RHB Convocation Address

I look around today and I see excitement and hope in many eyes.

But I also know that some of us, well along into our lives and into our careers, will sometimes will swipe a cynical brush down a young and fresh canvas.

I am 51 years old and have held a number of positions in many different industries. I've had great successes and I've had a few failures and heartbreaks.

Perhaps this life then has given me a little perspective.

So this is what I wish to pass onto this year's graduating class.

When the celebrations die down, put a list together of what you imagine would be your ideal job. Seek out people who do now you may want want to do someday. Politely ask them for a few minutes of their time. Ask them:

  • what they enjoy about their job
  • what they do not enjoy about it
  • how their industry has changed since they began
  • what they wish they knew when they started down their road
  • what their dream job would be right now
  • what advice they would give you as you are just starting out
  • who they might be able to introduce you to
  • what they do for fun in their spare time (we often reveal our true nature when we reveal our passions)
  • ask them how you can help them in turn (then try and do exactly that)

Remember that the opinion you receive is from one person only. You need to have a statistically valid sample size before drawing conclusions about an entire profession or an industry. Often when people talk about "the good old days" the days weren't golden, they were.

Practice the art of communication and leadership, join Toastmasters; an amazing organization that looks good on a resume and will provide confidence and feedback you will never get from a classroom or a textbook.

Practice this question "If I could do one thing better, what would it be?"

Practice this question “What is it I did right that you valued?”

Keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. Or apologize.

Most people treat networking like dieting. They only do it when they have to, and they stop immediately upon reaching their goal. Instead, you should stop dieting and adapt a healthy lifestyle of adding value and staying in touch with people.

Your destiny is often determined by the people you associate with so you should surround yourself with good people who have your own best interests at heart (enough to give you a kick in the butt when they think you are making bad decisions.)

Disassociate your efforts from an expectation of immediate reward.  Your reputation should be the results of your action, not the focus of them.

Heartbreak is a part of life. Cynicism is not. Hearts get stronger after being broken. Cynicism builds a callous on our soul. I would rather have friends who loved and lost than people around me who were tired and cynical.

Above all, each of us is responsible for what paint goes on our canvas.

Congratulations class of 2010!

eCourse Announcement

We are pleased to announce the new online RHB eCourse will be launched June 2011. This online program will allow a company to generate a culture based on intrinsic reward and ultimately achieve a RHB "3rd gear certification".

I thought someone was pulling a joke on me! Your GearShift Moment™ 27/04/2015

Watch this 90 second clip!

How to get people to do more than their job description Your Gearshift Moment 20/04/2015

Would you like people to do more than their job description? Watch this 129 second clip.

Remember, the hardest thing about 3rd gear is that your thank-you wave, your gesture of appreciation, is not dependent on whether you get one from others.

Feedback from Jeanette Despatie, CEO of Cornwall Community Hospital

Cornwall Community Hospital is the largest employer in the city of Cornwall, Ontario. My goal is to build a hospital culture based on ICARE values( integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and engagement.) After a merger and expansion, we wanted to reward our team with a inspiring talk, preferably one that would reinforce ICARE values.

Dave Howlett isn't a person giving prepared speeches. He incorporated our values into the RHB "3rd gear good guys" philosophy and presented four 90 minute interactive keynotes in one day. The affect on our staff (physicians, nurses, administrators and staff) was remarkable and has been very long-lasting. Polling revealed:

  • 93% said RHB was one of the top 3 best talks they had ever attended
  • 84% said CCH would operate significantly more effectively if everyone learned about and applied the RHB philosophy
  • 96% said they now planned to become more engaged with CCH

I would recommend Dave Howlett and RHB to any leader who wants a spark to knock down silos and move the needle on employee engagement. Many speakers lecture on engagement, Dave actually gets employees engaged.

Feedback from Jim Pelot, CFO of ABEX

We utilized Dave Howlett as a speaker at a conference for our ABEX financial advisors. As the core of the ABEX structure emphasizes independence, our advisors need to cultivate an exemplary personal reputation.

Dave's "RHB 3-gear" keynote exceeded our expectations and was the highlight of the conference. His presentation was powerful, uplifting and humorous. In fact, one of our seasoned advisors, who cultivates a reputation for withering criticism, said of Dave's talk “Usually these things put me to sleep but that was the most engaging talk I’ve ever attended."

If you are looking for a speaker with a powerful message that translates into sustainable behavior change, I'd recommend you book Dave Howlett.

What do we fight?

[Canada celebrates Remembrance Day on November 11. Every year I edit and re-post my "What I fight" blog]

This year Canada griefs. Two Canadians have killed two other Canadians.

How could young men who have been born and raised in this country kill other men who represent it's institutions?
Why can some people read a holy book and use it to find peace and love and others read it and justify intolerance and violence?

Do we hate the individuals? Do we hate Islam? Or do we hate the religious?

I know.

In 1973 I was 13 years old.  My dad was transferred to a Canadian military base in West Germany as part of Canada's NATO commitment. Growing up in a military family that relocated every 2 or 3 years,  I had grown accustomed to a transient lifestyle.

A week after we arrived in Lahr, my family went for a drive through the local countryside.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I brought along my camera.

We parked the car and our family made its way down a lane way that ran beside a German cemetery. The flowers were beautiful and the grass was nicely clipped. My mother commented how much she admired the way Germans tended their graveyards (we had lived in Europe 10 years before.) We wandered on a little further and came to a hillside. These gravestones were in disrepair, many overgrown by grass and weeds.   I remember Mom expressing her surprise.

In rusty German, she asked a boy in a nearby field why this graveyard was so badly tended.

He answered briefly.

Mom looked at us, "It's a Jewish graveyard."

I believe that Real Human Being started at that moment.

People have a choice to act in one of 3 gears.

1st gear is narrow self interest behaviour.  Companies see first gear manifested among their employees as entitlement, not-my-job-ism and "us against them" behavioral silos. Societies see first gear exhibited as racism, bullying, homophobia and ageism.

One aspect of 1st gear is the need to seek out an enemy: the "others."

When Adolph Hitler wanted to create solidarity in his country, he needed to create pride. He did this by identifying "the others." Then he had to purify his country from these sub-humans.

And so, 40 years later, my family came across a graveyard with no one left to love and remember and care for the graves of their relatives.

I have noticed that a sign of an individual becoming radicalized is the inability to tolerate the opinions of others. Extremism seeks the allure and comfort of uniformity.

A free and democratic society is not a uniform one. Its strength stems from debate and discourse.

2nd gear is external reward or punishment. Many Germans were anti-Semitic because of 2nd gear incentive systems (peer pressure, desire for promotion and status, fear of punishment). Many young people become radicalized by a need to belong to something bigger than them and by the excitement and allure of destroying "the others."

3rd gear is intrinsic reward. It means "doing the right thing." It also means resisting knee-jerk retaliation and trying to understand the actions of the enemy. 3rd gear is the realm of "good guy behaviour" – looking past someone's tribe, nationality, or gender and connecting with the individual as a human being.

So if we must fight or hate something, let's fight extremism, intolerance, racism, sexism or any of the other 1st gear behaviors that plague every society.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn had an elegant way of knowing there are all three gears in every tribe: "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy his own heart?"

So I think the best way to honor the memory of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo is to reach out and connect with others and help prevent extremism. We naturally hug a good guy, but let's hug a kid before he turns into a real bad guy.


P.S. Here's the end of the story. When we returned a week later, the grass in the graveyard had been neatly clipped. Sometimes just asking questions makes a difference.

Feedback from Kelly Kloss, City Manager of Fort Saskatchewan

Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta is a rapidly growing city, and as its City Manager (CAO) I want to be part of an organization where everyone plays a leadership role, regardless of position, in delivering the wow-factor to our customers and stakeholders. My vision is a "lead where you are" mindset among our people. As part of this evolution, I engaged Dave Howlett to conduct three RHB seminars over one day for our employees.

I have heard many speakers in my career, but Dave Howlett did something that only a few speakers have achieved: he made me pause. His simple and powerful 3-gear RHB concept was easily taken up at all levels and reflected my vision in an entertaining and powerful manner. Many of our employees have since internalized the gears by teaching them to family and friends so I am confident the sustainability and ROI for these seminars will be huge.

If you are a CAO and looking for innovative ways to improve morale and increase movement towards your own goals, I highly recommend a Real Human Being seminar.

Is your company full of creatures?

I was in the market for some new glasses.

Most consumers walk into an optical store, grab some eye-wear and peer into a mirror. My wife and I did something a little different.

I would slip on some frames and then turn to her.

"how about this one?"


"this one?"


"this one?"


(We agreed she has to live with me so she gets priority in the decision department.)

After many stores, we visited Designer's Optical in Oakville, Ontario.

"this one?"


"this one?"


"how about this one?"


Store owner Irvin Chadha walked up and said hello. The next 30 minutes were a conversation about style, fit, facial structure and optics. Then my wife said,"I like the first pair of frames you tried on, I think you should get them."

Standing at the counter, I asked Irvin, "based on your experience in this industry, could you describe human nature into one thought?"

He instantly responded, "people are creatures of habit."

Many companies going through change management. What used to work may not be working anymore and the current model may not even be sustainable. But employees are people and so many are creatures of habit. We grow accustomed to our spouse looking a certain way and so anything new is strange or unsettling. Habit has become rule.

What did Irvin do differently? He exhibited confidence (not arrogance), he was transparent and he made us part of the process.

Change is tough. We all fear loss. But people can embrace change with the proper leadership. Creatures can change.

And often every company can stand some new optics.

New US speaker agent

We are please to announce that Pat Carter and PJ Carter Enterprises LLC will be representing Dave Howlett effective immediately.

Pat Carter started her professional career in the field of Property Management. She has successfully leased and managed both conventional and military housing, in several states and with two major property management companies. Her sales, management and organizational skills helped her to rise quickly in her previous career path to reach the position of Director of Operations before transitioning into her current position as an agent representing speaker Dave Howlett in the US.

Pat is the daughter, wife, sister and mother of retired and active duty US military service members. She spends her free time enjoying Florida sunshine with her husband Tom and dog, Harley.

Says Pat, "I am enthusiastic to begin my new position in networking and negotiating US speaking events for Dave Howlett. I can passionately market the RHB philosophy because I have seen its changing influence in my own life. I have allowed the RHB message to help me break down a couple of deep rooted attitudes and in doing so embraced the possibilities and the potential of RHB in companies and in communities."

If you currently work in a company with US locations, or if you know of a US conference you think Dave Howlett would be a great fit for, Pat would appreciate being able to connect with you. Reach her at 808.271.4955

If you worry too much

I'm training for my 7th Ironman competition this summer (a 3.8 km swim, a 180 km bike and a 42.2 km run.) Whenever I start to fixate on the outcome, I am reminded about some great advice from my family doctor before my very first Ironman race in 2003.

During my annual medical exam, he commented that I looked a little stressed. I confessed that I wasn't sleeping well at night and then I started to vent. I was worried about about drowning during the swim start with 2000 other athletes, about crashing my bike on the hilly bike course and then about cramping my legs on the run course. Would I take the right nutrition? Would I miss the cut-off times and get pulled from the competition about disappoint my family and friends? I was also concerned about rain, wind or too much sun. Heck and now I was even worried about worrying too much!

He smiled and said,

On the morning of the race, you will be standing with thousands of people waiting for the cannon to go off. Take a deep breath and say 'I'm not nervous, I'm grateful."

"Grateful for what!? I asked.

"Say to yourself that I'm grateful to have two arms to swim when many people do not, I'm grateful that I have the use of two legs to bike, when many people do not. I am grateful to have the time and money to train for an event like this, when many people do not. I am grateful to have the support of family and friends, when many people do not. Say to yourself, I'm grateful to live in a society where I can compete in competitions like this in safety, because in many parts of the world, it is a daily struggle to find food and to avoid being hurt. When the gun goes off, stay in the moment. Smile. Thank a volunteer when you go by. And savor each moment of the race. It will be over before you know it and so…don't be nervous, be grateful!"

I had a wonderful day.

When you give yourself all the credit

This week I went for a run with my buddy Gord. We were chatting while keeping a very fast pace and I was thinking, "wow, I'm getting really strong!!"

Then we reached our midway point, turned around and struggled to run home against a 30 kph headwind. I realized to my chagrin, much of my previous speed had been wind-assisted.

It's easy to start to think "I'm successful because I worked hard, unlike all those lazy and entitled people in society who need government assistance." That conviction presumes we begin to run our races under equal circumstances. It also assigns a behavior (1st gear entitlement) to an entire group without investigating 2nd gear incentives.

In reality, some kids are born with a tailwind. They are aided by stable families, adequate nutrition, great schools and financial resources that allow them to compete.

Other kids are born into a headwind. Subjected to sexual and physical assault, battered by inconsistent or absent parenting and lacking adequate food and schooling, they often fall behind.

That's not to say a kid with a headwind can't win and a kid with a tailwind can't lose.

It just means we should think about the circumstances of the race before we judge the nature of the competitors.