Control – why do we think we need it?

If we could list the one thing that causes the most anger, the most frustration, the most dissatisfaction, and is the biggest barrier to success, it would be our need for control.

As people we have developed unhealthy definitions of control.  I have a plan to cover all possible instances.  He is able to deal with anything.  She is a total task master. 

Control does not mean being able to plan well or be able to deal with multiple tasks or inputs.  It means being able to predict and impact other people’s decisions, reactions, and moods.  

Why is it we think we can control other people?  Why do we want to?

Instead why not prepare for each task with an understanding that others will react.  Be ready for what common objections and reactions will be and be confident to address the ones you didn’t expect.  Did others see something you missed?  How can you adapt?

You will quickly realize the tait you seek to be successful, prepared and to achieve what you want is in fact adaptability and not control.  Learn to be able handle and adapt to what coworkers, friends, for and life in general throws at you and others will envy the control you have over you life.   That is until you let them in on our secret that control doesn’t exist.

To adaptability and beyond!


Could a strategic HR plan help Canada’s Aboriginal peoples?


Canadians are reminded more and more of the struggles facing Aboriginal peoples.  Most of us read in horror yet have no idea how we can help.  When we view the problem as a national crisis a solution seems overwhelming.  What if  instead we looked at possible solutions through the lens of a workplace challenge?

The principles embedded in corporate HR plans could hold the key to support the needed actions to help Canada’s aboriginal peoples, on or off reserve, to access employment, and a quality of life on par with other Canadians.

  1. Maintain Health and Safety

Every employer has to provide a safe work environment to employees.  A safe environment is one inclusive of access to clean drinking water, buildings  maintained to meet required code expectations, ability to refuse dangerous work, and a forum to complain, be heard and have corrective actions taken to address valid concerns when these expectations are not met.  This standard for a safe environment, at home and at work, should be a basic right for everyone in Canada.

2. Conduct a Gap Analysis

Corporations assess the gap between the needs of the organization and existing resources and work to close it.  Canada could assess the overall needs of First Nation Communities and work to close the resource gap by engaging and enabling Aboriginal peoples who choose to live on reserve to find meaningful work that is of interest and that supports their Community.

This has been done locally but a national focus on a long term, multigenerational plan would be more beneficial and require less resources than multiple seperate initatives.  The infrastructure could be put in place to assess the common needs of Native Communities and record the gaps between the need and the existing resources.  Specific local needs could be looked at as a subset.

3. Devise Strategies to Support the Organization

In an HR plan there are many components of strategy to support the organization’s needs.  All of these would help bolster the quality of life of Aboriginal Communities.

Examples include:

  • Training and development strategies to prepare Aboriginal people to engage in the workforce in a way that interests them and supports their culture
  • Collaboration strategies to create partnerships with existing organizations that provide these services to new immigrants and other Canadians to learn from past work
  • Outsourcing strategies to engage service providers and thought leaders to bring forward real solutions


Many successful businesses strive to solicit employee ideas and feedback in order to drive a culture of continuous improvement and increase productivity.  For any initiative aimed at enhancing the lives of Aboriginal people to be successful the grassroots engagement and of Aboriginal leaders and influencers in the development of solutions is essential.

Any change initiative within an organization needs leaders who can live the values and exemplify the success of the project are needed to motivate others and create support from within affected groups.  This type of initative would be no different.

5. Foster a Respectful and Inclusive Environment

When creating a healthy workplace culture the emotional needs of people need to be addressed.   Canada does not have a history it can be proud of when it comes to Aboriginal relations.  Although the work that resulted from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a good start, it did not go deep enough.

Modern people-focussed employers offer soft skill building opportunities and support to employees that include through conflict coaching, facilitated discussions/mediation, and other Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques.  These types of initiatives could be funded on mass to reach individuals to help them work through the conflict with Canadian culture and find a path forward that meets their individual needs.

6. Communication

Any corporate initiative would be supported by a communication plan.  Communicating the vision in advance and during the work is an important change management technique.  Once determined, Canada would need to communicate the vision for building a future to Aboriginal peoples and to all Canadians to build hope and momentum and to create accountability for those communicating the plan.

7. Evaluate and Adjust

When corporations execute a plan they assess the effectiveness and make adjustments.  Canada has been working to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people, however it seems like the efforts may not be as successful as the intent behind them would like.  The results produced need to align with the efforts invested.

Like any journey it could start with just one step…

Orienting New Employees – republished from The Voice June 2012 edition

Orienting New Employees – The Voice June 2012

So What is it That Makes a Leader Great?

The five dimensions of Meta-leadership as deve...
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This week we’ve looked at gender as it impacts stereotypical leadership traits as well as who was a favourite boss and why.  I cannot draw any conclusions.  Can you?

I think the answer is actually a smattering of each.  Men and women both have fabulous leadership traits.  We need to capitalize on the strengths of our gender and learn to develop the strength of the other.

Then I got to thinking about the traits we have not yet looked at.  A few came to mind:

  • Motivation
  • Capacity for Knowledge
  • Agility

The first is simple.  I don’t think anyone can be a good leader if s/he does not have the motivation to succeed.  All great leaders are driven and focussed on a goal.  The size or loftiness of the goal is irrelevant.  They need something they are working towards in order to lead others.

Capacity for Knowledge – can a good leader be only so-so intelligent?  I don’t think so.  I think a leader needs the ability to think on a more strategic level than his or her followers.  They need the ability to make linkages between concepts and previous experiences that many others would overlook.  A capacity for knowledge is a critical component to leadership.

Last but not least, agility.  (And I don’t mean running around in the sand while your dog runs through tubes.)(The latter of which, by the way, is my most failed athletic attempt ever!  My dog is waaay smarter than me!)

Agility means the ability to go with the flow, to adapt plans and strategies on the fly to deal with the ever changing environment.  Great leaders understand that they need to be fluid and move with their environment.  Change is a necessary evil and great leaders embrace it!

I think this is the beginnings of a recipe for a great leader.  Your thoughts?  Personal culinary recommendations?

Who was your best boss? Why?

Glass ceiling the Louvre.
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This is an interesting question.  I was actually surprised by my own answer.  I have had some pretty impressive people as bosses but one stands out.  Maybe not for the reasons, she would like but regardless she is the one to whom I owe my career advancement.

My best boss was a woman.  She was one of the smartest women I have ever met.  She was also a workaholic, insomniac, and generally not a very nice person.  The years I worked for her were long.  I would work until midnight to finish the day’s demands only to awake a 5am to find a full list of additional demands for the dawning day (I told you she was an insomniac – too bad I wasn’t!).  It was daunting, unrewarding, tireless work.  But in the 2.5 years I worked for her I learned what most people hope to learn in a decade.

I think back and I think her leadership style was absolutely a product of gender.  She had to fight to get to the top in a very male dominated workplace.  She smashed through the glass ceiling and wanted to make sure other women followed.  Her view as to how to do that was to make sure other women knew as much as possible and to do this she challenged employees like me to work our tails off.

In some ways it worked.  After my stint working with her I was more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more respected than my colleagues who had not worked for her.

I was also on my way to work at another organization:)

What’s your best boss story?


Why women make the best leaders

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Yesterday we looked at 10 reasons why men make better leaders; today let’s look at the virtues of the other gender:

10 reasons women make better leaders:

1. Women are viewed as more energizing (HBR 2009)

2. Women are seen as having a higher emotional intelligence quotient (HBR 2009).

3. Women are viewed as having a greater outside orientation by both genders (HBR 2009).

4. Women are viewed as more transformational leaders than their male colleagues (Eagly et al 2003).

5. Women more often engage in contingent behaviours (exchanging rewards for followers’ satisfactory performance) (Eagly et al 2003).

6. Women tend to be less hierarchical, more cooperative and collaborative, and more oriented to enhancing others’ self-worth (Book 2000).

7. Women demonstrate more communal attributes (affectionate, helpful, kind, sympathetic) than their male colleagues (Eagly et al 2001).

8. Women have a tendency to be more interpersonally oriented than men. (Eagly et al 2001).

9. In firms led by transformational women leaders, male and female employees exhibit a high level of trust in women leaders (Moore et al 2011).

10. Women leaders need to focus on style as well as substance of their interactions, thus making every move more intentional and thought-out than those of male colleagues. (Eagly et al 2001)

Why Men Make Better Leaders

Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his...
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Relax – this is just the first entry in a week set to examine the leadership traits of the sexes.  To open let’s chat about the strength of male leaders.

1. Men do not experience prejudicial reactions based on gender when placed in charged.  People are used to seeing male leaders and therefore accept a male leader more readily than a female.

2. Male leaders are more likely than female leaders to attend to follower’s mistakes and failures to meet standards – active management by exception (Eagly et al 2003).  This ensures everyone is aware of the expected standards.

3. Male leaders are more likely than female leaders to wait until problems are severe before intervening (Eagly et al 2003). This ensures that subordinates have the opportunity to test their skills and abilities without interference.

4. Men are more likely than women to take credit for their work (HBR Jan 09).  Celebrating one’s accomplishments can lead to credibility within the organization.

5. Men are viewed as better visionaries (HBR Jan 09).  Every leader needs a vision.

6. ‘Men speak more confidently and boldly on an issue, with very little data to back it up.” (Ann Dumas, 2009).  Speaking with confidence inspires confidence.

7. Men have, on average, ‘thicker skin’ than their female contemporaries.  (Psychology Today, 08).  It allows a leader to stay focused and not get distracted by personal attacks.

8. Agentic leadership characteristics (e.g. assertiveness, controlling, confidence) are more commonly ascribed to men than women. (Eagly et al 2003).

9. Men tend to develop problem-focused solutions. Obvious cause and effect. (Grey, 2008)

10. The numbers are on their side in 2008 21.5% of people polled by PewResearchCentre said men are better leaders.

Your thoughts?  Do you agree? Disagree?  Why?

Have you had a boss that made you believe one gender manages leads better than the other?  Tell us your story!