The Last 15 Days, a Quality Transition

With one day remaining in my role as Vice President of People and Technology at Earls Restaurants, before I take on my new role as Chief Supply Chain Officer at MEC in January 2019, I’m reflecting on my time in transition:


I believe leaders are evaluated not only on their performance when they are in their role, but also what happens when they step out of it. When great leaders leave, there should be little or no void or impact of them having left.

Succession is an art and something that requires both long-term thinking (while in the job), mixed with a disciplined transition once the decision is made to go. While Michael D. Watkins wrote “The First 90” (that became the textbook on how to start a new role), during my time of exiting Earls, I was looking for the book on “The Last 15” that would support me with my transition out. Without such book in existence (or that I could find), I created the points below that guided my transition.


Starting Day One (or sooner)

  • Communicate your goals and intentions early | When I interviewed for my role at Earls, I was clear in articulating my career goal – I am developing into being a great CEO with the goals of leading a great company. When I recently announced my resignation, my team, my peers and my leader, Mo, all reflected that they could see that my next role supports me in getting one step closer to my end goal.

  • You’re always in succession planning | I always hire “remembering the future” (as my mentor Susanne Conrad would say). As leaders the demand on us is to make quality hires for today’s need. Yes, today matters, but I believe we are graded on the hiring decisions that we make for what the organization will require in the future.  If you want to know if you got a passing grade, connect with your team two years after you’ve left them. I hire for fit, potential and commitment and find those that have strengths in areas that I am weak will be able to step in and take things on without me and replace me in any or all aspects of my job.

  • Play your people big and teach in every moment | The first leader that I loved working for was Scott Elliott; he taught me to always "hire people smarter than you." The second leader that I loved working for was Delaney Schweitzer who taught me the principle of “creating big jobs” for people. Both of them taught me what my passion is as a leader, to play people big and push them for the excellence they have within themselves. The 40 hours we spend at work is a sandbox for development and every moment is an opportunity to teach, learn and grow. I see it as a gift when my team no longer needs me or “replaces me” based on their excellence and performance.


During the Transition

Closing open loops, handing off relevant information and communicating what others will need to know is compulsory. Beyond that these principles guided me in my transition:

  •  Seek to understand what others rely on you for | Be curious to see what others depend on you for and identify the gaps or risks of what happens when you're stepping away. In the past few weeks, my team has shared with what they rely on me for and I was overt in asking what risks they see when I step away. I used this to orient myself during the transition and built my plan.

  • Network people and the organization to the new “port” | In a computer network, when a port goes offline an intervention is needed to link the port to a new connection point. Taking the point above into consideration, during my transition I networked my team to the information, people and resources that can leverage when I’m not around to mitigate any risk or void.

  • Be guided by respect and patience | When a team member leaves it disrupts the norm. This brings up questions, uncertainty, and can create a stressful environment. I was present to this and remain committed to proceeding with respect, patience and love for my team and peers.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the Earls organization and work with the great people that created the casual dining market.

I am excited to join and steward one of Canada’s most trusted brands at MEC, a member-owned organization that allows us to explore a country that we love.

More to come…

Five Must-Dos for Supporting Remote Colleagues

As remote work continues to be a growing reality, it's critical that we as leaders know how to build a strong, productive, and collaborative team irrespective of if we physically sit. In the past, I've talked about "The Six Commitments of Working Remotely" that me and my team follow when we are working remote, but what can we do as office-based collages for our remote ones?

 This week on (the Harvard Business Review digital magazine), a friend Jennifer Moss asked for my thoughts as she researched and highlights the challenges that our remote team members face: loneliness and burnout (article link here).

The Five Must-Dos for Supporting Remote Colleagues:

  1. Budget accordingly | I ensure that my team has the budget for physical face-to-face time so great relationships are  built. I'm a firm believer that with trust comes speed and therefore agility. Relationships take time to build and can take longer to build virtually. Therefore I ensure my team gets together twice to four times annually is money well spent 

  2. Include Video Call links in all Calendar Invites | when we get together on meetings, we leverage video conference. Google Hangouts are okay and free with gsuite, but zoom conference is (in my opinion) best-in-class for larger calls because the quality is better and it enables you to see all participants and share screens more seamlessly.

  3. Imagine You’re on the Other Side of the Camera and Mic | Technology has its benefits and its limits. We’ve all been on the call that we cannot hear someone, or we can hear someone that we cannot see as they’re speaking outside of the camera view. If you have people joining remotely, ensure that they can hear and see everyone as if they were in the room. I give my remote team full permission to (in the moment) provide candid feedback to those inside of the room if they can't hear or see. I take this so seriously to the point that recently I asked my team to do a dry-run of the audio and video quality for a consultant that was joining us remotely. The time of the people on the call was too valuable to have a poor experience or be delayed by tech issues. The result, the consultant actually commented that the technology experience was seamless.

  4. Mimic the in-office Experience | If your in-room or in-office meeting attendees get a printout of that data dashboard, then so should the remote team. Plan in advance to get your remote team what they need. Recently, I led an eight-hour strategy meeting with my peers where we had two of our colleagues joining via video.  I knew that we'd have snacks and such for the 3 pm sugar crash in the room, so I sent my remote peers their favourite snacks in a care package via FedEx. A little effort goes a long way, they both were grateful, felt special and very included. 

  5. Staff Rewards Equity and Fairness | Every six weeks or so I like to go to lunch or coffee with the team that sits with me in the office. If I can't get to my remote team members in the same way, I will ensure they can have a dinner with their significant other or coffee by sending over a handwritten note and a gift card to a local spot they can enjoy.

 And one optional one for teams spanning multiple time zones... Inconvenience Everyone Equally | if you have a team that is in multiple home time zones, alter your recurring meetings so you share the burden of who is waking up early or staying online late.

As always, I’d be curious if you have any additional tips for supporting your remote teams. Feel free to comment below or reach out via linkedIn.

Three Principles To Redefine Hierarchy

What are five jobs that you have respect or gratitude for, but could never do yourself?

I hate airport bathrooms in general, but imagine what an airport bathroom would be like if there were no janitors or no plumbers, or no truck drivers to deliver the soap and paper towels (or no managers to hire janitors or to ensure that the airport is well staffed). We all have our roles and jobs, and each of us takes benefit from each other's contribution and impact of those contributions. 

When it comes to if hierarchy should have a place in organizations today there two polarized opinions: one side says to remove it from existence as it’s old-school and newer models should prevail; the other claims hierarchy is a requirement for work to be completed. Scrolling through Harvard Business Review, business publications or blogs, one can find lots on the subject on both sides of the argument.

But what if there’s a third option? Rather than throwing hierarchy out altogether, or kept it as we know it today, what if we reframed it to work better for us all?

Oxford Dictionary defines a hierarchy as: "A system in which members of an organization or society are ranked according to relative status or authority.”


What if hierarchy existed with these principles:


  1. Lead (at all levels) from respect and ditch “power plays” | Job shaming exists because people think they’re above certain jobs. I see that those wishing to ditch hierarchy from our workplaces want to do so to lose the “status” part of the definition. A hierarchy can exist when those within it ditch ego, status plays and pulling rank and create basic respect for all and the role that each person fills. I do work that I know my boss shouldn't have to be bothered with - he has to run the company. I also escalate promptly when I see that he needs information to do his job well or to mitigate risk to the organization. Respect the chair you fill, respect the chair your people fill and leverage that respect to lead irrespective of where you are on the hierarchy.

  2. Honour the interconnectedness and interdependence | This week, when dropping my husband Peter off at work, I watched him greet and wave at the person there first thing every morning to hose off the sidewalk in front of his office and clean the storefront. Why is this significant? Peter is accountable for Brand in his role, some attributes of the brand include being best in class, detail-oriented, quality, thoughtfulness and professionalism. Having a beautifully clean office in a chaotic downtown centre contribute to those brand attributes and create an office space that he and his colleagues are proud to work at. Look for the interconnectedness and dependence that you have on the jobs that other people fill, then share your gratitude or recognition of your reliance on them.

  3. Decouple a person’s identity from their job | We are all human beings, and our identity is so much more than where we work, what we do, or where we are on some internal hierarchy. I’ve adopted the philosophy that my friend Brian Peterson taught me, “people don’t own projects, projects own people.” In other words, ditch the hierarchy norms and leverage the strengths, passions and goals of each to propel project work for what the project needs, not what the hierarchy or org chart says. 


The print artist Anthony Burrill has it right “Work Hard & Be Nice To People.” It’s up to us to create a hierarchy where collaboration, gratitude for each other’s jobs, grounded in respect for the humans you work and interact with.


If you redefined hierarchy in this way, what would become possible on your team or in your organization?

Special thanks to my good friend Jeramiah Morris for his contribution to this post.

Don't wait to share what you're grateful for.

I recently decided to change roles, a decision that was based on progressing towards my goals and propelling my development.

My departure is bittersweet, while I am excited for the future, I am sad to leave the things that make Earls special. I am grateful for my time with the organization and have learned through my work, grew by working with a great leader and made many friends along the journey.

Earls has a bright future because quality and value are in the DNA of the brand, it has great people that exemplify commitment and that have an unwavering acceptance to rise to the challenges that are presented. All of which I am grateful for having experienced while working here.

Often, we don’t share until we’re forced to do so...

Since announcing my departure, people from my team and elsewhere the organization have reached out to share their gratitude and what they’ll miss after I leave. The experience has been humbling and this highlights for me that we, as humans, often don’t practice the act of sharing our appreciation openly, often enough and specifically until we’re “forced to.” While I haven’t felt that my work hasn’t been recognized at Earls, I do see a lesson in this experience – build an institutional practice of regular gratitude and recognition into our teams.

If you left your role today, what would you be “taking with you” (lessons, personal development, accomplishments)?

What, specifically, are you grateful for in your role? For your team? For the organization?

What do you see?  

Now go share this with your people.

The Six Commitments of Working Remotely

When we are physically present at the office actions and productivity can be observed, creating an underlying accountability. When working remotely things change, the unseen can be difficult to manage as it can lead to a perceived double standard, an erosion of trust, and unclarity.

Even with the flurry of articles and blog posts about remote work, not many best practices I researched worked for me and my team. I have managed teams spread out across the globe in different time zones, working remotely and in other office locations. I learned from the things that worked and the many failures I had to set boundaries and expectations. To account for this, I created these commitments for my team to follow (including myself) when working remotely.



The Six Commitments of Working Remotely.

When I work remotely, I am committed to:

  1. Being as productive (or more productive) when I work remotely as compared to working at the office.

    It's true when working remotely I can be more productive than when at the office as I am working in a quiet, distraction-free space. That said, it takes commitment and responsibility to maintain that as we have to hold ourselves accountable rather than the collective group or optics holding us to that.

  2. Being as available to my team and the business as I would be in the office.

    Because I am working remotely, it doesn’t mean that I not reachable or unresponsive. My team uses Slack, and this is how we handle the quick question as would be the equivalent of popping over to one's desk to ask a question, for help or to inform. We also share our calendars, that way if someone is not responsive, we can see that they're in a meeting or on a scheduled call.  Lastly, some of my team live in places where their condo or house has poor cell phone reception, and they're great at providing other options for them to be dialed in and are exceptional at not letting poor reception be an excuse for not being reachable.

  3. Working in a clean, safe and distraction-free environment.

    Simply put, working remotely requires the commitment of creating and carving out a space to be productive. Ensuring that you have a desk and chair that supports you, and a place where those in your house (roommates, spouses, dogs, children, etc.) know that you're productive and respect the distraction boundary. A good friend of mine works remotely as an SVP of a sales team for a global software company. The family operates as though he is "not home" if he's in there with the door closed.

  4. Having the tools required to work remotely.

    It's up to you to have the tools and technology necessary to ensure you're available. I have a docking station and an external keyboard and mouse setup at home just the same as I do at the office. I also ensure my home internet is snappy for good quality video calls.

  5. Communicating with my team as to when I am online or signing off for the day.

    We have a #whereabouts channel on our Slack feed, and people share a note when they are online in the morning and some context about their whereabouts for the day. The team is great about sharing when they’re signing off for the day too. I see this as the digital equivalent of saying “good morning” when you arrive and “good night” when you leave.

  6. Never letting working remotely be an excuse for missing a deadline, communication or meeting that is required to do my job well.

    It’s too easy (and lame) to blame being remote as an excuse for missing something and puts remote work at risk from being an option – nuff said.


In addition to these commitments, as a team’s leader I am responsible for ensuring that:

  • we have the budget for physical face-to-face time so great relationships can be built,

  • when we get together on meetings, we leverage video conference (and ensure that the online participants have a great experience),

  • my office team is always including my remote team in the conversations that they need to be involved in.

Why Knowing Your Core Values Makes You a Better Leader

At Earls, we are discussing our core values as a company. Here’s a post that I shared internally around my discovery of the importance of knowing my values and why they matter.

“With any person, there are two things that you cannot negotiate with them on – their values and their feelings.” This was said to me by Brian, one of my best friends, over wine as I was heeding advice a few years back.  Hearing this gave me greater insight that knowing and being able to identify when my values are at play makes me a stronger leader.

My first insight around values goes back to a conversation with my mentor when I was in my mid-twenties. At the time, I was at the helm of a company of about 20 people. I was hired to afford a husband and wife team the ability to step away from the daily operation of their business after 25 years. My mentor was a founder himself and was passing the reigns of his company over to a younger partner in his firm.

Every two weeks or so for months, I’d make my way to the Marriott Hotel on Pender Street in Vancouver and sit in a high-backed, pastel suede booth for a breakfast date with my mentor.

I was failing in my role at the company that I was leading and not loving my job. I could make sustained changes in some areas, but in other areas make no progress at all. Revenue and profits were both healthy. The company was seeing strong year-over-year growth. Business development was strong,  we were attracting higher-profile clients with deeper pockets and diversifying our reliance on a few big accounts.

Despite all of this positive traction as a company, we were good at making mistakes. Significant sized errors happened too often. Making these mistakes was not a new trend, it was happening before I arrived. These errors caused setbacks, cost money to fix, were embarrassing to us, to our clients and caused tension internally. This was all a risk to the business health and our growth. The owners responded by giving me the advice of “manage more tightly."

The mistakes didn’t sit well with me. Tighter management was an option short-term to mitigate things but I didn't see it as the long-term solution.  I wanted to see that we got better but we were seemingly making the same errors again and again. I also wanted my team to become more disciplined as our mistakes were so preventable. I wanted people to be empowered rather than micromanaged to fix the issues.

It was over bitter coffee and marginally cooked hotel eggs that I discovered that I failed to learn the company’s core values and been solely leading with my personal values that I’d never clearly defined. This certainly didn’t mean that they didn’t exist - I was failing to lead from them overtly. We all know the power of clarity and I was unclear.

Why Values Matter

For us as people (and in our companies), our core values, govern our decisions, they are what we align our internal compass to. They rarely shift, or if they do, it’s likely only after a traumatic experience. Values are not aspirational, they “just are” and the most genuine values surface when things go wrong, or we are navigating rough seas.

I discovered that my core values are: Ingenuity, Cohesion, Realness, Progressing, Levity, Poise.

Values are "Uncompromising"

Why did the situation I was managing bother me? I learned later in life by a colleague Parker that “a complaint is an indicator of a value that is compromised.” We are unlikely to complain about something that we don’t care about and when we do complain there’s an underlying incompatibility to a value of ours. In this case, I was bothered we were making the same mistakes (progressing). It also bothered me that we weren't fixing them creatively (ingenuity), nor was our output matching our promise to our clients (cohesion). To this day, I leverage the lesson; when I'm frustrated, I look to see what value of mine isn't being fulfilled.

In the end, I chose to leave the organisation a year or so after we did an internal values definition workshop. My values and the company's values were too far apart for natural alignment. It was too difficult to make quality decisions that served the organization's values that were aligned with my own. 

We will experience this throughout our careers. Sometimes this will factor into relationships between close friends or siblings where it's apparent that values differ significantly in specific areas. It's in these times that we need to leverage the clarity of our values to help us navigate.

What Do You Value?

Ask yourself this, what do you value? What qualities or characteristics would you describe as being fundamental to who you are? What are your company’s values? How do they align and where do they conflict? The power to know ourselves gives us the ability to lead strongly and lead well. 

Reach out to me as I'd love to hear them.


A 60-second investment to transform recurring meetings

Many of us have multiple things on the go at varying stages of completion. Leaders (especially executives) have dozens of topics of conversations that they are involved in including company performance, board and shareholder concerns, people development and succession planning, company priorities, initiatives, projects, risks awareness, crisis response, public relations, and on and on.

I often coach my team on “meeting people where they are at.” In other words, know your audience and tailor your style, message and delivery to connect with them most effectively.

Use this 30-60 second tactic to start every recurring meeting powerfully.


Step one: remind your meeting attendees what happened the last time you were in the room together. An example: "As you may remember from our meeting three weeks ago, we discussed X and Y, we also discussed Z at length and it became quite a debated topic that we needed more research. We left the meeting with actions A, B and C."


Step two: fill in the gap between last time you met and now. Doing this will allow you to update the overall team with all of the work and progress that you have made. An example that builds on step one above:  "We took the time between the last meeting and now to talk to additional stakeholders about Z, and we learned… We also completed A and B, but we haven't completed C, and will finish it by next Tuesday at the end of the day."


Step three: tie it all together and prime the attendees for what’s needed from them this meeting. Again, building on the previous two steps an example: “Today we’re going to use the next 45 minutes to recap the actions we took, recap what we learned about Z, ask for a decision on two key deliverables, then we’ll give you a status update and some risks on the new components of the project.”

These 60 seconds are for your audience, it refreshes their minds, gives them context for what’s needed, and affords you highlight the work you’re doing so they’re informed.

As always, your unfiltered feedback and thoughts are welcome. If you leverage this practice in your meetings reach out and let me know how it goes!

Three Ways to End the Most Stressful of Working Relationships

Adam Grant, in his book “Originals,” identifies a critical finding: ambivalent relationships are worse than negative ones. They cause more stress, anxiety, and depression than negative relationships because it takes more emotional energy to work with and manage the inconsistencies. What’s worse, we are often apathetic when it comes to these “frenemy” relationships and accept them not seeing the cost. 

At the executive level, ambivalent relationships can impact and ripple through the entire organization. A manager on my team recently commented how refreshing it was that my colleague from Marketing and I get along. She appreciated how we openly voice our disagreements when we have them and maintain respect and levity. She went on to explain that our two predecessors didn’t openly get along, but didn’t openly disagree and described the working relationship as “highly awkward.” The result: my team avoided collaborating with Marketing altogether because of it.

Here are three ways to end ambivalent relationships:

  1. Lose the apathetic nature: In relationships, we always assume that the other person has 50% of the weight to pull. If you want to have a great relationship with someone, you have 100% of the responsibility. It’s likely that you’re trapped in a certain point-of-view that you have of this person, and your POV is getting in the way of your relationship – get over yourself and give it up.
  2. Make Quality Requests: We often fail to make proper requests of others, and then when they aren't met to our satisfaction, we think it's other people fault (when it was us that made a shi*ty request). Remember a request is made up of your terms of satisfaction and the time in which you need it by to be satisfied. A request without time or specifics has little quality. Hint: remove “just,” “but,” “maybe,” “kind-of,” from your requests.
  3. Break the pattern: Talk about different subjects than your norm, change the physical locations that you often chat in or use FaceTime versus a phone call. Find commonalities you have with your values, what you enjoy and what you're up against in your work life. Use and leverage these commonalities to create a quality relationship.

No millennials harmed in the writing of this post.

I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable reading, hearing people talk about, or even referencing the millennial generation myself with some sweeping statement that collapses this entire generation into one narrow viewpoint.  The icky feeling, I assumed, stemmed from the fact that I, myself, am a millennial. But in our dialogue about how to attract and engage top talent, we as executives often reference the “emerging workforce” and use some millennial stereotype. It wasn’t until recently, though, when reading The Deloitte Millennial Survey results that I stopped using the term Millennial personally.

Midway through reading the printed copy of the report, highlighter in hand (neither of which are very millennial of me), I stopped and noticed something I hadn’t before. Any societal or minority group’s descriptor could substitute the word “millennial," and the report could read perfectly. It was almost mad-libs like (if you’re from gen z, you likely won’t get the reference).  I began to read the study now as though it was a study about women, the GLTB community, or Asian-Canadians/Americans for example. It wasn't until then (after my self-amusement of finding myself quite witty) that I realized we as leaders have allowed ourselves to compartmentalize an entire generation out of our human need to simplify things.

We know from neuroscience and our prewired nature for survival that our brains are always looking for shortcuts to preserve energy and frame up decisions for processing information quickly. This is not a knock on Deloitte nor any other article or blog post – but rather a call to us as leaders and professionals to stop the laziness and recognize the costs of our blanket statements.

The one thing great leaders need to know about attracting, engaging and developing the millennial generation: treat us like a human with individual needs.

Join me in building high-performing organizations by individualizing our people, leverage strengths, support goals and develop our teams to make an impact for our businesses.