A Money Coach in Canada

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For the past 3.5 years I worked for Citizens Bank of Canada (bank esp. for progressive Canadians) which in turn is owned by Vancity Credit Union. The whole glory of credit unions is that they are cooperatives, and the members not only share in the profits (I’ll get mine in a month or so.  yippee!) but also we get to decide who is going to govern the credit union.

Last week I had coffee with Jennifer Sweeney who is running as an independent to be a director.  Last time, she missed being elected by a very small margin, and I hope this time she gets a landslide – I think she’s exactly right for the position.

Among other things, I probed re: employee engagement.  I’m a By The People, For The People kinda gal (would you guess?) and after 3.5 years on the inside am even more convinced that it’s the folks who do the everyday tasks that make, or break, the cooperative spirit of Vancity, and thus the quality of experience the members receive.   It’s not about metrics or output, it’s as much about soul as anything.   Genuine Soul, combined with competence, can generate results the likes of which Canada has yet to see from a financial institutions.


Here is Jennifer’s response to my query.  Read it and consider if you would also like to see her on the Board of Directors, and vote accordingly.


I had coffee with Nancy last week and she asked me my thoughts on employee engagement.

When I hear the term “employee engagement” I often wonder if it has become another meaningless catch-phrase.  People are quick to adopt new words and terminology without thinking about what they mean.  If employees are “engaged”, what does that look like?  What does it feel like?  How do you know?  How do you make it happen?

A few years ago, I worked under contract for a government ministry to address recruitment and retention of professionals working with young children.  During that time I had the chance to travel around the province and hold confidential interviews with people about their work and their working conditions.  Over and over, I heard stories of people going above and beyond the call of duty when there was a supervisor, manager or local champion who valued them and worked to support them.  I started reading anything I could put my hands on to help me understand the complexities of retention in an increasingly mobile workforce.  I posted a note above my desk to remind myself of this fact:  most people leave because of their boss, not their job.

The most corrosive element I have seen in my years of work with people in many different environments is when there is a lack of trust or trust has been breached. Few people have the courage or the willingness to enter into the difficult conversations that must happen in order to move past a problem. Human resources professionals need to be in a position to fully support employees in reporting problems and working them through.

As I am running for election for the board of directors of Vancity, I have been thinking about the role that a board plays in governing an organization.  A culture where people comes first is vital for real employee engagement.  This takes a human resources department that has adequate resources to influence major decisions.  Healthy organizational culture with employees engaged in the mission of the organization makes for happy employees providing outstanding service to members.   That is what I would like to continue to see at Vancity.

…and now for a message from our sponsor, on the Feast of Epiphany,

this poem by T.S. Elliot,  my favourite in English 200.

Journey of the Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Photo Credit: Emilio Giordano 


2573957186_147bb0cae8_o1.jpgA guest post by Dawn Bowles, Founder and CEO of DreamBank.
Photo Credit: Techvibes


A tremendous amount of waste is incurred during the holiday season. Garbage from festivities, unwanted or disposable gifts, packaging and wrapping, in addition to the vast over-consumption, threatens to reduce the enjoyment–and usurp the true intention and meaning–of the season. As we approach the holidays, many of us are keen to reduce our yuletide impact on the environmental. Many of the proposed changes won’t reduce the enjoyment of your festivities – or the pleasure of spending valuable time with those you cherish:
1. Send E-cards Rather Than Paper Cards. Sending online invitations (such as evites or MyPunchBowl’s swank new eCards) not only reduces waste but also makes it easier to plan and keep track of invitees and attendees. It may also be preferable to send greeting e-cards, rather than a physical cards which often promptly wind up as trash. (While, we all have that one parent/sibling/friend who actually saves every single card, they are the exception rather than the rule). If you think an e-card isn’t exciting, consider sending from a site that has amusing ones. One of my favourites is someecards (whose slogan is “when you care enough to press send”). They have an amazing selection of snarky messages sure to get a good laugh.
2. Choose a Virtual Gift Registry. One of someecards cards reads, “Thanks for getting me a gift I don’t actually have to return”. I understand that sentiment well. I founded DreamBank.org, so you could do just that–no waste involved. DreamBank is a kind of virtual gift registry which enables you to give and get the perfect gift. How? We’ve created an “everything registry” where you can start a fund for yourself or for someone you care about. Then you invite friends, family and fans to the “dream”. It could be a musical instrument, sports equipment, even a trip. The waste involved with discarded gifts and shipping and wrapping is reduced, as is the hassle of shopping for and returning gifts. Plus, we give 10 % of all net transaction revenue to charities. So your holiday gift results in someone else’s gift as well.
Of course, if you’re feeling particularly charitable, there are plenty of great sites that can help you organize a giving campaign or send a laptop to a needy child in the developing world.
3. Reconsider Plastic. Bring cloth bags to stores to avoid getting plastic ones and eschew disposable dishes. While plastic plates and utensils may seem more convenient, these disposable items can last 10,000 years in a landfill. No one enjoys washing dishes, but perhaps you can organize the cleanup with your guests. After all, guests frequently offer to help–why not take them up on the offer? In fact, if you like the person (and we hope you do) it could give you more time to chat. Or you could plan the cleanup ahead, asking for assistance before the party, so everyone knows what they’ll be doing. Plus, you’ll gain some peace-of-mind.
4. Be Mindful of Food. Remember that your eating habits affect the planet’s health so try to purchase ingredients locally and be aware of how and where your food is produced. The gift of food doesn’t have to be limited to your guests. There are those whose holidays could be made more festive by your donation to a local foodbank or by organizing a food drive to support a soup kitchen.
5. Think About Meaning. Is the holiday about the myriads of gifts, or about connecting with your family? Does your house really need to have the most lights? What’s really important to you? Connect with nature by talking a nature walk or by putting extra effort into making environments hospitable for local birds. Make some gifts rather than purchasing them (edible gifts are a good bet–who doesn’t love cookies?). You can even volunteer with family to help those in need, and create an experience that might be more memorable than the gift of new Ugg boots. Vancouver and Toronto both have volunteer sites for their city and “Do-it!” offers online information on opportunities in the UK. Many other areas have similar sites.
It doesn’t take all that much effort to make a difference. And making these changes will probably reduce your stress level and the holiday energy drain as well. So you’ll be free to enjoy the festivities knowing that you’ve embraced the true sentiment of the season.

2522609853_a8e786fc86_m.jpgJust a short thot.   I’m utterly fatigued of words like Abundance.   ProsperityWealth.

They have the odour, for me, of negligent obliviousness to the fact that we are not paying, and have not paid for a long, long time, the true cost of our acquisitions that constitute this so-called wealth.  We’ve been naively content to let people (women and children especially) in developing countries pay the price, and of course, the planet.   See:  The Story of Stuff among many other indictments.  (note: I include myself in this paragraph!)

Furthermore striving for abundance (etc.) is based on a false premise:  That we do not currently have enough, and that we will feel better if we somehow attain a threshold we can call abundance, prosperity, ad nauseum.   Problem is, that threshold rarely is defined and we never arrive there.

I have a secret hope that as the false-ness built into our economies, esp. those of us in North America, continues to be exposed for its vacuousness (like flying on private jets to ask for massive taxpayers’ handouts) and deception (like Bhopal),  that we will insist, absolutely insist, that we rebuild a better way of doing economics.  It may mean pared down wardrobes, fewer shoes and even (gasp!) an end to dog fashion.   Really, I just don’t care about those things so much anymore – do you?

Might we be willing to exchange our abundance for an abundance of clean air and clean water?

Might we be willing to exchange our prosperity for basic nutrition for children around the world?

Might we be willing to exchange our wealth for creating an economy where the genius and creativity of individuals have a fighting chance to actualize regardless of country of birth?

I’d do it in a heartbeat.

PS:  So – if anyone’s looking for a money coach who’s going to cheerlead enroute to further excess , I guess I’m not your gal.   But if you, like me, want to wisely and thoughtfully manage your money so that our presence on earth is a net benefit to the global community and planet, not a net loss, let’s talk.

PPS:  I haven’t got it all figured out yet either.  But I’m sure trying.

PPPS: photo credit: Leeziet

This woman captures all the depth of human longing – and it’s so not about money, is it?

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