Category Archives: Coaching corner

The difference between men and women Part 3

Ok –  this is funny and another example of how men and women are just a tad…tad… different.

Team meeting this AM. Topics are business updates, internal updates etc… One agenda item is related to our recently installed CRM system. Mark, one of our fantastic employees suggests that we come up with a tag to use on our contacts that indicate that they are on our uber swag list i.e. a highly valued contact of our firm. Now what should that tag be called? Here is a sample of what the five guys came up with:

  • Baller
  • Elephant
  • Whale


Need I say more? I simply suggested that our highly valued female contacts may object to being referred to as elephants or whales. We landed on VIP.


Travelling as a gal on business…

Is always fun… or not. I have moments when I can’t quite decide if I love that I can access a gazillion movies at the touch of a button while under a duvet, or if the idea of being murdered by some creepo snake in a suit who followed me up in the elevator spoils the moment…

So after a recent trip, a couple of tips  on embracing and enjoying travelling as a gal on business:

  • If you are on a BC Ferry (cuz you ain’t getting a float plane these days) – the SeaWest Lounge is the greatest thing since they started selling smelly soaps in the gift shop. Pay your $10 dollars, grab a tea, a magazine, some cheese and crackers and enjoy your “exclusive and all-inclusive” environment. Trust me, I’ve done the math – you will drop $10 easy just buying a newspaper, tea, pack of gum and some jolly ranchers. A no brainer.
  • Stay at a hotel with a decent restaurant and enjoy it! Instead of retreating to your room at the end of the day, grab yourself a book and make your way downstairs for dinner. Most good hotels are accustomed to serving and making individual diners comfortable and most will provide a magazine.  But take your own, it creates privacy – no random dude (unless you want him to) is going to attempt to make contact. And embrace dinner – have some wine, a couple of courses… 
  • Stay at a hotel with a gym and bring your headphones. It will get you out of your room and provides some stress relief and also works off any dinner indulgence from the night before. And you may meet some fellow female business travellers…
  • Ask to be located close to the elevator. Long hallways remind me of The Shining. Perhaps just a me thing. But I always request it.
  • Get breakfast served in your room. I always do – I like having privacy in the AM and time with a newspaper. Hotels tend to only have women servers deliver room service to single women travellers, so you can open the door in a robe and feel a-ok.
  • And on a practical note – try to stick with one hotel brand (i.e. Delta) and register in their rewards programs ASAP. The rewards add up and you will soon receive room upgrades and other benefits.

Go forth and conquer.


‘Tis almost the season

We are on the cusp of the holiday season. As of next weekend (American Thanksgiving), George Michael will start singing “Last Christmas” at The GAP and a barrage of invitations to attend parties, purchase stuff and donate things will appear in your life.

Alas – as the HR professional I felt the urge to post on the topic of company and business community holiday events, both of which are inevitable during the “season”. I will not preach to you on the need to avoid getting drunk on the company dime… Rather I am inspired to share my thoughts on how to enjoy yourself at these events; as most of us know that we need to go to the party, but don’t actually look forward to it.

So a couple of thoughts:

  • If it is the company holiday party, consider hosting a pre-drinks get together  for your team. I used to do this and found it reduced anxiety and created a feeling of “team” as we all headed to the party together.
  • Feel good about what you are wearing. You don’t want to be fidgeting all night. Wear shoes you know can last the night. And in these recessionary times, consider borrowing evening wear from your friends and colleagues.
  • If an event with nametags, ladies try and wear a collar or jacket so that you can attach your nametag to something.
  • Enjoy meeting the spouses. This can be the most fun of the evening. I find you learn a ton about someone by meeting their spouse, and it is a nice way to avoid any political or office talk. Instead you get to talk about their dog, renovation, kids etc…
  • If a business community/networking event, try to go with someone that you know. Get a wingman or wingwoman and agree that you will help each other out by introducing one another and by being each others “safe haven”.
  • When meeting new folks, work to find something you have in common. Often asking someone what they do/where they work is a good start as often you will know someone in common.
  • If a poor soul is standing by themselves, for heaven’s sake, go over and introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. You will have a new friend for life.
  • Take a deep breath and just do it. You may be surprised by how much fun you have. And if you don’t, well you can leave and feel smug about actually making the effort to go in the first place.

Now let’s go party!

Communication breakdown…


Have you ever heard one of your clients or executives state: “what we need is a change management program”; or “we need a strategic workforce plan”; or “we need moreHR metrics”… One of my business partners recently shared a very useful framework for how breakdowns in communication can lead us astray and result in impulsive HR program design. It goes something like this:

  • We start with the actual business problem/opportunity; i.e. if we get more effective at implementing new systems we will gain market share.

There is often an understanding gap of what the actual business problem/opportunity is, and the executive/client’s understanding of what it is, which results in:

  • The client/executive’s misunderstanding of the problem/opportunity; i.e.”we are not good enough at managing the implementation of new systems”.  

There is then a communication gap that impacts the way the client/executive communicates the problem/opportunity which results in miscommunication:

  • i.e. “we need a change management program”…

There is a listening gap between what your client/executive says and what you hear which results in further miscommunication:

  • what you hear about the problem/opportunity; i.e.  “we need to train our managers on change”

The communication gaps multiply from there…

The gaps are not caused by stupidity, they are created because none of us are perfect at understanding, communicating or listening. These gaps are inevitable and mean that if you are trying to solve the problem that you heard your client / executive tell you is the problem; you are almost definitely working on the wrong thing. So take a moment to reflect, ask some questions and work to get to the root issue.  At the end of the day, most of business communication is one big game of telephone.

Words to take outside the HR boardroom…


I wrote recently of HR terms that when taken outside of HR don’t mean much. Now, upon reflection, here are my initial thoughts on words (and thoughts really), worthy of being taken outside of the HR boardroom:

  • A crystal clear understanding of what your organization is trying to achieve, and how it is going about that. In other words, the organization’s strategy.
  • An even more crystal clear understanding of the financial engine of your organization. How does your business stay in business?

Now pause, and make sure that you get these, because if you don’t then you are pure, pure, overhead. Few of the actions you take in your day to day work are driving your organization’s strategy or financial engine forward. Harsh, I know, but better coming from me than your CEO, who won’t actually tell you this. He just won’t invite you to the meeting.

Now, once you have gained a clear understanding of your organization’s strategy and financial engine, you are well on your way to being able to articulate how the work performed by your HR function adds value. Consider the following:

  • Things that drive productivity and performance versus making employee’s happy. I get that these are not mutually exclusive, but us HR types do tend to bias towards the “making employees happy” side of the scale.
  • Things that drive the organization to feed its financial engine i.e. great performance management tools for your sales force; effective management training for new managers; effective onboarding processes that get new employees up to speed and productive as quickly and effectively as possible.

Now go forth and add value, and please don’t say “talent management” 🙂

Time to lift our eyes up?


Built to change is a great book about how to make your organization more flexible and better at changing. A key concept in the book is strategizing as opposed to strategic planning. The key difference being that strategizing is something that happens frequently, not once a year in a conference room. When strategizing, individuals gather to think about the future, play out different scenarios, and choose how to respond to those scenarios in a way that aligns with the identity of the organization. In short, strategizing adopts the philosophy that 80% of strategy is figuring out where the world is going. If you can do that, what you need to do usually becomes obvious.

So here is my challenge to you. After all this hunkering down, cost cutting and focus on efficiency (for good reason), what opportunities are out there? Are there talented people you could recruit to your business because they have been “recessioned” by their employers? Are there opportunities in your market that you can attack before your competitors? Could you pick up a piece of real estate with phenomenal lease or mortgage terms? Think about the future, play out a few scenarios, keep your CFO happy by making sure the numbers work, but start moving forward. You will find opportunities.

Reflections on a top performing team

The extended BBE team

The extended BBE team

Over the weekend I was so fortunate to spend Saturday with my former MBA team and their spouses. During the MBA program we consistently outperformed our colleagues on team assignments, and since the program has come to a close (hurrah!) we happily meet up and spend time together, as we did Saturday. Here are a few thoughts on what made us a top performing team…

  • We had a clear shared goal. The motivation to complete the program and have fun while doing it kept us all pulling in the same direction.
  • We took the time to get to know one another, often over a meal and a glass of wine.  It sounds trite, but I find that nothing accelerates team building like a shared meal and drink.
  • We met each others spouses. We held a dinner party with the full extended team of spouses within the first two months of forming, and continued to do so once a semester throughout the program. Meeting someone’s spouse gives you another view of who they are. It helps you to understand them better, hence building trust.
  • We used some good tools that satisfied our need to view teambuilding as something beyond fluff. Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, Buckingham’s “Now Discover Your Strengths”, and the “Forming, Storming” frameworks were put to good use and satisfied two engineers, a lawyer, a sales professional, and yours truly 🙂
  • We valued having fun together.

Thanks team! I look forward to many more fun days together.