Expert Advice

The past experience of others teaches us how to move forward in different ways.

Business man dressed as superhero
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Buzz Hargrove is one the most powerful and influential leaders in Canada’s labour movement.  His history and legacy of passion for the rights of Canadian workers is legendary, resulting in significant gains impacting all Canadians.  He is known for being challenging, forthright, and a dedicated union activist.  He lives his belief of challenging the status quo and for taking up the difficult stance to do what he believes is in the best interest of the union and the collective voice it represents.  He is seen by many as a controversial figure, but one who is respected for his incredible history of labour relations leadership in Canada.

Mr. Hargrove retired from active leadership of the Canadian Auto Workers union in 2008.

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Since that time, Mr. Hargrove has shared his extensive labour knowledge and leadership expertise as Professor of Distinction at the Ted Rogers School of Management with Ryerson University and co-director of its Centre for Labour Management Relations.

Mr. Hargrove provides us with some of his insight into the critical role that the Human Resources professional plays in today’s labour relations environment in this recent interview.

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As we see from this interview, Mr. Hargrove validates the importance of managing positive workplace labour and employee relationships by the Human Resources professional.  Our Human Resources role is to build organizational trust, credibility, and confidence.  If historical leaders like Mr. Hargrove are able to teach Human Resources professionals anything, it is that we should not be entrenching ourselves in hostility and negatively aggressive tactics when working with (not against) union representatives, no matter how challenging that may be from time to time.

As Mr. Hargrove says, with integrity, trust and a bit of a sense of humour, the Human Resources professional can make all the difference in the world!

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the key elements that Mr. Hargrove promotes for the HR professional in managing relationships?
  2. How have Canadian workers benefited from the labour movement?
  3. Using internet sources, provide three examples of Mr. Hargrove challenging the status quo or positions that resulted in labour relations controversy.
  4. As an HR professional, which skill identified by Mr. Hargrove (from the interview) is one that you may find the most challenging to develop and sustain?

Sleep time. Dream time.

Her message is simple and powerful – Get some sleep.

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After viewing this clip, you may be thinking, “What has this got to do with HR professionals and strategic planning?”  The answer lies in the power of giving organizations time for dreaming.  Especially when those organizations invest in the creative processes of shaping their own mission and vision.  Strategic planning should not be the production of a management checklist.  Rather, it should arise from the power of creative thinking.

When are our thoughts the most creative?  When we are given time to rest and to dream.

As Ms. Huffington states, we are in a society that seems to value the sleep-deprived state of one-upmanship.  Organizations, reflective of this society, seem to be caught up in the busy-ness of the business.  How much time is spent resting instead of doing, in order to allow for big picture thinking, planning and looking out for the future?  There seems to be far too much emphasis on a frenetic goal oriented checklist that narrows our work-life focus into the minutia and drains us of organizational life.  Getting ‘stuff’ done becomes critical so that we can prove our busy-ness worth in comparison to each other.

What gets lost in all of this frantic detail driven activity?  The ability to see and create mission, vision, and values, which come from, and enable, big picture clarity.

Organizations are living creations, made up of valuable human energy that ebbs and flows in natural rhythms.  All living things need to rest so that they can be re-filled and re-charged in order to meet new challenges in positive ways.   At the very least, let’s give ourselves a break and start building in some ‘organizational dream time’ on that checklist.

Maybe, we should sleep on it first.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time in your workday is devoted to thinking and not doing?
  2. When you are tired, how would you rate your ability to be creative?
  3. When are you most creative and productive within your workday?
  4. What is the value in being sleep deprived?

Do We Need Unions in Order to Manage Effectively?

In our study of Industrial Relations, it is natural that we look at the management perspective within a unionized context.  The typical perspective in this setting is that the union represents the voice of the workers in the necessary fight for equality, transparency, and the breaking down of traditional hierarchical barriers.  Management, on the other hand, is represented as the ‘master’ in the ‘master-servant’ relationship.  In this type of traditional hierarchical paradigm, management is seen as unbending, unwilling to listen, and unable to connect with employees.

Source: Stankovic/Shutterstock
Source: Stankovic/Shutterstock

There is no doubt that these types of relationships continue in varying degrees in all of our Canadian workplaces.   There is, however, a significant shift in executive leadership and management style that is now starting to change this polarized perspective.

Peter Aceto is the CEO for Tangerine Banking Services in Canada.  In a recent interview, Mr. Aceto describes his non-traditional approach to effective leadership.

Click here to read the artcile.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Aceto’s approach to working with employees and breaking down hierarchical barriers seems more like that of a traditional union leader than that of the traditional CEO.  It presents a fundamental opportunity for change.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify two management practices that the CEO of Tangerine has implemented that would typically be fought for by a union.
  2. What benefits would a union bring to this type of a workplace environment?
  3. What are the risks to this type of management style in a non-unionized workplace?
  4. How does this non-traditional leadership style appeal to you?

Who Says Management Training Can’t Be Fun?

What a great time it is to be a leader!  There are so many different training techniques and programs for management and leadership development.  Where once there were only traditional management programs focusing on the serious, hard side of business leadership, now the menu of options includes unconventional approaches for much needed leadership development of soft skills.

Source: Kues/Shutterstock
Source: Kues/Shutterstock

A fresh approach on the scene is improvisational training for organizational managers and leaders.

Click here to read the article.

One of the more intriguing leadership tools that this type of training promotes is the practice of saying ‘yes, and’ instead of ‘yes, but’, which is, according to the article, just ‘no, in a tuxedo’.  When leaders  promote a ‘yes’ approach it opens the door to possibilities and opportunities. Does this mean that a leader needs to agree by saying yes to everything that is put in front of them?  Probably not.  What it does mean, is that it is important for leaders to learn how to shape their reactions in a positive way instead of just shutting ideas, and the people with those ideas, down.  This skill takes a lot of development and practice.

Management training should offer the opportunity to develop  positive reactive and responsive skills for effective organizational leadership.  Improv training might be an effective way to get this done.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you benefit from improv training in a leadership role?
  2. From all of the management and leadership training programs discussed in your course of study, which one would be the most effective?
  3. Do you think improv training is just a trend or is it a program that will find a sustainable future?
  4. If you had to recommend a particular manager for improv training, who would that be and why would you recommend them?

 

Leaders Loving Learning!

Off-the-job training is not just for those at the start of their careers.  Recently, the Queen’s School of Business and FEI Canada implemented a program for senior financial executives called the Leadership Beyond Finance Program.

Source: StockPhotosLV/Shutterstock
Source: StockPhotosLV/Shutterstock

Click here to read about the Leadership Beyond Finance Program.

Even though the program is one that falls into the ‘off-the-job’ training category, it calls upon real-life situations and shared learning taken from ‘on-the-job’ leadership experiences.  All too often leaders have to go through very painful and public work related experiences that, if not handled correctly, will lead to disastrous results.  We have all seen or heard of organizational leaders who are put to the test in unsafe and unwelcoming waters with little opportunity to go back and fix mistakes made along the way.

This program offers a wonderful opportunity to share those painfully learned lessons through the experiences of others and, hopefully, alter the leadership approach for those leaders in the program to achieve better results.

In our studies about employee training and development, it is evident that the best learning takes place in safe, welcoming environments that provide an opportunity to practice what is learned before it is applied.

Effective leadership is definitely something that requires lots of practice and will continue to offer multiple learning opportunities along the way!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify three traditional off the job training techniques described in the article.
  2. Why do leaders need to learn to listen?
  3. How would Human Resources Professionals benefit from this type of leadership program?
  4. Identify one personal leadership skill that you wish you had an opportunity to practice before having to use it in a workplace setting.