Friday, October 28, 2011

Leadership During BC’s Business Transformation

BC’s career development sector is working its way through one of the biggest transformations in its history. A fundamental shift in service delivery and funding structure will see over 400 employment service agencies  replaced with 73 (read more at, starting on page 20). As one might imagine, there is great debate about whether this means good things or bad things for our sector and, most importantly, our clients. For the moment, what appears to be certain is who will get the contracts (see the Government’s announcement at Everything else remains to be seen – the negatives and the positives.

While this is the biggest, this isn’t the first transformation of BC’s employment services I’ve witnessed in my 18+ years as a career professional. I left government services almost 10 years ago so, while I’m not immediately impacted by this transition, I’ve watched my colleagues and students struggle to identify what transformation means for their future.
John Kenneth Galbraith, a Canadian economist once said, “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the sense of leadership.” Most would agree that BC’s Business Transformation is a major anxiety for today’s career development sector so, as leaders, where do we begin?

While I wish there was a quick and easy answer, where to begin likely depends on where each person and/or agency is at. Some elected to not participate in the RFP process, so have likely already begun to work through a shut-down process. Others submitted proposals, or partnered to submit, so will be transitioning into the new model or planning their own shut-down process. Drawing on two of the lessons in the book Leadership Lessons for Transformational Times a good place to start might be

  1. Make time for transformation – remember that change is the event and transition is the process;  each person on your team will acknowledge, accept, and move through a transition at a different pace. Give people the time they need to digest and create a vision for their future
  2. Deal with the tough stuff – don’t avoid the difficult and crucial conversations that will need to occur; ensure there is an opportunity for open and honest dialogue, whenever and wherever its appropriate
Interested in the other lessons? Join our webinar on November 22, 10am; learn more at

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Importance of Remembrance

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row

~ Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, Canadian Forces

With November around the corner, red poppies will begin to appear on the coats of most Canadians – a quintessential symbol of remembrance and a signal that Remembrance Day is approaching. In Canada, it’s customary to wear a poppy during the two weeks prior to November 11th. Do you wear a poppy? In a recent Life Strategies survey about Remembrance Day, 83% of respondents indicated that they buy a poppy. To learn more about the significance and history of the poppy visit the Royal Canadian Legion’s website for information on the poppy campaign and a link to the iconic In Flanders Fields poem, often recited at Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada.

The majority of survey respondents indicated that they attend (54%) and/or watch on TV (49%) a Remembrance Day ceremony. Although not many reported visiting the legion (7%), 78% take the time to at least pause and reflect. That’s perhaps the most important aspect of the day – to pause and reflect. With the hectic pace of life nowadays, it’s important to take the time, slow down, remember, and be thankful.

Survey respondents indicated the top three reasons Remembrance Day was important were that they needed to remember those who suffered for our freedoms (83%), they needed to remember a family member or friend who served (65%), and they needed to celebrate our freedoms (58%). Sometimes it’s all too easy to think of Remembrance Day as just another day off, but it’s important to remember the purpose of this day.

So how can we keep the memory alive? Our survey respondents shared some tips including:
  • Never letting the memory fade by educating youth on the true purpose and value of Remembrance Day. Talking to your kids and connecting with the older generation can provide youth with personal connections to wars of the past rather than just dates and numbers.
  • Spreading information on Remembrance Day through special documentaries and interviews. Sharing stories is a great way to get the word out but also makes that all important personal connection.
  • Keeping Remembrance Day as a national holiday would ensure everyone is given the opportunity and time to remember. One individual suggested that perhaps we should also insist that businesses close their doors at least until after 11:00am so everyone can observe a minute of silence.
  • Advocating for soldiers (and veterans) providing the support they need upon return. Saying “thanks” to someone who served can go a long way. It doesn’t even need to be someone you know.
  • Attending or getting involved in the ceremonies (e.g., the band). Although it’s a solemn event, one individual suggested making the ceremony interesting by involving well-known figures and some “entertainment” value in order to engage those who otherwise wouldn’t watch or attend. A word of caution on this – finding a respectful balance between “show” and “ceremony” might be difficult.
  • Fighting for peace and remembering the victims of war. Remembrance Day isn’t only about looking back but also looking forward – what have we learned from the past? What can we do to help promote peace?
No matter why or how you remember, the important thing is that you do. Despite minor disruptions, we are very fortunate to live in the peaceful society that we do.