Reflections from a first time Operator

  • Welcome to 2024!

    The last week of December is one of my favourite times of the year. For me, it’s often spent with family and close friends, enjoying big meals, and lots of time to relax. Work usually crawls to a standstill. There’s something special about everything feeling a little bit slower; less traffic, less email, less of the typical daily routine. There’s a symbolic feeling with it being the last week of the year, like the closing of a chapter. It often serves as a good time for reflection and looking ahead to 2024. As one chapter closes another one begins. Regardless if 2023 was your best year yet or if it was a tough year, there’s an opportunity to look forward and start anew.

    I’ve never been a huge fan of New Years Resolutions, which generally feel a bit rigid to me. I am, however, a big fan of jotting down some reflections from the past year, and some priorities or things I’d like to focus on next year, the next three years, and the next ten years. I never spend too much time on this or overthink it too much; I’ll typically sit down for ~30 minutes and jot down the key themes that come to mind. I’ll also flip through my calendar, which helps serve as a reminder for the bigger milestones and events from the past year. I’ve been doing this since 2019 and it’s fun to look back and re-read what’s been written as time goes on. It’s amazing how much of my behavior and actions have loosely followed the themes of what I’ve written.

    I also love the first week of January. It’s a bit like that first week following Labour-day weekend. Everyone is back in action, the pace of work and life picks up. People get back into their routine. There’s a bit of a buzz going around. There’s a bit of overwhelm and chaos.

    However you spent the end of 2023, I hope you found at least a few moments of joy. Cheers to 2024… hopefully the best year yet.


  • Promotions (2/2)

    So how do you decide when to promote someone? A debate you’ll often hear is how much of the promotion-role level (i.e., the next level) skill and competency should a candidate be demonstrating in their current role before they receive a promotion (i.e., should they essentially already be DOING the next role to earn the promotion?).

    The reality is nuanced because skills and competencies follow a more continuous path, whereas promotions represent step-function changes. (see image below).

    My belief is you want someone to demonstrate mastery of ~80%+ of the required skills and competency in their existing role, and to have begun to demonstrate basic evidence of the skills and competencies required to succeed in the next role level. Another way to think about it is I like to have an 80%+ confidence level that if someone is being promoted, they will succeed in their new role. The more junior the role level, the more comfort I might have in someone being a bit more of a ‘stretch’ candidate (i.e., for a junior promotion with a relatively limited impact to the overall organization, I might accept a bit more ‘stretch’ in that promotion). Some ‘stretch’ is natural as there should be some portion of additional responsibility that you’re asking someone to perform, which will put them outside their comfort zone.

    Another reason I like this visual is it’s a reminder that expectations for someone day 1 after their promotion should be different than for someone who’s been in that role for several months or years; it’s unreasonable to expect someone to demonstrate full mastery of their new role immediately post-promotion as they will need to continue climbing the skills and competencies curve even once they’ve received the new title.

    I’ll add that promotion decisions tend to be fairly nuanced, and I find this to be a helpful framework but not a hard and fast rule. Depending on the role, scope of responsibility, expectations, performance history of the candidate, etc. etc., it may make sense to flex your judgement.

    Merry Christmas!


  • Promotions (1/2)

    Promotion decisions often receive far too little consideration given how critical they are to the culture of an organization. I strongly believe promotions are the single biggest culturally re-enforcing action you can take. Much more so than anything you say, the action of promoting someone tells the organization, “this person exemplifies the behaviors that we as an organization respect and celebrate.” Promotions send a message to the organization that says: this person is a role model of our culture (even if it’s not the culture you want!). The more senior the promotion, the truer this is; promoting someone to VP sends a much stronger cultural message than promoting someone to Team Lead, and accordingly, the consequences are higher (i.e., if you make a mistake promoting someone as a first-time manager, it will be far less culturally damaging than mistakenly promoting someone to VP).

    Despite their importance, promotions regularly happen for the wrong reasons. Here is a list of bad reasons to promote someone, which can be all too tempting:

    • Retention. There’s someone on the team who’s great. But you don’t think they are bought in. You’ve heard they are looking for roles elsewhere. To try and retain them, you give them a promotion. By itself, a promotion alone is unlikely to solve a lack of engagement, nor should it be the driving factor for why you promote someone.
    • Compensation. You promote someone to push them into a higher salary band so that you can pay them more. Mission accomplished in getting them additional pay; however, if they aren’t a good fit for the new role they’ve been promoted into, that is all the organization will see and experience.
    • Tenure. They’ve been doing the job for a long time, and they want demonstrated career growth. So you promote them. If they aren’t capable and deserving of that promotion, it will be obvious to the organization.
    • Because you promised it to them. This is probably the most damaging of all. If you commit a promotion to someone based on a timeline, to satisfy that individual’s desire, you are putting yourself in a very difficult situation. Promotions need to be earned, not given. When given, the team will know.
    • Because you have no one else. I have a lot of empathy for this one. Sometimes you have a missing role you desperately need filled, which can make it tempting to prematurely promote someone into a position. Unfortunately, this can have the unintended consequence of setting them up for failure.

    Promotions should exclusively be awarded to individuals who are high or top performers in their current role, are eager to progress their career and take on an additional or new scope of responsibilities, and are a role model for your company’s core values. When done well, promotions can be hugely rewarding to your team and positively enhance overall culture.

    A major watch out for more junior leaders is making poor promotion decisions. It can be really hard to deny a promotion to someone who isn’t deserving of one but believes strongly they are. That’s why, for the sake of the broader culture, it’s important at an organizational level to ensure these are treated as critical decisions.

    *This doesn’t quite account for firms that operate on an “up or out” promotion framework (e.g., certain investment/consulting/banking firms) but the principles generally still apply.


  • Are you managing your team? Or are you managing your team?

    If you’re a people leader, responsible for managing a group of employees (i.e., you’re the boss), what do you do when you start having to really manage someone? When you regularly check in on the progress of their work, despite having previously agreed on a mutual timeline and objective, to avoid an uncommunicated delay or miss. When you need to double, and triple check their work for obvious errors. When you need to prescribe exactly what they need to do, for them to complete their work. When you’re investing considerable mental energy worrying about them dropping the ball. When you have a team of 5 and you spend 80% of your time focused on and supporting one individual.  

    Once you get to the point where managing someone really means managing someone, as I’ve described above, you have a problem. The time and mental energy you spend managing them, is time you should be allocating to higher priority and more important tasks. As a manager, you must get leverage out of your team, to create capacity for you to focus on what matters most, which the team can’t be expected to because they are absorbed in the day-to-day.

    If you’re in the unenviable position of managing someone, ask yourself a few questions: (a) have I unintentionally enabled or encouraged this type of behavior? (b) have I been clear enough with my expectations? And (c) have I provided enough training or support, such that they should know how to complete their work with limited intervention?

    If you know, deep down, that the answer to all these questions is “yes”, then there really is only one conclusion: you either need to transfer this person to a different role where they can be more successful, or you need to fire them. It’s a harsh conclusion, but rarely have I seen someone come back from having to be managed in that way. Great employees require clear expectations, empowerment, and support. They do not need to be managed.  


  • A 10/10 Dining Experience

    I love food. It’s something I’m incredibly passionate about and absorbs a lot of my mind share. I wake up and think about what’s for breakfast… after I have breakfast, I’m thinking about what’s for lunch. After lunch, you guessed it, I’ve got dinner on my mind. It’s not a burden; it’s a joy. Every meal is a treat in its own way.

    Years ago, whenever I was asked for restaurant recommendations, I found myself drawing a blank in the moment, or defaulting to the most recent places I’d eaten. So I started to track restaurants in a sheet and rate my first experience there as a way to quickly build a reference guide and better serve others with recommendations. You can access my Calgary list Here. I only recently started one for Toronto so it’s a little lacklustre, but I’ve included it here as well. The ratings are totally subjective and lack a formal framework; however, you’ll clearly notice one thing: there isn’t a single 10/10 rating. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some amazing meals. But even my best dining experiences have had opportunity for improvement. That’s not a Calgary or Toronto specific phenomenon; I can’t remember finishing a meal, including at three Michelin star restaurants, and thinking “that was 10/10”… until two weekends ago.

    Two weekends ago I went to Prince Edward County with family and on Saturday night, we ate at Darlings. It was a 10/10 experience. This got me thinking, what conditions are necessary to have a 10/10 dining experience? On reflection, I believe it’s excellence across a combination of these factors: (a) atmosphere, (b) food, (c) company, and (d) service. I’ve added some commentary below on what stood out in this regard.

    1. Atmosphere. Atmosphere is a combination of ambience and setting. What vibe does the restaurant give off? Is it good-noisy or bad-noisy? Is the dishware a nice compliment or an awkward setting? At Darlings, the setting was unique and ‘cool’ – it’s situated in what feels like an old house, in a residential neighborhood. The lighting is dim and the music was great; it was loud, but good-loud. There were only four tables and bar seating, which created an intimate and “special” atmosphere. The atmosphere was complimentary to and matched the menu, which was served family style.
    2. Food. Food is a combination of taste, quality, and consistency. What stood out about Darlings, is that I loved every single dish. Even at very high-end restaurants, I find there’s nearly always at least one or two dishes which are “pretty good”, but not great. To try more than 5 dishes and love every single one is a rare treat, and for a restaurant, a tall feat.
    3. Company. It’s impossible to have a 10/10 dining experience if you don’t really enjoy the company you’re with. Fortunately, this one is (almost) always in your (the diner’s) control!
    4. Service. Fantastic service dramatically enhances the overall dining experience. A server who is assertive, knowledgeable, attentive but not overbearing, and has a positive attitude will elevate your meal. A little hipster sass is ok, to a point. We had all this and more at Darlings, including a strong Manager who pitched in when needed. Post-COVID, there’s clearly been a general degradation in Service levels, which only highlights how important it is to the overall dining experience.

    Two considerations I’ve excluded are price/value and consistency of experience among diners. I believe assessing a dining experience should be largely independent of the price to allow for broad comparability, albeit with some calibration (e.g., I’m assessing Sunday morning Dim Sum differently than a Michelin star restaurant, even though both can be excellent or poor dining experiences). And while ideally the entire group feels similarly about a dining experience, it’s ultimately a personal perspective.

    I also haven’t addressed the quality of the drinks menu. While certainly a component of the overall meal, I personally haven’t found the quality of the drinks menu to be as influential to the dining experience as the other factors listed above (i.e., if I’m having a shit dining experience, a great cocktail probably won’t change that; if I’m having an incredible experience, a limited wine list is unlikely to change that). It also allows for better comparability across meal types (i.e., breakfast/brunch, lunch, and dinner).

    I welcome any feedback or input on this framework. Also, I’m always on the hunt for great dining experiences and welcome any Toronto or Calgary recommendations.

    *I felt compelled to write about Darlings… back to regular content next week.


  • Lean Into the Emotion

    There are many times in your professional and personal life when you’re going to be put in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe even severely uncomfortable. Our natural tendency is to try to mask that discomfort and present an air of confidence. We don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable. And of course, the more significant the discomfort, the less likely we are to successfully accomplish presenting confidently.

    Common situations can create the opportunity for real discomfort: a) interviewing for a job you really want, b) giving a presentation in front of a big group, c) having a challenging performance conversation with a direct report, d) terminating someone’s employment, e) declining a job offer, etc. etc.

    A highly valuable tip I received several years ago, is to lean into the emotion. Instead of putting on the air of confidence, take the opposite approach: start off by acknowledging the discomfort. “I’m really nervous to be presenting in front of everyone today.”. “I’m feeling a bit anxious about this conversation, even though I know we need to have it”.

    People are excellent at picking up when you’re feeling uncomfortable, regardless of whether you acknowledge it or not. If you authentically lean into the emotion and address it head on, you’re more likely to garner empathy and understanding from your audience, whether a group of people or an individual. We tend to root for the underdog, or someone struggling. It’s human nature. By leaning into the emotion, you’re bringing the audience onto your side. Lean into the emotion to start and you’re more likely to set yourself up for success. It will have the added bonus of quieting whatever emotion you’re feeling.  

    This only works if you describe an emotion you are genuinely experiencing. Don’t say “I’m feeling nervous”, if you’re not, or you’ll likely produce the opposite effect.


  • LinkedIn vs. Reality

    I quit Facebook in ~2018 and Instagram in ~2020. I ultimately found what I was receiving from these apps vs. what it was costing me to be a net negative trade off. It was easier to leave Facebook. By 2018, my news feed was mostly weird political commentary from people I hadn’t spoken to since Highschool. Instagram, on the other hand, was more challenging. What did it for me was going down a 45-minute rabbit hole on a Toronto Chef’s profile and finding myself having an imaginary argument with them over their content. Once I pulled myself out of the rabbit hole, I realized I was sitting in my living room legitimately pissed off at some person I’ve never met who doesn’t know I exist. That felt pathetic enough to motivate me to delete the app. At the time, I decided if I really missed it after 30 days, I’d re-download it. And I didn’t.

    With Instagram and Facebook gone, that left LinkedIn as my last remaining social media vice. LinkedIn has always been billed as the ‘Professional network’ and as a result, receives a somewhat morally superior treatment; we don’t typically speak about LinkedIn addiction in the same vein we might Instagram or Tik Tok. But over the last decade, LinkedIn has transformed itself from a job site to a comprehensive professional social media network. With this transformation, there’s been a surge in non-hiring related information: lots of professional learnings, stories of success and failure, and general commentary around topical professional subjects (e.g., in-office vs. home, ‘the great resignation’, ‘quiet quitting’, etc.).

    As a professional focused network, you might expect the content to exhibit less of the “distorted reality” phenomenon plaguing Instagram (i.e., people solely highlighting their best and proudest moments to create an exclusively positive/happy/beautiful image). I’ve found that to be only partially true. Over time, there seems to be more of the themes you see on other social media platforms: an influx and rise of influencers, stories that are hyperbolic in nature, and lots of distorted reality.

    It’s easy to get caught up in other people or company’s portrayed successes and play the comparison game. I try to remind myself that often the reality of all situations you see on Social Media – including LinkedIn – are probably not as good or as bad as they are presented. A few interesting examples of topics I’ve seen on LinkedIn, which present an overly positive or negative image relative to reality:

    • LinkedIn: “Zoom CEO sets standard among Public company CEOs by reducing salary to $1 following mass layoffs.”
    • Reality: Zoom CEO reduces salary to $1, 12 months after selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stock.
    • LinkedIn: “We’re so proud to be among the fastest growing companies!”
    • Reality: We invested massively in growth in the last 24 months. This may or may not be sustainable and to accommodate a much more challenging investment environment, we may have to consider a layoff in the next six months.
    • LinkedIn: “We’ve been awarded a Great Place to Work designation, again!”
    • Reality: We paid a for-profit enterprise $3,500 for a Great Place to Work designation. We may have an amazing culture, but you’ll need more information to validate that.
    • LinkedIn: “It’s 2023 and remote office culture is officially dead. Back to the office!”
    • Reality: Some companies will return to the office and thrive. Some companies will preserve their remote/distributed working environment and thrive. Building a great culture requires intentionality regardless of a physical location (or lack thereof).  

    There is, in fact, lots of high quality content and I’ve learned a decent amount through LinkedIn over the years. Nonetheless, while LinkedIn may position itself in a slightly different category as other mainstream consumer social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok), it’s helpful to keep in mind it possesses many of the same qualities (good and bad).


  • Don’t Fixate on End Points

    We, humans, seem to love setting goals and objectives for ourselves. Particularly challenging ones. There’s a real satisfaction that comes from setting out to accomplish something, putting in a lot of effort and work, and seeing those efforts pay off through the successful achievement of that goal or objective. In general, I believe it’s a really positive practice. This type of big goal setting occurs in both our professional and personal lives. Professional goals might include striving for a promotion, attempting to hit a really big sales target, releasing an amazing new product feature that beats out the competition, earning an award for a song you produced, etc. etc. Personal goals might include finishing a 100 km bike ride, learning a new language, completing a PhD, having kids, visiting every national park, etc. etc.

    There is one slightly risky way of approaching big goals and objectives though, which is to expect the singular act of achievement to result in some type of universal salvation. I’m being a little hyperbolic, but I’m guessing most people have experienced some type of this self-talk, even if a little less extreme:

    • If I get promoted, finally I’ll be happy.
    • If I hit my savings goal of $[x], finally I’ll have enough.
    • If I release that amazing new feature, we’ll beat the competition.
    • Once the COVID lockdown is lifted, my stress and anxiety will go away (circa 2021…)
    • If I get married, our challenges will go away.
    • If I finish my degree, my grandparents will respect me.

    The reality of course, is that even achieving an extremely lofty, difficult, and amazing goal, rarely results in some type of panacea. As a result, when we obsess over the goal, and spend a huge amount of our attention and energy focused on it, we run the risk of setting ourselves up for disappointment. And depending how much stock we’ve put into the importance of that goal, it can be pretty devastating. “I got the promotion… and I still hate my job. What’s going on?”

    This concept always conjures up the following image (and personal experience) for me: you’re running a race, and it’s really challenging. You’ve put what feels like your maximum effort to get yourself to the finish line. Then, when you think you’re 100 metres away from the end, you realize you misread the last marker, and you still have 3 km to go. You’re devastated, and struggle to finish the race, because you’ve hinged all your efforts on getting to what you believed was the finish line. The obsession with the endpoint, has potentially robbed you of your ability to succeed.

    It’s important not to overly obsess about the endpoints. And why the cliché phrase exists, “the journey is more important than the destination”. If you can find genuine satisfaction in the efforts and energy you put into all the things that lead up to that endpoint (i.e., training, working hard, practicing, planning, etc.), you inevitably build more resilience and are better prepared to handle setbacks, or a (naturally) shifting goal post. Who cares if you didn’t get the award? You know you vastly improved your skills.


  • Just do it.

    I have always struggled against the forces of procrastination when there’s a deadline or work project that is long dated in nature. This was particularly tough in the early years of University, where you’re essentially reliant on self-motivation and drive to study and complete your work assignments. Despite having decent visibility into assignment due dates and exam dates well in advance, I nearly always waited until the last minute to pull something together or cram for an exam.

    On the other hand, I’ve always excelled at working hard in short bursts, particularly leading up to an urgent deadline. Working in Investment Banking and Private Equity were the ideal conditions for me. Most work assignments tend to be short-term and/or high-pressure in nature, so there isn’t as much of an opportunity for procrastination. You’re forced to deliver work towards a hard deadline, and there are severe consequences to missing those deadlines. Let’s say you’re reviewing an investment in a company. Often, you’re competing with multiple other investment firms, and working towards a pre-set deadline to submit a bid or purchase offer. You can’t show up late or ask for extra time (“Oops, sorry”). It’s simply not an option.

    As a result, it was a big transition joining Avanti and the corporate world. Not to suggest there are no high pressure, short-term deadlines for projects in the corporate world (there are), but on a relative basis, the consequences of delay are less severe, and the nature of the work seems to lend itself more to sustained long-term efforts to be successful. It’s much more of a marathon than a series of sprints. As a result, I’ve really had to train myself to be better at pushing forward projects with long-dated deadlines and less severe consequences of delay. I’ve found it’s primarily a mental game. Once you get into the work, the reality is often much easier than we make it out to be in our thoughts.  

    Over the years, I’ve gotten significantly better at managing this. A big part of it is practice. But the important realization I’ve had, is how real the mental cost and burden is of continually thinking about the work you need to do before doing it. Let’s say your boss tells you she needs a PowerPoint presentation prepared and you have three weeks to complete it. If you used to be like me, you would wait 2 weeks and 4 days before starting to pull it together; however, over the course of those two+ weeks, you probably spend several hours thinking about the work, even if you haven’t started on it. In any given week, the time spent thinking about the things you need to do can outweigh the amount of time it takes to actually do them.

    Nike really nailed it with their slogan, “Just Do It”. If you can ‘Just Do It’, you’ll relieve much of the wasted thought exercise of thinking about it. Our CFO has a similar, great quote she shared with me, which is “Love it so you can leave it”. The sooner you complete the daunting task, the faster you can leave it behind. Keeping this in mind has helped change my perspective and been a powerful motivator to getting things done, earlier (even if it’s still an uphill battle).

    I’ve found this is equally as true regarding tough conversations, whether with employees, your boss, or a peer, as it is with completing work projects. Both have a real mental cost of delay and the sooner you can get to it, the sooner you can leave it behind.


  • Be kind to service people (B2B)

    We are in the business of servicing clients. We support them through new system setup and onboarding, training, and configuration. We aid them when things break or there are bugs in the software. We assist them when they have legislative questions or are seeking general product knowledge and clarification on product use cases. We do this in the context of business-to-business relationships. On average, our clients are with us for 8+ years. So, these tend to be long-term, partnership-like relationships.

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  • Decision Making

    Two weeks ago today, Julia and I were supposed to fly to Israel for a wedding. Sadly, due to the terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7, the wedding and all the events were cancelled. In addition to the stress and fear we felt for our dear friends and their families, many of which had already arrived in Israel from North America, we found ourselves in a predicament of having no idea what to do next. Since we were already in London for a weekend stopover en-route, and our vacation was planned, communicated, and coordinated with work, we found ourselves with an open-ended schedule for the week and the freedom to go anywhere in Western Europe (our only real constraint, since coincidentally we had a second wedding to attend in Italy the week following).

    At first, there’s something quite romantic about having the feeling that anything is possible; “the world is your oyster”. The reality though, at least for me, is the open-ended nature of the opportunity and feeling of endless possibility is actually a bit overwhelming! To start from scratch introduces a whole host of new decisions to be made. Even once we decided where to go next (Bologna), we had to coordinate hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc. We spent a meaningful amount of each day researching what to do and were constantly seeking info on our phones. During our first week, my daily average phone use was up nearly 100%, relative to a reduction of ~50% I typically see on vacation. Of course, we had a wonderful week, and you can’t really go wrong eating your way around Italy, even if you’re faced with hard decisions, like whether to eat mortadella or prosciutto cotto on your sandwich.

    The whole experience reminded me of a quote and concept I like, which is “discipline equals freedom”. Even though the idea of having immense flexibility and freedom to do whatever you want is appealing, there is real value to reducing the number of decisions you have to make. Particularly ones that aren’t very meaningful and are unlikely to have a significant impact on anything other than the immediate to short term. If you can reduce the number of smaller, less meaningful decisions you make in a given week or month, you create more mental space and capacity for the smaller number of meaningful decisions that arise. And if you consider the many, many decisions you are regularly making, there are likely only a select few that deserve real consideration and will have a meaningful impact. Save your decision making capital for the ones that matter.


  • Meet the organization where it’s at, when hiring

    Last week, I touched on the importance of respecting your organization’s starting place before introducing or making significant changes. I believe the same principle applies to hiring and finding the “right” candidate or the “best” candidate. It can be tempting to assess a prospective hire in isolation and seek someone who seems to be the most capable, has the most pedigreed and relevant background, fits best culturally, has the most repetitions in similar roles, and demonstrates subject matter expertise (or some version and combination of these positive qualities). But you have to respect the current state of your organization and the role you require someone to fill. The “best” candidate needs to be evaluated with the lens of the role you are filling and your requirements, and not based on an isolated assessment of merit.

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  • Meet the organization where it’s at

    One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, through some bumpy lived experiences over the past 5+ years, is that you have to meet the organization where it’s at. When you know something isn’t working well, or you see a significant opportunity to improve upon something, it’s tempting to start by visualizing the dream/end state. Having a clear vision as to how you want to evolve a process, develop an employee, or accomplish a program of work can be extremely valuable and help set you on the path to achieving it; however, there is one major watch out. If your current reality is wildly different or has little resemblance to your ideal end state, you must respect your starting point and calibrate the path forward accordingly.

    Far too often, we try to jump from current to end state, and then wonder why the end state doesn’t result in the desired outcomes we hoped for. One of the clearest examples of this, and an important lesson learned, came from our own failure with our first attempt at rolling out a formalized performance management program at Avanti. When I joined Avanti, we didn’t have a formal performance management program and expectations around performance reviews were quite loose. Coming from larger, more sophisticated, and more formal organizations, we had a strong desire to institute something better at Avanti. We selected a comprehensive program based on the Balanced Scorecard framework, and created and rolled out extensive, weighted average rating cards for every single role in the company. A lot of time and work went into preparing all the scorecards. We celebrated the roll out and were quite excited about it initially. Then after one painful and ineffective review cycle, we shut the program down.

    The program failed (and we erred) because we didn’t acknowledge or respect our organization’s starting point and tried to go from nascent (1/10) to professional (10/10), with no bridge between. With the benefit of hindsight, I now appreciate that to successfully administer a balanced scorecard performance program framework assumes (a) your leaders are well trained and experienced in delivering performance reviews, (b) you can quickly and easily (emphasis here) retrieve the metrics you define as critical to measuring performance, (c) your employees understand the purpose of the program and are bought into the measurable behaviors being important indicators of job performance, and (d) you have a plan in place to sustain the program after the initial roll out. Because we lacked all the above, there was no buy in from employees or people leaders, and the program was short lived.

    The example above nicely highlights the broader point, which comes up often in various forms. If you respect your starting place, it becomes easier to plan for sustainable changes and calibrate the change required to get towards your end state. It’s tempting and well intentioned to strive for greatness right from the start, but rarely works when there’s a significant gap. If excellence is the goal, it’s ok to work your way there deliberately and intentionally over time.


  • If only I were the Manager…

    “If only I were the Manager [or Director or VP or CEO]… then they would listen to me!” This is a common fallacy I’ve seen come up numerous times. When an individual’s project stalls, or they can’t make progress towards a key objective involving multiple stakeholders, regardless of whether it’s within their own team or cross-functionally, it’s tempting to ascribe blame to Title (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, while it may sound harsh, this is usually an indication of inexperience or immaturity. I don’t believe in any case that a title promotion alone will transform someone who is struggling in their role into a strong/top/highly effective performer.

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  • Role Models

    A role model is someone you look up to. Someone you deeply respect. Someone who’s behavior you’re interested in emulating. A role model helps demonstrate excellence in areas you’re deeply interested in and passionate about. Observing them, learning from them, and replicating their behaviors is a compelling way to hone your own skill set. Role models can show up in your personal and professional life.

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  • Runner tribes

    Last weekend I ran the Canmore Half Marathon. It is a beautiful track that begins in town, takes you along the river, and up a way along the foothills of the surrounding mountains. I always get a kick out of observing the groups of folks who show up. People seem to fit into a variety of runner categories. 21 km without headphones is a long time to be alone with your thoughts so I was happy to amuse myself with the people watching last weekend.

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  • Halfway reflections

    This post marks the 26th week of publishing Dave’s Take. As I originally wrote, the initial motivations for publishing a weekly bog were: a) because I miss writing, b) to codify my professional learnings, c) so I could produce my own work artifacts, d) to state opinions publicly, and e) to take on a project that was definitively outside my comfort zone.

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  • Things that shouldn’t work and do

    There are a number of things I’ve seen work quite well at work, despite the fact that they really shouldn’t. For some reason, this really amuses me. The list below is not exhaustive but provides a few common examples.

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  • Having fun at work is a good thing

    It’s important to have fun at work. Not every hour, day, or necessarily every week, even. But overall, you should be able to find opportunities to interject some fun into your work. Successfully completing challenging professional goals is difficult so being able to find humour and cultivating a culture where levity is normalized is incredibly important. Having some fun is an important aid and complement to hard work.

    Additionally, a huge amount of your time is spent working. If you’re able to find elements of fun in it, it makes your entire work experience that much more positive. While that’s not a revolutionary concept, it’s something you rarely hear spoken about as an explicit objective, despite the fact that it can be a really important feature of a healthy work culture.

    There is a key distinction between the concept of having fun with your colleagues and becoming personal friends with them. Being ‘friends’ with your colleagues is certainly not a pre-requisite to having fun and enjoying working with them. I have worked with many colleagues that I wouldn’t want to spend meaningful time with outside of work, and yet have really enjoyed the experience of working closely together with over many years. I see people rightfully be wary of how close of a relationship they develop with a boss or direct report (and occasionally peer); however, you can remain colleagues and still have a lot of fun working together and from my perspective, that’s not only ok, it’s also a wonderful thing.


  • Go above and beyond when it matters most

    Sadly, at some point in your career, you are going to have a peer, boss, or direct report face some type of tough personal challenge. What that is will vary greatly, but you will know it when it happens… it could be the passing of a family member, a natural disaster that displaces them, or a really bad illness.

    When this (unfortunately) happens, it’s important to Go Big. Go above and beyond. Demonstrate compassion when it really matters. Beyond the altruistic reasons, these are the milestone moments that people remember long into the future. When you’re down and out, those that step up and support you make a meaningful impression. And this is a case where actions speak much louder than words: approve their time off, cover them while they are gone, intercept that pesky client or sales prospect so they don’t have to think about it. It will mean something.

    My business partner, Amin, is exceptional at this and I have learned a lot observing how he handles these types of situations. To use a very minor/micro version of a personal example. In early 2021, Julia and I got COVID. This was still in the earlier period (pre-vaccine) when it was scary, and there was still a stigma around it; most people in Canada didn’t have a 1st-degree connection that had been infected. In the first 24 hours, Amin and his wife Maleka asked if they could help in anyway: we of course said no, not to bother, we would be fine. The next day, unannounced, they showed up in the backyard with a huge bag of goodies (some of our favourite foods, medicine, etc.). This really stuck with me: taking action to help goes much further than simply offering it. Demonstrating compassion through action without burdening the recipient with the need to ask is going big.