Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Workplace lessons from a sailing course"/ brand advocates

Aug. 5, 2017 "Workplace lessons from a sailing course": Today I found this article by Scott Windsor in the Globe and Mail

Scott Windsor is vice-president of Meridian Credit Union.

There’s nothing like falling into Lake Ontario, your 16-foot Albacore sailboat capsized, to focus your attention on the task at hand.

Executives and senior managers are supposed to steer the organizational ship in the right direction. It’s quite a splash in the face to try to master that using an actual boat.

I’ve enjoyed many leadership development opportunities. This summer, I had one of the best. It didn’t come in a corporate setting, but when I learned to sail over five weekends.
Here are some lessons I’m taking back to work.

Get comfortable with failing

After we learned to rig the boat, the first thing our instructors J.P and Hugo made us do was tip it. They knew we would anyway at some point, so they wanted us to get it over with.
When you know what failure feels like, you lose your fear of it.

Failing is part of life and business, but the thought of it can paralyze you. It shouldn’t. Give your people room to fail. When they see that they can right the ship and learn from the experience, that’s real growth.

Learn from everyone

I’m programmed to think that the more senior members of the organization are the ones with the most knowledge to share. In your company, would you take direction from a teenager?

J.P. and Hugo were just 19, but they started sailing at age 9 and are experts at their craft.

Don’t assume what members of the team bring to the table. No matter someone’s age or experience, they have unique talents and perspectives. At work, I’m responsible for directing my team’s development. Often, I forget that I have lots to learn from them too.

Rotate the team

We used two-person sailboats, each week with a different partner. In part, we became better sailors by continually adapting to and learning with new people next to us.

In the corporate world, we can get stronger when we mix up teams. Changing the dynamic forces you to adjust. You become more flexible and open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

Learn to be both captain and crew

The skipper is perceived as the more valuable position, but all roles are important on the water. Your job as a leader is to identify, communicate and rally people around a shared goal. Each team member contributes. You wouldn’t want to take your boat out alone.

Move quickly from strategy to execution

In corporate life, I’ve spent countless hours developing, debating and reporting on strategic recommendations. You go through all the scenarios and what-ifs. Yet on the water, J.P. and Hugo had me sailing the boat on just my second lesson. This was learning-by-doing.

It reminded me to tell my team that sometimes the best strategy is to just go for it. With any endeavor, you can review the pros and cons endlessly, or you can take the plunge. You’ll either be on the road to success or learn what doesn’t work. Either way, you’re ahead that much sooner.

Remove your distractions

When taking the boat out, we couldn’t bring our phones for fear of them getting wet. So there were no calls, e-mails, texts, checking Twitter, etc. We were able to concentrate fully on one thing only – learning to sail.

In the workplace, there are many demands for our attention, and they might all seem important at the time. It’s easy to lose focus on Job No. 1. Don’t get pulled off course.

Don’t wait for the winds to die down

We weren’t supposed to sail in winds over 15 knots. On the day of my second lesson, the wind measured 20 knots, yet we went out anyway. J.P. and Hugo told us that we’d learn more in those conditions.

It was a great reminder that your toughest assignments also teach you the most. Keeping the boat up was challenging that day but incredibly instructive. If you only venture out when the winds are still, you’ll never really improve or know how to handle adversity.

On the water or at work, sometimes staying in your safe zone is the biggest risk of all.


Aug. 11, 2017 "How to create brand advocates within an organization": Today I found this article by David Labistour in the Globe and Mail:

DAVID LABISTOUR Chief executive of Mountain Equipment Co-op

There’s a quote I like to share in staff meetings: “Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again.” I see it as a nod not only to how we are growing and adapting as an organization, but a reminder of the constant progression of the retail landscape.

It’s no longer enough to just sell something; you need to create an emotional connection to build brand loyalty. Consumers are actively looking for more.

Thankfully, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is and has always been an organization focused on connection. It’s the first place I’ve worked where my job and passions truly align, and I know that is true for a lot of staff as well.

That sense of purpose not only situates us as ardent and enthusiastic experts in the activities we promote, but it fosters a propensity in staff to share that sentiment, making them inherent brand advocates. We engage staff on various levels to amplify that enthusiasm, even prior to their hiring.

Know what to look for

When we’re recruiting new staff, we look specifically for individuals who are as passionate about getting people active outside as we are. Hiring those aligned with our purpose creates an innate authenticity that consumers pick up on. They don’t need to be die-hard backcountry explorers or world-class athletes, but they need an enthusiasm for nurturing their passions and inviting others to join in.

Empower staff from Day 1

MEC has an internal “Bring It” culture that is at the core of how we operate. Bringing It means showing up, making it happen and carrying the fire – this applies to everything we do and is how we hold each other accountable. During onboarding, we hand over a signature MEC water bottle with a note introducing them to the Bring It culture and the #MECstaffer hashtag.

The latter is a publicfacing place of pride for MEC staff to share their adventures and currently has more than 22,800 open-profile contributions.

Have a consistent news stream and feedback loop

Storytelling is inherent at MEC, even outside our member-facing content streams. We have a social intranet called Mondo. It’s our digital water cooler and a fantastic connector for MEC staff from coast to coast. Everyone has a profile and can comment and like posts. The stories about races or events, workplace wins and service successes – such as a staffer lending a family a paddling map after we were out of the guidebook they needed – are the most popular. I regularly share our progress and important changes with staff here.

Feedback also happens via annual reviews and staff are invited to participate in our annual Pulse Check survey, which gives us an accurate idea of how we’re doing internally. We know from last year’s survey that 82 per cent of MEC staff would recommend the company as a great place to work.

Foster trust through proof points and inclusivity

Departmental and quarterly meetings are a regular occurrence, and we use them as an opportunity to be transparent about business and financial performance, including areas in which we need to improve (MEC members see these in our annual report). Staffers are also MEC members, so they are keen on holding the organization accountable.

Create and maintain community connections

Staff frequently partake in community events – our MEC Outdoor Nation program, annual Paddlefest and Snowfest events, gear swaps, trail building, races – connecting them with new and existing audiences while genuinely sharing their passions. Recently, some head-office staff took their Avalanche Safety Training 1 together in Whistler, B.C. They went out as a team, connected with Avalanche Canada (an MEC partner) and brought their learning back to work.

Through our paid volunteerism program, staff have also helped with search-and-rescue organizations, mapped local flora and become mentors within outdoor education programs.

Bring in staff on campaign creation

Staff are welcome to submit outdoor photos, videos and other content that may make its way onto member-facing communications (such as blog posts, ads and reusable shopping bags). They’ve even been known to show up in a few campaigns as models, too.

Recently we launched our first-ever Big Day Out activation for staff in conjunction with the debut of our Good Times Outside activity guide. Staff received a paid day off and up to $1,000 in funding to craft an unforgettable day outside.

Some of the ideas included a stand-up-paddleboard dodgeball tournament, culinary campfire challenges, photography sessions and programs introducing new Canadians to paddling. In addition to Big Day Out events, staff contributed tips, photos and insider information to the myriad activities on the evergrowing Good Times Outside site.

In those respects, as well as on social-media channels, MEC staff are natural leaders. They got the ball rolling on our #live4snow, #myhomewaters, #mecnation and #goodtimesoutside campaigns.

Build a collaborative environment

From shared areas to differing departmental layouts, the design of our buildings reinforces teamwork and plays on our love for the outdoors.

We’ve got rooftop picnic tables and tented meeting “rooms.” Our more traditional meeting room walls are transparent and covered in Bring It statements. We have a wall on the main floor covered in #MECstaffer pictures.

When we have a win, we head out for active team days at climbing gyms, public parks and ski hills.

Look forward together

Everything comes back to change happening faster than ever before. We are deeply proud of our internal culture at MEC, but we know we are far from perfect. Being more inclusive and aware is something staff have regularly highlighted as a matter of importance. It’s a well-known fact that the outdoor industry needs to make strides in showing the breadth and depth of cultures across Canada.

We want to make sure everyone feels welcome in the outdoors, and thanks to MEC staffers being great brand advocates, we’re on our way.

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