First Day on the Job


Gord dropped me at the skytrain at 615am where I boarded the Waterfront line bound for the Olympic Village. It’s a great system, 2 cars per train, very clean with nice big windows to see the scenery, lots of standing room with bars to hang onto, and decent seating. Large tracts are outdoors so the views are terrific.

The Olympic Village stop is at False Creek just before the downtown core. The stations are modern, clean and busy enough to feel safe even late at night. Lots of police presence and they are friendly and helpful. I’ll be glad of this when I finish my evening shifts. A 15 minute walk gets me to the Village where I must remove my jacket, cell phone, keys and such to get through the scanners which are manned by friendly volunteers charged with protecting the Village and ensuring that the hundreds of volunteers get in and out efficiently each day. They operate 24/7 because of the number of volunteers coming and going on each of 3 shifts.

Once in the Village I check in at Workforce where I am greeted warmly, my badge is stamped , I am given a bottle of water, a lunch or dinner ticket, a newsletter and a cheery message to have a good shift. If I’m early I can go to the meal tent where there is always coffee, tea, hot chocolate, snacks and lots of other volunteers in their blue jackets and vest. I realize I will meet some very interesting people in this tent!

I’m greeted casually in the Polyclinic where a group of nurses, doctors and admins like me are invited to sit in for a report which is a scattered dialogue among a group of people getting to know each other and the work to be done. When we introduce ourselves, we realize people have come from far and wide to be here – and all volunteers – even clinic managers who have been working for months to get things ready.

I’m shown briefly how to use the computer where I will register patients for immediate appointments and schedule others in a booking system. It’s all fascinating and I get involved figuring it all out. The bad new is that its all pretty casual, seat-of-your-pants learning opportunities, the good news is that it is all pretty casual, no one takes themselves too seriously, there’s always someone to help out and we all settle into the day’s work. I’m going to enjoy this!

First day in Vancouver – We’re keen to check it all out


We arrived in Vancouver last night at dinner time. A clear and beautiful day woke us early. The time change – Vancouver is on Pacific time which is 3 hours earlier than Eastern Standard time – sent us to bed earlier than usual and up, ready to go early to see what’s happening here. It was sunny in Vancouver which is a rare and wonderful event. The temperature reached 11C. We watched the snow-capped mountains in the distance as we motored up to Vancouver in Karen’s Honda Civic. Traffic is light on a sunny Saturday – lots of locals on bikes and walking – all basking in the sunshine in their light fleece jackets and shirtsleeves! What a difference from Toronto in February.

The city is alive with anticipation. Continue reading “First day in Vancouver – We’re keen to check it all out”

Preparing to leave Toronto for Vancouver…..


Countdown to leaving Toronto is D-3 and the reality of getting away for a month is beginning to hit home. There’s lots of talk in the papers, on TV and the web about Vancouver and how they are getting ready to greet the world – beautiful shots of beautiful Vancouver. It looks very exciting out there!

And for me, some wakeful nights – its now 3am! – as we prepare to leave home for a longer period than ever before – to date our holidays have – at most – been one or occasionally two weeks away. So the questions loom large in the middle of the night. Have I remembered to do everything I need to do to prepare to be away from home for a month? Will I be finished all my contracts and projects so that I have the freedom to put myself fully into the volunteer work I have promised to do in Vancouver? Will I be able to catch onto the job of Admin Assistant in the Village Polyclinic quickly enough to feel competent? How hard will it be to get to the polyclinic in the Olympic Village from where we are staying in Ladner? How long will it take? What happens when I arrive at the Ladner Exchange on the bus at 1am – perhaps exhausted after a full shift and long commute – and need to get to the house two kilometers away?

This is all both exciting – a very new and different experience – and scary, as the unknown always is.

Volunteering at the 2010 Olympics


About a year ago my husband Gord and I applied to volunteer at the Vancouver Games in February. After a lengthy process that included several applications and telephone interviews, including an RCMP security check, we were formally accepted this past August. Gord is in Transportation and I am in Health Care – both at the False Creek Athletes’ Village in Vancouver, British Columbia.

One of the criteria for being accepted, and it’s a very important one, is that you can arrange your own accommodation, always in short supply during any Olympic Games. We’ll be housed at our eldest daughter and her husband’s home in Ladner about 20 minutes south of the Vancouver airport.

We’re excited! The countdown is now at D-14 days before we hop on a flight to Vancouver on February 5th. We have recently received our work schedules and job descriptions, Gord’s includes a list of gear he will be given in order to perform his duties – more on that later.

It will be a new adventure, as well as a sabbatical of sorts, since we’re putting our work lives largely on hold to do this – and moving mentally into a semi – retirement phase of our lives. I say semi- retirement because we don’t yet want to give up our work lives completely but we would like to carve out more time to create adventures such as this one for ourselves. Gord is already saying maybe we can fast track into a volunteer role at the London Summer Games in 2012 because of the experience we’ll be getting in Vancouver!

The run up to this time has been interesting to say the least – It started as a lark, an opportunity to begin to stretch ourselves beyond the 40 plus years of relatively ordinary work lives we’ve had until now, and to begin to think about moving into another phase of living.

So now here we are only days away from actually doing it.

Leadership at the Movies: Invictus and 5 Leadership Practices


Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood have created another very special movie now playing across North America. Invictus is the story of Nelson Mandela’s early days as President of South Africa, and particularly how he viewed the country’s Rugby team, the Springboks, and an upcoming World Cup event to be held in South Africa, as an opportunity to bring the country together.

The year is 1995. Mandela (Freeman) is in his first term as President. He recognizes the tremendous challenges facing his government in a land torn apart by apartheid. Racial tensions are at an all time high, people are struggling with the effects of crippling unemployment, and a new black government has shifted the balance of political power. Continue reading “Leadership at the Movies: Invictus and 5 Leadership Practices”

Courage and Tenacity: Qualities of Leaders


I was in Trafalgar Square in London England recently and made a point of finding Edith Clavell’s memorial in St Martin’s Place. Like all great leaders, no matter the arena, Edith Clavell had great courage and much tenacity.  During the first World War, she was a nurse who remained in Brussels, Belgium, after the Germans occupied the city early in the war, tending to wounded soldiers from all countries at the Red Cross Hospital.

In addition to this work, Clavell helped captured British, French and Belgian soldiers escape to the neutral Netherlands, where most would eventually make it across the channel to England.  Born on December 4, 1865 in Swardeston, England, she has been described as a “vivacious, tree-climbing girl who grew into the determined, severe woman we see in the statue.”  She has been further described as “headstrong and independent” and thus prevented from attracting “a man of money” and it is said that ” she was too proud to accept a lesser one”.   She never married, but devoted her life to nursing.

Here is an account of her work from the diary of a man she nursed back to health:

In 1915 Miss Clavell was directress of l’Ecole Belge d’ Infirmieres Diplomees, as well as a new hospital, St. Gilles, both training women for the profession of nursing.  As the great war engulfed Belgium Miss Clavell became part of an underground resistance network working in Brussels to help men escape.  She protected hospitalized men by keeping them longer than they needed.  When there were no beds available, Edith sheltered men in the hospital’s attic and cellar.  In this way, she helped approximately two hundred men escape the Germans.  On August 4, 1915, after months of observation, the Germans arrested Edith and others sheltering Belgian soldiers.  On October 7, 1915, Edith Clavell, along with others in the underground network were found guilty of resistance activities and sentenced to death by firing squad.  Despite American, French and Spanish intercession, Edith’s sentence was not commuted.  On October 12, 1915, Edith was executed by German firing squad.

Edith Clavell was 49 years old when she was shot to death.  “Her life and death make me think of the line from The Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams’ character, Mr Keatings says to his students:  “Make something of yourselves, boys.   Make you life count!

Leading in Complex Systems


Health care leaders have begun to adapt to the complexities, ambiguities and paradoxes that are now the norm in healthcare.

It is more and more apparent that the emerging field of complexity science offers important strategies for leading in chaotic, complex healthcare environments. A 2001 survey by Burns found that healthcare leaders intuitively support principles of complexity science and understand the value of complex adaptive systems as a model for leading and managing in healthcare environments.

Leadership that uses complexity principles offers opportunities to focus less on prediction and control and more on fostering relationships and creating conditions in which complex adaptive systems can evolve and produce creative outcomes.
Continue reading “Leading in Complex Systems”