It's all in the mind.

George Harrison
Don't get in a Pickle, embrace your Age and Get Active

Don't get in a Pickle, embrace your Age and Get Active

Posted by martin.parnell |

On the cover of the current Kerby News, a 55+ newspaper, it states “Pickleball: a sport suited for older adults of all fitness levels”. Legend has it, according to Rita McGillivray, that a family, in Washington State invented the game because their dog Pickles, loved to chase whiffle balls. It was in fact invented by a former US senator, in the 1960s, as a fun game for his children, two years before they acquired their dog, Pickles. The game became very popular and was eventually introduced to Canada. 

McGillivray goes on to explain that Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Players use a round paddle (bat), with which they have to hit a lightweight ball, with holes in it, over a lowered badminton net. When my wife and I play tennis, we often see people playing Pickleball on the other court and, in winter, it’s a very popular indoor activity at our local leisure center. Most of the players appear to be in their senior years, as that front cover would suggest. 

However, I was surprised when I went on to read the article to see that, Jason Bridger, senior marketing manager of the Calgary Sport and Social club said the average age in their 30 teams is 30 and the Legends League is for the over 35s. Although Pickleball is, no doubt, suited to active seniors, it’s a great activity to be enjoyed by all ages. 

Personally, like that US senator, I think it’s a game for all the family and don’t see why children shouldn’t be encouraged to play. It just goes to show, preconceptions can be deceptive and one has to be careful what one reads into headlines. 

I have come across 80 year-olds who regularly run marathons and 30 year-olds who do no exercise and are much less fit. But, it’s never too late to start. Pickleball may not appeal to you and you may have tried other activities, like running or biking that you don’t enjoy, but keep looking. 

I checked out some of the activities at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sport Leisure Centre, here in Cochrane. Currently on offer they have not only the pool, with its various areas for all ages to enjoy and regular Aquasize sessions, but there is an excellent gym and you can drop into other sessions such as Badminton, Curling, Thai kickboxing, Zumba, various forms of yoga, lacrosse, indoor soccer and, of course Pickleball, and that’s not including the hockey and ice-skating, to be enjoyed during the winter months. 

If you think about it, many of these can be enjoyed by all ages, you just have decide what you’d like to do and give it a go. Obviously, some sessions are specifically geared to children, but do check into them. Don’t be put off by the preconception that your age, whether young or old, may be a barrier. 

If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Cochrane, check out the sports facilities in your local area and see what activities are on offer. The ones I mentioned are all scheduled for indoors, but whilst the weather is still good, you could always opt for a game of tennis, go outside and kick a ball around with the kids or just take a stroll around the neighbourhood and, while your about it, why not ask a friend or neighbour to join you, whatever their age.

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Like the ocean, life ebbs and flows with the occasional rip

Kamil Ali, Profound Vers-A-Tales
How to Reset your Goals and Swim with the Tide

How to Reset your Goals and Swim with the Tide

Posted by martin.parnell |

Like me, my wife, Sue took up running later in life. In 2010, at the age of 58, she ran her first marathon, the Queen’s City Marathon, in Regina. Fast forward a few years and she decided that she wanted to go back to Manitoba this year and run that same marathon, as it actually fell on September 10th, her 65th. Birthday. 

Training was going well until she developed a hip problem and fasciitis in her right foot. Despite the weeks of physiotherapy and cortisone shots, Sue’s dreams of the finish line were dashed and she had to accept her doctor’s advice and give up running, for the time being. 

Not being daunted by this news, Sue set to thinking what else she could do to celebrate this milestone.  She has been making the most of the new pool in Cochrane. Her love of swimming stems from living most of her life near the sea in Dorset, England, where, even as a schoolgirl, she would often go for a “quick dip” before breakfast. 

Sue’s no longer as fast as she used to be, but she loves to get in the pool and swim a few lengths, getting into a rhythm and clearing her mind. She decided, as she wouldn’t be running, to celebrate her birthday, she’d “swim her age” instead.  And so today, I joined her in completing 65 lengths of the pool (actually, it was 66, because if you swim up you need to swim back). 

Sometimes, despite all the planning, training and goal-setting, life takes a turn and your plans are thwarted, through no fault of your own. Instead of accepting defeat, sometimes you just need to change course, set new goals and take a different approach. 

This isn’t always easy. If you have set yourself goals and you are part-way through achieving them, it can be disappointing and stressful if you have to change track. In Sue’s case it made sense. She could have sought out more treatment, tried to run with an injury and caused herself more problems or accept the doctor’s advice.  But what if you are working toward achieving your set goals and someone else changes them for you? You may have a new boss, the company you work for may decide to change course and the goals you had may no longer seem appropriate. 

This is when you have to ask yourself “Are the goals to benefit me or the team?” Personal goals are something we should all set for ourselves e.g. to become more efficient, to hone our skills or simpler things like just getting to work on time. These should have a timeline and be achievable, but even these may have to be adapted due to events beyond our control.  The bigger goals are the ones usually set for us that tend to affect overall performance and may require cooperation from colleagues. They may be the ones agreed on when you were appointed to the job, or at your annual review. 

When these “goal posts” are changed don’t become dismayed, just ask for clarification of what future expectations might be and if they demand changes to your role in the workplace. If necessary ask for guidance as to how these might be achieved. Most importantly, be adaptable and look upon this turn of events to learn and apply new or different skills.

If you adopt a positive approach to change, be prepared to reset your goals and learn to go with the flow. Things will turn out swimmingly!

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The labour movement is people. Our unions have brought millions of men and women together, made them members one of another and given them common tools for common goals.

John F Kennedy
Remember the Pioneers as you celebrate Labour Day

Remember the Pioneers as you celebrate Labour Day

Posted by martin.parnell |

This weekend, Cochrane has been enjoying various ways to celebrate Canada’s Labour Day weekend. Events included pancake breakfasts, a rodeo, a dance and, as in many Canadian towns and cities, the annual parade.

Labour Day in Canada falls on the first Monday in September and, for many, it signals the end of summer. But, having looked into its history, I discovered that, what evolved into just another long weekend, began as a massive working class demonstration in the streets of Toronto. I decided to delve deeper and came across an article that shed more light on the background to Labour Day. So, I thought I’d share it; 

The First Labour Day by Joanna Dawson:

“In a time when workers’ rights are taken for granted and even workers’ benefits have come to be expected, it’s no wonder that the origins of Labour Day are confined to the history books.

Canada was changing rapidly during the second half of the 19th century. Immigration was increasing, cities were getting crowded, and industrialization was drastically altering the country’s economy and workforce.

As machines began to replace or automate many work processes, employees found they no longer had special skills to offer employers. Workers could easily be replaced if they complained or dissented and so were often unable to speak out against low wages, long work weeks and deplorable working conditions.

This is the context and setting for what is generally considered Canada’s first Labour Day event in 1872. At the time, unions were illegal in Canada, which was still operating under an archaic British law already abolished in England.

For over three years the Toronto Printers Union had been lobbying its employers for a shorter work week. Inspired by workers in Hamilton who had begun the movement for a nine-hour work day, the Toronto printers threatened to strike if their demands weren’t met. After repeatedly being ignored by their employers, the workers took bold action and on March 25, 1872, they went on strike.

Toronto’s publishing industry was paralyzed and the printers soon had the support of other workers. On April 14, a group of 2,000 workers marched through the streets in a show of solidarity. They picked up even more supporters along the way and by the time they reached their destination of Queen’s Park, their parade had 10,000 participants – one tenth of the city’s population.

The employers were forced to take notice. Led by George Brown, founder of the Toronto Globe and notable Liberal, the publishers retaliated. Brown brought in workers from nearby towns to replace the printers. He even took legal action to quell the strike and had the strike leaders charged and arrested for criminal conspiracy.

Conservative Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was watching the events unfold and quickly saw the political benefit of siding with the workers. Macdonald spoke out against Brown’s actions at a public demonstration at City Hall, gaining the support of the workers and embarrassing his Liberal rival. Macdonald passed the Trade Union Act, which repealed the outdated British law and decriminalized unions. The strike leaders were released from jail.

The workers still did not obtain their immediate goals of a shorter work week. In fact, many still lost their job. They did, however, discover how to regain the power they lost in the industrialized economy. Their strike proved that workers could gain the attention of their employers, the public, and most importantly, their political leaders if they worked together. The “Nine-Hour Movement,” as it became known, spread to other Canadian cities and a shorter work week became the primary demand of union workers in the years following the Toronto strike.

The parade that was held in support of the strikers carried over into an annual celebration of worker’s rights and was adopted in cities throughout Canada. The parades demonstrated solidarity, with different unions identified by the colorful banners they carried. In 1894, under mounting pressure from the working class, Prime Minister Sir John Thompson declared Labour Day a national holiday.”

Over time, Labour Day strayed from its origins and evolved into a popular celebration enjoyed by the masses. It became viewed as the last celebration of summer, a time for picnics, barbecues and shopping.

No matter where you find yourself next Labour Day, take a minute to think about Canada’s labour pioneers. Their actions laid the foundations for future labour movements and helped workers secure the rights and benefits enjoyed today.

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Believe in your heart that you're meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Being Passionate about More than a Game of Soccer

Being Passionate about More than a Game of Soccer

Posted by martin.parnell |

On a Saturday morning, I enjoy nothing more than going for a run with friends and then returning home to a bacon and eggs breakfast, followed by watching a Premier League soccer game, from the UK. This Saturday, Sue and I had travelled to the town of Wetaskiwin, to check out the Reynolds Alberta museum, which I highly recommend, and watch some NASCAR races at the Edmonton International Raceway.  

I didn’t do my usual run or have my bacon and eggs, but I still managed to catch most of a soccer game, in this case CrystalPalace v Swansea. 

At one point, the commentator remarked that attendance at the game was around 26,000 

Another Premier League team, Tottenham Hotspur, are currently based at Wembley Stadium, whilst their new ground is being built, and the capacity there is some 90,000.                 .

It struck me that it’s extraordinary how so many people can come together and share the  passion  of supporting 22 guys passing a ball around, in the hope that someone will manage to kick it into the back of a 8ft. high, 24ft wide net. 

It also struck me that it would be amazing if that same number of people could come together and share that same degree of passion for a different, common cause. 

And, of course, it’s not just in England. The same could be applied to fans of the Calgary Stampeders or Toronto Maple Leafs, just name a team and thousands of fans will be there to support their favourite team, on a regular basis, which is great. Given half the chance, I’d do the same. 

Imagine, though, if that same number of people decided to spend one Saturday or any day for that matter, volunteering for a worthy cause.

Now I don’t doubt that many of those spectators watching the game in London, probably do volunteer, but I also suspect that many don’t. 

In Canada, I have found that volunteering is far more common and, in fact, if you should attend a Canadian Citizenship ceremony, you will hear that it is made abundantly clear to new citizens of this country that they are expected to volunteer, in some capacity. 

If you have never volunteered do try to find an opportunity to do so, just a couple of hours a week or whenever you can spare the time can be a big help and there’s nothing quite like sharing a passion to help a worthy cause, to give back and make a difference. 

But, going back to the attendance numbers, wouldn’t it be amazing if that many people raised their voices, not to tell the ref he needs glasses, to sing about “forever blowing bubbles” or if you’re a Liverpool supporter, declaring “You’ll never walk alone”, but instead raised their voices in support of or to speak out about issues that affect us all. 

It really would be amazing and could make such an impact. So, if you’re a regular sports fan and support a particular team, take some time to consider if there might be a worthy cause to which you could bestow as much passion.

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Ah, but I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now

Bob Dylan
You are Never too old to Follow your Dream to the Finish Line

You are Never too old to Follow your Dream to the Finish Line

Posted by martin.parnell |

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am a little partial to running the odd marathon. Therefore, I was intrigued to read an article from CBC Edmonton’s Wallis Snowden, about Roger MacMillan, (photo credit) from Fort Saskatchewan. Roger celebrated his upcoming 80th Birthday, by running his 100th Marathon, in Edmonton, on August 20th. 

Not only do I admire him for reaching this milestone, but mostly for his attitude towards running and keeping active, particularly in later life. Roger completed his first full race at the age of 69 and has since completed several “big ones” including New York, and Dublin. 

It was then that he set himself a target of running 100 marathons before his 80th Birthday, which is on October 30th this year.  “Don't win the race, just finish it. You have to take it easy. I'm not a racer," Macmillan said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. 

Like me, he hadn’t really considered running, until something triggered his desire to run his first race.

In 2002, I was 47 and had never been a runner. However, I accepted a challenge from my younger brother, to run the Calgary marathon. My first run was 1km out from my house and 1km back. It was not a good experience and I realized I needed support and advice. So I joined a local running club and had soon completed my first 10km race.

For Roger, it was watching the achievements of a co-worker. "I was working at an office up in Fort McMurray and a guy kept coming in to work with running T-shirts on and I wanted one," Macmillan said with a chuckle.

"I entered a 10K race in Edmonton and I got my T-shirt. I couldn't walk for about a week, but I was hooked."

Macmillan wore bib number 100 when his children and grandchildren gathered to watch him cross the finish line at the Edmonton Marathon.

His message is clear and he advises other seniors to stay spry “a body in motion stays in motion.” he says, adding “you don't necessarily have to run marathons, but keep moving."

He’s absolutely right. You don’t have to take up running, a good walk will reap benefits for anyone, of any age.

Macmillan walks every day, 365 days a year because, as he says, “You’ve got to keep moving and hopefully live a little bit longer."

I knew he was a man after my own heart when I read that:

1. He took up running later in life.

2. He sets himself goals.

3. He tries to send a message about keeping active.

4. He knows that it’s not about winning, but the taking part.

Also, that this ex-pat celebrated after the big race with a nice cold pint of Guinness, which is precisely what I do, after all of my marathons and Ultra-marathons.

Cheers to you, Roger, a true inspiration.

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Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Learning to be Patient, in a High-Tech World

Learning to be Patient, in a High-Tech World

Posted by martin.parnell |

In 2008 the Town Council of Cochrane, where I live, recognised the need for a new swimming pool and many of the residents, me included were delighted. However, as costs escalated and the opening date was delayed from March, to June and then July, it sometimes felt like it was never going to happen. However, on Sunday July 30th our new leisure center was finally opened to the public. 

Last Wednesday, I went down for a swim and to check out the other areas. The facility is very impressive, another feature for Cochrane to be proud of and it was great to see so many people there, families, individuals, youngsters and seniors, all enjoying the facility. 

In total, the centre covers 150,000 square feet and includes retail space, a new curling rink which has six full sheets and three for junior players, and will be open for other uses in the off season. There are also fitness rooms, programming space and tenant space that will help bring SLSFSC as close to revenue neutral as possible. The pool, itself, contains a lazy river, leisure pool, hot tub, wave chamber, two slides, an eight lane pool for competitive swimming, warm water therapy pool and a small spray park. 

So, despite the setbacks with completion and cost of the project, in the end, it was well worth the wait and, as we know, that can be said of so many things. 

But, in this age of ever-advancing technology, it is easy to become impatient. These days, nearly everyone now has access to a computer and most people have phones to carry around with them, whereby they can receive instant texts, calls and emails and take a photo or video whenever or wherever they are. 

Gone are the days when you had to take your camera on holiday, reload the film and wait to get your pictures developed, in the hope that at least some of them have turned out OK.

You can get information about anything by pressing a few keys and have access to people almost anywhere in the world. Which is all good, in a way. 

Sometimes, though, having to wait for something isn’t a bad thing. It brings with it that feeling of excited anticipation and then the joy, when it finally arrives.  Even more so when it’s something we’ve worked for or maybe an item we’ve saved for. 

There’s an old saying, “Patience is a virtue...” and it is something that we need to remember and perhaps teach our children and grandchildren. 

Technology is advancing at a rate never seen before and I can’t even imagine what devices our grandchildren will be using come the 2030s. But, there will always be things that need waiting for and, hopefully, they will be able to appreciate the experience. 

After all, for our great, great, great - grandchildren, Santa Claus isn’t going to come any sooner!

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I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.

Ani DiFranco, singer, songwriter and businesswoman.
How to Celebrate the Diversity of "Taste"

How to Celebrate the Diversity of "Taste"

Posted by martin.parnell |

In Britain, they say “You either love it or hate it, there’s no middle ground. Along with furry handcuffs and snow globes, jars of the stuff are on the list of things most frequently confiscated from hand luggage, at London City airport. In fact, the UK airport recently declared an “amnesty”.

According to The Guardian newspaper, “In an unusual move, London City Airport is offering travellers the chance to swap any jars exceeding the permitted 100ml size for a travel-friendly 70g miniature.”  I would point out, that the confiscated jars and their contents are not wasted. They are being donated to local charity Community Food Enterprises for distribution to smaller charities in local communities

I’m talking, of course, about Marmite. 

Personally, I love the stuff, especially spread on a grilled cheese sandwich.

Along with my three sisters and two brothers, I was brought up with it being a constant in our lives and we all took to it, from an early age. 

But, it’s all a matter of taste and I admit it is an acquired one. 

“Taste” is a word we apply in all sorts of circumstances. Not only do we refer to having a taste in food, but also in  how we take our coffee, the way we dress, the books we read, the art we appreciate, the people whose company we enjoy, the list goes on. 

But, much as we can be quite specific in our taste for certain things, we also have to learn to be tolerant of the taste of others and the choices they make. 

It’s fortunate if you find a partner, whether personally or in business, who shares some of your tastes, but it’s also good to have some diversity. It broadens your outlook, can introduce you to new ideas and concepts and encourages you to explore areas you might not, otherwise have thought about. 

They say opposites attract and that can often be true. Take, for example, the case of film icon, Marilyn Monroe and intellectual playwright, Arthur Miller. Surely you could not find a more unlikely match. They met when during her filming ‘As Young As You Feel’ in 1951. He had made the trip west with friend and director, Elia Kazen, who was under contract with Fox and had some business with the studios.

Marilyn’s acting coach, Natasha Lytess recalled Marilyn telling her “It was like running into a tree! You know, like a cool drink when you’ve got a fever.”  Marilyn and Arthur married in 1956. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last, but that initial attraction was a force to be reckoned with and they both found some common ground that initially brought them together. 

You may not enjoy the same movies, you may not have the same approach to business practices, but it’s important to realize that diversity can be a valuable asset and open you up to a whole new world of ideas and relationships. 

So, if you’ve never tasted Marmite, why not give it a go?

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Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.

Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond
How to Climb your Mountain one Step at a Time

How to Climb your Mountain one Step at a Time

Posted by martin.parnell |

For the past two weeks, our 13 year-old granddaughter, Autumn, has been staying with us. She has come from the small town of Moose Creek, on the outskirts of Ottawa. 

Autumn hasn’t been to Alberta since she was very young and didn’t remember the mountains, so, on Sunday, my wife and I took her to Banff. 

She was amazed at what she saw, especially the mighty Mt.Rundle. She talked about how high it was at 2,948 meters and how hard it would be to climb. We compared it’s height to those of Mt.Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters) and Everest (8,848 meters).

 Having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in a time of 21 hours, in 2013, I was able to describe to her some of the challenges one might face, when climbing a mountain. I told her that, in the end, as with any daunting challenge, it all comes down to detailed preparation and “chunking it down”, looking at it in stages to be reached, one at a time, to reach your goal. 

It’s the same in business. Sometimes, a task can appear to be so overwhelming that it’s hard to get started, but, I believe almost anything is achievable if you take it one step at a time. Rather than be overwhelmed by the whole thing, look at it in doable “bite-sized” chunks. Set yourself a timeline and stick to it. 

When I was running my 250 marathons, in 2010, there were days when I was desperately tired, or I was coping with an injury or maybe the weather was against me. When you wake up to hear the rain pouring down or the paths are icy and slippery, it’s hard to get motivated. My strategy was to just tackle my day in 10 minute chunks, from putting on my running gear to having breakfast and making those first few steps, along the pathway. 

It was the same when, in 2005 I cycled the 6,500miles through from Cairo to Cape Town and, in fact, when I had finished, I wrote about it in my first book “How to Eat an Elephant”, which is, of course, one bite at a time. 

Another key element of tackling any task is preparation. If you are well-prepared and have all the tools required, you won’t waste time in the process. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for support and be open to delegating tasks which can be done by others. It’s all a matter of staying calm, keeping control and having the right attitude. 

Now, go climb your mountain!

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When things go wrong, don't go with them.

Elvis Presley
How to know when Giving Up is the Right Thing to do

How to know when Giving Up is the Right Thing to do

Posted by martin.parnell |

There was a time when, once I had begun reading a book, I felt obliged to finish it.

Needless to say, this led to some hours of boredom as I must have thought, albeit subconsciously, that not to do so would be “giving up”. 

That is no longer the case. I will always give the author the chance to engage me and have been pleasantly surprised, at times, when a novel or piece of non- fiction has made me have a change of heart and decide to carry on to the end. 

But. I am now quite happy to say to myself “This book’s not for me” and move on to something else. It’s the same with movies. I watch them mostly at home and so, if I have been watching for half an hour and am feeling restless, I will switch it off. 

The thing is, knowing when to call it a day and face the fact that something is not working for you. 

In business, we also have to be prepared to admit when something isn’t working.This can be very hard, especially if a lot of time and money has been invested.

There will always be tricky patches, when snags occur or fatigue sets in, perhaps there is a change of personnel or you come across unforeseen challenges, sometimes it’s just a case of persistence or finding ways to combat these issues and re-engage in a project. 

But what if you get to the stage when you realise that no matter what strategies you might introduce, it just isn’t working? 

In her 2012 article for the Harvard Review, “12 Guidelines for Deciding When to Persist. When to Quit,” Rosabeth Moss Kanter states:

“Persist and pivot, and the effort could go on to success. Pull out in the messy middle, and by definition the effort is a failure. The issue is deciding which direction to take.”

She then goes on to give set a questions you might ask yourself, or your team, to help you come to a decision;

  1. Are the initial reasons for the effort still valid, with no consequential external changes?
  2. Do the needs for which this a solution remain unmet, or are competing solutions still unproven or inadequate?
  3. Would the situation get worse if this effort stopped?
  4. Is it more cost-effective to continue than to pay the costs of restarting?
  5. Is the vision attracting more adherents?
  6. Are leaders still enthusiastic, committed, and focused on the effort?
  7. Are resources available for continuing investment and adjustments?
  8. Is scepticism and resistance declining?
  9. Is the working team motivated to keep going?
  10. Have critical deadlines and key milestones been met?
  11. Are there signs of progress, in that some problems have been solved, new activities are underway, and trends are positive?
  12. Is there a concrete achievement — a successful demonstration, prototype, or proof of concept?” 

Once these issues have been addressed and the questions answered, you may be guided as to how to move forward, what action to take.

Kanter advises, “If the answers are mostly Yes, then don’t give up. Figure out what redirection is needed, strategize your way over obstacles, reengage the team, answer the critics, and argue for more time and resources. Everything worth doing requires tenacity.

If the answers trend toward No, then cut your losses and move on. Persistence doesn’t mean being pig-headed.

These suggestions may not help when I’m deciding which book to pick up next or which movie might be worth recording, but, hopefully, they will help when you have a similar decision to make, in business.

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Never ruin an apology with an excuse.

Benjamin Franklin
Do the Right Thing and Admit when You're Wrong

Do the Right Thing and Admit when You're Wrong

Posted by martin.parnell |

“We all make mistakes”, is a very true statement. There isn’t one of us who, at some time or other hasn’t made an error, whether it be in judgement or action, nobody’s perfect.

When you are the boss, it’s probably harder to admit when this happens, as you are the person others look up to, you are expected to have all the answers, know what to do in every situation and always get things right.

So, what should you do, when it’s you who makes a mistake?

"Admitting that you're wrong is a sign of strength," says Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid (Hudson Street, 2013). "It takes character and leadership to do it well."

It also sets an example for your employees, creating a culture where they feel free to experiment and fail. That freedom allows for greater creativity and quicker solutions when people make mistakes.

He suggests you practice these five tips to help you own your mistakes in a way that strengthens your company:

1. Take ownership. 
As the leader, you are responsible for what goes on at your company, so you need to own the problem and the solution. "Never make excuses," Winch says. "That doesn't strike confidence in a leader."

Commend employees who take ownership of their mistakes as well. By showing respect and support for them, you create a culture that addresses mistakes without blame. "Taking responsibility when things don't work is more conducive to growth," Winch says.

2. Be sincere. 
When you deliver an apology, your audience will be looking for signs of a canned or stiff delivery, and they'll take them as signs that you don't mean what you're saying, says Kurt Dirks, a professor of leadership at Washington University who studies successful apologies. To win them over, simply be yourself.

"Trying to go by a script only undercuts the potential impact," Dirks says. "Be who you normally are." That honesty -- in your words and your delivery -- will show that you actually mean it.

3. Show what you've learned. 
A good apology explains what happened and why. Start with why you made your original decision and the logic that led to that choice. Next, explain what you learned about why it didn't work and how that new information will inform how you move forward. If you haven't figured out the lesson yet, then you're not ready to deliver the apology. "You should feel empowered," Winch says. "If you don't, then you haven’t figured out all the fixes, opportunities, and messages of hope yet."

With any mistake, no matter how small, there is a way to prevent it from happening again. Even if the mistake was simple -- like not thinking through an idea -- you can improve your thought process so it doesn't happen next time. Sharing your lessons will also show your employees how to think about mistakes and move forward.

4. Make proactive changes. 
Talk is cheap, so people need to see that you will actually follow through. When you outline your plan for change, mention a step you've already taken toward those ends. "The more specific the better," says Dirks.

For example, you might mention a new process you instated to improve communication or a new approach you're taking in product development. “As long as you can explain how you're rectifying what went wrong and own it, then you'll come across as a person in a position of strength," Winch says.

5. End on a high note. 
When you talk about a mistake, acknowledge anyone who might have been harmed in the process. Sometimes, the harm is overt, like in the case of BP's oil spill, but often it's more subtle, like when employees invest hope and time in a project that fails. "If anyone has been harmed, show empathy," Winch says.

But always bring it back to what you learned and how you plan to use this experience as an opportunity to grow. "You want to end with a message of hope in every situation," Winch says.

The ability to admit when you're wrong, as a leader, is your greatest opportunity to learn and grow. Admitting fault in the right way can make your employees and company stronger.

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Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs
The Tim Hortons Dutchie Marathon-Food for Thought

The Tim Hortons Dutchie Marathon-Food for Thought

Posted by martin.parnell |

On July 1st it was Canada’s 150th birthday and I wanted to celebrate.  An idea started to form the week before and it all stemmed from a little treat that my wife Sue brought home from Tim Hortons, a Dutchie doughnut. My love of the Dutchie goes back a long way. As a lad in England, once a month, my dad took me to the car auctions in Exeter. On the way  we’d stop at a Wimpy’s restaurant and dad would buy me a milky coffee (now called a latte and twice the price) and a glazed-covered doughnut.

Immigrating to Canada in 1977 I stumbled across its Canadian counterpart and my relationship with the Dutchie began. Then, one dark day in 2013, I heard the news,  “Tim Hortons removes the Dutchie from its counters”. Over the intervening years I have tried the chocolate dip, Boston cream and apple fritter but they weren’t the same.

Then, in the last week of June, Sue came home with the real deal. Apparently, Tim Hortons had decided to bring the tasty delicacy back, for Canada’s birthday. As I was enjoying the raisin speckled delight an idea popped into my head “Why not run a marathon fueled by Dutchies?” The marathon part I had already decided on as I wanted to pay homage to one of Canada’s greatest heroes Terry Fox. But I would now also pay homage to one of Canada’s greatest doughnuts, the Dutchie.

I had tried something similar in 2010 during “Marathon Quest 250” when I ran 250 marathons in one year in support of Right to Play. Mackay’s ice cream in Cochrane was one of my sponsors and I ran the distance fueled on cones and water.

So, I needed to do my due diligence and went to Tim Hortons website to check out the nutritional facts on the Dutchie. I found one contains, calories 240, Sodium 200mg, Total fat 6g, Saturated 3g, Total carbs 40g, Fiber 1g, Sugar 17g, Protein 5g, Calcium 2% and Iron 15%. The numbers looked good and I figured that for a 5 hour marathon I would need 5 Dutchies.

I set off at 6.30am on a cool but clear July 1st morning. My route was a 1 km loop around my house and along the Bow River. After 5km I had my first half-Dutchie, microwaved for 10 seconds to give it that freshly baked taste. Around and around I went. My running buddy Wayne joined me and he ran 16 kms or one and a half Dutchies.

During the run I kept up with social media sharing such things as my favourite movie: “A fist full of Dutchies”; favourite book: “The Girl with the Dutchie Tattoo”; favourite song: “If I had a million Dutchies”; favourite quote: “Make the Dutchie great again”; favourite monument: “Stone Henge Dutchies” and favourite TV show: “Dutchie is the new black”.

At 4 hours 49 minutes and 16 seconds the Tim Hortons Dutchie marathon was done.

As I soaked in the hot tub, I thought how lucking we were to live in a country where I had the freedom to do something as wacky as the Dutchie marathon.

Eight months ago I had run a marathon in Afghanistan in support of girls and women. They were running for freedom.

Happy Birthday Canada.

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Everyone enjoys being acknowledged and appreciated. Sometimes even the simplest act of gratitude can change someone's entire day. Take the time to recognize and value the people around you and appreciate those who make a difference in your lives.

Roy T. Bennett
Reflect on the Number 150 and Celebrate those Closest to You

Reflect on the Number 150 and Celebrate those Closest to You

Posted by martin.parnell |

Many people in Canada are currently celebrating the 150th. Anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act) which confederated Canada, on July 1, 1867. We are seeing and hearing the number 150 everywhere

This brought to mind a posting on the website of my friend, Alan Stevens, entitled YOU'RE DUNBARRED! In which, he wrote:

“On the train to and from Scotland last weekend, we rattled past the beautiful Scottish coastal town of Dunbar. It put me in mind of a number. A hundred and fifty to be precise.

Anthropologist Professor Robin Dunbar came up with a theory twenty five years ago about the number of relationships we can keep up with. The number, known as Dunbar's number, is estimated at around a hundred and fifty. He based this on research into the size of ancient villages, Roman legions and nomadic tribes, but also upon the capacity of a region of the brain known as the neocortex. So how does this relate to social networking?

On the face of it, the Dunbar number seems ridiculously low. Many of us have thousands of contacts on social networks, and we exchange messages with them constantly. However, if you consider the number of people that you know really well, and have probably met at some point, it looks a lot closer to a couple of hundred. The implication is that most of your important interactions take place with a relatively small number of people.

If you think about your social media use, you will probably find that there aren't that many people you know and trust really well. Professor Dunbar also suggests that we have a close inner circle of just five people, and networks of up to 1500 who we recognise facially, but don't know that well. In short, it's worth remembering that despite having many thousands of friends and followers, the close circle that we know well is really important. Those are the people we should really value and spend time with.”

Whether it’s within our family, our close circle of friends or colleagues, relationships matter.

We must value the people who are there for us in good times and bad, put up with all our foibles are honest with us and who know us best.

So, at this time of reflection and celebration, let’s all take a moment to think about the people closest to us and celebrate our relationships with them.

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Communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life.

Catherine Pulsifer - Author
How to be Most Effective at Getting your Message Across

How to be Most Effective at Getting your Message Across

Posted by martin.parnell |

Earlier this year, I was invited to give a presentation at this month’s TEDx YYC. 

On Friday, I stood on the stage at the Jack Singer Hall, situated in the Arts Commons building in Calgary and gave a talk entitled “Life is a Relay”. Whilst rehearsing for this type of event, I am always aware of the need to integrate passion, humour, anecdotes and facts, into my talk. 

Along with these are other aspects to be conscious of, such as expression, body language and overall presentation. It all comes down to what I want to say, how I’m going to say it and how it will be interpreted, by the audience. 

In the work place, it is becoming increasingly common for a person to send an email, text, tweet or some other form of modern communication, which is OK for certain messages to get through, however, I would argue that, whenever possible it is better to speak to someone directly, either by picking up the phone or seeing them in person. 

In 2011, Anthony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review, in which he stated: 

“Like many readers, I have experienced too many unproductive strings of back-and-forth emails or texts that should have stopped in round two, but continue. The problems with trying to resolve sensitive matters over email or text are quite obvious:

1. It is hard to get the EQ (emotional intelligence) right in email. The biggest drawback and danger with email is that the tone and context are easy to misread. In a live conversation, how one says something, with modulations and intonations, is as important as what they are saying. With email it is hard to get the feelings behind the words.

2. Email and text often promote reactive responses, as opposed to progress and action to move forward. Going back to the zero latency expectation in digital communications, it is hard for people to pause and think about what they should say. One of my colleagues suggests not reacting to any incendiary message until you have at least had a night to sleep on it, and always trying to take the higher ground over email. While by definition reactive responses occur in live discourse, they are usually more productive.

3. Email prolongs debate. Because of the two reasons above, I have seen too many debates continue well beyond the point of usefulness. Worse, I have experienced situations which start relatively benignly over email, only to escalate because intentions and interests are easily misunderstood online. When I ask people if they have called or asked to meet the counterpart to try and reach a resolution, there is usually a pause, then a sad answer of “no.”

Email is one of the greatest productivity contributors of the past two decades, and social communication platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have fundamentally changed and positively enriched the means and reach with which we are able to interact. Yet we have to recognize when such digital channels cannot substitute for a live conversation.

Email and social networking modes of communications have created a generation of casually convenient new connections, and even helped us deepen existing relationships, but they can rarely replace the real world. As digital communication accelerates the pace at which people form and broaden relationships, it is also decreasing the rate at which people are willing to resolve issues professionally and directly in-person. The next time you experience an issue over email, ask yourself if it is something that would be better served by a real conversation.”

It is also important to remember that, when someone communicates with us, in person, we are able to read their body language, expression and tone of voice. According to researchers M Mahdi Roghanizad and Vanessa K Bohns, in an article for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, published this year, a new study has found that people tend to overestimate the power of email and are, in fact less persuasive than they think over email and overestimate its power.

Highlights of the research showed: People underestimate compliance when making requests of strangers in person. In two studies, we found the opposite pattern of results for emailed requests. Requesters overestimated compliance when making requests over email.

This error was driven by a perspective-taking failure. Requesters failed to appreciate how untrustworthy their emails would seem to others. Bohns concludes that  "A face-to-face email is 34 times more successful than an email". 

So, I would suggest that, if possible, next time you want to have a discussion, present an idea or share a point of view with someone, why not pick up the phone or, better still, arrange to speak to them in person.

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To reach the goals of your life, you need discipline, you need luck and you need something as important as these two: Vacations!

Mehmet Murat ildan, author and playwright
How to enjoy a Guilt-Free Vacation

How to enjoy a Guilt-Free Vacation

Posted by martin.parnell |

It’s that time of year when many of us are looking forward to our summer vacation. A time to relax with family and friends or go off and pursue a passion.

However, for some people, the thought of taking time off work can create a great deal of stress. On the website Be Well At Work, Suzanne Gelb, PHD, JD, points out some reasons why they might feel this way;

  1. People are afraid of being replaced or they’re afraid of their work piling up while they’re gone.
  2. By taking vacation time they worry that the boss might think they’re not pulling their weight. They need to keep working to prove how valuable they are to the company. 
  3. They think they’ll miss too much work.
  4. They’re afraid they’ll get penalized for taking too much vacation time and be passed over for promotion in the future. 

It is worth considering that, taking a vacation is extremely good for you—and for your employer, too.

In a study conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, researchers found that taking time off from work can boost your productivity, engagement, and overall happiness.

But even with all the facts swinging in favour of taking that long-overdue trip, it can still be difficult, at times, to get over your “vacation guilt.”

In a blog entitled "Holiday Vacations: Your Time to Rejuvenate" Robert Half gives some tips for enjoying your time off;

1. Create an action plan

Consider all of the potential projects that may need attention while you’re away. Write down an instruction sheet for those serving as backup so they know what to expect and how to handle specific situations. Also provide the names and numbers of contacts who might need to be reached. If you think someone will need to access your computer or other systems in your absence, speak with your manager or IT support to determine the best way to share security passwords with the person.

2. Spread the word

Give plenty of notice to key contacts that you will be out of the office and let them know who has been assigned as your backup. The more prepared people are for your absence, the less likely you will receive last-minute requests on the way out the door.

3. Wrap up your work commitments

Do your best to keep the last few days before your holiday break free from meetings and non-essential activities. That way, you can concentrate fully on cleaning out your inbox, wrapping up projects and tackling any final assignments.

It sounds obvious, but some workers find it hard to complete every task before breaking up for holidays. Make it your goal to wrap up loose ends before your last day, informing colleagues where you’re at with projects then switching on your out-of-office reply on all devices.

It might mean making a checklist a few weeks before the holidays start or allocating a certain period of wrap-up time each day in the lead-up to your break, but it will be worth it.

4. Prepare for your return

Remember that a key part of vacation preparation is getting ready for the days when you’ll be returning to work. Consider which projects will need immediate attention when you arrive. Also allocate time to check messages and meet with your boss and anyone who served as a backup in your absence so you can get updates on what you missed.

5. Step away from the smartphone

One of the challenges is that most of us use our smartphones to keep in touch with not only our work life, but our private life too, so it’s a slippery slope. Once you’re using your phone, it’s hard to switch the work mode off altogether, so for some people not using it at all is the best option.

If necessary, share your phone number with someone who will use it only in a true emergency - not when an employee has trouble remembering the time-saving Excel tip you shared three weeks ago. Also, resist checking in with the office. The more you stay in touch with work, the less of a break you will have. If you must check email and voice mail, limit it to once a day.

 

So, whatever way you choose to spend your vacation time, prepare well beforehand, try to leave work behind and think how much more enjoyable it will be, not only for you, but those with whom you share your precious time off.

Enjoy! (and don’t forget the sunscreen)

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Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

Voltaire
Get the Best Answers by preparing the Right Questions

Get the Best Answers by preparing the Right Questions

Posted by martin.parnell |

Media Coach, Alan Stevens is sometimes asked to write speeches for other people. He says that it's a tough task and, in order to do it well, “You need to be able to get inside the head of the other person, to understand the way they think, the impression they like to create, and the phrases they like to use”.

He informs us that many politicians employ speechwriters. Most of Ronald Reagan's great orations were written by his chief writer, Peggy Noonan. Even JFK's "ask not what your country can do for you..." actually came from the pen of Ted Sorensen.

Stevens explains that it’s not enough to just re-work what a person says, you have to go deeper and try to see things from their point of view. When writing a speech for someone, he will go to see them speak, or watch videos of their speeches. Then meet with them, and ask them a set of questions.

When I looked at those questions, it struck me that answering them would be a valuable exercise to do in a range of situations, e.g. when preparing to write your own speech, when making a presentation or pitching an idea.

If you are able to answer these questions, not only will you be prepared, but you will be more confident in your approach.

These are the questions that Stevens asks:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is your key message?
  • Can you explain that to me simply?
  • Why is this important to your audience?
  • What challenges do you expect?
  • What is the practical application?
  • Can you give me some stories and examples?
  • Are you sure of your position?
  • What do you want to leave out?
  • Why is this important to you?

If you are a journalist, you could use most of them when conducting an interview or writing a story.

It might be worth keeping this check list and referring to it until you get into the habit of asking yourself these things, each time you prepare a speech or written piece. 

If you are in a mentoring role, you might consider the words of Simon O. Sinek, a British/American author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant, who said “Leadership isn’t answering the questions others ask. Leadership is asking others to answer their own questions.”

And it’s worth remembering that, whether you are speaking or writing, your subject line or opening sentence will be the hook to capture attention.  You want people to sit up and take notice. Answering these questions can help you with that too.

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It isn't all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.

Gene Roddenberry
From the Beatles to the Mouse, timely Innovations

From the Beatles to the Mouse, timely Innovations

Posted by martin.parnell |

Fifty years ago, in 1967, the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles, was released.

It was the band’s eigth studio album and became an immediate commercial and critical success. It spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK albums charts and 15 weeks at number one in the US. The record sold 250,000 copies in Britain in its first week (500,000 by the end of June)

The album and its cover were praised for its innovations in music production, song writing and graphic design, bridging the cultural divide between popular music and legitimate art. In May of this year, in an article on the “Biography” website, Laurie Ulster wrote: The studio’s technology was an important piece of Abbey Road’s creative puzzle. At that time, producers only had four tracks available to work with, and every time they transferred the recording to another tape, they sacrificed some of the quality. The constant improvisation needed to move beyond the restraints of the era spurred the Beatles, along with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick, to new creative heights as they found innovative and strange ways to get to what they were after. That spirit of experimentation is as much a part of the album as the tracks themselves. 

I decided to take a look back at what other innovations and events came into play that same year. Here are just a few:

During February of 1967, NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 3 spacecraft The main purpose of the Lunar Orbiter 3 mission was to photograph the surface of the Moon in order to find and analyze potential safe landing sites for future missions in the Surveyor and Apollo programs. The cone-shaped craft also measured radiation and micro-meteoroid impact. The mission lasted for a total of 264 days and it ended in October of that year, after taking 149 medium resolution and 477 high resolution photographs. 

From April through to October of 1967, “Expo 67” was held in Montreal, Canada 

to create the 900 acre site, Montreal built new islands and added to existing islands on the St. Lawrence River, where they then built the 90 pavilions. The expo had 62 participating nations and had over 50 million visitors, making it the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century.

In the summer of 1967, in New York City, CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) opened its doors. Featuring 117 exhibitors showcasing technology like transistor radios, stereos and black and white televisions, it began a 50 year legacy of innovation.Held in Las Vegas every year, it is the world's gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies and where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.It has been the launch pad for new innovation and technology that has changed the world.

Also, in 1967 Douglas Engelbart filed for the patent on the computer mouse, which he had invented in 1964.  His creation was made from wood and had two gear-wheels that sat perpendicular to one another so as to allow movement on one axis. When you moved the mouse the horizontal wheel moved sideways and the vertical wheel slid along the surface. 

Moving on to this year, here are some of the winners of the 2017 Edison awards:

Diamox by Element Six:  Diamox is a new type of electrochemical cell, using boron-doped diamond electrodes, for treating highly contaminated industrial wastewater without chemical additions. It is a simple on-site modular solution for industry that is cleaner for the environment and can enable safe direct discharge or reuse of process water.

Molekule by Molekule: Molekule has created the world’s first molecular indoor air purifier. Where other air purifiers trap pollutants in filters and eventually re-release them into the air, Molekule is the only air purifier to eliminate all indoor air pollutants (e.g. allergens, VOCs), leaving the air clean and safe to breathe.

Sherwin-Williams Paint Shield is the first EPA-registered microbicide paint that kills certain harmful bacteria on painted surfaces. Representing a game-changing advancement in coatings technology, Paint Shield kills greater than 99.9 percent of these select bacteria within two hours of exposure on a painted surface.

GameChanger Q-LED Sports light by GameChanger is a high-performance lighting system designed for sports venues, with a revolutionary form factor and Internet of Things connectivity at half the cost of competitive systems. Unlike its competitors, GameChanger is bar shaped with proprietary optics which makes it more efficient in its lighting patterns and run wireless from mobile devices.

And if we look into the future, here are some innovations to look forward to, according to Seth Archer, on the Business Insider website:

According to Yigal Nochomovitz, an analyst at Citigroup, eye diseases will affect around 21 million people in the US by the year 2020. If a new way for sustained treatments is developed, it could usurp the current shots and eye drops.  Small implants could deliver drugs to a patient's eye for an extended period and could expand the possible marketplace by $13 billion in the next 15 years,

Robots have traditionally performed repetitive tasks that are easy to program. With new advances in robotics in a variety of fields, industrial robots have a larger base of technology to pull from, and they could do tasks that require more collaboration and communication.

Bendable screens, new materials, and augmented reality may all be contributing factors in the next wave of technology hardware design. Phones could start looking like wallets with folding screens, and TVs may be as thin as paper and transportable by simply rolling them up and taking them with you.

I wonder what innovations have come into everyday use, in your lifetime and which ones you would like to see developed, in the future.

How many of the innovations we have seen developed are likely to last for the next 50 years or is technology moving at such a rate that nothing that is new now will last that long? What innovations might we see in the arts? Who knows, maybe someone will come up with a 2017 album to rival the longevity of Sgt. Pepper.

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A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Laughter, the Best Medicine, in the Right Dosage

Laughter, the Best Medicine, in the Right Dosage

Posted by martin.parnell |

In an article published by the University of Kentucky, studies confirmed there is some truth in the saying “Laughter is the best medicine” and that “Studies from around the world have shown that an atmosphere of humour results in better patient cure, less anesthesia time, less operating time, and shorter hospital stays.  It gives examples of some of the researched benefits of laughter;

• Blood Pressure – People who laugh heartily, on a regular basis, have a lower standing blood pressure than does the average person. When people have a good laugh, initially the blood pressure increases, but then it decreases to levels below normal.

 • Hormones – Laughter reduces at least four of the neuro-endocrine hormones associated with stress. These are epinephrine, cortisol, dopamine, and growth hormone.

• Immune System – Clinical studies by Lee Berk at Loma Linda University have shown that laughter strengthens the immune system by increasing infection-fighting antibodies.

 • Muscle Relaxation – Belly laughs result in muscle relaxation.

• Pain Reduction – In 1987, Texas Tech psychologist Rosemary Cogan used the discomfort of a pressure cuff to test the medical benefits of laughter on pain management. Subjects who watched a 20-minute comedy routine could tolerate a tighter cuff than those who had watched an informational tape or no tape at all.

 • Brain Function – Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information.

 • Respiration – Laughter empties your lungs of more air than it takes in, resulting in a cleansing effect – similar to deep-breathing. This deep breathing sends more oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body.

 • The Heart – Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

 • A Good Workout – Laughter can provide good cardiac, abdominal, facial, and back muscle conditioning, especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercise.

• Mental and Emotional Health – Humour and laughter are a powerful emotional medicine that can lower stress and dissolve anger

It appears there is a good case to be made for engaging our sense of humor in all aspects of our lives.  However, not everyone shares the same sense of humour. So, how can we encourage humor in the workplace and ensure that it is used appropriately?

In his book, “The Humor Advantage”, speaker and author, Michael Kerr endorses the importance of humour in the workplace; ‘Having a sense of humor in the workplace is not about telling jokes, being a stand-up comedian, or being the office clown. It’s not about being an extrovert or practicing fake enthusiasm. It’s not even always about being funny (I can already hear you sighing with relief). Having a sense of humor is about adopting a spirit of playfulness and fun. It’s about appreciating the incongruous events and absurd moments that flitter by us every day. It’s about embracing a sense of balance, a sense of perspective, and a sense of humanity. And like our other senses, humor is a way of interpreting and filtering the events in the world around us.”

Kerr emphasizes the fact that he is not promoting any behaviour that might be construed as unprofessional, but that being “professional” does not mean that we need to “ downplay or even banish any semblance of fun and humor at work. Having a sense of humor is also about being authentic. After all, rarely are we more real than when we laugh. We are never more human than when humor shatters the professional masks we sometimes wear to reveal the true human being lurking beneath the corporate façade. This is likely why studies show a positive correlation between humor and trust: We tend to trust people more when we sense they are the real deal, and humor helps us appear more vulnerable and more genuine. He goes on to say “humor is a comfort, a catalyst, and a connector that any front line employee, sales rep, leader or even CEO, can include in their toolkit to help them achieve better results. And it’s a powerfully effective way to inject some life into your business brand that will help your business stand out from the herd to be heard like never before.”

In business, a good sense of humour might give you an advantage.  In his article, Making Sense of Humour in the Workplace, on the Canada One website, Steve Bannister tells us that “Many businesses are now beginning to realize that the punch line can benefit the bottom line. Robert Half International, an executive recruitment firm, conducted a survey of 1,000 executives and discovered that 84 percent of respondents felt that workers with a sense of humour do a better job. Another survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humour to those without. Employers are looking for the same characteristics which are inherent in those people who have a good sense of humour, namely; more creativity and productivity, fewer absentees and sick days, and better decision-making capabilities.

In his view, the essence of developing a good sense of humour is not taking yourself too seriously and keeping a positive attitude. Bannister explains what he calls “The Four Senses of Humour” and illustrates thepros and cons of using the various types;

1. Self-Deprecating Humour - Poking fun of oneself can provide a much needed relief from tense situations. Conversely, an excess of this type of humour may make other people uncomfortable and lead to serious low self-esteem issues.

2. Put-Down Humour - This type of humour involves teasing, sarcasm and ridicule and it tends to be a popular form of humour around the water cooler. If aimed at politicians, actors etc. it is harmless and can help to form social bonds, although if aimed at fellow workers, it can become a form of social aggression.

3. Bonding Humour - People who exhibit bonding humour are generally fun to be around. They tell funny jokes, lighten the mood and partake in witty banter. Bonding humour can either provide a sense of togetherness or it can isolate individual employees.

4. Observational Humour - Observational humour is the healthiest of all of the four types. People who use this type of humour have a unique outlook on life. They are always able to see the bright side of things and they don't take themselves too seriously. This enables them to deal more easily with daily stress in their life at work and at home. Observational humour is the only type of humour which can be enjoyed alone. As a result, studies linking humour with health have tended to concentrate on this type of humour.

Bannister then goes on to give advice for using appropriate types of humour, in the workplace;

  • Suffocate sarcasm - It has too much potential to be taken the wrong way in a work environment.
  • Justify your jokes - Don't just memorize the latest joke making the rounds on email. Tailor your jokes to the individual and keep them clean.
  • Be frugally funny - Making a funny comment to diffuse tension during a meeting is a great idea, but don't overdo it.
  • Join a friendly neighbourhood - Hang around funny friends. Spend time with those who are upbeat and avoid negative people whenever possible.
  • Giggle with the gang - You can be seen as having a great sense of humour without ever telling a joke. Just listen to those around you and share in their laughter.
  • Get with it - Remind yourself to have fun every day. Place humorous cartoons and quotes in your personal workspace.
  • Partake in periodic personal putdowns - This can put others at ease and you don't risk offending anyone. Be sure to keep a light mood and don't make it a habit.

Why not try to find ways to integrate humour into your working day? It could be of benefit to you and your colleagues in all manner of ways, as long as it is used appropriately.

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Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help! You know I need someone. Help!

Lennon and McCartney
How to get by, with a Little Help

How to get by, with a Little Help

Posted by martin.parnell |

At 6pm on Saturday May 27th. I will be at the start line of the Confederation 150km ultra, which is one of the events taking place during this year’s Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. 

This once-in-a-lifetime running event is in celebration of Canada’s 150th Anniversary which coincides with the 2017 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon Race Weekend.  The event website explains “This overnight 150K solo will be on a certified and looped course and will be open to a limited field of solo runners and run simultaneously with the relay. There will be multiple start times and athletes will self-seed so as to complete the first 100K in under 13 hours and as close to 7AM (50KM start time) as possible.” I can’t wait.

I’ve completed numerous marathons and Ultra-marathons and my training had been going well. But then, 11 days ago, I felt a twinge in my right thigh. Experience has taught me, there are some things you can “run off” and, at other times, you just have to rest up, self-treat with a regime of icing and heating the area and, if necessary, seek professional treatment.

That is how, last Friday, I found myself lying on the table at my Chiropractor’s, having Deep Tissue Therapy and Manipulation. After several good night’s sleep, my thigh is feeling much better and, with a little TLC, I’m confident it will get me through next weekend.

No matter how well things might be going, whether it’s in sport, at work or just in life in general, there are always those little setbacks, waiting in the wings, to make an entry and change the course of things.

Therefore, it’s always best to be prepared for these occasions. In sport, I’m fortunate to have a great team of people I can go to, my family doctor, Bill Hanlon, my chiropractor, Greg Long and my physiotherapist, Serge Tessier, all excellent professionals who practice out of Cochrane.

When it comes to business, I’m pretty much on my own, but if the occasion should arise, I know I can consult my speaking coach, Jane Atkinson, my friends at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS) and my wife and business partner, Sue. I also get weekly advice from a friend of mine, who is a very experienced and well-respected media coach, in the UK, Alan Stevens. His weekly newsletter is always full of great tips and advice.

So, who are your “go to” people? Do you have professionals who you can rely on to give great support and advice?

If you are in business, always keep a look out for people, in your field who share their knowledge. There are so many people out there, blogging and podcasting on subjects too numerous to mention.

But, be selective and look for people with a proven track record. 

Something else to consider is whether you have an area of expertise you could share with others.  Maybe you could be someone else’s support.

In business, as in life, it’s all about knowing when you need help or support and not being afraid to ask for it.

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Clear your stuff. Clear your mind.

Eric M. Riddle, STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter
Spring, a Time to Clear Your Mind

Spring, a Time to Clear Your Mind

Posted by martin.parnell |

Recently, I was in the doctor’s waiting room and picked up a magazine that had a detailed article on how to go about “Spring Cleaning”. It even went to the extent of providing a “check list” in order that one could tick off the tasks, as each one was accomplished. 

It got me thinking that this is an exercise that could also apply to your job. 

Maybe it’s a good time to take stock and have a clear out in that area too. It might be the really simple things, like ditching all those broken pencils that are in your desk drawer or de-cluttering your desk. It could be there are some bigger things; getting rid of all those manuals that are out-of-date, shredding that pile of paperwork you no longer need, getting around to all that filing you’ve been meaning to do. Set aside some time and get them done. 

You might need to tackle some larger issues, for instance, are those old policies up for review? Is that handbook out-of-date? Is there stuff you should have available online, rather than in paper form?  Do you need to be more organised? Getting rid of things can be cathartic, whether they are taking up space on a desk, in a drawer or on a laptop. 

That, of course, only applies to the practical side of things. But there’s another, important part of our lives that might need an overhaul and that’s all the clutter in our minds. Is all that stuff in your head preventing you from being productive? 

In an article on theYour Story website, entitled “Three ways to declutter your mind and maximise productivity”, Sonal Mishra suggests three ways that will help you make space for a stress-free, emotionally-calm and productive environment: 

Make a to-do list

You don’t need to store everything in your head. Whether digitally or on a paper, write down everything that comes into your mind. Choose a tool – it can be a notepad on your desktop, a smartphone, or even an app on your phone. Now use this device to store the bits and pieces of information that you need to remember. From paying bills to forming new marketing strategies and motivating the workforce, writing down your agenda for the week will help you find respite from the constant chatter inside your head. While writing down each point, observe and evaluate the significance of every task. 

Review and Compartmentalise

 It is difficult for two objects to occupy the same space at the same time. If you choose to clutter your mind with negative thoughts or irrelevant ones, motivational and positive thoughts will have to take a back seat and wait for their turn. This is definitely not the best practice, especially if you want to walk the path of success. You have to choose between negative and positive thoughts. Differentiate between productive and unproductive ones, and get rid of the ones that aren’t doing anything good for you. Spend five minutes every day to note down at least five things that you are grateful for. Appreciating what you have, which could be anything from a supportive family to an enthusiastic team will help you see the brighter shades of your life. 

Stop Multitasking

Stanford University research confirms that a spreading of our focus over too many activities is not in our best interests, stating that multitasking decreases productivity by as much as 40 percent. Since our brain is wired to only focus on one thing at a time, multitasking adversely impacts efficiency and performance in the long run. The brain lacks the ability and the capacity to perform more than two tasks successfully.  Follow your to-do list and stick to the schedule. While performing these steps, turn off your phone notifications and other distractions to minimise interruptions. Cell phones, e-mail, and all the other cool and slick gadgets in our daily lives can cause massive losses in our creative output and overall productivity. Your immediate surroundings play an important role in your mental health. 

Make sure you keep your room and workspace clutter-free as much as possible. By sticking to a routine, reorganising priorities, and evaluating the environment, you can avoid burning out and stay focused on both short and long term goals. 

Now’s the time. Make a list, give yourself a time limit, make it achievable and just do it. 

You’ll feel much better for it.

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The trick is to understand that you are simply talking with your audience, sharing your thoughts. You’re not arguing. You’re not selling. You’re having a conversation. You’re giving them a gift.

Peter Coughter, Author
How to make your Presentation Pitch Perfect

How to make your Presentation Pitch Perfect

Posted by martin.parnell |

In my last blog, I mentioned the 5 minute video clips, I receive, every Monday, from Alan Stevens, The Media Coach. Last week, he gave advice about giving a keynote speech, with reference to William Gladstone’s “Six Rules for Speaking.”

In a career lasting over sixty years, William Ewart Gladstone, served as Britain’s Prime Minister four separate times (1868–74, 1880–85, February–July 1886 and 1892–94). Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister; he resigned for the final time when he was 84 years old and is consistently ranked as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers.

After listening, to Alan’s reference to Gladstone, about giving a good speech, it struck me that those same rules might apply, when you are pitching an idea to your co-workers, your boss or a client. 

Here’s how: 

Rule 1.  Use simple words and short sentences. 

Rule 2.  Make sure that your diction is clear. 

Rule 3.  Know your subject. 

Rule 4.  Test your argument. 

Rule 5.  Make sure the facts are clear. 

Rule 6.  Watch your audience. 

Most of these are self – explanatory.  If your pitch is too complicated or if you are mumbling your words, people lose interest. Speak clearly and precisely.

You need to be prepared to answer questions, so it’s essential that you know your facts. Also, this will give you confidence when making your pitch. Don’t get caught out because you haven’t done your research. If, however, you are asked something that you have no answer for, be honest, don’t try to bluff, people will see right through it. It’s far better to say you honestly don’t know, but tell them that you can find out and when you can get back to them with an answer. "Staying positive and not getting on the defensively will always lead to a more natural and approachable cadence to your pitch,” writes Ben Schippers for TechCrunch. If you get a question you aren't comfortable answering or don't know how to answer, don't make something up or skirt around the issue. Schippers suggests responses like these:

  • "That’s a great question, give me a day or so to do some research and I’ll report back."
  • "I haven’t approached my research from that perspective, I’ll be sure to it -- great suggestion."

Rule 4 suggests you test your argument on a different audience. This may not be easy, You may not want to present your idea to colleagues beforehand and your friends and partners may have no idea about how your business works, but you might be able to get someone to sit for a few minutes and listen to part of your pitch, so that you can get some kind of reaction on the way you present it. 

Rule 6 is important because the way your audience is reacting, even if it’s only one person, may indicate that they are interested in what you have to say, would like more detail, have heard enough to give you a response or perhaps are even becoming bored and you have to change your approach. Another reason for watching your audience is because it is not a good idea to have your eyes down, reading from notes. Also, if you are using PowerPoint, make sure you are not turning your back and looking at your slides, have the board or any charts you are using, situated that you can glance at them, sideways, but stay facing your audience. 

 If you are going to use slides, make sure they are attractive, there’s nothing worse than having slides that are just a lot of print and only say exactly the same as you are. You may as well just give out photocopies of your pitch and that’s not a good idea. But, be careful not to make your slides distracting, you want them to be relevant and not take away from your message. In his publication "The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that win Business" Peter Coughter states, “The words on the screen are usually a distraction to the audience. If you’re reading the words, by the time you’ve gotten around to mouthing the words, the audience has finished reading them and is getting bored by hearing you say them.” 

If you are pitching a new piece of technology or an item, make sure your pitch is interactive – give the person/people you are pitching to, something to touch or hold. Research shows the longer we touch or hold something,the more we feel ownership over it, and the more we want it. 

There are other aspects to making a good pitch that are important, that will help you to be successful: 

Be confident – if you show confidence in your idea, it will resonate. If you are naturally funny, include some humour in your presentation, but don’t force it.  Being amusing can be engaging, if it comes naturally, but trying to crack jokes that don’t work can be really off-putting. 

Be fully prepared – not just in what you are going to say, the message you want to deliver it, but the way in which it is presented. If you are using any form of technology, be it a computer, screen, Skype, make sure it’s all working beforehand. 

Make sure you know the points of your pitch off by heart, just in case something should happen e.g. your technology fails, you lose your notes, you sat on your glasses – if you know the main points really well, you can use them to jolt your memory and the rest should flow from them. 

Giving any sort of presentation can be nerve-wracking. Whatever you do, stay calm and  keep a cool head. You thought this was a good idea, so why shouldn’t other people?

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