Purpose first. Passion second.

Purpose first, passion second



A stash of business cards, a bag filled with pens, pads, sponsorship swag, a long day of speeches, workshops and new ideas that begin to fade away after the closing cocktail party.

Does this sound familiar?

Attending business conferences has its benefits but information overload is not one of them.

This past week, I decided to do things differently.  I left my notebook at home and went to the Global Summit of Conscious Leadership, fully prepared to listen, with the aim of mentally retaining a few key insights that could support my own leadership journey.

Conscious leadership is…

“A new leadership paradigm that balances the global common good with our personal interests.  A leadership guided by vision and powered by values that targets the wellbeing of all stakeholders as well as the success of the organization.  A leadership inspired to co-create a promising future for the next generations.”

Stephane Leblanc, Founder of the Global Institute for Conscious Leadership


Listening & conscious leadership

Interestingly, a recurring theme in all the presentations that resonated with me was the importance of transparent communication, which starts with purposeful listening.  Conscious leaders listen and make their people feel listened to.

Case Study

Among the line-up of speakers was Éric Martel, CEO of Hydro-Québec, who described how his organization optimised employee engagement and corporate performance as a result of conscious leadership.

I understood from his presentation that transparent communication is at the heart of Mr. Martel’s conscious leadership style.

He explained the importance of speaking with employees and clients, making them feel listened to, and asking the right questions, so that he could deeply understand the root causes of the employee engagement and client satisfaction scores.  He and his leadership team then committed to be accessible, walking on the floors, seeing employees in action, thus demonstrating their determination to make things better.  Leaders, he pointed out, must use the information they gather to decide on the best ways of supporting their people and provide them with the right tools to enable optimal performance.

Transparent communication starts with purposeful listening that gives conscious leaders critical information, changes their way of being and doing.

 When listening, ask yourself three questions

  1. What do I need to know?
  2. What do I need to be?
  3. What do I need to do?

The need to know motivates conscious leaders to ask hard questions and accept difficult conclusions.  Knowing involves deeply understanding the root causes of both good and sub-optimal performance.  Knowing also leads to decision-making regarding the organizational behaviour and strategic orientations that are required to achieve optimal performance in a work environment in which people can thrive and rise to their full potential.

To achieve organizational change and optimised performance, conscious leaders need to be authentic and sincere about the change they want to see.  Being present, supportive, empathetic and clear, without compromising on the vision and values of the organization are some of the ways in which conscious leaders can be authentic and inspire their people to be their best.

Then comes the doing.  Doing is the combination of knowing the issues that must be addressed and leading change with courage and authenticity.  Another speaker, Bob Anderson, Founder of the Leadership Circle, said that we are perfectly designed for the performance we are getting.  The best designed plans fail because of the mis-alignment of intentions and actions.  Ensuring that business plans are matched with the challenges to be overcome requires conscious leadership that, as Stephane LeBlanc explained, is guided by vision, powered by values and targets the well-being of all stakeholders.  In this way, we create thriving organizations and a promising future for the next generations.


Blog photo - leadership lessons unlearned

There’s no denying that great leaders are passionate about what they do. They have a clear vision of what they want to achieve while inspiring and mentoring the people they lead.

Recently, I’ve begun thinking differently about conventional teachings about passionate, visionary leadership. Leading a not-for-profit organization whose mission I care about requires much more than passion. I truly understand that the uncertainty of donations and subventions can disrupt the best laid plans and vision of the future. Even though I have experience in business and as a volunteer board member in the non-profit sector, I have been learning so much more from many varied sources about the non-profit world.

  • Purpose, not passion.

Passion is emotion. Standing on its own, it is vulnerable and fickle in the face of challenges. Knowing why you do what you do will support your persistent efforts so you never give up during difficult times. The solid foundation on which passion is based, is purpose. Purpose first, passion second. Not the other way around. Ryan Holiday in his book Ego is the Enemy, aptly explains passion, purpose and realism –

What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you would say, is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective.*

  • Keep the vision statement simple.

Vision statements are supposed to tell us what our organization strives to become. It’s the desired future state that leaders and their people work toward. In my experience, vision statements are either too long for employees to understand or so short that they are meaningless. That’s why you’ll get a different answer from employees when they are asked to expain the vision of their organization.

In a world where competitive and political forces disrupt the best laid plans, we can’t rely on a rigidly defined vision statement to guide planning for the desired future state. Do go ahead and set aspirational goals but be flexible enough to change course and consider alternative ways to achieve them.

Employees are more engaged when leaders consistently explain the reasons behind the vision and what working towards the vision means in daily work. More importantly, finding ways to support employees to do even better, paves the way to make the vision a reality.

  • Let your people teach you.

While leaders are mandated to ensure financial sustainability and operational efficiency, they won’t always have the in-depth technical knowledge of the organization’s operations that impact performance. Employees at every level are an important source of information and learning for leaders. They can provide valuable insights on the reasons why the organization is not able to grow, fully satisfy client needs or operate efficiently.

Teaching moments for senior leaders aren’t rare. Those moments are apparent when leaders realize that they don’t know everything and are humble enough to listen, learn and accept advice from the people they lead. Applying the knowledge gained enables leaders to make informed decisions to create meaningful changes that positively impact the year-end scorecard.

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.



*Quoted from Ego is the Enemy page 49 by Ryan Holiday

3 Things to Bear in Mind in 2019


As we start 2019, many of us will set goals and make resolutions in the hope that our lives will be better.   I wish everyone the joy and satisfaction that comes from the fulfillment of personal and professional goals.

As you set your goals and make resolutions for the New Year, I would like to suggest a few points to bear in mind –

  • Some goals may have been achieved, but not in the expected form.

Sometimes the trappings of success can become a distraction, causing us to pursue status symbols as proof that goals have been achieved. You may not have the coveted job title or corner office, but you may have already fulfilled the mandate in your current role. If this is true for you, it may be the right time to move forward, to set new goals to take you to the next level of effort that will challenge you to be your best self.

  • It’s good to set goals, but even better to leave them open-ended. 

It is necessary to set measurable goals to track progress, but be prepared to adjust goals to take advantage of new and better opportunities. Sometimes goals can be limiting your true ability to go further. Paying attention to your situation as it unfolds can provide valuable information. Perhaps a layoff that disrupts a career goal may just be the push you need to step outside your comfort zone and launch your own business.

  •  Align your goals with your values.

Avoid the trap of striving for a goal that leaves you feeling unfulfilled. Very often, the sacrifices and compromises that are made to achieve goals undermine our values. For example, striving for success in an organization that doesn’t respect the value you place on your down time isn’t worth the effort.

I truly hope that you will have fun and enjoy the journey through 2019. Have a great year!



Nous serons tous des proches aidants et de plus, nous aurons besoin d’un proche aidant.

John Isaacs and Camille Isaacs Morell

Les proches aidants sont le pilier invisible et caché du système de santé et fournissent plus de 80% des soins nécessaires aux personnes souffrant de «conditions de longue durée».

2,3 millions des proches aidants sont employés et doivent concilier les exigences concurrentes du travail et des soins.

Les proches aidants ont besoin d’aide aussi.

J’ai été témoin de première main les effets dévastateurs de la démence sur mon père et de l’impact des soins prodigués sur ma mère. Même si mon père était un bon patient, il avait besoin des soins 24 heures sur 24, 7 jours sur 7. À un moment donné, ma mère a dû être hospitalisée. C’est à ce moment-là qu’elle a compris qu’en tant que proche aidante, elle ne pouvait pas tout faire.

Le proche aidant ne devrait pas avoir besoin de se sentir obligé d’être un héros, même s’ils le sont en réalité. Leur rôle dans la société est à la fois indispensable et inestimable.

Le nombre de proches aidants au Canada a augmenté de plus de 5 millions, passant de 2,85 millions en 1997 à plus de 8 millions en 2012. En 2018, on peut s’attendre à ce que ce nombre ait considérablement augmenté.

À un moment donné, nous serons tous des proches aidants et de plus, nous aurons besoin d’un proche aidant.

Si vous connaissez quelqu’un qui prend soin d’une personne atteinte de démence, ou d’une condition de longue durée, soyez sensible, tendez la main et soyez gentil.

La Semaine nationale des proches aidants est du 4 au 10 novembre 2018.

En savoir plus sur les Activités, et Ressources

Références – http://www.carerscanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/CC-Caregiver-Strategy_v4.pdf

At some point, all of us will be caregivers and will be in need of a caregiver.

John Isaacs and Camille Isaacs Morell

Care givers are the invisible backbone of our health care system and provide over 80 percent of the care needed by individuals with ‘long-term conditions’.

2.3 million care givers are employed and must balance the competing demands of work and caregiving.

Caregivers also need to be cared for.

I witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of dementia on my father and the impact of care giving on my mother.  Even though my father was a model patient, it was still a full-time job taking care of him.  He needed care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  At one point, my mother had to be hospitalized.  That was when she realized that as the caregiver, she couldn’t do it alone.

The caregiver shouldn’t need to feel that she or he has to be a hero, even though caregivers are heroes.  Their role in society is both indispensable and invaluable.

The number of Canadian caregivers has increased by over 5 million, from 2.85 million in 1997 to over 8 million in 2012.  In 2018, we can expect that this number has grown significantly.

At some point, all of us will be caregivers and will be in need of a caregiver.

If you know someone who is taking care of someone with dementia, please be sensitive, reach out and be kind.

November 4 – 10 is National Caregivers’ Week.

Find out more about Activities  and Resources

All statistics are from A Canadian Carer Strategy, published by Carers Canada 2013



Millennials: Your diaper days are not over

The truth about the dementia boom and the possible impact on your career



My baby boomer husband laughed when he reminded his sons that he used to change their diapers.  He jokingly pointed out that he needed to be extra nice to them because roles could be reversed in a few years.  This came up in a conversation about his retirement years.  Amidst the laughter and the talk about the anticipated blissful empty nest retirement years, a hard truth emerged.

  • Baby boomers will create another boom: in less than 15 years, Alzheimer Canada predicts that 934,000 Canadians will be living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. That’s a 66% increase in less than a generation.

Dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.  Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities, requiring them to have consistent supervised care. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.

Millennials and their children are going to be the caregivers of tomorrow.

The impact of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias engulfs whole families and communities.

Parking parents with dementia in nursing homes isn’t going to be the first option in an already overburdened health care system with limited capacity.  Increased capacity in seniors’ residences requires time and increased tax dollars.

In the meantime, family caregivers will continue to provide more than 19.2 million hours of informal unpaid caregiver time conservatively valued at $1.2 billion of unpaid care. On top of that, caregivers themselves will incur their own health costs as a result of the impact of the care giving burden.

What impact will this have on millennials who are currently building their careers?

  • Tough choices and negotiation

Faced with caring for ailing parents and raising young children, millennials and mid-career professionals will have to make some tough choices.  Women often end up being primary caregivers.  They should not assume that their employers won’t accommodate their needs.  Putting career advancement on hold for a few years and declining interesting but demanding opportunities are valid options.  However, this may not be possible for everyone.   Financial constraints and family commitments may require some employees to stay in the workforce.

Being clear with employers about your needs is a worthwhile course to take.  Asking for a flexible work schedule, adjusted compensation in exchange for caregiver benefits and offering to make up time taken during work hours are some areas which you should consider for negotiation.

For example, Michelle Obama’s negotiating statement could be adjusted to reflect the need to afford time and care for an aging parent affected by dementia.

I told my boss, “This is what I have: two small kids. My husband is running for the U.S. Senate. I will not work part time. I need flexibility. I need a good salary. I need to be able to afford babysitting. And if you can do all that, and you’re willing to be flexible with me because I will get the job done, I can work hard on a flexible schedule.” I was very clear. And he said yes to everything. 

– Michelle Obama

How should employers respond to the imminent upsurge in the number of caregivers in the workforce?

  • Sensitivity in the workplace

It is important for employers to realise that there is much at stake when the needs of their caregiver employees are not addressed.  Reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and disability, the loss of highly skilled employees, and increased conflicts among employees are a few adverse consequences.

Some ways in which employers can support employees and optimise the talent of their caregiver employees  include –

  • Extending employee benefits programs to include employee assistance programs with counselling and information resources to support employees who are caregivers, for their own children and aging parents;
  • Policies to help employees reduce stress – e.g. protocols that set boundaries for the transmission and response to emails after work hours,
  • Training for managers to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and burnout and how to support employees experiencing difficulties handling work and caregiving responsibilities; and
  • Worksite training to support employees better balance their time at work and personal responsibilities.


Further reading

A good reference resource for employers and employees is a study on balancing childcare and eldercare by Linda Duxbury PhD and Christopher Higgins PhD.

More information on the current state of Dementia in Canada, consult the recent report of the Canadian Institute for Health Information.