Archives for November 2008

Leadership and the Invisible Fence

Do you want to be an enlightened leader? Then actively coach and mentor employees, pay attention to rewards and recognition, and make sure the fence you build for your colleague is far enough away that it cannot be seen, says IRC Facilitator Jean-François Pinsonnault.

How does one become an enlightened leader who nurtures leadership in others?

I am still working toward being an enlightened leader. It is a journey, and each day I make new discoveries. Nurturing leadership in others means creating an environment that enables everyone within your scope of influence to learn, grow, and develop the capacity to inspire others to achieve excellence. In the words of the Roman philosopher and poet Seneca the Younger, “Even while men teach, men learn.”

I compare a leader to an actor on stage or on the big screen. A leader also plays a role: leadership. The difference is that it is very interactive.

An enlightened leader demonstrates leadership by paying attention to a number of key areas, each of which I’ll discuss in turn.

Coaching and mentoring

Through conversation and dialogue, it’s important that a leader encourage individuals to explore possibilities, to go beyond ‘good enough’ and move toward ‘excellent’ and ‘outstanding’. This is accomplished by giving direction on fundamental skills to help the person develop mastery in analyzing situations and making decisions.

I’ve been fortunate throughout my career: I’ve had coaches who taught me how to analyze context, to explore problems or challenges, and to do risk assessments. I would get a clear understanding of what happened, what the results were, what solutions were available to me, and what impact those solutions would have. When I made a decision, whether it worked or not, I was able to defend it later on.

I have to say I’ve been involved in a few blunders! But no matter what the outcome, every one of these coaches would provide guidance in expanding my risk assessment for the next time. When it worked out well, we’d still consider how it could have been even better.

Acquiring insight through reflection

During the various coaching opportunities, it’s valuable to engage your employees and protégés and help them gain a clearer understanding of what transpired. This furthers their appreciation of the situation or circumstances.

Rewards and recognition

Know when to recognize and appreciate your employees’ accomplishments and achievements. Discussing shortcomings is expected, however a good leader must also balance this out with recognition for incremental accomplishments. Doing this once a year during the performance evaluation period is totally insufficient. Don’t wait: “see it, say it” — otherwise, it will be forgotten.

A study of over 200,000 employees and their managers around the globe, conducted over a 10-year period by the Jackson Organization, showed that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving. Further, the study found that 65% of North Americans said that they received no recognition in the previous year.

Similarly, research firm Watson Wyatt in a recent study asked employees to identify “very significant” motivators of performance, and 66 percent said “appreciation.” These conclusions come as no surprise. Recognition and praise for achievement contributes greatly to employee involvement, engagement and motivation.

Opportunities to learn by doing

Know that mistakes will occur. Leadership is helping the individual to understand and learn from mistakes — to explore alternatives in order to achieve goals. So ask, what do we learn from this? You need to coach and mentor to help individuals to be ready for the next time: you have to prepare them.

Guidance through observation

Take the time to talk about what you are observing, and share those observations with employees and protégés. There will be times when people might not see and be aware of their behaviours.

Providing space for action

Keeping a promising individual on a short leash and within your grasp will limit creativity and innovation, the lifeline of continued success and growth. So set boundaries that are clear yet not limiting.

What has been most important to your development as a leader?

Over my 30-plus-year career, I’ve worked with exceptional people whose leadership permitted me to grow, and be comfortable in using my leadership skills.

Of particular note, back in the early 80s when I was a young consultant, I was hired by the dean of social studies at a major university. He was also president of a consulting firm dedicated to enhancing employee participation, thus maximizing the effectiveness of the organization. I had been retained to support a major project. Within a short period of time, he had taken me under his wing, nurturing me to achieve my full potential.

During the course of this project, as well as for several years after, he would bring me with him to attend high-level meetings with senior leaders in order to expose me to various situations. I would observe and listen in on the exchanges. After each meeting, we would have a conversation on my thoughts concerning the exchanges.

He would challenge me to go beyond the obvious and learn how to read between the lines, pick up on various non-verbal cues and better analyze and understand what was happening — including the needs and expectations of a potential client. This provided me with a priceless opportunity to develop my analytical and communications skills.

After a while he transferred the project to me. I’d never have been so successful if he hadn’t fostered my development beforehand.

What’s your most powerful experience with a life-changing leader? How has it influenced the way you support others as they develop?

Working with an Assistant Deputy Minister of human resources in a major government department was my most memorable experience. Whenever I would have ideas that could bring about significant changes or improvements, he would listen, probe to understand, and ask questions that would push my own views to places I often had not explored.

Once we agreed, he gave me the latitude I needed to ensure success. During a farewell get-together when I was leaving this organization to explore other challenges, he told all in attendance that with me, he set clear boundaries, but also knew that if the boundaries were too close, I would not thrive. “I quickly learned that the fence I put around Jean-François had to be quite far away, so he could not see it.” I thought that was wonderful, and have kept it in mind.

Does how you inspire leadership depend on the individual’s generation or background? Or do the same factors apply equally to everyone?

Had you asked me this question 10 years ago, my response would have been quite different. I thought then that the approach was relatively the same for all, regardless of age, experience, and background.

However today, as I am more and more exposed to individuals from various cultures and generations, I realize that people come from different backgrounds and circumstances, and that the context varies from individual to individual.

The latest generation to join the workforce has a higher need for involvement and engagement. So what could be better than having a person from the baby boomer generation and another from the millennial coach each other? Baby boomers will learn and come to appreciate what they may first find challenging in these younger employees, while sharing their own views and knowledge with a younger generation thirsty for knowledge. For the younger generation, this will provide insight into the history of systems, as well as various cultural systems.

And as a leader you need to realize that different generations work differently. I had a co-op student a couple of years back. I gave him a task to do on Monday afternoon, and we agreed to meet Wednesday to discuss his progress. On Tuesday I walked by his desk and saw he was listening to his mp3 player. I almost lost it. Then I saw he was working on the project I’d asked him for, so I let it go.

Later that afternoon he knocked on the door and asked if I had a minute. I asked if he had run into a challenge. “No, I’m finished,” he replied. I couldn’t believe he could be done already. In fact he’d done a fantastic job, even better than I’d anticipated — while listening to music.

I’ve also learned, for instance, that millennials can’t stand the “you’ve got to earn your dues” idea. With boomers the growth and promotion cycle was 10 to 15 years. With millennials it is one to two years. They want to be challenged, engaged, and involved, as research demonstrates.

Is developing younger leaders an issue for CMHC?

CMHC has a relatively low separation and resignation rates compared with the marketplace. Though there is no solid information about reasons for resignations, anecdotal information indicates that many are under 30 years old and have been with us for less than three years. Comments received point to an ineffective use of their skills and capacity, too much bureaucracy, and an insufficient amount of challenging work.

Government in general struggles with this challenge. Government departments, agencies and Crown corporations will need to respond and interact more effectively with the younger generation, which will be coming in droves as the boomers retire over the next few years. The first ones will be eligible to retire by 2011, or before, depending on their individual situation. By the time Canada reaches 2021, 6.7 million baby boomers will be poised to exit the workforce. Private sector leaders and policy-makers need to realize this sooner than later and start developing strategies which will permit their continued growth and success — otherwise they will have a hard time attracting and keeping the next generations, much less developing them as leaders.

Change Management From an Engineer’s Perspective

In my 28 years with Shell I have seen many change initiatives. Some were effective, many were not. I never really thought about why. That all changed when I was assigned the task of implementing a series of six business improvement best practices at our two oil sands manufacturing facilities in Alberta. The work processes were already written and the supporting IT tools were developed. All that was left was to roll them out. I quickly learned that this meant the easy part was done.

I am an engineer who had spent my whole career in manufacturing in either technical or management roles. That part of the job was already done. Now I had to learn about change management. I started out reading some books by respected Change Management authors such as John Kotter, Peter Senge, and Jim Collins. I read information on our Shell internal website to see what other countries had done for their implementations. Finally, I attended some training courses put on by change management professionals (none of whom seemed to be engineers, I noted!).

I began to see some trends emerging. The theory is divided into two camps. The first model is the programmatic model – a linear program that takes you methodically from a to b to c. This logical sequential approach leads to a nice neat plan, which appealed to the engineer in me.

More recently an emergent model has come into play. This is a more organic approach where some seeds are planted, but the growth is not systematic or even predictable. You need to be much more flexible to work in this environment, aware of the progress and ready to ride the leading horse. You may not be able to control and report progress as easily as with programmatic change, but with emergent change, when it catches it can spread like wild fire.

The reality is that change is not about one or the other. Truly successful change initiatives have elements of both. Armed with this new-found knowledge I began to reflect on some of the changes that I had seen over my career. What was it about the successful initiatives that made them effective? What was missing in the painful ones? I began to see that there are some fundamentals that must be followed and failure to dedicate the time, energy and commitment to each one is likely to sink your ship.

What is Change Management

When I use the term “Change Management” in my company, most people think of our Management of Change Procedure, which is the technical review of process and mechanical changes to the facility. This is not surprising given the strong process safety focus we have for plant changes. It also speaks volumes about how limited people’s knowledge is about change management which addresses the human element of a new way of operating. It is an enabling activity, laying the foundation for a successful implementation, and it must live at the site level. Successful change results in changed behaviours which is what is needed for it to survive long-term. It can not be imposed from outside of the location.

Change Management is the management and support of organizational and human change. It is about preparing the business for change and ensuring the capability exists to implement and sustain such change. This is not high-level fluff. It happens at the coal face and must be managed there.

Programmatic Change

The dominant theory from 1947 onwards has been that change happens in a linear fashion. This was popularized by John Kotter from the Harvard Business School in 1996, who built on the early work of Kurt Lewin (1890 – 1947). Kotter’s research into successful and unsuccessful change initiatives led him to conclude that failure to adequately address all eight steps in order is a precursor to an unsuccessful change initiative.

It begins with establishing a sense of urgency. This is easier if there are market and competition realities, the so-called “burning platform”, that employees can understand. If they don’t improve they will soon be out of business. It is tough to create a sense of urgency if the business climate is good. This is where you have to focus on problems, threats and opportunities. Employees have to see the new way as better than the current situation or you will stall at phase one.

The next step is to create a guiding coalition. This is a group with the power to lead, working as a team. They must comprise senior decision makers in the organization because “what interests the boss fascinates me”. If upper management is not actively involved, anyone opposed to the change can use this as justification for holding back. The guiding coalition must create a compelling vision of the future to direct the effort and develop strategies to achieve the vision. Above all the guiding coalition has to communicate, communicate, communicate using every vehicle possible. They also have to be role models for the new way. Because they are senior influencers, every step is watched and magnified.

Once the direction is clear it is time to empower broad based action. This is where more and more people begin to get engaged. The role of the guiding coalition is to remove barriers, change structures, and encourage risk taking. Support the new behaviours by purposefully creating short-term wins and visibly recognising people. Create momentum by expanding the reach. Hire people who fit the new model and keep the change alive.

It is all worthless if you do not anchor the new approach in the culture but unfortunately this is where most change initiatives fail. You must ensure that it is imbedded in the leadership and link personal results to the new behaviours.

Emergent Change

The mid 1990s saw the beginning of the emergent change model where change does not have a defined start/stop. It is always happening though progress does not follow a neatly developed plan. Humans are naturally self-organizing. Work with the energy and shape it rather than expecting people to follow a top-down programmatic approach.

Peter Senge has a model called “The Dance of Change Tree”. Reinforcing loops are represented by the visible parts of the tree and include new business processes, networking, business results and personal results. These drive the change process forward. The roots of the tree are the factors that can hold your change process back. These limiting factors show up at the beginning of the change process (no resources, inconsistent leadership behaviours), in the middle (fear and anxiety, resentment, lack of measurement) and ultimately when trying to establish sustainability (lack of linkage to business plans, unclear governance).

In general we spend too much time on the reinforcing loops – the “what” of the change. Be mindful of the limiting factors. Anticipate them and put actions in place to address them. Senge maintains that successful change leaders spend 80 to 90 percent of their time on the limiting loops.

The Change Plan

There is a tendency to undervalue the benefits of a comprehensive change management plan. It is a lot of work, and it takes time and resources so it must be a conscious decision. An analogy is the age-old maintenance repair conundrum, “We don’t have time to fix it right the first time, but we have time to fix it again!” Incorporating change management is akin to “Fix it right the first time”. Failure to get this right will result in resistance to change, project slippage, and lack of sustainability.

There are six steps for managing reactions to change:

  1. Plan – Prepare for people’s reactions. Acknowledge that resistance is natural and expected. Use those who will react favourably to sell to the others.
  2. Communicate – Recognize that communication happens, so decide to manage it rather than letting it manage you. Communicate openly, often and in two-way discussions. Tailor your messages to the audience.
  3. Participate – Participation increases a sense of ownership and control. People want to be part of the solution so find as many ways as you can to involve them.
  4. Influence – Use opinion leaders to send the messages. Early actions demonstrate that this change is serious.
  5. Train – Build confidence and promote skill development with those leading and those being changed.
  6. Respond – Everyone needs to see WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) before they will change. The “What’s In It For the Company” is not what an employee wants to hear. Coaching will help them see the benefits. Adjust the reward system to encourage contribution and change.

There are six elements of the change roadmap and there are no shortcuts. You need to work through all six and continually reassess the status of all six.

Identify the change management activities that ensure the success and sustainability of the program. I like to start with a logo or a slogan that brings an identity and a branding that runs through the stages of the project. You will need a robust governance model involving the site leadership team. It will outline explicit roles and responsibilities for those on the change team and those impacted by it. Detail the timeline, the completion criteria, and the measurement systems. Establish accountability with regular reporting. When using external consultants be sure that they are in a coaching and supporting role. Do not let site management abdicate accountability.

I cannot overstate the importance of leadership, but it is also the most difficult hurdle to cross. Everyone’s already busy but now you want some of the busiest people at your site to take on more responsibilities. Success will only be achieved once you have the commitment of leadership at all layers of the organization. People take cues from the behaviours of their leaders and any inconsistency here is a licence to ignore the change initiative.

Failure to develop a compelling business case is a recipe for disaster. There needs to be a clear business case and the organization must understand how this is relevant to them. The return on change must be well defined. Include the anticipated benefits in the business plan to show that reaping the rewards is not an option, but be sure to also include the implementation costs on the other side of the ledger. At the same time, do not undersell the cost or the time lag before the benefits kick in.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder Engagement, the process of identifying stakeholders, understanding their concerns, and building their commitment, is the most important element of Change Management. You need to know who the stakeholders are, where they sit on the issue, and what you need to do to ensure that you are all rowing in the same direction.

A stakeholder is anyone who touches the project, has influence on the project, or is affected by the project. This becomes a very long list of people. Develop your list by also considering who can provide or withhold key resources, who stands to lose and can prevent a decision from being implemented, and who needs to be informed or kept in the loop. Be specific as you build the list because your action plan will not be a generic one. You need names!

Stakeholder analysis is the process of assessing where teams and individuals stand on your project, identifying how to allocate your resources and efforts, identifying needed interventions and engagement activities and ultimately building your communications plan. The first step is to create a “Stakeholder Map” as shown in figure 6.1.

This is a matrix where you plot out where your key stakeholders sit on the issue. It is not for circulation because it will include your judgements about people’s support for your project. Being very specific about your targets is essential to effective engagement. Focus your energy on the highest priority stakeholders. The Highly Important NoGo’s merit a lot of attention. At the same time the Highly Important Go’s may prove to be a good resource to help this. There is no cookie cutter for this; it is specific to the players, the project, the timing, the environment.

Getting down to detailed engagement strategies is key. Where we often come up short in implementations is in doing broad-brush communications and not truly engaging. This takes time and effort and must be tailored appropriately, but it is one of the most effective change management tools that we have. Each level of leadership needs to be at least one step ahead of the next level in terms of education and support.


A comprehensive communications plan will ensure that stakeholders have the information they need or want in order to participate in successful implementation. The plan will detail what message should be sent to which stakeholder by when and what is the method to be used. Use multiple styles and forms of communication and recognize the need to repeat the message many times.

Match the communications style to the desired outcome. For general awareness and information sharing, a presentation is effective. To build understanding you will need a two-way dialogue with questions and answers. To gain commitment and alter behaviours you will need time and effort covering training, coaching, and reinforcement.

Your communications plan starts with a calendar showing the key milestones. Superimposed on this you add communications vehicles to support these milestones. There are many communications vehicles at your disposal and you need to use them all. Information sharing can be accomplished through presentations, lectures, memos, and videos. Posters and banners provide a visual stimulus. Newsletters can be used to support the e-mail and paper-based audiences, but websites have the advantage of 24/7 access. Clearly the most powerful communication method is face-to-face sessions, both planned and ad hoc, by the site leaders.

Capture and Share Learnings

To improve the implementation’s effectiveness you need to rapidly take advantage of successes and mistakes across the location and continuously improve team and organizational performance. Harvard Professor John Kotter advocates creating “quick wins” as a strategy for broadcasting success. It is just as important to acknowledge mistakes. This serves two purposes. If you have made a mistake you do not want to repeat it. Admitting to a mistake is a big trust builder. Word of mistakes travels quickly so public acknowledgement of this is important to maintain credibility.

Capturing learnings is part of the Think – Plan – Do – Review cycle and must be a conscious effort because organizational learning does not just happen in most cases. Establish the right environment for learning, then apply the change learning competencies of coaching, listening, inquiry, and knowledge management.


Everyone must have the knowledge and skills to perform their roles in the new environment. Training must cover both the business process itself as well as the technical aspects of the job. If people know their roles and they understand how those roles fit into the new process, then you will stand a much better chance of making the change stick.

Sustainability Plan

To be successful the change must become the new reality. This means that it must be embedded in the management system. This is accomplished by implementing processes and structures that promote site ownership. Health checks, using external and internal resources, are an effective way of keeping the assessment unbiased. Here are three key roles that need to be in place:

  • Site Process Owner – is the management sponsor of the process. He/she is the visible champion accountable to ensure that the process delivers the intended results. This involves measurement and audit to ensure that players are fulfilling their roles and to initiate interventions if there are gaps.
  • Site Process Focal Point – is the subject matter expert. He/she is the implementer who knows the details of the process’ inner workings and can coach and educate the participants. The focal point captures the learnings and makes the adjustments in support of the Process Owner.
  • IT Tool Super User – is the person who fully understands the use of any Information Technology programs that support the process. This is not a computer programmer, it is the expert user who understands how the tool supports the business process.

Identification of these three roles for each new business process is fundamental to sustainability.

What Have I Learned?

Leading a change initiative is not for the faint of heart! At the same time it really is not an optional part of implementing a change. Here is a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts:


  • Stay positive
  • Leverage other locations’ experiences
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Build a strong governance structure
  • Develop site ownership
  • Pay close attention to resistance
  • Celebrate success


  • Add a new initiative without removing one first
  • Wait to develop your change roadmap
  • Underestimate the need for constant reinforcement
  • Claim victory too early


Kotter, John, Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press, 1996

Senge, Peter, The Dance of Change, Nicholas Breasley Publishing, 1999

Lewin, Kurt, The Dynamic Theory of Personality, McGraw-Hill, 1935


Brian Pritchard is a Reliability and Maintenance Manager for Shell Canada Energy.

Declining Enrolment in Ontario Public Schools – Implications for the Teacher Labour Market

For the foreseeable future Ontario, as well as most other provinces, will be faced with a shrinking school system, staffed by an aging and static teaching workforce. Responding to this challenge will be complicated by factors such as high retirement levels, more restrictive collective agreement language, and pension solvency issues.

Download PDF: Declining Enrolment in Ontario Public Schools – Implications for the Teacher Labour Market

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