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Gen Y, Are You Ready to Reinvent Yourself? Six Tips to Ride the Wave

June 18, 2017

Job Seekers

Okay, I admit I’m one of those Baby Boomers detested by Gens X and Y. “Ah feel yo pain,” as President Bill Clinton liked to express when pressing the flesh. We’ve inundated you with non-stop rock-and-roll for far too long. (I admit that I still love Hendrix and Led Zeppelin). To be frank–and hopefully helpful to Gen Y (and also to my fellow Boomers)–it’s time to get over the inter-generational resentment.

Gen Y (Millennials) was sucked into the group Kool-Aid think that as Baby Boomer exited their organizations that the world would be their oyster, where they could tell their ageing boss to shove it and where they’d have lattes served on golden platters at work every morning. It’s understandable why Generation Y is confused and resentful, due to their ongoing deplorable labor market conditions, whether in Canada, the U.S. or Europe. Gen Y has a right to feel cheated and mislead.

Sue and I have four adult kids, three daughters and a son, between 27 and 37, and six grand kids. My son likes to say to me, “Dad, suck it up!” Indeed. Sue and I have sucked it up aplenty during our 40 years of marriage. I’m sure that many of my Boomer cohorts have done the same.

We got married very young and started a family shortly afterwards. We sold our second-hand Volkswagon Rabbit when I quit my job with a finance company (collecting money at month-end from single mothers eventually wore on me) to return to do a Masters degree in economics. This occurred while I was helping raise our first born. Quitting a full-time job to go back to school came with risks, especially when I graduated during the 1982 recession. We went three years without a car–but we were happy.

UnemployedFar too much Kool-Aid was drunk during the early 2000s by policy wonks, economists, politicians and demographers, who collectively enthused that Gen Y would have its pick of the jobs and that employers would have to adjust their managerial practices and workplace conditions if they wished to have a hope of attracting talented young people. So-called experts and purveyors of the job market proved to be way off the mark on the subject of Gen Y’s role in organizations.

So where does that leave Gen Y, whose labor market status remains vulnerable and uncertain? The urgency has increased as the youngest of Gen Y are entering their family formation years. Far too many young people are unemployed and underemployed. What’s especially distressing is that failing to get a foothold in the job market in your early twenties, despite having gone to college or university, is a predictor of stunted career development and lower lifetime earnings.

Let’s take moment to look at some data provided by The Economist, based on the OECD’s survey on education:

For college and university graduates aged 25-29 working in low skill jobs, the percentages compared to total graduates by select countries are (the numbers to the right are average labor costs in U.S. dollars):

Spain 44% ($38,100)

Canada 38% (50,500)

United States 32% (70,900)

Poland 28% (14,800)

Britain 26% (70,000)

Australia 24% (23,000)
OECD Avg. 23% (49,800)

Canada was in second place, followed by the U.S. This is clearly not a good picture for youth, not just in regard to unemployment but also underemployment.

Since 2007, the OECD reported that the number of unemployed young people (15-24) rose 30% to about 26 million. The International Labour Organisation also reported that some 75 million young people globally are looking for a job. And the World Bank’s analysis revealed that a staggering 262 million young people in emerging markets are not engaged in the job market.

What clearly does NOT help the job situation are some of the self-serving practices of organized labor, in which retirees are not only able to return to the public trough but actually encouraged. Retired teachers in Canada have the opportunity to boost their pensions to close to 100%. In America, teachers earn typically lower salaries and have been getting whacked by state governments on the verge of bankruptcy. Retired teachers in Canada may wish to reflect on thinking beyond yourselves and give up supply teaching to provide a helping hand to those just entering a profession with a saturated labor market.
SurfingMaybe what I can offer Gen Y is to find someone who has some perspective. Forget about seeking out your bureaucrat boss as a mentor; find someone who has had to make a go of it on his or her own resources, whether an entrepreneur, artist or an accomplished musician. You want someone who won’t give you the answers to your challenges but who challenges your self-reflection and personal inquiry, and who stimulates your creative thinking.

It’s evident that the lengthy recovery, with uncertainty at every corner, has no end date. Tens of millions of Americans have had their 401K retirement plans decimated over the past decade. North of the border the picture has been less brutal. The irony, however, behind this is that as much as Boomers are seeking to extend their participation in the labor market, they’re feeling increasingly sandwiched as their ageing parents place greater demands upon them. It’s almost beginning to feel that the inter-generational war has begun in earnest, where Dad at 61 is telling his mid-twenties Gen Y kid to hit the road to find a job because his pension is now toast. Unless something changes radically in the next few years, the picture will not be very pretty.

This brings to mind the importance for Gen Y to reframe how they perceive the world and how they approach the job market as they contemplate their careers—existing or future (for those still in college). Here are six tips to help you in your journey:

1) Be open to outcome, not attached to it. This means exploring opportunities when they present themselves.
2) Take calculated risks when deciding on a venture.
3) Avoid taking on unnecessary debt.
4) Don’t covet the material things your peers acquire (see number 3).
5) Embrace the mindset that less is more, and that simplicity enables a healthier and happier life.
6) Begin with the End in Mind: interlacing tip numbers 1 and 5 will help keep you focused on the path to happiness as you choose opportunities that align with your values.

Ride the wave!

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.
– President Theodore Roosevelt


Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


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Leading in a Virtualized World: 10 Traits of a Cyber Leader

June 11, 2017

Telecom 1

The world is getting smaller, shrinking steadily due to rapid advancements in telecommunications technology. Work is being distributed to countries that would have been scorned at a decade ago.

As much as telecom technology has been a key driver to accelerating work distribution, it’s been complemented by an amazing push by emerging economies to develop their human capital. Examples abound, of which China and India (combined population of 2.8 billion) is usually held up front and centre. However, smaller countries such as South Korea, Mexico and Brazil have made notable progress to build their human capital.

Many other countries are hungry to succeed: Turkey, Israel, Singapore, Chile, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the list goes on. In the context of a globalized labor market, this post zooms in on recent developments in technology that hold enormous promise for improving the functioning of virtual teams. However, these developments bring with them the need for what can be called Cyber Leadership.

I’ll share an experience when I was a  young manager some 30 years ago and part of a senior management team. The executive head, my boss, decided to buy video-conferencing equipment to connect three sites, cities that were a few hours drive from one another. His aim was to reduce the amount of time that managers and some staff spent driving back and forth for meetings. This was totally unproductive time since in contrast to airplane or train travel it’s rather difficult to work while driving. Not recommended.

This equipment was state-of-the art and VERY expensive. The problem was that it proved to be highly unreliable. The picture quality was poor and you had to refrain from moving, otherwise you ended up with a series of blurred images. The sound quality was mediocre as well. But the worst problem was the equipment’s tendency to crash during the middle of a video-conference. It was a lesson learned because after a while the equipment in the three sites gathered dust.

Digital Eye

Contrast that scene to an impressive improvement in telecom video-conferencing. Cisco’s Telepresence Suites enables organizations to connect with managers and co-workers around the globe. The connectivity is not what you expect on Skype. Cisco’s system requires up to 20 times the bandwidth as Skype, but the product is amazing. It simulates a conference room, so whether one group is in Mumbai, another London, another Chicago and another Toronto, the participants are able to observe body language and feel that they’re in the same room. The system is stable (as opposed to my early experience), with excellent picture and sound quality.

The hefty price tag ($300,000) that accompanies this technology, used by large companies, has a limited market, for now. Small and medium-size businesses can only dream of being able to afford this technology. However, as with technology expect continued innovations and price adjustments in the future.
Of course there are other ways to connect workers around the world, whether it’s Skype or another technology. I have Skype chats with people living on different continents. Use what’s available.

One recent development in open, collaborative workspaces is what’s called Co-working, where companies and freelancers share physical space. According to Strategy and Business: The Promise of the Cloud Workplace, only 70 locations using this form of work exist around the world in 2010. That number mushroomed by 2016. The concept is especially popular with workers in their twenties and thirties, and forward-looking companies are eyeing it because of the potential for not just operational savings but in particular in fostering creativity and innovation.

What’s fascinating is how virtual collaboration and teamwork will increasingly become the norm. There are huge implications for how teams are led, whether it’s a dispersed management team, production team, design team, call centre teams, etc.

Woman GlobeYes, it’s exciting to see these new innovations in communications technology, not to forget the growing use of social media (eg, Twitter and Facebook) in corporations. The challenge is the lag between what technology offers organizations, in terms of productivity gains, improved service or better product quality, and how people work at a distance from one another. Of special note is leadership and how it’s practiced in a virtualized world.

Much has been written in the past few years on telecommuting. It was the rage for a while. Then the dissenters came out of the woodwork to express either their skepticism or outright opposition to its use, arguing that the productivity gains were not present and that employees were sitting around in their bathrobes producing minimal work.

It’s ALL about effective management and leadership practices.

If you’re a manager of a team and its members are not aligned towards a shared vision and common purpose, if each member is not clear on his or her role, and if there’s not strong inter-dependency of effort among the members, then yes telecommuting will be a disaster. But then you’ll also have a poorly functioning group of people. Forget about calling your staff a team.

Don’t even waste your time pretending to trust your staff. You’ve got a lot to do create a team; working in a virtual context will come later. The latter is the easy part.

To be a true Cyber Leader requires a strong and sustained commitment. Technology is proving to be a powerful enabler to bringing people together from locations stretched around the globe. The possibilities are endless to how organizations can develop partnerships, organize themselves, and produce products and services. Cyber Leadership brings with it exciting opportunities for personal growth. However, it’s also accompanied by certain challenges, and with any transformational change the human dimension is always at the centre.

Whether your organization is adopting virtual teams or is planning to do so, if you’re in a leadership role are you ready to lead in this new environment?

Are you willing to be a 21st Century Cyber Leader?

Here are 10 traits that are essential to effective Cyber Leadership. However, it’s not definitive; please add to this list. A 21st Century Cyber leader:
1. Embraces change enthusiastically

2. Keeps up with technology trends
3. Maintains a perspective on the balance between technology and people
4. Trusts that people will perform well when lead effectively
5. Understands the dynamics of teamwork

6. Is open to new ideas, possibilities and opportunities, even if they’re unorthodox
7. Values diversity and different cultures

8. Is an avid learner and continually seeks out new information

9. Checks ego at the door, realizing others often possess more knowledge and experience
10. Shares information openly and widely 

Can you suggest any other traits?

“Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical Humans.”
– Mr. Spock (Star Trek)


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10 Valuable Lessons for Aspiring Leaders

June 4, 2017

Leaders 1.jpg

The motivation for this post stems from my own leadership journey over the past 30 years. During this time I moved in and out of formal management positions, worked as a project manager, thought leader, and economist. After concluding a three decade career with the Canada’s public service in 2010, I did independent contract work for a few years and then returned to work in the private sector. Coincidentally, I began my working career in the private sector in 1978 in consumer lending.

In addition to learning a lot from a two-year Masters in leadership program in the late nineties, ongoing reading on new concepts and developments in the leadership field, and networking with like-minded people, many of my most powerful discoveries occurred earlier on in my career when I became a new manager.

Why?

We like to talk about learning experiences, but mine were especially jarring as a young manager. I fell on my face more than once. But I picked myself up, dusted myself off and continued on. It’s all about learning through trial and error. Yes, reflection is a key aspect of leadership growth; however, don’t live life looking in the rear-view mirror.

The following 10 lessons are not aimed at just those who wish to move into managerial positions; they’re also for those who work as project managers, team leaders, thought leaders, relationship builders, etc. And of particular note is that those holding senior positions in organizations should reflect on these lessons.

It’s important to remember that management is an appointment to position; leadership is earned. If you have no willing followers, then you’re not a leader. You may rule through dictate and compliance as a manager, but to have a true followership means enrolling others in your vision.

Here are the ten lessons. And please note that they’re not in any particular order.

1) Create and nurture a learning environment where people develop the skills and competencies that will become their toolbox for life. Don’t expect traditional loyalty to the organization. As a leader, your job is to bring out the best in people and to maximize their creativity, productivity and output.

2) Constantly walk the talk. Don’t be a cave dweller, hiding out in your office behind a closed door. And don’t just be physically visible but be present in body, mind and spirit. Oh, and park the smart phone when you’re at meetings and speaking to people.

3) Show that you really care about the people you lead and with whom you work. Don’t nickel and dime people on their work hours. If you set the right tone and climate in the workplace, you’ll see an impressive increase in people engagement, creativity and accomplishment.

4) Develop an effective BS meter, where you know fact from fiction, truth from hype. By avoiding getting swayed by organizational manipulators and by sticking to your values, people will respect you all the more.

Change.jpg

5) Realize that organizational cultural change is not a tactical exercise in ticking off the task list. It’s about people engagement and relationships. It takes time and patience – plenty of the latter.

6) Link training and learning to job performance and when it’s needed. But it’s also necessary to take the long view: investing in people for the long-term demonstrates your commitment to them.

7) Be honest when you ask for feedback, whether from small or large groups. Bringing people together at workshops, conferences, town-halls, etc. to generate ideas and recommendations, and then to ignore them, is the ultimate act of disrespect. Honour and value people’s contributions.

8) Focus on results. Let people figure out how to do their work. Coach, but don’t smother them. Micro-management is for the insecure, and something to avoid at all costs.

9) Share the leadership. Step back when you realize that you’re not the best one to lead at the moment, regardless of how high you are in the hierarchy. Let go of your ego.

10) As a leader you’re also a change agent. Be open to outcome, not attached to it. Learn to love the unknown and the opportunities and challenges it presents. Know fear; respect it; value it; transcend it.

So there you have ten lessons for leaders at all levels. This is certainly not the definitive list of what leaders need to pay attention to, but it’s a start. It will help guide you through tumultuous times, keeping you focused, energized and centered. The last word goes to 6th Century B.C. Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu:

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: “We did this to ourselves.”


holisti-leadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


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Five Ways to Serve Your Organization and Build Your Leadership Skills

May 28, 2017

Lead 1.pngThe process of building our personal leadership skills isn’t done overnight. That’s rather obvious. But what may not always be clear is that leadership development within organizations is, at its core, a reciprocal process. The same applies to community service and leadership development, though admittedly in this context when one serves their community the enlargement of leadership capacity is one outcome.

The bigger challenge–hence the purpose of this post–is integrating the personal aspect of leadership growth with serving the needs of the organization. This is typically a grey area in organizations, whether public or private, as the employee struggles to meet the organization’s annual goals, live the vision, and simultaneously attend to her personal learning and developmental needs.

Smart organizations ensure that this stressful process is integrated in the employee’s daily work and scheduled performance-learning plan reviews. But these organizations are the exception.

One framework to consider comes from Peter Block, a longtime advocate of stewardship, encompassing both managers and staff. Each and every one of us must learn to put self-interest aside and put service to the organization first. Only by doing this will an organization truly evolve to a higher level.

Leadership 2To serve an organization well, Block puts forth five pursuits people must follow. He refers to this as enlightened self-interest.
1. Meaning: People engage in activities that have personal meaning and that are needed by the organization. Substance takes precedence over form.

2. Contribution and Service: People want to contribute positively to the organization. Specifically, they want their efforts to connect to the organization’s purpose.

3. Integrity: People at all levels of the organization must be able to express their views and what they observe taking place. Feeling “safe” to speak out is essential to a learning organization. People must be able to admit their mistakes. They must believe that the “authentic act” is always in the best interest of the organization.

4. Positive Impact on Others’ Lives: People spend a large percentage of their waking lives at work. Developing close relationships with co-workers, in which their growth and development is cared about, makes sense to most people. Yet the opposite is true to a large extent. For example, the fear a manager may have of laying off a subordinate one day may inhibit her from establishing strong relationships with staff.

This also occurs with co-workers, especially during a period of downsizing. The consequence is an atmosphere that lacks honesty and openness, one consisting of shallow and brittle relationships. How can teamwork exist, let alone prosper, in such an environment? Strong teamwork requires a high degree of interdependency and close relationships.

5. Mastery: This involves people learning as much as they can about their work. People take pride and satisfaction in their work when performing at high levels. Learning and performance are intertwined.

The strength of following these five pursuits is that it does not require the approval of senior management.

Each of us needs to set an example to our peers.

Each of us needs to set upon a journey of self-discovery.

You create a culture of contribution when you seek to meet both the mission of the organization and the needs of the people.


– James R. Fisher Jr.


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Why Integrity Matters to Leadership

May 14, 2017

SajjanHe was born on September 6, 1970, in Bombeli, a village in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district. His father, a Sikh, was a police constable with the Punjab Police. The young boy would grow up to become a highly respected police detective and reservist soldier.

When the family emigrated to Canada in 1976, young Harjit Sajjan was only six years old. His mother worked on the berry farms in British Columbia’s lower mainland, and sometimes Harjit and his older sister would help her. The father, meanwhile, had been working at a sawmill for two years before the family’s arrival in Canada.

At age 19, Sajjan joined the Canadian military. Over the course of his career he advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel. During this time he served in four deployments abroad: first in Bosnia and then three in Afghanistan (he was wounded in his first deployment). However, it was upon his return from Bosnia that he joined the Vancouver police department where he worked for 11 years, notably his latter years in the anti-gangs unit.

Never to stand still and stop contributing to his country, Sajjan entered politics to win the Liberal riding of Vancouver South in the 2015 federal election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, himself a relative newcomer to politics, appointed Sajjan as Minister of National Defence. Given Sajjin’s background, many people applauded the appointed, though he was a rookie politician being thrust into one of the most senior cabinet positions.

Take a moment to read my November 29, 2015, post The Way of the Warrior Leader which profiled Sajjan and other respected soldiers.

All was well in the ensuing months with the new Defence minister. Sajjin was wobbly in his performance at times; however, he had the respect of the military, and notably was warmly greeted in Washington, D.C., by Defence Secretary James Mattis (appointed by President Trump in early 2017).

And then things unravelled quickly—very quickly.

Sajjan 2.jpegIn a still-to-be-understood action, Sajjan lied about his role in Operation Medusa, a Canadian-led offensive against the Taliban in 2006, with support from the U.S. military and Afghan soldiers. In a speech in India in spring 2017, Sajjan claimed that he was the architect of Operation Medusa. While some claim that Operation Medusa was a great success in what Sajjan stated as “removing 1,500 Taliban,” the reality is that it showed Canada’s unpreparedness for taking on the Taliban in an inhospitable environment.

Sajjan had worked as a senior intelligence officer in Afghanistan, and during Operation Medusa his role was liaison between Canadian commanders and local Afghan leaders. However, word leaked out about his comments in India and in no time Sajjan’s self-inflated role in Operation Medusa hit the headlines in Canada. In the House of Commons, he was continuously under attack, with the Conservative Party going overboard in its criticisms of Sajjan. The Defence Minister apologized repeatedly, though never fully revealing why he lied. Here are just two of his public statements:

“I’d like to apologize for my mistake in describing my role. I’d like to retract that and I am truly sorry for it. I in no way would like to diminish the great work that my former superiors and our great soldiers,”

“What I should have said is that our military successes are the result of the leadership, service and sacrifice of the many dedicated women and men in the Canadian Forces. Operation Medusa was successful because of leadership of MGen [Ret’d] Fraser and the extraordinary team with whom I had the honour of serving.”

Sajjan 3On May 3, CBC Radio’s Ontario Noon did a province-wide phone-in on the controversy over Harjit Sajjan’s comments. Callers included many current and retired Canadian Armed Forces members who took opposite stands. Some believed that he should resign as Defence Minister, while others defended him. The same was with the public who phoned in. However, perhaps of special concern were comments which basically said: “What’s the big deal? Politicians lie and deceive all the time. Why should Harjot Sajjan, a soldier who served his country admirably, be punished?”

Their point is taken. Yet it overlooks the context of Sajjan’s transgression: he was a soldier in a leadership position to whom subordinates looked up to and took orders. Attempting to polish his ego and political stature by grossly overstating (to put it mildly) on two separate occasions his role in Operation Medusa is a sad statement on his leadership, personal ethics and integrity. Check out this commentary from a Canadian war correspondent.

It also doesn’t say much for the Canadian public’s expectations of their elected representatives. It’s akin to a lowest common denominator in which politicians—notably those holding cabinet positions—are expected to break promises and engage in inappropriate behaviours at some point in their careers. It’s not surprising that Canada’s turnouts at federal elections are typically under 60 percent.

Prime Trudeau was under steady pressure to fire Sajjan as defence minister, yet he refused. This is the nature of the political game. Canada has a long history of federal cabinet ministers either stepping down for inappropriate behaviours or being forced out by prime ministers. It’s nothing new. Sometimes, an offending cabinet minister will go to the penalty box for a year or two, to later pop up in another cabinet portfolio.

In Harjit Sajjin’s case it’s a little different. This is a retired soldier (and former police office) who is leading men and women in uniform. He is their role model who must demonstrate consistent ethical behaviour at all times. It’s a very unfortunate story, especially for a man who was so well liked and respected by his peers and the public.

However, it’s about integrity. The proper action is for Harjit Sajjan to step down from his role as Minister of National Defence and go to the penalty box.

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
— Charles Spurgeon


holisti-leadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


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10 Leadership Lessons to Succeed During Turbulent Change

May 7, 2017

Storm Clouds.jpgIn my ebook Workforce of the Future: Building Change Adaptability, 2nd Edition I talk about four major forces that are exerting major effects on our planet and its 7.5 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 on either developing an exit plan or determining how you can contribute positively to the organization.

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 co-workers 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.

Woman.jpegLesson #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. This is 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? 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


holisti-leadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


JIm PhotoVisit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

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The Rude Society: Are You Contributing?

April 30, 2017

Rude WomanSomething’s happening out there, and it’s not good. It’s at times surprising, other times obnoxious and, increasingly, downright scary.

So what’s up?

We’re getting ruder as a society. By “society” I’m referring to my fellow Canadians and our neighbours to the south (some 325 million Americans), but not to forget those who live in other industrialized countries.

Human beings, according to Charles Darwin, are supposed to be evolving. However, given the the growing trend of people losing civility, becoming more impatient with others, and more confrontational, it appears that a segment of the planet (namely wealthy countries) is devolving. While your faithful correspondent on leadership issues isn’t a psychologist, it would be fair to suggest that the rapid pace of change—driven by technology, the focus on wealth and material well-being, and the rise of the self-actualizing individual (“it’s all about me”)—and its unknown future effects is at the core of this rudeness trend.

People are more geographically dispersed from family, relationships have become more virtual, and face-to-face relationships are suffering. It’s easier to send out a nasty email or text message instead of having a conversation face-to-face to address a disagreement.

Social media comments have degenerated to the level where it’s not worth attempting to read replies to articles and blog posts. Frequently they’re anonymous, reflecting cowardice on the commenter’s part. People react viscerally without thinking first to what they read online.

Would you actually say that to someone’s face?

Then they’re the trolls who, obviously living miserable lives of despair and pain, belittle and attack others on the web. Indeed, virtual bullying has been responsible for the suicides of several young people who could no longer take the abuse and humiliation.

Mad Driver.jpgLet’s look at just a few examples.

United Airline’s recent creative method of expelling a passenger (a 69 year-old physician) who refused an involuntary over-booking request to leave the plane is an over-the-top example of how authorities abuse their power by totally forgetting any notion of civility and treating customers with patience and respect.

A few years ago at a Starbucks in the United States, a young woman flipped out and threw a cup of hot coffee in the barista’s face because she wasn’t happy on how she’d been served.

Then there was the February 2017 case of a 69 year-old male in Saint John, New Brunswick, who deliberately ran over a 23 year-old man with his Audi SUV (dislocating his shoulder in the process). The perpetrator, a retired businessman, had followed the victim in his car after the two had exchanged words in a parking lot half an hour earlier. In April, the man was sentenced to time served and lost his driving licence for a year. The young man has launched a civil action case.

At the other end of Canada in Edmonton, Alberta, a horrifying case of road rage occurred in March 2017. After dropping her husband off at the train station early in the morning, a woman tooted at a car that had pulled over at a stop sign. She was merely giving a heads-up honk that she was going around him. When she arrived at her house, she realized that the man driving the vehicle at the stop sign had followed her home. She was already outside of her car when he attacked her with a crow bar, breaking both her forearms. He then attempted to run her over.

A few weeks later a 28 year-old man was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder.

What the heck is going on in society—and in “polite” Canada?

Middle fingerWe’re getting ruder, and more violent, by the day, showing absolute intolerance and zero patience for anything that appears to piss us off or that’s contrary to our belief system.

We’ve lost perspective as a society, forgetting how good most of us have it when it comes to material well-being, physical health and living in relatively safe communities. Except our collective mental health seems to be suffering.

I’ve noticed in my own city of Ottawa (Canada’s capital of 930,000 residents) that drivers are becoming increasingly belligerent, not just speeding and running red lights, but making illegal passing manoeuvres, honking for no reason and making physical gestures. And I’ll tell you, it requires effort for me not to fall into that trap of becoming what I’ll call an asshole driver. Fortunately my wife, Sue, has a lot of perspective as a driver, so is a good role model.

Where this rudeness trend goes and for how long is unknown, but it’s reasonable to expect it to become more ingrained in society. The devolution of our species continues.

Are you contributing to the rudeness trend?

What are you doing to maintain perspective and civility?

We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
— Charles Darwin


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