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Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS -

Q: What sort of re­ten­tion strat­egy do you have in place?

A: The cham­ber is a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, so we can’t com­pete against our mem­bers when it comes to com­pen­sa­tion. On top of this, be­cause a large por­tion of our staff reg­u­larly in­ter­acts with mem­bers, we can be some­thing of a re­cruit­ing ground when word gets out about how good our peo­ple are. How­ever, we have been very suc­cess­ful in re­tain­ing peo­ple by en­sur­ing they un­der­stand our vi­sion and mis­sion; are pas­sion­ate about it and see their con­nec­tion to it. A big role for me is show­ing how the things our peo­ple do on a dayto-day ba­sis makes a dif­fer­ence. If you work in ac­count­ing or ad­min­is­tra­tion, it may not be ob­vi­ous to see how the Yes Win­nipeg ini­tia­tive, for in­stance, came about be­cause of your spe­cific ef­forts, but it ab­so­lutely is a con­tribut­ing fac­tor. Also, be­cause we’re a pub­lic or­ga­ni­za­tion, there’s a sense of pride that goes along with work­ing at the cham­ber that tends to in­clude our em­ploy­ees’ fam­i­lies. They may be out at a gather­ing when some­one will com­ment on one of our ini­tia­tives and that makes them feel good. So we know that when we’re hir­ing, we’re not just hir­ing that per­son — but the sup­port net­work around them as well. That’s why we fully en­cour­age spouse and fam­ily par­tic­i­pa­tion in our com­mu­nity phi­lan­thropy, planned so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and staff recog­ni­tion awards so that they can share in our em­ploy­ees’ pas­sion and feel part of the cham­ber, too.

They feel a con­nec­tion to a big­ger mis­sion. On the whole, the peo­ple we at­tract are not the ones who want to do ac­count­ing for a non-profit; they want to do ac­count­ing for a non-profit that has sig­nif­i­cance in this com­mu­nity. There’s also an “in­sider” el­e­ment to work­ing here and get­ting to in­ter­act with our mem­bers. The cham­ber is con­nected to what’s hap­pen­ing around Win­nipeg and we cer­tainly try to bring our staff into that re­al­ity as much as pos­si­ble. This gives them an un­der­stand­ing of the dy­nam­ics be­hind the head­lines, es­pe­cially when they know the key busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal play­ers in­volved. Q: In your view, what is one chal­lenge busi­ness lead­ers face in terms of peo­ple prac­tices?

A: I think that for many lead­ers, my­self in­cluded, it’s a strug­gle to find a bal­ance be­tween the time you spend out in the com­mu­nity, trav­el­ling or mak­ing busi­ness deals and the time you spend in the of­fice. I agree with Tom Peters’ prin­ci­ple of Man­age­ment by Walk­ing Around which is about staying in touch with the folks work­ing for you. As a CEO, your pres­ence has a huge in­flu­ence on peo­ple while an ab­sent leader cre­ates real chal­lenges to an or­ga­ni­za­tion. But it’s a fine line. You don’t want the staff to think you’re mi­cro­manag­ing them or that they have to vet ev­ery de­ci­sion through you. But you want to be vis­i­ble so you can lead by ex­am­ple and lend moral sup­port, to rec­og­nize their ef­forts and to live your brand. Last year, I had a ton of travel built into my sched­ule and saw it re­flected in our staff that I just wasn’t around enough. This year, I’ve been spend­ing a lot more time here in the of­fice and they’ve been ask­ing, “So, when’s your next trip, Dave?” Q: What is some of the best piece of lead­er­ship ad­vice you’ve ever re­ceived?

A: My first job was work­ing for my un­cle, who owned a com­puter prod­uct com­pany and was a true men­tor to me. At one sales meet­ing, he passed out copies of Think Big: Un­leash­ing Your Po­ten­tial for Ex­cel­lence by Ben Car­son. In the book, there was a real mes­sage to me: You only go through life once, so don’t miss the op­por­tu­ni­ties to think big. When you’re look­ing at an is­sue or com­ing up with an idea, how can you make it big­ger? How do you get more peo­ple around it? Make it more sig­nif­i­cant? Since then, I’ve al­ways car­ried Think Big with me. Right now I’m read­ing Ken Blan­chard’s book, Lead­ing at a Higher Level, and it’s about em­pow­er­ing your peo­ple by al­low­ing them to take risks and if they fail, call­ing it re­search and de­vel­op­ment. As lead­ers, we need to be com­mit­ted to the vi­sion and to be able to com­mu­ni­cate our ex­pec­ta­tions as to what em­ploy­ees are ac­count­able for, but then we need to step back and stop over­struc­tur­ing the work­day so that we can give them the flex­i­bil­ity and free­dom to be cre­ative and find in­no­va­tive ways to achieve out­comes.

— With re­port­ing by Bar­bara Chabai

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