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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.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Uber Truth Will Set You Free

We keep hearing the same thing, over and over again - whatever works is fair game, all's fair in war and business, we'll never get caught.
This is a refrain as old as time; what's different is that we're hearing it more and more.  The backrooms are less closed than they used to be; accountability is, slowly, becoming a two way thing.  It's Networked Intelligence, Conscious Society, Social Murmuration, whatever you want to call it - but it's happening.
You can fight the change all you want, figuring you're tougher than anyone else and that this trend will pass; or, you can lead the charge.
The choice is always yours, whether you recognize it or not.
Such is the uber truth, like a sunbeam poking it's way into a cave.  We can jump at shadows, or we can move into the light.

Good Man Hunting in Politics

Where is the line between being a results-demanding boss and an abusive one?  How does this change when the boss is an elected official - or should it?
Our politics if full of Ancient Rites - it's an ancient system that plays by ancient rules, often behind closed doors.  There are a lot of politicians who are amazing bosses, but there are also more than a few that are terrible. 
Every party has its whispered stories - "do you know about XX?" - the boss who shouts and swears, the boss who micromanages, the one who's too friendly or too callous or a poor communicator, keeping staff on pins and needles.
There's not much training for politicians on HR, on communications (as opposed to messaging) or organizational management.  There is even less for staff.  In fact, for many staff it's politicians and their world - receptions, stakeholder meetings, etc. that provide examples of what political conduct should be.
Where Parties are concerned, wins matter.  Conventional wisdom is that wins come at someone else's losses - other parties, bureaucrats, etc.  You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, right?  So long as "strong performers" drive results, or raise funds, or hold seats, does anything else really matter?
Such is the reality of our political culture; it's dysfunctional, harmful and creates a negative experiential learning ground for the people who shape public policy.
It doesn't have to be this way.  There are a growing number of better practices on how to establish positive workplace cultures, nurture effective leadership and engaged employees to foster superior, dynamic results.
What's lacking is will. 
Change is hard, plus this particular kind of change requires some people used to having a great deal of power letting go a little.  It also involves a lot of self-regulation that many a competitive, win-focused pol isn't interested in.
Besides, this is one of those things you can't poke at others to do, because they've got the goods on you, too.  It is far, far easier to maintain a certain cross-partisan omerta than to actually address the issue.  Plus, who are we kidding?  Politics is too busy and the people too disinterested for there to be worthwhile ROI on culture change.
Until, that is, people do care.
Are they starting to?  Are the costs of the status quo starting to be evident enough to allow for culture change to be seen as a worthwhile investment?  Can any one party change first and gain advantage over the other by doing so, without putting themselves in political crosshairs?  What actual individuals are at great risk, putting their partisan brand at risk too, should their business-as-usual practices come to light?
This is the opportunity, plus the barriers around it. 
I maintain the position I've always had - we will never move forward is we're focused on who should be brought down.  The only way to progress collaboratively is through a commitment to leaving no one behind.

Monday 17 November 2014

Arc of Community

If you knew the Apocalypse were to land in 30 years, what would you do differently today?
This was an interesting question teased by Why Should Care?'s speaker tonight, Professor Franklyn Griffiths.  He was there to talk about Canada's future as an Arctic Nation, but a point raised was more existential.  It's his view that, looking at the big picture of global climate change, we could be looking at an Apocalyptic end to our world as we know it sometime in the 2030s.

Which is not to suggest fire and brimstone, the Kraken unleashed; it's more to the point of the way that we live right now will cease to be feasible.  That's access to food, sustainability of infrastructure, etc.  Think less Noah and think more The Road.  Our world - our civilization - will be consumed over time because we will no longer have the resources, skill, time or knowledge to maintain it.
 There will be those out there who tell us this is nonsense, the skittish dreams of self-hating lefties and eco-terrorists clamouring to punish humanity for their own weakness.  Such folk can point to history, all the times we've heard apocalyptic predictions that failed.

Of course, history has plenty of examples of failed civilizations and populations who've fallen into dark times - everything from the collapse of the Roman Empire to Easter Island fit in this category.  No fall happens over night, but its onset can come quickly.
Still, if Prof Griffiths is right, we still have 15-20 years between now and then.  Jonathan Nolan's got plenty of time to make his Foundation mini-series.  We'll all have to pay bills, look to our kids' financial security, etc. in the interim.  I mean, it's not like you can put your head in the sand and wait for 15 years to pass, can you?
Which brings up a more interesting question.  Let's say that it's a real thing, that the engine of civilization as we know it could sputter to an end in 15 years.  No more public transit, public hydro, no public anything - no highways for the transport of food, no TV, internet, schools, libraries, maintained sewers, on and on.
If you knew with absolute certainty that this was the case - what would you differently now?
I know what my answer is.

Stephen Harper's Integrity: A Reflection

The Harper machine has been hell-bent on two interconnected things:
1) Stay in power
2) Destroy the Liberals
Destroying the Liberals was as much about near-autocratic control as anything else.  When you're only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail; when you're only objective is wins, everything starts to look like a race.
Governance isn't a race.  It's not about last man standing, the victor getting the spoils and the ends justifying the means.  It's about leadership, organization, sustainability.
Harper will have his place in history as lasting long, but leaving very little in his wake.  It'll be up to others to rebuild the brand he has painted into a corner through his reliance on black-and-white imagery.
When it becomes about winning, not achieving, you've lost.
It's not just Harper.  We're seeing a slow movement away from organizations that have put individual or organizational gain before commitment to community - it's as true of voters as it is of new Ello users.  Such is the nature of the market that where there's demand, supply emerges.
There is much still in flux and those used to the economic model of the last century rest confident that all this "put the people and planet before profit and power" stuff is a passing fad that can't gain traction, because you need profit and power for that.
Do you need integrity if you've got money and power?  Can't you just fake it if that's the fluff the market thinks they want?
That's been Stephen Harper's play.  How's that worked out for him?
Maybe a subsequent leader can reset his party; maybe Harper himself will land a cushy job on some boards and live prosperously to the end of his days.  Possible, it'll never occur to him that he let slip each and every value he once convinced himself mattered in his question for position and longevity.
But maybe not.  Regardless, what Harper leaves behind - his legacy - his written not by his intent, but by his actions.
Integrity matters.  Ultimately, it's all that gets left behind.

Premier Mom, the Backpacker: Why Authenticity Matters

Came across this doing some research on businesses seeking a toe-hold in Canada:
Anyone who's known Ontario's Premier Kathleen Wynne knows she doesn't do fake.  She doesn't put on airs, she doesn't pander; she does try to get her messages across, but realizes that's only half of communication.
She's been the exact same person since before she first ran for office and it doesn't look like her current office is changing her any, either.
Wynne's not afraid to let her maternal instincts show through; she's also completely comfortable geeking out when she's amazed by something:
She doesn't waver in what she believes, she recognizes she's not perfect and she's not into playing the traditional nationalist domination game. 
The fact that she is willing to look Chinese officials in the eye and say "you don't necessarily want to follow our model, there are things we can learn from you but on human rights, honestly, you're approach isn't doing yourself any favours" makes a difference.
She's about solutions, not about superiority.  She wants her international peers to do just as well as her province, but she's also quick enough to inject a bit of sales magic into the conversation.
Every leader of substance that meets with Kathleen Wynne walks away impressed.  Here's a person I can work with, they say - here's one I can learn from.
No energy is wasted on reading between the lines, parsing spin and seeking hidden intent.  There is none.  Wynne is Wynne.
That's why we love her.  And that's why she's a winner.