Values Based Leader Interview: Stephanie Jackman

Aristotle gave us the great maxim, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. This maxim has lent itself to teamwork in sports, business, community building, probably any scenario in which individuals must come together and combine their efforts for the good of the collective.

The same could be said for the career of a leader, and how year by year their legacy compounds rather than adds from one year to the next. Stephanie Jackman, founder of REAP Business Association, is such a leader.

Passionate about sustainability and creating a social impact through businesses that are “forces for good”, Stephanie takes a long term view in terms of the kind of business and collective that she’d like to create. In her words, “an individual business trying to balance profit and social impact has a lot going on. A collective takes a long term view in that greater impact can be achieved if many businesses are telling the story, not just one.”

This view makes sense. One ‘conscious capitalist’ may have to choose between profit or social impact on some decisions, which could threaten the business or lessen its ability to affect positive change. The association Jackman launched in 2008 has over 150 businesses that share a commitment to Respect the Earth and All People (which is what REAP stands for). With a critical mass of values aligned businesses networking and referring to one another, profits don’t suffer and the impact is multiplied rather than compromised.

As far as the size of that impact, here are just a few statistics on the impact REAP businesses have in their local economy and environment each year;
• $21 billion in annual revenue;
• 8,300 Calgary area jobs;
• $5 million in local charitable donations;
• 93,000 employee volunteer hours;
• 11,000 tonnes of CO2 diverted from the atmosphere through green power purchasing; and,
• 9.5 million kgs of waste diverted from Calgary landfills.

As impressive as this may be, getting more than 150 business owners to buy into an idea that’s become a movement takes time. 10 years and counting, to be exact; but all great causes start with a visionary and a bold (perhaps even crazy) idea. For Stephanie Jackman, the inspiration for what would later become REAP came from friend and mentor Lynne Twist, author of “The Soul of Money”. After hosting one of Twist’s Soul of Money workshops, Stephanie found herself making a public declaration to “hospice out the old era of business based on trade-offs to midwife in a new era of ethical business”.

In addition to Twist, Jackman was inspired by Margaret Bourke-White — the first American female war journalist (who also was on the cover of the first issue of Life magazine), and the first foreign photographer to take pictures of the Soviet ‘five year plan’, implemented in a war-threatened Soviet Union between 1928 and 1932. Jackman admired Bourke-White’s courage to enter such hostile environments, to be a trailblazer and defy gender stereotypes.

Jackman’s other mentors and heroes lived closer to home. From her mom, she learned the importance of unconditional love and having a supportive community. Her father taught her discipline and innovation. Having these lessons and their support, she felt the confidence as an entrepreneur to go, try, risk and even fail. What wonderful lessons for all of us parents who want to see our children go and live their dreams later in life!

Thinking back to when she started REAP, Stephanie recalls that the initial challenge was to build something that business leaders would find valuable, something unique that they would pay for, then finding those businesses that shared the values of REAP. If the first decade was about building the business case for REAP, the next decade will be about scaling the impact that a value-based network has on its members, the community, and local economy.

As REAP continues to grow, larger collaborations are occurring. (For example, at the time of publication REAP has been asked to host a gathering of triple bottom line businesses to provide feedback on the impact of environmental policy to the Minister of Environment and Parks.) Stephanie sees this as crucial for continued growth and advancement of a ‘business as a force for good’ mentality.

Jackman is excited about the prospects REAP and other values-based leaders face today. She sees the coming together of profit and social purpose as accelerating, with a foreseeable future wherein this will be the only way. The way Jackman sees it, we define life balance from a holistic point of view, taking into account the whole person, so why should we look at business any other way?

It’s not hard when speaking with Stephanie to pick up on her passion and enthusiasm for leadership with a purpose. In fact, she defines leadership as, “inspiring people to get engaged. A great leader can help people see the gifts they have to bring to the [idea/challenge/initiative] so that there is more engagement and impact.”

Despite her impressive career, numerous awards and accomplishments, Jackman remains humble. She wouldn’t profess to advise others on how to run their businesses, but when asked what advice she might give her younger self, it’s all about faith. “Don’t worry so much, follow your heart, believe in your vision, you’ve got this.”

When asked if she would do anything differently if given the chance, Jackman replies “yes”, but concedes that the decisions that got her here, right or wrong, led to learning and so therefore are not a source of regret. Her biggest early mistake, she admits, is thinking she’d get it right the first time. It now gives her great fulfillment to meet with REAP members or other leaders embarking on their journeys to share her experiences, lessons, and even mistakes. She sees it as a great leadership opportunity to pay it forward.

Given the impact Stephanie has had on business in Calgary and Alberta, I’m excited on behalf of all Albertans to see what the next 10 years brings!


Personal Awareness (the 360)

We’ve all heard the old adage in business, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

This is often very true, as networking is key and decision makers (be it a potential client, a potential supplier, a potential employer) often prefer to deal with who they already know. Before we spend any time on the topic of networking though (if you are keen to learn from the best when it comes to networking, I recommend reaching out to Catherine Brownlee), it is imperative to start at home.

In the mirror.

With you.

How well do you know YOU?

Do you really know your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Do you know what your greatest people skills are? Have you ever thought about what your most consistent contribution to a group project or team dynamic might be? If you are truly committed to personal and professional growth, and you have the guts – wouldn’t you like to know what your ‘blind spots’ are? Do you wish you knew what people wanted to see more or less of from you?

There are numerous sources [like here and here for starters] citing the correlation between personal awareness and leadership effectiveness. From the above scholarly articles to the ancient Greek aphorism, “know thyself”, the concept of self-awareness or knowledge of self has been documented, and thus, studied – for millennia.

Whether you are an employee looking to create more opportunity for yourself, a leader looking to climb the corporate ranks and join the C-suite, a manager looking to drive employee engagement and buy-in, or a sales professional seeking to ‘show up’ as your best and most likable self- the link is clear. High levels of self-awareness correlate to high levels of performance and effectiveness in groups and with others.

So the million dollar question becomes – “how do I gain such insights?”

The short, bad news, hard-to-sell answer is years of personal and professional development, reflection, exercises, conversations, mistakes, courses, and experience (both good and bad).

The good news is we can shorten that time dramatically and reduce the associated pain through a powerful tool known as the 360 degree leadership peer review. On average at InSite we take 1 leader a month through this process, and the results never cease to impress – if not amaze. When well designed and executed, the tool has the power to uncover:

• Your leadership ‘brand’ – what it is those led by your experience through your leadership
• Your greatest professional contribution assets; and from there – what sorts of jobs or environments you are most likely to thrive in
• How others perceive your values
• What others want to see more and less of from you
• What you need to improve on if you want to see better results
• What you are really good – if not great at, and how this could be the key to an amazing career path
Before I build this tool up too much, see an example of what we provide for our clients as an example;

Values your peers would like to see you exhibit more often
1. Self-discipline & patience (5 responses each)
2. Trust (4)
3. Perseverance, commitment, decisiveness, and well-being (all with 3)
4. Mission focus, community involvement, positive attitude, vision, listening, and conflict resolution (all with 2).
[Your answers Self-discipline, accountability, well-being; highly correlated]

Trends from above:
A. See it through A-Z; stay focused & disciplined every step of the way
B. May have a blind spot around engaging, involving, getting the best from others

Leadership Style
1. Visionary (23 pts)
2. Connector (21 pts)
3. Subject matter expert (19)
4. Authoritarian (15)
5. Coach (13)
6. Delegator (10)
7. Evangelical (7)
8. Servant leader (6)

While this is of course a brief snippet, you can see just 2 paragraphs of what is typically a 7 – 10 page report. Although this report takes a lot of back end work to generate, and a skilled & experienced coach to debrief, it’s remarkably simple to understand – and all users have a vested interest in the content, because it’s about them!

As stated earlier, the 360 is but one of many tools that can bring about personal and professional development through greater personal awareness; but it is one of the most widely used and widely trusted tools in use today.

If you’d like more information on how to go about scheduling your 360 degree review, please contact me at and I’d be happy to discuss setting up your secret weapon to personal mastery and success!

“I am Not an Entrepreneur”

hate my job“But I’m just not an entrepreneur”.

You’d be surprised how often I hear that phrase as a business coach. You might not be surprised, as a coach, how many people I meet, and you might not be surprised how many of those people I meet that are unhappy.

I meet a lot of people who are unhappy in their work, unhappy with their pay, unhappy with the level of meaning in their lives, and unhappy with the number of options that seem to be available to them to make a change.

As of January 2017 there are still a great number of laid off or unemployed Albertans (300,000+ according to many best estimates). As such, there are a great, seemingly equal number of Albertans who feel lucky to have a job, even though they dislike (and maybe even hate) their jobs. It’s an interesting paradox. Your neighbour has been laid off, so you feel guilty complaining about hating your job, but every day you feel your soul dying a little bit more.

Admit it, if you haven’t been there, you know someone who is there right now!

Getting back to the point of this article, many disillusioned workers feel more disheartened when they consider the notion of working for themselves if they haven’t done so before, thinking it’s not in their skill set, or even in their DNA. Why is this?

I propose we have an unrealistic idea of what entrepreneurship is, and also – what it isn’t. When I lost passion for my previous career, I delayed starting a business, as the notion of a coaching practice took a year to plan. It wasn’t until I did a 360 degree review that coaching as a passion and career hit me in the face. At first, my mind went straight to starting a business – any business, and I felt lost because I didn’t have any great ideas.

This is where a great many of us (based on my research, experiences, and many conversations, at least) have a less-than-accurate view of what it means to be an entrepreneur. My experience (personally and in working with those considering starting a business) is that many would-be entrepreneurs never venture down that path because they think they need to invent the next big thing, or because they’ve never run a business previously, so they don’t know how (true) and think they won’t be good at it (could be totally false).

The latter argument sounds a lot like that vicious cycle facing recent graduates, “I can’t get a job because I have no experience, I have no experience because I can’t get a job”. The fact is, most of us just start (with a solid idea, solid plan, and at least some financing, mind you).

One of the truest maxims of becoming an entrepreneur is that you jump first, and develop your wings on the way down.
This may sound like the secret is to throw caution to the wind, and I am warning very strongly that is not the case. You have to do your homework, you have to know your market, know your product or service, you have to know your customer’s needs (and problem you can solve), and you need to work your ass off. All things considered, however, starting a business is much like getting married or having a child – if you wait “until you’re ready” – you’ll never do it.

Surrounding yourself with great mentors and an executive or leadership coach (or better yet, those who do both) can improve your chances, but there are zero guarantees in business and many ‘sure things’ have closed their doors. This is not to discourage anyone, quite the opposite, it’s to bring to attention the realities so that you walk in prepared.

The last notion to explore and explode is the limiting assumption that many yet-to-be-entrepreneurs tell themselves. They often hear someone utter the phrase ‘self-employed’ or “I run my own business”, and they assume that A) that other person is successful, and that ipso facto B) that other person is different than them.

Just like the neighbour with the nicer house & faster car may not be happier, so it is with business. We know nothing about that other person’s skill, tenure, business model, or balance sheet, so do yourself a favor and don’t assume that they are a success and by comparison you are a failure.

By that same logic, don’t rule yourself out as an entrepreneur either, unless you;
• Are highly risk adverse
• Crave security
• Perform at your best specializing in a compartmentalized role rather than wearing many hats.

No different than horseback riding, surfing, painting, or any other skill – you might just be a natural as an entrepreneur if only you give yourself the chance to develop wings on the way down!

Happy to grab a coffee and discuss whether there’s merit to your business idea and help you increase your chance of success by the way!

Turn off Autopilot to Take off in 2017!

take off

With a New Year right around the corner, it’s only natural for most of us to reflect on the year that was, take stock of our goals and our lives, and set our hopes for different and better outcomes for the next 365 days.

While this is natural, a learned behaviour, and a healthy practice, most people end up doing much the same thing year over year which doesn’t do much to produce different results. Our friend Einstein famously quoted, “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity”.

Insanity may be a bit harsh, but let’s agree that if we have our own operating system set to ‘autopilot’, we’re probably not navigating new flight paths. That’s exactly what a lot of us end up doing as we go through our annual evaluation & reset, only to face our share of disappointment and unachieved goals; only to get down on ourselves for our lack of effort, and then repeat the cycle next December/ January.

To avoid this unwanted hamster wheel, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite tips around planning, goal setting, and productivity for this time of year (or any time).

  1. Start with your goals. Your goals are your compass in life; they position your choices, your actions, and often your priorities. Either we are being stretched by our goals, or we are easily lured into the trap of sleep, eat, work, TV, repeat. Start with goals for next year, but go bigger! Have your written your bucket list? Does it have personal and professional goals? Goals around what you’d like to experience, where you’d like to travel, family goals, and goals about giving back? They’re your goals – don’t be stingy, take a few hours and write down all the great stuff you’d love to do over the next few decades
  2. A year is a long time, but the older we get the faster they seem to fly by. Be realistic with what you can achieve in a year, but don’t “sandbag” your goals to make their attainment too easy, either.
  3. Use a structure for planning your year that includes all of the elements that are important to you. Set goals for 2017 for business and personal (which you wish to further subdivide to family/ relationships/ health/ wealth/ interests). Failure to plan on the personal side leads to an inevitable lack of balance, and that’s not your boss or your business’s fault.
  4. Break the big goals into ‘bite-sized chunks’. For instance, if your goal is to save $10,000 towards a home purchase for the year, you would need to put away $2,500 each quarter. If your goal was to run a marathon by October, and in January you’re only running 5k at a time, you should be comfortable running 10 K’s by April, and ½ marathon distance by July at least so that you set yourself up for your big goal by October.
  5. Once the big goals are broken down into smaller goals or steps, they can be broken down from quarterly milestones into weekly action items.
  6. Once your big goals are extrapolated into weekly to-do’s, they should be in your planner/ calendar/ whatever system you use to stay organized.
  7. Once you are placing your to do list in your weekly calendar (along with appointments for both business and personal), we recommend planning each week the week before, on Thursday afternoons. By Thursday afternoon the current week is far enough along that you start to know what has to show up on next week’s schedule, but it’s not Friday when we’re already one foot out the door and we often rush our last few items to pick up kids, meet friends, or get dinner started.
  8. Review each day – take 10 minutes to reflect on what got done, and adjust tomorrow’s plan based on what didn’t get done.
  9. Prioritize your daily tasks based on urgency and importance, and alignment to your top overarching objectives. In business we never move forward towards our goals if we’re always putting out fires, and in our personal lives it’s hard to move towards deep fulfillment when we’re always occupied by cleaning, getting groceries, taking our kids to soccer, or catching up on our favorite shows. At least some of our time has to be spent on moving forward with long term objectives, no matter how busy we think we are.
  10. Share your plan with your inner circle (and even those who you may influence). Your friends and family will get awful tired of hearing how busy you are, unless you let them know what you are busy doing. Instead of frustrated or alienated, they may be inspired and ask to join you on some of your adventures. Beyond sharing your plan with your inner circle, be sure to include the most important members – your family and those friends who feel like family – in the planning process. Shouldn’t your spouse have a say in the family goals for the year, or where you travel?

Those are our favorite 10 tips for setting ourselves and our clients up for success. For more tips on staying on top of your personal and professional game, and maximizing your chance of success for your 2017 goals, email and let’s make 2017 more like flying an F-14 through the Grand Canyon and less like autopilot over the same stretch of real estate we always navigate.

Cheers to the best of the season and a great year ahead folks!

Your Greatest Untapped Resource


“This changes everything!”

“I can’t wait to get back to work!”

“When can we get started?!”

As a business and performance coach, I LOVE the energy and newfound enthusiasm that clients find after a transformative session, after they are reminded and re-energized with what is truly possible instead of being focused on what they may have been experiencing in the moment.

But what leads to these powerful moments, and as importantly, what prevents them from happening more often?
In most cases, my friends, the answer lies hidden between the leaders ears.

As Aarush Kashyap put it, “One can perceive me only with his limited vision. A droplet can’t perceive the extent of the ocean”. And so it is that our perception becomes our reality, and our reality determines our beliefs of what is possible, what is impossible, what is likely (and therefore a worthwhile measure) and what is unlikely (and therefore a gamble or unnecessary risk).

One of our clients has a cousin who refurbishes antique furniture for a living. He takes his time and does a painstakingly great job at bringing antiques back to life and in most cases, making them look better than they ever have. After many unsuccessful trade shows, one in which he sold zero products, he decided to ask people why they weren’t buying, and was shocked to learn that everyone felt his prices were too low. He was anxious at the average price tag of $3000 per rustic masterpiece, and thought no one was buying because his prices were too high. His reality had been “there is no market here, I create masterpieces no one can afford”, whereas his customer’s reality had been, “this can’t be a masterpiece if it’s only $3000”. He raised his prices to $5000 and sold out!

It would be wonderful if that was the mistake all of us were making in business – undervaluing our time, talent, and product or service. The truth is, that does happen a lot, but it’s oversimplifying and perhaps altogether missing the lesson.

The lesson is that there could be another possibility. There could be another price to set your products or services. There could be a different (read: better) market for your business. There could be a different strategy to take to meet your objectives. There could be a different way to motivate your team, or a different person to deliver the message to your team so that it is better received.

In short, there could be a way to reach your objectives, even when all you might be experiencing is failure, marginal results, and poor returns. Our experiences (our understanding) tell us one thing, which repetition may have validated; however our understanding may be limited away from unique and innovative approaches that simply don’t match our style of thinking.

This is really the value of feedback. Having a team that you put in place to make you better, not tell you what you want to hear. This is why companies assemble a board of directors, why great leaders seek out mentors, and why firms like ours exist in the first place.

Although you may not have met your most creative, innovative, or resourceful self, the great news is – that resourcefulness isn’t too far away and a great coach can help you access that untapped potential fairly quickly.

What goldmine might you be hiding?

Help on Hiring

I write this post both as a resource for my business coaching clients looking to expand their teams, but also to the 2 different laid off workers support groups I help, so that the candidates (real people with mortgages, bills, children, and dreams) might ‘show up’ more as I see them and less as a number on an application form – good luck to you both!

Help on Hiring

So you’re about to expand you team – congrats! Whether this is your first hire or your 500th, it’s always good to have a few tips, reminders, and tools to ensure you start your next great team member off the best way possible. In our experience, the following strategies help improve the likelihood of hiring “A Players” or “right fits”.

Know What You Need Going In

No matter how well your business is doing, and how back-logged you might be with orders, you don’t just need ‘a heartbeat’ when it comes to your next team member. The demands of the job, the nature of your industry, and the wants and needs of your customers all play a part in what type of team member (employee or contractor regardless) you need the most. If your brand promise demands that orders go out with minimal turnaround time, efficiency and work capacity will be high on your list of skills needed in a candidate. If trust-based relationships are what you promise your customers, perhaps sales numbers from their past job aren’t the best benchmark for you to hire them, but instead look at how highly tuned their listening skills are and whether or not they truly care about their customers.

Assess Cultural Fit

“John just didn’t fit here” – have you ever said or felt that about a past colleague? That doesn’t make John a bad person, but a well-defined culture knows what it is, and knows what it isn’t. If ‘team’ is one of your core values, hiring the next Wall Street shooting star might be disastrous. If ‘innovation’ is a top value of the organization, leaders have to be careful not to hire A-type managerial personalities, especially in roles requiring facilitative efforts that pull the intelligence of the group, not just one smart person. If the team you have thrives in an anti-corporate environment, embrace that and look for hard-working rebels who might not have fit in under more traditional systems. The values of an organization are more than just 4 buzz words on a plaque in the boardroom; they are litmus tests for deciding who does and doesn’t fit on your team. After all, no team is perfect for everybody, and it is okay (sometimes it’s better) to appear highly undesirable to certain types of employees.

Disseminate Work History Trends

One question I always ask is “why did you leave your last job?”.

If you are hiring someone with more than beginner work experience, try asking them why they left their last 3 – 5 jobs, and see what kind of trends emerge.
 “My boss and I didn’t see eye to eye”
 “The culture there was a real pain”
 “I hated my coworkers”

The above might be an extreme example, but maybe instead of everybody else – maybe, just maybe – they were the problem!
Trend-establishing questions are great when relating to themes like ‘proudest accomplishments’ or ‘rate your old boss’ or ‘if you could change one thing about your last company’. You start to learn about the candidates priorities, and about ways in which they be hard-wired (good or bad) that you’re unlikely to change as their new employer.

Find Creative Ways to Observe ‘Raw Skills’.

“Raw skills” are what’s left when you take away a professionals ability to prepare, plan in advance, or provide a scripted answer. Two examples that illustrate what I mean;

As a Fitness Director I used to ask potential candidates, for their 3rd and final interviews, to take me through an exercise regime. 5 minutes before we were about to start, I would let them know my goals and injuries. If they wrote down a plan, I’d always ask if I could see it and then promptly throw it in the garbage. If they could deliver under those challenging circumstances, they were a real pro and they were hired.

As a General Manager for a large corporate health and retail giant, I needed to hire a community outreach professional. Someone who would spend 60 – 75% of their time outside the office generating leads and partnerships (as well as goodwill) in the community. I took 2 candidates to lunch (1 at a time). Behind-the-scenes, I set up a mock interview with the owner of the restaurant. Both of the candidates already worked for us, as this was an internal posting. After some small talk, the owner of the restaurant would come by and say something like, “thank you for meeting me, Stan tells me you have some creative ways our businesses can work together” and then he would sit down beside them. Brutal, I know, and I likely wouldn’t go this far again, but wow did it ever work to flush out the right candidate!

Get Relevant Input

A mentor of mine once told me he always tried to find a mutual reference, one not listed on their resume. After all, why would you put someone on your resume who was going to say negative things about your performance? Any time I was ever able to use this technique, either because I knew their old boss or someone who worked at the candidates last company – the results were always astounding! Either you’d get instant conformation that the candidate was a rock star, or, in a few cases, I found out that they should have been in jail!

It is important to note that there are laws in place for good reason to protect employees’ privacy and those need to be obeyed and respected. I simply mean if you own a company or are in a position to hire other people, then by now you probably have a decent professional network, and asking a few questions of your peers can go a long way.

“Cash or Coaching”


InSite Performance Coaching Referral Program

At InSite Performance Coaching, we believe that the greatest compliment anyone can give in business is to refer their friends, family members, and others whose trust they’ve earned – to a provider they trust. It is with this gratitude, and appreciation of what it takes to make a trusted referral – that we created our client referral program.

“Cash or Coaching” is both an incentive and an appreciation program, and it’s very simple. For every client you refer to InSite Performance Coaching, you will receive 10% of the value of their initial purchase as cash, or 20% of that initial package in coaching. If you refer someone who spends $1500 on their initial package, you’ll get to choose between $150 in cash, or $300 worth of coaching – it’s that simple!

It gets better from there – you don’t even have to be an existing client of InSite Performance Coaching to benefit from “Cash or Coaching”! Refer us a client who does sign up, and we’ll pay you or you can become a client with your 20% of the value of your friends package credited to you for free coaching!

Our services are outlined on our website and all referrals can be directed to – thank you for considering us and trusting InSite with your network!

The Beauty of Adversity


Losing sucks. I don’t want to spend time with anyone who enjoys losing, and I can’t say I would want to spend much time with someone who tolerates losing either. Failing, losing, sucking at something (be it golf, tennis, or baking; all of which I do suck at) – I hate them all.

So why title a blog post “the beauty of adversity”? Well my friends, it’s really quite simple. Whether you believe in God, Allah, the Divine power of the Universe, or any other holy deity or power larger than ourselves – the fact is there is something greater at work than the ecosystem of home, work, family, friends, play, and volunteerism that we see every day. I believe that most people, given a decent upbringing and a fair shot- can become intelligent and hard-working and that they can go on to contribute something to the world. And I also believe that 100% of us will stumble along the way, fail (more than once), be tempted to quit, and be frustrated many times throughout the journey.

I know that some of us will chase the wrong dream; either because we’re afraid to chase what we are truly passionate about, or because we think that following the yellow brick road is what we are supposed to do.

Whether due to our relative naiveté (in the grand scheme of things), or due to our stubbornness that results from working so hard, I believe that we sometimes need a gentle shove to see a different perspective. Other times, we need a massive kick in the ass.

Vernon Law said it best, “experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”
Law’s brilliant quote is at the heart of why I say there is beauty in adversity.

If you can take the challenge, the adversity, the ass-kicking that life is handing you…
If you can do that and not quit…
If you can look in the mirror and be honest with yourself about whether or not you gave your best shot, and then look in your heart to find the strength to give it one more shot…
If you can struggle through the ups and downs and the ugliness (if not terror) that is the process…


In my life, being bullied as a youth led me to the strength to stand up for myself and for others.
Nearly breaking my neck in football led me away from a path that didn’t have much of a future left and into a career I was passionate about for 18 years.
Failing in my job at the end of those 18 years led me to rethink what I was passionate about which led me into a whole new career I am even MORE passionate about!
Hitting rock bottom, being broke, homeless for a month, and having no goals to look forward to led me to set some goals and eventually a full blown encyclopedia of a bucket list, a portion of which was published through newspapers nationally to inspire others to write theirs!
Being dumped by a girl I was set on marrying made me re-evaluate what a relationship should be, what I put into it, and what I should expect from the other person; all of which I needed to learn or I wouldn’t have the wonderful wife that I do today.

In short, all of my greatest failures and most trying challenges in life have led me to my greatest victories.

Is it fair? No. Does that matter? No. Your challenge – the very thing you are hating and wishing would go away at the snap of your fingers – is trying to teach you something, and it is trying to shape you into who and what you need to be.

Human nature is such that we will tend to get comfortable which is a stone’s throw from complacent and lazy.
I know that you are smart enough to realize that a life of leisure and laziness will not produce profound abundance for you, nor will it help others. From that very simple understanding, it isn’t much of a stretch to realize that the more you put into life, the more you get out of it. Have you ever considered that there may be a flip side to that coin? That the more life puts into you, the more life gets out of you?

Well there, my friends, is the kicker. Life wants you to show up big and make the world a better place through your gifts. You may not be playing on a big enough scale, and so life is going to hammer away until you are chiseled into the tool that life [God/ Universe/ etc] needs you to be.

It is a beautiful concept, and while we may not sign up for the process willingly, we never regret the results of self-betterment.

I hope that your life has at least enough adversity to create as much beauty as you can handle. And if you’re going through that beauty right now, what are you learning? How are you being shaped, and what are you supposed to be shaped into? Those are much more useful questions than ‘why me?’ or ‘when will this end?’

The Elevator Pitch


We’ve all heard the term ‘elevator pitch’. Just 17 years ago, Tom Peters described the ‘elevator spiel’ as your 2-minute opportunity to pitch your company’s CEO on why your project matters as you rode to the top floor. By 2015, according to Business News Daily that window had shrunk to 30 seconds, and I am going to go out on a limb and suggest 10. Ten seconds or less to tell the world what you do.

Is that fair? No.

Is it enough time to adequately summarize a lifetime of experiences, education, knowledge and wisdom? No.

Does it still surprise you, in 2016, that life isn’t fair sometimes? I doubt it.

Then it would seem we all have 2 choices – lament and wish the world was more fair, where people took the time to read the book cover to cover before judging it…
…or we adapt and we sharpen our axes and go to work being as concise and as precise as we can be about how we offer unique value to the world.

It takes (a lot of) practice, and it takes (at least some) creativity, but ANYONE can come up with a positioning statement; a clever elevator pitch; that informs and intrigues those we encounter in a way that helps them remember us, if not want to learn more.

The first tip I usually recommend is to get real up close and personal with your purpose. Why do you think you’re here? Why were you born where and when you were born, to the parents you were born to? Our life’s story has a tremendous impact on how we think, how we see the world, and what we value. Parents who grew up poor tend to either spoil their kids or place enormous emphasis on teaching them the value of a dollar. Leaders who had authoritative, even abusive bosses often end up creating company cultures that place employees as high on the priority ladder as profits. Our parents or grandparents who survived a world war and the Great Depression valued security more than the ability to pursue their passion in the workplace, and for very understandable reasons.

Once you know your purpose, the next step is to take an inventory of your most valuable skills. Be specific – are you skilled with numbers, or is your true skill budgeting, or being able to uncover the trends that are going on in your business and relate them to strategic direction? Are you good at selling, or are you actually best at reading people and creative problem solving (in a way that manifests as a natural at sales)?
Once you know what you’re great at, and why it matters (how it relates to your purpose), the next piece is to uncover your target market. Who, specifically, do you most enjoy helping, or are best suited to help based on your purpose and skills? This is important because the right skill driven by a deep purpose can still be the wrong fit. Imagine Warren Buffet, with all of his financial wisdom, trying to give advice to a group of 14 year olds who’ve just earned their first paycheck. Could he give them great advice? No doubt. Would they listen, or understand his valuable wisdom? Maybe, maybe not. Would he enjoy working with this particular demographic? Only Mr. Buffett would know, but I think you can see the potential disconnect.
So it is for the rest of us…

Why are we are? What are we (or what could we be) great at?
Who do we most want to help?
After you answer these 3 questions, it’s time to put your marketing/ creative hat on. Instead of “I’m a real estate professional with 30 years of experience specializing in suburban starter homes right up to estate homes”, one might consider, “I’ve been helping families find the next home they’ll cherish at every stage of life for 3 decades”.
You might also opt for an even simpler version. Taken right from the elevator pitch exercise I give my clients, “I’m in the paper business” is a lot less intriguing than “I help people’s ideas come to life”.

It’s also important to remember that your pitch might not be “one size fits all”. Networking expert and headhunting guru Catherine Brownlee recommends customizing your elevator pitch for a few common scenarios, whether it be searching for a job, meeting a potential client, or possibly even while selecting key vendors or suppliers for your business who you need to really ‘get’ you. Catherine adds that the best way to position your pitch – is to ask more than you talk and find out as much as you can about the person you are talking to (and if you have advanced notice – do your homework!). The better you know the person you are talking to – the better you’ll know how to position yourself.

The last 2 points I urge clients to remember are that A) it has to be authentic. I can give you a pitch piece that would look great on a billboard, but if it doesn’t feel like you when you’re delivering it, you can’t truly own it and it won’t be genuine. Your pitch must be in your own words and feel like something you can own and be proud of and excited by.
Lastly, if it’s too polished, you may risk coming across as inauthentic, and as the prototypical cheesy used car salesman. Authentic, genuine, polished, but not so rehearsed your pitch stands out as a verbal business card in the middle of an otherwise normal conversation. It’s an art, after all, not a precise science.

What’s my elevator pitch, you ask?
I help values-based leaders sleep better at night and wake up in the morning more excited to make their dreams a reality. “What’s a values-based leader you ask?” “How do I do this, you wonder?” Glad you asked… that’s the point of the elevator pitch in today’s business world – 10 seconds that earns you the 2 minutes Tom Peters described.

Good luck in your pitches everybody!

Transferable Skills

Have you ever felt that you’d be lost without your current job?
Have you ever heard yourself say “this is all I’ve ever been good at?”

I hear those sentiments a lot, especially in today’s tough economic times. The great news, and the hope, that I have to share today; is that these limiting statements are not true. Every vocation, every trade, every job – has a set of core competencies and demands that must be mastered. Once mastered, especially if plied over decades, the tradesman (ie skilled worker) often defines themselves by the work. Their very identity becomes tied to the currency they provide through their work. I use the term ‘they’, however I really should use ‘we’, as we all can fall victim to this sort of thinking.

The silver lining in this mind trap is that most of us are good at more than we even know. Over the years, I’ve loved seeing the light bulbs go off as clients or former coworkers I’ve coached became aware of skills and talents they never knew they had.

A job title in and of itself is far too limiting to describe the type, variety, or even quality of work that the complex and layered person holding said title performs on a daily basis. A sales professional, for instance, might judge themselves (and likely be hired and promoted) based on their abilities to connect with potential leads, extol the features and benefits of their companies product or service to prospective customers, foster and maintain relationships, and link customer problems or needs to solutions that their firm can provide. These are all crucial skills and directly correlated to the value that the key account rep or sales leader provides to the organization in terms of new leads, new customers, and increasing current customer spending. But they do so much more!

In Alberta a lot of professionals refer to the 80s and 90s, and to some degree even the early 2000’s as the ‘wild west’, as in, “we used to wine and dine clients on much bigger expense accounts back in the wild west”. Often referred to as the ‘good old days’ as well, the selling environment of decades past was characterized by sales pro’s who were very knowledgeable and experienced, and often also very high on the extrovert spectrum. I’ve heard at more than one management conference that you can always tell where the sales reps are commiserating by volume well before you actually see them. These days you can’t judge a book by its’ cover, as sales professionals come in all shapes, sizes, and approaches.

This is where the notion of transferrable skills comes in, as to truly land a customer, you do a lot more than sell.
• You might uncover their true needs (through effective listening).
• You might narrow a list of programs or services for a potential client based on above (a form of problem solving)
• Sales executives or senior sales reps might also use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to uncover data trends within their business or within their potential prospects (ie business analysis and strategic planning)
• Business development teams may also look at underperforming business units or products and look at ways to increase sales or even improve the product or service itself (which is a combination of operations, leadership, financial analysis, and executive-level decision-making).
• As the ‘feet on the street’, sales professionals also provide customer feedback to the executive team (failure to do so can lead to major product flops if the boardroom isn’t connected to the voice of the customer)

Each of the above are relatively common examples pulled from everyday tasks a business development professional must execute, yet the skills they employ to do so might not show up anywhere on their resume or LinkedIn profile.

Whether looking to land your next job, add more value to your employer, shore up your resume, or even boost your confidence as it relates to the value your bring to the workplace every day, it might be beneficial to take a step back and look at your role, and the larger ecosystem within which you perform your job. Have you ‘pigeon-holed’ yourself by labelling your skills or your career prospects using tunnel vision?

Give yourself credit for all the skills you have, not just the ones that conveniently and obviously go along with your job title. Most people take a lot more with them into their next venture, even if it’s in a completely different industry [spoiler alert: watch out for our upcoming post on reinvention soon!]