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To two famous Colonels & to art: Happy Canada Day!

July 1, 2015

Last week, Canada’s Governor General unveiled a statue of famed WWI poet – and Guelph son – Col. John McCrae to commemorate the 100th anniversary of In Flanders Fields. WhileGuelph, John McCrae statue McCrae is now world-famous for penning the poem on the battle fields of Ypres, Governor General David Johnston pointed out that he was one of the best doctors of his time.

“It’s not widely known that, prior to the war, McCrae interned with Dr. William Osler, the renowned Canadian who has been called ‘the father of modern medicine.’ In fact, McCrae’s teacher and mentor, Dr. John Adami of McGill University, called McCrae “the most talented physician of his generation.” – His Excellency GG David Johnston

The observation highlights the power of art to capture our hearts and minds for a century, superseding our recollection of his other significant talents, accomplishments and contributions. It echoes a conclusion drawn by another famous Canadian Colonel, Chris Hadfield.

First Canadian Commander of the International Space Station, test pilot, NASA’s voice of mission control to astronauts in orbit for 25 space shuttle missions, author, musician, global inspiration – to name a few, Hadfield names Is Somebody Singing? as his greatest accomplishment in decades of literally stellar accomplishments.

ISS — Is Somebody Singing, is a song co-written by Hadfield and Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson to celebrate the Coalition for Music Education’s annual Music Monday in 2013. The song was one thing – it was the sing-along Hadfield led with thousands of school children from the International Space Station that was an unprecedented unifying experience. At a conference I attended last May, Commander Hadfield said its importance was the extraordinary power of art to reach and unite us, to empower every school child to believe that they too could go to space in a way not other medium could.

On this Canada Day I am toasting these two great Canadians, our role in the world and to more enduring art, poetry and music!

Bonne Fête Canada!

Full text of remarks by GG David Johnston


10 Ways to Build Trust: Stop shaking hands. Start making plans

April 22, 2015

Oh my poor, neglected blog! I thought I would share with you this video of my 5-minute talk about building trust through structures at Ignite Guelph 4 last October.

What Canadian businesses can learn from the Edelman Trust Barometer

February 7, 2015

We urgently need to understand the behaviours that erode trust and eradicate them. We need to value the practices that build trust and multiply those. Lack of trust is costly to society, to businesses and to us as individuals.

Proud contributor to: Trust Inc. out today!

December 3, 2014
Still thinking of a New Year's resolution? Try building trust in your workplace


Still thinking of a New Year's resolution? Try building trust in your workplace

Still thinking of a New Year’s resolution? Try building trust in your workplace

About twelve years ago I became fascinated by trust – what builds it, how to measure it, what erodes it. Just over two years ago I wrote my major research paper on the key factors of inter-organizational trust for my masters degree. That research was the genesis of the Twelve Weeks to Trust blog series, an Ignite Guelph presentation and more recently, a contribution to Trust Inc: 52 Weeks of Activities & Inspirations for Building Workplace Trust. I’m so honoured to contribute to the publication which represents the efforts of dozens of experts… and me.

If, like me, you believe that trust is the most important organizational strategy of the 21st century, if you believe we need to find macro strategies for macro trust problems, then I hope you’ll commit to incorporating at least one trust activity during the upcoming year. I ordered my copy tonight… can’t wait for it to arrive in my mailbox.

To find out more about leading in trust and leading with trust, visit Trust Across America.

Full disclaimer: I receive no royalties from the purchase of this book



The value of volunteers and their vision

November 29, 2014

In the season of Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday and holiday gift giving, I wanted to thank all volunteers for their vision and  astounding contributions. Imagine for a moment that all volunteers vanished – No one delivering meals on wheels, no one fundraising for hospitals or hockey. How would that change the face of our community? In every facet of our lives, volunteers enhance our wellbeing.

In 2010, Statistics Canada reported that 13.3 million Canadians over the age of 15 participated in volunteering for a total of  2.1 billion volunteer hours.

While we could debate the dollar value of that contribution, we would inevitably come up woefully short. How do you put a value on an hour spent with a Little Sister or Little Brother or with a family that’s together for their last moments in a hospice? How do you assess the value of preserving history, creating a new festival or 5k race? How about the doctors who volunteer with Médecins sans frontières or disaster relief? What do they save the State not only in cost but also in prevention?

source: Flickr, Kitchener.lord

In 1940, IODE Canada raised $100,000 in one month to buy a bomber for the Canadian government. Photo source: Flickr, Kitchener.lord

A recent article in my local daily highlighted the amazing power of volunteerism. The piece titled Canteen compassion from Guelph and Wellington County recounts how people in my community raised funds to support 34 mobile canteens throughout Europe during WWII. The canteens, also staffed by volunteers, provided food for stretcher bearers, fire crews and displaced people. It reminded me of a very modest display I saw during a visit to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. As I left the main hangar I almost missed the board- more high school project than museum display. It outlined the contribution of the I.O.D.E. (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire ) and explained how, in1940, the organization raised $100,000 in one month for the Canadian Government to purchase a Bolingbroke Bomber.

Imagine raising $100,000 in one month to buy a war plane… in 1940! The amount and the effort boggle the mind. But that is the resourcefulness of volunteers.

With  Giving Tuesday and the International Day of Volunteers close at hand, I want to honour those women and all volunteers who give selflessly of their time, talent and treasure. Your efforts enrich our daily lives and echo through the generations.

The true meaning of life

Shame on the Rogers ad campaign

October 17, 2014

A father watches a hockey game instead of his daughter’s dance recital. A family retreats to separate quarters of a home to watch three different hockey games so they don’t have to choose a game to watch together or even be together. This is Rogers Telecommunications pathetic idea of a slice of Canadiana.

I’ve had it with crappy values being normalized on television for the sake of a telecom bundle. What happened to the “communications” part of telecommunications? Rogers is promoting self-centeredness, rudeness and isolation. While it may seem benign, there is a cost to deteriorating relationships in families and communities. Families need presence, pride and support. Hockey games should bring crowds together in solidarity, rivalry and shared experience. Communities can’t build resiliency if everyone retreats to their personal, fictional worlds. We need to tell Rogers their perspective is offensive and deeply flawed.

Vote? Absolutely! … but online?

September 1, 2014

I live in a very progressive community – open government initiatives with lots of opportunities for input, long-term and sustainable vision, alignment with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing – all good stuff. I am also very civic minded. From junior and high school student councils, three House of Commons jobs, work in government relations and community involvement – I’ve always been involved in some capacity and have never missed a vote.

I also know that voter turnout in Canada is abysmal, particularly at the municipal level – 34% in my city in 2010 – but as my community introduces online voting, I’m not sure I agree with the approach.

Statistics Canada reports that the #1 reason people did not vote in the 2010 federal election is “not interested’ (27.7% of non-voters), followed by “too busy” (22.9%). If that’s the case, doesn’t the challenge lie in helping people understand the issues and the choices rather than making the exercise of democratic rights akin to ordering a pizza or texting “LOL”?

women voting Canada

Do it for Nellie! Go out and vote
Source: unknown

Call me an idealist but online voting makes me think we’re letting down the suffragettes who fought for women’s right to vote. It makes me think of African-American voter registration drives in the 60’s that were met with extreme, and at times, violent resistance. Even recently, President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union highlighted 102-year old Desiline Victor, a Haitian immigrant who waited three hours in line to vote in Florida only to be asked to return later. And what about people all over the world – today – who show amazing bravery by going to the polls?

People died in the streets of Cairo for democracy in Egypt… and we can’t walk to the local school gym or church basement? Really?

Robert Cialdini’s book Influence explores the science behind commitment. He writes:

Commitments are most effective when they are active, public, effortful, and viewed as internally motivated (uncoerced) (Influence, 2009, p.95).

It’s why people value the outcome of something difficult – like initiations, boot camp, long lines for concert tickets or saving up for something you really want. Cialdini quotes Aronson and Mills (1959) who found “persons who go through a great deal of struggle or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort” (p.78). I’m not suggesting we should deliberately make voting difficult but there should be some effort on our part both because it helps us to value our democratic right and the consistency of behaviour is important for future voter turnout. Let’s face it, voting at any level in Canada is pretty easy.

People also need their own compelling reason to vote – their internal motivation – to cement long-lasting commitment. Based on the research, when people feel engaged as voters, they become more engaged as citizens. That’s the piece that addresses the “not interested” or “don’t feel my vote matters” element of StatsCan’s findings.

In 2014, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing released its Ontario report which revealed this paradox: More Ontarians are interested in politics, more are registering to vote and more believe it’s their civic duty to vote but fewer are actually voting. Their conclusion suggests “The challenge appears to be how to translate their beliefs and interest into action so that they feel they have a greater stake in the future of our province and country (p.28). So let’s tackle that issue for meaningful participation instead of reducing our civic responsibility. There’s a lot to get excited – or pissed off – about. Start there!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for maximising the use of technology to debate platforms, share information, spark engagement. But I think it’s important to make an effort to get to the polling place on election day.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me why.  Share your sources. That’s healthy debate and I’m open to learning. I’m also open to the possibility that online voting is a gateway to deeper civic commitment… but I’m not sold.

Whether you agree with me or not on the merits of old-fashioned voting. I hope you will:

  • Participate in Canada’s Democracy Week: September 15-21, 2014
  • Commit to voting in Ontario’s municipal elections on October 27, 2014 (or whenever and wherever you are)
  • Denounce any watering-down of democratic rights in Canada
  • Talk about and demonstrate the importance of voting and democratic engagement in your family so that people see themselves as “voters” and “citizens” with a stake in the game – because they do.
  • Thank a civics teacher.



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