Summertime in the Sasky!

Summertime in the Sasky!

2-3 minute read

written by Cory Blair, Chief People Officer

Summer time is just better.  Plain old better then the other seasons.  Well at least in our family. It is our time to hang out, play and relax.  After basically 10 months of kids activities and work, we take the time to focus on being together at the family cottage.

We love the cottage.  We swim, lay in the sun on the deck and go out on the boat.  Oh and the food and drink is pretty good too when we are out in summer vacay mode.  But why is it so good and why do we only do this in the summer?


Well I ain’t gonna lie.  Canadian winters are cold and dark and I am pretty sure my kids will not attempt a polar dip in the middle of January.  Canadian summers are beautiful. The weather is warm and the days are long. It just propels you to get outside and take in the moment and soak it all in because you know in 2 months the cold creeps back and the days get shorter.  Summer gets you to be more present.

Your mindset is to get away and get outside.  It is to step outside of the hustle and bustle of whatever the 8-5 grind is.   Your mind also says “ maybe I will just leave my phone over here in the cupboard for the day and maybe run around and play with my kids or have a cocktail with friends and family.”  That mindset reminds you what it means to be present. Re-kindle the interactions that make you HUMAN!!! Build memories that last forever.


So what the heck is the point of this story Cory??  I think we as people have lost our ability to build relationships, memories and social interactions.  We run around most of the time, driving to whatever practice or going to whatever meeting like a bunch of crazy people.  We forget to be present, and live our lives in the here and now. We feel time speed by without grasping what is truly important - our family ,friends and the relationships we have to create memories.  Presence comes in different forms. From putting your phone away at business meeting or your child’s soccer game or literally taking the time to hold your spouse’s hand going for a walk on the beach, having those human interactions to make memories and experiences is what it truly is all about.  For some odd reason vacation is the only time we let ourselves go and be a social species. We need to do it more and not just in the summer at the lake but more throughout the year.


So thanks to Saskatchewan summers for helping me focus on being more present.  I know for me, personally teaching about presence in leadership workshops, I need to practice what I preach more throughout the year and not just out at the lake.

So take in the last month or so of summer with the people close to you and enjoy it.  Take that feeling of being present and try to do it in the other seasons with your family, friends and at work.  Cheers to the summer and being our favourite #peoplepeople!!

Embrace Differences- It Can Only Help You!

Embrace Differences- It Can Only Help You!

Written by Cory Blair, Chief People Officer - Affective Consulting

May 15, 2018 Blog – 3 minute read – Team Building

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day and like every day in the Blair household, one vehicle went one way and the other another way with kid’s activities.  Jess my wife, did get to open her gifts in the morning and we all gave her a hug and kiss for recognizing how truly awesome she is.  She is a fantastic mom and wife.  Like I mean she is friggin AWESOME!  With 4 kids in multiple activities as well as both of us working, coaching or volunteering, somebody needs to hold down the fort and direct us.  That is Jess.  Without a hesitation, the most organized person on the face of the earth. 



It actually used to bother the heck out of me.  Everything systemized.  Colour-coded or put in a place that was arranged for a purpose.  I do not go by those standards or ways.  I live in the “not organized and leave it where I last used it mode”.  When we were dating we used to argue over me not cleaning up after myself or “forgetting” to do something that I was told to do.  Jess is super detailed as well.  She is a total fact finder.  She will ask questions till the cows come home.  Myself, not so much.  I just need to know the essential info.  In Affective’s team building workshops, I talk lots about this.  I literally got through university only reading one textbook.  It was my French 100 textbook.  All the other classes I just skimmed or went to the library and photocopied old editions.  Ahhhh!  Those were the days.

My wife and I are totally different.  We have different backgrounds and ways of doing things.  We have learned over 13 years of marriage that we must embrace those differences and complement each other.  If we do not, our home team, our family of 6 suffers.  We rely on Jess to organize us, get the details and restore order in the Blair house.  I bring adaptability, quick thinking and simplicity to our busy life.  It just works.  Yes sometimes it doesn’t but 98% of the times it does.


The same goes for any organization.  Teams that are built upon diversity in strengths, tend to be way more efficient.  They utilize individual differences to get the job done faster, with better quality and with less cost.  From a people side (which is most important) allowing employees to take action their own way, will only lead to their personal success and therefore the business succeeds.  I have seen people working against their strengths far too often.  They are stressed out, sick of their job and not confident.  I have been there before.  I have been in jobs where I had to be the systemize guy or be extremely detailed like my wife.   I could do it, I learned to do it but man was I burnt out after a period of time. I see this a lot in organizations we work with.  

I love my wife.  I love how she is compliments me.  She keeps our team of 6 rolling.  I am sure she would say the same about my strengths I bring to the table.  Think about your family, relationships and where you work.  Embrace the differences and see the potential for less stress.  It can’t hurt to try and if you need some help just ask me and I would be glad to help! 

Winning Streaks

Winning Streaks

Written by Cory Blair - Chief People Officer

I for one do not like to read. 

I cannot sit still long enough to sit and enjoy a book.  In workshops, I confess to clients that I have read maybe 3 books from front to back.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, my university French 100 class textbook and Start with Why by Simon Sinek.  I have been given countless books to read and I will always crack them open, only to skim to important quotes or lines to get a good snippet of the message.  I prefer to learn through conversation with friends, family, and people I meet along the way.  Those conversations are real and genuine and are usually stories told about lessons learned. For some reason, those seem to resonate with me more.


My oldest son Peyton plays a lot of sports.  Hockey, football, and baseball are the ones that he gravitates to.  What is interesting is his growing love for baseball.   We have a program out where we live in Saskatchewan which is called the White Butte Minor Ball Association.  Over the past couple years it has grown into this thriving monster of a program.  It is a brand.  It has a distinct culture.  A culture of growth, development, and love of sport.  It feels different when we as parents watch baseball over the other sports our kids play.

The program has countless coaches in all age groups, team managers, a board, volunteers, the list goes on.  What I noticed though is the outstanding vision of 2 guys that in my mind enabled its success-  Lonnie Griffin and Rob Cherespuschak.  Peyton has been lucky enough to have these 2 guys as ball coaches for the last 2 years along with their assistants (Brad W, Glen, Tim, Brad H, and Greg) who all believe in the purpose and culture of the ball association.  These 2 are instrumental in growing the brand of Bronco baseball.

 Lonnie has a passion for baseball.  A tactician with the game and a great coach, teaching strategy and the little things about baseball. He's also the president of the association and had the vision to grow the game in our community.  That vision has ARRIVED! Lonnie is a true coach, staying calm and believing in the kids.  A servant leader.  This past season, all the age groups in the association competed well at provincials or even winning provincials, won league titles and individual players made respective provincial teams.  A vision Lonnie saw a long time ago!


I started by saying I learn more by conversations with other people,  especially people way smarter than me!  That is why I love chatting with Rob.  For whatever reason, our conversations are always very real and dive deep into topics that leave me energized.  Sitting in the rink watching hockey camp or at the ball diamond, we chat and I learn something instantly.  Rob is a teacher and is the Academy Coordinator for baseball at Martin Academy in Regina.  He has coached high-level baseball across Saskatchewan and Canada.  But you would never know that!  The dude is HUMBLE.  Probably the most humble guy I have ever met.  He listens first and then talks second.  His way of coaching is truly remarkable.  Kids come first.  Developing good people is his name of the game.  Oh and yes he will coach you baseball and hockey skills too.

So this leads me back to why I started to write this. The success of Peyton’s ball team, the culture of the organization and another great conversation with Rob.   At the rink a couple weeks back, Rob and I started chatting about sports including baseball and hockey.  Rob said, “Life is about winning streaks”.  He had heard it from someone in a chat just like we were having.  Life will have times where you face zero adversity.  Could be for a while.  Could be short lived.  But when you are in the groove it is a winning streak, just as it is in the sports we play, it can come to an end.  Something will happen.  Your health, someone in your family needs support, work life isn’t going as planned.  Something.   And when adversity strikes., you tend to feel like you are on a losing streak.

What Rob said to me clicked, and by further explaining to me his life winning streaks, as well as some of the losing streaks he has gone through, I had learned how to get back winning.  He has 3 rules while coaching and in life in general.  Don’t panic.  Stick with the plan.  Trust defeats fear.  He has mentioned these to me before but when he added the winning streak philosophy it all makes sense.


So have you had winning streaks?  Individually or as an organization?  Losing streaks too? You bet.  We all do.   Framing adversity and also the good times in your life into streaks like Rob does, can help get you back on track.  From a baseball team of 10-year-olds to an organization of 5,000 people, how you define and live your life according to your purpose is what will keep you below .500 or get you rolling on a winning streak.



People Are Awesome.

People Are Awesome.

Written by Cory Blair - Chief People Officer

I haven’t written a blog in a long time.  For whatever reason, I just haven’t had an idea that has just jumped out of my head onto paper.  Until this weekend.  This blog has one simple message.  True leaders are people that do great things for others. 

So, this is the story of my 8-year-old son Ryder and his passion for farming.  Yes, farming.  Those that know me, know I am the furthest thing from a handyman or have any idea about farming.  I am more of the sports nut and my oldest son Peyton fits that mould too.   Ryder must get this from my wife Jessica’s side for sure.  I can remember when he was 2 years old playing at the Hewalo farm in Montmartre Saskatchewan.  He loved the idea of being a worker.  Getting his hands dirty, helping fix stuff with his great Grandpa Murray in the shop.  He loves going with his papa Duane Kaczmar in the semi, hauling grain to the elevator.  He now is old enough to change oil in the semi and grease the 5th wheel.   It is his deal.  His thing to do.  His love.

Well he absolutely loves New Holland farm machinery too.   There are family ties to New Holland.  Grandpa Hewalo owned a dealership in Montmartre, uncle Kim currently works at Markusson New Holland in White City.  Ryder’s teacher Mrs. Markusson husband works there too….  So much New Holland around him.  He loves it.

Last year closer to December, Ryder’s class got to write a letter to anyone in the world. Each student could pick who they want to write too.  A letter asking whomever a series of questions.  Most kids wrote Sidney Crosby or Darian Durant.  Maybe a famous actress or movie star.  Ryder chose to write to Delage Farms, a family farm right here in Saskatchewan.

Delage farms is a large family owned grain farm just north of Indian Head, Saskatchewan.  They farm over 20,000 acres.  That’s a lot of farm land!!!! Most to all their equipment is New Holland.  We always pass by their farm yard on the way to our family cottage at Katepwa Lake.  There are bins that seem to go on for a mile and especially around August there are New Holland combines ready to go to work.  Not just one or two either.  They have more than seven combines (Ryder knows the exact amount)!  Ryder asks us to drive by the farm yard and we do, looking at the cool machinery.  Lucky for us we have watched them harvest a couple of fields just off the highway.  Ryder of course gets right into it explaining to us what type of header is on the combine etc…stuff way over my head!!!

Ryder wrote a letter to them. He introduced himself and asked a bunch of questions.  He put it in the mail and then he waited.  Before you knew it, there was some mail for Ryder.  It was a letter from Marc Delage.  He runs the farm with his family.  He answered all of Ryder’s questions.  The letter was on their company letterhead so of course Ryder knew it was legit!!  Marc also sent Ryder a couple tee shirts and pictures of their farm.  He was smiling from ear to ear.  Marc also said in the letter that during seeding this year, Ryder could come out and ride in the tractor.  He could do this at harvest time too if he wanted!!! Ryder circled that on his calendar.  We messaged Marc a couple weeks ago and this past weekend Ryder went out and hung out with Marc and his brother in-law Jordan.

Ryder got to work on the farm.  He helped burn some stubble, he seeded canola (even his own 30 acres) and he got to go in the semi with Jordan filling up fertilizer for the seeder.  He got served a field lunch too!  His dream came true.  It may not seem like a big deal as lots of kids grow up on a farm but for Ryder it was a huge deal!! 

We are just so proud of him.  He did it on his own.  He knows what he loves already.  That makes us so happy. His smile is so infectious.  It is just AWESOME!! A couple of times I just was so elated for him a got a little choked up.  This is special to him and it takes special people to help out a kid live out his dream.

What I learned through this is that people are awesome.  True leadership happens when someone does something great for someone else, not to boost their own ego, not to fill their own bucket but to fill someone else’s.  Marc and Jordan did that for Ryder.  They could have said they were too busy.  They could have said kids cannot come in the tractor or semi, especially a kid they did not really know.  They were all in from the beginning.

They practiced servant leadership.  They are leaders.  They did something so positive for him. They practiced stewardship, empathy, foresight and growth.  They did this by just being themselves, good-hearted people that get it.  I learned that a lot of us, especially people that live here in our province and Canada, do have those attributes of leadership.  We need to explore stories like this and companies need to celebrate it more often.  It is in our DNA.  

Ryder will remember that day for ever and now has built a friendship that could last a long time.  Marc called me and said Ryder is welcome back at any time.  They will be spraying the crops so he can jump in with one of the guys.   I told him we appreciate the effort they put forward to make Ryder happy.  Marc said “hey no problem!!  Anytime I can share my passion with someone I am happy.”


Thanks Marc and Jordan from Delage Farms.  You guys are true leaders and just awesome people.  You made a little boy a farmer for life.

Sincerely thanks guys,

Cory and Jessica Blair


#peoplepeople #servantleadership #delagefarms #farmerforlife



This holiday season, give presence

This holiday season, give presence

Written by Kevan McBeth- Chief Purpose Officer

The holiday season is upon us, and to be honest I am still looking around wondering where September went. This time of year always seems to speed up for me, and as a servant leader I am always cognizant of the fact that it does for the people around me too. 

As I seek to find ways to acknoweledge people, I always try to do something a little extra special for my team over the holiday season. We do team building events like hold pot-lucks, have a holiday dinner out together and create opportunities for us to give back in the community as a group. But there is more that I can do as a servant leader. 

This year, I am commiting to give the gift of presence. To create opportunities to be more in the moment at work, and to practice the principles of awareness, empathy and listening with my people. And I am challenging you, as a leader, to do the same. 

Presence is embedded in a number of principles within Servant Leadership that is becoming something we need to focus on more and more as leaders. The ability to engage our people in a meaningful way is vital, and our ability to listen to what our people are saying is critical to our leadership philosophy. We seek out every opportunity available to invest our undivided time with people so that they can be truly seen and heard by us. Being completely present in a conversation or interaction, no matter how short or long, can be something that empowers and engages your people like almost no other action can. 

So ontop of any gifts and activities that you have planned this holiday season, why not give your people the gift of presence. Chances are, you will be holding sessions with your people as part of your year end evaluations anyway- why not shift the way that you hold those conversations to give your people time to share their thoughts, and voice their opinions. Use the time to seek their guidance and ideas, and show them that you value their opinions and input. Give them the keys and let them drive the conversation for a while. 

Here are a couple of things that you can do to make sure that you are able to deliver on this amazing gift that you will be giving this holdiay season. 

Throw your phone in a lake. 

okay, don't really do that, but turn it off and put it away. I can't tell you how important this one is. Don't stand and talk to someone with your phone in your hand either- that is only telling the person that you are talking to that they are important for the moment, but if this little black box goes off, I gotta stop you and check to see who it is. 

And turn the ringer off. Not to vibrate. Off.

Studies show that social media alerts and text alerts actually release dopamine through the same neurological pathway in your brain that stimulates us when we eat delicious foods, make money, have sex or use cocaine. Would you do any of those things while trying to have a meaningful conversation with someone?  Let's hope not! 

Be there. Be now. 

You have a busy day, we understand that. But if you are truly practicing the principle of being present, you need to be fully in the moment. Don't be mentally prepping for your next meeting or even thinking of the one that you just had. Don't be thinking about your phone messages or the reports that you have to fill out. Be where you are, with who you are with, and in that time. Period. 

And if you can't pull that off - then be honest about it. I can't tell you how many times someone has pulled me in to their office to have a quick conversation about something that is really important to them, but needs to be explained in under 3 minutes before you go to your next meeting. People will understand if you simply say "hey- this is really important to you, and you are really important to me- can we find time later today to talk a bit more about this so I can give you and this issue our full attention?". Or better yet- if you can, let go of being right on time for that next meeting and prioritize your people over being 5 minutes late for yet another update session meeting on where you are in the strategic plan.  Your people are important to you- show them with your presence. 

It's not about you. 

Typical conversations with your people, especially the ones that you request, are about your problems- your needs. Lets flip that script. Invite people in for a chat and don't have a burning car-wreck that you need help putting out as the discussion topic. Instead, let them control the conversation while you practice active listening techniques. Give them an opportunity to open up to you about how things are going, what's new in their world, if there are any issues that they want to talk to you about, or how their year has been. If there is something that they want to talk to you about, give them the room that they need to bring it up. You are there to talk to them about what they would like to discuss, not what you want to talk about. 

Be yourself.

Seek ways for you to have real, meaningful and authentic conversations. Listen to your people, and let them talk- make your conversation about them, not about you. But when you have a chance, show them your empathy, your passion and your vulnerability if you think that it will help build a stronger connection between the two of you.  Help guide them to make better decisions by sharing with them an example of when you made a choice and learned from it. Give them some of you- not their director or manager. Use this time to not only as face time, but as a way to build a greater connection between yourselves. I promise you, it will be the greatest value that you can bring to the table. 

Screw work life balance. 

Your presence will be amazing to your people at work, but you should be giving the gift of presence at home and with your friends too. Go out for dinner and leave your phone in your jacket (or don't even take it at all!), resist the urge to take selfies and video that special moment so you can share it later- instead BE IN THE MOMENT and take in everything around you rather than through a 6 inch screen so you can share it on Facebook. 

This is a gift to your people and yourself. 

The more that we read about the negative impacts of our technology and social media are having on our mental health and our ability to have meaningful interactions with each other, the more we are convinced that unplugging is going to be a bigger issue for us all in the future. Consider this a first initial step in that direction, and be someone who helps lead the way to a more meaningful and engaging connection with the people around you. 

I promise you, you will get as much out of this gift as those who will recieve it. 




Healing: The Servant Leader's Superpower

Healing: The Servant Leader's Superpower

Written by Kevan McBeth- Chief Purpose Officer

Imagine being a 7 year old foster child.

Someone who shows up at a foster home, maybe looking for a fresh start in life. A safe place for a child or youth that may have been bounced around a little. But you may not have been fully appreciated in their last environment. You are scared, nervous, and unsure about your surroundings. And, to top it all off - you are totally vulnerable. This isn't your house, these people aren't your family. You don't truly know what is going to happen next. 

Your brand new foster parent has seen your foster care file. They've read that you maybe didn't fit in at your last home. Maybe you even acted out, talked back or did something that you know you shouldn't have to show your displeasure. Maybe you weren't being treated very well. But the only thing that is in that file is the side of the foster parent or social worker that you have worked with through all the drama. Your foster parent sits down and reads you the riot act before you even get a chance to unpack your clothes in your new bedroom. They tell you this kind of behaviour isn't going to fly in this house. You're on notice before you even open your mouth to talk.

How would you feel if that happened to you? Pretty crappy I would expect.

Sadly, that scenario happens probably more often than not. But the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association Board of Directors are out to change that narrative for families and for children- they see a better way to parent, a better way to lead their organization - through servant leadership. 

This past weekend, Scott and I were lucky enough to spend a day with the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association - a small Board of individuals (all of whom are foster parents themselves), dedicated to supporting and encouraging foster familes through education and advocacy. These are people who help create healthy homes, positive environments and brighter futures for children and youth in care across the province. I have to tell you- if you can't get up early on a Saturday morning to go work with these kinds of dedicated people, check your pulse- you may not have a heartbeat. 

We were asked to come in and do a session with them on Servant Leadership, and I have to admit at times it felt like the students were leading the teachers.

These folks get it.

They understand the value of purpose, the importance of listening and empathy, and the meaning of community and stewardship. But what I found truly special was talking about their healing superpowers.

Yes. I said superpowers. 

Let me explain. 

Two things that servant leaders are fully aware of are this. One- Servant leaders are leaders who truly care for those who are in their charge, and two- there are no perfect people.

In our roles as leaders, we sometimes either inherit or hire individuals that come into our organizations who come with a history, and sometimes even a label, that follows them. They may have worked in a past environment where their Manager may not have been someone who valued them. They may not have given their whole self to their past position. They may have been in a situation that didn't match their skill set or worked with people who didn't appreciate them, and they in turn may not have appreciated them back. 

Traditional leadership philosiphy would suggest that a leader who has taken on this new individual go through their file and put appropriate perameters and expectations around. The goal here would be to ensure you don't have any issues with them in the beginning, and that they meet your expectations of them, as well as their role. You would do this through an "expectations discussion" - a firm warning to them that you are aware of their past behaviour, and those actions aren't going to be acceptable on their new team and under your leadership. 

So let me ask you- how is that ANY different than the scenario that I just painted in the above paragraph about the foster child? Why do we empathize with one and not the other? 

The truth is that we have the power and ability to heal both situations in the exact same way.

Our ability to heal as servant leaders is a superpower.

Through servant leadership principles like listening and empathy, we can understand what our people have been through and where they've come from. We can acknowledge their past and help them come to terms with it. And we can give them a fresh start. 

A start that brings forward new, consistent and intentional behaviours from their leaders that demonstrate that they have meaning and value to us- that they matter. We can write a new chapter, one that doesn't rely on history as a predictor of future success, but rather one that gives our people the potential for a clean slate- that fresh start that they were looking for in the first place. Over time, we can show them that we care about them - enough to even hold them accountable when they aren't maximizing their full potential. But we do this not for the betterment of "the team" or "the organization", but rather for themselves. 

The servant leader's superpower in all of this is that we can truly heal people. We can give them a chance to replace behaviours and memories of past situations with positive ones. Through kindness and compassion, we can literally transform the way that people value themselves, and give them the opportunity to realize their full potential in a safe, supportive environment. 

When I listened to the people around the table last weekend with the SFFA Board, I heard stories of how putting this gentle healing and teaching in place created amazing outcomes for foster children. Around that table was over 100 years of foster care experience, with countless numbers of children being cared for. And the most fulfilling part of their roles as foster parents was creating an environment for their foster children to heal and grow. 

How cool is that?! 

Real Leaders Carve Pumpkins.

Real Leaders Carve Pumpkins.

Written by Cory Blair, Chief People Officer

So by now you have seen that we the Affective crew believe in leadership.  Real leadership, not all this gimmick crap we see in text books, or HR software systems.  We believe in servant leadership.  We believe that true leaders serve others.  They care.  They actually VALUE the people they lead. 

I always try to spread the word of our Affective consulting business to people I know or randomly meet.  Its interesting to learn of different ways people actually lead in everyday life.  I have worked in government and I have also done consulting in the private industry.  There are always examples of bad leadership and sometimes you hear and see things that are examples of REAL leadership.  Servant leadership.

My good friend and neighbour Dave Stewart, is the Vice President of Intragrain Technologies here in Regina.  It is a small firm that designs and implements grain temperature sensors and wireless grain monitors for stored grains.  It is a really cool start up business that continues to grow and expand beyond Saskatchewan.

The leadership team at Intragrain believe in their staff.  A lot.  They celebrate their skills and value their different cultural backgrounds.  Dave and I talk leadership and I love hearing about all the stuff they do with their staff.  The latest was carving pumpkins!

Principle #9 in servant leadership is stewardship.  Stewardship means truly caring and having a deep sense of responsibility of the lives we touch through servant leadership.   We are cognizant of the fact that our people are someone of value and importance in the community.

So what the heck does carving a pumpkin have to do with stewardship???

Many of Intragrain’s employees are first generation Canadians, having immigrated to Saskatchewan from other places around the globe in search of a better life.  Some have never been apart of or seen the celebration of Halloween.  So for a couple hours on a Tuesday, the staff at Intragrain had a pumpkin carving contest.  And what did they think of the experience? They LOVED IT! 

They were so engaged, it was a new experience, they felt something exciting and fun.  They felt valued!!  They felt like they were being given the opportunity to be a part of the bigger picture in their organization.  They felt like a part of the community.  The pumpkin carving had nothing to do with grain sensors or purchase orders, but more with being human and building relationships through experiences.  Serving others happens in the little things we do as leaders.  A simple thing like carving a pumpkin is a prime example of great leadership.

From what I hear the staff also get to bring their different cultures to work.  After Dave told me about the pumpkin carving, he was telling me they always invite their staff to bring in different dishes for lunches.  They also celebrate different customs and holidays that their staff are proud of and promote staff to be themselves.   Intragrain isn’t just trying to bring its world to the staff but rather incorporates a greater understanding of all cultures- now that is true inclusion. That’s showing organizational commitment to employee and community. Props to Intragrain for having the broader vision, and understanding that they have a bigger role to play with their employers than just 9 to 5- they can make their people feel part of their community.

Can we please stop holding up Steve Jobs as a best practice in leadership?

Can we please stop holding up Steve Jobs as a best practice in leadership?

Written by Kevan McBeth, Chief Purpose Officer, Affective Consulting

I admit it. 

I love Apple products. Every PC or laptop that I have ever owned is a Mac. I have owned several iterations of the iPod and secretly long for an apple watch (especially now that they are waterproof!). The design and the attention to the end-user experience is what sets Apple apart from all other tech-based companies in the world, and most of the rest of the companies in any industry too. 

We, as consumers, all look to Steve Jobs as the "giver" of such amazing devices, and listen to him talk about being focused on the beautiful design and useability of his products. He was an amazing visionary and the greatest single inventor of our time. 

But let me ask you a question: Would you work for him? 

Those of us outside of the Apple organization see Jobs as this amazingly brilliant and visionary man, but there are plenty of stories of him being an absolute tyrant to his employees, his partners and even his mentor. A post on Gawker shortly after he died from reporter Ryan Tate was one of the first to pull back the veil at Apple and show a different side of Jobs - one that was brutal to many of his staff, bullying and belittling his people and even implementing policies and practices that centralized conrol. Jobs controlled his people and his business, right down to who could say what on his devices and in his company. 

One thing's for sure: Steve Jobs was no servant leader.

Servant leadership may not be everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay. But we're passionate about what servant leadership is and how it can help organizations better connect and engage their people, ultimately driving the success of their organizations further. 

As we've developed our programming in servant leadership, we've come to better understand the 11 different principles of the philosophy and how, when performed simultaneously as practice, they are capable of tranformational change within organizations. They are Purpose, Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Foresight, Persuasion, Stewardship, Conceptualization, Growth and Community Building. 

What we see when we look at Steve Jobs is not someone who was a servant leader by any definition, although there were glimmers of his ability to leverage some of the leadership principles that are part of the servant leadership philosophy. For example, he was incredibly good at conceptualization, foresight and perhaps even awareness, and he was more than likely driven by purpose - it's just that his purpose didn't translate into being someone who put the needs of others ahead of his own. What he lacked most was the concepts of empathy and healing- the emotional intelligence that is critical to being a servant, as well as a servant leader. 

4 servant leaders who are worth following.

The good news is this: Steve Jobs isn't the only successful and innovative leader out there that we as leadership students can follow. 

In fact, there are many other amazing leaders and CEOs of massive companies that we can look to, who can demonstrate what servant leadership is, and who we can follow as that shining example of what real authentic leadership truly is. Here are our top 5 servant leaders to follow: 


If you haven't heard of the amazing story of Barry-Wehmiller and the Truly Human Leadership movement, then you need to pick up the book Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman. Bob is the CEO of the organization, which he inherited in 1975 at the age of 30 after the death of his father. Bob turned a struggling machinery company around with an emphasis on his people and their wholistic growth and development into an organization that today is a privately owned $2 billion organization that has acquired over 80 other companies and employs 11,000 team members in 100+ locations around the globe. 

Bob started the Truly Human Leadership movement that shares ideas and insights into what truly human leadership is, and its ability to transform lives through people-centric leadership practices. 




Starbucks is a global phenomenon that, despite the jokes that there are more Starbucks than there are street corners to put them on, boasts nearly 24,000 locations worldwide and has birthed a number of subsidiary organizations such as ethos water, Tazo teas and Seattles Best Coffee. As the man at the helm for the organization since it's inception, Howard instilled a strong sense of social consciousness and a set of values that flew in the face of many traditional business practices, but has made them an organization that has built a cult-like following with its customers (yours truly included). 

Schultz's servant leadership principles are on display in the book Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, in which he discusses a number of servant leadership principles such as empathy (which translated into the organization bringing 10,000 of its employees to New Orleans to rebuild after Katrina, or his refusal to cut health care benefits for temporary employees), growth (Schultz's implementation of paying for college tuition for employees), stewardship (the focus on fair trade coffee agreements and ethical treatment of suppliers) and community building (by leveraging his brand to spark coversation about politics and race) just to name a few.  

Howard has been a lightning rod for those who see servant leadership as a drag on shareholder profits, but has stayed true to his leadership vision for the organization, and his people have helped him earn staggering returns for investors. My absolutle favourite Howard Schultz moment was this exchange with an investor at a Starbucks shareholder meeting who disagreed with his support of gay marriage in 2013. Mic. Drop. 



WestJet's Clive Beddoe

WestJet's Clive Beddoe

I couldn't do a whole blog post about servant leadership and not have any Canadian content, now could I? Besides, at one time, I was a proud WestJetter and still to this day own stock in the company thanks to the profit-sharing and share purchase plans that Don and Clive put into place when I was there working for the organization. 

Don and Clive believed in the value of customer service, and from the beginning empowered their people to do what was necessary to help their employees best serve the customer. Through hiring practices that sought out those who had the value of service over financial gain, they got their airline off the ground by employing pilots who were interested in being a part of a company that valued people over profit, and offered them shares in the company as a way to off-set their salaries, which WestJet could not compete with when it came to unionized pilots. Less than 10 years later, those first pilots all became millionaires the day WestJet stock became publicly traded in 1999. 

WestJet's Don Bell

WestJet's Don Bell

Don and Clive made themselves accessible to their people, providing fireside chats on a monthly basis, flying to each station to meet with employees and share their vision for the future. They practiced an amazing amount of empathy for their employees and their customers, putting their money where their mouths were in providing flights to those who had suffered tragedy or were in need of their help (see the story of WestJet evacuating people from Fort McMurray last summer), and they believe in the overall growth and development of their employees, providing significant training and development opportunities to each employee and engaging their families in benefits such as flights and other perks to encourage a true spirit of inclusion for all. 

If anything can describe the WestJet spirit and philosophy of servant leadership, its got to be those tear-jerking and crazy emotional videos that they do at Christmas time. All developed and created by the employees themselves, I might add. 

The point is: we can do a better job of leadership than Jobs

There are a number of organizations and a number of leaders that have done a better job of leading their people than Jobs, and It's time that we started seeing more articles and posts with their faces and their voices connected to leadership values.

Let's hope that there are more of us out there who feel the same way, and that we as leaders and learners start to show others the values that are connected to a more human approach to leading people. We can continue our respect and admiration of Jobs as an innovator, but also need to begin to shine the light on those who truly deserve more recognition than him as it relates to leadership. 



Learning empathy from professional sports? You bet...

Learning empathy from professional sports? You bet...

Written by Kevan McBeth, Chief Purpose Officer, Affective Consulting

Cory, Scott and I are HUGE sports nuts. Between the three of us, we almost cover the entire sporting world when it comes to fan-dom. We watch collegiate and pro sports, football, basketball, hockey and baseball. We even tune in to the Olympics to watch when they are on. 

There's one thing that I have been thinking about alot lately, that makes me think differently about sports. Maybe it's just that I am getting older, or more in tune with my emotional side, but I've noticed that sports are becoming more emotional. The players themselves are showing more vulnerability, and that in turn, in some strange way, is making me as a viewer more comfortable with my ability to emote my feelings while watching sports.

It's seems almost counter-intuitive, but as a man, the most safe place for me to demonstrate my inner vulnerability these days is watching sports. 

There actually is crying in baseball...

There have been alot of tragedies these days in sports. As there are in the rest of the real world, people are facing heart-wrenching challenges that, in most instances, are so dramatic that they are life-altering. To watch some of these situations unfold as part of the narrative in semi-proffessional and proffessional sport makes the whole experience more human for those who are watching. Dealing with tragedy has always been part of sports, as it is part of the journey for any human being, and watching these superior athletes triumph over tragedy is always amazing to me. 

But what has been really awesome is watching the level of empathy that has been expressed by fellow competitors in the past couple of years. Amazing acts of compassion have been on display as of late, and it's sort of stunning to me how in-tune and aware people have become lately to the suffering that some have been enduring. I am not sure if the 24-hour news cycle has had an impact, or if people are just becoming more comfortable with being openly empathetic to others, but something special is happening on the most testosterone-filled public platforms in the world. 

Empathy for others is magic

Take the story of Devon Still, the NFL Defensive lineman who played last year for the Cincinnati Bengals and whose six-year old daughter Leah was disagnosed with neuroblastoma- the most common form of childhood cancer- in June of 2014. She was given just a 50-50 chance of surviving the disease. 

Devon, who was cut from the Bengals during training camp, was brought on to the Bengals team's practice squad by the ownership so that he would qualify for health insurance and get a paycheck during the ordeal. He eventually ended up actually playing on the 53-man active roster with the team after some injuries to others at his position, and even started games during the 2015 season. 

When news spread about the situation with his daughter, the NFL themselves got involved and committed the proceeds of all sales of his jersey towards cancer research. In no time at all, this little known, previously cut player had the number 1 selling jersey in the league, ahead of others like Brady, Rogers and Peterson. Players and coaches themselves were buying his jersey to show their support, and a touching tribute was held at Foxboro stadium in New England to show their organization's support for Devon and Leah. One story that I heard was that Sean Payton, the coach of the New Orleans Saints, had his secretary buy 100 jerseys on his credit card to show his support. 

Then there is the story of Jose Fernandez, the 26 year-old pitcher for the Miami Marlins, who died tragically in a boating accident recently. Players and coaches dedicated the next home game to Jose, holding a touching tribute to him at the pitching mound before the game. After the national anthem, the entire New York Mets team, the opponents for the game, came out of their dugout and hugged each of the Marlins players. They even put up a Fernandez jersey hanging in their dugout to show their respects. 

And just this weekend, at an Illinois- Nebraska college football game, there were more tears and hugs between rival teams. Nebraska tragically lost their kicker in a car accident this summer. Before each game, they bring his jersey out to the bench to keep his spirit close. They even lined up for their first punt of the season with 10 players, 1 less than required, to honour him during their first game. In a real show of empathy for the Nebraska players, the Illinois team had an Illinois jersey made for them with Sam Foltz's name and number on it, signed by each member of the team, and presented it to the captains of the Nebraska team. The team put the jersey next to theirs during the game as a way of showing unity in their sadness for a fallen player.


What am I getting at here anyway? 

I had the chance to see former President Clinton speak once, and something he said during his speech really stuch with me. He said "I am convinced that if we truly see each other the way we now only do in a moment of common understanding over heart break....we will grow up in the most exciting time in human history." 

What he was really talking about is being more empathetic and compassionate towards one another, the way that these athletes have been in their moments of tragedy and struggle. These massive mountains of men who play pro sports as modern-day gladiators can put their machismo aside to show another member of a team compassion - surely, we should be able to do the same. 

Empathy is one of the 11 principles of Servant Leadership, a way of leading others through a more human approach - one that has us here excited, and something that has become a cornerstone of our practice. We believe that leading people in a way that allows our leaders to connect with their people more authentically creates a greater level of inclusion and engagement. It just makes sense. 

But the second half of this is - why do we have to wait for tragedy to show each other empathy and compassion? Why aren't we doing this for each other on a daily basis? We have the ability to treat each other with far more kindness and compassion than we do- the opportunity to attempt to see the world through the view of others and walk a mile in their shoes. Why can't we all make a committment to be more aware of others and their feelings and situations? 

It costs us nothing, but the return for us all can be amazing. Let's make the committment together to make this happen. 


Why We All Deserve Servant Leadership

Why We All Deserve Servant Leadership

Written by Kevan McBeth, Chief Purpose Officer- Affective Consulting

When we started this little boutique company, we wanted to something different. Everyone says that, I know, but we really meant it. 

Collectively, the three of us wanted to change the way organizations manage their people. We wanted to bring back the human element to business- get leaders thinking about their people as business partners, not the assets that they seem to be these days. I mean surely we can't continue to be willing to accept the status quo, where nearly half of our people are checked-out and another quarter of them are hanging on by their fingernails while they frantically search for a way out on Indeed or LinkedIn? Can we?

We've always felt we had a duty to try to make a difference for our friends and our colleagues to change the status quo. We had to at the very least try to help influence change. 

For me, it was about a bit of a different crusade. I wanted to fix things not only for the employee, but I wanted to make things different for leaders too. I had just been through a rough change of careers, and I really felt like I failed my people in my last position. I got into a role with a system that was stacked against the way that I thought we should do things, and I hate to admit it, but I let it beat me. I bought into the importance of meetings that measured progress through data, checks and balances, and I didn't dedicate as much time as I should have to my people. It left a really sour taste in my mouth and a chip on my shoulder. I never want to have that feeling again.

We came into this thinking that we could find a way to fix broken work places, but also bring a different level of support and leadership to a group of people who may be drowning more than any other- middle managers. The more time we spend with mid-level managers in business these days, the more we realize that they are the ones, more than any other group, that are hurting. They have been left alone mostly when it comes to leadership development, and they are the ones who are getting squeezed from the top more than any other part of the organization to sacrifice their time with their people for a greater focus on the metrics. They get stuck with the accountability of managing the strategic plan while also are asked to manage people who feel under valued and under-lead. Ultimately, they end up failing at both. Awesome. 

We spent the last year of our developing our consulting business building a belief in leadership with purpose, creating a greater understanding of the need for self-awareness in our leadership ranks, and the focus on leading with empathy, compassion and vulnerability. We touted a need to get back to the human element of business and went on long tirades with anyone who would listen to us about building leadership models that were people-centered. But all of our thoughts and ideas seemed to float off into oblivion without being tied together in a more tangible package that people could understand.  

Then something really interesting happened.

We heard the words "servant leadership" uttered by a friend of ours- almost so casually that if we weren't really listening, we would have completely ignored it. But it got us curious - what does servant leadership mean? Why haven't we ever heard of it before? It might be because it's an older philosophy that has been called by a number of different name, and even blended into other styles. But when we dove deeper into it, it changed everything for us. 

Servant leadership is old school. And thats a good thing. 

Robert K Greenleaf's "the Servant as a Leader" was where the phrase "servant leadership" was first uttered, and I guarantee that you will not see it on any shelf at Chapters, because for starters it was written in 1970, and secondly it's not even a book- it's an essay. It sits there, hiding in plain sight on Amazon, waiting for you to pick it up and learn from it, but it's not something that you would expect would pack as much punch as it has for us. And thats exactly why we are so taken with it. It's common sense, no BS leadership philosophy that maybe needs a bit of modernization in parts, but the foundational belief is as solid as it gets- be good to your people. Period. Full stop. End of Story.

There were a million different things that I took away from our initial investigation into servant leadership, and now that we have become certified in the philosophy we continue to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the values and principles behind the theory. We've begun to work with organizations to implement the theory into their corporate culture, and its been exciting to see how quickly it's changed engagement levels of employees.

The three servant leadership principles that turn leadership on its head.

In total, there are 11 principles that are associarted with servant leadership, but three in particular were key in my mind to shifting the way our organizations and our people think about leadership. 

1. Servant leaders are servants first 

Seems simple enough of a concept right? But the truth is that it's an entirely different way of looking at who organizations should be targeting in their leadership development, and why paying attention to creating the right environment is such an important part of organizational design these days. 

When you think of the word servant, you think of someone who puts the needs of others befor their own, values the success of the whole rather than the few. Servant leadership proposes that those charachter traits be the foundation for identifying leaders within your organization. 

Who is the enemy? Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonable and possible with available resources?...Evil, stupidity, apathy, the “system” are not the enemy...The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent, vital people...In short, the enemy is strong natural servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead, or who choose to follow a non-servant.
— Robert K. Greenleaf

I love this quote by Greenleaf, and it jumped out at me the second I read it. Too often we are quick to blame the external circumstances for our problems, when in reality its the internal struggle that is the issue within us all. We want change, but are unwilling to step up and make the difference. And too often we see those people that are amazing servants, who would be amazing leaders, choose a different path or stay in their posts as servants because they aren't comfortable putting themselves out there in leadership roles. There is something very dissapointing and sad about that, and it needs to change.  Those individuals need to understand that they have a duty to take that leap and step up for the good of the people around them, but in the same breath, we need to encourage those stellar servants to share their gifts at a higher level of accountability too. 

2. Its not a tool. its not a template. its not a model. its a philosophy.

And thats what I love about it. When you attend training sessions these days, you learn about models, formulas, tools that are supposed to help you become a better leader- a more effective leader. Problem is, it's like that cool pair of ripped jeans that you bought at the store with the hip-hop music bumpin' and the twenty-somethings who work there telling you that you look good, but then you never wear them because you don't go to the club anymore. Because you're 40. They just don't work in real-life situations when you try to fit into them. 

Servant leadership is adaptable, and therefore scaleable in almost any work environment that you can think of. And its that way because it's only dependant on one thing....

3. Servant leadership is about personal accountability.

If there's one thing that I love about servant leadership is that it's about accountability. Accountability for your actions as well as your accountability for others that are in your charge. Only you, and you alone, as leaders can determine the type of environment you want to create for your people and the culture you want your organization to thrive in. Those people in the corner who are disengaged are there because you didn't engage them. Your organizational culture is only as good as the behaviour you are willing to tolerate, and that includes your own. 

In the same breath, your accountability according to Greenleaf extends to those who you serve- your employees. Its is your accountability to ensure that your employees are given the necessary tools, training and support to allow them to be the best that they can be, and your sole purpose in your leadership journey is ensuring those who you are responsible for grow and develop to the fullest of their potential. When they aren't reaching their full capability, its your duty to hold them accountable for their actions, and push them to be better- not because you want to squeeze every last ounce of production out of them, but rather because they aren't realizing the potential that they have. 

Imagine how differently a productivity conversation would be with an employee if it came from a place of trust and caring about their individual potential rather than meeting a performance level.....

This feels right to us. 

its not rocket science by a long shot- its a simple re-focusing of what is important in leadership and some solid principles and values that you need to be diligent in practicing in order to realize the potential of the philosophy. Is it hard? Yep. Will it take time to implement? Absolutely. Will you see improvement in the engagement of your people? Uh, definately. So what's holding us back again? Nothing. 

Its time to make a change and build a better mouse trap when it comes to taking care of our people and leading our organizations the right way. We need to stop focusing on the numbers and start re-focusing on our people. There's a better path for us out there, and call it servant leadership, or ethical leadership or blue ocean leadership- what ever you call it, just make it happen. But it has to start with a committment to being a better, more people-focused leader. And the only person you'll need to authorize that request is you. 

So let's do this.