Category Archives: THE POWER of 2018

The Power of The Library

As the “Illustrator – ,  Writer – , Innovator – ,  Entrepreneur – , or Comic Artist – in – Residence” at the Toronto Public Library, we are privileged  to have and to hold a platform to help empower all library patrons from all walks of life and countries who come through our doors .

 

It’s been five years since I was the second Entrepreneur-in-Residence in the Small Business Program thanks to the good grace and kind generosity of the late Norman G. Hinton who left a large legacy for the Library in 2009. His remarkable story can be found here.

This week I was part of the audience and as I scanned the learning theatre and am reminded of the importance of our patrons’ perspective.  They are diverse and at times, our patrons come from (very) modest neighbourhoods and other times, not so modest. The entire world walks through those doors.

When did you last visit your local library? If it’s been awhile, you will be delightfully surprised to find that the Library has become a place for innovation, a place for story-telling, and a place for sharing knowledge. Branches may have a Fabrication Studio, Digital Innovation Hubs, a Writers’ Room not to mention free access to digital software, hardware, tablets, laptops, equipment such as light therapy lamps, Museum and Arts Pass, musical instruments, book printing service and so much more.

You might also notice that the Library is a safe and warm place, a sanctuary where the hinges literally have come off to facilitate open doors as reflected in the official Mission Statement and “provides free and equitable access to services which meet the changing needs of Torontonians. The Library preserves and promotes universal access to a broad range of human knowledge, experience, information and ideas in a welcoming and supportive environment.”

Having a residency or being a guest speaker at the Library is a humbling honour.

We are here to serve our patrons and be sensitive to their needs. It is their agenda we seek to help make successful and this requires a certain level of awareness, care, and compassion.

There is one thing that is not on loan from the Library and therefore, has no expiry date. When patrons leave the Library, they leave with a sense of dignity and dignity cannot be borrowed. At the Library, dignity is granted.

The Power of Being a Newcomer Professional

Some see networking as a necessary evil. Having worked with newcomer professionals from all over the world, I don’t doubt they would agree – wholeheartedly. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Shifting perspective, having empathy, and being courageous goes a long way. In Daniel Pink’s 2016 convocation address to the graduates at Georgetown University, he asks them to do a simple test, drawing the letter, Capital E, on their foreheads. Not meant to be overly scientific but a quick snapshot on perspective-taking and how we see and communicate with others, take the test here.

In my networking workshops, I use two examples of how empathy can help shift perspectives for newcomer professionals. As learners living and working (hopefully) in a new cultural environment, they see themselves in a new light as they are constantly tested and face seemingly insurmountable barriers of communication.

In my first example, I set the scene by asking our learners to imagine themselves at a reception at an industry conference. Someone new approaches them and they stumble through a self-introduction. I ask, “How do you feel when this person is trying so hard to take the first step in introducing themselves?”

With our second example, I ask them, “Now how do you feel when someone asks you for help? Depending on the context, most likely, you would be open to helping them, right?”

“Now how would you feel if the situations were reversed?” I.e. how do they think the person listening to them would feel if they stumbled through a self-intro and that they were being the ones asked for help. Why would it be any different than when they were the listener?

Stories about my overseas experience working in Africa and Asia also as a newcomer professional has given me invaluable insights in relating and sharing with newcomer professionals to our country and whose English is their second/third language.

While living and working on a somewhat remote island, Sulawesi in Indonesia, all I could do was smile when I arrived, not knowing how to say “good morning”. In my first month, our project team leader sent to Yogyakarta for intensive language training, one-on-one with university students as tutors in a professional language training school, eight hours a day, and living with a home stay family for three months. I knew how it felt to speak like a kid in kindergarten when what I needed to express were concepts a bit more complex to my Indonesian staff.

Our newcomers in Canada have the added pressure of trying to find a job mid-career and maybe changing careers while providing for their families in a new country. It is a major sacrifice they have made for their future generation and is not for the faint-hearted but for the whole- smart- and brave-hearted.

What newcomer professionals bring to the workforce is untapped global talent and we would be remiss if we do not listen, engage, and be open to someone who is different from ourselves. Living in a digital age, the barriers will and are falling away more rapidly but our mindsets must also adapt and be agile enough to realize the potential and power of different points of view.

As Stephen R, Covey, the bestselling author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” wrote, “Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy – the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”

Perspective, empathy, and courage are essential for powerful networking not only for newcomer professionals but also for us to connect with others and also for us to help others connect. As newcomer professionals, network, introduce yourselves, and be of service to others are the first steps in building great relationships and being a part of a kinder, wiser, and more giving global community.

The Power of Politeness

“No thank you” or “No, thank you”? Have you heard the one about the panda who walks into a cafe with a gun, orders a sandwich, fires the gun, and leaves? Ask British author, Lynn Truss. Her 2003 bestseller “Eats, shoots and leaves” bemoans the lost art of punctuation.

But what might be a case of “syntactic ambiguity” – when a reader/listener can reasonably interpret one sentence as having more than one possible structure – is actually me bemoaning the lost art of politeness.

On certain, not all, occasions lately, what’s been heard is silence, i.e. no thank you’s. Does the receiver of an act of kindness assume the giver has somehow understood “thank you” through telepathy? Or perhaps such an acknowledgement is passé or is rejected because it’s too de rigueur?

Look, I’m not from the #smartgen nor the #nextgen but from the #othergen. And I’m old school so that my favourite pastime is writing and sending notes of thanks, yes, paper and yes, snail mail. I purchase “thank you” cards so often that my friends have started gifting them to me and you can guess who receives the first one out of the pack.

Our lives are fast and fleeting. Has “thank you” disappeared along with “please, may I, pardon me”? Please say it isn’t so. The foundation of relationships is built on gratitude.  When you experience loss in life and need help,  what will ground you is gratitude. Wharton Professor Adam Grant says it best in his 2013 best-selling book, “Give and Take” and his 2016 TED talk , He describes how people are givers, takers, and matchers and how most effective leaders are givers.

 

When someone gives, offers, surrenders, volunteers, sacrifices their time to help you, will you remember to say those famous almost-forgotten last yet powerful words, “THANK YOU”?  Because if you don’t, you might not get another chance to say these words again. Ever.

The Power of Perspective – All the light we can see

The Power of Perspective

Scrolling my Twitter feed, I stumbled upon Daniel Pink’s , an American author of bestselling books about business, work, and behavior, 2016 convocation address at Georgetown University on the importance of perspective-taking.

He asked the grads to do a quick social experiment with three simple instructions. Try it!

1) Identify your dominant hand.

2) With your dominant hand, snap your fingers 5 times.

3) With the forefinger of your dominant hand, draw for me a capital “E” on your forehead.

Take note, did you draw your “E” facing you inwardly  or “E” facing outwardly? Pink: “If you drew the “E”  facing you i.e. inwardly, it means you are self-oriented and take your own perspective. If you drew  “E” facing outwardly , it means you take someone else’s perspective.”

As time goes on, you will draw the “E” differently, depending on context. As you grow and acquire power and success, you might lose your ability to see the world through another’s eyes. “Use your power but sharpen your perspective.” –Daniel H. Pink

Saul Bellow, a Canadian author and Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner quoted Proust as he talked about life’s “true impressions.” “With increasing frequency, I dismiss as merely respectable opinions I have long held – or thought I held – and try to discern what I have really lived by and what others live by.” –Saul Bellow

Thirty years ago I was “gifted” this rare perspective. I haven’t used it very often…not until this month.  This “gift” came from being hospitalized for an extended period with no vision and no mobility. So when I peered into my best friend’s (30 years) one open eye last week, I suddenly realized that in order to connect with her, I had to take her perspective. I had to communicate in such a way so that if she was inside there, she could use her facial muscles to answer.  Being careful not to overtire her, we “conversed” as she responded neurologically well – acknowledging accurately and quickly. She’s smart, strong, and resilient. We pray.

“Valuing the differences between people is the essence of synergy … And the key is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”–Stephen R. Covey

Did you draw  the Capital E facing inwardly or facing outwardly? Know your power of perspective and use it aptly, wisely, and compassionately.