Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Five leadership lessons my father taught me"/ "Disruptive technologies effects will be subtle, not explosive"

Jun. 15, 2018 "Five leadership lessons my father taught me": Today I found this article by Chris Hamilton in the Globe and Mail:

General manager, Mars Pet Nutrition

Like many of you reading this today, my father was my hero. I idolized him. If there was something to fix, I was right behind him with a toolbox. If he mentioned a camping trip or hike, I couldn’t get my bag packed fast enough. I was his shadow.

As a man whose own father died when he was only four months old, my dad embraced fatherhood with everything he had. But he didn’t just teach me how to be a man. Whether he knew he was doing it or not, he taught me how to be a business man. 

You see, my dad was an entrepreneur. At the age of 35, with a wife and two young children at home, he decided to change careers and buy an insurance company in the small community of Orillia, Ont. It was an incredible gamble that changed the trajectory of my family’s life and led to a quarter-century of growth for his company. 

It also ended up being the first business lesson my dad ever taught me: You can’t win without taking risks. 

To celebrate Father’s Day and thank my dad for the impact he made on both my life and career, I’ve compiled five lessons on leadership that I learned from my father.

Set a direction and step back

I got my first taste of life as an entrepreneur when I was only 12. When the local BiWay store was going out of business, I swooped in and bought every last pair of athletic socks. Then I sold them door-to-door – one pair for $2, three pairs for $5. While I don’t exactly remember my profit margin, what always stuck with me is how my father never broke a sweat when I briefed him on my gym sock business plan. 

My opinion: Oh yeah, Biway.  I remember shopping there.

Dad took this same tack when I started a landscaping business at 16. He knew the most valuable lessons are those you learn through trial and error. It is a leadership philosophy that still guides me today. 

I feel like I am failing if I need to tell people what to do. Instead, I believe it is my job to help set the business’s course, make sure my team has the resources it needs, then get out of its way so the magic can happen.

Lead from your values

While employees need space to make their own decisions, it’s imperative that everyone on your team is guided by a core set of values. I remember my dad always had a strong sense of what was best for both parties. At Mars, we call this principle “mutuality.” 

Like any entrepreneur, he was fiercely competitive but it was never win at all costs. He wasn’t afraid to walk away from a deal if he didn’t feel it was right.

While your business principles won’t align perfectly with my father’s, the important point is that you have values in place. As a leader, values provide you with a strong sense of purpose. They serve as a compass to guide business decisions and the decisions of your employees. And they will help you build stronger relationships with your customers, partners and colleagues. I promise you that.

Get to know your employees

My father taught me a slight modification of “The Golden Rule.” He always said, “Treat others as they would want to be treated.” While this slight distinction no doubt helped my dad’s insurance business bring in repeat customers, I’ve employed his advice to get the most out of my associates.

As a leader, I believe you need to listen to your employees to determine how each person measures success. Before making a decision that affects an individual’s career, I want to know how they want to be treated. 

What are their goals? What do they value? There’s always a fine balance between aspiration and capability, of course, but once you understand where a person is coming from, it becomes much easier to draw a path from where they are today to where they want to be tomorrow. 

By taking The Golden Rule one step further and really getting to know your employees, you can increase retention and boost performance across your organization.

Get to know your business

As any parent knows, you have very little say in what your children gravitate toward. When I was growing up, I liked swimming, something my dad knew almost nothing about. However, he quickly made it his mission to learn everything he could about the sport. Starting as a lane timer, he climbed the officiating ranks at Swimming Canada until he was inspecting turns and judging strokes for proper technique. 

It almost sounds crazy, but that’s my dad. He’s an inside-out learner, and I’m the same way. I remember when operations first started reporting to me. I would walk the floor, attend shift changeover meetings, observe the lines, etc. I wanted to understand what barriers existed on the shop floor, so I could get my associates the resources they needed to do their job. 

This is a lesson for all aspiring leaders. If you work at a large company, don’t be afraid to move into different business segments or take on assignments that may seem to be a stretch. At Mars, we encourage people to build an ambitious development plan because we believe leaders will make better decisions when they have a complete, well-rounded view of the business.

Take risks

At the lightning speed that business is evolving today, leaders need to be comfortable making bigger and bigger decisions with less and less info, faster and faster. You simply can’t afford to wait for the perfect product or ideal business conditions. You need to trust your experience and value set, so you can move quickly and correct your course as you go. 

Just as every father teaches their children to do their best, leaders need to let their employees know it’s okay to fail. Whether it’s encouraging employees to take on new assignments, put their hands up to offer different points of view, or make important decisions with limited information, you need to foster a culture of risk-taking within your organization, because as dad taught me: You can’t win without taking risks.

"Disruptive technologies effects will be subtle, not explosive": Today I found this article by Ian Phillpot in the Globe and Mail:

Ian Phillpot is the vice-president of Box Canada.

There’s been a lot of speculation and anxiety about the impact that disruptive technologies will have on the future of the work force. The speculation is fair – technology will have a dramatic impact on the way we work, even 20 to 30 years from now, and nobody knows for certain what the future might look like. 

However, the anxiety around the impact, and rhetoric that goes along with it, is unwarranted. 

The impact of artificial intelligence, the cloud, and other disruptive technologies will be much subtler than naysayers suggest. Technology will become our co-worker, not our overlord – supplementing our current work force and refocusing existing jobs. 

Instead of spending countless hours doing manual jobs such as data entry, people will be able to focus on thinking more critically and creatively. Canada, in particular, is reaping the benefits of the growing adoption of technology and is at the forefront of this generational shift. 

A 2016 report from the Brookfield Institute found that the technology industry contributed more than $117-billion to the Canadian economy. Demand for AI jobs alone has increased by 500 per cent in Canada, according to With all this exciting activity happening in Canada, now is the time to embrace technology rather than fear it.

It’s no secret that a workplace culture that fosters openness leads to employees who are not only more engaged but also more capable of working closely together – bringing down silos and leading to great ideas. 

The future of work is already here – and it is built on collaboration.

Driving work-force collaboration through technology

When we talk about disruptive technology, we often talk in massive terms, instead of focusing on the incremental and subtle changes that affect the work force. 

Rather than a dramatic upheaval, this technology is introducing a new generation of tools that’s changing the way employees are connecting with one another by enhancing their dialogue and simplifying their communication methods. 

We are already seeing how these tools are changing the way employees conduct their day-to-day activities.

Whether its document sharing, co-creation, or enhanced search through computer-vision technology, we are seeing how seemingly normal tools are being improved by combining cloud and artificial intelligence. Enterprises generate vast amounts of data, and these tools can make it easier to view and analyze this content.

 Employees will become more efficient by spending less time searching for files and become more productive by streamlining the editing process to cut down on countless rounds of revisions. 

Having greater access and control over content will empower employees and keep them motivated, especially when their organizations are willing to commit to a system of innovation and collaboration. These are exciting and positive developments for any business, yet it’s not what comes to mind when most people think about discussing digital transformation and disruptive technology. These innovations are far less focused on taking away jobs, and much more so about improving people’s ability to get the job done.

A collaborative work force is a happy work force

The benefits of collaborative technology don’t simply end at increased productivity and efficiency, but extend to improve the overall well-being of the work force. A study by Deloitte recently found that collaboration tools, combined with a culture of innovation, led to employees who are 34 per cent happier than those working in an environment that does not support collaboration. They were also 17 per cent more satisfied when they had access to digital collaboration tools.

According to the report, digital collaboration tools are a key factor in improving productivity, transparency with a business, communication among employees and morale within an organization. 

Interestingly, more collaborative tools mean less back-and-forth, fewer face-to-face meetings and less travel for work. Instead, employees can collaborate directly within the content. The result? More focus on the task at hand and more time for the things that matter to them.

In addition, encouragement of collaborative tools and an innovative culture makes employees feel valued and happy, perpetuating a belief that the business supports their professional development. Many employees working with collaborative tools also see their organizations as more transparent and supportive of a culture of openness. 

The transformation we’re seeing as a result of this disruptive technology is an exciting development for our future work force. We need to put aside the negative rhetoric around the impact of technology on our enterprises. 

The future should not be feared. There are many opportunities for our work force, leading us to be better at our jobs, not losing them altogether. We must embrace change, look at how this technology can be used, and encourage a more innovative and collaborative workplace.

"Why it really takes for an employee to be engaged"/ "Older workers set to benefit from Human Rights Tribunal ruling

Jun. 11, 2018 "Why it really takes for an employee to be engaged": Today I found this article by Merge Gupta-Sunderji in the Globe and Mail:

Leadership speaker and consultant, founder of Turning Managers Into Leaders

When was the last time you washed a rental car? Probably never. And the reason is simple: You don’t own it.

This simple reality offers a compelling insight into why some leaders are able to engage their employees with enthusiasm, and others are not. Employee engagement is all the rage nowadays: Companies are conducting in-depth surveys, consulting firms and leadership gurus are offering scads of advice. 

But, at the end of the day, employee engagement is about one simple word: ownership. Do your employees feel as if they have a vested interest in the short-term outcomes and the long-term success of your organization?

Keep in mind that ownership in the context of employee engagement doesn’t necessarily mean that your people need to have actual share ownership or a financial investment in your organization. It does, however, mean that they care deeply about what you do, why you do it and how your customers feel about your products or services. 

And when employees believe that what they do matters and makes a difference, they have ownership – that’s employee engagement.

So, what exactly does it take to create this degree of engagement; this level of interest and ownership that would get your employees to not just wash the cars, but also check the oil and rotate the tires? 

It’s certainly not coming from high-level strategic engagement initiatives developed by senior management at the annual planning retreat. Nor is it a slew of engagement policies developed by a small army of bureaucrats in a backroom somewhere. Engagement happens at an individual level, employee by employee, and as a direct result of the one-on-one relationships each employee has with their immediate and direct supervisors.

All of which means that if you’re a manager, supervisor, team leader or any other title that has direct responsibility for people, then your behaviour and actions will unequivocally determine how engaged each of your employees are. This is a weighty responsibility, one that you should not take lightly. So here, then, are four specific things you can do to engage, really engage, your employees.

Get to know them

Take the time to understand your people at more than just a superficial level. Find out about them, and who and what they love, both professionally and personally. When you know more about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their career goals, their long-term hopes and desires, not only do you get a deeper understanding of what drives them, but you also build a relationship. 

And when things go awry in the day-to-day world of work, it is these very relationships that will encourage your employees to roll up their sleeves and help you determine what went wrong and how to fix it. This is ownership.

Praise them

And don’t just praise benign generalities, but recognize specifics. Whether your employee stayed late, went above and beyond to solve a critical issue, helped a co-worker or followed through on a commitment to a customer, be specific in your appreciation. And it’s absolutely fundamental for that praise to be valuable – you can’t just think about it; you must verbalize your praise to the employee. 

Praise and recognition don’t count unless you actually say it, out loud, to the person concerned. When praise is specific and timely, you will see employee engagement.

Trust them

You hired your employees because they’re proficient at what they do. So trust them to use their good judgment to assess known risks and make decisions. Will they always get it right? Probably not, as hindsight always proves some decisions to be suboptimal. 

Nevertheless, give your people the flexibility to act. They have the knowledge and skills to determine when and how things need to be done, so let them. When you trust your employees, you permit them to take ownership. And when they take ownership, they’re engaged.

Invest in them

The ultimate indicator of your commitment to employees is when you invest time and resources into helping them grow. This happens when you give them chances to learn and opportunities to progress, or when you give them access to expert mentors or you grant them the ability to stand up and keep going, even after they fail.

 In the process, you create ownership. Funny thing: When you commit to your employees, remarkably, they commit back to you. Ownership equals engagement.

For employers: Take a look at how high-level employees are treated, and then aim to reduce the disparity between those and the rank-and-file employees.

 The latter may not be told about inequity but know it's there.It is a two-way street. Return value for value given but not in a way that demotivates others (i.e., avoid "rank-and-yank" system popular in some US corps).

the average worker sees none of this. the real world is harsh and unforgiving in the Canadian work place .

Ownership is ownership - a share in the company.

The title of this article should be, "What it really takes to trick an employee into being engaged."

By the way, it never works in the long term anyway, unless the employee is a dud, in which case, why do you want them as your employee?

I would ad Share information, but otherwise, as a retired manager who supervised hundreds of employees over decades, I can attest that this recipe works - with most employees. Engagement is a bit of a two way street though. The real challenge is engaging the minority of employees for whom nothing seems to work. Recruitment strategies should include engagement potential as a qualification.

 Jun. 13, 2018 "Older workers set to benefit from Human Rights Tribunal ruling": Today I found this article by Jared Lindzon in the Globe and Mail:

Alandmark Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruling, which recently determined that cutting or reducing benefits for workers over the age of 65 amounts to discrimination, is expected to have significant implications for older workers from coast to coast. 

After more than a year and a half of deliberation, the tribunal decided in favour of Brantford teacher Steve Talos, who was taken off the Grand Erie District School Board’s benefits plan upon reaching the age of 65. On May 18, the tribunal determined that doing so violates Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees Canadians protection from discrimination on the basis of age. 

“The tribunal found, five years ago, that the legislation allows the Grand Erie District School Board to do what it did, and the only way this could possibly move forward and be successful was if we challenged the legislation itself,” said Jamie Melnick, who represented Mr. Talos in the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal case. “This decision I believe is the first decision in Canadian history that has found in favour of the applicant on the basis of age discrimination under the Constitution.” 

While the Grand Erie District School Board has 45 days following the ruling to appeal the decision, and although it only directly applies to the one province, legal experts believe it will have implications across the country. “Even if they do appeal it, the decision itself is huge, because it sends a signal to both the legislature and particularly large employers that have full cost-capture for insurance benefits that the writing is on the wall,” Mr. Melnick said. 

Kimberly Newhouse, the manager of communications and community relations for the Grand Erie District School Board, says the organization “will have to take some time and consult with our legal counsel” before determining whether or not to appeal, adding that they respect the decision made by the tribunal and that their employees’ benefits are now handled by the Provincial Benefits Trust. 

Employment and labour lawyers across the country have been eagerly anticipating the Ontario tribunal’s ruling. “We have a remarkably similar piece of legislation with our human rights code,” Vancouver-based labour and employment lawyer Leo McGrady said. 

Mr. McGrady says the conditions that led to the Talos case are similar in most provinces, as many have shared roots in the fight to end mandatory retirement in the 1990s. “The provinces went in domino fashion to ban mandatory retirement, but they all preserved this vestige [addressing insurance and benefits] of the seventies and eighties,” he said. 

When mandatory retirement was deemed unconstitutional, employers successfully argued it was cost prohibitive to insure this new cohort of older workers, Mr. McGrady says. While the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rejected that argument in the Talos decision, it did leave room for some employers to make a case on the basis of unsustainable costs, particularly those with a smaller work force. 

“This doesn’t mean that small and medium-sized employers will be forced to give benefits,” Mr. Melnick explained. “What it would mean is that small and medium employers can’t just rely on the legislation; they would have to fall back on the standard defence, which is that it’s actually cost prohibitive, and they can’t provide benefits without undue hardship.” 

Mr. McGrady, Mr. Melnick and other legal professionals have spent years arguing that the additional costs don’t amount to undue hardship for larger employers with group benefits packages and should not be considered “reasonable limits” under Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

The situation is also similar for workers in industries that fall under federal jurisdiction, such as transportation, finance and communications. “Technically. the Ontario decision from the human rights tribunal is not a precedent that is binding on the federal jurisdiction, but it certainly will be influential,” said Raymond Hall, a B.C.-based humanrights lawyer and former Air Canada pilot. 

Mr. Hall says he also watched the Talos case closely, having argued against the mandatory retirement age enforced by his former employer before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 

“I love the decision because I love the detail in the reasoning,” he said. “It’s very thorough and canvasses the entire scope of Charter issues that affect individuals who have been historically disadvantaged by age discrimination.” 

While he often represents commercial airline pilots, Mr. Hall says the Talos decision will most affect those who have experienced disruptions in their career, such as immigrants, the disabled, part-time workers and women who have taken time off of work to have children. 

He explains that these historically disadvantaged groups are less likely to be in a position to retire comfortably by the age of 65 and are more likely to be reliant on their employee benefits. 

“What this decision stands for is that it’s not acceptable for employers to routinely and categorically take away benefits from older workers,” said Renu Mandhane, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Council. “The decision is important because it sends a message that older workers are equally valuable, that they’re equal 
contributors in the work force.”