The Power of the Pause, by Erin Heeney

In our last post, Christina discussed the importance of urgency in business to drive performance and create an atmosphere of achievement. Tools such as defined goals, timelines, and success measures keep us accountable and help fuel a sense of accomplishment.

Urgency is important, but if left unchecked we become the proverbial chicken running around without a head.

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Enter the pause. 

Not a stop, not a rewind, not a fast-forward. A pause. Why? Because it connects us to the present. Urgency can motivate us toward the end goal but the pause keeps us grounded in the moment. When we are present, we are better communicators because we are aware of what is actually happening. Not what just happened, not what we think will happen, but what IS happening. Awareness is pressing the pause button; it brings us to the here and now. Mindfulness is giving the pause time and space so we can use our conscious brain to make decisions, communicate clearly, and act wisely.

When we are on auto play, our unconscious mind is in control. And when our unconscious mind is taking control of our actions and behaviour, whether it's writing a report, analyzing data, or speaking with a customer/coworker/supervisor/employee/etc we risk missing important information and making mistakes.

To make real, authentic, and impactful decisions we need our conscious mind in full force.

Our conscious mind is aware of its environment and the thoughts and emotions it triggers. When we pause and take a moment to be mindful of that environment, we can start to understand the difference between a thought and an emotion. We can dissect and break down the situation in order to communicate clearly, make a decision, or analyze the information.

In a world of immediacy and urgency, taking a pause can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Many people dislike silence and see a pause as a void to fill or even as a weakness of the other person. However, the reality is by taking a pause before responding we are practicing active listening and we aren't defaulting to the first thing that pops into our mind.

So what does a pause look like? In its simplest form, it's connecting with your breath. There is nothing more present than your breath. It's literally bringing awareness to a function of your unconscious mind so that you bring it to your consciousness. From there, you can employ a breathing technique or simply follow your natural breath to connect with the present moment.

The ultimate pause practice is meditation. The mind is a muscle, and just like other muscles, it can be developed, shaped, and strengthened. But it can also become weak, can atrophy, and rely on the other, bigger muscles (e.g. the unconscious mind) to take control which will ultimately create a great unbalance.

Approaches like taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or going for a walk are good places to start. But they need to be done mindfully and it takes practice in order for them to work. Taking a mindful walk doesn't mean walking while going over the conversation again and again in your mind trying to figure it out. It means feeling the ground beneath your feet, the wind on your cheeks, the smells in the air. It's about connecting with the act of walking and being fully present for that walk. You're telling your mind to be present with what you're doing so that when you're finished with your pause, you have brought your attention and awareness to the present to allow your conscious mind to flourish.

Try practicing mindfulness first in the little every day things like washing the dishes, flossing, walking the dog, or making coffee. Pay attention to how your senses react: the smell of the coffee, the warmth of the dish water. Notice the feelings evoked: the happiness of your pup, the satisfaction of taking care of your dental health. Once you become comfortable being mindful in the simple, every day you can bring that practice to other more difficult situations like decision making and communication.

Hustle, Bustle and Hurry by Christina Stewart

There are a few buzz words out there these days that employers are using to describe ideal employees. Words like Resilient and Engaged and Agile come to mind; however, there is another one that we’ve heard a few times in just the past week that I thought could use some dissection and discussion.

Urgency.

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Employers want employees that can step it up when they need to and who understand when that is. 

We work with a mid-size marketing firm; when this firm started out as a teeny tiny venture their distinct difference was responsiveness.  They could out-maneuver and out-flank their larger competitors and get the deals done. They could respond quickly and move fast.  It was about hustle. This also became their competitive advantage – as a result, they grew. But, there seems to be an inverse relationship between this company’s size and the sense of urgency embedded in the culture. Now the work is ticking along and certainly getting done but that high energy buzz that used to be in the office has dwindled down to a steady hum.

More often than not, small companies have a sense of urgency.  Why? Their very survival is at stake. If they don’t move quickly, they get squashed by larger, more established competitors. In today’s market, no one can afford to drift along with the status quo.  Once a company passes a certain threshold it seems that urgency dissipates.  This isn’t about work ethic or getting the job done, it’s about that fire that moves the team. 

Think of it this way: many of us have a background in hospitality or retail.  In that environment when you have line up of customers, what do you do?  Keep the same place or do you step it up? You step it up! We may not have a line up in our professional offices, manufacturing firms, town halls or other workplaces but we do have a client that is waiting in line for the best service.

Hence employers want to find ways to create a sense of urgency.   An atmosphere of urgency will create an atmosphere of achievement. It’s tragically un-hip to procrastinate.  A deadline and strong sense of urgency generates energy towards getting results.  In short, they drive people to perform.

Activate, Accelerate & Deadlines

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Activate: Urgency requires we activate quickly: make a decision; get off the dime, pick up the phone, write the report, book the meeting, and finish the project. As someone very smart once said: “It’s easier to steer a moving object” If you’ve made the wrong decision, you can adjust.  But if you wait too long, you miss the opportunity entirely. 

Speed can still be our competitive advantage in larger organizations. 

Accelerate: Urgency requires more than activation.  You have to start quickly but you also have to keep things moving.  There quite a few forces that will conspire to slow you down; approvals, budgets, client feedback and the list goes on. Any employee has to identify these obstacles and remove them in order to keep things moving forward to closure.

    Deadlines: In an ideal world, behaviour doesn’t depend on deadlines.  

    Behaviour should depend on values, and one of the values of all high performing people is a sense of urgency. Deadlines represent commitment, deadlines enforce accountability, and deadlines create a sense of urgency. A clearly understood deadline that is shared, agreed upon and committed to is the silver bullet of proactive behaviour.

    What specifically can you do to create more urgency?

    • Walk faster – show some hustle
    • Respond faster to emails and voicemails.  Don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s excuse for not getting their work done.
    • Get to the point quickly. Clean, clear and concise communication is key.
    • Be quick to change your tactics.  If something isn’t moving you toward your desired outcome do something else – rewrite the email, evaluate your work. Pivot.
    • It’s easy to see a lack of urgency in others, but can you see it in yourself?  How can your own mindset help you in creating your sense of urgency?

    Why You Need a Sense of Urgency:

    None of us can afford to delay our goals or responsibilities.  Deadlines create a sense of urgency that help us get things done. Next Monday when you’re looking at your calendar or referring to your to-do list, factor in urgency, it will make a difference.

    Snow Day ~ by Christina Stewart

    Snow Day

     The view from my office window today

    The view from my office window today

    “School’s Cancelled due to Snow” These are probably the five best words that a kid can hear. But for me, it used to be quite the opposite. These five words used to send me scrambling.  Those five plus the dreaded six words: “Mom, I’m too sick for school” and my worst three ever: “Professional Development Day.”  

    But then I started Praxis.  I started my business to be able to build the flexibility into my life that eliminated trying to find some kind of work/life balance. Since I was in charge, I could schedule, cancel, assign and take on the work I wanted on my own terms.  Sure there are still client meetings, trips to Nanaimo and late night report writing but I’m the one fitting them in on my own terms.  I like get up early and get a jump on the day when the house is dark and quiet.  Then by 3:00 when the kids are out of school, I’m done with work and able to focus on them.   

    But wait – I’m in the business of HR and building strong, functioning teams, right? So why does this only exist for me as an owner of a small business?  Well, I don’t think it should.  Take our Praxis workplace: None of our employees has a schedule.  How about that!  No schedule.  They have work that needs to get done and parameters on how to do the work and deadlines for completion just like anywhere else, but how and when they get to it is up to them.  This isn’t about providing flexibility to employees with a family either - none of my employees have school aged kids and some don’t have any. It’s about life outside of work and filling it up with the things that will be enjoyed.  The 20/30/40 hours that someone is working is only a small portion of each week.

    I work with my clients to ensure that their people – their absolute greatest asset – are engaged and connected to each other and to the organization and its purpose.  That’s my job and when I’m able to ensure that my family is tended to I have more freedom of mind to tend to my business and my clients and my own team - quadruple win.  Just imagine what it would be like if all of us – owners, leaders, and individual contributors had the same opportunity? When I look ahead to the future of work and workers, I see organizations that focus on the results and not the hours that an employee puts in.

    Snow days shouldn’t just be fun for kids.

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    Take the Second Step by Erin Heeney

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    Lean in. Look inward. Take the lead. Take the second step. We hear these adages frequently in our lives but how often do we have a tool that can help us do so? Yes, we have coaches, mentors, friends, counsellors, leaders, and the list goes on of people who will encourage us to take the leap and go beyond the first step. But tools to help us with that? Tools that will give us actual insight to our decision making, thought process, attitudes, and behaviours? Tools that help us understand ourselves so we can improve our communication, decision making, change and conflict management?

    Enter MBTI - the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

    Throughout my career, I've done numerous "personality tests". The problem was, I never remembered "what" I was. I've always fallen somewhere in the middle on most of those types of tests, whether it's learning styles or personality. So, when I joined Praxis under the guidance of two MBTI certified professionals, I was intrigued. I knew there had to be something more than what I had previously been exposed to.

    So. Much. More.

    The missing key to my previous experiences was the Second Step. This is where we really dig in to all the facets that shape our personalities.

    When I sat down to take the simple 20-minute online test, I sometimes found it hard to choose between only two options. I also felt like I was contradicting myself with some of my answers.  A couple examples:
    I like flexibility and adapting to each day, but I also like setting a plan and having some routine activities.
    Sometimes I dive right in to tasks, other times I make lists and set timelines.

    So how was this system of forced choice going to dig in to that grey area of my life? What little did I know. Oh, what little did I know!

    MBTI Step I is the big picture, it's the either or of the 4 main dichotomies and preferences that shape our personalities. Yes, there's a scale, but at the end of it, we're left with 4 letters to define our personalities. We prefer either:

    Introversion or Extroversion (I or E)
    ·         How we give our attention and energy to the world
    ·         Es focus outward and get energy through interacting with people and/or doing things
    ·         Is focus inward and get energy through reflecting and time alone

    Sensing or Intuition (S or N)
    ·         How we bring in information and the type of information that we trust
    ·         Ss notice and trust facts, details, and present realities
    ·         Ns attend to and trust interrelationships, theories, and future possibilities

    Thinking or Feeling (T or F)
    ·         The way we make decisions
    ·         Ts make decisions using logical analysis to achieve objectivity
    ·         Fs make decisions using person-centred values to achieve harmony

    Judging or Perceiving (J or P)
    ·         Our attitude to the external world and how we orient ourselves to it
    ·         Js are organized, orderly, and tend to make decisions quickly
    ·         Ps are flexible, adaptable, and keep options open as long as possible

    The key word here is prefer. Neither is better than the other, one isn't right and the other wrong, they're just different ways of perceiving and doing. We can do both, but not with equal comfort. We can do both, but not at the same time. Like writing, we have a dominant and non-dominant hand. We default to use one, but we can use the other. And the more we practice using the other, the more comfortable it becomes.

    So what am I? Well, I'm an INFP. I am most definitely an INFP. I know this because not only did a fancy and fascinating 17-page report say so, but because after taking that simple online test, I sat in a room with other business leaders facilitated by Christina and Drew, to dig in and truly understand the differences between the dichotomies and do a self-assessment before seeing the results of the report. In both cases, it was pretty clear that I'm an INP, but the F was a little more challenging to determine.

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    And this is where we loop back to Step II. The Facets. Within those 8 letters, each has 5 facets and each facet is a theme. For example, ways to connect with others has two poles: initiating a receiving. This is where it gets complex, but not complicated. Because this is also where light is shed on the fact that I am indeed, smack dab in the middle of methodical (plan specific tasks, subtasks, and organized) and emergent (plunge in, let strategies emerge, and adaptable). The system of forced choice did it! It dug in to the grey areas of my life and highlighted that I can be both and that I am somewhere in between and that it's ok!

    If you've ever questioned or criticized personality tests, I challenge you to dig deeper and take the second step lead by a trained facilitator. And while the interpretive report may take a bit of naval gazing, it will give you insight to yourself and your team that will improve communication and enhance understanding.

    It also helps you embrace and understand things like the pressure prompted buzz us Ps love. Because yes, while I've been contemplating and writing this post in my mind for almost two weeks now, it wasn't until the (self-imposed) timeline of publishing it today, that I actually sat down to put fingers to keyboard.

    Strategizing, Planning and Goal Setting = Triple the Fun by Christina Stewart

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    About a year ago I wrote about how uncomfortable it was to be unplanned as a ‘planner’ by nature. (Read about it here: http://www.praxisgroup.ca/blogs/2017/3/19/the-uncomfortable-organic-planner Seriously read it, it’s quite good.)  I wrote about how much I love to plan and how much I tell people and clients and even my kids that they should plan and they should write out their plans and tell other people about them too.  Only trouble is that I spent 2017 flying by the seat of my pants with not a plan in sight other than getting the business deliverables out with perfection, on time and on budget. At home my only goal was to ensure that I kept my kids alive.  No joke – with three kids under 10 that’s not an easy feat!

    The good news is that we all survived 2017! Yay! And we even added more people to our list of people to keep alive (no, not kids, employees!) The great news is that having employees really means that you absolutely must plan!  This unplanned planner is over the moon excited about this week.  This week is the week of planning for me.

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    Tonight I spent it at an event called “Kick Start 2018 with Visualization and Digital Vision Boards” where I began the process of making a digital vision board.  Oddly, as a planner I’ve never been too keen on doing vision boards. I did it once and it was a fun activity to do with a friend but I didn’t get much value in it. I was obviously doing it wrong because I haven’t even finished my board yet and I’m already feeling clearer about my purpose this year.

    Tomorrow we strategize! I could burst I’m so thrilled to be sitting down with my whole team and planning out 2018!  Well, first we’re going to answer these big questions and then we’re going to go granular and set up the plan to get there:

    • Name 3 things you are passionate about (no restrictions or connection to Praxis) 
    • What businesses do you admire? What about their business operations or philosophy do you find attractive?
    • What do you want to be doing with Praxis this year? 3 years from now?
    • What does success look like?
    • Bring 3 areas for personal growth

    Then on Thursday I’m going to an event hosted by Lean In Canada called “Strategies to Move Ahead” where we’re going to learn strategies to determine our SMART personal and professional goals for 2018. There’s so much planning going on that I may explode with wicked good ideas and insights and direction and focus!

    Watch out 2018, here we come!

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    Merry Christmas and a Happy Kwanzaa to You by Erin Heeney

    My favourite part of the Christmas season is the brightness it brings to the darkest days of the year. I love the holly, jolly spirit and the merry and bright atmosphere. I love the house all sparkly and shiny; decorated with lights, candles, and memories of Christmases Past and loved ones near and far. For me, it is a shiny and bright celebration of the last days of the year; a time of reflection, love, hope, peace, and joy. 

    For many others, it is a time of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning "common" and are the basis of the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa.

    Over seven days from December 26th to January 1st, Kwanzaa spreads a universal message and celebration of community, family, and culture. Created in 1966 by Dr Maulana Karenga, the holiday was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African roots and heritage; however, people from all backgrounds are welcomed to join in the celebration.

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    Today is the fourth day of Kwanzaa which celebrates Ujamaa: cooperative economics. The themes of unity, family, and equality encourage people to work together to prosper and thrive by creating and maintaining their own resources. Sounds pretty good to me.

    No matter your background, the seven principles of Kwanzaa hold value and hope for a life well lived and shared with others.

    To those who celebrate, Heri za Kwanzaa to you. To those who are just learning about Kwanzaa, here is a quick overview of the seven principles:

    SEVEN PRINCIPLES

    The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.

    Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

    Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

    Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah) To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

    Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

    Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

    Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

    Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

    Diversity Lesson from a Six Year Old by Christina Stewart

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    My six year old daughter came home from school a couple of weeks ago with a December calendar of events. As you can imagine, it’s chock full of Building Gingerbread Houses Day, Pajama Day, Skating Day, Nutcracker Performances and the usual round of Holiday Concerts – pretty standard stuff for the lead up to the winter break.  But there, tucked amongst Breakfast with Santa, Christmas Day and Making Candy Canes were a couple of other dates.  Namely – the first day of Hanukkah on December 13 and Kwanza on December 26. When I asked my daughter if she knew about the dates, she shrugged “Of course,” she said, “They are important days that people celebrate.” That’s right, of course they are. It’s so nonchalant and just plain old ordinary to my six year old that some people celebrate this and some people celebrate that. 

    No big deal.  How refreshing. 

    Life should just be that way this time of year. How about you celebrate this and I’ll celebrate that? Let’s not make it matter what you celebrate or what I celebrate; how about we all just celebrate what we want (or nothing at all!) and we let everyone else have their own beliefs. How cool would it be if someone were comfortable enough to say “Merry Christmas” to a stranger on the street and hear a reply of “Happy Hanukkah” and know it meant that you were both just being yourselves and feeling your own warmth and affinity toward your beliefs. Me celebrating what I want doesn’t take a thing away from what anyone else believes.

    The political correctness of saying “Happy Holidays” is paved with great intentions, however, when we really want to create diversity and inclusion in our workforces and in our communities, we need to be learning about other cultures, creating space for others to share and sharing our own stories too. The depth of diversity in Canada can easily be overlooked if we only focus on the commercialization of the holiday season – as is pretty evident with the number of plastic Santas out there. In order to create that diversity I urge you to look past the twinkling lights and learn about other cultures, make zero expectations that people are celebrating anything specific or anything at all, and perhaps like my daughter, circle some celebrations beyond your own on the December calendar.

    A win for the Blind Date by Lindsay Roberts

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    Who knew a blind date could be an instant success? A connection you search for but know you may not ever find. That’s what happened to me when a mutual friend set me up on an interview with Christina and Drew (Praxis). Like any interview I had done my research, laid out my clothes the night before, made sure I didn’t have any toddler breakfast on my top and held my head high as I walked out the door… but this was different. I didn’t know what to expect, there hadn’t been a job opening or a formal recruitment, just one person, setting us up on a quasi-blind date. Yet, from the first conversation rally (often defaulting to sports terms) the spark was evident.

    I suppose all interviews are like blind dates. Meeting people for the first time, hoping to impress them while learning more about the prospect, hoping you’ll get a call once the time spent together ends. What set this meeting apart was that spark. I like to think I have only taken jobs where I could see my future; however, this was bigger than that, it was a future I had dreamed about but I wasn’t completely confident existed (yet), especially on the Sunshine Coast (where we were moving our family to). Talking with Christina and Drew felt like talking to myself but in action. Ideas were flowing, pens were moving and I walked away with a huge smile on my face. This was it. They had done it, and I wanted to be a part of it!

    Since then, it has been exactly as I hoped, working to put ideas into action just as our namesake eludes, and with another new team member (Erin), who was seemingly our missing link! Writing now, my plan was to contribute a blog about my transition into Praxis, but it wouldn’t be right without starting from the beginning…shedding light on the first day we met, the spark that just continues to grow, the revival of the blind date. With no finish line in sight, I am so grateful to be apart of this super star team. 

    Start with Why, by Erin Heeney

    Hi, I'm Erin. I'm one of the gals Christina and Drew mentioned in the previous two posts. Like them, I'm overjoyed to be part the Praxis Team. It's quite flattering, actually.  For many reasons.

    So, I made a list! Because who doesn't like lists?

    5 (of many) Reasons why Praxis is both a Great Company to Work for and with:

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    1. Strong Leadership: Christina and Drew enable organizations to thrive by helping them innovate and lead by example. They walk the talk and push best practices to be better. For example, writing my job description was a collaborative effort; I was hired for my skills, not my ability to complete specific tasks. My job description will evolve as I grow. Plus, I got to pick my job title! How cool is that?

    2. Shared Values: at the end of the day, we all just want to help people and live our best lives

    3. Teamwork: our work is based on collaboration, trust, and most of all fun! What more can you ask for in a team?

    4. Flexibility: I can work where I want, when I want. I have choice in the projects I contribute to. The value in my work is in the quality of the hours, not the quantity.

    5. Creativity: I get to design presentations and find creative ways to inform, educate, and lead people from idea to action.

    As I grow in my role as Program Facilitator, I look forward to discovering more reasons why I'm pumped on the work we do, and I will be sure to continue to share that with you.

    Until then, thank you, Drew, Christina, and Lindsay for such a warm welcome to the team!

    Welcome Happiness, by Drew Stewart

    Ever find that it is sometimes the smallest things in life that can make you happy? Things like an elevator arriving to your floor the moment you push the button. Turning on the tv and finding that your favourite movie just started. Or how about taking that first sip of your favourite drink? All are pretty good things that at the very least crack an inward smile to those of us that experience these events. About a week ago, I found out what my little slice of random happiness was…

    Finding a lemon meringue pie on the discount bakery cart at the grocery store.

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    Christina had mentioned that she hadn’t seen me smile all day, but damned if I wasn’t grinning like a Cheshire cat when I saw that pie with the 50% off sticker on the top of the packaging. With the kind of laser focus that writers hyperbolize elite athletes of possessing, I lunged forward, grabbed the delicious package and secured it in my cart. I felt like my day was done after that, I had reached the highest of peaks.

    Truth is however, I have had a lot to be happy about lately. Some of these things are not even food related either! As a father, I have had the opportunity to watch each of my three children participate in something they are passionate about. For a parent, seeing your kids not only enjoy what they are doing but having a measure of success at it, is overwhelmingly satisfying. I have been happy because we have been fortunate enough to close off a couple of recruitment searches and thereby giving individuals an exciting new opportunity. Being a small part in a life event for someone is an extremely rewarding experience. Contrary to what Christina might think, there is something that even makes me happier than seeing that discounted pie. Our team at Praxis is growing.

    Within the context of things that are a “problem”, being busy (as a business owner) is a good one to have. I am happy to say that we are bringing on two wonderful individuals who will make Praxis even stronger and allow us to continue delivering the quality of customer service that we pride ourselves on. Lindsay Roberts and Erin Heeney are joining the team as the Director of HR Services and Program Coordinator/Facilitator, respectively. Aside from also living in one of the most beautiful corners of the country, we all share a passion for helping organizations build their best possible teams. It is rare that you meet someone for the first time and walk away feeling in complete alignment in your vision and values. We had that feeling with both Lindsay and Erin after our initial meetings. They are going to bring enormous value to Praxis and to our clients and I couldn’t be happier to have them onboard…like discounted lemon meringue pie happy.

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    And Then There Were Four, by Christina Stewart

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    Have you ever run a business, with you and your partner both working 80+ hours per week? Have you ever tried to run a business working all those hours when your partner is also your husband and you have three active kids, two big dogs and a home to run together?

    If so, you'll know that it's difficult (understatement!) because you and he are literally everything to everybody at home and everything to everybody with all your clients. So, what do you do?

    Hire some help of course!

    But what if you found an absolutely ahhh-mazing team member, and she was tied up in a contract for a few more months?  Well, if you are like us, of course you’d wait for her. Because she’s awesome and I mean that in a tremendous, remarkable, splendid kind of way!

    So then, what if while you were waiting for this tremendous, remarkable, splendid Director of all your services to arrive, you launch a whole new line of service?  Well, that’s what we did.  On top of the bucket load of interesting and complex HR advisory work, on top of the challenging recruitment we had underway and on top of the regular learning and development and team building we were doing – we decided to take on a huge new program focused around Diversity, Inclusion & Unconscious Bias.  Why? Because there is significant value in it for us and for our clients.

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    And then what if you stopped counting the hours you were working and you found yourselves without a day off ever, like ever ever, and what if your kids started complaining that they didn’t know who you were anymore and what if you started going days between showers? (kidding! Sort of…)

    Hire some help of course! So, we found an ahhh-mazing new team member to support all of our new work in Diversity, our Respectful Workplace programs and our Learning & Development / Team Building work.  But like anyone worth their salt, she wanted to give appropriate notice to her employer and then she wanted a little time to her herself in between her old gig and our new gig.  (She went to Mexico! Yay, for her, boo for us!) But of course we were happy to wait because she’s terrific.  Terrific in a “she takes initiative on the very first day” kind of terrific!

    But then guess what happened?

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    November 8, 2017 happened.  And as luck would have it, our brand new Program Facilitator and our Director of HR Services joined the Praxis Team for real.  For realz. 

    So, if you see me smiling around town (with my kids in tow!) you know why.

    Welcome to the craziness Lindsay & Erin – we couldn’t be happier to have you!

    Huy Chexw. Thanksgiving by Christina Stewart

    Those of us at Praxis, like most people, enjoy a long weekend away from work with more time for our families, however, as supporters and advocates for the rights of First Nations people we’ve been hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ve been concerned that our celebration of gratitude had roots that came at a cost to the Indigenous population.  It was time for some serious research.

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    The first documented “Thanksgiving” in Canada was in 1578 when English explorer Martin Frobisher celebrated his fleet’s safe return to Newfoundland after attempting to find the Northwest Passage.  (The Northwest Passage wasn’t fully navigated until much, much later in the early 1900’s – Frobisher was merely celebrating that the fleet made it back to Newfoundland safely.) Feasts in Canada continued thereafter to celebrate and give thanks for the land that we call home, the food on our tables and the families that we love.  Explorer Samuel de Champlain is known to have held massive meals with First Nations people to celebrate and give thanks.  Thanksgiving became a national Holiday in 1879.

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    However, it is extremely evident that the celebration of Thanksgiving has deep roots in First Nations culture and in fact Thanksgiving is originally an Indigenous ceremony.  In a recent CBC interview Brian Rice, an assistant professor in the department of religion at the University of Winnipeg and a member of the Mohawk nation said, "All of our ceremonies, all of the things that we do, have to do with giving thanks. So it's part of a continuum of something that's been practised for thousands of years." As far as First Nation celebrations of Thanksgiving in Canada go – it’s a divided issue with some celebrating Thanksgiving, others not celebrating anything and some celebrating their own made up holiday – in one family they call it: “You're Welcome Day.” 

    So, what to do at Praxis?  By not acknowledging Thanksgiving we feel that we are ignoring the gift that First Nations people gave to us. Building on the idea of “You're Welcome Day” we are absolutely going to celebrate Thanksgiving as way to say thank you to the aboriginal people that can lay claim to the land that we live and work on. It is about gratitude and family ties and doing our best to build relationships.  As an integral part of our Thanksgiving we chose to speak to our family about the gratitude we feel to be living in such a wonderful place with such abundance.  We make sure that our children understand that the land on which we have our home and our office belongs to the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation.) We show our gratitude to First Nations people for the food, the land, the air and the water that feeds and supports us.   So, Huy Chexw (thank you in Squamish) to all of those that came before us and gave us this place to be.

    The Benefit of Flexibility by Christina Stewart

    Praxis began because Drew and I wanted to be The Boss. We wanted to work for ourselves and have infinitely more flexibility.  I personally was frustrated with asking if I could have an afternoon or an hour away from the office to attend to something for my kids.  I have excellent time management ability and can focus easily, I know how to manage my time with my tasks and saw slipping away from work to watch an assembly or take a child to the dentist as easy and as just part of my day.  Funny, my boss didn’t see it that way. However, I never did ask if I could come in on a Saturday to get ahead of the workload – I just would and of course no one ever challenged me on it. It isn’t that they wouldn’t let me go – if I asked, then I could go – but it was just the fact that I had to ask and that it was tallied up and tracked, used as vacation, or I traded this time at work here for this time at home there and recorded on some spreadsheet and in some database.

    As the one in charge of the service we offer now (aka The Boss) I weave what needs attending to at home and at work into my day and my schedule.  It’s the sunny Monday morning of a Long Weekend while I write this – but I was up at 5:30 so I might as well write this blog while the house is quiet and I have the time – right? And come Wednesday afternoon at 12:50 you’ll find me at the school walking my youngest child’s Kindergarten class to the pool for swimming lessons – because it’s important and fun – right? Still trading time but I’m most certainly not tracking it and I’m not asking if I can; I’m simply managing the pieces of my life and my work that matter.

    I have a friend in Vancouver who runs his own business with about 20 employees and he doesn’t track lunch hours or what time they roll in each day – and I’ll tell you something crazy - he doesn’t even track vacation.  Not one little bit.  He sets out the expectations and provides plenty of support; guidance and the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. And then: he lets them get to it. If they need a Wednesday afternoon off to walk their kid to a swimming lesson, off they go, without question, without asking.  If they need two weeks in Hawaii, off they go without question, without asking. He hires skilled people with the ability to get the job done without his meddling and then makes sure they know what they are on deck to do.  Then they do it as they see fit, in the times that work best for them. He doesn’t track anything but their final performance and if they are getting the results he needs them to, they are successful.  End of the story.

    As Drew and I stare down the barrel of making our first few hires, we’re most definitely thinking about flexibility for our team.  We refuse to make our employees choose between work and family – we aren’t retail, someone does not have to be minding the store in order to get the job done.  Also, as an HR company we fully understand that companies that are willing to offer more flexible job options find that their employees are happier and more committed to their jobs, or even that they get more work done.  So that’s a nice bonus, but in the end we’re offering flexibility because I will trust them and I have better things to do than track and trade my team’s work time with down time – and so will they.

     

    Unconscious Bias by Drew Stewart

    Unconscious bias is a term that came into my vernacular only recently. I was exposed to it through a discussion during a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade presentation and immediately it clicked for me. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, unconscious bias refers to a bias that happens automatically, is outside of our control and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and firsthand experiences.

    Now, my awakening to this terminology is not one of an early adopter. The philosophy and neuroscience behind unconscious bias has been around for while, with a considerable number of high performing organizations leading the charge in addressing it within their training programs and filtering into their work culture. Perhaps being an able-bodied, straight, white male, who has not been subjected to the likes of exclusion that the disabled, visible minorities, LBTQ2 and women are subjected to daily, contributed to being unaware of this phenomenon. As part of the GVBOT presentation, we completed a quiz to see how biased we were within our work lives. Thankfully, I didn’t find out that I shove people into subjective boxes all over the place. I did however realize a few blind spots that could be improved on and I found out that I sometimes utilized unconscious bias as a decision-making/time saving process.

    For the most part, my biases are innocuous and do not have serious repercussions. For instance, when I am scanning the checkouts at the grocery store, I quickly dismiss ones that I think will take the longest based on who is already in them. Senior? Nope, I know they are going to be overly chatty and maybe even pull out a coin purse. Parents with kids? I know from experience that those kids are not going to leave them alone enough so they can efficiently bag their groceries. Young couple? Bingo! They have other things to do and places to go so they will be tossing things into bags without even thinking about it. This is an extremely trivial example, of course. Unconscious bias can have much more serious outcomes and negatively impact your business and culture. A few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

    · Affinity bias: The tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.

    · Halo effect: The tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.

    · Perception bias: The tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that make it impossible to make an objective judgement about members of those groups.

    · Confirmation bias: The tendency for people to seek information that confirms pre-existing beliefs or assumptions.

    · Group think: This bias occurs when people try too hard to fit into a particular group by mimicking others or holding back thoughts and opinions. This causes them to lose part of their identities and causes organizations to lose out on creativity and innovation

    As you can imagine, relying on one of the above biases to make objective decisions is fraught with pitfalls. Having a more diverse team opens all kind of new possibilities and ideas that you might not have been exposed to before. Not a single one of us has all of the answers and the key to success. It requires knowledge and experience that can be found within the under represented groups of people. The time is right to stop listening to our own voices and step away from the echo chambers and hear what other people have to say.

     

     

     

     

    Blind Hiring by Christina Stewart

    The idea of Blind Hiring is that a Hiring Manager looks only at a candidate’s qualifications and abilities – absolutely no personal characteristics are considered. When we consider personal characteristics in hiring it leads to subjectivity and subjectivity means bias – and usually unconscious bias.  Which means that we base whether or not to read a resume/interview/hire someone on our instant gut response to a bit of information about them as a person. Information that we are unaware of and largely has nothing to do with their ability to do the job.   What?!?

    Let’s use an example. In a recent study a researcher sent over 300 fake resumes to law firms to see if privilege really got people hired.  Privilege meaning: from a well-connected family, often wealthy, often elite, and of course, white. One of the most interesting tidbits from the research is that when the researcher wrote “Sailing and Polo” in the hobbies and interests section of the resume, it lead to a quadrupled call back rate for the privileged men over women.  So, yes, we can see that privilege leads to jobs – but only for men, women, not so much. (Read more here: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/10/privilege-helps-men-not-women-get-lucrative-jobs/504497/

    If you have a brain you have bias.  We all do it – we make micro decisions about people when we scan a resume – we see the date they graduated (age), we see their name (gender and race), we see the school they attended (good neighbourhood or bad?), we see the clubs they belong to and where they volunteer (sexuality, intelligence, family status, athletics.)  We think we see someone before we actually do.  We have a need for blind hiring – which eliminates all the ways we might be able to identify and judge someone and focuses simply on their ability (12 years of as an Account Manager and $12M in sales year over year, as opposed to Peter Lee from East Vancouver.) 

    The process of submitting a resume is an antiquated one, fraught with all kinds of pitfalls. We need a new system and we need it now – Hiring Managers spend about six seconds looking at a resume (http://www.businessinsider.com/hiring-recruiters-read-resumes-2014-5) and in that six seconds they are gathering superfluous information. It isn’t enough that we try to be aware of our biases, they will show up anyway.  I for one would rather hire an Account Manager with a proven track record than a race, gender and status.

     

    April Career Spotlight: Executive Operations Administrator

     

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    Tsain-Ko Development Corporation (TKDC) is the Economic Development Arm of the shíshálh Nation. We have a proud mandate to create jobs for the community through sustainable and profitable business opportunities. We are currently seeking a talented and creative Executive Operations Administrator (EOA) to join our team of highly motivated professionals. 

    Are you passionate about the economic development of your community, customer service and keeping our business organized and functioning smoothly?

    Do you want the opportunity to provide your skills, talents and energy to an organization that will allow you to learn, grow, and develop?

    Position Summary:

    Reporting to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Executive Operations Administrator (EOA) is crucial in the effective and efficient operations of TKDC.  The EOA oversees the efficient day-to-day functioning of the office, tenant relations and all administrative support services. Essential to the role is coordinating the flow of information through the organization, providing administrative support by prioritizing items and issues as they arise for the attention of the CEO, ensuring accurate and timely delivery of administrative services, following up on issues requiring action, and establishing and maintaining office efficiency.

    Core Job Responsibilities:

    • Provides administrative support that respects confidentiality and ensures that administrative matters are organized and dealt with in a professional manner
    • Coordinates meetings ensuring well-defined and timely agendas, identification of and notification to interested parties, compilation of background information and supporting materials, and preparation of packages/summary documents to assist in decision making and meeting facilitation
    • Produces well-designed and accurate reports, correspondence, presentation materials, spreadsheets, memos, etc.  Creates, maintains, and updates various computer databases and files as appropriate
    • Undertakes the duties of a Corporate Secretary for Board and Committee meetings, including minute taking under Robert’s Rules of Order
    • Responsible for property management duties, with the expectation for on-call availability

    Preferred Skills and Experience:

    • Senior secondary graduation, formal courses in computers and writing skills, a minimum typing speed of 60 w.p.m., three year’s administrative experience and a sound knowledge of MS Office
    • Desired traits and qualities include: a team player, analytic and organizational abilities, a customer service focus, diplomacy, good listening skills, initiative and flexibility vis-à-vis shifting priorities
    • Possess cultural awareness and sensitivity and an understanding of the strong community ties and values that respect the shíshálh culture, tradition, and beliefs
    • Strong interpersonal skills with the ability to work well with all levels of internal management and staff as well as clients, partners, and outside vendors
    • Exemplary oral and written communication skills
    • Use of own reliable vehicle and safe driving record.

    If this sounds like the job for you, we would love to hear from you. Please respond with a résumé and covering letter, which outlines your interest in the role, to jobs@praxisgroup.ca before April 24, 2017.

     

     

    My Unplanned Plan by Christina Stewart

    It’s no secret that I’m a planner.  I’m organized and thoughtful about the future and I set goals regularly. So, of course, I take care to plan accordingly.  In my own business we have business plans from each year, strategic plans, marketing plans and goals written down on several whiteboards dotted around the office. I have to-do lists and to-day lists. I have lists for each kid (colour coded of course!) and lists for the house, for groceries, for our dogs and for my husband and me. I have notebooks filled with goals and plans and ideas stashed in each vehicle, each room of our office and home and I’m sure there are a few under couch cushions too.  I’m a big fan of planning.

    I tell my clients that planning is a tool that serves both themselves and their businesses.  It is a path to follow that allows for the energy, resources and time of your business and your employees to be in alignment. A good plan will not only tell you where you are going but how you are going to get there.  This is a maxim that I live by in my work and in my entire life. This is what my clients pay us to do for them, and we do it very well.

    And yet, we’re about to enter the spring of 2017 and I have no idea where Praxis is going this year.   Seriously. Even typing that sentence gives me chills.  But it’s true.  In November last year, my partner, Drew and I took off to Vegas for a few days to do some 2017 strategic planning.  Except, we were in Vegas and away from the kids and our regular life for the first time in years.  So, we slept and ate and didn’t do any planning.  Then around came December and January – our biggest and busiest months in the life of our business. Followed by a productive February, filled with sick kids, sick adults and playing catch up on all the stuff we didn’t get done in December and January.  You get the idea. Life is busy.  A good busy – a great busy, but still busy.

    Week after week, I write down that our priority for that week is “strategy development.”  I write down “we need to define who needs us this year” and I write down “How are we going to let business who need us know we exist?” and I write down “how are we going to best help our clients reach their goals.”  And yet, here we are with no plan.  But here’s the fun part: That has become my plan.

    Starting my own business has pushed me in ways I could never ever have foreseen.  I am challenged in a new way almost daily to be creative and put myself out into the world in interesting ways. This whole “no plan” has become part of this adventure for me.  I’m understanding what it’s like to live by an organic system. I’m learning to let the flow of my business dictate where I expend my energy.  It’s a fascinating, unique and developing feeling for me.  It makes me uncomfortable – but there is a huge part of me that is learning to live with discomfort and to actually flourish from what I discover while I am uncomfortable.

    I’m not sure how long this departure from my normal will last for me – at the core of who I am, I am a planner and I know that will surface and win out again. Plus, I know that setting goals is actually a sound business practice, but for now, I’m going to let it ride and see where we end up.

    March Career Spotlight - Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

    Our client is a family-owned home care organization who focuses on the dignity and quality of life of every individual served. They are looking for a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to join their team of compassionate, dedicated care providers in Powell River, BC.

    Are you looking for a company that cares about you and values your contribution?

    Are you looking for a stable work environment?  

    Do you want competitive compensation and an excellent benefits package?

    In this role you will have the opportunity to establish, monitor and deliver nursing care to clients in a home and community care setting.  Using your previous experience in the acute care sector, demonstrated clinical competencies, and positive interpersonal skills, you will serve your clients well.  You offer the ability to make sound decisions, have excellent interpersonal and possess effective communication skills demonstrated through the ability to analyze, and resolve issues and you have a strong sense of personal integrity and ethical practices.

    This position is 40 hours per week over 5 days at 8 hours per day.  Previous experience with tracheotomy care and quadriplegic care is a definite asset.

    If this sounds like the job for you, we would love to hear from you. Please respond with a résumé and covering letter to jobs@praxisgroup.ca as soon as possible. Please ensure that your letter outlines your previous experience and why you are interested in this role. We thank all applicants for their submissions; however, only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.

    Praxis Performance Group is a Human Resource and Recruitment Firm located on the Sunshine Coast in beautiful British Columbia. With our depth of experience and our belief in the unlimited potential of a well formed team, we take the time to get to know our clients and candidates. Focused on fit, we work with organizations who know that their people come first and who know that their greatest resource is their team.

    Why I love Recruitment by Christina Stewart

    I can remember the “HR Lady” at my first office job.  I was working as an Administrative Assistant at a Brokerage in my very early 20’s and until that point, I had never heard of HR or Recruitment.  As I watched her move from project to project and from a senior level meeting to a training session to interviewing for a vacant role in the office I thought she must have the coolest job ever.  She got to know everything about everybody.  She was the keeper of secrets – all things confidential were in her grasp.

    Naturally as a highly curious person myself, I was intrigued by all that she knew about our company, our office, the people who worked there and our future as an organization. It seemed to me that she had her hand in it all – she was part of the big picture strategy and culture along with every other step down to the minutia of how the office functions; she knew it all and her opinion mattered.  I wanted her job.

    I started taking HR classes and luckily one of my first was recruitment.  I was hooked.  The importance of recruitment became very evident very quickly.  Hire the wrong person and your workplace could suffer serious implications. The impact could be felt by unhappy employees, high turnover, low productivity, managers spending too much time on management and not leadership, disgruntled customers – the ripples could turn to waves pretty quickly.  Conversely, hire the right person and the opposite can happen: happy colleagues, increased retention, increased productivity, managers spending time leading, and satisfied clients.

    Beyond how pivotal it is for a company to have the right complement of people I simply like the duties and responsibilities of being a Recruiter.  I like speaking with the client to find out what they are looking for and helping them to refine the ideal person with the ideal skills and experience.  At the beginning it can feel as daunting as looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, however, by crafting the right job ads and putting them in the right places along with picking up the phone and talking with people, people and more people, it ends up being more like putting a really fun puzzle together.  I feel the joy of putting someone in a role that same as if I were to find the last piece of that puzzle on the floor under my chair. I couldn’t see it right away, but it was there all along ~ Eureka!

    Add to all of that, that I simply enjoy talking with people – I love hearing their stories and learning about why they took this job or how they landed what that company.  Everyone has a career story and if you ask the right questions you can often learn a tremendous amount about someone in a fairly short time. I have interviewed hundreds, maybe even a thousand people, in my HR and Recruitment career and every single one of them has something of interest to say.  I learn and I grow with each and every interaction.

    Telling people that they aren’t successful is hands down the hardest part of this gig, but I see it as an opportunity to provide feedback when someone asks for it, and as an opportunity to treat others with grace. I hope if you were to ask the people I’ve interviewed over the years that they will tell you that I treated them with class and respect throughout the process.  I’ve never left anyone hanging, not one of the people I have ever interviewed will tell you that I didn’t speak to them directly to let them know that they didn’t get the job.  My attitude is of understanding – I know how hard job hunting can be and how frustrating and arduous to be looking for work but through that process every person has a right to be listened to and treated with dignity. 

    We do a wide variety of things at Praxis, all of them feed me in some way, but Recruitment really hits home for me with the significance of my contribution, my ability to meet and work with a huge variety of people and how in the end, my perseverance pays off. 

    Why I love Recruitment by Drew Stewart

    I came by my interest in Recruitment organically. I was exposed to it through my job as a manager working for a well-established video game publisher. When I would tell people where I worked, the majority of the time I’d get a response such as:

    “Oh wow, must be fun to play video games all day.” 

    I wish! Now that would be a fantastic job! Unfortunately, when you got to the heart of what I did there, it was not much different then most companies. I spent most my time in spreadsheets, developing reports and managing external relationships with outsourced partners. However, there was one thing that I always looked forward to break up the monotony of a project cycle. That “thing” was recruiting. I took an active role in evaluating my teams and going through skill set inventory to see where we needed to supplement existing attributes. I particularly enjoyed interviewing and getting to know individuals on a bit more of a personal level. I came away from interviews feeling re-energized and infected with the enthusiasm that came from the candidates who wanted to work for this company and be a part of making a video game that they have personally enjoyed. The process gave me tremendous perspective, in two very different and conflicting ways.

    1. Seeing people come into an interview and discuss at length about how a product you are a part of has influenced their life, is a very powerful thing. Now, I fully realized that we were not solving the worlds problems within those walls, we were providing entertainment for people. Nonetheless, what we made impacted individuals and motivated them to pursue a career in our industry. It made me feel proud and excited about the future to eventually have even more influence over decision that could make our products even more entertaining and fun. 

    2. If I loved this one facet of my job so much, why am I not doing more of it?

     I like to simplify my life and the world around me, as much as possible. I find that getting into too many details can paralyze me into a state of inaction. Paralysis by analysis, if you will. So, when I weighed the two different pieces of perspective, one just seemed too simple to ignore. That question of why not do the thing I enjoy, was too simple to ignore and ultimately it is what gave me the motivation to leave a wonderful organization and enviable place to work.

    So, what is it about Recruiting that pushed me to making it a bigger part of my professional life? In my simplified way at looking things, I came up with my top three things that I love about recruiting.    

     Research

    I am a natural introvert. Thankfully, like a lot of introverts, I am a genuinely curious person. I love finding out the “why” or the “how” behind how things work or how people think. Through recruitment, I spend a lot of time researching best practices within different industries and searching for the individuals who have the skills that are desired by our clients. I get the time to work independently doing this, which feeds my natural introversion personality.

     Chance to be Extroverted

    I wouldn’t be a well-rounded individual if all I did was seek out opportunities to stay in my introverted lane. Doing interviews and talking to candidates on the phone allows me to connect with people and flex my extroverted self. A misconception about introverts is that they appear aloof and disinterested in conversation at times. What I find, is that introverts can become extremely connected to people when getting to a deeper meaningful level. Not so good at small talk but we can build a relationship and stay connected as good as anyone else.  

     Impact someone in positive way

    When one takes inventory of their life and lists out important milestones, they do not get very far down the list before thinking about a job they loved or hopefully getting the opportunity to work somewhere they always dreamed of. Giving good news to candidates that they secured such an opportunity if a definite highlight of my job. I help people get the job they want, which impacts their every day life. Being a small part of it is extremely satisfying.

     I have found that recruiting suits me. I have not regretted leaving that tech job, not for one minute. I feel like I have grown and learned a lot about a number of different industries and the people who drive them. I feel that I am helping to make an impact in a community where I grew up. I still don’t get to play games all day but when the opportunity arises, I do so as a fan and not a job.