Monday, December 7, 2015

Leadership Advice

Day 1 of a New Director's Program at the CSPS and I wanted to note some great advice a guest Exec shared with us today:

1. Resist the temptation to do it yourself:  I find this one hard to do because it's often easier to just do it myself, plus it's done to my standard.  However, my role is to DIRECT now.  I cannot do and manager.  Doing it myself is a missed opportunity to let someone else grow.

2. Plan:  easier said than done.  Think it through to completion, determine your resource requirements, always have a Plan B.

3. Anticipate Risks:  the ubiquitous "what should we be worried about?" rarely gets asked, but should guide our actions

4. Articulate Vision:  communicate your division's value and relevance to the organization; practice it; say it in front of your employees.  I do this a little bit, but need to do it more.

5. Look for ways to improve:  this exec devotes 20% of her day thinking of how her org can do things better; wow

6. Stay calm:  I really need to work on this because I can see the effect of my emotional stressing out on other people; the captain should always have her shit together

7. Look for multiple wins:  ask yourself "what else could I achieve at the same time?"  I think I intuitively do this because I am a business student at heart

8. Set a good example: more leaders need to do this

9. Get to know your staff as people (likes, dislikes, etc.):  one of my strengths

10. Get to know your colleagues as people too (what are they trying to achieve in their org?)

11. Seek feedback:  get in the practice of asking "how could I do that better?".  THIS I need to start trying with CP

12. No surprises with your managers, ever.  This is something I've learned in spades on my assignment.  A big part of my job is keeping my manager apprised of issues so that he doesn't hear them from someone else first.  I've learned how to anticipate his needs so that he's prepared for meetings.  It's not as hard as it seems.

13. Don't forget about personal development:  know yourself, be reflective, be open to feedback

14. Ask questions to challenge the status quo:  if you ask "why is it done this way?" you'll learn a lot about the organization

Some other tips on things this exec had wished she'd been told:

  • only shoot for perfection on stuff that matters
  • you don't have to do everything assigned to you --> best to check with your manager to see if still a priority
  • you are not alone
  • use your network
  • get a coach
  • be kind to yourself
  • take regular holidays

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Org Culture

I had the pleasure of attending a just-in-time coaching session recently and it was incredibly insightful; really helped me put my assignment experience in perspective.

My coach helped show me the importance of organizational culture.  It really is the DNA of an organization.  It's purpose is survival -- to make life predictable and safe (homeostasis).   Culture is the desire to maintain the status quo.  This is why change takes so long, especially if it's culture change.

One of the main differences between cultures in different organizations is risk tolerance.  In my current organization, the consequences of making errors is dire -- to the extent that ppl could die.  This means that mistakes are not tolerated.  Methods must be proven, and proven again. There is little room for innovation and risk taking.

My org practices a command and control style of management.  It works, given the culture. However, in it's current implementation, people suffer the consequences of bullying behaviour. Over time, it's debilitating and makes people sick.  My coach said it well : A general during peace time does not lead in the same manner as a general during war time.  Unfortunately my general is constantly at war.  You cannot whip people and demand they succumb to your every whim without consequences.

Another insight I had pertained to the effect of culture on management. At times, I am frustrated with my direct supervisor because of the lack of decision-making and strong leadership.  My coach helped me see that he is a victim of the culture -- a culture that equates success with not making mistakes.  It matters not if we are improving, just that we make no errors. My supervisor is hand-cuffed himself as so many decisions are controlled from the top.  He is simply giving me what he gets.

My other frustration was with change.  I tried too quickly to force my ideas on my team without first understanding the culture.  I was a perceived risk, because I wanted to challenge the satus quo.  An elephant will move when it wants to move.  Culture is an elephant.  Change is most successful when done in increments and in areas where there is little risk.  My colleagues see everything as the same colour.  I can help them see that there are many shades of grey, in places where risk is low.  Start here and slowly try to influence the core.

Friday, July 31, 2015

4 hour work week

I feel like I've forgotten all the take-aways from this inspiring book.  Thankfully I found a few notes:

1. Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?  Yikes.  I do this in spades.

2. Don't interrupt or be interrupted

3. Pick 2 tasks to do per day

4. Focus on the important

5. Do not multi-task

6. Limit meetings -- attending and holding; always have agendas

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I missed out on an internal eadership course at work, but got the chance to browse the course materials quickly.

I'm missing a lot of the context, but thought I might note some of the salient points.

Management is a work activity, but leadership is choice.  It's a lens, if you will, something you need to pay attention to.

Do I have leadership credibility?  What's my track record for:
making tough decisions
dealing with performance issues
influencing others

I'd say that I have a lot more miles to go before I can call myself a strong leader.  I've got a few notches in my belt, but not enough to give me credibility.

Creditibility derailers.  There are many that affect leadership outcomes (e.g. our ability to build teams, meet objectives, influence others).  Mine are short-sightedness, risk aversion, conflict avoidance, over and under managing, emotional incompetence.  Need to work on these.  But how?

Resilience (getting back up when you've fallen, learning from the experience and moving forward) this is key.  I've had a lot handed to me in my career so there hasn't been much opportunity to test my resilience.  But in my personal life, I'm plenty resilient.  Everyday I act with resolve.

Last point is on consciousness.  I'm aware, but am I taking deliberate steps to strengthen my leadership?  Afterall, "we become what we think about".

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I'm finding it really hard to be empathetic as of late and I'm disappointed in myself. I should know better. I should be able to dig deep and feel another's pain. Its a pain I once felt ffs. But instead I am angry with how this is affecting me. I don't agree with how the situation is being handled either. I'm afraid of loss. I'm afraid that my lack of empathy will be evident and enforce arguments against me. I just want to run away. Actually, no. I want to dig deep and be empathetic. From an article I just read:
We will have to put aside all of our debates. Empathy is not a matter of deciding who is right and wrong. It is simply a matter of finding anThis is very true. Give up wanting to control this situation and just be there for someone else. Have faith that it will end. I will not lose what I hold dear. I'm the lucky one here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

connected, loved, appreciated, valued and desired

I really need to feel connected, loved, appreciated, valued and desired by you. I can't remember where I read this, but I agree that for me especially, my relationships flourish when these connected feelings are expressed and reaffirmed.
I finally have this in spades.  I can't stop forgetting about all the years I did not have it and how miserable I thus felt.  And now.  Every. Day.
I am truly truly blessed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

saying the right thing

Why didn't you call?" Instead, she could say, "Honey, I was worried about you. Did something happen?"

Ugh. I wish that I could practice this. I want it to be instinctual FFS.  Instead my instinct is to crap on my loved ones.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

self-help for the anxiously attached

Some great advice for ppl like me.

1. replace inner dialog about failings and worries about what others think of you with reassuring self-talk
2. Build confidence in yourself and your value by accomplishing real tasks
3. Try harder to see things from others’ point of view before acting on fears and anger about how they treat you. 4. Soothe your own worries before they trouble others.
5. Have more faith in other's goodwill before you assume the worst.

More good advice: