Workcations Don’t Work

Last summer I was pretty proud of myself. I took two weeks off and only sent four work-related emails. Of course the London Olympics were a serious distraction from the office rote.

Stupidly when I embarked on this vacay, I actually expected to work. The theory of this hot air balloon burst quickly when I crashed into this old world time warp called Spain. Since swapping the chaotic romance of Barcelona for the organized tranquility of Montreux, Switzerland…the work time hasn’t increased. But my productivity has…and today while yodelling down the mountain, I decided to share my epiphanies with you.

#1. Mark the hypocrite says don’t work on vacation, but if you feel the pressure to be available, then:

# 2. Take twenty minutes in the morning to work and no more. You will be horrified you can actually do everything that’s truly important in way less than the hours of candle burning you normally incur!

# 3. Email at the best of times is horribly misused. When you are away you realize how much so. Convince your team to use email as a data transmitter, not a conversation enabler, and your inbox will shrink.

# 4. Use the twenty-four hour rule. On home soil, this applies when you’re about to send an angry email. But when you are away, delaying all will allow you to edit your replies so they are divinely surgical.

# 5. Mull. Meditate. Ponder. Never do we have enough daylight hours to think. What better time to teach yourself new techniques.

Smile for the camera, it doesn’t know you’re working!

The Most Important Meeting of Your Day

Don’t be fooled. The most important meetings aren’t the entries in your agenda today.

The 8:30 AM conference call with the sales team. The 10:00 AM budget re-draft with your boss. The networking lunch. The 3:00 PM metrics presentation. The 5:15 check-in with a new employee. The 6:00 PM call to the West Coast HQ of your largest customer.

They are all important. They are all vital. They all require preparation galore. But…

But the actual meeting pales with the “meeting after the meeting.” Here’s why.

# 1. YOU often aren’t in the meeting after the meeting. Whether it’s your boss, your clients, or your staff…you were left off the guest list. Because the MATM is usually held secretly, at a new location, quite often electronically…but rarely with your presence. Scary? It can be. Because you are no longer present to shape the dialogue and ensure your point of view is well represented. It’s now left to interpretation, which could be good…or bad.

# 2. Depending on the outcome of this meeting, the impact of your scripted meeting will soon have a new scorecard. In direct terms you need this meeting to be more effectual than the scripted meeting if you hope the mandate you established gets carried out with zeal. We have all heard from Debby Downer, sometime after the scripted meeting, that despite their head nod to the formal conversation, they really had no intent to follow through with their commitment.

# 3. You didn’t plan for the meeting after the meeting. You were naturally well prepared for the scripted meeting. Tight agenda. Sharp presentation materials. Detailed budgets. But did you think about where your materials, words, and discussion would travel in the next 24 hours? Did you project who, beyond the live/dialed-in meeting attendees, would virtually be part of the extended conversation? Did you forecast the agendas of the various stakeholders and what fires they would light within seconds of smile f’ing you out of the room?

Since I know you are reading this while you actually are in a meeting, you cheater, I am glad I caught you at a timely moment. Look up from your tablet and scan the room. Tally up who you think will be meeting with whom. Project what their mood and motives will be. Speculate how this is going to impact you. Then load up your verbal cannon and lob a few proactive comments on the table to preemept the chatter.

If you really want to be ballsy, why not let the room know you are in on their secret and you too plan to have a meeting…after the meeting!


I almost blew it.

A friend suggested I watch a video of a young man’s TedEx talk. Told me the presenter should be our feature keynote at the Canadian Sponsorship Forum.

Don’t know why, but I had little interest. Maybe it was because all I heard, saw, interpreted was that the speaker was a break dancer.

Thankfully someone on my team watched the video. I should say someones. It spread quickly among a few key influencers. They pulled me by the ear and I watched. Hmm. Me be wrong. Let’s invite him to speak. I didn’t slot him as our closing keynote. Cause I was still being stupid. But he got a prime speaking slot.

He didn’t speak at CSF. He wove magic. He cast a spell. He left me in a trance.

But don’t be fooled. Doing an awesome speech doesn’t mean you’re talented at anything but speaking. But he did do it while breaking, at times elevated on just one arm, at other times hosting fellow dancers on the stage. But, but, but…was he authentic?

Last weekend the trial was held. I got a chance to see the same speaker in action and attend his organization’s marquee event. The Unity Festival.

Bottom line. This man is what he says he is. His project does what it says it does.

The charity is UNITY. Its mission is fostering success in youth through avenues they entrust: music, dance, art.

The messiah is Michael Prosserman. Aka Bboy Piecez.

He is the founder, leader, and inspiration of Unity. Seeing him in action, seeing the talent he curated, the audience he attracted, the engagement with young and old alike. I now knew. He is what he says.

Don’t make my mistake and ignore him. Because Mike Prosserman is going to change our country.

Ghost of Paignton House

Spent the weekend at The Rosseau in Muskoka, a JW Marriott brand property.

Their tag line is “nature on your terms.” Well when I got my bill I thought it was closer to “nature on a 36-month lease”…because that’s the term I will need to pay it down.

If you call four pools, three restaurants, half dozen elevators, and a golf cart shuttle service “nature”, then I guess they are right. This place is l-l-l-large. Dominates the skyline, overpowers the shoreline, and destroyed the sightlines for more than just one cottage. But truthfully… I loved it. Oh hippo-hypocrite that I am.

But one thing bothered me. I used to work “there” and nobody cared. See, back in the day, the same acreage on Lake Rosseau was home to Paignton House. A lovely wee conference and family resort, that was also affectionately known as a poor man’s Clevelands House. I have blogged about Paignton before. One of the Paignton traditions I loved was the hanging of the past staff photos in the lobby. When I last stepped into Paignton in the late ’90s…my 1984 & 1985 photos were still hung proudly. Fast forward to 2013 and no longer.

So I started asking questions. I asked my waitress. I asked my bartender. I asked the pool staff. No one knew where the photos were. No one knew about Paignton House. No one knew me!

I was reduced to being the ghost of Paignton past. How distressing. I needed someone to tell my stories to… like when our cabin neighbour “Jacque” (who wasn’t French, but was from Sault Ste. Marie so the racist handle stuck), was peeing into his overflowing toilet one night while straddling the basin with his feet wedged into the wall studs. There he was wedged, with the door wide open for all of us partying staff to see as he somehow rationalized adding fluid to an Alberta-like flow.

No one was ready to hear about my over-sized bunkmate who snored so loudly that my roomie Rosie & I went Muhammad Ali on him every night and still couldn’t beat him into silence. There were no takers for the tales that only a nineteen year old could dream of and those that didn’t happen I made up anyway.

Cottage parties. Staff hookups. Guest-staff hookups. Guest-guest hookups. Drunken bar managers emceeing an evening show (who was that?). The scary staff food. The carpools to the liquor store. The local couple who got drunk in my bar and fought every Sunday. The cottage couple who did the same on Tuesdays. The rich staffer with the Camaro and his harem of waitresses from our dining room. The rich staffer who quits after five weeks, because why work when you can party. The rich staffer’s groupie who followed the harem into the parties carrying the cooler of Malibu rum and beer. (Hey, I was darn good at carrying that cooler!)

I think the Rosseau needs to write some briefing notes for the staff enfants! I can’t be the first ghost to show up. It was the time of my life, or at least that’s the line we stole from the movie Dirty Dancing. I should have been provided an audience to hear about it!

Cabin Fever

I bet you wish you were at summer camp right now.

No parents. No teachers. No books. No piano lessons. No chores. No sisters. No dishes. No teeth to clean. Well hopefully my kids are cleaning their teeth.

Camp isn’t reality.

Your teacher is replaced by a counselor, barely ten years older than you. Every word he says is god-like. Just cause he’s a teenager and you are…ten.

Your parents are replaced by the camp director. He is the guy who couldn’t figure out what life after camp looked like, so he followed his heart and made his cabin his home.

Your classmates are replaced by cabin mates. When they aren’t hanging you from the top bunk by your underwear, they are your new can’t-live-without best friends. At least for two weeks anyway.

Your mom’s cooking is replaced by someone else’s mom’s cooking. At first the food tastes great, but when breakfast on Day 4 is clearly hashed up leftovers from dinner on Day 2, you wonder hopefully how much ketchup the camp has in stock.

Your showers are replaced by swim tests in icy lakes. Your chores replaced by cabin cleanup and the discovery of smuggled candy gone sour. Your music lessons replaced by camp sing-alongs featuring the waterski instructor cum David Myles wannabe who knows that either role is great girl-bait.

Your days are going too fast and soon you will be headed home. Too soon you will be too old for camp and some day you will be chained to some corporate desk, reading some corporate guy’s blog, painfully reminding you of joyful Julys gone by, and essentially infecting you with cabin fever.

Hats off to the Stampede!

I have an ache inside me today that you may not understand.

It’s an emptiness. A longing. A pining for something beloved.

Yes world, it’s the first weekend of July and I am not going to make it to the 2013 Calgary Stampede. It’s not news the Stampede is my favourite event of the year. It’s also not news that whether I had ten days of intense work or a one-day site check, I regularly made the event a key part of my travel calendar. And when work wouldn’t comply, I made it the destination for my buddy’s birthday trip.

Once the Stampede gets inside you it never escapes. You don’t want it to. The Stampede is civic pride, prairie skies, welcoming strangers, limitless parties, living heritage, and unparalleled volunteers.

It’s an event where experiential marketers relish the experiences they can create. Where networking is supercharged. Where sponsorship truly is sponsorship.

Authenticity is a cliche, except when it’s spelt Calgary Stampede.

Ironically I had reconciled myself to not going when I made the call a month ago. But then calamity struck. The floods. The damage. The turmoil. Yet as the waters subsided, stories arose from my friends in the West of a community rallying together.

The anticipation for this salvaged Stampede may ironically match that of the milestone 100th anniversary edition of 2012. So while I can’t be there to raise a toast to the perseverance of the hundreds of men and women who ensured this year’s event will happen, I can issue an electronic salute to them.

In true Stampede spirit, a white hat for all of them!

Poli Sigh

I majored in political science in university.

Thing is, when you take “Poli Sci”, you don’t really learn anything about “politics”.

You don’t learn about wealthy senators padding their expenses.

You don’t learn about mayors allegedly smoking crack.

You don’t learn about bureaucrats taking bribes.

You don’t learn about other mayors taking even bigger bribes.

You don’t learn about famous scions taking huge speaking fees to appear at charity events.

You don’t learn about ancient Italian prime ministers holding bunga bunga parties.

You don’t learn about Czech Prime Ministers resigning because their staff were illegally spying…on your wife.

You don’t learn about U.S. Congressmen sending photos of their junk to a female Twitter follower.

You don’t learn about the same Congressman then running for mayor of a really big city.

You don’t learn about the newspaper headline heralding the same mayoral candidate to be a “Second Coming” of this horn dog politician, which is even funnier given his name translates to DICK PENIS.

Poli Sci has become Poli Sci-Fi. Yet it isn’t fiction. I didn’t make this stuff up. I couldn’t make this stuff up!

A mournful sigh isn’t enough. We need massive relief from this crap. There are roads to repair, hospitals to build, schools to fix, economies to restart, jobs to create, countries to reform, victims to rescue, dreams to pursue.

We don’t need any more politicians. We need some heroes. We need them now.

Leading from the Front

How do I summarize a week where it seemed every waking moment was filled with inspiration kicking me in the butt?

Some of the motivation was formally delivered. I witnessed a riveting speech delivered by General Rick Hillier at the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance Sport Events Congress. His central message about inspiring others and inspiring yourself revealed that his approach to motivating troops abroad was grounded in ensuring they stayed connected to being Canadian – a sip of Tim Horton’s coffee, a Christmas dinner made by a CO, a visit from the Stanley Cup.

Some of it arrived unexpectedly but in formal settings. In a meeting at Rideau Hall, I was enraptured to hear Bernard Shinder talk about how the event we now call Canada Day was created in the 1970’s by a group of well-connected Ottawa business leaders. Canada Day in Ottawa is a must do event for every Canadian, but in its early days was held away from the shadow of Parliament Hill, as the government feared it may flop!

Some out of the blue. An impromptu offer for a ride from the above Rideau Hall confab, found me being chauffeured by none other than General Walter Natynczyk and hearing about his three children, all proudly serving in our armed forces around the world. How energizing the words of a proud father were, discussing the love his offspring have for serving their country.

Some grew organically. Specifically from Charmaine Crooks, Debbi Wilkes, and Loreen Barnett participating in a Women of Influence panel, moderated by the non-influential male known as MH3, also at the CSTA event. Their voices combined to form a chorus of motivation and insights for women pursuing a career in sports marketing. To quote Debbi Wilkes, “Don’t let anybody else write the script for YOUR life!”

Some were ensnared in the jaws of defeat. Unfortunately at the hands of the US Women’s hockey team who upended Team Canada, in the gold medal world championship game, with their superior skills and sizzling skating. But defeat can be a powerful motivator and all of us should emotionally team up with our women for revenge in Sochi.

I misled you. This wasn’t even an entire week. It was actually only three days. And it wasn’t a butt kicking. No – it was more of a motivational stampede to catch up to those leading from the front!



Old Man Winter

You’re not going to like me for this, but I have no desire to see winter over.

Correction, I have no desire to see it end right now. Maybe in a few weeks. But not now. I want a bit more winter. Remarkably I love winter and I am tired of going from meeting to meeting listening to people bemoan the white season. In Orillia right now, the thirty-six families I used to have as newspaper customers are hysterically mocking me. If you could have seen me in 1976, delivering papers at an abominably slow pace while shedding shivery tears you would understand the irony of that statement.

But as I have aged, my frosty enthusiasm has picked up.

So I prepare this blog as an offering to the weather gods, requesting a bit more snow, frost, and ice. Winter is really, really nice. You just need to understand it.

Winter refreshes. I find the cool weather sparks my senses and gets my brain revving.

Winter rejuvenates. The holidays, New Years, March Break, all contribute to an emotional season of inspiration.

Winter restores. The long days give you time to get things done, projects organized, life put in order.

Today I had a taxi driver who moved here from Nigeria 19 years ago. He too loves Winter he told me. He goes home to Africa every year and explains to his family that because of Winter, Spring is the most wonderful season a person could experience. I agree.

So give me a wee wee wee bit more winter. I like shoveling my driveway (only did it twice this year FYI). I hate cutting my lawn (hence the crew that shows up every Tuesday). I like my dog not getting muddy. I like jogging in the cold. Toronto heat is a deathtrap for summer runners. I like the streetlights strobes made by falling snowflakes. I like the cleanness of it all. I like the stuff that makes us Canadian.

In the name of Bill Murray, let me awaken to Groundhog Day just a few more times.

Co-Branding by Tiger & Lindsey

I had barely finished my recent issue of Sports Illustrated, where Lindsey Vonn denies any romantic involvement with Tiger Woods, when suddenly the pair conduct simultaneous Facebook announcements confirming the opposite.

Before you get caught up speculating how athletic any offspring they may produce could be and certainly before you wonder as to who earns more endorsement money, today there are some more fundamental issues to deal with.

Category exclusivity.

Nike has Tiger.

Under Armour has Lindsey.

When they pose for a photo in branded gear is this somehow contradicting their duties. Are they inadvertently generating impressions for their sponsor’s competitors?

If Tiger starts wearing Red Bull hats do the marketing folks at Fuse Science lose their wings?

If Lindsey refuses to fly NetJets, will their stock crash? Hey wait a minute, doesn’t Tiger own his own jet? Why does he have a fractional aircraft sponsor?

Consider what we know. The pair released four posed, professional, sunny studio photos, featuring their super human athletic frames, to thwart paparazzi from profiting off disclosing their relationship. These photos spun through the digital universe almost as quickly as the stories of Tiger’s philandering did a few years ago. Did they really need to be on the cover of my daily newspaper. In Canada? Two divorced American megastars with (deservedly?) out-sized egos dominating my daily circular.

Yes it’s that big of a story. Neither leaves anything to chance. So imagine the reaction of their agents when each arrived on the “set” adorned in their sponsor’s logos. The swoosh v. the UA. These are not friendly rivals. Bitter is too subtle.

For the first time in sports marketing history the two logos co-existed in a marketing campaign. Harsh? No. That is what this announcement was. Two control freaks attempting to control our interpretation of their relationship. This is marketing. This communications management. Nothing is left to chance.

So I wish them well. They will have detractors. They will have critics. They will have doubters. But if they want to, they will probably succeed beyond our wildest imagination. They have that type of will power.

What needs to be determined is whether they will have any more co-branded adverts. Me thinks not!