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Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS -

Q: As a new leader, how did you strike the bal­ance be­tween in­tro­duc­ing and im­prov­ing pro­cesses with­out up­set­ting the ap­ple cart of what was work­ing well?

A: The first thing I did when I ar­rived was to meet with ev­ery mem­ber of the staff and board. Be­cause I’m not a safety ex­pert, nor pro­fess to be, it was im­por­tant for me to ad­dress that up­front and gain their con­fi­dence, know­ing that we have plenty of ex­per­tise within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. I also dis­cov­ered that all of the peo­ple work­ing here are tremen­dously com­mit­ted to safety and to the growth of this or­ga­ni­za­tion and that there is a pas­sion to re­ally want to move for­ward. Part of the cul­ture here is that it’s in­for­mal; we work hard but we have fun, and that was also an im­por­tant el­e­ment to re­tain. I’ve asked peo­ple what they like most about work­ing here and they told me that they en­joy the type of work they do, the peo­ple they work with and that it’s pos­si­ble to main­tain a good work/life bal­ance. As a new leader in an or­ga­ni­za­tion, you need to as­sess the environment and say, “OK, here are the things I don’t want to mess up.” That’s why my phi­los­o­phy is to build on the pieces that we want to re­tain. That be­ing said, af­ter talk­ing to ev­ery mem­ber of the staff and man­age­ment team, I also rec­og­nized ar­eas that needed work, which is why we are now con­cen­trat­ing on im­prov­ing such key ar­eas as de­ci­sion mak­ing, ac­count­abil­ity and team en­gage­ment. Q: What steps have you taken to help the or­ga­ni­za­tion grow in these ar­eas?

A: Af­ter speak­ing with staff, the next step was de­ter­min­ing the strengths of our man­age­ment team. We con­ducted some­thing called the Strengths Finder, a tool which al­lowed us to dis­cern and dis­cuss our strong points both as in­di­vid­u­als and as an or­ga­ni­za­tion so that we can max­i­mize them. The next thing we did was as­sess our strate­gic plan. The man­age­ment team and I also com­pleted a pri­or­ity-set­ting ex­er­cise and pre­sented the re­sults to the board. It’s pro­vided some struc­ture to hold the screws in place un­til we our new strate­gic plan is fi­nal­ized and im­ple­mented at the end of this year. We are also in the process of fi­nal­iz­ing job de­scrip­tions, op­er­at­ing poli­cies and guid­ing prin­ci­ples — which de­fine what we do, why we do it and how we demon­strate the val­ues be­hind it. This en­com­passes in­tegrity; re­spon­si­ble and eth­i­cal de­ci­sion mak­ing; and the en­gage­ment of em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tors. Be­cause the prin­ci­ples were de­signed and word-smithed by the en­tire man­age­ment team, it sets the tone for how we work to­gether. Ul­ti­mately, we want ev­ery­one to take own­er­ship and go to the ends of the Earth to de­liver these prin­ci­ples. Q: What qual­i­ties are you seek­ing in fu­ture lead­ers?

A: I am look­ing for cre­ativ­ity and the abil­ity to find creative so­lu­tions. They also need to be able to un­der­stand the dy­nam­ics of group de­ci­sion mak­ing. I want peo­ple who can work ef­fec­tively on a man­age­ment team, which means they are not afraid to bring dif­fer­ent views to the ta­ble. I don’t want “Yes” peo­ple, I want frank and hon­est dis­cus­sion so that af­ter­ward, we can all walk out the door in agree­ment on the way to move for­ward. I want lead­ers who will hold them­selves ac­count­able and who are good com­mu­ni­ca­tors so that we stay in touch and gain an un­der­stand­ing of what’s hap­pen­ing in ev­ery part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Q: You are cur­rently chair of the Win­nipeg Cham­ber of Com­merce and have served on a num­ber of other boards in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties. Would you say this made you a bet­ter leader?

A: Serv­ing on a board is a great op­por­tu­nity to build lead­er­ship skills and I see it as an im­por­tant com­po­nent of pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. It has cer­tainly made me stronger as a leader in that I truly un­der­stand what it means to work with a board and how to meet their needs. I’ve per­son­ally gained a tremen­dous amount of knowl­edge from the boards and com­mit­tees I’ve been for­tu­nate to sit on and will be en­cour­ag­ing my man­age­ment team to get out and par­tic­i­pate more in the com­mu­nity. We have had dis­cus­sions with or­ga­ni­za­tions we want to li­aise with, but in my view, if we be­long to some­thing, we need to be ac­tive in it. There is tremen­dous value in the ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause as an in­di­vid­ual, you bring the skills you learn back to the or­ga­ni­za­tion while at the same time, the vis­i­bil­ity and the net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties it presents is ben­e­fi­cial

to us as a whole. Q: What is the best piece of lead­er­ship ad­vice you have ever re­ceived?

A: Ac­tu­ally, it wasn’t so much ad­vice as it was ad­mir­ing the way a cer­tain vol­un­teer board chair con­ducted meet­ings. She was very in­clu­sive and re­spect­ful of dif­fer­ing opin­ions, and I found that to be in­spir­ing. As the leader of an or­ga­ni­za­tion, there’s very lit­tle that you can’t talk about and share with your team. That’s what builds a stronger team and em­pow­ers them to do what needs to be done to achieve the goals of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The other im­por­tant piece is that whether you’re lead­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion or in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent role — af­ter all, ev­ery­one re­quires a bit of lead­er­ship in their jobs — never try to be some­thing you’re not. Stick to your strengths, know where you’re com­fort­able and find places where there’s a nat­u­ral ease to what you are do­ing. If you’re not quite in the right role, it will be an up­hill climb. Know thy­self and the types of roles you thrive in. Q: As you have grown as a leader, would you say that your fo­cus on peo­ple has in­creased?

A: I would cer­tainly say my fo­cus has evolved over the years. That comes from be­ing a strong believer in tend­ing to your own per­sonal de­vel­op­ment be­fore you can help oth­ers fo­cus on theirs. I’ve done a tremen­dous amount of self-de­vel­op­ment work that started with read­ing The Seven Habits of Highly Ef­fec­tive Peo­ple by Stephen Covey. That was the por­tal for shift­ing my em­pha­sis to­ward the peo­ple side of busi­ness. The Seven Habits, along with Cre­at­ing Magic by Lee Cockerell, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions for the Walt Dis­ney World re­sorts, and The Soul of Lead­er­ship by Deepak Cho­pra have in­spired me with the re­minder that lead­er­ship comes from within; but you first need to know who you are and what your strengths are be­fore you can bring out the best in oth­ers.

— With reporting by Bar­bara Chabai

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