Free legal advice clinics returning to BC

Access Pro Bono is once again seeking volunteers for three open-air legal clinics to be held in Kelowna, Victoria and Vancouver during the month of September.

More information about the events may be found at the advice-a-thon site.  Or, to ask if you qualify for free legal advice and book an appointment at one of the three open-air clinics, phone 1-877-762-6664.

This event is operated by Access Pro Bono (formed by the merger of the Western Canada Society to Access Justice and Pro Bono Law of BC) and the Salvation Army.

Time Leadership Muscles

Have you ever reached the end of the day feeling that you haven’t accomplished anything you set out to do?  We’ve all experienced those days.   Email messages, voicemail, phone calls, unexpected client requests, the lure of the Internet…  There’s no shortage of opportunities to get off course.  Why then do some people seem to be able to defy the odds and get so much done on a consistent basis?

They set goals and stay the course.

The first step is gaining clarity on your objectives to the degree that you know exactly what needs to get done by when.  This includes breaking projects into daily activities and scheduling them in your calendar.  A to-do list won’t do it and neither will a project list.  You need to decide when you’re going to carry out your essential activities.

This becomes your plan.

The second step is to develop the discipline required to follow the plan.  David Allen in his productivity program called “Getting Things Done” warns that ignoring calendar items creates an even bigger problem than missed deadlines in that we run the risk of becoming desensitized to obligations.  So a critical factor is honoring the time commitments you have with yourself as religiously as if they were appointments with your largest client.

I call this time leadership.

Ask an achiever to show you their calendar and you will most likely see a schedule full of essential activities and appointments with themselves to accomplish specific tasks.  This is important for two reasons.

1) It’s easier to say no to non-essential interruptions when the calendar is full of must-do’s.

2) Humans are notorious for their ability to procrastinate.  Writing appointments with yourself to achieve your most critical objectives is a surefire way to fight the procrastination beast.

Take control of your day by developing some time leadership muscles.

Social media helping erase stigma of mental illnesses

There was a time when a diagnosis of mental illness was considered a shameful thing — something to be hidden away.  We’ve come a long way since those days but the stigma has not been completely removed.

Social media may play a role in opening the lines of communication and reducing feelings of isolation.  It can provide a forum for sharing experiences and an outreach path for others.  This can be done anonymously or with full disclosure, according to each person’s wishes.

Recently Vancouver hosted the Mental Health Camp – a conference about mental health and social media.

“It is difficult for people to talk about it, in any way at all, even with really close friends,” said Isabella Mori, a counsellor and co-founder with environmental scientist Raul Pacheco-Vega of Mental Health Camp, now in its second year. “It’s only between 30 and 35 per cent of people who have a mental illness who actually ever approach a professional.”

Some sites you might enjoy:

Mental Health Blog

Postcards from the Id

The Neuroprotective Lifestyle

Goal setting – It's all in the execution

I’m a big believer in goals.  Without them people are set adrift in an environment that will quickly fill their time with busyness yet not move them toward achieving corporate objectives.

In this post the author asks us to think about how goals are perceived.  Some of the reader comments following the post also contain interesting thoughts.

I also like this video from MIT.  Anne M. Mulcahy, then CEO of Xerox, talks about aligning the organization around a common set of goals.  What I find significant is the physical actions she took in her role as leader that made the goal a reality for everyone.

Photographer: Rob Holland

City Love: Vancouver versus Toronto

It’s a sunny afternoon in Vancouver.  I’m listening to tugboat whistles and the rustling of lush green leaves just inches from my window as I pack for a business trip.  I always get excited about going to Toronto.  Partly because I love business travel to any city and partly because I used to live in Toronto.

I get asked all the time what I think of living in Vancouver.  It’s been two years since I moved here and I think I can finally say I’m beginning to understand my new city.  None of the common beliefs I heard about Vancouver ring true.  I don’t find the city to be laid back.  If you doubt that, just rent a car and try to keep up with the rest of us on the road.  “Green” is important but we definitely have air and water pollution issues here.  And I haven’t yet located the proverbial Lotus Land (which, by the way, is not a term used by local people).

Yet for all the hustle and bustle common to every city, something is definitely different here.  I read a blog post this morning written by someone who has lived in both cities as well.  She describes Vancouver this way:

There’s a depth of sensing and intuitiveness in the air and the people. Here, we would prefer to grow things – and things grow by being nurtured, by having an environment that supports things flourishing. And boy, do we ever want things to happen organically. The image in my mind for this, naturally, is that of a tree. We imagine things growing large, subtly immovable.

Organic.  Nurture.  Tree.  This makes sense.  What outsiders take for standoffish or cliquish behaviour is actually the Vancouverite assessing the potential relationship for quality and longevity.  Maybe it’s the proximity of the ocean and the mountains that keeps people grounded.  I’m not sure.  But I do hope it rubs off on me.

(You can read Karen Quinn Fung’s post on life in Toronto and Vancouver here.)

Corporate Creativity and Brainstorming

When was the last time you witnessed a stellar idea take shape within a formal brainstorming session? I’m not talking about drafting an operational plan, I mean truly creative ideation. I’ve seen ideas come from these sessions, but nothing stellar. Nothing truly memorable or out of the box.

On the other hand I’ve drafted entire strategies in a few quick minutes with colleagues sitting in a restaurant over coffee or a glass of wine. You’ve been there, too. You’re relaxed and talking about all manner of things unrelated to work when suddenly a solution hits you. Don’t you grab the nearest scrap of paper and jot thoughts down as quickly as you can? And doesn’t that turn out to be the skeleton of a workable plan?

Creativity cannot be commanded to present itself. Especially not in a boardroom where logical, rational thinking is the order of the day.

Try this. Give your colleagues or directs a problem to mull over. Ask them to think about it when they’re in a daydreamy state. You will get whacky, zany solutions — and every now and then a true gem — minus the pained faces sitting around a boardroom table trying their best to squeeze out something creative on demand.

A young couple using mobile phones outside

Looking for work? Know what your telephone first impression is

A young couple using mobile phones outsideWhen you’re looking for work, connecting with people is one of the highest value activities you can invest in.  And since many of us are walking around with mobile phones, connecting has never been easier.

Watch out, though.  Calling a prospective employer from your mobile phone is not without risk.  Phone calls are part of the first impression.  Calling from an area with poor reception or from a high noise area can be seen as unprofessional.  Employers want to know that you take the opportunity seriously enough to have selected an appropriate place from which to engage them.




Canadian economy rebounding faster than U.S.

Consumer confidence is bolstering Canada’s recovery at a rate faster than was seen following the recessions of the 80’s and 90’s.  Derek Burleton of Toronto-Dominion Bank and Michael Gregory of BMO Capital Markets shared their sentiments in an interview with the Financial Post last week.

“Canada’s economy is on track for solid GDP growth of 3.6 per cent in 2010”  said Paul Ferley, Assistant Chief Economist in the RBC Special Report issued July 2, 2010

Canada created 93,000 new jobs in June.  A dark cloud of doubt surrounding last month’s job creation stems from the estimated 60,000 short-term jobs related directly to the G20 which took place in Ontario.  Next month’s numbers should be very telling as manufacturing experienced a slight dip in June and G20 employment will have ended.  See the full labour report from Stats Canada here.

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Too much work and not enough day?

What do you do when there’s too much work and not enough day? Some would say work harder or work longer hours.  That may get you out of an immediate bind but it’s not a good long term plan. When there’s too much to do that is exactly the right time to take a step back and assess.

Don’t confuse busy-ness with true productivity

At the end of the month /quarter / year you will not be measured by how busy you were but by the results you achieved.  Here’s a quote from Gerry McGovern, web content management author and consultant:

The world is full of busy people, but there is a definite lack of quality planners and project managers. Stop measuring yourself on how busy you are. Start measuring yourself on how effective you are.

Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t make you a bad leader

But not doing anything about it could.  It’s absolutely okay to say you’ve got too much on your plate.  The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to rectify.

Moving forward

Reach out to colleagues or your manager for a fresh brainstorming session or do the brainstorming yourself and then meet to assess your potential solutions together . If you have direct reports you can bring them in so that they share in the learning. Don’t worry about letting them know too much. If you’re in overwhelm mode they already know. Seeing you take a leadership approach to a difficult situation will help build respect and team work.

Looking back

Once you’re clear of the suffocating what-do-I-do-next feeling, it’s useful to look back to identify where things went off the rails. You can do this alone or with others. Don’t focus on what went wrong; figure out how you will handle the situation differently the next time. This is essential learning and builds leadership skills.

Your Calendar: Use It To Maximize Your Talent

Talent_management, Productivity, Achievement, Top_performanceGetting caught up in the chaos of the moment can lead to missing out on what you want to achieve.   This happens when we confuse busy-ness with true productivity.  One typical symptom of busy-itis is when you’re putting in full days but still not getting the right results. Conducting a regular review of your appointment book will show you how you’re doing and give you advance notice of any needed course corrections.

The calendar review

There are two steps to the calendar review.  First, a look backward to see if your appointments for the last quarter have been in alignment with your annual commitments.  Were these productive, forward-moving meetings that created action items and results?  Did you attend any meetings where you felt your presence was not necessary?  You want to see a healthy mix of meetings you set up to help you achieve your metrics versus those you were invited to by others that will not feed your results.  The second step is to look forward.  You should see activities planned out well in advance that will lead to the right results.  If you’re in sales your calendar should be full of client appointments for the next month.  If you’re in operations you should see a regular schedule of metrics reviews with the right people.  If you’re a front line worker you will want to see your time blocked out by responsibilities (payroll on Mondays, check for billing errors on Tuesdays, etc.). 

If you don’t like what you see when you do the review — start making some changes.  There’s nothing like exerting a little control to reduce stress.  You might also think about sharing your review with your manager.  If you’re not satisfied with your results chances are good that your manager is having the same thoughts.  Taking a proactive approach to share what you’ve discovered and what you’re working on shows leadership and maturity. 

So, go for it!  Maximize your talent.