Dementia Care Innovation in the Region of Peel

Peel Region Butterfly ProjectThe first article in this series focuses on the Region of Peel’s bold decision to pilot and implement a ground breaking approach for dealing with people living with dementia. This model of care has proven effective at dramatically enhancing residents’ quality of life and wellbeing, their family’s satisfaction and involvement, as well as employee engagement, fulfillment and retention, all while reducing the number of incidents, and creating more positive relationships all around.

Key information for this piece comes from an interview with Mary Connell, Project Manager for the Butterfly Initiative Implementation at the Region of Peel.

In the series, we will look at the methodology used by these innovative organizations leveraging the 4D Process – Define, Discover, Design and Do, created by IRC’s Brenda Barker Scott. But first, a look at why today’s organizations are transforming service delivery, and the increasing role that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) play in design and implementation.

Coaching Skills: Post-Program Perspectives

Queen's IRC Coaching Skill training program brochure coverIn December 2014, Queen’s IRC introduced a new two-day Coaching Skills program. With long-time Queen’s IRC facilitator Françoise Morissette at the helm, the program promises to deliver essential coaching skills, tools and models to help participants master the coaching process and improve performance at the individual and organizational level.

“Coaching is popular because it’s very portable and can be used formally or informally,” said Françoise, the lead facilitator for the program. She said coaching is a good opportunity to turn knowledge into know-how.  For organizations to compete, people development is becoming essential and employers are looking for opportunities to develop and manage talent. Training employees in coaching is one way to do that.

Talent is an organization’s biggest asset, and Françoise said she has heard over and over again that it’s not being managed well. “The program participants were very aware of the huge shifts happening in the world of work and how things will have to be different in the future of work.” Coaching is part of a larger set of vital skills that include talent management and talent development.

The inaugural program was very well received by participants. In fact, our post-program evaluations revealed that 100% of respondents found the programming to be directly relevant to their work. All respondents indicated that they agree or strongly agree that the IRC’s programming met their expectations and learning objectives. The evaluations indicated that all of the tools and modules were applicable to the participants’ work, with the “GROW Coaching Model” topping the list.

Raymond Wubs, an HR Business Advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, said he found the GROW coaching model the most valuable part of the course.  He was pleased with all the extras that were provided, including the database of coaching questions to help find different ways of asking questions when you’re coaching.

“I am the lead for talent management and performance management at the Ministry of Transportation, so this has a direct link to my role,” Raymond said. “I was pleasantly surprised with how closely it linked to what I was hoping to get out of it.”

Raymond said he intends to take a more intentional role in developing their top talent, and the tools he received in the Coaching Skills program will help him do that.

Brittany Francis, an HR Business Partner at High Liner Foods, said she was looking for some skills to help her in her role, where she works with front line supervisors on a regular basis. She found the tools in the program extremely applicable. “I can use these tools every day, both at work, and at home.”

“I went in with an open mind, and my expectations were exceeded,” Brittany said.  She found the most value in practicing new skills as they went along, and in the takeaways, such as the question banks.

All of the participants interviewed had glowing reviews about facilitator Françoise Morissette. Brittany describes Françoise as knowledgeable, passionate, and humorous. Raymond says she is an excellent and knowledgeable facilitator. “She’s really engaging and she keeps the energy up in the classroom.”

Denise Miedzinski, Human Resources Manager at The Foray Group, agrees that Françoise is an excellent facilitator, and she enjoyed all of the extra pieces that were included. Denise also really liked the GROW model – she says it’s simple in a good way.  Denise plans to teach the other leaders in her organization how to use the model.

Denise brought along a colleague to the Coaching Skills program. She says it was beneficial because now they are both talking the same way about coaching. Denise saw value in how the program puts coaching in context, talks about facilitating and performance coaching, uses role plays, and allowed her to work with people from other organizations.

“I’ve done a lot of coaching, and I wanted to see if there was any additional skills I could pick-up.” She said that the Coaching Skills program tied in nicely with the Queen’s IRC Talent Management program, which Denise also completed in the fall of 2014.

Françoise said the Coaching Skills program is useful for managers and HR professionals, because whether they realize it or not, they spend a lot of their time coaching. But the potential use for coaching extends far beyond the traditional top down coaching methods.  Françoise noted that we are seeing more peer coaching, and bottom up coaching, where perhaps a younger person might be coaching an executive on new technology.

Please visit our website for more information on the Queen’s IRC Coaching Skills program.

The Coaching ‘Explosion’: Exploring the Growing Field of Coaching, and the Value it Brings to HR

 Exploring the Growing Field of Coaching, and the Value it Brings to HR Have you ever wondered why the field of coaching is growing so fast? Although it has been around for ages, it is currently enjoying a worldwide surge in popularity, on both the professional and personal fronts. So how do we explain this sudden craze?

The value of coaching has never been in doubt as, over the centuries, it has more than proven itself. The difference is that now, more people “get it” and understand how to use it effectively.

Coaching has always been a cornerstone of development, when seeking to turn novices into qualified practitioners. One such system is apprenticeship, first developed in the Middle Ages: “A master craftsman was entitled to employ young people as an inexpensive form of labour, in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. Most apprentices aspired to becoming master craftsmen on completion of their contract (usually a term of seven years), but a significant proportion would never acquire their own workshop.”1

The objective was, not only to transfer knowledge, but to enhance know-how (requiring extensive practice), and sharpen judgment (requiring judicious coaching). For instance, chefs need not only to know a recipe; they must be able to successfully make it, so that it turns out perfect… every time. This implies in-depth knowledge of ingredients’ properties, and mastery of cooking techniques.

Although the apprenticeship system started in trades, it is also used in credentialed professions, such as accounting, law, medicine, and dentistry, where students complete internships to ensure their proficiency in execution.

Today, coaching is not limited to trades and certified professions. It is widely used in workplaces, as employers appreciate its value for development, performance improvement, career progression, and transition support. However, this wasn’t always the case: initially, coaching was unfortunately used for remedial purposes, the last stop before termination for poor performers. As a result, it got a bad reputation, as did the coaches. Fortunately, the marketplace now understands that coaching is not a magical “quick fix”, but a partnership for growth, which requires time and commitment from all parties.

Likewise, the number of individuals hiring personal coaches has skyrocketed, making it a common practice. People find coaching helps them reach their goals, improve themselves, achieve greater fulfillment, and enhance their creativity.

To summarize, coaching is all about optimizing the two Ps: Performance and Potential, a satisfying and worthwhile endeavour for individuals and for organizations.

Origins of Coaching

The English term coach refers to a medium of transport, such as a carriage. The practice of using the term coaching to mean an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University to refer to a tutor who carries a student through an exam.2 Coaching thus describes the process to “transport people from where they are, to where they want to be”.3 The first use of the term in relation to sports came in 1861.4

Coaching is now a way of life in sports and arts, where success primarily depends on how talent performs. As a result, athletes and artists benefit from considerable coaching in order to reach their full potential. Athletes might be coached by nutritionists, sports psychologists and fitness trainers; and actors, by vocal, movement and dialect coaches. For example, a gifted tennis player like Eugénie Bouchard received more attention, and at an earlier age than others less gifted.5

The greater the talent, the more focus it gets. It’s not about compensating for deficiencies, but achieving mastery. For instance, when Benedict Cumberbatch was a boy, his drama teacher, Martin Tyrell, called him “the best schoolboy actor he had ever worked with.”6 During his formative years, Benedict’s extraordinary talent received special attention from the UK’s acting development system, eventually turning him into the best actor of his generation.7

Unfortunately, this talent/focus principle is not as well understood in other sectors, where the emphasis is often on improving poor performers, which is a frustrating endeavour for all involved.

American educational psychologist Donald Clifton conducted several studies of top performers beginning in the 1960s. He observed that “people with strong talent in a specific activity can quickly achieve the equivalent of 7/10 performance. They can then build on these strengths to embark on the exponential climb to reaching 10/10”.8

As a result, he challenged the deficit model of development which paid lip service to people’s strengths, focusing instead on deficiencies. Clifton came to the following conclusions:

  • “People’s greatest room for growth is in the area of their strengths. Therefore, ‘investing’ in your top talents will pay off greater dividends than investing in average or minimal ones: people can only excel by maximizing their strengths.
  • This doesn’t mean ignoring weaknesses… But ‘weakness fixing’ is about damage control, not development… Damage control can prevent failure, but it will never elevate anyone to excellence…”9

This led to the world-renowned Strengths Finder10 system, based on this simple approach:

Strengths Finder system


Identifying talent and investing in its development will result in building a solid strength which will lead to consistent performance. Think Sidney Crosby!!! Coaching works best when developing talent and potential, but not so well when compensating for deficiencies, although it does help.

Not surprisingly, the field of coaching exploded once this connection became explicit. Therefore, coaching’s expansion is firmly anchored in the “early 1970s Human Potential Movement,11 based on cultivating extraordinary potential which lies largely untapped in most people. Fully actualized potential enables individuals, not only to experience an exceptional quality life, but to make important contributions, assisting others and society to release their own potential. Since the mid-1990s, coaching has developed into an independent discipline. Professional Associations such as The International Coach Federation12 in North America, and The European Coaching and Mentoring Council13 have established credentialing standards.”14

Coaching and HR

HR Professionals have been coaching, formally or informally, since the dawn of the profession. Today, coaching is increasingly viewed as a desirable HR skill set for several reasons:

  • Employees frequently seek HR coaching to find a way forward with various issues: solving a problem, advancing their career, enhancing their skills, gaining confidence, navigating transitions, resolving conflicts, getting unstuck, etc.
  • Managers also seek HR coaching to better manage performance and develop potential. For instance, preparing for a coaching session with an employee. This involves growing coaching capability, scenario planning, and rehearsing for the session.
  • Finally, HR pros are frequently involved in performance management interventions which require solid coaching skills.

Other factors contribute to fueling the coaching “burning platform” in the workplace:

  • Enhancing leadership capacity for both designated and distributed leaders before baby boomers exit the workplace. This has produced significant growth in leadership coaching of all stripes: executive, peer, top down, bottom up, and team. For instance, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO)15 fosters community coaching amongst its members. It is a key factor in their considerable success.
  • Dealing with the VUCA world. The US military created this acronym to describe the world of the 21st century: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.16 This fast moving environment requires agile organizations populated with employees who can make the right decisions at the level where action occurs. Coaching is a great tool to build this capacity.
  • Peer coaching is becoming increasingly popular in both formal and informal iterations. For instance, it is widely used by police forces to provide development and support. Cops Coach17 offers a framework which has proven very beneficial in this line of work where emergencies, crises and violence and disasters occur every day.


HR Professionals are pivotal in making coaching a way of life and a culture in their organizations, to increase agility, innovation, resilience and success.

Here is some food for thought from Brainy Quote:18

  • “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage“. Jack Welsh
  • “At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.” Sheryl Sandberg
  • “Every successful organization has to make the transition from a world defined primarily by repetition, to one primarily defined by change. This is the biggest transformation in the structure of how humans work together since the Agricultural Revolution.” Bill Drayton

Queen’s IRC has introduced a Coaching Skills program, which offers hands-on learning opportunities to develop and implement coaching skills for a range of situations in the workplace. Participants will explore several methodologies and their impact, and learn how to apply proven models to facilitate conversation and improve performance at all organizational levels.


About the Author

Francoise Morissette, Queen's IRC Facilitator
Françoise Morissette has been a facilitator at Queen’s IRC since 1994, and was made a Fellow in 2006. She played a key role in developing and implementing the Queen’s IRC’s Organizational Development curriculum intended for OD practitioners, and teaches on the OD Foundations and Coaching Skills programs. As a consultant, Françoise is a major contributor to the field of Organizational Development, with a major emphasis on leadership. Using a range of interventions, she helps individuals, organizations and communities enhance their leadership capacity. She regularly presents at major conferences in both official languages, both in Canada and abroad. She is the co-author of Made in Canada Leadership, a book that is the product of a large scale research project, focusing on leadership excellence and development.





1 accessed October 2014.

2 accessed October 2014.

3 ibid

4 ibid

5 accessed October 2014.

6 accessed October 2014.

7 ibid

8 accessed October 2014.

9 ibid

10 accessed October 2014.

11 accessed October 2014.

12 October 2014.

13 accessed October 2014.

14 accessed October 2014.

15 accessed October 2014.

16,_uncertainty,_complexity_and_ambiguity accessed October 2014.

17 accessed October 2014.

18 accessed October 2014.

Looking to the Future: What Will Make HR Successful?

 What Will Make HR Successful?In a recent article, Simon Parkin, founder of The Talent Company, a full-service HR consulting firm, identified three major challenges facing today’s HR professionals in a very to-the-point article (

  • Leadership Effectiveness
  • Talent Acquisition and Management
  • HR Capability and Capacity

I fully agree with Simon’s assessment: these are, indeed, the top challenges HR professionals must tackle to enable their organizations to compete and thrive in today’s environment. Not surprisingly, all three point to talent. I firmly believe the capacity to develop talent in a systematic manner will be the differentiating factor between success and failure: it is the new frontier. Let’s explore all three.

Leadership Effectiveness

Simon says: “Leaders have the largest impact on how well employees are working toward achieving the organization’s business strategy and goals. Unfortunately, most organizations hire and promote their talent into leadership roles without any formal leadership development, coaching and training. These new leaders are just not appropriately equipped with the insight, knowledge and tools to be truly effective.”

When asked about the importance of leadership to the success of any enterprise, most rank it high to very high, knowing that great leaders can turn average teams into outstanding ones, while poor leaders can destroy even great teams. Moreover, even with ample financial and human resources, corporations cannot perform without strong, effective leadership. Why, then, are organizations so reluctant to invest in the development of this crucial and precious resource? A baffling question, indeed.


Leadership is the energy that moves people and systems to action, performance, and results. To succeed in the global, competitive, complex world of the 21st century, organizations must significantly elevate their game. “Transforming” requires much more leadership capacity than simply “performing,” in terms of quantity (i.e., more people providing leadership at all levels), and quality ( i.e., strategic, bold, and innovative and visionary).

Current State

Unfortunately, this peak demand for leadership energy comes when supply is low, due to several factors. For me, the most salient are:

  • Baby boomers’ retirement is creating a huge loss in experience, expertise, and leadership
  • Succession planning has generally been inconsistent and haphazard
  • Workforce planning has been insufficient and short-term focused
  • Younger generations have different work values and expectations, which affects their leadership outlook.


Solid leadership development infrastructures are required to produce the abundant and reliable leadership supply needed to meet present and future needs. For instance, Canadian hockey is dominant on the world stage because we have the most complete, deepest, and totally integrated development infrastructures. Here are some revealing statistics:

  • Every year, Hockey News Magazine publishes a Yearbook describing NHL rosters. The 2012-2013 edition indicates that Canadians, on average, make up 52% of all rosters. Moreover, for 15 of the 30 NHL teams, 55% to 77% of players are Canadians (pp. 59-179). In Hockey for Dummies, John Davidson comments: “For decades, Canada has been the home of most NHL players. In fact, it was big news in the 1960s and 1970s when an American or an athlete from another country made it to the NHL” (p. 55).
  • Canada, a nation of about 35 million, boasts “617,107 registered hockey players (including male, female and junior),” while the US, a nation with a population greater than 300 million, “has 511,178 registered players” (see: Wikipedia feature on Ice Hockey,

Do we have more natural hockey talent than other countries? No. Do we have better development infrastructures? Yes. A solid talent development system is the top differentiator for consistent and abundant results. This applies to every type of talent, including leadership.

Currently, the leadership development field is more like Canadian soccer than hockey. Since Canada’s soccer infrastructures are still developing, we are a marginal player on the international scene. Turning Canada into a “soccer powerhouse” over the next 10 years would be a major challenge. Yet, this is the window for action in the leadership development field, because of the massive baby boomer exit from the workforce.

There are also other issues:

  • Leadership field knowledge is fragmented: most experts operate within subsets, such as coaching, mentoring, or assessment. Very few have a commanding grasp of the big picture and can act as system “architects.”
  • The business case (Why leadership? Why now?) is not clearly articulated, nor is it grasped by enough people, most importantly, senior executives.
  • Infrastructure investment is insufficient.
  • Infrastructure integration is weak: “the band is not playing together.”
  • Ownership of the entire development infrastructure is vague, fragmented, and piecemeal; nor is it clearly linked to other HR systems, such as performance management.

In most organizations, leadership development is like a smorgasbord: lots of offerings, including training, coaching, and assessment, loosely weaved into a program, mainly driven by participants, not the organization: definitely not a tight infrastructure designed to produce specific and consistent results.

Best Practices

However, there is hope on the horizon: sound leadership development systems are spreading like wildfire, providing role models. A prime example is British Columbia’s Leaders for Life, a healthcare leadership initiative which has been rapidly endorsed by all provinces, and is now extending to other sectors, as well as to other countries, such as Australia and the UK. Leaders for Life is anchored in the famous L.E.A.D.S. framework, applicable to all hierarchical levels and types of organizations. L.E.A.D.S. represents a search image of desirable attributes for today’s leaders:

L: Leads self
E: Engages others
A: Achieves results
D: Develops coalitions
S: Systems Transformation

Visit for a detailed description of the L.E.A.D.S. framework and information about the initiative.

Another stellar example is the Me to We project initiated by Ontario’s Keilburger brothers, empowering youth to take leadership action in order to transform their communities and the world. It has spread to numerous countries and millions of teenagers are now involved (see:

Learning from best practices is a great way to accelerate learning about effective leadership development systems.

Talent Acquisition and Management

Simon says: “Organizations are continuing to struggle with hiring and managing their talent effectively. Most corporate recruitment and talent functions are reactive and rarely are future focused. These functions aren’t aligned to their organization’s business strategy, aren’t part of a formal organizational talent strategy and in fact seldom even communicate with each other. Most HR Leaders and their teams aren’t spending the necessary time upfront to analyze and properly plan their organizational talent assets, needs, and gaps.”

In recent years, talent management has rapidly evolved to become a holistic enterprise based on performance imperatives. Sports and arts are ahead of other sectors in this regard, as their success is closely linked to how talent develops and performs: in sports, you have to win, and in arts, you have to wow! Therefore, talent development is a top priority, and producing an abundant supply of elite athletes and artists means extensive and integrated infrastructures. Here are some examples:

In Arts

  • Seeking to better prepare professional actors for the classical repertoire, the Stratford Festival of Canada set up The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre. It also boasts The Langham Workshop for Classical Direction, aimed at enhancing directors’ capabilities in succeeding in this genre. For more information, visit
  • Venezuela has become the largest producer of classical musicians in the world, thanks to El Sistema, which uses classical musicianship as a vehicle to provide a future for underprivileged children. “El Sistema is a state foundation which watches over Venezuela’s 125 youth orchestras and the instrumental training programs which make them possible. The organization has 31 symphony orchestras, and between 310,000 to 370,000 children attend its music schools around the country. 70 to 90 percent of the students come from poor socio-economic background. Studies on the more than two million young people who have been educated through El Sistema, link participation in the program to improvements in school attendance and declines in juvenile delinquency.” (see: Wikipedia, El Sistema El Sistema has also produced a prodigy conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, the current “face of the classical music franchise.” For a documentary on El Sistema, featuring Gustavo Dudamel, see

In Sports

  • Tennis Canada recently underwent a paradigm shift from “event organization” to “talent development.” For instance, “under the leadership of Louis Borfiga, September 2011 saw the start of year five of the full-time national training centre (NTC) program in Montreal.” As a result, Canada, for the first time in years, boasts tennis stars who shine on the international stage, such as Milos Raonic and Alexandra Wozniak. (see the Tennis Canada website: PAGE&pid=3)
  • China’s Olympic performance has been steadily improving, thanks to their sports school system. “At the present time some 3,000 sports schools exist in the People’s Republic of China, including full-time ones, and this system is essentially based on the powerful system of sports schools of the USSR”. (see Wikipedia feature on sports schools:

Sports and Arts’ Critical Success Factors

  1. Talent Development is the priority. Their corporate cultures are driven by performance excellence. Therefore, everything is geared towards identifying and growing talent to reach its full potential. For example, the structures behind Céline Dion (management, record label, voice coaches etc…) have developed her talent in such a way that she has become the bestselling female recording artist of all time.
  2. There is a healthy recognition that: Talent is not distributed evenly: it mirrors the Bell Curve. It’s impossible to achieve outstanding performance without sufficient talent, regardless of effort.
    • The most important category is the top 20%, because high performers drive success and excellence. For instance, Canada now boasts an internationally acclaimed piano prodigy: Jan Lisiecki from Calgary, known as “Canada’s Mozart.” Only 17, he burst onto the scene at 10. At 14, he performed at Carnegie Hall, and got his first record deal at 15. Extensive human and financial capital were invested in developing this exceptional talent and it is still ongoing. His success has raised the bar for aspiring classical musicians in the country and abroad. (see:
    • The 60% “average to good” category matters greatly, as it comprises the critical mass of solid, consistent performers who can be developed to ever greater performance levels.
    • As for the bottom 20%, there are two scenarios: either their performance improves and they migrate into the average to good category; or it doesn’t improve, and they get eliminated. They are then free to move to other areas/roles for which they are better suited. It is a harsh reality, but there is no escaping the performance imperative. In arts and sports, consistent poor performance will get you out of the game.
  3. Extensive, integrated development systems are in place: from talent identification, development, deployment, management, and retention. For instance, hockey talent is spotted very early on. The hockey community in Nova Scotia knew Sidney Crosby was an exceptional talent when he was six, and they took steps to grow it.

HR Capability and Capacity

Simon says: “Too many business leaders and executives still view HR as a non-strategic cost center instead of a core, profit-contributing function. One of the most common complaints about HR, is that many professionals lack the forward thinking, strategic advisory focus needed to be an effective business partner. They don’t spend the time to understand the business they support and focus more on transactional HR activities that don’t have the impact the business desires. HR must be focused on becoming a trusted advisor to their business, to empower managers to drive improved organizational performance.”

Key # 1: Systems Thinking and Action

The first key to enhance HR performance resides is mastering systems thinking and action. Instead of operating within a narrow band of vertical expertise, such as compensation, recruitment, or labour relations, HR now needs to function with the big picture in mind.

This requires a holistic view, not just of the components, but of how they interact and affect each other. For example, a large organization launched a succession plan, putting in place talent identification and development systems. However, they had not considered talent deployment. Therefore, upon graduation, candidates had “nowhere to go” to apply their newly minted skills. A year later, most of them had left the corporation, in search of opportunities. All the effort and money invested in talent identification and development was lost, as a result of a poorly conceptualized system. Unfortunately, such mistakes are common occurrences. We are currently going through a “trial and error” phase, with high failure rates. It is definitely more difficult to operate at a systemic level. But we have to learn, and do so quickly.

Generating system-wide, consistent deliverables will require massive infrastructure re-designs, new collaboration frameworks, as well as engaging a variety of stakeholders with diverse interests and assets. HR can play a leading role in this transformation, if it plays its cards right.

Best Practice

However, many ground-breaking best practices are sprouting all across the country:

  • In 2009, The Alberta Government’s Housing First initiative set up a plan to eradicate homelessness over 10 years. After diagnosing the situation, they built a business case, from a social, as well as a financial perspective. They then consulted relevant stakeholders, adopted a framework, and started implementing. Since its inception, Housing First has provided homes for 4,000 people, with an 80% success rate. This means that 80% manage to stay off the streets, eventually transitioning from totally assisted, to partially assisted, to autonomous housing. For more information about this stellar initiative visit: Moreover, Housing First is delivered through a variety of third-party agencies. This requires alignment to a common vision and approach, as well as allowing for regional differences. Watch this moving testimonial about the project:
  • B.C.’s Shuswap Lake Accord: The region was becoming very popular, resulting in too much unplanned development, with negative consequences such as water pollution and untreated sewage. Wanting to protect the entire lake basin, the four levels of government (Federal, Provincial, First Nations, and Municipal) got together to create an integrated planning process. Finding there was no precedent to emulate, they crafted their own strategy, enabling governments and agencies to work together in an integrative, cohesive, strategic manner (see;

Key # 2: Innovation

The second key to enhance HR performance resides in innovation. Every country is responsible for creating its own wealth. Natural resources are finite, therefore, not a reliable vehicle to sustainable prosperity. Only pervasive innovation provides a lasting, renewable advantage. This means going beyond wishful thinking such as “We should innovate more!”, to a system that drives innovation through the system. It also means going beyond isolated occurrences, such as a new product invented by a lone ranger entrepreneur, to consistent and abundant innovation in all sectors and regions. Therefore, achieving pervasive innovation requires:

  • Solid, widespread infrastructures to produce, pilot, implement, distribute, and embed innovation in all systems, fostering sustainable adoption.
  • A radical change of culture and priorities.
Best Practice

Australia implemented a National Innovation Policy in 2005, complete with a strategic plan comprising clear goals and metrics for each sector and region. Below are some compelling excerpts from the first page of the Executive Summary, Powering Ideas: An Innovation Agenda for the 21st Century:

  • “Innovation is the key to making Australia more productive and competitive.”
  • Innovation “will keep people in work today and generate jobs for the future.”
  • “Our capacity for innovation and discovery depends on the strength or our national innovation system. This is the system we use to harness the creativity of our people.”
  • “Genius is wasted if you can’t capture it and apply it to the real world.”
  • “Our aim is to make innovation a way of life.”

Of course, much of the innovation capacity depends on research and development’s (R&D) effectiveness. Therefore, Australia harmonized R&D activities across the post-secondary system. Institutions are grouped in pods, according to their areas of expertise (engineering, science, medicine etc…), and allocated funds to conduct research in a strategic and coordinated manner, to generate leading edge innovation in the targeted areas.

Results are constantly monitored to track progress, and implementation is fine-tuned. A major review was conducted in 2008, and two sectors were found wanting: public and not-for-profit. Therefore, new targets were defined for these sectors, and they were provided with additional skills and toolkits to improve. “Making innovation a way of life” means that poor performance is not an option.

Instead of just wishing for innovation, Australia is actually doing it, and has the results to prove it. They have truly become an “Innovation Nation.” It is a national system fuelled by political, social and economic will. Here are a few examples:

In Canada, innovation happens in pockets. When it’s supported by a system, it consistently delivers. When it’s not, results are inconsistent … and we revert back to wishful thinking and isolated occurrences.

Best Practice

The Waterloo Region has been focused on a high-tech economic strategy since the 1960s. As a result, it has become the “Silicon Valley” of Canada, and produced breakthrough innovations such as the Blackberry. Their business growth model comprises a variety of infrastructures designed to support entrepreneurs at all stages of the process: from idea incubation to start up, medium and large size organization. Their system boasts several enablers:

The Accelerator Centre: “Focused on speeding the growth and success of its client companies: fledgling start-ups from a variety of technology sectors. The Centre’s advisors and mentors provide a unique range of support services and education programs, enabling clients to move to market faster, create jobs and stimulate economic activity. This includes the advice and expertise of a large network of volunteer community leaders” ( For a virtual tour of the Accelerator Centre, see:

Communitech: “Works to improve Waterloo Region’s cohesiveness, competitiveness and visibility as a world-class tech cluster. It also functions as the implementation arm of the province of Ontario’s commercialization and economic development. Finally, it stewards the Canadian Digital Media Network, an interconnected group of nodes that bridges the country’s commercialization gap by nurturing young digital media companies, interweaving regional resources and expertise and establishing Canada as a leader in the global digital economy.” ( For a virtual tour of the Communitech Hub, see:


Keys to success whether in leadership effectiveness, talent management, HR capability and capacity are always the same: solid, integrated, strategic, smart systems that will produce the quantity and quality of desired results. There is no way around this. So, start building your architecture and you will be amazed at the difference it will make in a very short time.

Let’s emulate the sports and arts model and make talent development a top priority, and let’s build those professional and solid talent management systems. HR Professionals are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in designing, implementing, and managing these “top of the line” infrastructures. Let’s provide leadership to help our organizations succeed.


About the Author

Francoise MorissetteFrançoise Morissette has been a facilitator at Queen’s University’s prestigious Industrial Relations Centre since 1994, and was made a Fellow in 2006. In 2009, she became an Adjunct Faculty at the University of Alberta’s Business School.

As a consultant, Françoise is a major contributor to the field of organizational development. Her practice takes her within Canada and internationally. Her main area of expertise is leadership development. Through a variety of interventions, she helps leaders, organizations and communities enhance their leadership capacity.

She co-wrote Made in Canada Leadership, the product of a large research project on best practices on leadership excellence and development. It has become a Canadian top ten bestseller and received many accolades.

In 2008, Françoise was made a Fellow of the innovative Wallace McCain Institute at UNB for business leadership, whose mission is to expand the leadership capacity of New Brunswick most promising entrepreneurs.



Commonwealth of Australia. Powering Ideas: An Innovation Agenda for the 21st Century. Executive Summary. 2009.

Davidson, John. Hockey for Dummies, 2nd ed. New York: Hungry Minds Inc., 2000.

Hockey News. Yearbook, 2012-2013 ed. Toronto: Transcontinental Media, 2012.

New Brunswick’s Hothouses and Pipelines

In 2007, a variety of groups in New Brunswick interested in the viability and success of the province got together to create a plan for sustainable economic renewal. Faced with massive emigration, erosion of their natural resource-based economy, and poor academic standings, New Brunswick was ready for change. “Maritime provinces are at a crossroads”, commented Donald Savoie in the Telegraph Journal on May 7, 2007; “We can sit by, make political noises about the state of our economy and see our population continue to drift away, or we can define an ambitious and overriding goal and pursue it with all the energy that we can muster.”

  1. “Self sufficiency in 20 years” was chosen as the overriding vision, and three major strategies were selected to achieve it:
  2. Restructure natural resource-based businesses according to long-term stewardship instead of short-term exploitation
  3. Attract businesses from outside the province by providing tax incentives, skilled workers, a welcoming climate, and sufficient infrastructure
  4. Help more entrepreneurs succeed at building large, solid businesses

Entrepreneurship was picked as the centerpiece for obvious reasons: Transformation of natural resource-based businesses will take a long time and a lot of experimentation. Imported businesses do not have local roots, and therefore no loyalty to the host province; they tend to move according to market conditions. Entrepreneurs born and raised in New Brunswick, however, are attached to their home and have a stake in its future. By enhancing entrepreneurial support and boosting leadership capacity, the province can build a robust economy, independent of outside decision-makers and finite natural resources.

Hothouses and Pipelines

To succeed with the plan meant borrowing approaches from the world of sports, namely “hothouses” and “pipelines.”

Hothouse strategies are focused on the short term and concerned with issues such as: who can compete in the next Olympic Games and what will it take to get them ready?

Pipeline strategies are focused on the long term, and concerned with issues such as: increasing fitness levels in the overall population, stimulating widespread interest in sports, and building competitive capacity over time.

In the case of leadership development, hothouse approaches such as succession planning groom the next crop of executives, while pipeline strategies such as leadership education in schools groom the next generation of leaders.


New Brunswick decided to hothouse high potential entrepreneurs running businesses established five to eight years ago and ready to “bust out and go big.” A province-wide needs analysis was conducted and entrepreneurs identified four areas where assistance was needed: financing, networking, innovation, and education.

In education, businessperson and philanthropist Wallace McCain donated funds to create an Institute mandated to “help entrepreneurs develop the understanding, tools, and relationships needed to grow their businesses.”

Fifteen high potential entrepreneurs were selected as the first cohort, which began in July 2008. Spread over a year, the curriculum includes topics such as Change and Innovation, Strategic Planning, Building and Managing Human Capital. Participants meet once a month and benefit from the expertise of a wide range of professionals, academics, and executives from all over the country.

Other developmental and support strategies are also being used. Members of the New Brunswick Business Council, for example, have volunteered to serve as mentors. Paul Johnson, CEO of Quantum 5X Systems from London, Ont., was named an executive in residence for the Wallace McCain Institute; participants can draw from his experience on a continuous and personal basis.


The province is also determined to build a “leadership pipeline” by totally revamping the curriculum from elementary school to university, injecting a heavy dose of entrepreneurial and leadership components, as well as beefing up computer and business literacy.

This educational strategy will be complemented by business start-up competitions at the elementary level, entrepreneurship boot camps at the secondary level, and university incubation labs to help entrepreneurs test and fine tune their ideas.

Students will also be exposed to entrepreneur role models and mentors in schools. Currently, pilots are being conducted in elementary schools: students start businesses with a small budget, and make them prosper with skills they learn.


This historic initiative is a stellar example of large-scale systems thinking. For instance, a roundtable is planned for November to align the various stakeholders. This is organizational development at its best.

Building a Learning Organization

Françoise Morissette is an Queen’s IRC Facilitator, accredited coach, and Organizational Development consultant. In the following Q & A she discusses how executives who sponsor education for their employees can ensure that valuable knowledge actually gets applied in the workplace.

Do executive sponsors typically get good returns on their educational investments in employees?

A lot depends on the quality of the discussion between the participant and the manager who authorized the training. If the executive is clear about what he or she is trying to accomplish by sending the employee for professional development, and maintains a dialogue – debriefing the person upon his or her return to the workplace, and setting the scene for application and sharing of knowledge – chances are there’s going to be a good return on investment.

In contrast, if someone goes on a course and then no one ever talks about it, nothing much will happen. The quality of the dialogue between sponsor and employee is really the deciding factor.

What are the most common barriers employees face in applying and sharing new knowledge in their workplaces?

One is lack of a plan – no one has thought about the applications for the new knowledge, for example, and the person reverts back to the normal way of life without using what they’ve learned.

A second is a clash with the culture – someone comes back and has great ideas, but the environment is not receptive, or is even against these new ideas.

A third one is overwork. People are burdened; they come back, haven’t been in the office for a week, a crisis erupts, and that’s it – they never move forward with their learnings.

Of these three, the worst and most difficult to overcome is culture. It is almost impossible to deal with, unless the person becomes a missionary within the organization.

However, the other two are linked. The best defence against them is having a plan. That way there’s clarity around next steps for applying or sharing knowledge, and you will do better in dealing with the emergencies. Instead of being controlled by them, you’ll see them as a temporary nuisance along the path, but don’t send you away from your longer-term goal.

How can the sponsoring executive promote the transfer of knowledge from employee to workplace?

Sponsoring executives have three roles to play: to plan before the course; debrief after the course; and coach while the person applies and shares new information.

Can you talk in more detail about these roles, and the steps that need to be followed?

Good organizations have development strategies that pertain to different levels. They might ask first, ‘At the organizational level, what do our employees need to know?’

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp., for example, has a full set of leadership competencies it wants all its leaders to have, and as a result has created an organization-wide development strategy for these leaders. People journey through these developmental programs, which include training and other activities, the way you would go up a ladder. When organizations do this it really clarifies ‘What do we want our employees to know?’

Sometimes it is about the core business of the organization and what the competencies are, or other times it is about culture – ‘We want everyone to be change-friendly, so we’ll send everyone to a change program’ for example.

Organization is the first level, and then we have the department, and its specific needs. The purchasing department might want to provide customer service training, for example.

Then there is the individual, person A’s needs versus Person B’s. So perhaps the employee needs to improve at something, or has been thrown into a new role requiring new skills – an HR person moving into an OD role, for example.

In the ideal world, all three levels flow together in a spiral from organizational needs, in to departmental needs, and then individual needs.

Sponsoring managers and participants both need to be clear about what exactly is being pursued on each of these three levels. If you can link the time at Queen’s, for example, to the individuals’ needs, the department’s needs, and the organizational strategy, that’s one step toward getting a good return on the education investment.

So the first step is to link the education to the organizational, departmental and individual needs, and have clarity around this.

My advice is that executive sponsors and employees have discussions before the program to identify on the three levels, ‘What is it we are after?’

Then after the program, the second step is for the authorizing manager and participant to discuss what was learned, whether learning goals were met, how new knowledge can be applied to a particular situation or project, and how learning can be taken further – for example the participant might say ‘This was so good I suggest the whole HR department takes the course.’

The third step is moving into applications for learners, and also for colleagues and others to whom knowledge is to be transferred.

Here, ongoing coaching as the employee is applying the knowledge is needed. Agree on periodical check-ups and continue along that path until the project is complete. Then schedule another meeting to consider how well the learning was integrated, and future needs.

In addition, discussions on who else needs to share knowledge, and vehicles for doing so, are essential.

This need not be a complex process. A few simple steps before and after educational programs will ensure that learning really takes root.

How can sponsoring executives help employees apply new learning at work?

It is important that they draw a line from the training to a project the employee can work on in the organization. It is good to talk about this before the program, and again afterward. That’s because it is not always clear to the authorizing manager and employee what the applications ahead of time. Often, whatever they were thinking early on changes.

What can managers do to help employees share information?

Many organizations have Lunch and Learns, where people return from a course and are expected to share with colleagues. Or participants might write articles for the newsletter, Intranet or use other vehicles within the organization.

As well, some organizations have learning councils so people may share learning on an individual or strategic level. For example, I was recently involved in a project with a hospital, and they’d even struck up a partnership with a university. Often what happens with councils/forums is people start to realize that they need to align their approach to learning in the organization if they want to leverage it.

It is all about alignment, and that’s the overall role of the sponsoring executive: to make the link and ensure learning is aligned to organizational, departmental and individual needs – as well as specific applications in the workplace.

Follow These Leaders

As part of their research on leadership development, Queen’s IRC Facilitator Françoise Morissette (FM) and fellow consultant Amal Henein (AH) have interviewed 200 leaders from across Canada: executives, entrepreneurs, politicians, civil servants, fundraisers, activists, artists, journalists, athletes, coaches. While their book, Leadership Development, Maple Leaf Style, is slated for publication in 2006, they gave us an early view of some findings to date.

Your research focuses on what leaders do as opposed to who leaders are: you judge the outcome rather than a set of character traits.

AH: Getting results is of prime importance: that is the ultimate measure of leadership. If leaders don’t accomplish what they set out to do, people will not follow them for long. You can have leadership charisma galore, but if you don’t have followers you’re not a leader. Sometimes leaders get caught up in chasing a vision and when they look around, they need binoculars to see their followers because they have lost touch.

What are some of your findings?

FM: One of the most interesting finding is that only one-third of interviewees feel they were “born to lead” and have an innate interest or ability in leadership. By contrast, two-thirds claim that leadership was” thrust upon them”. Typically, they say, “I never wanted or set out to be a leader. I had to take on a leadership role because nobody else would do it,” or “I deeply believed in a cause,” or “I really wanted to help.”

This breakdown has profound implications on how we view leadership and its development. It certainly flies in the face of the old adage that “leaders are born, not made.” Instead of focusing on how to identify “born” leaders – which is easy enough to do – the question becomes: how do we create conditions so that more people will take on leadership roles? If the majority of people do not initially see themselves as leaders, then development is key: “Nurture” primes over “Nature”.

AH: Moreover, even the innate leaders stress the importance of development, which enables them to grow in skill and confidence and enhances their ability to adapt to a variety of situations. Both the “accidental” and the “born” leaders agree that leadership development is essentially an organic process. Although a certain amount of planning and goal setting exists, being alert to opportunities and seizing them is paramount because stretching out of one’s comfort zone promotes growth like nothing else.

At what point in their lives did your leaders actually see themselves that way? Did some leaders self-identify as young people?

FM: The innate leaders experience it a very young age. The accidental leaders are surprised when the call comes. They have to reach out and significantly alter their self-concept in order to lead.

AH: Both types agree, however, that influences encountered at a young age from role models are extremely significant. Also significant are the filters through which leadership is first learned: sports, arts, school, community, family. For instance, those who experience leadership through sports, share a similar mindset: teamwork, discipline, fair competition, working things out, striving for excellence. Those who encounter it through community work also share a similar mindset: values, ideals, service, compassion, a quest for justice.

Among the many leaders you interviewed, are there common themes regarding how leaders are developed? Specifically how important is formal leadership training versus informal mentorship or instinctive reaction to what life throws at you?

FM: Interviewees consistently reinforce what we call “the triangle of development”: people, environment, and experience. With regards to “people”, interviewees speak in glowing, affectionate, and grateful terms about their mentors. Most can recall with great precision a teacher in public school who helped them 30 years ago. Mentors continue to influence their protégés long after they have disappeared from their lives. We have concluded that proper mentoring is the greatest gift to developing leaders and a very potent enabler. We haven’t found anything that comes close to the strong and positive emotions generated by effective mentoring.

AH: Secondly, leaders stress the importance of challenging experiences for they are the crucible through which development occurs. Interviewees emphasize the benefits of a proactive approach and the need to seek out developmental opportunities. For instance, a CEO mentioned that he started raising cattle as a hobby because he didn’t know anything about it and it certainly would push his boundaries. Assessing risk is also central. Respondents’ wisdom is: as much risk as you can bear. The more startling and challenging, the better!

FM: Thirdly, interviewees speak highly of the value of “supportive” environments. These are places where leadership is valued, conscious efforts are made to build leaders, and opportunities abound. Several types of environments are conducive: Pioneering, such as entrepreneurial or fast growth where there is room to manoeuvre; artistic, where one can exercise creativity and create meaning, and at risk or challenging, where there is a lot of pressure. What doesn’t work are narrow, stifling environments where the human spirit is crushed.

Can you offer examples of Canadian organizations that do “leadership development” well? What makes them effective?

AH: Successful programs share common characteristics. They generally include application/practice components, the more relevant to day-to-day life the better. For instance, a West coast organization asks leadership program graduates to solve real business problems. Their solutions are then reviewed by executives and many are adopted. They include “awareness building” components such as psychometric assessments or 360-degree feedback tools. They constantly analyze the needs of their constituents to meet organization’s goals and fit corporate culture. And they cater to the needs of leaders at different levels (supervisors, managers, and executives).

FM: There are a few other characteristics of strong leadership development programmes. They are backed up by leadership development infrastructures such as forums where leaders can exchange, mentorship programs, apprenticeships, special projects. They involve senior leaders as program presenters or facilitators and as mentors to graduates. They explicitly teach organizational values and leadership perspective. They identify and support high potentials instead of trying to “fix” poor performers. And they measure leadership effectiveness.

You make a great effort to put a Canadian stamp on your research. Are there in fact certain leadership styles that can be considered Canadian and are there differences across the country?

AH: For the most part, interviewees think there is a distinct Canadian style. Many respondents contrast the Canadian and American leadership styles. They say Canadian leaders are less aggressive, more socially minded, and less driven by the bottom line.

FM: Other respondents describe the Canadian leadership style on its own merits. They use terms such as: steady, reliable, fair, professional, tolerant, service oriented, and focused on harmony. It’s an understated, collaborative style and it delivers the goods. It is prized on the international scene where a disproportionate number of Canadians lead world-wide organizations.

AH: Here’s an example. A Canadian leader abroad told senior executives that he would close their special dining room and that they would eat in the staff cafeteria. This simple gesture was a powerful symbol of the direction he envisioned for the new corporate culture.

FM: In our country, role models are not necessarily known outside of their field of endeavour or region. People are looking for national role models, particularly women and minorities of every kind. Many good things are happening in leadership development, but Canadians are not necessarily aware of them. As a nation, we can all benefit from each other’s experience in this field. Respondents feel that the inception of national institutions to foster research, sharing, and education would be extremely useful. We hope our research will inspire individuals, organizations, and all levels of government to take steps to enhance our Canadian leadership “bench strength.”

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