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Paying Dues

Photo Credit: Bonni Titgemeyer. Location: ACE 2016, Toronto.

Photo Credit: Bonni Titgemeyer. Location: ACE 2016, Toronto.

I had the opportunity to hear the legendary Joan Lunden–newscaster, mother of seven and cancer survivor speak at the 2016 Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) Conference, held on August 14th at the Hilton Hotel in Toronto.

I’ve been following Joan Lunden for perhaps as long as 40 years.  Joan is iconic, the one who attempted to achieve everything (a coveted position on Good Morning, America, star power, motherdom, wife, femininity, financial independence) and was successful, at least for a time, in having it all at once.  Listening to her talk about her schedule back then made me tired.  I have to wonder when she slept.  But, Joan rose and Joan fell and did both relatively gracefully.  I admire that. I also admire that she can talk about the inequities she experienced in broadcasting in the face of being on the frontier, without coming off sounding overly bitter.

That seems to be a big challenge for women in important positions these days, this business of coming off without sounding overly bitter.  Well, she isn’t afraid to talk about the challenges, but positions them in the context of the door that opened when one closed.  I like that.

Joan is now in that place where she can give advice to the next generation, which she is doing so through presentations like the one at ACE, and through her new book Had I Known .  The focus of the book is her recent journey in her battle against breast cancer.  It is clear that lessons learned from the past have prepared her for this challenge.

In her presentation, Joan talked to qualities of great leaders that she learned from interviewing a diverse group of people.  And indeed, the list of people she interviewed over the years is long and includes U.S. Presidents, Olympic athletes and business executives.  The common themes that come out of the discussion of the road to success includes the following:

  • Believing in yourself far more than you should.
  • Take initiative.
  • Make yourself unique.

In broadcasting she got her big break as a weathergirl.  She didn’t really want to be the weathergirl, but she saw it as a means to an end; an opportunity; essentially a dues paying exercise.

What are your opportunities?  What are your dues?

If you listen to those in HR today at the most senior levels, they will probably tell you something similar about their road to success.  Perhaps their career started in something tangential to HR which gave them a broader skill set than purist HR.  Perhaps they had an opportunity to do a big non-HR project that gave them insight into business. Perhaps their familiarity with Excel gave them exposure to compensation.  Perhaps they had an opportunity to work with Senior Leadership on something small and gained credibility.

Getting into the good HR jobs requires some risk taking. HR folks are not known as great risk takers. Taking that bold step of just going for it can feel impossible.

Joan encouraged the audience to not overlook the real opportunities associated with entry-level jobs.

So in reading this post, where does it leave you?  What can you do next to get to where you want to go?

As for me, it was a great presentation and I’m glad I was able to attend.  My take away was a reminder to not give up when I feel I’ve lost the battle.


Change what? Change who? Better start by changing yourself!

Why has the word CHANGE become taboo in many organizations?  Beats me. Our entire lives evolve around change. We are born, morph into adolescence and into adulthood. We enter the world of work, change jobs, start families etc.  Every chapter, every journey is almost never like the last – this is change. Why then is this any different from organizational change? Organizations change; they must or they die. Period. Accept this and move on.

The challenge is for us as individuals to be able to adapt quickly to these changes.

In June I started a 30 day “try something new” challenge. Around that time, I was doing a 30 day body transformation challenge (never mind asking how that is going). The main question I got asked was, “why did you decide to do the 30 day try something new challenge?” To be honest, I needed to be more adaptable to change. Many of us say we adapt quickly to change but do we?  If you’re not willing to go outside your comfort zone on an individual level, how then can you be expected to lead others down that path?

Mind you, I did nothing extravagant during the 30 days. The goal was to do something I hadn’t done before. It allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and change from my everyday routine to do things that: (1) I never really thought of doing and (2)  to do things I avoided doing because I just felt out of my element doing it;  for example yoga. I have avoided yoga like the plague for no reason other than I never thought I was flexible enough. Had I tried it before? No. So how could I have come to this conclusion if I haven’t tried it? This is precisely the roadblock many of us encounter in life and in the workplace – we jump to the conclusion that we cannot or that the change will have negative consequences for us. My advice:

  1. Be adaptable – the more adaptable you are the better able you are to manage change
  2. Keep an open mind – before you say no, ask yourself why are you resisting
  3. Get information – speak to someone (the right person) who can provide more information about the change
  4. Accept it – understand that change is inevitable
  5. Attitude is everything – with a positive attitude you can do anything. Who knows you just might have fun through the process! I know I did.


Lorraine Darcheville has been working as a Human Resources Generalist for the past 3 years with a Software Development company in Mississauga.  Prior to that she worked for 2 years in a Training & Development company.  She holds an MBA in Consulting from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and is a Certified Human Resources Professional. She is passionate about coaching and is a few months away from becoming a Certified Life Coach. When she is not focused on HR, she can be found speaking at her Toastmasters club in Mississauga.

Moving on to other things

Photo Credit: Bonni Titgemeyer #Brucetrail

Photo Credit: Bonni Titgemeyer #Brucetrail

Today is the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001 attacks, and it is a tradition for me to write a blog post as a sort of memorial.

I mean no disrespect when I write that this year you will not find me deeply immersed in replays of that terrible day.

There were years where I was.  Deeply immersed that is. In all the sadness that surrounds a day when with perfect precision thousands of innocent people died and millions more lost some measure of their personal freedom.

In years past, I’ve written down everything I can remember about that day.  Where I was, who I was with, what was said, who was on the radio, how vulnerable I felt being so far from home, what I did in the hours afterward.  I’ve written it all down, even though I wasn’t at ground zero, nor did I have any family or friends there.  But I was affected.  If you were alive and living in North America that day, chances are you were too.

In response to what happened, over the years I have vowed some things, like to not let people with bad intentions interfere with my pursuit of happiness, and to promote an environment of peace.

This year however, I’ve decided that I am moving on to other things.  What that means exactly, I don’t know.  But, it’s time for that.

There is significant literature out there from experts and others on how to move on after experiencing a loss.  Much of it is about mindset.  Allowing yourself to get through the stages of grief.  Choosing to be happy.  Faking it until you feel it.  Getting busy.  Building new memories.  Closing the chapter.

On one of my Bruce Trail hikes recently, I came upon a beautiful sight.  It was a field of blackberries, thousands of ripe ones.  There were so many that our walk took twice as long that day because we had to stop and sample them.  They were so sweet they tasted like cotton candy, free for the taking.  As I sat on a stump with my hands full of them, stains on my shirt and with purple teeth, I started thinking about what got me to that point at this point in time.  I felt good, almost giddy.  Certainly there are many things, but one of them was the decision to return to Canada after 9/11 and to experience all of what Canada offers.  For that, I am very thankful.