Fear Itself

In a college classroom not too far away, I’m teaching a class of first-year students to communicate. I’m slowly adapting to the reality that these are the first collegiate participants born in 2000, a concept that initially had me checking for grey hairs and reaching for Tums. But for as much as we’ve discussed our hopes and worries of this new Generation 2020, here they are.

As part of my speechwriting section, I showed a clip of the most notable speeches in history. When I asked students to tell me what stuck out for them, they agreed it was FDR’s first inaugural address, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It was the first time a student collective had chosen this over MLK, JFK or RFK. To the best of their ability, they explained to me the role that fear plays in their lives.

There is no doubt that fear is a powerful motivator. We need only to look at the political and news systems we’ve allowed in our lives to see that polarization, concern, and urgency drive the rhetoric of our society.

As you may have noticed, the Open Door site has been under construction. It’s been in response to my decision to make Open Door smaller. As my good friend says, I’ve Jerry Maguire-d my firm. Put the focus on fewer clients, but better quality. Consultants that truly believe in this work and see its transformative potential. Engaging with people who believe that consultants exist to drive an organization forward and that’s a short-term engagement. It’s about truly making an impact and being honest about why we chose this work.

Some assessment from outsiders has been about why our services are so diverse. The answer is fear. Open Door is about supporting people to say something important at a critical time (speechwriting), having the foresight to tell your story and make an impact (communications), understanding that with so much outside of our control, the need to plan for the unexpected still remains (crisis management) and that there is a powerful result when groups of people gather to explore what’s possible for the human potential (facilitation).

That’s why I’m here. Because I believe that fear should never be a barrier. It’s should be a proud motivator – in our lives, in our work, and in our commitment to “strive, seek, find and not to yield.”

I still believe (with the same passion) what I said when I started in 2013, let’s open doors.

Slow Burn

With so much global attention on the Wildfires in northern Alberta, I had to take a pause when picking up Open Door’s mail yesterday. On the cover of TIME magazine was a mosquito. The headline: Zika.

ZIka 101: Zika was first discovered in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947, but was long thought to be relatively benign, especially when you comparing it to more deadly mosquito-borne diseases like malaria. But now it is rearing its ugly head and we’re starting to look at this a lot closer.

For many of us, it’s hard to think about what to do with emergencies that don’t have incredible visuals. I mean, if you’re from Calgary, you’ve seen hundreds of photos of our 2013 watered down souther Alberta landscape, the charred vehicle remains of a devastated Slave Lake, YYC residents in the dark downtown, and broken snowy trees in September. All power visual images that seem to jar us to take action toward of our personal and business’ preparedness.

But Zika doesn’t have these images. And they won’t. Much like what you’d hear in one of our training classes, Zika won’t give us any compelling images in response or recovery. We won’t see healthy neighbors helping sick neighbours.

Pandemics are the slow burners of emergency preparedness. You can’t see it, but then, all of a sudden hot spots flare up.

What we can do about Zika is look at all emergencies that don’t have powerful visual and make sure these hazards are carefully considered as part our planning.

And, ahem, we can help you with that.


We have been a little quiet over here.

Over the last week, the Open Door Crew has been watching the events of Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo emerge on news channels all over the world. The images are so surreal. To those of us who have visited Fort Mac or once called it home, it's hard to make the connection that what we're seeing are images of a lush part of what Albertans have called "God's Country."

As Open Door's leader I've wrestled with the right words, the right actions and the right approach. I've wanted to talk about what each of us can do to look at our own preparedness, I've wanted to shout from the roof that now is the time for us to review our own emergency response procedures and business continuity programs. Truly, I've wanted to seize the day and raise the consciousness of preparedness.

But the truth is that this isn't about me. And it's really not about you. It's about the 90,000 people who woke up on the couches and spare bedrooms of friends and families, those to rose from another sleepless night on the cots of a shelter and of those whose holiday RV now become their home address.

I want to join the voice of the masses on this one and invite you to give to the Red Cross. As a member of their disaster management team I can tell you that they will do what's right and use your donor dollars with mass purchasing power - whatever you can give with go along way.

This link will take you there: https://donate.redcross.ca/ea-action/action?&ea.client.id=1951&ea.campaign.id=50639 

Be safe.



Redefining "Ready"

Yesterday, I spend a little time with Calgary Emergency Management Agency and a few really, truly, dedicated members of Calgary’s Community Associations. Together, we walked through the newly minted READYCalgary program, a CERT-type program to help manage the needs of our great city. I was there, of course, to ensure Open Door’s ongoing alignment with CEMA’s expectations. As we work with various organization to develop unique and responsive emergency plans, we also work hard to ensure we’re compliant with the needs and expectations of both CEMA and AEMA.

A great way to spend an evening. If you’re looking find out more, visit http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/cema/Pages/READYCALGARY-Program-Overview.aspx. And hey, if you’re looking for a little more disaster training, check out our offerings.. http://www.opendoorcommunications.ca/training-courses-and-classes.

Stay safe,


Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Every morning, I’m greeted to the sound of 770’s Bruce Kenyon lamenting about the state of Alberta’s economy. Nexen’s cutting jobs again this quarter, Oil workers are flocking West for construction jobs and unemployment has replaced health care as the top issue on our minds. Even here in Calgary, creditors are already reporting almost 20 per cent of us can’t afford the next payment on the vehicle we’re driving.

And no matter where you are, the hairdresser, the grocery store, even the print and copy centre at Staples, we’re all talking about how this happened. And it’s an all-star blame game. We’re looking to all three levels of our government (and rightfully so); we’re looking at our industry, our allies, our trade deals and our creditors. We’re demanding answers for how these entities failed us. And behind all of this, we’re worried as hell.

And while talking about how this volatility happened raises the public consciousness and dialogue, worrying about it does not. Just like I hear Scott tell our clients, worry is like sitting in a rocking chair; gives you something to do but you’re not going anywhere. And if you’re an organization that has stalled in these uncertain times, listen up!

NOW is the time to look in the mirror. Not Jim Prentice style looking in the mirror – yikes – but really taking the time to take stock of your organization from 40,000 feet. What’s working? What’s not? Where are you in terms of measuring your outcomes – and EVERY outcome? Honestly, have you gotten closer or farther apart from why you exist?

Come on, have a peek. Don’t be afraid. Let Michael inspire you (ah, MJ, RIP). What do you see when you look at your business directly for as it is? Have you gained a little weight? Then it’s time to cut the fat and evaluate the operational efficiency of your business. Do you want more of your people? Then start by asking more of yourself. Are your people miserable? Then it’s time to look at your communications and culture program with new eyes (and perhaps, if I may, the support of a consultant), because when this turns around, they’ll be gone. History is pretty reliable on this.

Russian revolutionary Leo Trotsky said “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Whether we like it or not, we’ve got to do it. There’s no magic solution coming – it’s going to have to come from within.

Hang in there,



Vipassanā is a word well known to meditators across the world. To them, this world invokes a discipline to gain or discover insight into the true nature of reality. For the rest of us, it means to see things as they truly are. 

Over the last 10 days, Open Door Partner Scott Leavitt has been away on a Vipassanā journey of his own - remaining completely silent and disconnected for all technology as he meditated with 60 likeminded individuals in a remote place not so far away. 

Since Scott became a partner here in 2013, he has been a champion of mindfulness as a core element of our corporate culture. And while I don't think I have a retreat of this kind in my future, I have been appreciative to the compassion, steadiness and permanence he's brought to our client projects and programs.

During his absence, I've seized the opportunity to see things as they truly are here at Open Door. Reflecting on 2015, which saw much change for our industry and sectors, both economic and political, the need to stay grounded has become an imperative. At Open Door, we grew larger than we had anticipated; serving the needs of organizations who wanted to tell their story, strengthen their team and prepare of the unexpected. As I thought about who we are as an organization, I thought about our story. How we grew from the wings of WestJet, united by a dream to empower those who provide critical services to the places we live, work and play. I thought about the first day Sean McMullen showed me what's now our logo and how much I still think it represents who we are today. Open. Open to new possibilities and solutions. To grow, to seek to find and never to yield. I thought about my own innocence in starting a company of my own. The unbridled optimism that still remains two houses, three desks and one husband later. 

I think there's no better way to start 2016 that to look at how Open Door tells it's story - and on what platform it does so. And, after a little help, here we are: with the new Open Door website. 

We hope this will be a platform to help you see who we really are. And, in harnessing our WestJet roots, welcome aboard.

All for now,