Leadership Skills with Doug Piquette

New immigrants are the backbone of growth for many countries.

But how do you help these highly skilled people to develop quickly, especially in the area of leadership, so they can be successful.

Well fortunately on today’s episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast, we’re interviewing Doug Piquette to learn about ‘How New Immigrants Can Grow Their Leadership Skills’.

In episode #152 you’ll learn:

  • The importance of recognizing that new immigrants are risk takers, which is a fundamental quality of leadership
  • About how the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council provides mentors to help new immigrants accelerate their leadership journey
  • Why making assumptions is a disaster for all leaders (and how to avoid this)
  • The importance of volunteering to help build up your social capital and more

Doug Piquette, BSc, EcD.

Meeting Leadership Podcast episode #152 - How New Immigrants Can Grow Their Leadership Skills with Doug Piquette

Doug Piquette has over 20 years’ of community development experience working in the non-profit sector in Alberta and overseas. Since 2008, Doug has served as the founding Executive Director of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) a business led, not for profit charity that brings leaders together to create and champion solutions to integrate immigrants in the Edmonton Capital Region. 

You can get in touch with Doug at http://eriec.ca/

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Gordon: If you are a leader who wants to grow your skills, then it is worth looking to what new immigrants have to do when they come to a new country. They are risk-takers, they have to be adaptive, but how can they get through their journey just a little bit faster?

Well, today on the show we’re going to learn how new immigrants can grow their leadership skills. We’ve got Doug Piquette, an intercultural expert to help us learn how.

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast with Gordon Sheppard.

Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast. My name is Gordon Sheppard and I just want to say thank you for being here. Thank you for being the type of leader who wants to pick up another skill, another tip, another strategy. Because you know that to be a great leader you have to learn how to run a great meeting and if you want to run a great meeting, you have to be a great leader and you’re coming to this podcast to pick up those things to do just that. It is really good to have you here.

And I am also proud to say that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. Now there you’re going to find some terrific options for online training and live training for you and your team. The type of live training that sort of can bring someone in for about a half day, really spark your entire team to make sure that every meeting from then on is highly, highly productive. And you can learn all about that by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/academy.

And now I am really excited to introduce today’s show, which is titled How New Immigrants Can Grow Their Leadership Skills, and we’re interviewing Doug Piquette, an intercultural leadership expert, who’s going to help us to understand about the work that he does and how that impacts leaders.

Now Doug, well, he’s got more than 20 years of community development experience, working in the nonprofit sector and since 2008 Doug has served as the founding executive director of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council. Now this is a business-led, not-for-profit charity that brings leaders together to create and champion solutions that will integrate immigrants into the Edmonton capital region.

And I can tell you firsthand from witnessing the work that Doug does, his organization, on a shoe string, pulls together all kinds of resources, all kinds of inspiration, to help new immigrants, I mean highly skilled, mid skilled people, get to work significantly faster, and really be more successful as they go to work in the Canadian workplace.

And with that in mind, I’m not going to hold you back any longer. Here’s the terrific interview with Doug.

Doug, welcome to the show.

Doug: Good morning Gord. How are you?

Gordon: Well, just really, really excited is what I am, honestly, because the chance to get you on the call here today to be able to talk to the audience about new immigrants and your perspective on leadership, is going to be absolutely invaluable. And I know that so many people are going to be getting a ton of information out of the good value that you’re going to bring to this conversation. But before we get started here, if people had met you for the first time, how would you describe yourself?

Doug: Well my name is Doug Piquette, and I’m the executive director of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council. And basically our work is to help people integrate into Canadian work society. So that’s, in a nutshell, what we like to refer our services as.

Gordon: Well, and lucky enough, because I know you started this back in 2008, you’ve built it from the ground up. You’re the first founding executive director of this organization. You’ve got some really unique insights into when folks are coming from somewhere else, they’re arriving in Canada and then you’re helping them to transition through. You’d be seeing a lot of leaders come from other places. Is that fair?

Doug: Yeah, I would say that every single client of ours is either a leader currently or a leader in waiting or latent. And so they bring to the table, when they come into Edmonton, they bring to the table sort of a different perspective and a journey under hat, and I think those kinds of experiences are the kinds of qualities I think leaders have already. They’re willing to take risks, they’re willing to leave a place that was possibly very comfortable and then come to a place that may be a little uncomfortable for them when they move here.

Gordon: And this is… really speaks to the tenacity. I know I’ve been a presenter, thankfully at one of your events, and what shocked me, you know, being in front of 150 very sort of professionals, was their pedigree. I mean these people, the only thing sort of holding them back in some cases was really just simply a language barrier. But their intelligence and their skill sets and again their drive to be here, establishing a new life, it’s just absolutely remarkable. What are some of the sort of core leadership skills that you’re seeing folks bring into the situation and then how are you helping them to enhance them?

Doug: Well, as I said before, I mean I think just the fact that they’re willing to take a risk, put themselves outside of their comfort zone, is probably the primary one. But I mean if you think about the journey that many of these professionals are taking to come to Canada and the process of sort of adapting to a new reality, and eventually moving into, so what we hope is full integration is, I mean for anybody, for all of the business professionals out there, that journey is a tough one, and quite daunting.

I would say that would be the foundation, I think, of these new leaders. But then they come here to learn how, let’s say, the business culture works here. In order to be successful, in order to adapt and integrate, they have to do a lot of active listening, be good observers of behavior, and that can also be transferred through some of that peer-to-peer mentoring that we work with our clients on. And again, that transference of knowledge coming from this sector, whether they be engineers or accountants or finance folks. That information gets transferred, and it just makes that journey a little bit easier and less rocks in the road, if you will.

Gordon: Well, and I know that in your work you are dealing with leaders, you know, coming from a way and also leaders locally. Because you’re sort of in between the businesses and these folks who are coming in.

What sort of feedback are you getting, you know, from the businesses that you would deal with or hear from in this area as you sort of put people together, about the leadership qualities, again, that people are being able to apply in the workplace?

Doug: Well, yeah, I mean what we hear from let’s say the mentors, for example, and we… and once somebody has been a mentor in our program, at first they’re a little bit reluctant because they don’t see themselves as mentors. And so once they go through that first relationship, then they start to see that you know, that they themselves have to be active listeners. They themselves have to be understanding and listening to how things are done in, let’s say, another jurisdiction, another culture.

So you’re basically expanding that leadership capacity within the local business talent. But also, the roles kind of reverse at times or they kind of go back and forth between the mentor and the mentee. At times the mentor is the listener. Sometimes the mentee is the listener, but the exchange goes back and forth. And so they’re mutually learning about each other’s sort of approaches, experiences.

And so what ends up happening, I think, is there’s a bit of a hybrid learning that goes on. So it’s not just what people might think when you’re in a mentored relationship, that the mentee comes here to the country and knows nothing. In fact, they know a lot of things. And as you said, they have such great expertise and experience to share. But they’re kind of wanting to learn about how to be successful in that Canadian context.

But then as the relationship moves forward, then the mentor started asking questions a little bit about the jurisdictions or the cultures that they come from and then that might change or tweak their sort of understanding of how you adapt to things and how that might even lead to creation or innovation in the workplace. So it’s a really interesting dynamic that occurs in the mentored relationship.

Gordon: Well, and I think innovation in the workplace is where it’s headed. Because you get that sort of cross-cultural opportunity, especially and again, in the leadership area, there’s a fun story. I met a fellow, high level oil and gas executive, who talked about his early days of coming in from South America. So he’s ready to go to work. But he was talking about the cultural differences, say between going to a meeting, a professional meeting where he was from versus here. And he said that if you walked into a meeting in South America and there was some women in the meeting, and he didn’t say, “Hey, you look good,” and then kiss them on both cheeks, he was going to get in trouble in South America. But if he tried to do that in Canada, there’s a good chance they were going to call the cops.

Doug: Yeah. And I actually can relate to that experience, having worked in South America for eight years. And I made quite a few faux pas. And a part of that is that when it comes to that intercultural piece, the big thing about interculturality or intercultural education, is that the assumptions that we make. And so some of the things that I would do, let’s say in the South American context, sometimes we’re misperceived as being aggressive or not really appreciating local knowledge. And so I had my knuckles rapped a couple of times and then I realized, you know, I have to be in the position of that sort of an observer, a listener. So instead of always trying to interject and trying to move towards an outcome or you know, increase productivity on an issue, I decided I would, instead of getting my knuckles rapped, I would just sort of watch and listen. And it served me well.

And then I looked for other opportunities to engage with my team, to share knowledge and maybe possible solutions. So instead of going in… and I can see now, looking back, how that might’ve been perceived as aggressive. I found it shocking that somebody would say that what I was doing was a bit aggressive. But looking back now, I… yeah, I can see why that would be interpreted that way.

Gordon: Boy, and it takes… doesn’t it take those sort of real boots-on-the-ground experiences to understand that difference? But look at this leadership opportunity that we have really to mine. When someone, you know, a new immigrant’s coming to any country really, and you’ve got that chance to get them through these leadership steps to move forward.

I love that you flagged don’t make assumptions about things. I think this is super critical. I also like that you.. there’s a pathway in this mentorship program that you’re doing with your organization to allow people to go forward. And then there’s a real issue here around men and women. So you know, there’s just cultural differences that are, you know, the reality of them from many other places.

When folks are arriving here, especially from a leadership perspective or working with new leaders, you know, women leaders in Canada, what are some of the things that you’re seeing in terms of sort of the… just the difference in the sexes for where they’re coming from, perceptions and assumptions?

Doug: So some of it, and it kind of goes back to… the experience of many that go through our program is… and you can say this about men and women or whomever coming to Canada, it’s kind of a process of construction, deconstruction and construction. Or learning, relearning and learning again. So you accumulated a lot of knowledge and you’ve been successful in a different context. You come here, and the thing is, things may be a little bit different when it comes to let’s say women in leadership here in Canada. I mean, we’ve still got a long ways to go, but at the same time we may be more advanced, let’s say in comparison to other cultures, other countries.

So that can be an adjustment. So part of the work that we do is certainly again, convening people together with the business community. But even in the work that we do here at the ERIEC office, even those preliminary discussions through information sessions, even some sort of client work that we do with them, we start to try and educate them a little bit about the reality.

They can make their own decisions, but basically making informed decisions, based on whatever policies that exist in Canada. They need to know that this is the way things operate, and the code, I guess, of the business culture and how things are done here in Canada. So it’s really important that they have that information.

It still may not be an overnight epiphany for many, but it can… at least they’ve got some illuminations, and some understandings already going forward, so that they can start tracking more efficiently in their careers, especially in the case of let’s say women leaders.

Gordon: Well, and I’m so glad you said construction, deconstruction, construction, whatever way you want to call it. That is the process, and then you’re there to help, I’m going to say accelerate that process to a certain degree.

There’s another aspect around, I remember hearing a story from a fellow, engineer who came from, again, South America, and he talked about how he dealt with authority there, especially like in a church setting for example. He would say, well, you never question the authority and yet here he’s arrived in Canada. He’s in a situation, he might be in a meeting where an authority in the meeting here is actually looking for him to speak up, because that’s the natural way things are supposed to go in this setting. Are you seeing that type of thing as well?

Doug: Yeah. This is very common Gord. You know Canada lives by, at least in general, broad brush terms, sort of an egalitarian approach to the business workplace. So more horizontal, whereas some cultures come from a very hierarchical situation.

So again, we’re going back to that same issue of assumptions being made. So when somebody isn’t participating at the team table in the way that they were hoping they should, there may be still a disconnect in terms of the home culture being hierarchical. And now at being asked to participate in critical analysis, let’s say, to a situation where in the past they may have not been asked, and if you were to in those situations, you could… I mean the issue could be you could get fired for saying things, like being that critical. So… go ahead.

Gordon: So it’s just so difficult when it comes to again, either leading, let’s say you’re coming here and you’re being asked to lead and then maybe someone in the meeting is speaking up in an egalitarian way, that would be unexpected. And then if you were supposed to be a follower, you’d be in a jam as well, because how soon do you sort of make that light bulb go on to be able to then participate fully?

Doug: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And it ultimately comes down to like most things in life is communications. And so you know, what are the rules of conduct in let’s say, a team dynamic. And again, you can’t broad brush these things, because maybe at the very simple team level, you may say things and you may conduct yourself a certain way, and then at a different level you may want to sort of couch some of those things because of who might be participating in the meeting.

So you just have to be a good observer of those kinds of environments. So it’s not to say that everything is egalitarian in Canada. You have to respect the hierarchy as well, but you have to sort of pick and choose where you can participate and use your skillsets and your knowledge.

Gordon: Well, and there’s a lot of good wisdom, even in the tone of what you’re saying. And obviously we can hear that you’ve actually had it in your own work experience, to not make assumptions. So you’re really… it’s funny, I’m trying to drill down saying, “Give me the 10 step checklist and make everything perfect in a minute and a half.” But you’re really being honest about the fact that you’re going to have to take a patient approach to things.

Doug: Yeah, I don’t think you can be overly prescriptive in these kinds of situations. I mean I think generally we do know and understand the science of intercultural competencies and understanding the differences between those. And I think one of the things that we do at ERIEC, is we include as part of a package, intercultural workshops that we basically contract NorQuest college here in the city of Edmonton, to help us with that and the design and the implementation of that.

So we compliment the mentorship program with that one-on-one relationship or peer-to-peer relationship. But then at the same time, once a month they get together as a group en masse, to meet with other mentees and other mentors, to have these kinds of discussions and what I like to call them safe places for those discussions. Because you may have a question about it, but who do you ask about it without… As I said before, I committed some faux pas in my previous life in South America, and I didn’t really have a place to actually ask, “Was that a mistake, or should I have done something differently?” I did it, you know, basically it was trial and error and baptism by fire. And it would have been helpful if I would have had somebody take me aside and say, “You know what, Doug, that was probably not a good call for that situation.”

Gordon: You need your wing man. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going out, oh that’s for sure. You would’ve seen a lot of success stories throughout your progress here over these last, whatever, 11, 12 years. Is there one or two that come to mind where you’ve seen them come in in a certain state, especially from a leadership or intercultural perspective, and then they’ve adjusted in a really positive way?

Doug: Well, you know what, each one is a success story. I mean really, as soon as we’re able to get them into the office, that’s when their learning and their journey really starts to take a real, a good step forward. But again, like I say, I’ve got number them, but one that comes to mind, that’s a recent one, a gentlemen from Kenya, who’s an IT project manager. And he was saddled with a really great mentor who works for a finance group here in Edmonton. And boy, they just worked in lockstep together. And we were really impressed by how they had their relationship work. And in fact, I recall that the mentor had a 10-page PowerPoint that they shared with us, and this is not typical. But a 10-page PowerPoint that they shared. And basically it covered everything from how to invest money in Canada and you know, RSBs and so on, financial literacy elements, but also, you know, things that regarding their careers.

But this gentleman from Kenya really just took inspiration from his mentor, took his advice when it came to things like getting involved with let’s say a volunteer opportunity. He, the gentleman from Kenya, is now volunteering with the Project Management Institute here in Edmonton. And finding that as basically a way of giving back, making connections, building his social capital, but also a place to find out where some of those employment opportunities in the hidden job market.

Because one of the things we ask our clients to do is, in Edmonton we have this strong movement of volunteering, so that is something that you can do socially, but it’s a great strategy for people to look for opportunities. So it’s a professional strategy as well. So when we ask people to volunteer, a lot of them react to it as like, “What, you mean like give up some of my time for free?” And so it’s a typical reaction from some cultures, some countries. And we’re saying, “No, you’re actually… you know it’s sort of almost a karmic thing where you give to the community and you’ll reap the benefits socially, but you will also reap the benefits professionally.”

And it’s been my experience, of course I’m from rural Alberta and having come to Edmonton, building my social capital here in the city was vicariously through volunteer efforts and getting involved with things that I was passionate about in terms of community. And that led to a number of different contacts, because I’m forever doing recruitment for our programs. So when I find people who are like-minded or interested in mentoring, I do that to, you know, some of my social time off but also use it to build my professional network.

Gordon: Well, and social capital… you can hear the joy that you have for that. And you also are being honest about the fact that that happens in so many different places. It happens at work, it happens when you volunteer, and it’s a critical part of building yourself as a leader. I mean this is super valuable in terms of knowing that there are success stories that are happening a lot. You just pulled it… you said that’s the most recent one, but I’m sure there are dozens and dozens and dozens of these stories that you have. So you must have a lot of fun going to work every day.

Doug: You know what, I look forward to Mondays, I really do. I mean, when people talk and use cliched terms like, “Did you move the needle on, on this issue or this product or whatever?” You know, we really do. And I really get a chance to be a part of that. And I, yeah, I look forward to Mondays. I’m probably unique in some ways. I’m hoping more people find joy in coming to work on Mondays too. But I really do. Because every week is a number of different stories that come to our office, and people who are really ready, willing, and able to make a difference in their own lives.

So our work is kind of, not easy, but you know, we’re basically connectors, we’re facilitators, a process. We’re convening people, we’re bringing people together from let’s say the employer side and the employee side, and ultimately, I mean if you look at the larger vision, we are about… it’s a business optic that we adhere to, but we’re also community builders. So I mean we really want people that are coming through our office to remain in Edmonton, remain in Alberta. And you know, basically it’s… yeah, an intrinsically rewarding work that I do.

Gordon: This is incredible. It’s funny, the last question that we usually ask in the interview is what inspires you? I think we just found out what inspires you. That was a really eloquent sort of ending to our time here on the interview. I just so appreciate, again… I’m going to say the, and not so much the tactical approach that we’ve taken today, but really the tone. There’s time and patience, that if it’s invested, the leadership growth along with the intercultural sprinkling, can really strengthen, not only the new immigrants that are coming here, but our entire community as well. Doug, it’s just been great to have you here and I’m going to slow down for just a second because I know that people are going to want to get in touch with you. What’s the best way to do that?

Doug: Well you can contact us obviously through my email at dpiquette, P-I-Q-U-E-T-T-E @eriec, E-R-I-E-C, .ca.

Or at our office, certainly by phone 7804978866.

Gordon: And just as a reminder for folks, because we’ll explain it in the show notes as well, ERIEC stands for…

Doug: The Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council.

Gordon: Okay. Thank you for saying that out loud again. So we’re going to get the acronym and that explained in the show notes. We’ve heard so much of how beneficial it is. Doug, thank you so much for being on the show.

Doug: Thanks for your interest, Gord.

Gordon: Now I know that you’ll have to agree that was a jam-packed interview, especially from a leadership perspective. And the big lesson for me, don’t make assumptions. If there’s anything that we can learn, think about going to another country, whether you’re coming to Canada, you’re going maybe to another continent somewhere else to do your work or to live. You cannot assume what’s happening in the local area, especially from a leadership perspective. What a valuable, valuable lesson.

And if you enjoyed listening to this episode, here’s a few more episodes on the meeting leadership podcast that could help you contribute to your leadership growth. Now in episode 104, it’s called Why the Language of Meeting Leadership is so Important. And I can tell you from a faux pas point of view, I share a few stories in there about language that I’ve sort of used during a training situation, and it just didn’t go well, but I was able to learn from it for the next time. And you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/104.

And then, on episode 39 well it’s called Why Intercultural Competence is Critical for All Leaders, and that is with expert Dan Garcia. And you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/39.

And I also think you’re going to get a lot out of episode 87, because it’s called Speak Up: Five Ways to Encourage Participation in Meetings. And you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/87.

And I also want to remind you that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. Now this is a place where you can go to get resources to really get a jumpstart on making your meetings significantly better. And if you understand that that is important, and you know that when you have a good meeting, it’ll impact you in a great way, it’ll impact your team ultimately and ultimately will flow through to your entire organization and help you to serve your customers and your community at the highest possible level. Well, if you want to learn about that, then visit meetingleadershipinc.com/academy.

And for everyone who is already a subscriber, thank you so much. And if you haven’t done it yet, please take a moment to hit the subscribe button on your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss another episode.

And as always, thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

Thanks for listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast. Be sure to subscribe for more strategies to help you become an outstanding leader. And don’t forget to rate and review so we can bring you fresh content every day. We’ll see you tomorrow, right here on the meeting leadership podcast.

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Gordon Sheppard

Gord is on a mission to change the world, one meeting at a time. Over his 25+ years in business Gord has run or participated in more than 2000 meetings! Not only is Gord the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc. (owner/operator of Meeting Leadership Inc), but he is also a Facilitator, Trainer, Business Consultant, Author, Speaker and Podcaster who helps leaders learn how to have great meetings, so they can build outstanding organizations and serve their clients at the highest possible level.

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