More than music

I sat in my living room this morning and realized that I am more than music. Or more than a trainer, or more than a consultant. Music alone doesn’t describe all of me. It takes a lot to describe a person. And interestingly enough, I came to this conclusion while I was thinking about things I need to infuse into my business projects. Here’s where this comes from:

Yesterday, my pal Janey calls to tell me that she’s got someone visiting whose father was a relatively famous Newfoundland fiddler. His name, she thought, was Benoit.

Emile Benoit? The most incredible fiddler to come out of the Port aux Port Peninsula, Newfoundland, writer of incredible tunes and teller of stories? (

Well, yes, that could be him.

Bring her over!!!

Roberta Benoit arrived, took one glance at my living room and started to smile. Before I knew it, she had my fiddle going, I was on the guitar, and we were jamming, smiling, jamming and smiling, Cape Breton, French and Newfoundland tunes galore. Did I say smiling? What a time!

So what does this have to do with business, you may ask? This morning, I looked around my living room and tried to see what Roberta would have seen. She would have seen regular living room stuff: a couch, some chairs, a few lights, and a coffee table. But here’s what else she saw:

  • an upright grand piano
  • two guitars
  • a mandolin
  • two fiddles
  • a tenor saxophone
  • a trombone
  • a flute
  • three tin whistles
  • a mountain dulcimer
  • every surface covered in sheet music!

Roberta saw music everywhere. So her conclusions about me would be that I was first and foremost a musician. But the truth is not so simple. I am many other things. I am a facilitator, a trainer, an environmental consultant (just read my webpages!). I am a runner, a fly fisher, a parent…the list just goes on and on.

When you are in a workshop, taking a course, sitting on a plane, or in a meeting, take a moment to reflect on Roberta’s perspective. It’s important to look beyond the obvious, and uncover truths, realities and information that help us to better understand each other. As clients, as stakeholders and as friends. Make sure you look beyond the music, and find out as much as you can.

When I’m running a workshop, I always ask my participants what they would do if they weren’t doing the job that brought them to the workshop. Ask yourself that: What would you do, what would you like to do, if you weren’t doing your current job? Let me know, I’d be interested in find out. Because I’m more than music.

…but I do love music!

Creativity abounds

“Tickle your brain”

You never know where you’re going to find creative, innovative ideas for your business. Most mornings, I tromp out the driveway to get the paper. My driveway is 900 feet long, so the dogs and I have quite a morning stroll. Over coffee, I read the front page, and usually the sports section (being a soccer fanatic, I need my fix), and when I am feeling particularly dutiful, the Business Section.

Today I read an article in the Business Section that provided me with great fodder for thought as I work with Ontario Parks to help design their Parks Foundations Course. The author referred to James Altucher’s blog and work. James Altucher is the managing director of Formula Capital, an asset management firm and fund of hedge funds. He’s written a bunch of books on investing and one book that he loves: How to be the Luckiest Person Alive. And it was the reference to being lucky, creative and innovative to which I paid attention.

Altucher says we need to become experts of ideas. We should take time every day to think of (and write down) 10 new ideas. Those ideas can be about anything at all. Anything. Business ideas, book ideas, anything at all! The key is that it has to be 10 or more…you want to make your brain sweat.

The course I’m helping to design could be straightforward, providing participants with foundational information which will help them to become leaders in the Parks organizations. Or, it could provide opportunities where they can tickle their brains, asking them to re-engineer their vision of leadership and come up with thousands of ways to help steer the organization into the future.  I am going to suggest that we infuse this course with opportunities for participants to generate ideas about leadership, about parks, about teamwork, and whatever else we can. The future is theirs for the shaping and their creativity is essential for their success.

Quick: what are your 10 ideas???

Linked In thoughts

Okay, so I’ve had this site up just a brief period of time, but I’ve been putting a lot of effort into learning how to add pages, posts, pictures and all that this requires. In doing so, I have been able to think and focus more on the business end of my business than I have in a long time. Perhaps it’s the energy I’m generating thinking about it, or perhaps it is something more. But I must admit, I find it most interesting that I’ve never had anyone endorse me for work on Linked In until I started to work on this site.

I haven’t used the Linked In website much, other than to search out friends and colleagues. Now I find those friends and colleagues are searching me out and actively supporting me. How delightful (and supportive) is that? Many thanks for Merebeth Switzer, James Raffan, Barry LeDrew, Gerarda Parrott, Tim Grant, Garry Enns, Barb Elliot, Robert Laurie and Rick Wishart for taking the time to comment on my skills and expertise. It is much appreciated!

I am curious about Linked In. How many people out there use it? Or use it as a critical business tool? And how do you use it? Please share your thoughts with me so I can a) pass them on, and b) benefit from them!



Creating this website and associated blog is in many ways a selfish thing. Like any other independent environmental consultant out there, I am trying to increase my business opportunities, market my company and brand, and be a bit more selective about the projects we undertake. At the same time, I’m exploring other organizations, agencies and companies, and this site provides me with an opportunity to showcase others who are working towards the same goals as we are at GAEL.

I sent out a note to Redbird Communications today. Carol Vincent runs her company out of Victoria, B.C., and is dedicated to helping clients create ‘healthy people’ and ‘healthy places’, by raising awareness and changing behaviours. They do this by doing what you’d expect in a communications firm: strategic planning, copy editing, creating programs, slogans, all while using their powers for good — to come up with clever names, powerful logos, snappy slogans, provocative print ads, laugh-out-loud radio, compelling television, outrageous outdoor, eye-catching packaging, and viral videos. All of this is wrapped up in a real commitment to environmental sustainability, which attracted me in the first place. 

When I sent off a letter inquiring about possible collaborative opportunities, I admit that I did not anticipate an answer. So many firms don’t even bother to read e mails or letters any more. Not Redbird. Carol sent me back a note hours after I sent mine. She made it clear that she doesn’t do a lot of work in eastern Canada, but perhaps coffee would be on tap when I head out to Victoria in the new year.

A polite, friendly and personal response to an inquiry is a professional and class act. Check out Redbird if you are based out west and need a new communications tool. I am confident you will get a grand reception and positive results!

Project: Parks!

I am lucky enough to be working with a creative team of folks from our parks in Ontario right now. We’re designing a course that will help foster leadership skills and abilities in staff throughout the province. I say “we” because it is very much a team effort, with the GAEL team working side by side with very committed government folks who care deeply about effective leadership development throughout their organization.

We’re posing questions such as:

  • What makes a good leader?
  • What kinds of situations require different types of leaders?
  • What is an effective leadership style for use in a parks agency?

We’re looking at ways to model and augment leadership skills, explore an individual’s motivation to lead, and how best to develop these leadership qualities in an organization.

Of course, since the course will be delivered in northern Ontario in March, we’re also asking questions such as:

  • Will I still need my snow tires on?
  • Do we need a generator, just in case?
  • How many snow machines will it actually take to get us all to the dining hall?

And because it’s a parks course, we’re also asking:

  • Who will bring a guitar?
  • Where can we have our campfire?
  • S’mores or just marshmallows?

John F. Kennedy said that leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. My parks colleagues are leading in their own way by designing a course to help their peers learn to lead. We’re honoured to be working with them.

Hello world!

Hi all!
As an independent environmental consultant, who is quite happy spending her time facilitating, researching, training, or playing outside, I realized I needed to step up to this century. I needed to start communicating to the world outside my office and client base, in order to catch up to the rest of the world, and refocus what I do in my business. So welcome to my website – it’s a website combined with a blog, photos and stories about the things in which I am involved – facilitation, training, research and the outdoors. Enjoy!