As I write this I’m sitting under the awning of my trailer near Port Aux Basque, Newfoundland. There’s been fog since yesterday afternoon and a light rain is now falling. The sound of a fog horn at near by Cape Ray lighthouse reverberates through the air once every minute. It’s a beautiful place to sit and write. I’ve been camping and traveling across Newfoundland with the love of my life (it’s our 25th Anniversary trip). We also have our oldest son along who’s celebrating his graduation as an aircraft mechanic apprentice … he deserves to celebrate that accomplishment! (let me know if you hear of a job opening for him 😉
If you’ve never been to Newfoundland go get your bucket list and write down “Visit Newfoundland”. It’s an amazing place and it’s not hard to see why Newfoundlanders never let it out of their heart. We’ve seen amazing sights such as rugged shorelines, fjords, mountains, whales, caribou, moose, history, and amazingly isolated shorelines where fishermen once made a living. As seafood lovers it’s been a great place to visit as we ate fresh lobster 7 times in our 2 weeks on this island!!
The thing which inspired me to write this posting is the Newfoundlanders themselves. The economy here has been tough since the collapse of the cod fishery in the ‘90s. They’ve had some help thanks to oil drilling off the coast but aside from that they do what needs to be done to make a living. Despite this what has struck me is the relaxed attitudes to life. In Ontario everyone is busy rushing around getting somewhere. Many people in Ontario don’t even know their neighbours. I’ve also noticed people drive slower in Newfoundland and are less likely to be found speeding (which also may be because of the 100,000 moose living here). I chatted with a local fellow in the bank for 10 minutes one day (my family was wondering what was taking me so long). He started the conversation and didn’t seem in any hurry to rush off to his next thing … despite working three jobs.
As Agile coaches and practitioners we talk about sustainable pace. I think it’s very hard to achieve sustainable in busy places like southern Ontario due to the culture. So here’s a few notes I’d like to send if I am going to influence the culture to change …
To the governments: You keep trying to find ways to improve the economy. One of the easiest ones is right under you nose. Increase the minimum vacation time from the dismal 2 weeks it current sits at! If people can recharge their batteries they will be happier and more productive. The people would also take some of their hard earned money and spend it creating some tourism dollars. Wake up! It’s poor policies such as this which doesn’t make Canada such a great place to work!
To the employers: Stop trying to squeeze blood from a stone! Even Henry Ford figured out people work at their best with 40 hour work weeks. If you’re cutting people to make shareholders happy, but expecting those who remain to pick up the slack … you’ve got it wrong! Look after your people and you will be amazed at the results you will see. I’m not just talking about vacation time but also eliminating other bad practices such as long work weeks, multi-tasking, and much more! It’s YOUR responsibility to ensure your investment in the people pays off long-term!
To the employees: Stop thinking you’re invincible and irreplaceable. I know too many people who believe their job demands are such that they cannot be away for more than a day. Imagine how they will survive if you burn yourself out and aren’t there! Start to find ways to leave the office (and Blackberry) behind! Get out and enjoy the world around you in what ever way helps you recharge! For me getting away for a couple weeks every year keeps me charged! Find yours and do it!
As I’m posting this (now that I have internet access again) I’m sitting in the line for the Ferry back to Nova Scotia. We’re going to spend a few days on Cape Breton before starting the long drive back to Ontario. I am looking forward to returning home to an unhappy Golden Retriever (he LOVES camping with us and got left behind this time), and our younger son who’s been working in our absence. However, I will continue to think about the people of Newfoundland and their attitudes to a sustainable pace. Despite the hardships you face due to the economy you’ve got the right attitudes!