Three Ways to Bring Historical Analysis to Your Community

OPENING | The Value of History

“History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” – Mark Twain

A thorough analysis of the past might just be the best thing for your community’s future. Because great community-builders think like historians.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by John T. Seaman, Jr. and George David Smith (both historians) entitled “Your Company’s History as a Leadership Tool” argues that “[g]reat leaders…[d]on’t ignore history until the time comes to plan their organization’s next anniversary. And though they may not view themselves as historians, they find it useful to think and talk about the past – in the present and in living color.”

Seaman Jr. and Smith cite the simple and profound question with which Alfred D. Chandler prodded his Harvard Business School classes: “How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

Truth!

And this is why you should incorporate history into the decisions that you make when striving to build positive communities at work, at school, and in your neighbourhood.

One of my favourite blogs, Active History, makes a business (don’t tell them I called their operation a business) from putting the present in context by thoroughly, interestingly and, from time to time, entertainingly analyzing the past. A recent article by Mark Sholdice even explores the history of history programs (specifically PhD programs) in the US and Canada. Further exploration of professional and academic networks (Sholdice’s work examines small groups of people working towards common ends and he is “fascinated by elites”) will allow Sholdice to provide important context into how “elite departments” groom leaders in the field.

As you bring historical analysis to your community (and you totally should), here are three things to consider:

1. The Place

Think of the last neighbourhood that you moved to. How did you come to understand its people, buildings, spaces, and culture? I imagine that you were more captivated by stories of the past (even if they were negative and, possibly, scary) than predictive planning for the future; moreover, the future possibilities are almost always defined by building off-of, or transforming, the history of a place. “To lead with a sense of history is not to be a slave to the past but, rather, to acknowledge its power,” argue Seaman Jr. and Smith. For example, whatever happens to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the next 10 years will certainly incorporate the structure of the past. Yes, even the rotten and crumbling bits.

Jane’s Walk, a globally renowned pedestrian exploration of thousands of communities, is a fantastic example of how people can understand the history of their community in order to build – or transform – its strengths and weaknesses into a positive and productive place of the future.

2. The Values and Culture

It doesn’t matter if it’s a company, a school, a government, or a neighbourhood – when it comes to attracting top talent, people want to know that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Folks want to have a clear idea of how to align their talents and interests with the work that needs to be done and the way to do it. As Seaman Jr. and Smith argue, “knowing the history of a group to which we belong…can help us see events, and ourselves, as part of a still unfolding story and of something larger than ourselves.”

Vancity Credit Union reached back through its history to build its current slogan, Make Good Money, as well as to create an important statement that I recently heard the company’s CEO, Tamara Vrooman, state during a panel discussion about banking on values (I’m paraphrasing): where and how we spend our money reflects our values as a community. From onboarding new employees to financing new enterprises, the idea that everyone involved in the Vancity community should Make Good Money offers a lot of clarity for members, employees and the co-operative’s leadership.

3. the Present (and Future) OF YOUR HISTORY

Any story based on historical analysis, however, has to match the present needs, interests and goals of a community. For example, highlighting the War of 1812 might not have been something that a critical mass of Canadians supported, especially when the federal government decided to pour millions of dollars into coins, commercials and displays while cutting funding for the National Archives. Remember, history needn’t be used just for anniversaries and needs to get to the deep, unifying truth of the past in order to inspire a future that resonates with a majority of people.

Apple’s recent move to bring elements of its manufacturing process back to North America offers a better example of how an organization can reach back into its compelling history to align future goals with current reality.

CLOSING | Tell Authentic Stories

When it comes to storytelling, I’m pretty good. And I believe that one of the key factors that makes me a craftsman in the field of yarn-spinning is my authenticity. Even when I exaggerate points that best fit my narrative, dismiss the stuff that doesn’t fit well, stretch data, and/or delve into the realm of selective revisionism, I am consistently genuine and ensure that the history I present gets to the deep truth of the community in question.

Note: by no means do I recommend my method as good academic historical practice; such efforts will not make you popular in peer reviewed journals!

According to Seaman Jr. and Smith, audiences are notoriously skeptical and can “sniff out the inauthentic” when presented an idea by a charismatic, yet irresponsible, leader. The historians discuss the idea of “truthful mythology”, and such a thing must be at the core of the thoughtful and interesting historical analysis that you present to your community in order to inspire positive change for the future.

Thinking about – and learning from – the past might just be your most powerful leadership tool. Employees that ‘get’ the past will likely understand a future build off the history of a place and its people. And, hey, if you are interested in analyzing the history of your community, well, two-thirds of this blogs Editorial staff have a background in history.

Your move, Internet.

Masthead photo courtesy of josef.stuefer’s photostream / Flickr creative commons

Beyond Stress: How Leadership Style and Decision Making Authority Influence Health

Featured

When we talk about employment and health, the conversation usually focuses on how your health impacts your ability to find and maintain meaningful employment, or how being healthy impacts your performance at work. However, while the above is absolutely true, the opposite is true as well – employment is in fact one of the most influential determinants of health.

Some of the ways employment can impact your physical, mental, and social health include:

  • Positively influencing self-esteem
  • Providing a vital link between the individual and society
  • Enabling personal fulfilment
  • Social contact and satisfaction arising from involvement in a collective effort (Institute of Public Health in Ireland, 2005).

Not only does employment influence health directly, it also shapes many other aspects of life important for health and wellbeing, including the ability to pay rent, bills, and afford healthy food. For more info on how all of the various determinants of health influence each other, check out this great short video from the Wellesley Institute.

While employment in and of itself has been linked to health, specific aspects of your work also influence health – in addition to such obvious factors as physical hazards in the workplace or stress, the social organization of your workplace, management styles, degree of control you have, and social relationships have also all been found to influence health. Some examples of this include:

  • Little opportunity to use your skills and low decision-making authority can negatively impact health (WHO, 2003)
  • Little control over one’s work is strongly related to an increased risk of low back pain, sickness absence and cardiovascular disease (WHO, 2003). For example, a study of civil servants in the U.K. showed that individuals with low job control were nearly twice as likely to report coronary heart disease than other workers (Institute of Public Health in Ireland, 2005)
  • Receiving inadequate rewards (e.g. money, status, or self-esteem) for the effort put into work has been linked with increased cardiovascular risk (WHO, 2003).

In addition to impacting health, these factors also play a role in job satisfaction, performance, and success in your chosen field. Whatever your role at work may be, having control, being rewarded, and using your skills could positively impact all aspects of your life.

World Health Organization (2003). Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf

Institute of Public Health in Ireland (2005). Health Impacts of Employment: A Review. http://www.publichealth.ie/sites/default/files/documents/files/IPH_Employment_Health_24pp.pdf

Three Lessons on Innovation and Adaptability

We’ve always had to innovate to thrive. From developing better clubs for bonking food on the head to wrapping wheels in rubber or miniaturizing on-off switches and building faster, brighter, and more shiny machines upon which we can design faster, brighter, shinier machines.

Now look out at your own organization. Chances are, unless you’re bootstrapping a start-up, it’s becoming increasingly large and complex with formal structures that don’t do a lot to foster innovation or adaptability.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and you’re the solution. Use these three lessons to improve your ability to adapt and innovate.

Journal with Purpose

Take ten minutes at the end of each day to write a reflective journal. Learning is adaptation – and it’s key to fostering a capacity for innovation. A structured reflective journal helps you move from being an actor to being an observer.

Kolb's ELM

Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (ELM) is a great starter format for a learning journal. Follow the 4 steps in the list below to write a journal that will help you improve your ability to adapt and identify opportunities for innovation.

  1. Concrete experience
    • Jot down a few quick sentences about something that happened that day. Write it how it is, not how you feel about it.
  2. Reflective observation
    • Here’s where you write a few sentences about how you felt, what you might have affected your actions or decisions.
  3. Abstract conceptualization
    • OK, so you know what happened, and how you reacted and perceived the situation.Write down one or two things you’ve learned from the experience.
  4. Active experimentation
    • Make a plan for action. Write down one thing you’ll do tomorrow to take an element of what you’ve learned and make it real.

Find out more about ELM

Ten minutes, eight to sixteen short sentences, applicable learning. Repeat at the end of each day and you’ll develop the ability to run this cycle during your day – you’ll be both the actor and observer. Brilliant.

Disorganize

There are initiatives across sectors to foster innovation, but a glance at what makes our federal list of innovative practices brings the sad state of innovation at major employers into sharp relief:

  • The City of Ottawa compensating employees for the time they spend using email, the internet, or text messages when responding to work-related requests outside of regular hours.
  • Oil Sands employers and the GPMC establishing “a joint sub-committee to investigate and discuss the competitiveness of the current general project maintenance, repair, and renovation industry in the province of Alberta.
  • Bombardier Transportation and their union retaining a women’s advocate.

Are any of these all that innovative? Exactly.

Disorganize for innovation by reaching across formal structures within your organization to create partnerships and drive change. Look outside of the system-within-the-system.

Your colleagues and competitors have great ideas that aren’t benefiting your organization because formal structures usually aren’t adept at using ideas from everywhere to inform practice. They’re too top-heavy.

To do this effectively you’ll need a disciplined application of the third lesson:

Build Positive Relationships

Adaptability and innovation are at the heart of positive change, and you can’t lead people across burnt bridges. You’ll need people to help implement all the great opportunities you’re finding through journalling. You’ll expand those insights tenfold through conversations with people outside of your office, unit, department, division, and organization.

This is true whether you’re at the top, bottom, or middle of an organization. Your colleagues and competitors at all have valuable information. Our world is too complex to think we can lead, adapt, or innovate alone.

Find friends, colleagues, and competitors all have skills and knowledge that compliment your own. Build your network and you build your capacity for adaptability and innovation.

Have other ideas on what makes a good journal or how to bend a formal org-chart to your will? Drop us a comment, won’t you?

Eight Ways to Practice Pragmatic Consensus-Based Decision Making

On the surface, consulting everyone and deciding by consensus seems like a no-brainer, the perfect model for making any and all decisions. Its rationale is that   every decision should reflect an equal amount of input from all parties, interested or otherwise.

For centuries, the importance of individual voices in decision making has been enshrined in Western thought. One of our collective narratives out of this era   is that in a democracy, everybody should have a voice. The problem is the bigger the state/organization/company and the more political parties, legislators and special interests in the mix, the more difficult arriving at a consensus becomes. Seth Godin illustrates this problem in his book Linchpin when he notes that coordination of handshakes gets increasingly complex when you add more people into the mix. While the idea of being heard is very important, it is important to recognize that since most of us are faced with hundreds of decisions every week, many mediated by other people, it is nearly impossible to have the same level of input on each decision.

Despite the complexity of large organizations, like governments or large companies, it is possible for consensus to be reached. In order to foster effective consensus-based decision making, practical logistics have to be exercised. There also needs to be a mechanism for making a final decision to move forward, even though there may be some opposition. Steve Jobs called this “shipping” a project – a project is nothing unless it’s on-time and complete.

I grew up in a church with a consensus-based model, and one thing I noticed was that every issue was always up for discussion, and if someone wanted to re-open an issue and put a halt to implementation, it was easily done. Meanwhile, other churches seemed to have different ways of doing things – there was equal and open   discussion, but once a decision was brought to a vote, they moved on to new business – no re-opening the old decision.   In some ways, this model was preferable because it was more efficient. While both scenarios were “consensus-based”, one was far more efficient than the other.

To enable pragmatic, efficient consensus-based decision making, here are some simple rules to follow:

1. Learn who the stakeholders are and make sure that collectively they each have a voice.

2. Help articulate the major themes for each group.

3. Listen to the values of each group, and what drives them to be there (often this is more meaningful than the issue).

4. Thrash early, not late. Ask Seth Godin if you have questions about this.

5. Focus on common ground.

6. Commit to making a decision by a certain date and then implementing it. If no consensus can be reached, agree to an amicable “no-deal”.

7. Don’t confuse people with problems. Breakthroughs often happen when people get to know each other better.

8. Tell corny jokes like, “A termite walks into a bar and asks, ‘Hey, is the bar tender here?’”

Sport and Community Leadership

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC is leading positive change in Vancouver. We predict the club’s ideas, commitments and positive role modeling will soon send ripples throughout the worlds of sport, wellness and community. We look forward to measuring the myriad ways that Vancouver’s newest professional sporting club reaches its potentiality – on the pitch as well as in the community.

As part of their club vision, the Whitecaps are committed to being a significant community asset. For the past year, the club has been championing the Vancouver Street Soccer League through a unique partnership with the DTES community sport association. In addition to frequent ticket giveaways, practices with Whitecaps FC men and women’s teams and the recent nomination of VSSL President Alan Bates as their community MVP, the team has also looked to grow its roots within the youth soccer community. A recent example was their free community clinic at UBC where the Whitecaps invited over 100 students from Hastings Elementary and U-Hill Elementary for a coaching session with Carl Valentine (‘Caps Legend and current Booster), Jay DeMerit (the club’s Captain), and Russell Teibert (one of the club’s Canadian stars).

A new study by Griffith University’s School of Business will explore the relationship between new sporting clubs and the communities they impact by investigating “the benefits gained in terms of the fan base they will stimulate as well as the well-being of the communities they enter” and will aim to “identify ways to maximise both outcomes.” [Editor’s note: please take note of our outstanding quotations and credit-giving, Margaret Wente!].

A study by Up2Us of American professional sports leagues and the philanthropy that they deliver for communities, suggests that “‘team-based philanthropy’ centers around the following five categories: Funding; Signatures and Seats; Free Marketing; Team/Player Involvement; and Use of Space.” The report recommends that professional clubs go beyond providing hand-picked organizations with free tickets, signed merchandise and field space by truly inspiring and investing in their communities, even if it’s for transparently self-serving reasons.

For example, a team might address the challenge of youth health, wellness and fitness by, say, contributing to the construction and management a giant Soccer Training Centre that will provide access to youth in the Lower Mainland (and beyond), but will also provide an incubator for future Whitecaps FC talent. Another example from the report is a recommendation for clubs to not award grants to single community teams or local nonprofits, but to challenge these community-based organizations to develop campaigns or programs as part of a competition, where the winning organization would receive something cool (e.g. taco night with Jay DeMerit!) from the professional team.

In addition to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are some randomly-selected North American pro-sports clubs (and one very tall man) that are doing cool things:

What do you think of how sport clubs give and how such engagement helps communities realize their potential?

Lead Like a Pioneer

The Golden Pioneer in Salem, Oregon – Edmund Garman / Flickr

A few weeks ago, Michelle (my lovely wife who is her own, powerful woman) and I took a road trip through Oregon – we travelled down the coast (pirates!), inland through a State Forest (Tillamook!), and then wrapped up our brief trip with some urban adventures in Portland (craft everything!). Michelle and I got a firsthand look at how the philosophy of the state’s early pioneers continues to influence that culture of leadership in Oregon. Through conversations, news, museums, universities, and various other sound bites, I learned about the pioneer culture of Oregon and how such a philosophy still informs and inspires the community to this day.

This article is about leadership – specifically, how to lead like a pioneer. Suffice to say that pioneers get there first, they take risks, and they build things in new places. Sometimes this happens literally (e.g. at the end of the Oregon Trail) and sometimes this happens metaphorically (e.g. Portland is a recycling pioneer, with a program that dates back to the 1970s).

EXAMPLES OF Pioneering in Oregon

Being an actual pioneer. From 1800-1850, pioneers (explorers, settlers, downtrodden immigrants with no space to move in Eastern America) moved West in search of land and opportunity. To call such an endeavour a “massive risk” is a bit of an understatement, as hewing their existence from an unknown land resulted in failure – in the form of turning back, lost savings, or even death – for many settlers. Sure, some of these pioneers have been individually celebrated for their leadership; for the most part, though, these were folks who lead without title and by example.

ahockley / Flickr

Recycling and other sustainable things. When Mrs. Joe H. Rand (a recycling activist before there were really recycling activists) spoke with Oregon Governor Tom McCall in February 1970, her support of Governor McCall’s insistence that bottlers (and other beverage industry executives) use returnable containers absolutely went against common practice in Oregon as well as every other state in the union, which McCall argued wasted 48 billion bottles and cans per year. “Despite…opposition [from beverage companies], the Oregon State Legislature passed the Bottle Bill in July, 1971, becoming a national leader for recycling. Several other states followed with similar laws,” says the Oregon Historical Project.  In the 1970s, while everyone else was clogging dumps with glass and metal beverage containers, folks in Oregon – channelling their pioneer spirit – led change with creative problem solving and passionate activism. This leadership in thought still informs the state’s relationship with cutting-edge (by North American standards, anyway) sustainability practices.

The “hot spot map” from The Portland Plan details what parts of the city are accessible within 20 minutes.

Developing 20 minute neighbourhoods. This is urban planning leadership at its best. The objective of The Portland Plan (see “hot-spot” map) is to allow its citizens to access pretty much everything – food, entertainment, green space, health services, educational resources, the best craft beer you’ve ever had – within 20 minutes of walking or cycling or taking transit (more or less, as this isn’t an exact science). Here’s what the plan says about the above map: “This mapping analysis highlights areas that have relatively good, walkable access to commercial services and amenities. It indicates locations that have concentrations of commercial services that are within relatively short walking distance of homes. Besides taking into account the availability of grocery stores and other commercial services, it takes into account factors that impact pedestrian access, such as sidewalks, street connectivity, and topography.” Pretty great, right? Such a unique focus on urban development is being analysed and adopted by cities all around North America, which tends to happen when communities pioneer innovative, efficient and elegant ideas.

How to Lead Like a Pioneer

There are a number of lessons we can draw from these examples when crafting our own philosophy around leading like a pioneer.

Pioneers, more often than not, get there first (this is to say that many settlers got to Oregon before other would-be-settlers  – there were already a lot of people living in the place by the time white folks showed up). This could mean that you beat competitors to investors or the marketplace with your great idea, or it could mean that you’re the first person to bring an existing idea to your workplace, team or neighbourhood.

Some examples of getting there first include Mark Zuckerberg, Jane Jacobs, and the Khan Academy.

Cliché or not, pioneers are also known for their work ethic – hewing their community (a more dramatic writer might say “their existence”) from the wilderness around them. Consequently, whatever you decide to pioneer needs to embody the kind of work ethic that has become the stuff of legend…and the narrative for The Oregon Trail.

Most importantly, pioneers are risk takers. Think of an idea, strategy, plan, program, innovation, or product that you’ve been itching to launch – are you nervous? Well, try getting nervited (nervous + excited = nervited) about how you will build, test, analyze, and launch your great idea in a way that realizes its potential.

Masthead photo courtesy of zion fiction’s photostream on Flickr

Three Leadership Lessons from Spider-Man

Well, we’re about three days away from everyone in the world not caring about Spider-Man and the over $200 million grossing movie about my favourite superhero (see photo) [Editor's note: fair enough, The Dark Knight Rises will most likely be the greatest superhero movie ever made]. Consequently, I thought that I’d reflect on some of the things that – long ago and before it was cool – I made The Amazing Spider-Man my most favourite of comic book characters.

After seeing the 2012 film about my favourite superhero (here’s my quick review: it’s the same story arc as the Toby McGuire version and the cartoon and is just better in every way), I got to thinking about why, in addition to the facts that, first, nerds are awesome and, second, Spidey is totally protected from the terrifying Sun, the web slinger resonates so much with me.

The answer is simple: more than any other superhero, Spider-Man builds and inspires community.

Plainly put, he does so with a unique formula of leadership of kindness, humour, humility, smarts, passion, and responsibility. And below are three leadership lessons that you can take away from Spider-Man. No, this not a “new idea” and “a few people” have “already written about this” in “2010″ – this being said, my lessons get to the punchline quicker and better. And the artwork (see below) that I chose to adorn this post is adorable.

Spider-Man / John's go-to Halloween costume

Without further ado, here they are:

1. Take Responsibility. For weak leaders, this is an absolute burden. Great leaders take responsibility for their actionsespecially the screw ups and downright failures. Spider-Man leads by example and he not only owns up for the mistakes/failures/giant-lizards that “he created”, but he also solves said great problems with his great power.

2. Think Outside the Box Make Awesome Things and Show Them to People. Good leaders “think outside the box” and, consequently, find most of their creativity in outdated cliches. Great leaders inspire by the work they produce. According to Simon Sinek, great leaders relentlessly pursue the question “why?”, which is certainly at the centre of Spider-Man’s story. For example, Spider-Man’s “web shooters” are both flat-out cool and reflective of this particular leader’s elevated intelligence, not to mention his inventive entrepreneurial spirit. Also, the Spider-Man brand is so friggin’ cool that, by the end of Marvel’s most recent film, Peter Parker’s once-nemesis, Flash Thompson, is seen sportin’ some Spidey-wear! Community-building achieved and teenage-angst overcome!

3. Be Nice (and Funny). There’s a reason that he’s called “Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man” – first, he’s nice to people (take some advice from Colin Powell, Wolverine and Batman?) and, second, he doesn’t take himself too seriously (Doug Guthrie says to stop being so serious all the time, Superman). Sure, his outfit protects him from the Sun and his friends from retribution, but his possibly-luge-inspired spandex uni-tard also reveals how this community-driven leader who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Being relaxed and fun (and, when appropriate, funny) puts people at ease and provides some great circumstances for building a positive sense of community.

Finally, never underestimate any leaders “spider-sense” and their ability to trust such instincts. Intuitively, Spider-Man can see things coming before they happen, and this kind of strategic thinking will serve any great leader very, very well.

So there it is. Some leadership learning that strategically and edutainingly connects to my favourite – and, unfortunately though understandably soon-to-be-forgotten, superhero, Spider-Man.

Masthead photo courtesy of msspider66′s Photostream on Flicker

Dix vs Clark and the new BC NDP

On Sunday, April 17, Adrian Dix won the NDP leadership race, edging out Mike Farnworth by around 700 votes: 9,772 votes to Farnworth’s 9,095. His win prompted excitement from some and groans from many other. The Province newspaper labelled it a “a hard turn to the Left” for the provincial NDP. The photo featured Dix wooping it up in a less-than-flattering pose. The headline contrasted with the paper’s earlier cover of Christy Clark decked out in Canucks gear and a hockey stick, smiling broadly cheek to luminous cheek. The contrast couldn’t be more telling.

Some NDP insiders are already blaming a skewed media for fawning over Clark’s style while ignoring Dix’s substance. While almost everyone I’ve talked to lauds Dix for his work ethic, intelligence and scrappiness, that may not be enough. Unfortunately, often what matters most in politics it seems is a strong blend of both style and substance. Often (like it or lump it) the mix is 2 parts style for 1 part substance.

Since policy so often takes the back seat to politics and perceptions, it will be interesting to see if Dix can avoid the “left wing radical”-branding, though recent actions in the past week do not bode well.  During his convention speech, he talked at length about 1.5 million mystery voters he intends to reach out to. The plan of attack? Introduce more aggressive government redistribution programs. Roll back corporate tax cuts. Ruthlessly attack the HST. Focus more money on childcare programs and advocacy.

This strategy is not focussed on the moderate “progressives” that vote federal Liberal and could be swayed to support a centrist NDP. Rather, it targets British Columbians who are politically disengaged because the major political parties haven’t been aggressive enough with instituting big changes in provincial economics. This presumption ignores another explanation for low voter turnout. That people who don’t vote are apathetic cynical and generally disinterested in who rules the province as long as grocery prices stay reasonable, jobs remain (relatively) plentiful and gas doesn’t get too expensive. I suppose we’ll soon see if Dix is right on this front.

Regardless, it seems likely his agenda will appeal the union movement which strongly supported Dix in his leadership race. It will also ring true to many community activists and more “left-wing” organizers who’ve long been frustrated with Carole James’ perceived outreach to big business and the “powers-that-be” in Vancouver. It may not have the same resonance among the progressive business and green-oriented supporters drawn to the Farnworth camp. Meanwhile, outside the party sphere, it’s unlikely we will see Dix making any forays to the BC Chamber of Commerce, UDI luncheons or Board of Trade Meetings. While such outreach may be painful (and perhaps useless) it does represent a first step to making an NDP government more palatable to the progressive business community and young professionals whom the party must attract for both funding and support. Ultimately, the province’s political sphere has progressed beyond the polarized workers on one side and bosses on the other.

Clark also has some significant hurdles to clear in the coming months. The Premier’s first challenge will be to first sell and then survive the upcoming HST-vote. Added to that is the (possibly) resurgent right wing BC Conservative party led by former MP John Cummins. With a realistic alternative, word among many BC Liberals in the lead up to the leadership race was that a Clark victory would lead to a split of the party’s right wing. Apparently, people have already started to walk and while power is a strong magnet for people to stick around, it only works if the leader can win and is willing to placate the defeated with political/policy nuggets they can call their own. Expect some right-wing appetizers to compliment the Premier’s more liberal “Families First” main course in the coming year. Despite these challenges, Clark will remain in the eyes of many voters (and thanks chiefly to the leadership race coverage)  firmly ensconced in the centre of the BC political spectrum.

With a provincial election predicted Spring of next year, it’s likely we won’t have to wait long to see how these new leaders will reshape the political landscape. If Clark is dragged to the right of the “free-market coalition” to keep the BC Liberals together and if Dix does end up taking his party more to the left of the political spectrum though, there could be room for a new force. In such a case, a provincial version of Vision Vancouver, a progressive party that has made itself sufficiently palatable to the Vancouver business community and the unions could fill the void. Or even more likely, it might be a perfect environment for Gregor Robertson – Vancouver’s popular Mayor – to jump back into the NDP fray. In any case, it could be a new era of BC politics and would certainly be exciting times.

 

 

Trees can Change the World; Trees made of Wooden

John Wooden, at age 99 passed away of natural causes in the early morning of June 5th 2010. Undoubtedly, he was one of the greatest coaches of all time, developing one of the most powerful ideas for building a community of change for the greater good, by demanding that everyone “Should not measure themselves by what they have accomplished, but by what they should have accomplished with their ability.”

But, it is safe to say Wooden (known affectionately in the basketball world as ‘Coach’) would dismiss the spotlight on his awards. For Wooden, his very philosophy shy’s away from the results. Wooden was concerned with the process of realizing results. He passionately concentrated on the effort involved in achieving the reward. And the reward was secondary. This was the foundation of his and his team’s success on the court and in life.

“Success is peace of mind.” Wooden said. “[It is] The direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best, to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

This idea to focus on, and worship, effort is the foundation for modern coach-centered leadership for sport, business, and even parenting. And what a beautiful thing an idea is. Transcendent through individuals, great ideas take on a life of their own. In the coaching world they are often described as coaching trees. These trees map the relationships that link individuals through the merging, adopting, and evolution of philosophy. Wooden’s philosophy has made a remarkable journey as his success orientation has been passed through players, coaches, and learners to all corners of the globe. Wooden’s coaching tree is worth growing because of the positive community of people it creates and empowers.

Unbeknownst to me, I was introduced to Wooden’s philosophy. Before I had even heard the name John Wooden, a branch of his tree saved my academic career. Now I have grown my own branch of the Wooden tree and let me tell you, it is magic when you see a 13-year-old embrace it and change his life through it. My branch of the Wooden Tree is called ‘Process Not Result’, where my athletes are taught to focus on the process (effort) not the result and how to apply that to everyday life. I am not naïve enough to believe that my actions will cause the tipping point and enable the grand ‘result’. But I do believe that collectively, through the effort one day that tipping point will come.

Wooden’s idea of … “Knowing you made the effort to do your best, to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”… is central to success in any aspect of life not only sport. And after listening to the news stories that surrounded Wooden’s this morning, this concept is more important than ever as it is central to all social change. It is central to developing youth into better people and the leaders of tomorrow. It is central to inspiring those around you. It is central to instilling confidence. It is central to believing you can be the change. It is central to hope. It is central to changing the world. It is central to relieving the crushing pressure and exhaustion that individuals, who strive to be the change, must endure. It is central to knowing while we, alone as individuals, will not be in the headlines for the next positive social revolution, collectively by being part of the process, part of the effort to do so, we will have a stake in positive change.

So when we hear these stories of blockades, and environmental disasters, we are hearing stories of the results of negative ideas, and toxic interactions. John Wooden is largely a story of the process. A story of the effort needed to change the world. Pass this idea on, you cannot ensure the result, but you can control the process of achieving the result. Grow this tree, this tree made of Wooden.

Here are some additional ‘Woodenisms’ to help grow your Wooden tree:

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

“Be prepared and be honest.”

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

“It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings and the feelings of others before your own rights.”

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Lululemon’s Kool-Aid is Tasty!

There is an old Hindu saying that you can’t spell culture without cult. I think it was from the Thuggee cult, made popular by the third best Indiana Jones movie, Temple of Doom. Or maybe I just made it up. Whatever the case, the point is that Lululemon is pretty awesome.

HISTORICAL FACT: a few months ago I started doing Yoga, which I wrote about, and which also involves a lot of people wearing Lululemon everything…

Fast-forward to last week, when I organized a trip to Lululemon’s Store Support Centre for 15 of my students – who may or may not attend a local top 100 global business school – and it goes without saying that visiting the world’s leader in the creation of black-stretchy-pants was incredibly edutaining. Here’s a creative interpretation of how it started:

Hostess Chloe: “What have you heard about Lululemon’s corporate culture?”

Awesome Student: “It’s cultish.”

Hostess Chloe: “Yes, we hear that a lot.”

John [to himself]: “Where am I?!”

The talent that Lululemon rolled out – and the four women who spoke to our group reflected the exceptional talent within the organization – simply oozed the company’s core values, which are nicely outlined in this article’s quotable graphic, as well as right here.

Personally, I really like their “fun” value: When I die, I want to die like my grandmother who died peacefully in her sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in her car. This being said, a blogger named, I kid you not, Yoga Dork had little praise to offer for Lululemon’s latest prank, a pretty wicked April Fools joke involving their new e-commerce site.

Thing is, at least half of you who checked out the link to their values tuned out because it got a little weird. And that’s okay. Whether Lululemon hires people, designs products or sells black stretchy pants, they’re looking for fit with their culture. By the way, if you’re thirsty I have some delicious Kool-Aid for you to drink…

Going through the company’s values, our hostesses simultaneously made me feel ridiculous for wearing a suit (they were attired in, you guessed it, various shades of stretchy material), inspired by how a shared vision can motivate people in unique ways, and, most importantly, they made me very skeptical of what the company was selling (metaphirically and physically). So, I did the only thing there was to do, I went home, put on the super-comfy Lululemon pants that my special lady highly recommended I purchase and started learning more about Vancouver’s coolest company.

Sure, analysts and experts and “the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business” claim that the company’s stock is soaring because of a combination of style, values and being in possession of an outstanding, nichey product. Added JMP Securities analyst Kristine Koerber in an interview with the news agency: “It is one of the few growth stories in retail left. Who’s growing sales 55 per cent and putting up close to 30 per cent comparable same store sales?” Okay, fair enough, Lululemon will be a billion dollar company soon.

But what about all the good stuff that this humble blog values, such as corporate social responsibility and the environment? Well, as it turns out, according to cool-things-guru Don Tapscott and his blog, Wikinomics, Lululemon is a collaborative, visionary leader when it comes to CSR initiatives. Media juggernaut, the St. Catherine’s Standard, begs to differ, uncovering (two years ago) that Lululemon lied about the organic content of its clothing. Look. Global business is a dirty bus- um, you get the picture. Check out Lululemon’s site and judge for yourself. If you have an opinion, be sure to engage with their bloggers or share you ideas with one of their many store “ambassadors” and or Attraction Ninjas.

One of my students said it best: “it was amazing to see a company actually do everything that we’re taught in school about what it takes to inspire people and get the most out of them.” She’d be a great fit for the black-stretchy-pants community, by the way.

I’m not saying I’m personally ready to drink the kool-aid, but I’m not not ready, either – because it tastes really, really good. Besides, I’ve already got some wicked fitting pants, right?

- JCH