Foreword by David Hoffman
Beyond the individual and corporate benefits, there has been a broader regional benefit—organizations throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond have been seeded with (by my rough calculation) at least 250 leaders who now have within them the green and maturing shoots of leadership in part fashioned by the topics and ideas found in this book. If so, we are awash with great leaders, and the Atlantic region has ultimately been the major beneficiary. I hope you will derive as much benefit from this book as I and others did from the seminars.
In his book, Bill has used the power of storytelling and lessons from some of the great literary works of history and has woven them into themes of values, culture, power and leadership which ring as true today as when they were first written. Reading this book will be both entertaining and challenging—challenging you to think differently, to manage your time towards the important, and to become a more dynamic leader. It provides some tools to help. Think of it as a roadmap for self-improvement that has been proven to work for many people over the course of many years.
Be prepared to rearrange your thinking and to be challenged.
David Hoffman FCPA, FCA
Vice Chair, Bragg Group (Canada’s largest privately held telecommunications company and the world’s largest blueberry producer and exporter)
Preface by Bill Black
Beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2019, I led a series of more than 30 seminars on values-based leadership. I was fortunate to have many senior leaders participate and learned something from their participation at every session. The participants were from the corporate world, health care, universities, government agencies, and the social sector. The sessions benefited greatly from that diversity.
I had worked at Maritime Life from summer jobs starting in 1966 and joining full time in 1970 until the parent company, John Hancock of Boston, was bought by Manulife Financial of Toronto in 2004. I was in senior leadership roles for 29 of those years, nine of them as president and chief executive officer. During that time, I made almost all the mistakes that one can as a leader. The saving grace was that I noticed most of them as they happened and cared about doing better. I was also fortunate to go away most years for a leadership development program. Some were mediocre, some were a waste of time, but at some of them I picked up two or three valuable insights that stuck.
Maritime Life had 68 employees in 1966, which had grown organically and by acquisitions to more than 3,000 in 2004. Sales and profits likewise grew rapidly. The company had a major focus on customer satisfaction, which informed both day-to-day work and acquisition strategies. It was our conviction that achieving customer satisfaction came from satisfied employees. In the later years, employee satisfaction hovered around 90%, at a time when more than half of the employees had become part of Maritime Life involuntarily, through acquisitions.
This book is about leadership, not Maritime Life. But you will find occasional anecdotes that help illustrate a point. The ambition of the seminars was to share what I learned from my experience in the hope that the participants could avoid many of the mistakes I made along the way. My learning experience continued in the seminars so there are concepts in this book that early participants will not have seen. The ambition of the book is the same as the seminars—to act as a catalyst for more effective leadership. Leaders make mistakes. They should use those lessons to prevent unnecessary distress for other people. Mistakes are opportunities for the leader to learn how to improve communication and avoid careless remarks.
The target audience is people with the scar tissue that comes from leadership experience, especially senior leaders and others who seek greater responsibility. Those scars can lead to a reluctance to try new ideas. But as the Beatles song goes: “At every mistake we must surely be learning.”
If you are still in a leadership job you must be doing many things right. You will find parts of this book affirming what you already do. But in other places you will find ideas that are counterintuitive. Slow down and withhold judgement until you fully understand the ideas’ foundations.