The Power of the People

The cult of celebrity has been responsible for the rise in power of many people who were unsuited to, or abused, their leadership roles. Often the word used to describe these leaders is “charismatic”, as if that one trait alone were enough to qualify the candidate for the position. Sociologist Max Weber pointed out that “charisma” is a quality given to leaders by their followers, rather than it being something intrinsic.

Perhaps now more than ever, courageous followers have a job to do in standing up to our leaders. Ideally, we would have compassionate people leading us but every leader needs courageous followers to point out their blind spots. We have a responsibility to be critical thinkers, to actively challenge our leaders and to contribute positive energy and constructive alternatives. We can be courageous followers even from behind our keyboards and screens. 

It is a delicate balance as a follower to serve and support the leader while not competing for the lead role. There is no greater responsibility than speaking truth to power. Great followership can be more challenging than leadership – the rewards are less, the role can be more dangerous and must be exercised with incredible tact and finesse. 

Rather than blindly endorsing and being subservient to toxic leaders, we are called to seek out and support constructive, compassionate leaders. Edith Wharton wrote ‘There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.’ When considering the candidates who put their names forward for positions on your board or as leaders of our country, I encourage you to first identify and support the worthy servant-leaders and then, post-election, continue your important work by being a courageous mirror and reflecting the light. 

 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director 

 

 

 

Trust Before Truth

I was fortunate to have participated in an industry tour recently attended by local Indigenous leaders and representatives from some of the region’s largest employers where the goal was to get to know each other and begin to work together to identify and solve our respective employment challenges.

On the Tour, and in many other professional and personal settings, I have heard non-Indigenous people asking Indigenous people how we can create better working relationships with our Indigenous neighbours. What was clear during the tour, is that as a first step, we have a lot of listening to do. A lot of listening and a responsibility to educate ourselves. Working relationships are developed on a bedrock of trust. I found a jewel of a resource on allyship on the Animikii website. Animikii is an indigenous-owned digital agency based in Victoria. One of their employees, Robyn Ward, wrote a piece entitled “Building Trust Before Truth: How Non-Indigenous Canadians Become Allies” and I believe it should be required reading for every non-Indigenous person in Canada. https://www.animikii.com/news/building-trust-before-truth-how-non-indigenous-canadians-become-allies

Robyn has some suggestions for us budding allies: “… we build trust by respecting boundaries, being reliable and accountable, respecting the trust vault, showing integrity, showing non-judgment, and by being generous with your assumptions. We build trust in small acts of kindness and there are no shortcuts to building trust. If you are ever in doubt, educate yourself, ask questions, and seek answers from the right people whether it’s Indigenous Peoples or other respected allies within the community. True allies will see the value in relationship building by authentically gaining, building and maintaining trust.”

Please, read the article and make use of the excellent resources linked to it. Take the quiz to learn your level of privilege. Undertake the #Next150 Reconciliation Challenges. If you truly want to be an ally, begin by building trust. Listen, and learn, with your heart wide open. 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Act like the house is on fire.

Sounds of Sirens

Climate scientists have been sounding the alarm for some time. Many of you will have heard of young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and her now famous speech to the World Economic Forum in January in which she urged us all to “… act as if the house was on fire. Because it is.” 

The acknowledged crisis-state of the environment has sparked activity at the local level, where municipalities, including the three on the Saanich Peninsula, as well as the Capital Regional District, have entertained (some have passed) motions declaring a Climate Emergency. Reaction at the municipal and regional level is highly appropriate given most of our country’s infrastructure is controlled by these levels of government and they/we have much to lose economically, environmentally, and from a community health perspective were damage resulting from climate breakdown to occur. Think of the devastation wrought by forest fires and flooding. 

The main goal of the local declarations of climate emergencies is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Is that enough? Cutting emissions is an important start. Influencing others to do the same is important. Recently, in Vancouver, Council adopted a climate emergency plan that arrived at “six big moves” for pollution reduction. The six areas of action are: 1) Walkable complete communities. 2) Safe and convenient active transportation and transit. 3) Pollution-free cars, trucks, and buses. 4) Zero-emission space and water heating. 5) Lower carbon construction. 6) Restored forests and coasts. In addition to these targets, Vancouver council also approved an impressive list of 53 “accelerated actions” that will ramp-up local action right away. 

Vancouver is an inspiring example of municipal leadership in this regard. Let us also be seen to be acting as if our house was on fire and use public money to support the urgent opportunity rather than subsidizing the economy of the past. 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

 

We Are Blind to our own Blindness

I recently collaborated with a group of Chamber members to develop a member recruitment brochure. And while I don’t recommend design by committee as a method for getting things done quickly, it was an illuminating and rewarding experience. One of the components of the collateral we created, was to list the member benefits we offer that are most meaningful to our members. Our biggest challenge initially was in narrowing the list down to the number of benefits that could fit on the brochure.

One of the reasons it is challenging for me to answer the question of why people might want to join our organization is because every one of our members has their own reason(s) for participating. When we asked some members the question recently about why they are members, the answers were as varied as I expected, and also, more surprising than I anticipated. Whether it’s our staff and board thinking about our organization or our self-awareness as human beings, we are mostly blind to our faults, and to our brilliance.

I have written about the power of testimonials before. They can be compelling stories that speak to potential clients, or in our case, members. I was reminded of that, after making the difficult request of members to provide them for us. We are not wired to ask others to speak positively of us. And yet, what we received was so genuinely and generously provided, that I am beyond glad I asked.

It can be an incredibly humbling, instructive experience to hear the unvarnished truth from someone whose intent it is to be both honest and kind. The truth can be the juice that sparks you to continue what you are already successfully doing and it can send you in new and potentially more fulfilling directions.

Give it a try. Find someone who has a useful frame of reference, whom you trust, to tell you the truth. Be prepared to hear that which might be difficult to hear. You might also receive surprising, wonderfully uplifting feedback that reaffirms your worth and the path you have chosen. Either will be a gift!

 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

 

 

Moving Beyond the Transaction

As one might expect, a significant amount of my time is spent explaining what a chamber of commerce is and how potential and even current members can derive maximum benefit from their membership. The members who are most positive about their chamber experience are the ones with whom we have co-created a transformational, rather than a transactional relationship.

In our daily lives, many of our tasks are negotiated on the web or on an app. We do so much of our communication digitally, people are becoming less comfortable relating face to face. IRL, as they say. Online dating platforms have capitalized on the human communication divide. It is technology that insidiously facilitates serial transactional relationships. Swipe left. In business, we celebrate those who shrewdly negotiate to exchange as little as possible for their own highest financial benefit. Although some transactional commerce is necessary for sustainability, as humans, in business and life generally, we are stronger and lead more fulfilling lives when we work to create the highest good for all.

A key volunteer attraction and retention tool is for the volunteer to experience how their generous gift of time is positively impacting people. Fortunately for us, the volunteers who have worked in our Info Centre for years, receive feedback each and every shift from the visitors they assist. They wouldn’t keep showing up if they didn’t appreciate that the information they share has the potential to transform the visitor’s experience  The trade-off is not different for employees. Staff members exchanging labour for pay are more fulfilled in their jobs when they understand how their work contributes to a transformational experience for clients.

Bringing it back to the membership relationship, it truly can be transformational. We have the testimonials to prove it. We offer the opportunity, benefits, and shine the light and you bring your willingness to engage. Together, shift happens.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

Spatial Mismatch

There is a term for the situation when employees can’t or don’t live where the jobs are located: economists call it “spatial mismatch”.

In some cities this condition is very pronounced. Think San Francisco. Boston. New York City. And to a lesser degree, Vancouver, Victoria, and the Saanich Peninsula. When housing costs are prohibitive, workers, especially those who are lower-income earners, are forced to live further and further away from their jobs.

We are beginning to see significant consequences of this mismatch. In the San Francisco area, some restaurants can’t hire servers so, by necessity, they have gotten creative and have put their patrons to work. There are fine dining restaurants that have become self-serve. Diners find their own tables, get their own water, order drinks and food at a counter and often bus their own dirty dishes. Perhaps not surprisingly, more people are opting for take-out than eating-in. Locally, a lack of available staff has resulted in Help Wanted signs popping up and some businesses have had to reduce the hours they are open.

In recognition of the growing divide, some cities and regions have developed strategies to connect low-wage workers to good jobs. Many of the jobs that go unfilled are those in the service industry. Employees are more likely to travel longer distances for a position that pays competitive wages and offers a benefits package. Employers are creating entry-level jobs and demonstrating the potential for those positions to lead to a career. Wherever possible, housing is being created adjacent to jobs and transit. Employers are offering predictable and regular hours that coincide with transit schedules and are providing employees complimentary bus passes.

Connecting workers and employers across our region will remain an issue for the foreseeable future. Addressing this lopsided supply will require local governments and companies (and organizations like ours) to innovate a Saanich Peninsula solution.

 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

 

 

Cast Your Net Widely

I attended a workforce forum last week, which was focussed on the the difficult challenges employers face in finding employees to fill current positions. Employers are having to spend an increasing amount of time on recruitment and retention efforts, and are finding it necessary to expand their focus to access groups of people they have not had experience recruiting including immigrants, indigenous populations, people with diverse abilities, and the semi-retired.

The first challenge employers face is in figuring out where and how to access these largely untapped and diverse groups of potential employees. Gone are the days when you post a classified ad and are overwhelmed with resumes from a host of qualified applicants. The second challenge is in successfully and sensitively navigating the recruiting process. Employers may find themselves dealing with language and cultural barriers as well as workplace accommodation issues. It seems the key to making this all work is time, patience, and flexibility.

Seemingly at odds with the difficulty employers are facing recruiting, at the federal level, as mentioned by Saanich – Gulf Islands MP, Elizabeth May, who attended the same forum, is the focus of bureaucrats and politicians on job creation. This policy approach is more than a little mind-boggling considering almost every business I know is looking for employees. It isn’t merely an irritant that companies have jobs open for extended periods of time; for some smaller businesses, a lack of employees has resulted in shortened hours and work weeks. It is very difficult to generate revenue when your doors are closed.

There seems to be a slight recognition of the shift in the balance of power from job creators to job seekers as evidenced by the criteria for the 2019 Canada Summer Jobs program. They have relaxed their previous requirement that applicants be students. We are able to hire any qualified candidates between the ages of 15 and 30. It’s a small step, but employers will take whatever help is offered.

Our thanks to John Juricic and Harbour Digital Media for shining the light on these important labour market issues. This Chamber will continue to support employers’ recruiting and retaining efforts by sharing information about programs and people and resources. Stay connected and sign up to receive our weekly e-Blast.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

 

 

 

 

Peninsula Industrial Forces Unite

Media Contact:
Denny Warner
(250) 656-3616
execdir@peninsulachamber.ca
peninsulachamber.ca

PENINSULA INDUSTRIAL FORCES UNITE

SIDNEY, FEBRUARY 1, 2019 — The Sidney North Saanich Industrial Group (SNSIG) is pleased to announce that they are consolidating their Peninsula-based Industry and Manufacturing Sector advocacy efforts with the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. Recognizing similar focus and goals, and the importance of maximizing organizational resources, Peninsula-based industrial companies appreciate the opportunity to make use of the administrative strength and community reach of the Chamber. Sidney North Saanich Industrial Group activities and programs will now be supported and delivered through the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber is cognizant of the immense contribution that the industrial businesses make to our local economy and looks forward to facilitating their continued access to decision-makers, and to promoting strategies to best serve their interests.

John Juricic, SNSIG ED states: “The ongoing issues of Affordable Workforce Housing availability, Labour Market concerns and increased Transportation options will be best served in a sustainable and effective manner thru the expert and experienced capacity of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to working with the Chamber thru this initial transition stage and developing the long-term association with this great Peninsula Business Organization.”

The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, building community through business since 1912.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much more than a Tour

We have organized tours of businesses on the Saanich Peninsula now for 9 years for our Tour of Industry. To date, we have visited approximately 36 of them and the Tour remains one of the most popular activities we undertake, for several reasons.

The first reason is that many of the businesses we have been privileged to see over the years are leaders in their field but do not have clients or customers in this area. They have developed ground-breaking technology, innovative products or services and yet little is known about them at the local level. It is like a treasure hunt uncovering these gems in our own back yard.

Another reason we know so little about many of these businesses is that business leaders are busy! Their work day extends far beyond the hours their employees work. It is not on their priority list to let the wider community know the fantastic nature of their operation. We never have an issue with businesses agreeing to open their doors to us despite the challenges present in shepherding almost 60 people at a time through their work areas. We present them with an audience of community leaders eager to hear their story and they are pleased to have the opportunity to brag, at our request, about their success.

When the Tour ends, our guests frequently express two main themes for why it was a valuable use of their day: they learned fascinating features of each of the businesses toured and they often had not anticipated the quality of interaction they would experience with their fellow guests. The Tour of Industry is networking on steroids. Imagine a moving mixer attended by participants who are leaders in their own areas of influence. Kind of like speed dating with a different seat mate en route to each new destination.

There are a few other reasons the franchise has prevailed: we throw in a meal with a guest speaker, we have stellar organizations that step up every year to sponsor, and, crucial to the event’s success, we have an embarrassment of industrial riches on the Saanich Peninsula and have yet to exhaust our possibilities for interesting, successful enterprises to tour.

 

The Honeymoon Phase

What does it mean for the Saanich Peninsula that we have 2 new mayors and a substantially different council in Sidney? Obviously, time will tell, but we were heartened to see a recent photo of the Sidney and North Saanich mayors together, smiling broadly, at the Grand Opening of the new peninsula Canadian Tire. Previous mayors and councils had idealized cooperation and pointed to the services that were currently shared as evidence of their harmony while it was clear relationships were anything but collaborative. Early conversations with many members of council and new mayors have generated cautious optimism amongst our board and chamber members that a shift in cooperation is happening.

In the lead up to the election, many citizens of Sidney and North Saanich expressed dissatisfaction about the change Sidney was experiencing. Responding to a perceived lack of control is legitimate; however, venting, or chronic complaining, always serves to deplete people’s energy, dampens positive attitudes, and almost inevitably results in people feeling wholly unmotivated to change behaviour.

We support our municipal leaders in fostering a climate of entrepreneurialism and mindful growth in our communities. We look forward to participating in discussions, about the complexion of the community we want to live and do business in, where there is laser-like focus on generating ideas and zero time wasted on debating facts. We encourage future facilitators of the OCP and area plan discussions to be strict about having ideas travel through the process accompanied by solutions. We are wildly enthusiastic about consultation where problem solvers are engaged in creating the plan for change.

It’s not our role to give advice, but we anticipate that this approach is less likely to result in a divorce four years from now. We look forward to working with all three councils to see the appropriate infrastructure and foundation develop on the Saanich Peninsula, to not simply sustain business, but to ensure it thrives.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director