It was May 2010 when I first found myself here in this place, at the site of a family photo shoot for Mother's Day. We pulled up to the site in a truck, unloaded an antique gold velvet couch and chair, two rolls of wall paper, a lamp and four red cups. It would be the last time my family was together as we were before it all changed. Before jobs, marriages, careers, and children. As I stepped out to the field, my four inch heels sunk in the dirt and I was home. I remember doing what we do here in Saskatchewan - I looked up to find the sun, closed my eyes and inhaled the sky. That day I remember feeling like I was where I should be. Where I was always meant to be. Under the sky. Free. Open. Grounded. My life changed that day, although I didn't realize it.
I went back to work that day to my job as director of business planning and risk management for a Crown corporation.
My job since 1996 had been to help leaders develop visions and plans about the future and communicate it so that others could see it too.
My first boardroom table was Farm Credit Canada. I remember feeling like I had stepped into a very important place - a place whose business it was to help farmers finance growth and manage risks associated with a changing agricultural industry. I was freshly graduated from Journalism school and working as an intern in the communications department. I was given the job of producing the annual report. I knew nothing about annual reports. Only how to tell stories. So I ordered every annual report produced in Canada (pre Internet) and read them to understand what makes a good annual report. I surmised that the best annual report would be one that tells the story of farmers and agricultural businesses - the people for whom it exists. My first annual report won an Award of Excellence in Communication, as did the following reports that I would produce for FCC.
I was invited to the Boardroom table next as a policy analyst. My job was to write the corporate plan. After having written annual reports, I realized that the foundation of the planning process had to be different. It had to articulate the goals, measures, targets and initiatives of the corporation. This was the beginning of the Balanced Scorecard, and I learned and lead the development and integration of the Balanced Scorecard into planning and reporting systems. FCC corporate plans received the Auditor General of Canada Award in Annual Reporting for each year that I would write it, save one.
In 2002 I was invited to a new board table to manage the planning process for Sask Central (Credit Union Central of Saskatchewan, now called Credit Union Centre). There I lead the development of a fully integrated planning process, shifting the focus from product planning to business line planning and strategic thinking, as well as a customer focused corporate services planning model to serve a newly formed joint venture. I worked with several credit union groups as a planner to assist them in forging new futures and finding new ways of doing things to serve the ever changing, ever innovating credit union system.
2008 I joined the gaming world as director of business planning and risk management to lead the development of the corporate performance management system, supporting planning process, Enterprise Risk Management policy and framework and supporting risk management process. During that time, I also joined the executive table as an acting VP of Corporate Services.
It was the most inspiring time of my career - being invited to the thinking and planning conversations, writing the words on their behalf and the communications to help the shareholders see the picture as well as the staff. I developed the concept "Power of One", a one page business plan that would help everyone see what I could see, and be as excited about the future as I was. With each cycle, we would enhance the model integrating it with finance, human resources, and project management, so that the plan could inform literally every aspect of behavior, and make the best use of talent, time and money.
Nine months and one day after the May 10 photo shoot in the field, I would myself in another life changing place . . . across the desk from what I understand now as destiny, where I was to learn about true leadership, grace under pressure and the true power of one. Here I would come to be the leader and not the led.
Since that time, I have had the honour of working with credit unions, non profits, post secondary institutions, and independents. I have pursued my love of journalism and my passion for helping people going places be seen and heard through my magazine, SKY. I have created a place that I call ZÖE that makes space for independent artisans and provides an opportunity to be seen and heard, cutting through the noise of the digital 24/7 din of mass marketing. I have carved out a space in the world and learned about who I am as an entrepreneur, a woman and a leader.