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Chasing Squirrels

I’ve known EO blogger Bonni Titgemeyer for a while. I’ve always appreciated her unique perspective and ability to look at things analytically and practically.

I like to read her blog. This is where I learned about Ro-Tel. Mmmmmm  Ro-Tel. (e.g. Eat Ro-Tel during football season)

Among the things we have in common – Human Resources, enjoying a good college football game on a crisp Fall day, a new passion for colouring, and Ro-Tel – also we’re both dog owners and dog lovers.

I found myself chuckling reading her post Sometimes Even the Daring are Chicken about her dog Mars being carted on and off a boat at the lake.   My dog Dakota has similar seemingly irrational behaviors.  Like barking fiercely when someone comes to the door, only to instantaneously sit and wag her tail madly the moment we answer the door – whether to strangers or my dad.

Recently, we took care of a neighbor’s tea cup Morkie. She weighed 3 pounds. Dakota, all 50 pounds of her, ran and hid under a table to hide from the Morkie. Hid under a table! Sometimes, even the daring are chicken! I commented that I loved Bonni’s perspective on Mars’ behaviour.   I had never thought about my dog’s behaviour in relation to work.

Then, this image popped into my head:

Sandis picDakota relentlessly chases squirrels. She chased one up this tree in our backyard. She stood there, gazing into the sky for about 10 minutes . Did. Not. Move.   Not sure exactly what was going on in her head then.

But she could not be distracted from it.   I hollered “Cookie!”, “Car!” and even tried “Park! – Words that usually get her attention and then some.

But she didn’t care. She was waiting for that squirrel. She caught one, once, one Spring. The squirrel, dazed, recently emerged from winter was too slow. Dakota, surprising even herself by catching the poor thing, flung it back up into the air and watched it scramble away to safety.

People do this. We do this – at work. Relentless focus. Single minded, narrow-dogged determination. Not listening to alternative and potentially good, realistic ideas from others. (I said Cookie, after all).

We get laser-locked on a course of action and cannot be persuaded otherwise. Maybe it worked out, once, before. We’re convinced our approach will work.   We don’t pay attention to what else is going on. How much time are we willing to devote before moving on?

What is your thought process? – are you an opportunity-seeking person, or are you just chasing squirrels?


Sandra Karpis is a CHRE and currently Vice President of Human Resources for a financial services company based in Toronto.  She has worked in HR for 25 years across multiple industries.  Sandra is also a wife and a mom, a lover of great big books, all things Outlander,  and a first-time blog contributor.

Is the demise of HR imminent?…….. Not likely!!

Like me, you have probably read some of the recent opinions on the demise of the HR function. I personally think they unnecessarily propagate doom and gloom. For me, effective HR comes down to being an effective “business consultant”.  I read the term recently in a Deloitte University Press article on Human Capital Trends1 and instantly liked it. A business consultant is someone who helps a company grow and maintain profitability. It’s similar, but different, from the traditional HR business partner. Perhaps the difference is semantics, but maybe it’s also enough of a difference to reflect on what the business needs from HR.

How often do you hear Finance or IT departments yearning about how they would like to be a “strategic partner”? They don’t, they just do it. In a recent SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) poll in the U.S., “more than six out of ten HR professionals agreed that their head of HR was strongly involved in business decisions at the board level”2.  Let’s stop wasting our energy on this, and agree HR is at the table, and move forward. HR gains a trusted business consultant role when we stop the HR “speak” and use the business “speak”. We gain the business speak, by understanding the business model (BFF the head of finance!) and forging strong relationships with the business’ leadership team and CEO.

2137737248_e9f3e429d1_bAs business consultants we must demonstrate unfailing expertise in the 5 – C’s of business consulting:


  • Providing Credible people leadership to the company, with an emphasis on the “human” versus the “capital” side of human capital.
  • Building a Collaborative company culture.
  • Leveraging the uniqueness of the company Culture. Doing what is right for the company.
  • Influencing appropriate Change management at the organizational level.
  • Knowing what Customers, want from the business.


And implementing a people plan that focuses on:

  • Talent Management – recruitment, development and retention of key people.
  • HR Service Delivery – enabling employees through effective systems, processes, and programs reflective of the company.

Focusing on these priorities will help ensure HR business consultants are successfully contributing to company growth and profitability and not dwelling on being sidelined. As Dave Ulrich recently and eloquently stated, “Don’t blow up HR, appreciate it and evolve it”.

Gord MacDonald is a senior HR consultant who runs his own HR practice, (GM HR Solutions). He is also Executive Consultant-HR Advisory, at The Talent Company. (http:/ He is a graduate of Concordia University and holds SRHR and GPHR designations. For any comments, he can be reached at:

  1. Deloitte University Press- Human Capital Trends 2014
  2. Society of Human Resource Management 2015 Priorities

Sometimes Even the Daring are Chicken

Boat experience

My dog Mars would prefer if we would buy a cottage on a lake and live there.

During the summer, he tells me this nearly every day.

Nearly every day.

Whenever we manage to get to someone’s cottage, who will put up with a golden retriever tagging along, he likes to swim and explore. It is fun to watch him leap around, following scents. He finds frogs and moles and minnows. He chases a lot of balls and sticks. After several hours, he likes to fall asleep in the sun.

He is one of those dogs that smiles, and at a lake he is typically smiling a lot. In fact, he smiles in the car all the way to the lake.

But not all is cool at the lake. There are things he doesn’t like or is afraid of.

Sometimes, even the daring are chicken.

Mars doesn’t like docks, or open tread stairs. He seems not to like things where he perceives he might fall through. I find this hilarious because on land, I’ve seen him leap between the branches of fallen trees and into fields of muck, without so much as a blink or stumble. How stairs can be so terrifying is a mystery.

But, thinking that he likes car rides, swimming, and after all, he is a golden retriever, we decided to offer him an opportunity to ride in our friend’s boat.

Offer him an opportunity.

I would say that he liked the experience, or maybe he just liked to be included, but the act of getting in and out of that boat was, well, an experience for all of us.

He’s a big chicken!

Initially, we tried treats and encouragement, but when he was having none of that, he was scooped up and plopped into the boat.

He dealt with it. I think he even liked it.

At the first destination, he was afraid of getting out. And again, he was scooped up and plopped onto the deck.

He was none worse the wear.

Watching this I started thinking about work.

We ask our people to do things they are not so sure about. Their way of “digging in” is not so different from the way Mars digs in.

We coax them and encourage them, and then sometimes when they remain resistant we plop them into the situation, hopefully none worse the wear.

I’m just wondering if there is a better way.