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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 14 September 2013

The Charter of Shame

People have come to Canada for various reasons; for a new beginning, a better future for their children, an improved quality of life or to escape oppression back home.
Wherever they've come from, whenever they arrived, we've all come to the same place. 
Unlike France, which can convince itself of a continuous lineage of ethnicity and culture growing in one place through history, Canada is undeniably a hodge-podge from everywhere.  To say there is a unique "Canadian culture" that others should adhere to is naïve.
Canada isn't an ethnicity, nor is it a nationality in the traditional sense.
Canada is an ideal - a dream of what we can all be when we bring the best parts of ourselves together and open ourselves to each other.
It's a lesson Marois would do well to learn.

Friday 13 September 2013

Remember when Trudeau Said He Knew What He Was Doing?

Chortle about committing sociology all you want - I maintain that altruism is selfishness that plans ahead.  It looks like I'm not the only one to recognize this.

Crystal Clear in Quebec

There's a shift happening here that goes far beyond just Quebec.  Intolerance is creeping back in to the mainstreet dialogue and even Parliamentary debate in places ranging from Hungary and Greece to our very own Quebec.

I have to admit - when I wrote "I hate to say it, but I would keep an eye out for a party further to the right of the CPC gaining some presence, too" I was particularly thinking about the inevitable rift forming between hard-right social conservatives and their more electoral-win focused brethren in places like Ontario and Alberta.  It still wouldn't surprise me if some of the muzzled or turfed MLAs take their grievances as a rallying cry, turning some of their supporters against the conservative Party's that were once their home.

The angrier your foundations, the more vindictive becomes your direction.  As perhaps opportunistic politicians add legitimacy to xenophobia for their own gain, the haters of our world gain that much more credibility, plus a broader platform to speak from.  That Party's moving in the right direction, they can say in validated fashion; they just need to go further.

How the rest of us and, in particular, our leaders respond to this trend is of critical importance.  You can't ignore it - like cancer, hatred left unchecked will inevitably spread.  At the same time, you don't want to fuel the fire by creating an "us vs. them" mentality that, as in North Korea, justifies increasingly alarming decisions and actions.

This is where neuropsychology comes in.

For ages we have known, in anecdotal fashion, that courage, altruistic acts, a positive spirit and creativity are great tonics against hatred and intolerance.  Thanks to advances in how we understand emotion, behaviour and the engine that drives them, we've gotten better at influencing mind and the social matrix.  Its up to those who would represent the Canadian Idea - above all, strength through diversity - to borrow from neuromarketing and wage a hearts and minds campaign to counter the dangerous direction Quebec's government is taking.

This isn't a Quebec/ROC thing any more than it's a religious people/ROQ thing - it's a human thing.  Politicians and their policies set the tone of the province in much the same way as different corporate leaders change the entire culture of their companies.  Our ultimate goals are twofold:

1) To inoculate people against hatred and intolerance, reducing their efficacy as a populist tool.  
2) To support those within Quebec who would stand against intolerance, ensuring them the safety needed to raise their voices in opposition without fear of undue reprisal.

The main tool for accomplishing this is the same it has been throughout history - education.  

It's time Canada's leaders take their hand off the fear button and stop oppressing information which challenges them; that merely fuels the problem.

It's time Canadians start holding them to that - not narrow mandates and limited focus, but sustainable leadership.

Get informed, folks; get engaged - because, when we do, we can make a difference.

Thursday 12 September 2013

20 Things Jeff Bezos Said

Strangely enough, I agree with every single one of 'em.

Imagine if more people viewed policy and politics the way Bezos views business...

The 20 Smartest Things Jeff Bezos Has Ever Said

Thank Amazon's quirky CEO, Jeff Bezos, for this success. He created a culture that's not only different from, but often totally at odds with, how most business leaders think. He's also quite quotable. Here are 20 smart things Bezos has said over the years.
1. "All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you're Woolworth's."
2. "There are two kinds of companies: Those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second."
3. "Your margin is my opportunity."
4. "If you only do things where you know the answer in advance, your company goes away."
5. "We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient."
6. "I very frequently get the question: 'What's going to change in the next 10 years?' And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one. I almost never get the question: 'What's not going to change in the next 10 years?' And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two -- because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. ... [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that's going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It's impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, 'Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,' [or] 'I love Amazon; I just wish you'd deliver a little more slowly.' Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it."
7. "If you're not stubborn, you'll give up on experiments too soon. And if you're not flexible, you'll pound your head against the wall and you won't see a different solution to a problem you're trying to solve."
8. "Any business plan won't survive its first encounter with reality. The reality will always be different. It will never be the plan."
9. "In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts."
10. "We've done price elasticity studies, and the answer is always that we should raise prices. We don't do that, because we believe -- and we have to take this as an article of faith -- that by keeping our prices very, very low, we earn trust with customers over time, and that that actually does maximize free cash flow over the long term."
11. "The framework I found, which made the decision [to start Amazon in 1994] incredibly easy, was what I called a regret minimization framework. I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, 'OK, I'm looking back on my life. I want to minimize the number of regrets I have.' And I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn't regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day."
12. "We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent."
13. "When [competitors are] in the shower in the morning, they're thinking about how they're going to get ahead of one of their top competitors. Here in the shower, we're thinking about how we are going to invent something on behalf of a customer."
14. "A company shouldn't get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn't last."
15. "I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out."
16. "If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you're going to double your inventiveness."
17. "If you never want to be criticized, for goodness' sake don't do anything new."
18. "If you're long-term oriented, customer interests and shareholder interests are aligned."
19. "Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort. When you receive criticism from well-meaning people, it pays to ask, 'Are they right?' And if they are, you need to adapt what they're doing. If they're not right, if you really have conviction that they're not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It's a key part of invention."
20. "You want to look at what other companies are doing. It's very important not to be hermetically sealed. But you don't want to look at it as if, 'OK, we're going to copy that.' You want to look at it and say, 'That's very interesting. What can we be inspired to do as a result of that?' And then put your own unique twist on it."

Memes and Motivation: The New Hearts and Minds Strategy

It didn't take long for @LakeridgeHealth to start trending after this brilliant ad; I wouldn't be surprised if its designers had a good inkling that's what would happen.  The message is the embodiment of everything that people are keying into at present; it's a statement of integrity, value and value add; it focuses on creating solutions instead of dividing-and-conquering and it was delivered in just the right package with just the right amount of detail.

More than that, this ad has people talking - not in the Ezra Levant, road-rage inducing way, but in a thoughtful manner.  By offering a clever, appealing contrast to the xenophobic charter business coming from the PQ, Lakeridge is helping to shift the narrative from one that feeds Pauline Marois' populist theme of "the sea of ROC is lapping at our shores, we need to keep the tide back" to one that presents inclusion in an appealing light - "hey, ROC's got some pretty cool stuff going on, do we really want to be left out?"

For anyone whose job includes communication - that means, pretty much everyone - there are some important lessons to mine from this.  While wedge issues and pushing the anger button will always work with some, for the majority of Canadians of all backgrounds the themes that resonate the strongest are Compassion, Innovation, Courage and Trust.

Those leaders to learn to live these values will set the example for their teams, leading to greater aggregate success.

After all - diversity is strength.

Ontario's Statesman

The Parliamentarians are caught between the push-and-pull of partisan loyalties and constituency demands, working in jobs that have no descriptions; no doubt much of the rancour we see on the Legislative floor is vented frustration about the lack of understanding anyone (themselves included) has about their role.

Partisan shops have one clear mandate - win.  Policy choices, communication approaches, which groups are courted/which get pissed off and how many human resource hours are spent digging up dirt on opponents instead of solution R&D are all reflections of the need to get more seats than they other Parties.

It's not their fault, though - as we've seen with Peter Shurman, they are simply playing by the existing rules of the game.  If you buy into a Randian worldview, that's how it should be - the clever people find whatever way possible to further their own interests, which is what we're seeing play out across the land.

From the Member up to the Leader to the support staff, it's theoretically possible that Political People could hold themselves to a higher standard and set an example we can all be proud of, but what's the motivation?  There's not a lot of adulation in politics from people other than your supporters; for the most part, if an elected official wants credit for positive work they do, they have to promote those things themselves.  We'd love for our political leaders to aspire to something greater - yet when they do, we demonize them as not being reflective of us.

There's a reason so many people are cynical about politics - especially those that are in it.  The transit file provides a great metaphor; as posturing takes over planning, we spent increasing amounts of time and energy getting nowhere.

Of course the point of Parliamentary Democracy isn't to fuel tribal competition at the expense of progress; it's to ensure a healthy debate of ideas, ensuring the best, most considered options are the one that are made policy.  Sometimes, like now, it takes a voice that stands above the fray to remind us - and the politicians and Parties - of this. 

Enter David Onley.

As LG, Onley's position is largely a ceremonial one; cut ribbons, attend functions, hobknob with persons of importance.  Like many of our elected representatives, he could stick to that role and rightfully say he's just doing his job - it's not his fault that the people are losing faith.

Leadership isn't about shirking responsibility - it's about recognizing problems and catalyzing solutions.

Onley has recognized, as many of us have, that the pillars of our democracy - representation by population and respectful debate - are both in decline.  Instead of point fingers of blame and ensuring he fills his cup before the waterhole shrinks, he's trying to do something about it.

It might not work.  As Onley himself said, it's no easy task, encouraging opponents to humanize each other.

But at least he's trying.  The challenge now is for the Parliamentarians to follow his example.  If they fail to do so, they've got no one but themselves to blame.

Don't Ask Me - You're the Boss!

Bottom line?  If you want someone's opinion (and believe me, you do), don't set yourself up as feudal lord.  If you do, you're setting up expectations for your team.

Leaders are catalysts, conduits, motivators and mentors.  It's takes more effort, greater personal engagement, but it produces results.

If results don't matter, though, carry on - after all, you're the boss.

Boss: The Worst Four-Letter Word in Business

Remember George Carlin’s 7 Dirty Words comedy skit? It’s brilliant. Irreverent. It’s funny because it’s true. But it’s incomplete.
At least in a business context, there is one word that’s worse than all the rest – yes, even worse than the one you’re thinking of right now.
The first time I was CEO, I made an enormous list of mistakes, but at the time it looked like everything I touched turned to gold – so I made a big mistake when I let a friend call me Midas without calling him on it. “Boy, this guy’s so successful, and he’s calling me that? I must really be good.”
The truth is, I was more like a gambler on a roll: I was Midas until the day I wasn’t. Ouch. Looking back, I wish I’d read Tim Harford’s Adapt before I’d founded that company. Oh, well.
Midas is a bad word in business, but it isn’t the worst.
Around this same time, I also made the mistake of allowing our girls’ niñera (babysitter) to call me “Mr. Coiné.” As with Midas, my ego did not need anyone calling me “mister.” Neither does yours.
But Mister isn’t the worst thing someone can call you, either. You know what is the single worst four-letter word in business? Boss.
Oh, boy. I’ve learned from personal experience to hate that one. Here’s why:
  • What the speaker means: “All I have to do is obey my boss’s marching orders, keep her happy, and I can keep my job. Someday I’ll even get promoted for my loyalty. Critical thinking? That’s above my pay grade. It’s my boss’s job.”
Is this who you want to lead? A follower?? Me, too – when I was a less confident kid. These days, I refuse to lead anyone other than other leaders. Meanwhile…
  • What the listener hears: “You’re important. You’re wise. You have all the answers.”
I’ve met plenty of egomaniacs who think they have all the answers. Time typically proves them wrong. I’ve never met anyone who’s had more than a few of the answers herself. That’s why we need other leaders to help us. Build a well-rounded team, hopefully one with plenty of misfits, and typically someone in there will have the answer you need to any given problem – or they’ll know where to find it.
Please, do your whole company a favor, and ban the four-letter word “boss” from your workplace entirely. It’s a bad message sent, and a cancerous message received.

Employee Engagement MEANS Engaging WITH Employees

Not treating them as receptacles.  Not expecting them to be mind readers.  Not dismissing them as expendable, and therefore not worthy of investment.


Employee Engagement MEANS Engaging WITH Employees

We all want (need?) to do more with less.  That’s the promise of technology.  And employee engagement isn’t immune to that thinking.  Whether SaaS based or old-school dedicated, custom programs – the selling point for technology-based solutions is more, better, faster, cheaper.  The technology becomes the end – not the means – and that is a problem.

Engagement is a People Problem

At the heart of employee engagement is the employee – and the people within the organization that interact with that employee.
Never has an employee said –
“I’d be more engaged if I had more ways to NOT spend time with people.  What I really need to be more engaged at my company is technology that allows me to not talk to people and let’s me do all my connecting through my computer screen, smart phone and tablet.  I wish I could use technology to further isolate me as an employee.”
Well – maybe Sheldon has said that but the rest of us – we need more “human” interactions – not fewer.

No Luddite Here

Don’t get me wrong – technology has a place – an important one – when used to enable the face-2-face and personal side of the employee engagement equation.  But we often end up using technology as a substitute for, not an enabler of, employee engagement.  I like tech.  I think it is a great way to free up humans to do human things like talk to each other, have coffee and learn about what others are working on, get to know each other on a more personal level.
But technology isn’t employee engagement. (Click here to tweet that.)

Canary in Facebook Coalmine

I’ve done a couple of presentations lately on how to humanize employee engagement and one of the concepts I discuss is the negatives associated with being connected via technology – but not connected in real life.  Technology is great at making us “feel” connected without really being connected.  A great quote on that point of view I use in my presentation is fromDr. Anna Akbari, a “Digital Happiness Professor” at New York University, when she said:
“Twitter has allowed us to be part of a movement without actually moving.” (Click this to tweet that.)
And I think that applies in our corporate world as well.  Many employees can now can hide behind email, yammer, wikis, sharepoint, etc.  They don’t have to look each other in the eye and make a promise – they can just check a box on a shared group to-do list in Basecamp.  They’re “involved” – but at a distance.  But are they engaged?
Recently a new study from Michigan showed that Facebook may undermine your satisfaction with life.  The study asserts that Facebook may help people feel connected, but it won’t necessarily make them happier.
To quote from the reference article:
“On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection,” says University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the article and a faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research.
“But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result—it undermines it.”
“This is a result of critical importance because it goes to the very heart of the influence that social networks may have on people’s lives,” says cognitive neuroscientist John Jonides, another author of the paper.
Granted – many of the technology solutions within an organization aren’t “social networks” per se – but they often serve similar functions – updating, connecting, alerting, storing and sharing information in a technologically connected way.  All that connecting has the unintended consequence of eliminating the need for face-2-face (heck – even voice-2-voice would be better – it’s call the phone!) connections.

Employee Engagement Requires Real Engagement

My net-net when I talk about humanizing employee engagement is this…
Use the tech to enable your engagement activities but work hard to find ways to meet, talk and connect in human ways.
In other words – as Captain Picard would say – Engage!

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Be Yourself, but Carefully (Lisa Rosh, Lynn Offermann)

Be Yourself, but Carefully

by Lisa Rosh and Lynn Offermann

To evaluate when—and when not—to share, take thisinteractive assessment.
“Authenticity” is the new buzzword among leaders today. We’re told to bring our full selves to the office, to engage in frank conversations, and to tell personal stories as a way of gaining our colleagues’ trust and improving group performance. The rise in collaborative workplaces and dynamic teams over recent years has only heightened the demand for “instant intimacy,” and managers are supposed to set an example.
But the honest sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences at work is a double-edged sword: Despite its potential benefits, self-disclosure can backfire if it’s hastily conceived, poorly timed, or inconsistent with cultural or organizational norms—hurting your reputation, alienating employees, fostering distrust, and hindering teamwork. Getting it right takes a deft touch, for leaders at any stage of their careers.
Consider Mitch, the director of a newly established department at a major U.S. university, who was responsible for negotiating and maintaining links with other educational and research institutions. Attempting to break the ice in his first meeting with the dean of a prominent college, he mentioned how excited he was to be at the dean’s school, because he’d wanted to attend it but had been rejected. He got a cold stare in response, and the meeting ended without an agreement. Mitch thought his comment was friendly and self-deprecating; now he realizes that it probably lowered his standing with the dean, who may have thought he was either challenging the admissions process or seeking pity. Mitch learned that such revelations must be skillfully deployed.
In our years of studying and consulting on leadership development, team building, and communication skills, we’ve come across hundreds of cases like this. Drawing on them and on more than four decades’ worth of research in social and organizational psychology, we now have some lessons to share. Here we look at the common mistakes executives make when they’re trying to be authentic and offer a five-step plan for moving toward more-effective self-disclosure.
Where Leaders Slip
Authenticity begins with self-awareness: knowing who you are—your values, emotions, and competencies—and how you’re perceived by others. Only then can you know what to reveal and when. Good communication skills are also key to effective self-disclosure; your stories are worthwhile only if you can express them well. We typically encounter three types of executives whose lack of self-knowledge causes their revelations to fall flat—oblivious leaders, bumblers, and open books—and two types who fail because they are poor communicators: inscrutable leaders and social engineers. (However, people often fit into more than one category at least some of the time.)
Oblivious leaders don’t have a realistic view of themselves and thus reveal information and opinions in a manner that appears clueless or phony. Take Lori, the director of sales and business development for a global software company. She sees herself as an inclusive, participatory, and team-oriented manager and likes to tell stories about her time as a junior staff member and how much she valued having a voice in decisions. But her subordinates consider her to be highly directive and thus find her anecdotes disingenuous. As one employee puts it, “I don’t care if you make every decision, but don’t pretend to care about my opinion.”
Bumblers have a better understanding of who they are but not of how they come across to others. Unable to read colleagues’ social cues, including body language and facial expressions, they make ill-timed, inappropriate disclosures or opt out of relationship building altogether. This behavior is particularly prevalent in cross-cultural situations when people aren’t attuned to differing social norms. A case in point involves Roger, a partner in a multinational consulting firm who was assigned to help boost market share for the firm’s newly formed Asia-Pacific office. Asked to coach a team that had recently lost an important account, he decided to share a story about losing his first client. In the United States, anecdotes about his own mistakes had always made his subordinates feel better. But Roger’s Asian colleagues were dismayed that their new leader would risk his honor, reputation, and influence by admitting weakness.
You don’t need to leave your country to bumble. Take Anne, the general manager of a cafeteria for an international technology company. An extrovert who knows herself well, she shares her experiences and perceptions freely. This can be effective when she’s talking to her staff, but it’s less so with outsiders. For example, when an HR manager recently complimented her on the catering she’d coordinated for an in-house awards ceremony, Anne thanked him and went on to disclose that she’d been concerned because the company had come close to outsourcing its food service. Instead of seizing an opportunity to secure more internal business for her beleaguered cafeteria, she diminished her status and worried team members who overheard the exchange.
Open books talk endlessly about themselves, about others, about everything; they’re too comfortable communicating. So although colleagues may seek them out as sources of information, they ultimately don’t trust them. Consider Jeremy, an outgoing senior manager with a sharp mind but a string of failed management consulting engagements. When people first meet him, his warmth, intelligence, and ability to draw them into conversation make them feel as if he were an old friend. But his aggressive familiarity soon wears thin (“I know more about his wife than I know about my own,” one former colleague says), and his bosses question whether he’s discreet enough for client work. Indeed, Jeremy was asked to leave his most recent job after he used a key meeting with a prospective client to detail work he’d done for several others, not only outlining their problems but identifying them by name.
Inscrutable leaders are at the other end of the spectrum: They have difficulty sharing anything about themselves in the workplace, so they come off as remote and inaccessible and can’t create long-term office relationships. Aviva is a registered dietician who expanded her private practice into a full-service nutritional guidance, exercise training, and health products company. Although she’s talented and passionate, she has difficulty retaining employees, because she fails to communicate her enthusiasm and long-term vision. Recently featured on a panel of female entrepreneurs, she opted to present a basic annual report and outline her sales strategy rather than to captivate the audience with a personal story, as others had done. Afterward, the other panelists were flooded with résumés and business cards; Aviva had lost out on the significant benefits that can come from appropriate self-revelation.
Finally, social engineers are similar to inscrutable leaders in that they don’t instinctively share, and to bumblers in that they often have difficulty reading social cues, but their chief shortcoming is the way they encourage self-disclosure within their work groups. Instead of modeling desired behaviors, they sponsor external activities such as off-site team building. Andrew, for example, is a unit head at a financial services firm with an ultracompetitive corporate culture. Every year, he sends his team on a mandatory retreat run by an outside consultant who demands personal revelations in artificial settings. Yet Andrew never models or encourages self-disclosure in the office—and he looks the other way if employees exploit colleagues’ self-revealed weaknesses to get ahead. When we asked one of Andrew’s direct reports about the most recent group getaway, she said, “I learned that I hate my colleagues—and my manager—even more than I thought.”
Executives who make any or all of these mistakes may appear to be simply incompetent. But their cautionary tales are much more common than you might think, and we can all learn from them. In our work we’ve seen even the most self-aware, talented communicators err in how, when, or to whom they reveal a personal story. Everyone should understand best practices in self-disclosure.
A Five-Step Path
Let’s return to Mitch, who blundered with the college dean. Chastened by that experience, he vowed to get better at revelation. Since then his disclosures have proved far more effective, allowing him to establish many enduring partnerships. What makes him so successful now? First, he’s self-aware: He knows who he is, where he came from, where he’s going, and what he believes in. He encourages colleagues to give him feedback, and he’s enrolled in several developmental training programs. Second, he communicates cautiously, letting the task at hand, along with environmental cues, dictate what to reveal when. For instance, he was all business at one meeting with a potential partner until she voiced a concern about whether her students could assimilate at his university. Sensing a critical moment in the negotiation, he decided to tell her about the challenges he’d faced in an exchange program during college—trying to learn another language, make friends, and adjust to the curriculum. The story was personal and heartfelt but also demonstrated an understanding of his counterpart’s concern and a commitment to addressing it. He deepened the relationship and sealed the deal.
Mitch arrived at effective, authentic self-disclosure by following five steps:
1. Build a foundation of self-knowledge. You can learn about yourself in many ways, but the best approach is to solicit honest feedback—ideally a 360-degree review—from coworkers and follow it up with coaching. In Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? (Harvard Business School Press, 2006), Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones suggest exploring biography. You might consider your upbringing, your work experiences, and new situations, such as volunteer opportunities, that test your comfort zone and force you to reflect on your values. You might also consider your personal management philosophy and the events and people who shaped it. We start our executive coaching engagements with a detailed interview that essentially walks clients through their personal and professional histories, their successes and failures, and the lessons they’ve drawn as a result. These exercises can help you choose which stories are most appropriate to share with others.
2. Consider relevance to the task. Skillful self-disclosers choose the substance, process, and timing of revelations to further the task at hand, not to promote themselves or create purely personal relationships. In fact, we found in our earlier work that team development efforts often fail because they try too hard to foster intimacy rather than focusing on task-relevant disclosure and social cohesion. Be clear that your goal in revealing yourself at work is to build trust and engender better collaboration and teamwork, not to make friends—though that may happen. So before you share personal information, ask yourself whether it will help you do your job. Is it germane to the situation? Will your staff get a better understanding of your thinking and rationale? If not, you might want to save the story for a coffee date with friends. If your goal is simply to develop rapport with employees, you can find safer ways to accomplish that—such as bonding over a beloved sports team, a new movie, or a favorite restaurant.
3. Keep revelations genuine. This should be a no-brainer, but we’re amazed at how often we hear about managers who fabricate tales. Take Allan, who recently stepped down from his position as the associate director of marketing and communications for a regional hotel chain. In both presentations and small group discussions, he would cite examples of how he had successfully used social media, video on demand, and search engine optimization in his prior position at a premier boutique hotel. The problem was that he held that job in the early 1980s, before those technologies were widespread. Allan did have extensive social media marketing experience, but it had come through his volunteer church work; he fudged the details in an effort to bond with his younger colleagues. Eventually they found out, and Allan lost credibility, which ultimately led to his departure from the company. Making up stories or exaggerating parts of a narrative to fit the situation may seem like a good idea, but it is easily discovered and can do a lot of harm. Instead try to find real if less-than-perfect disclosures that still capture the emotions of the situation and convey empathy. If, for example, Mitch had never been part of an exchange program, he might have told his potential partner that he was a father and therefore recognized the importance of assuaging young people’s fears in new situations.
4. Understand the organizational and cultural context. Considerable research has shown that people from individualistic societies, such as the United States and India, are more likely to disclose information about themselves and expect others to do the same than people from collectivist societies, such as China and Japan. Thus Roger’s Asian teammates might have been put off by his readiness to share a personal story, regardless of its content. Make an effort to investigate national and organizational norms about sharing so that you’ll know when it’s best to keep quiet. In any context, but especially one new to you that involves teammates from other countries, companies, or functions, you should talk to respected insiders about how people operate and what level of candor is expected. HR personnel and group leaders may be able to provide this information, but you can also test the waters with task-relevant self-disclosure to see how people respond. And you can look for cues such as eye contact and others’ attempts to share or solicit stories.
5. Delay or avoid very personal disclosures. Intimate stories strengthen relationships; they don’t establish them. Sharing too much personal information too quickly breaks all sociocultural norms of behavior, making one appear awkward, needy, or even unstable. That was Helen’s mistake when she was asked to introduce herself at the cross-site launch of a training program at her home health care agency. Exhausted after a sleepless night with her sick baby, she shared that experience in her introduction, to the discomfort of her audience. “They wanted to know about my education and industry background, and instead I spoke graphically about baby throw-up,” she recalls. “It took me a few months after that to reestablish credibility.” This doesn’t mean you have to wait years before telling colleagues anything about your personal life. You just need to have spent enough time with them to develop a foundation of trust and to learn organizational norms. First develop common objectives, delineate goals and roles, and demonstrate credibility and trustworthiness through your work. Take careful note of how open others are before offering significant disclosures of your own. In some workplaces you will eventually find it safe and helpful to share; in others you’ll realize it’s extremely unwise to do so.
These five steps should help you avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve outlined and become a more effective leader. Remember to think carefully about your motives and likelihood of success. (See the exhibit “When—and When Not—to Share.”) Self-disclosure is a valuable managerial tool, but it must be used judiciously. What stories do you have to tell, and who needs to hear them?

Why is the finance industry so sexist? CBNews)

Why is the finance industry so sexist?
September 11, 2013

Commentary:(MoneyWatch) A Financial Times survey of the fund industry (subscription required) has found that sexual harassment in finance is "rife," with 28 percent of women saying they had experienced harassment and an additional 54 percent saying they had faced inappropriate behavior.

More powerful than the numbers were the descriptions of attitudes women in finance say must contend with. One survey respondent said that whenever her team failed to win business, she was blamed for not wearing a shorter skirt. Another said that they only way she could be taken seriously was by dressing down -- wearing glasses, a cardigan and tying her hair back. "Certain asset classes are very male dominated, which results in behaviours and cultures that may alienate female colleagues," one woman told the FT.

So what is it about finance that makes it so sexist? One obvious explanation is that there are few women in senior leadership positions, and it has a long tradition of misogyny. The industry is also highly competitive, not only between companies, but within firms. This militates against camaraderie or any sense that co-workers are equal. If you work in an environment where everyone is out to win, you can be sure that subtle and less subtle tactics will be used. The easiest way in the world to put a woman down is to treat her like an object.

I also wonder how far the sheer abstraction of the business itself contributes to the treatment so many women receive. After all, fund managers don't actually make anything. They move other peoples' money around. What they produce -- numbers on a page -- is so abstract that on one level their whole orientation is towards things, not people. In short, spending all day staring at a Bloomberg terminal isn't a great way to stay in touch with your humanity. And we saw in the run up to the economic crisis that it's the easiest thing in the world to think of money not as homes, savings or retirement but just numbers on a screen.

It's far easier to trade if you don't consider human consequences. It's also more dangerous.

Of course, sexism isn't unique to finance. The technology sector has also struggled to attract and promote women. Its failure to eliminate sexism was broadcast this week when AOL-owned TechCrunch showcased a supposedly comic app called Titstare and a demo of fake masturbation. The organizers apologized, but you have to wonder how anyone reached a point where they thought this was funny.

We've made very little progress tackling these attitudes over the last 20 years. If anything, we've put more pressure on women to change their behavior than on men to change theirs. The women's movement has been eager to appease, insisting that the advancement of women won't come at a cost, that men needn't be frightened of it and that really very little change is needed. Asking for little, we got little.

And, as efforts to reduce gender discrimination at Harvard Business School revealed, the minute you start taking gender equality really seriously, men start to whine.  It's striking that the FT survey finds younger women particularly vulnerable. So many are lured into areas like finance thinking they really won't mind a male-dominated environment -- until they discover that they do.

What most surprised me about the survey was the headline that announced it: Fund market "rocked" by sexism. Rocked? Only the willfully blind could be rocked by a phenomenon that's been well known for years. I'll be rocked the day I see real change.

Labour Woes at Queen's Park

This is but the tip of the iceberg of staff/labour woes at Queen's Park, and in political offices in general.  While there are some truly great and empowering employers within each Party, there are also plenty of horror stories about staff working without proper equipment, direction, paid peanuts and micromanaged or bullied.  It's considered part of the culture - you take your lumps because it's an honour to work for elected officials/a Political Party that many are dying for.  If you can't take the heat, get out of the fire.

Yet there also happen to be countless, ongoing complaints about staff performance issues from constituents; calls not returned, files dragged or "sorry, you need to take that up with someone else" shirks of responsibility and dropped initiatives that go out the window with staff turnover.  Then there's the whole occupational mental health movement, spearheaded by the Feds but also under discussion at the provincial level.

Somehow, nobody has tied these things together - yet.  With a growing number of political staff issues/training needs and related scandals making headlines, there's a much bigger story brewing here that smart Political Parties will take pains to get ahead of.  

Of course, doing that means thinking structurally instead of just focusing on the win - which requires a culture change that Ontario politics, or Canadian politics at large, probably isn't ready to invest in.  

The time is rapidly coming when they're gonna have to.

Not that they need to listen to me; after all, it's not like I have a record of being ahead of the curve on this sort of thing.


Reminiscences of September 11, 2001

CFN – Word first reached us by telephone.  My then-girlfriend took the call; it was her sister, saying something incomprehensible about a plane flying into the Empire State Building.    On September 11, 2001, we were living in an apartment complex in Najusi, a small city in the South-Western corner of South Korea.  It was our first big adventure as a couple, spending a year overseas teaching English as a Second Language to private school students.  We were just over a month into our contract; there was still a surreal quality in our day-to-day experiences.  The call from Canada seemed like a dream within a dream.
Hours later, we learned from the BBC that the substance of the call had been deadly real.  A serious British accent informed us that it wasn’t the Empire State Building but rather the World Trade Centre that had been hit.  Planes had flown into both towers, knocking them down like houses of cards.  An image of the 1976 King Kong movie popped into my head as I tried to wrap my mind around the idea of those three towers and tragic calamity.   The clipped voice of the BBC announcer continued, saying there were now reports of a third plane, then a fourth; we heard something about the Pentagon just before we absolutely had to leave if we were to get to work on time.  As I recall, the grandmothers who lived in the apartments around us were already laying out mats on the curbs in preparation for drying the red peppers used in making kimchi. 
News trickled out over the course of the day, only all the news we got was in Korean.  The Korean teachers at our school tried to translate the bits and pieces they caught for us, but it was maddeningly little and none of it made sense.  This wasn’t only a language barrier; nobody anywhere seemed clear on just what had happened.  It was hard to focus on teaching sentence structure to the bright young faces in front of us when around the globe but right next door to home, the world seemed to be coming apart. 
A week later, the aftermath and implications of 9/11 were just starting to set in when we received another call.  On the same day that President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror, we learned of a death in the family.  The world around us suddenly seemed very alien; all my now-wife wanted to do was get home and all I wanted was to get her there, safely. 
The journey home that followed was a nightmare.  The customs officer cancelled our work visas because we didn’t understand her questions and were, understandably, somewhat distracted.  We had to fight anxiety, fatigue, loss and language to sort everything out.  Of course, none of that mattered to the customs lady; from where she was standing, we were just a nuisance, slowing down her line. 
The Pacific crossing was painfully long.  The wait for the connecting flight in New York was agony, too.  I vaguely remember the airport taxi ride from La Guardia to JFK through the darkness of a Big Apple that felt like someone had taken a bite out of it, tall towers silhouetted against the night.  The driver pointed in the direction of where the Twin Towers had stood; you couldn’t tell that they were gone at night, he told us, but you could still feel them missing in your bones.  At both airports, the gift shops were sold out of anything that featured the likeness of those iconic, collapsed monuments to free enterprise.
There was a definite air of fear in the airports – you could feel scrutinizing stares boring into anyone that looked like they might be Muslim, or Middle Eastern, or hostile to America. Nobody felt safe, but worse – everyone just knew that the next terrorist was there, hiding behind one of those placid faces.  It was simply a question of which one or ones and whether it was somehow possible to reduce the odds of finding them before it was too late.
I can’t remember which airport it was, but at some point through the night I walked into a public washroom where a couple of security officers were standing tensely in front of a stall, telling the occupant to step out.  The door opened and a man of possibly South Asian background wearing a pilot’s uniform emerged, a bundle of clothes under one arm.  The guards’ hands went to rest on their holsters as they started demanding to know why he was changing in a washroom stall; I didn’t wait around to see what happened next. 
Our landing in Toronto was followed shortly thereafter by a drive to Cornwall.  The week that followed is a dark blur of tears staining solemn faces, black clothes and uncertainty.  Having lived for long periods of time in foreign countries before, I already was used to that feeling you get upon returning home, the sensation that somehow, the world you know has changed.  This time, the feeling wasn’t just mine.  Everyone everywhere was experiencing the exact same thing.  Even as we prepared for the burial and sorted out all the details, the reality of 9/11 was always buzzing around us.
The funeral service included a Chinese custom of averting one’s gaze as the body is lowered into the ground.  The idea is that if nobody is watching, the spirit of the deceased won’t connect with and become anchored to someone in the land of the living.  As I turned my back, I thought of a quote attributed to Plato; “only the dead have seen the end of war.”
What happened after the funeral is a blur.  I vaguely recall a stopover in Japan, a pristine hotel room and red leaves on trees by the roadside.  I don’t recollect the flight back to Incheon airport nor the long drive back to Najusi at all.  I do remember coming back to a world that felt like recent events hadn’t changed it at all. Fall was in the air, but it was a fall being prepared for in a traditional way.  There was something comforting in that, in the old ladies drying their red peppers as their ancestors had done for generations before them.
Back at school, the whole Twin Tower affair was an over-there story for the students, much as stories of atrocities in foreign countries are for people here at home.  Shocking, perhaps, but in a distant way – it’s too far removed, experienced only through the lens of the TV screen.  The kids in our classes wanted to show off their latest innovation; they’d figured out how to fold a 5,000 Won note to make it look like the Korean artist on bill was wearing a turban.  “Look, teacher!” they’d exclaim proudly.  “It’s Osama bin Laden!”
It’s been eleven years since that fall in South Korea.  Osama bin Laden is dead; so too are Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il, though the last has been replaced by his son, Kim Jong-un.  Having stood in the DMZ that cleaves the Korean peninsula into two separate worlds, I can tell you that the Korean War is still very much alive, as is the hope that one day the “demilitarized zone” will live up to its name. 
Some of our little Korean students are by now young adults, pursuing their own misadventures.  While they live a world apart in every sense, I know them to be kids like any other.  Having been touched by their lives, however briefly, I sometimes wonder what they are up to and how they are doing.  I hope they have found a measure of success and happiness.  Lots of boys and girls in Norway, in Syria and in countless other places devastated by man or nature were kids once, too.  What if any customs did their parents take comfort in as they laid their children to rest? 
Many of the geopolitical threats we worried about in 2001 remain the same ones we worry about today.  There are also new concerns that have taken root in the modern social zeitgeist; nobody was thinking about Arab Spring, the Occupy movement or the global economic crisis back then, but these things define the present just as much as 9/11 did that not-so-distant past.  While a new memorial is rising at Ground Zero and I now have a family of my own to care for, the scars inflicted by 2001 still linger.
Meanwhile, Korean grandmothers are even now laying out their tarps and drying their red peppers.  They know as we do that winter is coming, but then they’ve seen many winters in their lives.  Time and tradition have taught them that while you can’t stop the seasons from changing, the right preparations can help you endure through the cold and dark – and inevitably, winter always gives way to spring.