The Benefits of Breaking a Leg

bowFor contemporary English-speaking theater people, the ritual greeting of “Break a leg” has a truly benign origin. Much earlier in stage history, when superstition had a less frightening hold on the craft, actors and their followers used a more gracious greeting: “May you break your leg,” by which it was meant that the evening’s performance would be of such grandeur that the actor would be obliged to break his leg – that is bend his knee – in a deep bow acknowledging the audience’s applause.

Breaking a leg is considered a gracious act in the thespian community and I would like to think that on Friday, February 1st that I broke my leg playing hockey with grace and dignity. As a matter of fact, when my right skate blade got caught in a rut as I was attempting to maneuver around another player, I truly believe I went down to the ice in a heap of pain with nothing but grace and dignity – and perhaps the odd “ow, that really hurts.” (I ask that you not call the old dudes I play hockey with on every Friday afternoon for they may not agree with this assessment).

I will not go into the details too much but the result of this high-speed accident on ice was that I fractured my fibula below the knee and completely wrecked (see image) my right ankle. I ended up having surgery and screws inserted into my ankle and just recently got off my crutches after six weeks of no weight at all on my right leg.

IMG-8863So what is the benefit of breaking a leg, you may ask? It is appreciation….period. In the time I had recovering I have discovered 3 areas of appreciation that I would like to share with you.

1. Appreciation of my Friends

The gentlemen I play hockey with are a group of individuals that come from a variety of backgrounds and range in age from 25 to 65. This group gathers three times a week in the winter months and we throw sticks before each and every game. We have a core group of about eighteen that show up to almost all the games. Here, one game we will play against each other and the next game we may be playing on the same team. We work hard against each other; we get a great workout in a hockey environment where there is no BS and plenty of laughs.

These dudes are my best friends. They are always there for you. When my Dad died in late 2012 they came over to the house with a gigantic meat, cheese and bun tray just to help the family out. They are “salt of the earth” kinda guys – and they are assholes. Assholes in the best kind of way. I too am an asshole when around these gents. We have a rule that you must “check your feelings in at the door” when entering the dressing room. And this rule never stops…keep reading…

When I broke my leg on that fateful Friday, the boys knew I was hurt bad. They helped my off the ice into the dressing room and left me there while they finished the game. I agreed that this was the right move as I was feeling sick and needed time to slowly take off my equipment. When the game was over and the boys returned they expressed concern; helped me pack my bag and proceeded to let me know that I sounded like Nancy Kerrigan as I was down on the ice…”why?” “why?” “why?”. I, of course, laughed as this was exactly the kind of incredible wit that one expects from this group.

The boys have been in constant contact with me and have made me feel part of the group even though I may not be with them on the ice. I appreciate them.

2. Appreciation of Family at home and at work

Based on the fact that I broke my right leg, I have been unable to drive for over 6 weeks. This is where family kicks in beginning with my wife who I shall affectionately refer to as Uber 1. Uber 1 has been there every day and has driven me to work, to appointments, to the bank, to stores, to hockey rinks and pretty much everywhere I normally would go. Uber 1 says she deserves a trip somewhere as repayment – she may be right.

My Uber list went as high as Uber 6. Uber 2 and 3 were my business partners, Mike and Tony. Uber 4 was business associate Jeff DeDekker. Uber 5 was son Payden. Uber 6 was my buddy Mike Wiens and anyone else who took care of the gimp (as I was affectionately known as). I appreciate the Uber network.

My family at Kodiak Property Management were more than accommodating and went out of their way to make sure I was taken care of. They are a great group of caring people that understood that I was not as agile as I normally pretended to be. I appreciate the work family.

3. Appreciation of the Work I do

There is no doubt that breaking a leg prohibits you from doing much so I have spent a lot of time in my home office. I honestly have been kicking some proverbial ass in terms of getting work done. I won’t say that I am totally caught up on work both professionally and personally BUT I will say that I am not as far behind. This is a good thing. In addition, it has given me to the time to set some goals, one of which is to write more and this blog post is the first of many to come. I appreciate the time to focus.

57076563496--E7EF8C31-019D-47C9-8A15-F7C1104D8B90Who knew? Who knew that breaking a leg would be of great benefit? It allowed me the time to slow down and appreciate – appreciate things like friends, family and the work I do. All these things can easily be taken for granted and they should not be.

In closing, to those out there that are burning the candle at both ends; working hard and trying to make sense of it – I wish you the very best. To you fast-paced people I wish for you to “break a leg” – in the end you will appreciate it and then you will truly take a bow.

Top 6 Online Marketing Tactics

We have established in earlier posts that the new marketing environment tends to be a mix of traditional, non-traditional and online tactics centered around the concept that all will drive eyeballs to your online presence. It is this online presence that is the foundation of your marketing strategy and where potential customers garner the information on the products or services that you provide.

Certainly there are many tactics that can be employed from each format of advertising and over the next few posts I will share with you what I believe are the most effective. Keep in mind that I am a proponent of effective, efficient and measurable marketing spends – add this to the experience factor (grey hairs) and you formulate what could be considered a “tried and true” opinion. Still the caveat that I will place on the next few posts is that all of this depends directly on the client and the strategy/plan employed. The highlighted tactics are a great starting point once you have your marketing strategy in place.

Top 6 Online Marketing Tactics

1. Optimize your Website

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be done through a variety of methods including keyword targeting that increase your search rankings. Complete Web Sources of Florida reports that “of the people that use Google 79% go to the first five listings on page one of search results, 28% will go up to three pages and less than 10% will look at up to 5 pages”. Consequently you can see the importance of a high ranking and it is imperative to the success of your website and ultimately your business.

2. Keep your Website Current

Ensure that your site is dynamic and timely by consistently updating  it with news of your products, service or people. Search engines like new content and you need to employ the many ways to keep your website fresh.

3.  Utilize Online Marketing Channels

Identify which channels your target market is using and dive into those options. Whether it is Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or services like Squidoo or a combination of them all – simply ensure that you participate in these social platforms as it will undoubtedly expand your reach.

4. Blog and Blog Lots

Blogging demonstrates your passion for your industry and by blogging in a consistent manner you will drive more eyeballs to your site.  Blogging  takes  commitment  but those that blog consistently will reap the rewards. I found this 3 minute video on YouTube and it speaks to the importance of blogging and gives some useful tips as well – enjoy…

5. Pay-per-click Advertising

This form of online advertising allows companies to control where their adverts are displayed, when they are shown, and the budget they are willing to spend.  It is highly cost-effective if done properly and search engine services such as Google, Bing or Yahoo provide listings on a per-bid basis. Please note that this is in addition to their respective ‘natural’ search results (which are still powered by a combination of keywords found on your site). Pay-per-click ads require experimentation and analysis and over time any website can discover the keywords that work best for them.

6. Create Videos for your Website

Videos are becoming more important as people tend to click on links with videos more than those without –  even if the video link is ranked lower. Videos are a great way to show your passion and personality along with your products and/or service. It also gives you another marketing channel (your very own YouTube channel) which expands the reach of your online presence.

Should a company move forth and employ these six tactics then they would be well on their way to increasing traffic to their website. Certainly there are many more tactics available that feed people back to your site such as online contesting, newsletters and online published articles but the objective here is to find out what works best for you and your company. Experiment and measure your online tactics in order to make decisions that will eventually maximize your online presence.

The Marketing Environment – the New Look Marketing Plan

In my last post (The Marketing Environment – Change is Upon us) we established that the foundation of a marketing strategy must be your online presence. This holds true for industries, large corporate entities, mid-size and smaller businesses – this is indeed the fundamental change that has transpired in the last few years.  This change comes with many questions and most want to know where this puts the traditional and non-traditonal marketing tactics that have been employed by most entities for decades.

Marketing is More than Traditional Advertising

Some marketing firms seem to think that all marketing is underpinned by traditional advertising tactics. These people tend to be a little self-serving as they benefit from your spend on traditional tactics. The social media phenomena does not fit into the traditional ad agency business model – and it frustrates them as they are unable to monetize these platforms. This has been documented by many bloggers and articles but one of my favourites is this one by Micheal Klein from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan called three ways to tell if your agency sucks. To be fair, most of the progressive ad agencies are adapting their business models as best they can and allowing for online planning but it is still not the foundation. The traditional still recommend the traditional – print, radio, television, outdoor, restobar, direct mail et al.

Marketing is More than Non-Traditional Advertising

I have always been a big fan of the non-traditional tactics. Done correctly they can create great impact and are normally much less expensive than the traditional tactics. I like special event marketing, targeted sponsorships, affinity programming and networking opportunities. All of these tend to be overlooked or diminished in value. The little things like your business cards, your treatment of customers and, sometimes more importantly, your treatment of the non-customer are important marketing tactics that cannot be dismissed.  These plus many more elements like company signage and social responsibility programming all can be lumped into the non-traditional. Yet the non-traditional cannot stand alone. Companies understand that the tactics need to be augmented by the traditional. In today’s marketing environment they also need to be augmented by your online tactics – especially your social media connectivity.

What’s the New Look Plan?

I suspect you can see where I am going with this. The new look is a blend – a mix of the three (traditional, non-traditional and online). Unequivocally it must be underpinned by your online presence. Our clients understand the fact that their online presence is of the utmost in importance. They also understand that they will need to employ some non-traditional and perhaps an element or two of traditional to ensure that people know that they exist outside of the virtual world. For example, recently I know of a small business owner who purchased some radio to drive eyeballs to his website and he is quite pleased with the increase in traffic thus far.

The following video summarizes this discussion nicely…

Our process for helping companies create a strong marketing strategy remains the same. It is a process that is done in conjunction with our client. We do not build a strategy in isolation. We work with the client to ensure that they are vested in the long-term strategy. We work with our clients to plan their entire fiscal marketing plan based on a longer term strategy – a strategy that clearly defines their annual objectives and one that is measurable.  Depending on the client, the annual tactical plan may include some non-traditional tactics and these are always supported by the social media platforms. The non-traditional as well as the online may also be supported by the traditional. Still traditional tactics remain the most expensive. Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the authors of Inbound Marketing: Found using Google, Social Media and Blogs had this to say about the cost of outbound marketing (traditional and non-traditional) versus inbound marketing (online social media platforms)…

On average, inbound marketing leads are 61% less expensive than outbound marketing leads.

If a client decides to go the route of traditional marketing then we recommend the correct tactic based on several criteria. Here we also would rather see a client attempt to dominate a particular medium rather than spending a ton on a traditional mix. The goal here is to utilize the traditional as a driver to the online presence of the client.

Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame Strategic Plan Focuses on Growth

The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame is a bastion of our province’s rich sports history and the Hall’s  progressive Board of Directors are working hard to move this cultural institution into a “must see” destination in Regina. Most recently a strategy has been developed and approved by the Board of Directors. This process was led by Trent Fraser who serves as Vice-President of the Hall. The Fraser Strategy process is founded in quantitative and qualitative research conducted by Trent through facilitations and interviews as well as scientific research that was outsourced by the Hall of Fame.   This is the very same process that underpins all strategy work done by Fraser Strategy and is the key to setting up companies and organizations (like the Hall) for success in the future.

The in-person facilitation process was a gathering of key volunteers, staff and some of the great inductees of the Hall. People like the great George Reed took the time to be part of the process as his experience with the Hall dates back to the 60’s when he was playing football for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and working with Molson Breweries (where the Hall was originally housed). The facilitations were attended by such great people as legendary sports broadcaster Mel Isaac, who served on the Board of Directors many years ago, and Ted Jaleta, the motivational long-distance runner who was inducted into the Hall in 2005. These people sat side by side with many who have served as volunteers at the Hall for years and it made for some interesting and lively discussions. Together all of these community-minded people volunteered their time on a common goal – to see the Hall of Fame progress beyond its current state. This is exactly the intention of the strategic plan.

The real advantage for the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame is that the staff has completely immersed themselves in the process and they are the driving force behind the implementation of the strategy and its tactical plan. The Hall has already hired a firm to create a new, dynamic and fully optimized website that will feature social media connectivity and exciting online lesson plans for elementary school curriculum throughout the province. The aesthetics of the Hall have also changed as the staff is already on its second new exhibit to the main gallery since the strategy sessions. Presently the sport of hockey in Saskatchewan is featured with new displays and artifacts that are sure to interest any avid sports fan.

STRATEGY is; A style of thinking, a conscious and deliberate process, an intensive implementation system, the science of insuring FUTURE SUCCESS.

Pete Johnson, Author

It should be noted that the implementation component of this process is key to ensuring its success. Keep your eye on this great Saskatchewan cultural institution – and be sure to check out their most recent newsletter – For the Record.


Gord Gets It – A Tourism Leader in Saskatchewan – Sturgeon River Ranch

Picture yourself in the saddle, riding a well-trained and calm horse into the boreal forest of a National Park – the Prince Albert National Park. This is where the Hudson’s Bay Fur Trading Company had a post in the 1880’s. This is a park that was established in 1928 that covers off almost 1500 square miles. This is where the famous naturalist Grey Owl lived out his life. Now, picture you’re riding a horse into this very same park and you’re looking for wild bison. Yup – you heard right – you’re looking to get a glimpse of Canada’s only free ranging wild Plains bison still within their historic range. AND these animals are big AND they can be sometimes a little dangerous, but you’re going to be all right because you have a guide – a gent that is a 3rd generation rancher, an environmentalist, a guide that knows the area and knows the ecosystem. Christ, this is a guy who has been Mantracker’s sidekick  on the Outdoor Life Network – twice! See the video below if you’ve got an extra 45 minutes!

Gord Vaadeland – Friend of the Wild Bison

Gord - Sturgeon River Ranch

I met Gord Vaadeland at a Tourism Saskatchewan marketing meeting held in the Prince Albert National Park several years ago and right out of the chute (note ranching reference) I knew I had just met a smart rancher – one that understood his tourism business and where it fit in the provincial picture.  Over the past few years Gord and I have spoke often at tourism meetings for the Prince Albert National Park and Big River and we’ve come to know each other well. We learned that we have many things in common – Gord is a Norwegian descendant and so am I (my Mother’s maiden name is Gandrud); Gord grew up with horses and so did I (albeit we were a heavy horse family); Gord can play bluegrass music and I am able to listen to it. Yes, we were indeed kindred spirits. One from the bush – one from the flatland – but both looking to help the tourism industry in our home province.

Since the first time we met I wanted to take the time to spend a day or two with Gord at his ranch and ride into the park form the West Side and look for the bison. Well that finally happened – just last month in October. My bohemian son Corbin (who writes for the award winning travel blog I Backpack Canada) was back home from Halifax visiting such great Saskatchewan destinations as the Big Muddy, Wanuskewin and Manitou Beach and he had planned a trip to the Big River area to see Gord. I tagged along and it was perhaps one of the best decisions I made in a long time.

Corb On Horse

Corbin in Prince Albert National Park

Gord took us on an adventure through the National Park that allowed us to see two wild bison herds. What a thrill! He certainly got us close – so close in fact that at one point Gord held our horses whilst Corbin and I trekked softly into the woods where we were barely 25 yards away from six of these magnificent animals. We did however flee the area quite quickly when they started to rustle. You see the bison tend not to walk around the trees – they opt instead to bowl them over, which makes a phenomenally loud sound when you are in a pristine forested area. Still – it was awesome! What a thrill! (Did I say that already?)

Sleeping in a Tipi

This ride confirmed my suspicions that there are great adventures awaiting us right here in Saskatchewan. We rode on what could be one of the most beautiful autumn days you can imagine; we had lunch in an area called the Long Meadow and that night we were treated to the culinary offerings of “One Pot Bill” and the good folks at Ness Creek. They even had a place for us to sleep – in a traditional dakota Tipi.

Gord gets tourism, and he is on top of how to share his genuine Saskatchewan adventure.  Gord is quickly becoming a social media gunslinger and can be found on his website at Sturgeon River Ranch or on Facebook . His Twitter handle is @GordVaadeland – check him and the Sturgeon River Ranch out – you’ll be glad you did.


The Marketing Environment – Change is Upon Us

I left my cushy job as a VP of a very large ad agency over 4 years ago – at about the same time that I came to the realization that the marketing environment was changing. Changing very quickly. This was due to the increasing utilization of the internet – a phenomena that has grown exponentially since the day I started out on my own in 2007.

The advent of social media platforms connected to fully optimized websites has changed the way any product or service can reach its intended audience – no matter how defined that audience is. In the tourism industry for example, bird-watchers now have dedicated blogs and those that are interested in birding follow birding sites, look for blog posts, and search for Twitter hashtags that pertain to their passion. Now those enigmatic great birding locations (like the Last Mountain Bird Sanctuary in Saskatchewan) can send out their message in an efficient, economical way and build their locale into a birding destination simply by telling their story. They will be found online by passionate birders. This, in turn, will increase visitation to their property.

This phenomenon is not just contained to the industry of tourism – all businesses need to establish their online presence as the foundation for all of their marketing efforts.

Companies are recognizing the shift in marketing practices.

Advertising Age Magazine reports that more than half of the marketers surveyed said that effectiveness of direct mail, TV, magazines, outdoor, newspapers, and radio would stay the same or decrease within three years. In contrast, well over 70% expected the effectiveness of channels like social media, online video, and mobile marketing to increase.

A recent Ipsos-Reid Survey found that 70% of marketers in North America are using search engine marketing and search engine optimization. This is up from 56% just two years ago. It also states that Canadian and US marketers appear to have increased the rate of adoption of the digital world. Here over 66% of senior managers are very interested in digital marketing which is an increase of 10% since last year. The rate of adoption is compounding as marketers race to understand the digital online tactics.

The same Ipsos-Reid Survey reported a jump from 35% last year to 52% of all marketers now using social marketing sites as part of the overall marketing approach. The study showed that 36% of Canadian and US marketers believe that “spending on TV will decrease over the next two years, ” – reflecting the sentiment of a shift in marketing budgets from traditional (radio, print, television) to digital (online, e-mail, mobile).

In addition, the Forrester Research/Association of National Advertisers proclaims that 62% percent of companies say TV ads have become less effective in the past two years due to increased advertising clutter. Of those surveyed, 77% said they would be moving TV dollars to social media this year; 73% plan to shift money to online advertising, and 59% will be spending more on search-engine marketing and 46% on e-mail marketing. Only 15% said they plan to increase spending in traditional media such as radio, outdoor billboards, magazines or newspapers.

We’ve Got a Long Way to Go.

The following graph by Morgan Stanley equates the time spent on available forms of gathering data versus the ad dollars spent and it clearly shows the real opportunity lies within the online initiatives.

The lesson here is quite simple – and I repeat – all businesses need to establish their online presence as the foundation for all of their marketing efforts.

Does this mean that we do not require traditional forms of advertising?

The answer is an emphatic no but the strategic direction of these tactics have to adapt to the new Marketing Environment.

More to come in forthcoming posts – stay tuned!

There is No Room for "Board Resume Padders" in Volunteer Organizations

Volunteering and “giving back to the community in which you live” remains one of my core beliefs. I believe that you need to become engaged with an organization that you believe in – one that you are passionate about – and one that you will contribute to. Too many times have I had the good fortune to sit on a Board only to find that some of my fellow members are there for all the wrong reasons. They have no intention of contributing at meetings. They miss meetings. They are what I like to call “Board Resume Padders”. Their only goal is to be able to mark down their position on their own resume. I have deemed these act to be called “resume padding” – a concept that sees this self-serving so-called volunteer undermine the work of the dedicated volunteer.

What is a Board Resume Padder?

Cartoon by David Feiss

The Board Resume Padder (BRP) is prevalent in many of today’s volunteer organizations and unfortunately they are allowed to exist in many cases. Many volunteer organizations are scrambling for help and due to poor board development practices they tend to take on a “warm body” just to fill a seat. Like a weasel, the cunning BRP seeks out these weaknesses and exploits them to the fullest. This cunning volunteer abuser is quick to second motions such as the approval of an agenda simply to ensure that their name is in the minutes. They are wily and devious in their facade – they disguise themselves as caring individuals and often fool board executive based on bravado and b.s.

How To Get Rid of a BRP

Responsible volunteer organizations and their dedicated Board members need to eradicate the presence of BRPs. Preventive measures such as conscientious and honest recruitment of prospective Board members is a practice that all volunteer organizations must implement. Done correctly the chances of a BRP infiltrating a Board are minimized to a great degree. Nevertheless, from time to time, a BRP is bound to get by even the strictest of defenses. Once a responsible Board recognizes the existence of a BRP in their presence they must take action. The Board, or more likely the Board Chair, can confront the individual in question and often they will offer up their own resignation based on lame excuses as “being too busy” or “this was not what I expected” – this matters not as the goal has been achieved – the eradication of a BRP.  Even if the BRP insists on staying there are often stipulations within organizational bylaws to make a motion to remove a non-productive member. I recently made a  motion on a provincial Board to remove a non-contributing member after she missed three consecutive meetings – this was our opportunity to act based on our bylaws.  It should be noted that your organization should seek the advice of legal counsel to ensure that the Board and its dedicated members are protected. Simply put, do the necessary due diligence in order to achieve your goal – the eradication of a BRP.

Board Development

A list of the productive elements that a Board member should be evaluated on is provided at Non Profit Expert.

  1. Attend no less than 75% of regular Board Meetings
  2. Chair and/or serve on a standing committee or special project.
  3. Make a personal and if possible business contribution to the organizational’s annual operating needs.
  4. Participate in or attend most of the program activities involving the operation.
  5. Arrange for and/or make an organizational presentation to a civic club, church group, business associate or group of friends.
  6. Make at least five person-to-person visits to individuals, foundations, businesses, or civic groups to request financial contribution to the organization.
  7. Invite and accompany a friend or associate to visit the facility.
  8. Recommend a potential candidate for Board membership to the Board Development Committee.
  9. Secure a volunteer, in-kind service or material goods for the organization.
  10. Review and consider your capacity and willingness to make a planned gift or bequest to the organization.
  11. Secure at least ten new donors for the organization.
  12. Actively assist with the special events of the organization.


Generating Sales Leads Face-to-Face

When you look at this picture, do you think, “I wish it was this easy to get a qualified lead.”? The truth is, many salespersons can be fooled into thinking this is the best way to generate leads. Their thought pattern I suspect is: “If I send 100 emails a day, I’m bound to get at least one qualified lead.” Now hear me out. I’m not saying this won’t generate any leads. In fact, I have seen it be marginally successful in the past. But at that rate, you would need to send out a hell of a lot of emails to get enough qualified leads that could potentially turn into a sale.

A Time Before Technology

I believe that I am fortunate enough to remember a time before iPads and Blackberrys. A time when it wasn’t even an option to send out an email pitch. A time when you had to meet face to face with a potential customer in order to tell them how your product could help them, and why they should invest in you and your company. In my experience, it has always been easier for a potential customer to say no to a computer, than to your face. While it is quite easy to give a quick email summary of your product, the fact is, you can always get the “key benefits” of your product or service across much better in person. By meeting face to face, it allows you to listen to your customer’s concerns, and help to come up with a solution that best suits them, even if it means that your product and/or service is not the correct fit for their business at this time.

Customize a Solution

As salespeople, we sometimes forget that the products and services that we sell are not for everybody. I would be pretty ignorant to think that the product or service I am selling is the only option available in the marketplace. If this were the case, everybody would be driving the same car, wearing the same clothes and drinking the same beverage. When a customer is shopping for a car, there are certain qualifying questions a salesperson asks. “Is this a family car?” “Will this vehicle be used primarily for business trips?” By asking these questions in person, a car salesperson is customizing an individual solution for the customer. You wouldn’t sell a family of eight a two passenger sports car, would you? Then why would you hope to convey your potential message by sending out an email?

In these times, while sending an email may be the easier thing to do. There is something to be said about meeting with your customers face to face. It brings me back to the reason of why I got into the sales industry to begin with… I like helping people identify their problem, and love getting paid to help them find the solution. So do yourself a favor and ask why you got into sales in the first place. I’ll bet you a dollar that the answer won’t be, “I chose the sales industry because I love sending hundreds of emails out, with the hopes of generating a sale.”

“The way you position yourself at the beginning of a relationship has a profound impact on where you’ll end up.” -Ron Karr

Make an appointment this week to meet a potential client face to face and genuinely listen to them tell you what they feel their business needs, and help them come up with a solution. This type of interaction is the key to generating lasting business relationships.

Happy selling!

Make Mistakes… and Learn.

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw

Old style management

One of my pet peeves in business is when the culture does not allow for creativity, ingenuity and innovation. It is my experience that many companies – mostly larger corporations – tend to “play it safe”. You’ve heard all of the sayings…from “nobody moves, nobody gets hurt” to “make sure you cover your a**”. This is an unfortunate result of old-style management and leadership where many believe that the status quo is better than actually being progressive. The questions is: what do you learn from the status quo?

Hockey Players Are Being Smothered.

I have coached minor hockey for over 21 years now and every year we have the same issues with the new players that join our hockey team. It is a sad reflection on the state of coaching in minor hockey but most coaches work hard to “not lose” and therefore hammer the kids on making mistakes. They build a culture of “playing it safe” and therefore they stymie the creative process – the very process required for young players to develop. In business it is called “paralysis by analysis” but in hockey it is called players being scared to do anything. Some don’t even want the puck for they are afraid to get yelled at if they do something wrong.

So every year it takes four to six weeks for the new player to understand that my coaches and I subscribe to a different philosophy. We will not come unglued and yell at them when they make a mistake on the ice. On the contrary, we normally ask if they know what they did wrong and if they say yes we do nothing and if they say no we explain it to them – right then and there – in a very controlled manner. Pretty soon they figure out that they will not be chastised for trying something new and then a wondrous thing begins to happen – the player actually becomes creative. Then the next player becomes creative and pretty soon you have a hockey team made up of young men and/or women that become a force that nobody wants to play. They work hard; they try new plays; they look out for one another; they have success and most importantly they have fun. What a concept this is. What if you could do this in a workplace environment?

Make Your Culture a Culture of Learning

I once heard that the many First Nations languages throughout North America do not have a word that stands for the word “mistake’. The closest word they have to this word is “learning”. Wow – so simple and so brilliant. Instead of focusing on the “mistake” why would we not focus on the “learning”.

In our business model we have built a culture that pushes our associates to learn – to make mistakes – to try new things – to look out for each other – to strive for new successes and to have FUN. We are like that minor hockey team who learns by being innovative.

Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.

Samuel Butler