Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, December 4, 2017

"New school tech raises ethics issues"

Sept. 4, 2017 "New school tech raises ethics issues": Today I found this article by Natasha Singer in the Globe and Mail:

Silicon Valley courts brand-name teachers, broaching comparisons with the pharmaceutical industry’s hold on doctors

One of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States teaches third grade here at Mapleton Elementary, a public school with about 100 students in the sparsely populated plains west of Fargo, N.D.

Her name is Kayla Delzer. Her third-graders adore her. She teaches them to post daily on the class Twitter and Instagram accounts she set up. She remodelled her classroom based on Starbucks. And she uses apps such as Seesaw, a student-portfolio platform on which teachers and parents may view and comment on a child’s schoolwork.

Ms. Delzer also has a second calling. She is a schoolteacher with her own brand, Top Dog Teaching. Education startups such as Seesaw give her their premium classroom technology as well as swag such as T-shirts or freebies for the teachers who attend her workshops.

She agrees to use their products in her classroom and give the companies feedback. And she recommends their wares to thousands of teachers who follow her on social media.

“I will embed it in my brand every day,” Ms. Delzer said of Seesaw. “I get to make it better.”

Ms. Delzer is a member of a growing tribe of teacher influencers, many of whom promote classroom technology. They attract notice through their blogs, social-media accounts and conference talks. And they are cultivated not only by startups such as Seesaw, but by giants such as Inc., Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., to influence which tools are used to teach U.S. schoolchildren.

Their ranks are growing as public schools increasingly adopt laptops, tablets, math-teaching sites, quiz apps and parent-teacher messaging apps. The corporate courtship of these teachers brings with it profound new conflict-of-interest issues for the country’s public schools.

Moreover, there is little rigorous research showing whether the new technologies significantly improve student outcomes.

More than two dozen education startups have enlisted teachers as brand ambassadors. Some give the teachers inexpensive gifts such as free classroom technology or T-shirts.

Last year, TenMarks, a math-teaching site owned by Amazon, offered Amazon gift cards to teachers who acted as company advisers and an additional $80 (U.S.) gift card for writing a post on its blog, according to a TenMarks online forum.

Teachers said that more established startups gave them pricier perks, such as travel expenses to industry-sponsored conferences attended by thousands of teachers. In exchange, teacher ambassadors often promote company products on social media or in their conference talks – sometimes without explicitly disclosing their relationships with their sponsors.

Many public schools are facing tight budgets, and administrators, including the principal at Ms. Delzer’s school, said they welcomed potentially valuable free technology and product training. Even so, some education experts warned that company incentives might influence teachers to adopt promoted digital tools over rival products or even traditional approaches, such as textbooks.

Public-school teachers who accept perks, meals or anything of value in exchange for using a company’s products in their classrooms could also run afoul of school district ethics policies or state laws regulating government employees.

“Any time you are paying a public employee to promote a product in the public classroom without transparency, then that’s problematic,” said James Tierney, a former attorney-general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

Ms. Delzer and other educators forcefully argue that they’re motivated by altruism, not company-bestowed status or gifts. “I am in this profession for kids,” Ms. Delzer said. “Not for notoriety or the money.”

At a time when teachers shell out an average of $600 of their own money every year just to buy students supplies such as pencils – and make pleas for student laptops on fundraising site – it’s understandable that teachers would embrace free classroom technology.

The benefits to companies are substantial. Many startups enlist their ambassadors as product testers and de facto customerservice representatives who can field other teachers’ queries.

Another issue: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission considers sponsored posts to be a form of advertising. It expects people who receive a product, a meal or anything else of value from a company, in exchange for promoting a product, to disclose that sponsorship when they endorse the product.

This is true for celebrities and teachers alike. And it applies equally to conferences, YouTube videos, personal blogs or Twitter posts.

Some teachers and startups said they were not aware of those guidelines.

“If you are receiving any sort of incentive to promote the company’s product, that is what we call a material relationship, and that has to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the endorsement message,” said Mary Engle, associate director of the trade commission’s division of advertising practices.

Just before 8:30 a.m. on school days, Ms. Delzer, 32, stations herself at the classroom door. She greets each of her third-graders by name, ushering them in one by one with a brief shoulder squeeze. “I want them to feel love when they walk in,” she said.

If her classroom looks less like a traditional schoolroom and more like a den – with a colourful rug and inspirational signs exhorting children to “DREAM” and “LAUGH” – that is no accident. A few years ago, Ms. Delzer decided to remodel her classroom to foster the kind of independent work habits she thought her students would need in life.

So she ditched the standard issue desks and rearranged the room to look more like the place where she goes to work on her conference talks: her local Starbucks. Today, her third-graders sit wherever they please – on cushions, rocking chairs, balance balls.

The “Starbucks for kids” classroom proved so successful that Ms. Delzer wrote about it for EdSurge, an industry publication, in 2015. The article quickly spread in education circles.
Sitting in her local Starbucks in West Fargo, Ms. Delzer noted: “If you Google ‘Starbucks Classroom,’ it’s a thing now.”

One morning last spring, Ms. Delzer assigned her third-graders a math problem to solve on their iPads using Seesaw. Developed by two former Facebook product managers, Seesaw lets students produce and share their schoolwork as written notes, diagrams, audio recordings or videos.

Teaching, by nature, is a helping profession. And educators have a long tradition of sharing ideas with colleagues.

Ms. Delzer said she did not see a conflict between her teaching and other activities. She said she deliberately divided her work, devoting herself to her students during school hours while giving conference talks on days off and working with companies on some school nights.

“It’s really important to keep the two things separate,” she said.

She added that she worked only with companies whose products she personally believed in. Those relationships, she said, gave her valuable access to resources that could benefit her students, colleagues and teacher followers.

But companies that tap publicschool teachers to use or promote their products in exchange for perks are effectively engaging the educators as consultants – a situation that could conflict with teachers’ obligations to their employer: schools.

According to the Seesaw site, for instance, the company expects its teacher ambassadors to “use Seesaw regularly in your classroom,” host two Seesaw related conference talks or workshops annually and participate in Seesaw discussions online. In exchange, Seesaw offers teachers a subscription to its $120 premium service, product previews and a company badge to post on their profiles.

Joel Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York, said those kinds of arrangements could violate state or school district conflict-of-interest rules governing public employees.

“Vendors offering free technology to teachers for their personal or professional use in exchange for teachers promoting it to students or other teachers is a very questionable activity,” Mr. Reidenberg said.

Tim Jacobson, the principal of Mapleton Elementary School, where Ms. Delzer teaches, offered a different view. He described the company-teacher relationships as mutually beneficial for schools and industry. After Ms. Delzer developed a relationship with Seesaw, he noted, the company gave every Mapleton teacher a premium subscription and training sessions.

“It’s a real advantage when she comes back and she shares with us what she sees happening at the forefront of education,” Mr. Jacobson said. “Plus, it is good recognition for Mapleton Elementary School. We do a lot of things you wouldn’t expect in a school of our size.”

This teacher-influencer soft sell may be new in schools. But researchers who study medical marketing recognize it from techniques used for years by the pharmaceutical industry.

Drug makers have long cultivated doctors to promote brandname medicines to their peers. Insiders have a nickname for these doctors: “Key Opinion Leaders.” Among other things, drug makers have paid physician influencers to give talks about company drugs, sent them on junkets and lavished them with fancy dinners.
If the ed-tech industry is replicating these strategies, it is because, at least in medicine, they work.

“These techniques encourage the use of the product being promoted rather than evidencebased practices,” said Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who has studied how drug company payments influence doctors.

“There is evidence that even a small amount of money, like a meal, can influence prescribing.”

If her Top Dog Teaching fans nationwide love her, so do Ms. Delzer’s third-graders. One reason is that she often treats them like budding adults.

Every fall, for instance, Ms. Delzer holds a social-media boot camp to teach her students how to run the class Instagram and Twitter accounts. She teaches them rules such as “never share your password” and helps them understand how to maintain an upbeat online image.

After all, the class accounts, called TopDogKids, are essentially an offshoot of her own.
Lest they forget, a sign on the classroom wall reminded students and teacher alike: “I am building my digital footprint every day.”

"O captain! My captain!"/ Trevor Georgie

Aug. 30, 2017 "O captain! My captain": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

The editor of The Wall Street Journal discovers that team leaders share seven traits that help make the best sports squads in history

The Captain Class By Sam Walker Random House, 332 pages, $37

Which were the greatest sports teams in history? And what distinguished those teams from other celebrated but not quite so excellent teams or the even weaker ones?

Sam Walker, an editor at The Wall Street Journal, set out 11 years ago to answer those questions. He checked the normal factors we assume are responsible for team success, including having one of the great athletes of all time in its ranks, overall talent, money and resources, culture, management, and the coach. None explained the difference.

In the end, it was the team captains – and seven traits they shared – that explained the difference between all-time greatness and the rest of the field. Although his book, The Captain

Class, has a broad scope, Mr. Walker says it’s about a single idea, “one that is simple, powerful, and can be applied to teams in many other fields, from business and politics to science and the arts. It’s the notion that the most critical ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.”

Choosing the elite teams required considerable thought. He opted for those with five or more members, so no single individual could be too influential in performance. He looked at major sports, wanting teams whose dominance extended over many years against top competition.

His search extended to the 1880s, unearthing 122 finalists, but using eight criteria he whittled that down to 16 in the top tier, including the Collingwood Magpies from 1920s Australian rules football; the New York Yankees from 1949-53; the Hungarian men’s soccer team of the early 1950s; the Montreal Canadiens of the late 1950s; the San Antonio Spurs from 1997-2016; and two editions of New Zealand’s famed All Black rugby squad.

The seven traits he delineated of their captains were:

Extreme doggedness and focus in competition:

They were relentless, as when Maurice (the Rocket) Richard left a 1952 playoff game with a concussion and bloody gash on his head, but returned in the third period to score the winning goal.

They play to the edge of the rules, taking intelligent fouls:

The captains were no angels. “They sometimes did nasty things to win, especially when the stakes were the highest. They didn’t believe that being sportsmanlike all the time was a prerequisite for being great,” Mr. Walker writes. Perhaps, he says, that explains why classy captain Derek Jeter’s Yankees are not on the top list.

Leading from the back:

Didier Deschamps, of Italy’s Juventus, was once sneered at, called a mere water carrier, but he accepted the moniker gracefully. The best captains were understated, comrades serving their team, playing subordinate roles on the field and feeding the ball to others.

Michael Jordan’s Bulls didn’t make the list, perhaps because his focus tended to be on himself; he would sometimes not pass the ball to teammates he disliked.

Practical communications:

We assume sports leaders give fiery speeches, but that certainly wasn’t Yogi Berra’s forte – he wasn’t an orator – nor was it for other top captains. They talked one-on-one, cajoling and sympathizing – “boxing ears and wiping noses,” as the author puts it. At timeouts, the Spurs’ Tim Duncan would seek out one or two teammates and talk with them, often wagging a finger.

They used non-verbal communications:

Their on-field passion could inspire. In the dressing room before the game, Mr. Richard would stare intently with his fiery – some say scary – eyes at each teammate and then say, “Let’s go out and win it.”

They had the courage to stand apart:

Each of the captains at one point stood up to management to defend the team or argue for a different strategy.

They could regulate their emotion:

They could use emotion to drive their team but also knew when to cool it. The Rocket, after the famed riots following his 1955 suspension, under coach Toe Blake’s guidance, began to curb his emotions, his penalty minutes dropping, and it was that era during which his team made Mr. Walker’s list.

This is a fascinating book for sports fans, full of insider stories on top teams and the sources of their success. But it also offers leadership insights applicable outside of sports.

My opinion: I was kind of "eh" with this article.  It's because it was about sports and I'm not really that interested in it.

Sept. 4, 2017 The Ladder: Trevor Georgie: Today I found this article  in the Globe and Mail:

Trevor Georgie, 29, is president and general manager of the Saint John Sea Dogs major junior hockey team in The Canadian Hockey League.

I grew up in Mississauga. Hockey was something I always enjoyed, but I started playing late, at 13. At that age, when you're learning to play hockey, you're not going to have a bright future as a player.

At one point, My dad was a banker, so I was going to be an investment banker. In high school, I went and applied at a Bank of Montreal branch and sat and waited until someone would speak with me. I was 17, the youngest financial manager in Bank of Montreal history.

After four years, I was watching the Brian Burke press conference when he was introduced as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs owner MSLE. You had (president and general manager) Richard Peddie, (his successor) Gord Kirke and Brian Burke. It wasn't Brian I admired, it was Richard. A switch went on: One day, I want to run a professional sports organization.

My brother said you have to go to the University of Windsor (MBA program) – the person that has your dream job, Richard Peddie, is alumnus. You need to find the person that has your dream job and figure out how they did it. So I applied and got a place.

I get a phone call from the dean of the business school: We want you to represent the university and present Richard Peddie with this major award from the business community. I must have spent 40 hours preparing for 30 seconds. I introduced Richard, and when he left, one thing I really appreciated, he took out his business card and said, "Let me know where things take you," because he knew I was going to Florida.

I wanted to move back to Canada. I called the dean from the business school and within two weeks I was sitting down at Maple Leaf Sports, in Richard's office. He said, "We're not hiring but let me see if there's a fit here down the line." Finally, I get a call for a marketing co-ordinator with Toronto FC, with Maple Leaf Sports. When I first arrived, Richard had a welcome-to the-team card on my desk. He really took a great interest in my development.

My director at the time, Preben Ganzhorn left to go to SmartCentres, the biggest commercial developer in the country. A year and half after I started at MLSE, Richard is gone, and I decide to join Preben, working for Retrocom REIT, owned by SmartCentres. I was the marketing manager. You want to follow good leadership and I had a great relationship with Preben.

There are three sides of the sporting world: the property side (LSE, the Sea Dogs); the client side, that has the cash; and there is the agency side, people who have the ideas and contacts. I had already worked on the property side, now I'm on the client side.

Preben went to the agency side, Wasserman Media Group, and so there was an opportunity to come in and be the senior manager and be the lead on their biggest Canadian client, RBC. So, I come and do that. I've worked on all three areas of the sports world.

With Retrocom, I was visiting Saint John in January, 2014, looking at different sponsorship, marketing and strategic opportunities. It's my first Sea Dogs game. The Sea Dogs president at the time, Wayne Long, is sitting with Scott McCain. We get talking, and we seem to be getting along. The next day, we chat a bit at the airport, and Scott says, "Keep in touch." We'd meet every couple of weeks at his office in Toronto, and talk, and developed a great relationship, by fluke.

In September, 2015, I'm thinking I might do some consulting work with Scott, with Wasserman. Scott says to me I'd love you to meet the folks here, give me your thoughts on the operation. In October, Wayne wins as an MP. And a few weeks later, I get an e-mail asking if I'd be interested applying for the role of president. I have to give a lot of credit to Scott, because at that point I was the youngest president in the CHL, at 27.

The Jan.7, 2016 press conference, that moment, coming to Saint John, sitting down with Scott, really brought flashbacks of the press conference with Brian Burke, Richard Peddie and Gord Kirke. The cameras are blinding, and questions are just flying. I remember at that moment thinking, "enjoy this."

As told to Patrick Brethour. This interview has been edited and condensed.

"Objects versus experiences: which are the better gift?"

Nov. 27, 2017 "Objects versus experiences: which are the better gift?": Today I found this article by Gail Johnson in the Globe and Mail:

To celebrate her 50th birthday this past summer, Laura Clancy and her husband, Matt, splurged on a trip to Italy. It was a vacation of vineyards and hot Tuscan sun, but it was what her partner did on her actual birthday that really blew her away.

Mr. Clancy managed to get the two a spot at Osteria Francescana, a 12-table, triple-Michelin-star-rated restaurant in Modena. It's headed by Massimo Bottura, who is considered one of the greatest chefs in the world.

Champagne flowed, and they indulged in course after course – including the culinary legend's famous tortellini, a dish he learned from his mom, and a dessert called "Oops, I dropped the lemon tart." Mr. Bottura even went over to introduce himself.

"That was a dream come true," Ms. Clancy, a teacher, avid cook and cancer survivor, says of the evening. "It's something I'll never forget. Just knowing how hard it is to get into that restaurant – all the effort that went into it and what Matt did for me; it had so much meaning in it. And meeting the man himself … I just about passed out."

No material object could have topped it.

As we head into the year's busiest shopping season, merchants are doing all they can to lure in customers and see sales spike. When determining how to spend their hard-earned money, many people assume that a physical possession will create more happiness than something like a trip, concert or outdoor adventure, since objects last longer. However, presents that come in boxes with bows may pale in comparison to "experiential" gifts – and science supports that.

Thomas Gilovich is a professor of psychology at Cornell University who has studied extensively how people feel about spending money on objects versus experiential purchases. His research concludes that happiness comes from experiences, not things.

Experiences are more resistant to adaptation than objects, he says, referring to a term used in psychology to indicate the decreased effect of a stimulus after extended exposure. And adaptation is the enemy of happiness.

So, while that new mobile phone, necklace, or pair of skis might thrill at first, the delight will wear off. We get used to our things, but we remember experiences long after they've happened.

"An experience contributes more to who you are, your sense of identity," Prof. Gilovich says. "You can love your material things, but however much you love them and identify with them, they nonetheless remain separate from you. Experiences really are part of you; we are the sum total of our experiences."

People enjoy the anticipation of having an experience more than that of owning a thing, Prof. Gilovich notes. Experiential purchases also have a social effect, in that they connect us to others in a way that objects simply can't.

"When you share stories of experiences, generally you have better conversations than when you share stories of material goods," Prof. Gilovich says. "If you find out that we vacation in the same place in New Zealand, we feel closer to each other. We might feel closer to each other if we had the same car, but not nearly as much."

Since they're so often shared, experiential purchases bring people together, literally and figuratively.

For her family, Whistler resident Sonya Hwang has come to love thinking outside the box; she says that experience-based gifts have become the norm. She and her husband, Harvey Lim, and their two children have gone hiking, been on an eagle-watching float along the Squamish River with the Squamish Rafting Company, participated in Animal Encounters at the Vancouver Aquarium (where guests interact with biologists and trainers), and made their way out of an escape room at Escape! Whistler.

Recently, they took in a production of the Nutcracker performed by the Russian Ballet, a first for the children and a gift from her mother.

"Life's about leaving those memories," Ms. Hwang says. "Those kinds of gifts have a more meaningful impact, plus the whole family can enjoy them.

"I also like them [experiential gifts] for environmental reasons," she adds. "There's too much stuff. You can purge, but the problem with purging is it takes time. If you don't bring it in, in the first place, you're saving yourself time."

People's desire for memorable experiences has given rise to a whole new industry; consider companies like Ottawa-based Breakaway Experiences, Vancouver's Perfect Day Experiences, and Edmonton's Epic Experiences.

Flying lessons, kayak tours, archery sessions, wildlife viewing, sleigh rides, parasailing adventures – those are just some of the creative options the ventures have on offer for customers needing a little help coming up with memorable non-object offerings.

When Anya Levykh's daughter, Maya, turned 10 almost two years ago, the Vancouver resident suspected she might ask for an iPod or iPhone. Instead, the girl told her mom, "I want to have an experience."

A little surprised at first, Ms. Levykh says it didn't take long for her tween to decide on a birthday adventure: She would try raw oysters for the first time and go see a live local production of Pride and Prejudice. A Jane Austen fan, she adored the play. At dinner, the chef showed her how he shucked the shellfish and even brought her a candied cranberry in an oyster shell dusted with pink sugar for dessert.

"It was an amazing experience for her," Ms. Levykh says. "She was over the moon."
In fact, she liked it so much that Maya now prefers non-object gifts to typical presents. For her 11th birthday, she and her mom spent a weekend in Victoria. Last Christmas, she asked for "magic," a series of evenings where she and her mom would go and explore special seasonal events: VanDusen Botanical Garden's Festival of Lights and Canyon Lights at North Vancouver's Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, for example. They put together an agenda and took photos at each outing.

"She thought it was the best thing ever," Ms. Levykh says. "Yes, there was a present under the tree from Santa, but that wasn't the focus.

"Those experiences stay with her," she adds. "She's come to really treasure them, therefore that's what she's found to be really valuable, really precious, and that's what she asks for. It takes some planning … but she likes being part of that. It builds the anticipation, and it's something we do together."

When John Ferrie's father, Jock, turned 89, he took Jock shopping for a slick pair of runners then out for tacos (his dad's request). Over dinner, Jock revealed what he really wanted for his birthday: the chance for them to go ziplining together.

Mr. Ferrie booked a package with Ziptrek Ecotours in Whistler that consisted of 10 zips, one of them more than two kilometres long with riders reaching speeds of about 100 kilometres an hour.

"To see him grab that harness and jump off … I just about lost it," Mr. Ferrie says. "He was just fearless. He was just having a ball, laughing his head off.

"It was such a touching day," Mr. Ferrie adds. "We had this really great bonding day, just the two of us. It was really something special. He still talks about it as the best day of his life."

Left of Right
5 hours ago

It's the thought and effort that counts - whether buying the "right" gift or planning the right experience.

7 days ago

So touching.

Nov. 30, 2017 "Home- made gifts": Today I found this article by Liane Faulder in the Edmonton Journal:

So much about holiday shopping is expensive and tiring. Especially dispiriting are the parts that see you doubt not only your choices, but the very spirit of the season.

Shoppers will be pleased to learn that a new catalogue of gifts crafted in Edmonton not only makes the process easy and affordable, it creates jobs, and goodwill along the way.

Gifted, the Edmonton Made Gift Catalogue, was assembled by Edmonton Economic Development as the first in an annual publication series designed to draw attention (and dollars) to Edmontonians who make products from T-shirts to tables right here at home.

“We wanted it to be easy for people to shop local,” says EED’s Laura Tailleur, program manager with Edmonton Made.

The catalogue is available on-line and at three different retailers — Tix on the Square, the Alberta Craft Council and the City Market (located for the winter at City Hall). The catalogue will also be at this weekend’s Royal Bison Craft Fair. It promotes 99 products crafted by 42 makers selected from more than 270 artisans who applied for the opportunity. Even the catalogue itself is worth a substantial browse;  its design is clean, simple and beautifully illustrated with short stories about makers on the Edmonton scene.

Six categories of product appear in the catalogue: apparel and jewelry, bath and body, artwork, food, books and stationery, and furniture and home accessories. 

There are high-end items, such as a $975 CUB Chair by Wronko Woods, and affordable treats, such as a $9 jar of blueberry rhubarb jam by Fruits of Sherbrooke. Copper Cherry makes something called a Hayden backpack ($160) sure to make any hipster proud. You could spend $70 on earrings by HeartStrings Jewelry, or $5.25 on a sweet by The Violet Chocolate Co.

For those who likes someone else to make the decisions, a number of the local products have been grouped in gift boxes geared to food lovers, men, and those whose eyes search for sparkles. The themed boxes, which are on-line but not in the print catalogue, have been put together by YEG Box Co. — a new subscription service in Edmonton launched by two friends, Daphne Simkin and Lana Dukart.

Curated boxes start at $60 with The Food Box, heralding flavours by Fruits of Sherbrooke, The Violet Chocolate Co., MELT Confections, and JACEK Chocolate Couture. The Sparkle Box ($115) cradles a piece of hand-made jewelry by Farm Wife Style, plus chocolates by JACEK and a skin care product by PLANTiful. The Guy Box has at its centre a hand-screened T-shirt by Salgado and Fenwick.

The boxes can also be seen and purchased at a pop-up store in Southgate Mall, located near Pandora. Though the pop-up store is only around for the holiday season, the YEG Box partners’ devotion to promoting local runs year-around.

The company started last November with a monthly service that delivers dozens of items to folks interested in supporting the local economy through their consumer choices. YEG Box Co. also offers one-off boxes for special occasions, such as the birth of a baby.

“A local business has heart,” says Simkin of the duo’s decision to promote Edmonton with their new venture.

They’ve been blown away by the response. Simkin was a intensive care nurse, and Dukart a pharmacist; the two now work full-time in their fledgling business and have three part-time employees.

“People want to support local, but they didn’t know how,” says Simkin, noting YEG Box has customers in every province. “These are people who could be your friend, your neighbour or your co-worker.”

NOTE: Finding that big box anchors are not always the draw one might have hoped, some mall managers have looked to local to attract shoppers with a range of pop-up booths. Kingsway Mall has just launched something called Community, a pop-up area with several local culinary start-up companies selling chocolate, lemonade and pastries. The West Edmonton Mall recently opened RAAS, an area featuring 25 small, local artisans such as Pura Botanicals, Apollo Originals and Moonshine Doughnuts.

Nov. 30, 2017 "Study details extent of violence faced by hospital workers": Today I found this article by Sheryl Ubelacker in the Globe and Mail:

Violent incidents can occur in virtually any part of a hospital, perpetrated by patients and even by visiting family members. While attacks often involve patients with psychiatric issues or those high on illicit drugs, they also can occur when patients frustrated by long waits and what they see as inadequate care react with abuse or violence, research shows.

This article totally reminded me of this Mar. 2017 blog post:

"Paramedic problems"/ "From needing a transplant to campaigning for others"

My opinion: We should all have more compassion.  Or at least treat others with respect.  Or at least learn how to stay calm and not get angry.

Dec. 2, 2017 "The Singing Christmas Tree returns for it's 48th year": Today I found this article by Joanne McGowan in the Edmonton Journal:

Perhaps the most rewarding benefit that comes with returning to see the show each year is the knowledge that all net proceeds received by the John Cameron Changing Lives Foundation are donated to various local charities and organizations via gifts, food, and music education.

“Our focus is on children and doing what we can to share the gift of music with them,” Doll says. “Over the years, we have used the money to buy instruments for organizations that simply can’t afford them. I wish I could put into words the emotion we feel when, months later, the kids who received the instruments put on concert for us. It’s powerful and life changing for us and the children.”

The 48th annual Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree will run from December 14 - 17 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, featuring a total of six performances, including two matinees.

Adds Doll, “When people purchase a ticket to the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree, they are ultimately helping us change lives.”

My week

Dec. 4, 2017:

Sun. Nov. 26: It was actually not that busy at work.
Mon. Nov. 27: It was my day off, but they called me in the morning to come because a worker was sick. 

It turns out K worked here for 2 weeks, and then she quit.  2 weeks later, she's hired again.  I asked her why she came back and she said she had anxiety and was unsure about this job.  Then she wanted to work here.

Tues. Nov. 28: I worked.
Wed. Nov. 29: My day off.  
Thurs. Nov. 30: Work.
Fri. Dec. 1: Work.

The highlight of the week: I was listening to these telesummit interviews.  They're like self- development and positive:

Kristina Wolf:

Sacha Sterling:

Katherine Koroll:

Heather: My friend Heather posted a Facebook video of her talking about feelings.  I haven't seen her in person since 2008 when I was 22.  It was her going-away party where she was moving across the country.

I totally remembered it where Leslie, her mom drove us to this karaoke bar.

I had reconnected with Heather in 2007 through Facebook.  I haven't seen her since high school.

South Park: I also watched this season's episodes that I recorded on my DVR.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: I don't watch much scary movies, but this was an action movie too so I watched it for the action.  It was average.

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan: I was checking out the above movie, and I find this. John Krasinski (from The Office) is the star of this show.  It's on Amazon.  Maybe I'll be able to watch it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"Five steps to get people on board with big initiatives"/ customer complaints

Aug. 30, 2017 "Five steps to get people on board with big initiatives": Today I found this article by Brian Scudamore in the Globe and Mail:

Rolling out a new idea is tricky, but you can avoid major headaches as long as you have a plan and involve employees in the process

Imagine that herding cats is a lot like running a franchise network. We’ve spent three decades perfecting our systems, but it still takes constant effort and communication to keep a team of 4,000 people aligned. When we have to roll out new initiatives, things can get complicated.

In 2012, we decided to make our first foray into radio marketing. At first, not everyone could see the value – myself included. We’d always done our own PR, and our main form of advertising was driving around in our branded 1-800-GOT-JUNK? trucks. The way I figured it, why should we pay for expensive radio spots when we can advertise for free?

Many of our franchise partners agreed, but a few forward-thinkers convinced us that we had to embrace paid media to take our brand to the next level.

It took patience, strategy, teamwork and trust, and while it wasn’t easy, it’s been one of the most profitable business decisions we’ve ever made.

Rolling out a new idea is tricky in any organization. But you can avoid major headaches as long as you have a plan and involve your people in the process. Here are the five steps you must take to effectively introduce any new program.

1. Have a clearly defined strategy

To get buy-in, the key is to be straight-up about how everyone will benefit (and what they stand to lose). In the case of our radio campaigns, our goal was to reach local markets by maximizing the frequency, reach and consistency of our ads.

The benefit was massive growth and brand awareness; the potential loss would be missing out on this huge opportunity. But our plan wouldn’t work without the right person. We needed someone whose style matched our company’s quirky personality, so we found the Wizard of Ads (a.k.a. Roy H. Williams). His work isn’t loved by everyone. You know those over-the-top Spence Diamonds commercials? We hired that guy.

His magical thinking and proven track record perfectly matched what we were after, and once he was on board, he set a strategy we all bought into.

2. Prove it’s working – then keep on proving it

It’s one thing to talk about hypothetical results; it’s another to provide evidence of success. To keep people excited and moving in the right direction, you need to prove your program is working.

Several of our top franchises volunteered to be our guinea pigs and invest in a 14-week radio campaign. The ads took off unexpectedly fast, and, encouraged by the early success, our largest franchise committed to a 52-week test campaign. In its first year with ads, our Toronto franchise saw an increase in revenue we couldn’t have predicted.

Seeing those results, more and more of our franchise partners opted to launch their own radio programs. Now, we have more than 60-per-cent buy-in to the strategy.

If you’re testing an unproven plan, start small, experiment and validate your idea. A more clearly-planned start will lead to wider acceptance in the long run.

3. Continuous communication and training are key

In a franchise system with a million moving parts, communication and alignment are absolutely critical. To ensure we stay on the same page, we have a team in the field available to help our franchise partners adapt to major changes, plus weekly phone calls and newsletters.

By keeping the lines of communication open, we’re able to identify and react quickly to challenges. We have people designated as the main contact for new programs (such as our radio campaigns) to ensure a smooth roll-out for everyone involved.

Our hands-on approach to communication allows us to consistently monitor success and support our franchise partners when they have questions or doubts.

4. Be patient – change takes time

The success of our radio ads didn’t happen overnight; we almost called it quits a few months into the program. The Wizard calls this the “chickeningout period,” when people drop off even though they’re about to turn the corner.

In radio, it’s been statistically proven that if you hold on past 12 weeks, the program will take a turn for the better.

Whether you’re implementing a new hiring process or transitioning to new software, there will be times that you’ll question why you did it, and you might even want to give up altogether. Don’t! If you’re ready to quit, you could be on the verge of success.

5. Don’t listen to doubters

Our radio ads have inspired some very strong opinions. People either love the campy quirkiness, or they absolutely hate it. We get an endless barrage of less-than-favourable responses on our social media. Do we care? Heck no! Because what makes our ads annoying also makes them work.

No matter what, when you introduce new programs, there will inevitably be naysayers – employees and customers alike. But if you trust your instincts, take a risk and can prove your case, the opportunity for reward is more than worth the challenge.

"This is what happens when an angry customer complains": Today I found this article by Roy Osing in the Globe and Mail

Roy Osing is a former executive vice-president of Telus, blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.

Is dealing with customer complaints really a leadership issue? Absolutely.

Every customer complaint is disguised as an opportunity to improve the strategic position of an organization, as long as it is dealt with the right way.

Leaders should treat complaint handling as a priority. Service recovery is a loyalty builder.

If an organization recovers from a complaint exceedingly well, customer loyalty is enhanced. It's counterintuitive, but if you recover well, the customer is more pleased than if you had never made the mistake in the first place.

Complaint recovery means fixing the mistake fast and surprising the customer with what they don't expect.

When you have committed a service error, the customer expects their complaint to be rectified, but it must be done quickly.

If immediate action is not taken, the benefits of recovery are lost, and the customer typically broadcasts far and wide how disastrous your service is.

But even if the error is dealt with expeditiously, loyalty remains unchanged; loyalty is deepened only if the second complaint recovery step is taken – surprising the customer.

That surprise is the magic dust that leaves the awestruck, bonding them to you more than they were before the incident. Fixing the mistake fast maintains their loyalty level; surprising them pushes it even higher.

Complaint recovery is all about attention to details.

Remember these five best practices next time you're facing a frustrated customer.

1. Apologize, regardless of whose fault it is. Trying to blame the customer for the event won't get you anywhere. Apologize for the impact the event had on the customer. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you" is a way to move forward into the recovery process without having to admit culpability.

2. Never quote company policy. People don't care about your policies, and telling them that they should have behaved differently will only anger them even more.

3. Never have the issue referred to a supervisor as a means of control; empower your employees to solve the problem then and there. This gives your employees currency in the customer's eyes and enables fast resolution of the complaint.

4. Never use common "trash and trinket" items as the customer surprise. People hate them. Develop a list of more personal surprise tokens that employees can choose from depending on what they learn about the customer during the complaint experience.

5. Have a real person standing by any of your self-serve applications. Complaint recovery cannot be suitably handled through automated systems. When is the last time you enjoyed being served by technology – like an automated voice-messaging system – when you had a problem with an organization?

If leaders make recovery from negative customer experiences a priority, their organization wIll most definitely stand out from the crowd.

Disgusted with The Globe
3 days ago

Bang on Roy - too bad these steps are even more alien to the public sector than the private sector.
2 Reactions

3 days ago

It is important to have a common understanding of what a customer complaint is. Too often what a customer believes is a complaint is not perceived as one, therefore not acted upon, by company staff and/or upper management.

3 days ago

Excellent approach but can we actually practice what we preach?

Joe Shlabotnick
3 days ago

"trash and trinket"?

3 days ago

The management of any thinking organization would have already adopted this strategy; unfortunately they don't think and treat their customers with contempt.
If any of their senior managers took the time to call their company's helpline with a typical issue their atitude would soon change. Or, perhaps they just don't give a damn because virtually all of their competitors are equally inept at customer service thus keeping "churn" rates within acceptable limits.
I have not found the public sector to be worse in this regard but often the same and sometimes better.

3 days ago

Do you think Calin Rovinescu the CEO of Air Canada is reading this?
1 Reactions

3 days ago

I have found the large Canadian companies like bell, Rogers, Canadian tire etc. etc. to be the worst at solving complaints. The only company that really solves any complaint or problem is Costco and on-line Amazon