Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nurturing Leadership

I’m not one to pick the battle between whether leadership can be taught or is innate, but I do think leadership can be nurtured. The earlier the better.

The more natural leadership is as organic behaviour patterns than learned practical exercises, the better.

The concern I have is that leadership has been made into this mythological style that one needs to be either trained in or born with, when, realistically speaking, it’s not that hard of a concept to grasp.

Yes, for a guy that talks about leadership a lot, gets on the circuit and does talks on the subject, I'm telling you this isn't hard.

I find it ironic that leadership was about how a leader led his or her people and yet we believe there is a magical formula that we all need to learn that will make us natural born leaders. Leadership is unique to the individual, unique to the people you lead and unique to the environment you are in. It is not a strict set of guidelines that you follow or study that makes you a good or a bad leader.

At times I equate leadership to humanity and being a person above all else. Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking you to hug trees, I'm not that person, but I am the one who says being a Manager alone is not enough.

And I will also say that being a Leader is not always about making the easy calls that makes everyone happy. In fact some of our greatest leaders have had to make some of the toughest decisions, at times impacting the lives of those they lead.

Leadership is more than just softening Management and the traditional hierarchy. It’s about an approach, about how you believe you want to show up and work with people around you. It is about being tough yet human. It is about being inclusive, yet knowing when to make the decision. It is about having fun but getting the job done. It is about engendering thoughts, new ideas and creativity, all the while keeping an eye on your objectives.

Leadership is one of the biggest contradictions in organizational and personal styles one can have. Yet it works. Perhaps it is because we are contradictions in our own lives and in our own ways that this fits so well.

Find your own contradictions, find your own style. It will drive you further than you ever have. Challenges, opportunities, and all.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

One of my best worst leadership mistakes

We have a recruitment process at WeUsThem that, for a small business, is rather arduous and lengthy.

Recruits have multiple levels of sorting and filtering they need to go through before they even walk through the door. After vetting their resumes, the candidates have an initial short meet and greet with the hiring manager followed immediately with a skills test. Should the candidate make it through the first round, it leads to a meeting with my business partner and I. If they are a potential candidate of choice at that point, they meet with rest of the team. If there’s a positive nod from the team, the candidate’s references are checked out and an offer is finally put forward.

Now, you must be thinking as to why a small business would put itself through such a lengthy process, and what the purpose may be. There are a few reasons for this, which are:

1- We want to make sure whoever we hire fits with the “je ne sais quoi” of our team. It's taken a long time for us to put together a team that just works and to maintain this is absolutely paramount. This harmony and chemistry, the ying and yang is unique to our team and we do what we can to maintain this.

2- We want the right sets of skills that are “beyond the paper”. We test not just for work-related skills—we also test for creativity. Thinking on your feet while applying your skill sets is an important asset for us.

3- We want each team member to take ownership for including others. Our potential hires will need to work and be comfortable with each other.

In the case of our most recent hire, we went through our typical process, step by step. Once they made it through the first round, it was time for them to meet with my business partner and I. After we met and the candidate left,  my partner and I found ourselves with two very different opinions. While she believed they would be a good addition to the team, I had my sincere doubts.

Together, we decided to let them progress to the next round to see what feedback we would receive from the team and, once again, he made it through.

I admit, I was worried. For the first time, after recruiting hundreds of people in my former careers I had an uneasy feeling on this particular hire. Although we have a probationary period in place, I did not want to invest in someone who just wouldn't work. But, due to our process, I was outvoted, outnumbered and outgunned.

Three months ago, this individual joined our small but mighty rag tag team and just completed their first review.

There is no other way to say it: I was wrong. The hire carved a unique place for themselves in our team, while also providing us much needed support.

I honestly had thought I made a mistake when letting my team outvote me to hire this individual. I’m proud to say that I’m glad I was wrong and that my partner and the team were there to catch me. This hire was my best worst mistake.

Our recruitment process may sound absurd for what we do, but we don't just add employees to our team—we add family members, as my partner would say. This multi-layered process brought us another member who adds to our strengths and works cohesively in a fashion we are comfortable with.

It's only been three months, but the teachable moment of looking back and relying on group think allowed us to gain an important cog in our WeUsThem machine.

Leadership inherently requires trusting your team and building in the capacity so that you can be caught by those that you surround yourself with. Build a team, one that takes ownership and voices their concerns when you may have missed something. This collaborative leadership style will bring about organic leadership training, growth and progression for your team while ensuring the ethos of the business continues to remain as you had envisioned.

I have always said that successful leadership needs to be about a bottom-up model than top-down and, clearly, this is another example of how this truly works. Building those conditions are important and, perhaps, you too will make a mistake you’ll eventually be proud of.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Education - What if?

I was asked an impromptu question on Twitter yesterday on an article ( on education and some very quick thoughts on it are as follows, but more importantly, throwing tech at a problem will not solve our core issues..

1- A monetized system for education creates a class system for the haves and have nots. It should be a right, freely available to those that want it. This consumerist nature has made it a business where students are consumers and universities are vendors. What learning are you to have when the primary goal is to ensure a black bottom line and the expectation of customer satisfaction? The paper certificate you get does not have a value because it is not earned, it is purchased.

2- Education should be informed by fact not fiction; textbooks should not be influenced by personal belief as they are, leading to a falsehood of historical & scientific fact. A separation of education and church should exist.

3- The generational focus on varying subjects has led us to a strong focus on STEM these days when it needs to be a healthy combination of the arts, the sciences, mathematics, social sciences and others. Focus on uniquely customizable individualistic models rather than a one size fits all, which does not work. If people are individuals, why is education not geared to each?

4- Lastly, education does not exist simply in the four walls of an institution, it is the job of the educators, the family members, business leaders, community members, etc to provide the learning we all continually need through life.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mobile Health Apps - A Cautious Boon?

by Ashwin Kutty 

Mobile Health (mHealth) Applications for your smartphone, tablets, phablets, etc. are the next best thing in healthcare. We have moved from a recent push on enormous amounts of $$ being spent on Electronic Health/Medical Records (EHR/EMR) to a new trend in the building of mHealth applications that are easily accessible to the consumer. In the US alone, a report  in 2011 indicated that spending was to surge to a massive $40B in Healthcare IT and at the time were focused solely on EHR/EMR’s.

Consider the attractiveness of lightweight Mobile Apps that are inexpensive, albeit less comprehensive but a lot more consumer friendly. The last Apple Worldwide Developers Conference was also indicative that Big Business believes there to be big money in mHealth. This isn’t news, as Microsoft, Google and others have been in this space for some time now.

With all the competitors in the mHealth space, how can you stand out from the crowd? Is there a strategic way to do so? mHealth Apps if done correctly can set the stage for a consumers to take ownership and control of their healthcare. This revolution has been a long time coming.

We need to first understand the landscape of mHealth Apps. The Institute for Healthcare Informatics, in Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare noted that there were close to 43,000 mHealth Apps available on iTunes in mid-2013.  Most provide only information and 16,275 deal with health and treatment. This number has since grown and with Apple’s recent announcement, is bound to grow further with their strategic partnerships with the Mayo Clinic, IBM and Epic Systems. Detailed statistics on Mobile Apps are available at Statistic Brain.

A few strategic steps to consider are:

1 – Evidence (Data) – Use evidence to drive the development of a mobile app, as the platform is only a delivery mechanism. Consider the recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine by Nathan Cortez that asks if apps need to be regulated by the FDA to ensure they are safe and effective to use. In addition, Eric Topol also warns us of apps not having any validated data compared to accepted reference standards.

iphone apps2 – Partner up – If you are a healthcare professional looking to develop an mHealth app, get the right development as well as design partner to help you. Conversely, if you are a designer or a developer and are looking to develop a novel mHealth App, get a health professional to partner up. To be clear it does not have to be a partnership of equity, just a partner that can help with the expertise of their subject matter be it through an equity position or through term contracts.

3 – Design for the Consumer – Healthcare professionals are tireless champions for health and I have the utmost respect for them. Designers know how to design for the consumer and their visual needs. The healthcare professional knows their consumers health needs. A group of potential users to help you through the design process will bring rigour to the final product.

4 – Marketing – If you build it, they may not come. If mHealth Apps need to reach the masses, they need to be marketed appropriately to the targeted audiences. This could take the form of partnerships with other healthcare professionals for their patients to media coverage through industry specific publications, mass media, newspapers, social media influencers, etc. to ensure a wider access and distribution medium.  Marketing takes resources and funding partners need to understand that without marketing, the app may not be used.

In the Maritimes we have seen the mobile space develop quite quickly in healthcare, with Dr. Dunbar, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Capital District Health Authority currently developing a Gait Monitoring System, hoping to reduce wait times for in-hospital appointments garnering the same information via the App, along with exercise videos, diets, etc. Dr. Kutcher, the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health and a Psychiatrist with the IWK Health Centre had the Transitions app ( developed for youth transitioning from the school system to post-secondary education providing for a free resource that has been widely used across Canada. You will also find Apps from all the major pharmacies and some from private first responders within the market. That said, there are a lot more in the pipeline that will be available soon.

This post was originally published on Organized Curiosity.