Two Days in Bob’s Leadership Tool Shed

Way back in May, I was invited to a 2 day learning event in Mackenzie featuring Bob Chartier and Shelley Sullivan.    This was the second part of a leadership workshop series, the first part, a session on performance coaching lead by Ian Chisholm.

Area view of Mackenzie, BC

These workshops were sponsored by the District of Mackenzie and organized by Learning Organization Practitioners from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.  The intent of this series is to enhance the leadership capacity of citizens within the community of Mackenzie.  Participants for these workshops were from provincial and municipal government (including the mayor), schools, high school students, industry, the RCMP, and other organizations.

The agenda focused on leading through citizen engagement, which can be seen through three lenses: the individual, the team, and whole systems.  Practical, tool based, approaches for engagement were explored and demonstrated for each of these three lenses.  While the focus of this workshop was citizen engagement, the same principles apply to employee engagement.

Leadership and Engagement Practitioner, Bob Chartier

Bob Chartier is a federal public servant and a pioneer in the field of communities of practice and in promoting a leadership culture that recognizes leadership at all levels.  This is the 3rd time I’ve been to one of his workshops and most of Bob tools were not new.  However,  the three lens model is different from the inuksuk model that Bob previously used to explain his work; which is strongly tied to the learning organization theories developed by Peter Senge.  Also, Bob has rebranded his work to be “Engagement” instead of “Learning Organization” because he feels that “Engagement” more truly and intuitively describes what he does.

Three Lenses of Engagement

Shelley, a former Organizational Development Director for the Ministry of Forests was integral to the design of the workshop and worked subtlety to draw the best out of Bob.  They make a great team.

After five months I have 3 key memories of my time in Mackenzie:

  1. Three high school students attended this workshop and they shined.  The adult participants were very impressed with the aptitude and passion of these teenagers and I think their presence had a energizing effect on the overall event.  Personally, I wondered if these young people were shown a bit too much admiration.  Is it a slight to our youth when we shower them with praise for showing the same capabilities we expect from those that are older?   Or, is better to expect more and benefit when those people rise to the level of those expectations?  As John Steinbeck once wrote, “It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.”
  2. At an eatery called “the Turn;” a homage to the economic recovery this resource based town is experiencing, I had perhaps one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed in a restaurant.  It was a reminder to me that small communities have many gems for us to discover – culinary, environmentally, educationally – if, we are able to open our heart and minds to them.
  3. I was also fortunate to enjoy a breakfast with Bob and Shelley one morning and share a great conversation on engagement and the concept of practice.  Literally, on the back of a napkin, Bob diagrammed a model of engagement that he had been thinking about:

    Bob's Engagement Model

I am not sure how Bob indends to use this model or at what stage of development it is at.  My take is that we have to pay attention to the variables of information/content  and conversation as we design engagement events and initiatives.  Also, it is okay to have a conversation without expecting the organizers do to something with it.  Sometimes a conversation inspires the participants themselves to take action.  Moreover,  I would  would wager that these actions would be much more sustainable than anything drived from a bullet point captured on a flipchart taken back to the planning office.

I was deeply honoured to be invited to this event and walked away with higher inclined needle on my inspiration-metre.  It would be interesting to see a similar event happen in my town of Prince George, a larger community and a regional centre but one that could also benefit from a boost in leadership acumen.   The economic challenges faced recently by Mackenzie have given them an impetus; however, all communities would be better off by investing in ways to more effectively harness their collective intelligence and talents.  After all, the greatest asset of any community is its citizens.

For more about Bob Chartier and his work on leadership and engagement, visit ; or, check out this video clip to see Bob in action:

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