Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Testing Courtesy

Testing Courtesy

The generally accepted theory today is that the common courtesy of yesteryear has faded in direct proportion to the rapid increase in our schedules.  If you could identify that a high level of courtesy at your place of business would give you a competitive advantage, would you train your employees for it?

In general (non-scientific) terms, I submit that courtesy remains healthier in the small towns than in large centres.   Yes, we all know each other and therefore we are obliged to say hello on the street or wave to every vehicle we recognize, but does this carry over to newcomers or those passing through?  I am going out on a limb here and maintain that we still rank higher on the friendly scale than our city cousins, but there has been a decline overall.

However, there are common courtesies that we should all practice daily, and if they become habits they will have a positive effect on those around us (enthusiasm and friendliness are contagious) and the spinoff is that people will want to be around us more frequently and will remember our businesses as having offered quality products with exemplary service.

The following common courtesy ideas (reminders) are not intended as admonishment for a past infraction – as my girls will attest, they were commonly read the riot act from our 753-page Etiquette Book if they were caught licking a knife or (ugh!) drinking from a bowl – it is more a checklist of the basics that are most apt to fall by the way as our lives become more hectic and impersonal:

·      noticing when someone is approaching a door to a building at the same time as you and holding the door open for him/her to enter first
·      giving compliments when another has done a good job
·      returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner (whether it is “no thank you” or “yes, maybe”)
·      being available to others without making them feel like they are imposing (it only costs time!)
·      thanking your customers
·      arriving on time or early for meetings and appointments (when I worked at The Brick, we were considered late if we did not punch in 10 minutes early – Vince Lombardi time, google it)

What other basic principles of courtesy were you taught (it occurs to me that my girls may be the only ones in the community able to differentiate between the uniforms of a butler and a chauffeur, thanks to Elizabeth Post.)  See how I thanked her there - that was me being courteous…let’s all brush up.  Hey, it might rub off on our city cousins. 

Monday, January 23, 2012


As our region grows and we plan for achievement of greater potential, we will rely heavily on community builders to show the way – form plans, build foundations, assemble teams.  So what is the difference between leaders and managers?  Each has a valuable role and yet each role is very distinct, and no dream is successfully realized without a leader.

Contemplate a public meeting where the community has gathered to share information whether or not to begin a daunting new challenge – something that could change the face of the community and how it functions and succeeds into the future.  This challenge may be construction of a new arena or the transition of ownership of a major property. 

During this meeting, many ideas and perspectives are shared.  Pros and cons are weighed.  Facts are presented and feasibility is weighed.  Leaders among the group are listening and a vision is forming.  They are sitting among the group, reflecting on previous endeavors and drawing on the experiences gained through mistakes made and obstacles overcome.  They are measuring the comments and evaluating the common goals – a dream is at stake and the leaders are identifying the risk.  Can the people involved accomplish the dream?  One of the leaders will rise to speak, and the room will recognize the community builder as one who will have the answer, waiting for the inspiration and motivation that will be released,  the unifying message that will be delivered with emotion and sincerity.  The group sees the vision clearly and understands the importance of moving forward as one, trusting in each other and believing in the dream.

We have these leaders in our community.  They work alongside the team and never see themselves as being part of a hierarchy.  They encourage and listen to input and value a broad range of ideas.  They share the load and are always fostering teamwork, identifying training opportunities or outside expertise where necessary.  Everyone involved in the project works tirelessly toward a common goal and is internally motivated rather than by external benefits.  

The evolution from managing to leading is possible within each of us.  Look inward, understand your fears and accept there may be risks.  If you have the ability to dream of greatness, you have the ability to lead.  Transformational leadership consists of a vision and a passion.  The process of developing your vision, selling your vision and leading the way will require enthusiasm – once distributed among the group, your enthusiasm will generate all the planning and action components that are required to find your way forward.  Lead the charge.  Lead change.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In the early stages of forming our Northern Lakes Economic Development Corporation we chose our motto “partnering for sustainable economic growth”. We felt the importance of focusing on partnerships was worthy of being our primary goal. The difference in our communities today – because of population distribution, product and service availability and the increased mobility of the consumer – demands that we partner with our neighbors to offer a regional advantage.
When I was young, most families did not travel to the city more than once or twice a year. My family went once a year to North Battleford to do our Christmas shopping and to visit my Great Aunt Ida (thank you Aunt Ida, if you hadn’t lived near North Battleford we would have never left Leoville!). Other than this annual trip, all our needs were met – social, recreation, education, retail – within ten miles. Our town had a theatre, hardware store, school, hospital, gas stations, post office, grain elevators, sports teams, bowling alley, restaurants, lumber yard, groceries, library, plumbing/heating/electrical…everything. Not anymore.
Today’s world sees each small town with something to offer, but no small town can offer everything. People are traveling farther for various legitimate reasons on a daily basis and are filling their needs in the most convenient or cost-efficient place along their route and it is very difficult for rural businesses to find their competitive advantage, but there are many very strong businesses that remain and thrive in our small towns. And we all want people to know what we have and we try hard to entice them to visit us and find out for themselves what needs of theirs can be accommodated in our communities.
Much the same way that our small towns now partner together to form hockey teams and 4-H clubs, so must we also share regional resources to attract people or groups of people to patronize our businesses and tourism industry. Our shared vision can give us strength in numbers – we must share information, ideas, knowledge and financial resources to mount a cohesive campaign in order to supply the full package of what others will be looking for when they evaluate whether to establish a business or to travel or live in our communities. I accept that if someone is traveling from Prince Albert to Chitek Lake he or she may stop for fuel in Shellbrook, coffee and fish hooks in Spiritwood, groceries for the cooler in Leoville and end up doing a variation of the same when they travel back to PA. I expect that they will learn something in each town as well – view a poster for a motorcycle rally in the Shellbrook gas station, find a phone number for a good used ATV when buying fish hooks in Spiritwood, see that they can get a tire changed in Leoville…even if we are not conscious of the link between our towns, it is formed in the minds of those who are outside looking in.
We have come a long way from the days when each town pitted a team against the other in recreational activities. We are now on the same team (realistically and metaphorically) and will realize more collective benefit from forming a strong common force through co-operative partnerships.
Further interesting perspectives can be found in “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” by Doug Griffiths

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


“We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are beginning a new year full of hope and promise in a most successful province that still has vast unrealized potential. There is opportunity awaiting us in the areas of financial wealth, career advancement and quality of life. Have you thought about your personal plan for giving back to your community?

Many people will be setting goals at this point in the year, and I encourage you to include a goal that will see you taking steps toward leadership in an area that is important to you. With the opportunity we are facing comes longer work hours and more commitment to family and career objectives, so it will take a conscious decision and a concerted effort from you to stay involved once you decide to join a volunteer organization. However, doing so will add a dimension to your life that will help define your character as a humanitarian.

Reflect back on your formative years or your early career – what organizations helped you get where you are today? Chances are you learned about agriculture, public speaking and volunteering through a 4-H club. Perhaps your town had a Boy Scouts or Girl Guides squad, a hockey team to which you belonged or a softball team. These clubs exposed you to the concept of teamwork and demonstrated the value of a combined effort to achieve a goal. The skills you learned from a mentor are within you now.

As our civic and service organizations – Lions Clubs, Church boards, sports teams and youth groups – evolve, so too does their leadership. It is incumbent on us to be proactive, to join our communities’ volunteer organizations to strengthen and replace the long-time leaders. Learn from them and succeed them.