halifax to Montreal to New York City. Its tech industry is thin, and it has struggled to keep low-wage call center jobs from moving to cheaper jurisdictions.

Saint John The biggest employer in the city for decades is the locally owned Irving empire, consisting of a vertically integrated network of oil, forestry operations, forest products manufacturing, trucking, shipping, technology, steel fabrication, and the list goes on. Indeed, Canada’s largest oil refinery is owned and operated by the Irvings in east Saint John.


But despite having what could contentiously be called an economic benefactor over 60-plus years, Saint John tries in vain to right a sinking ship. Unfortunately, in comparison to Fredericton’s rock solid economic stewardship, Saint John’s municipal leadership and fiscal management has been an ongoing embarrassment and disgrace, with the outcome being lost economic opportunities.

And then there’s Canada’s capital, Ottawa, a beautiful city of some 900,000 residents (urban population about 1.1 million), not including the city of Gatineau across the Ottawa River in Quebec. The two urban areas combined form what is called the National Capital Region (1.4 million).

Ottawa Despite being the seat of government, Ottawa has had a tough time during the past few years. Up until the early 2000s, the federal public service and the high tech sector employed about the same numbers of people. And then the collapse struck, beginning in 2001. Nortel’s death took several years, but wiped out 20,000 jobs in Ottawa. JDS Uniphase, Newbridge, Cognos and Mitel all suffered various degrees of collapse, shrinking or corporate acquisition.

What propped up the economy was the public sector’s rapid growth from 2000 to 2009, expanding from 100,000 employees to 150,000. The Conservative government’s full court press to shrink the public service as part of its deficit-fighting campaign in effect pulled the rug out from under Ottawa’s economy. The concern now among business leaders is if and when the city can recover economically, especially given brutally competitive global competition for technology investment and jobs.

When it comes to today’s global economic streetfight for market share, both at the corporate and nation-state levels, we all too often forget the vital role that cities play in a country’s wealth generation through foreign investment and, in turn, job creation. At the heart of this is municipal leadership and a mayor’s and elected council’s ability to understand the big picture, the implications of standing still while others act, and the dire effects of political infighting.

Saint John’s political leaders don’t seem to get it. Fredericton’s leaders kind of get it, but have been spoilt by having the federal and provincial public services, not to mention two universities, as economic stabilizers. The City of Ottawa’s political leaders’ infighting and the lack of a coherent vision for a very large geographically dispersed city is undermining its future at the expense of its citizens.

The rest of the world–namely emerging markets–love this, watching the West bumble along, national, provincial-state, and municipal politicians engaging in one-upmanship, forgetting why they hold elected office.

singapore For a city to succeed in the future, while having natural attributes as nice-to-haves what’s more important for its long-term success are three success keys. These three success keys are:

1) Smart People – Human capital development is the primary cornerstone for the eventual success of a city, state or province, or nation. Without a strong, sustained focus on educating a population, building its skill and competency levels, and wiping out literacy and innumeracy so that everyone can participate in new economic opportunities, everything else is meaningless chatter.

2) Small Companies – Agility is where it’s at in today’s hyperspeed economy and labor market. Smart, competent and talented people are great to have–indeed essential–but companies must be able to anticipate change, even when unsure (in most cases) of what the unknowns are. While small companies don’t have the economies of scale of large firms (with the efficiencies they may bring), what they can do is turn on a dime when needed. And by having smart people small companies can make those 180 degree turns much faster and nimbly than the clumsy giants.

3) Global Connectivity – If you’re not connected get out of the kitchen–that is, where the good stuff is happening and where smart people are experimenting with what may seem as crazy ideas. Technology is not an end unto itself; however, it is a critical enabler to bringing people together virtually all over the globe to share their insights based on totally different cultural upbringings. And with new discoveries comes wealth creation.

Smart People + Small Companies + Global Connectivity = Three Success Keys for the City of the Future.

But wait! There’s something missing in this equation. While the three success keys form the foundation for positioning a city for the future, there’s one overarching necessary element.

Leadership.

The only way to create and maintain traction and momentum for a city’s development is through visionary leadership that enrolls and aligns people towards a better community–for all. Leadership, in effect, forms the glue to keep smart people; small, agile companies; and technology on the same path to the future.


Cities are central to innovation and new technology. They act as giant petri dishes, where creative types and entrepreneurs rub up against each other, combining and recombining to spark new ideas, new inventions, new businesses and new industries.

Richard Florida (The Wall Street Journal,”The Joys of Urban Tech”)


Photos: Waterloo, Ontario; Fredericton; Saint John; Ottawa; Singapore


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Leaders Pay Close Attention…and Then Act

July 7, 2014

Max  - Erica Aug 2012 Hardly any faculty is more important for the intellectual progress of man than ATTENTION. Animals clearly manifest this power, as when a cat watches by a hole and prepares to spring on its prey.
– Charles Darwin (The Descent of Man, 1871)



We humans consider ourselves to be the superior beings on Mother Earth. Indeed, we don’t like to think of ourselves as animals, though that is what we are in effect when it comes to behavior, given our propensity for violence, whether against other humans, wildlife or the environment. Perhaps, however, it’s an insult to other “animals” to say that humans are part of their animal clan.

Sue and I have an eight-year old Labrador Retriever, Max. We’ve had him since he was six weeks old. Our four adult kids love him, as do our four grand kids. Max is gentle and patient with the little ones, but nevertheless exuberant when company arrives. He also sleeps a lot–or so one would like to think.

Watching a dog sleep is an interesting occasion. Just when you think Max is dead asleep on his comfy dog bed in the rec room, one eye pops open, and then the other. It may have been the innocuous sound of a door opening or the sound of cheese being grated upstairs in the kitchen (yes, he can hear that), but Max is now alert. And he as the uncanny ability to distinguish between a visitor entering the house, which prompts a few deep barks and a scurry up the stairs, and one of our kids, which elicits another quirky behavior: grabbing one of his stuffed dinosaurs and bringing it upstairs as some sort of welcome gift.

I also enjoy watching him chill out in the sun on the back deck. He looks at peace with himself, having a good snooze. But the ears are twitching at every sound, his nose quivering at unknown scents and he’ll suddenly stand to alert to look out over the fence, only to plop himself down again and feign sleep.

Max-Charley-FergI share this story to illustrate what Max and dogs in general do so well: he pays attention all the time, even when he’s supposedly sleeping. He watches out the windows to constantly scan what’s going on out on his street (yes, it’s his street in his mind). He goes from person to person when family or friends visit, ensuring that everyone gets some attention, not to mention a donation of some of his fur. And he will lie at your feet when he detects you’re not feeling well.

For a dog with the IQ of a toddler, Max and his canine peers do a pretty job at trying to subtly teach we humans how to be present in the moment and to be aware of our surroundings. Except that we’re not doing a very good job at it.

Let’s consider top corporate leadership, where one would assume that CEOs and presidents are paying attention to what’s happening within their organization’s walls.

Whether it’s General Motors’ ongoing negative media exposure caused by years (indeed decades) of gross senior leadership incompetence of ignoring faulty ignition switches in the Chevrolet Cobalt or leaking fuel lines in the Chev TrailBlazer, or inner city drug problems and associated violence spurred on by indifferent mayors, paying attention is the role of true leaders.

As Chicago’s feisty but effective and committed mayor Rahm Emanuel stated emphatically in Bloomberg BusinessWeek on the issue of OxyContin abuse: “The heads of the pharmaceutical companies and the head of the FDA and the heads of the medical profession need to step up and start taking responsibility. You have a regulated drug that is leading to overdose and heroin addiction. Snap out of it and pay attention.”

Love him or hate him Emanuel, as President Obama’s pit bull former Chief of Staff (who drove the Affordability Healthcare Bill to conclusion), gets things done. And he’s absolutely correct when he says, in effect, that corporate leaders must pay attention to the damage they’re inflicting on society.

Mary The same applies on a much grander scale to General Motors top management which, through its arrogance and high-handed manner, caused the needless death and injuries to numerous people. That some senior executives have not been charged criminally is a mystery to your correspondent. And as of writing this post, GM’s recalls number 28.5 million worldwide, or as TIME magazine stated, “All the Cars GM Has Recalled this Year Would Wrap the Earth 4 Times.” (Photo of new GM CEO Mary Barra testifying before Senate Sub-Committee on Consumer Protection).

Or how about T-Mobile’s recent run-in with the Federal Trade Commission which is suing the company for ripping off customers for hundreds of millions of dollars in third party charges on phone bills for supposed premium services. Known as “cramming,” where a company puts misleading, unauthorized or deceptive charges through customers’ phone bills, the FTC filed its accusations in Seattle in early July. The charges, buried in customers’ detailed phone bills, were unauthorized, and in fact some customers had asked T-Mobile to stop when they discovered them.

Leaders pay attention.

They don’t cower and pretend that all is well. They suck it up, in the vernacular of my son who works in banking, and hit problems head on. General Motors’ and T-Mobile’s top management either were unaware of their respective problems or ignored them. They weren’t paying attention. In the case of GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra, she’s trying to rectify the problem, though it’s pretty hard to bring the people back to life who were killed by the company’s incompetence.

So, with that all said, what type of leader are you?

Do you pay close attention to what is going on around you?

Do you act promptly when something is not right?

And do your eyes pop open, like Max’s, when you detect a subtle change?


Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence.

– Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, 1976)

Photos of dogs by Erica McTaggart


Leading in Multipolar World 2nd editionClick here to download my complimentary e-book Workforce of the Future: Building Change Adaptability, 2nd Edition.


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10 Leadership Lessons to Succeed During Turbulent Change

June 30, 2014

happy-people1 In my new ebook Workforce of the Future: Building Change Adaptability, 2nd Edition I present four major forces that are exerting major impacts on our planet and its seven billion inhabitants. However the core of the ebook is about leadership, specifically what each of us can do, regardless of our status in society, to adapt to turbulent change. I’ve spoken about 10 leadership lessons in the past; here they are again in summary form.


Lesson #1: Commit to Your Job.
There’s a saying that people don’t quit their jobs but rather their bosses. However, there comes a time when commitment to our work and employers must be reconciled with the tendency to leave jobs when we become frustrated. To commit to your job means aligning yourself with your organization’s mission, understanding who are the customers or clients, and determining where you add value. If you find that you’re not adding value, then some personal reflection is needed.

Lesson #2: Adapt Quickly to Change
When a big change hits your organization, emulate Superman by quickly shedding your old corporate duds for the new approach. If you can’t find a phone booth, any office will do. But the key point here is to understand that your organization is about to go through some whitewater change. By adapting quickly to the change, you’ll significantly reduce your stress while simultaneously showing management that you can be counted upon when the going gets tough and ambiguity is the daily challenge.

Lesson #3: Learn to Focus and Go for Quality, Not Quantity
In organizational work, multitasking has the negative effect of valuing the superficial and mediocrity. In what has been labeled the knowledge age, in which employees are supposedly knowledge workers, multitasking is dumbing down organizations.

When it comes to leading people, being present is a vital element of effective leadership. If you’re trying to multitask while speaking to one of your staff who has dropped by your office, you send out the message loud and clear that the individual is not important. Focus on what your colleague is saying; at that moment he or she is the center of your attention.

Lesson #4: Be a Promise Keeper
When you keep your promises and commitments to your co-workers, staff and bosses, including those with whom you interact in your community, you’re viewed as someone with integrity and whose word is gold. When the situation arises where you’re unable to keep a promise, then it’s essential to take the time to explain what happened to the person or people who were affected. Refrain from making up excuses; just be up front and people will be much more likely to be understanding. They may even respect you more when they see you admitting a mistake and acknowledging that you’re human.

Lesson #5: Embrace Uncertainty and Ambiguity–Ride the Wave
Trying to resist the onslaught of whitewater change is futile. The metaphor of learning to ride the wave is very apt, one that creates a positive and energetic outlook. At the organizational level the effects of globalization–characterized by most work being capable of being done anywhere around the world, thanks largely to communications technology–are having profound effects on workers.

What’s important to keep at the forefront is not who’s right on the job distribution issue, but rather to identify what YOU control and do NOT control. You control your morale, willingness to learn and adapt, and desire to seek out new opportunities. By assuming the identity of a change master, you’ll greatly reduce the stress that’s generated when your organization goes through the gyrations of major changes. And you’ll signal to senior management that you’re equipped and ready to contribute to helping the organization meet its new challenges.

Lesson #6: Be a sponge for learning–and then SYNTHESIZE
The amount of information is growing exponentially. It’s no doubt overwhelming with the massive onslaught of information we must try to absorb. As much as it’s important to keep learning and to expose ourselves to new ideas and perspectives, the critical skill to acquire is how to synthesize this data overload.

Lesson #7: Own your attitude and behavior
How often have you seen bosses or co-workers trying to dump their problems on others? What was the effect? Did anyone call the individual on it? What was the response from management? When behavior like this occurs it can have a corrosive effect on the team and even more broadly on the organization. Don’t turn a blind eye when you see it happening. Speak up and empower yourself to help correct the behavior. Lead by example.

Lesson #8: Be a problem solver. Not finger pointer
It’s easy to identify problems and complain about them. Some people excel at this. The bigger challenge is exploring solutions to problems, and especially doing so in a collaborative manner. When you approach your work from this perspective you automatically start adding value to your organization. Avoid the finger pointers; instead, seek out people who want to be part of finding effective solutions for organizational issues and problems. You’ll be seen as the person who makes things happen, who fixes problems and, especially, adds value to your organization.

Lesson #9: Practice what you preach
Treat people as how you like to be treated, whether it’s responding to a request for information from another unit in the organization or serving a customer, client or supplier. When others see that you act consistently in accordance with what emanates from your mouth, they’ll take you more seriously and respect you for your judgment and views. Aligning what you espouse and what you actually practice is a cornerstone to leadership integrity, one essential to creating a loyal followership.

Lesson #10: Become a barrier buster
Avoid becoming entrapped in silo thinking, in which people hoard information, reject ideas from other parts of the organization (as well as from outside) and attempt to protect their turf. Rise above this and get known for being a barrier buster who openly shares information, connects people and communicates effectively across organizational boundaries. You’ll get noticed by management as someone who understands the bigger picture and is contributing to the organization’s mission and vision.

This brings with it demands for new leadership approaches. Top-down, command and control management styles have no place in our new world. It’s about collaboration through worker self-empowerment, where calculated risk-taking is a daily endeavour and individual and collective learning is nurtured and valued.

Take some time to reflect on these ten leadership lessons. Where do you see yourself strongest? And where do you see yourself needing to strengthen your skills?

Start small; focus on one or two areas. Commit yourself to becoming an effective leader.


By assuming the identity of a change master, you’ll greatly reduce the stress that’s generated when your organization goes through the gyrations of major changes.

– James Taggart


Workforce of the Future Footer CoverClick here to download my complimentary e-book Leading in a Multipolar World: Four Forces Shaping Society, 2nd Edition.


Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

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Climate Change’s Call for Leadership

June 23, 2014

Polar Bear We hear every day about the problems facing Mother Earth, whether it’s melting polar icecaps, droughts in the Southwest United States or Northeast Africa, or violent storms that lash out suddenly, destroying property and killing people in their wake. More and more people are paying attention to their nutritional intake, researching food sources and the implications of genetically modified foods. Our population, especially children, is showing greater food intolerances. Something’s going on here.

The growing concern about the impact of humans on Mother Earth is gradually imposing pressure on national (and local) governments to do something through policy measures. However, the response has been typically reactive.

In March 2014, the United Nations released a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Despite expectations by many that the report would be a panicked cry about a world of increasing fossil fuel demand and steadily growing carbon emissions, the authors took a more measured tone. Their core message is that climate change will affect in some way everyone on the planet and that we, as a society, must learn to adapt.

Contrasted to the IPCC is The World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency, which forecasts rising fossil fuel demand over the next two decades. Although the 2014 outlook will not be available until November, the 2013 report revealed fossil fuel demand increasing 40% by 2035, with carbon emissions rising by 20%. Moreover, fossil fuel’s share of total energy demand will remain at 80%.

The major contributor to sustaining the demand for oil and natural gas is hydraulic fracturing, more popularly known as fracking. Rapid advancements in technology in just the few past years have resulted in massive growth in fracking around North America and Europe. This is presenting new challenges to those industries attempting to develop renewable energy sources, with respect to end-user cost.

How is the business community, as a collective entity, responding to climate change? Business may be seen as dispersed along a continuum, from doing nothing to half-hearted measures to being fully engaged in living sustainable business practices.

Flaming Earth Many, if not most, corporations don’t get it. Somehow the perception is, “Why should I care about the environment? The scientists contradict one another. As a company, our number one priority is profit.” Indeed, the IPCC report may be interpreted by some business people as not being a sufficiently urgent call to action but rather one of just learning to adapt to climate change.

However, in just the past few years it seems that a movement is afoot, sparked by investors in publicly traded companies. According to CDP, a not-for-profit organization that measures and discloses environmental information on behalf of investors, over half of the 31 world’s stock exchanges produce data relating to the environment. Indeed, the primary catalyst to companies paying attention to their impacts on the environment is coming from investors. CDP, the only global system for investors, represents investors with $92 trillion in assets. Some 5,000 companies are sent questionnaires on issues such as meeting emissions targets and specific initiatives.

What has not been adequately communicated is that some companies have embraced what is called the Triple Bottom Line:
1) Economic Sustainability
2) Social Sustainability
3) Environmental Sustainability

Yes, there are many companies around the world that are actually practicing a triple bottom line approach to business. They seek not just to make profits but also to contribute to society and to minimize their operations’ impacts on the environment. Here are four examples from Canada, Germany, the United States and New Zealand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Mountain Equipment Co-op
MEC, as it’s affectionately called, is Canada’s largest retail outdoor-oriented co-operative. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, MEC has demonstrated a sustained commitment to environmental and social responsibility since its founding in 1971 by six people. Whether it’s constructing green buildings, using recycled fibres in its clothing or getting involved in community efforts, MEC strives to make a positive impact on the planet and at the local level.

Owned by its members, MEC fulfills its core purpose: to help people enjoy the benefits of self-propelled outdoor-oriented recreational activities by providing outdoor gear, clothing and services. It has over three million members, not just in Canada but worldwide.

MEC’s mission is to serve its membership in an environmentally and ethically responsible manner. As part of its green operations, MEC pays close attention to how it packages and ships its products. This ranges from reducing the thickness of cardboard to using only recyclable materials to developing vendor manuals with specific packaging guidelines.

MEC is engaged in numerous activities and new initiatives. For example, employees are paid to do volunteer community work aimed at outdoor recreation and conservation. To reduce their environmental footprint, employees have bike rooms and lockers to encourage cycling to work. An astonishing 82% of MEC employees take alternate transportation to work, with one third cycling.

bmw BMW Group
BMW earned for the seventh year in a row the Dow Jones Sustainability Index Leader award. This is the most influential stock index for companies that are committed to sustainable practices. BMW’s award is well deserved, considering the company’s long journey to being eventually recognized as a world leader in sustainable business practices.

The company’s voyage began back in 1973, when it appointed an environmental officer; this was a first for the automotive industry first. Over the next four decades, BMW worked systematically to refine its approach to sustainability in a manufacturing environment. In 2009, corporate sustainability was set as a corporate objective.

Committed leadership is essential to maintaining BMW’s sustainability journey. The sustainability board, comprising all members of the board of management, determines how corporate objectives are aligned with BMW’s longer-term goals.

5124091291_dae7df261a_b Icebreaker
We all know that wool is warm, even when wet. But it can be bulky and very itchy for many people to wear. But what if you could wear a high quality product against your skin, one that breathes well, does not itch one bit and which is basically stink-proof? And to boot, the company that has produced it for two decades is completely committed to sustainable business practices?

Meet New Zealander Jeremy Moon, whose encounter with a merino sheep farmer in 1994 changed his life. Soft spoken and articulate, Moon recounts how he met through his American girl friend a New Zealand farmer who showed him a merino tee-shirt he had made as a prototype. Moon was astounded by its softness and natural feel. The 24-year old marketing graduate had an idea about selling merino wool tee-shirts, and with a NZ$20,000 loan from his bank, combined with funds from eight investors, he set about to create a company.

Icebreaker’s early days were bleak, with quality problems in its apparel. However, Moon persevered and by the fourth year his company made its first profit. Today, with some 350 employees located in such countries as New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Australia, France, Germany and Switzerland, Icebreaker is seen as being the benchmark for high quality merino clothing. From base layers to tee-shirts to soft shells to running gear, Icebreaker continues to innovate and grow. The company’s customers now span 30 countries, with its clothing sold in more than 2,500 retailers.

Ray Anderson 4 Interface Inc.
For those of you who have followed my blogging, you’re acquainted with the name of the late Ray Anderson, perhaps the greenest CEO yet to inhabit Planet Earth. Anderson died from cancer in August 2011, yet he left a huge positive impact on the planet. His journey in the 1990s from typical corporate CEO to one consumed with radically changing how his flooring company Interface operated, from its organizational culture to its emissions and effluents, was truly remarkable.

Anderson’s aim was a zero carbon footprint. At the core of his work was innovation. His vision was one day attaining a state of no environmental impact on the planet as the result of his company’s manufacturing operations, a zero carbon footprint. He strove tirelessly to reach it. And it was not just a matter of finding new innovative ways of eliminating emissions or integrating waste from floor cuttings back into productive use, but ensuring that employees evolved with changes and that they embraced them. (Watch this 2009 TED talk by Ray Anderson on the business logic of sustainability).


If we want to address global warming, along with the other environmental problems associated with our continued rush to burn our precious fossil fuels as quickly as possible, we must learn to use our resources more wisely, kick our addiction, and quickly start turning to sources of energy that have fewer negative impacts.

– David Suzuki (Scientist and Canadian Broadcaster, Host of CBC’s “The Nature of Things”)


Leading in Multipolar World 2nd editionClick here to download my complimentary e-book Leading in a Multipolar World: Four Forces Shaping Society, 2nd Edition.


Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

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An Ageing Population in All Its Glory

June 15, 2014


Funny-Old-People-3 Turn on the TV news, read your favorite newspaper or magazine, or go online to read the news, and you’ll probably encounter a story about our ageing population, or at least a story linked to it.

Most Western countries are facing long-term problems because of a greying population. But so, too, are Japan and South Korea, to name just two. Canada and the U.S. are among the more fortunate because of immigration and the higher birth rates of immigrants. About 80% of Canada’s population increase has been due to immigration, in contrast to the U.S. where it’s been the result largely of natural increase.

The point is, steadily ageing populations in the long-term present huge problems to national governments. For example, in 2025 the first Baby Boomers will reach age 80, with the youngest being in their early sixties. Canada’s low fertility rate will mean that lower numbers of youth (relative to the past) will replace Boomers in the labor market. Indeed, by 2025 it will be only immigration that will stop a decline in the country’s population.

Healthcare and how it’s funded is the most frequently mentioned issue in the news. As people age, the ratio of those working who pay into the tax system to those dependent (children and seniors) starts to get squeezed. The bad news is that as we get into our senior years, as our knees and tickers give out, we start placing an inordinate strain on the healthcare and, indirectly, the taxation system. Who’s going to pay the escalating healthcare bill?

Compounding this ugly scene is a crappy labor market for youth and Generation Y. On top of this is an increasingly difficult situation for older workers (50-plus), whose wages are getting squeezed and whose adaptability to new technologies often presents challenges. Furthermore, the job scene–or lack thereof–is pushing more young people to either remain at home with mom and dad or to move back home in an effort to keep their economic heads above water.

It’s not a pretty situation, and unfortunately an ageing population can’t be reversed. It is what it is. And it’s entirely predictable, the one time that economists can hold their heads up high.

old So what do we do? Moan about the problem?

Human capital development (fancy economist speak for education and skills training) is a nation’s most valuable asset. We’ve heard the “people are our most valuable asset” mantra for years in organizations. Those organizations that need to espouse this are least likely to actually practice it.

We can’t change the fact that our population is getting older, with the associated problems. However, what is within our control, both at the national political level and at the organization level, is how we respond to the challenge. Rather than tolerating the barriers that have become erected between the generations, especially the wall that has sealed Baby Boomers unto themselves, much more work needs to be done to build bridges based on respect and understanding across Generations X and Y, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation (67 to 82) and the Greatest Generation (82 plus).

For more on this topic, click on this link to read my e-book Leadership and the Inter-Generational Divide, 2nd Edition. And for more on the challenges of an ageing population and its effects on organization, read my e-book Workforce of the Future: Building Change Adaptability, 2nd Edition.


What leaders are called upon to do in a chaotic world is to shape their organizations through concepts, not through elaborate rules or structures.

– Margaret Wheatley


Workforce of the Future Footer CoverClick here to download my complimentary e-book Leading in a Multipolar World: Four Forces Shaping Society, 2nd Edition.


Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

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Begin With the End in Mind

June 9, 2014

habit 2 How often have you started a project at work, or been part of a community effort that took some time to get off the ground, to discover partway through that your team had lost its way, unsure of what was the original goal?

This happens all too often. And what’s scary is when it happens to large government taxpayer-funded projects, whether in healthcare, defense or transportation, to name just three areas. It is indeed somewhat amazing that the supposed brain power and leadership behind mammoth projects is frequently highly fallible. We’re human beings placed on this planet for mere nanoseconds when placed in the context of Earth’s history. But we think we have the answers and ready solutions. As American actress Mae West once said, “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”

Enter one person who articulated so well the importance of beginning with the end in mind as the path to remaining focused, achieving our goals on time, and meeting our promises and commitments to co-workers, friends and loved ones.

Stephen Covey in his hugely popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People described seven daily practices with which each of us should lead our lives (an 8th habit was released several years after the first edition was published). Check out the 7 Habits.

Habit #2 is Begin with the End in Mind. At the personal level, it’s about imaging the future and creating a mission statement to define, articulate and to focus one’s energy to realize that dream. Extend this concept to working within organizational walls, or in a community setting. As Covey explained: “Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”

Covey’s Habit 2 is easily converted to the aggregate level, consisting of small and large groups of people.

As someone who’s been in the work force a long time, working first in the private sector then the public sector for three decades and now back in the private sector, I’ve observed that our busy lives is seriously affecting how we approach work when it comes to taking the time to reflect clearly on what we wish to accomplish, both at the personal and corporate levels. Our growing addiction to instantaneity and multitasking is severely shortening our attention spans and long-term thinking.

This is not just undesirable from a personal goal perspective, especially for younger people who need to think both strategically and tactically in the face of a tough job market, but also from a national level when it comes to competing against the growing number of hungry economic competitors, most of whom are poor countries trying to get a piece of the wealth action.

Taking the time for reflection and strategic thinking now requires concerted self-discipline. For those people leading teams, whether project-based or intact, and especially for those leading organizations, now is the time to reassert your leadership. This comes by modelling the behaviors you wish to see your peers and followers emulate. Encourage periodic downtime, where the urgent is parked temporarily and the important (as Covey urged) becomes sacrosanct.

You will be stronger as a leader. Your team will be more vibrant. And your organization will strengthen its performance.


When you are problem-solving, you are trying to get rid of something. When you are in a creative mode, you are trying to bring something into being.

– Stephen Covey


Leading in Multipolar World 2nd editionClick here to download my complimentary e-book Workforce of the Future: Building Change Adaptability, 2nd Edition.


Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Jim-Max ShowshoeingTake a moment to meet Jim.

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