Why All Leaders Need To Be Authentic with Dean Joseph Doucet, University of Alberta

This week our guest is Dean Joseph Doucet who leads the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta.

Not only does Joseph have to lead 100s of staff and thousands of students, but he is also the board chair for Edmonton Economic Development. He has multiple decades of experience as an academic and he has also worked in private industry as well.

So when it comes to leadership, Joseph has a wide variety of experience and he doesn’t hold back as he shares his best leadership suggestions on the podcast.

At the core he believes that all leaders should be authentic, humble and that they should always be well prepared in advance for all meetings.

It is a must-listen episode that you’re going to learn a lot from!

Joseph Doucet

Dean Joseph Doucet - Meeting Leadership Podcast - Effective Meetingså

Joseph Doucet is Dean of the University of Alberta School of Business, Canada’s first and longest accredited business school, globally recognized for its excellence in research, teaching and engagement. A respected academic, Joe’s research interests focus on the areas of energy and regulatory economics and policy; he also regularly provides strategic advice to firms and governments on these topics. Joe currently sits on the boards of the Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) and La Fondation franco-albertaine. He is also a member of the C.D. Howe Institute’s Energy and Natural Resources Policy Council.

You can get in touch with Joseph at joseph.doucet@ualberta.ca

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Gordon Sheppard: If you want to learn more about why it’s important for all leaders to be authentic, then you’re going to get a lot out of today’s episode on the Meeting Leadership Podcast. that’s because today we are lucky enough to be interviewing Dean Joseph Doucet who leads the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta.

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for practical 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.

Gordon Sheppard: Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast. My name is Gordon Sheppard. I just want to say thank you so much for being here. And thanks for coming along for this ride on this podcast because you agree that to be a great leader you have to know how to run a great meeting. And if you want to know how to run a great meeting, you have to be a great leader. And you are trusting this podcast as the place to pull all that together, to get a great kind of leadership tip, to get some strategies, things that you can take into your next meeting to make it significantly better. And you know that when you do that, you’re going to be able to not only influence yourself and your team in the right way, but the ripple effect from that will actually flow throughout your organization, and allow you to serve your end user, your customer, and your clients at the highest possible level. It is great to have you here.

And today on the show we’re going to talk about why all leaders need to be authentic. And one of the best ways to do this? Well, you bring on Joseph Doucet. Now, Joseph is our guest today, and he’s also the Dean of the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta. And I have to say, he’s got a long career and comes by his leadership suggestions really quite honestly. Now, not only does he currently have to run an organization with hundreds of staff and thousands of students, but he’s also a board chair for significant boards like the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. He has multiple decades of experience as an academic, and he’s also worked in private industry.

So you can see from just that basic description of his resume, he’s got the chops to bring it over and over again when it comes to helping people learn great lessons about leadership. And in this terrific interview that you’re about to listen to with Joseph Doucet, not only does he talk about how all leaders need to find their own level of authenticity, he also believes that leaders should be humble, and that they should be really well prepared for every meeting they go into. He also talks about his inspiration, and a whole lot more. And with that in mind, I’m not going to hold you back any longer. Here’s the interview with Joseph Doucet. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joseph Doucet: Thank you very much, Gord. Pleasure to be with you.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, it’s a great gift to me. I can tell you. I came back into this school of business thing a little bit later in life. I was giggling when I had to sit down, and write a managerial accounting midterm at the age of 42. But I’m very thankful to the school of business for the bundle that I took away from the MBA Program that I did at that time to make a career transition.

And I can tell you every day now in the work that I do, whether I’m helping leaders here on the podcast, working directly with business owners or nonprofit boards and this kind of thing, all of that skill set that I was able to gain through the school of business has come into play. And I could go on and on about all the level of detail, but really it’s that critical thinking package that I took out of there. So that’s just a big thanks for me in general for the work that you do. But a lot of people listening to the show, we’re not going to know who you are. So if you had to introduce yourself, how would you do that? Go ahead.

Joseph Doucet: Well, first of all, before I introduce myself, I want to thank you because what you’ve just said in your introduction is music to my ears. I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, and I feel privileged to be the Dean of the Alberta School of Business. I’ve been Dean for almost eight years now. I’ve been a faculty member in the university for almost 20 years and a proud Edmontonian for 20 years. I grew up in Ottawa, went to undergraduate school at the University of Ottawa, went to grad school in the US, and worked for a couple of years for AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey.

Before coming here to Alberta, I taught at University of Laval in Quebec City for 10 years. So I’ve been in a lot of different places. And I think that gives me an appreciation for all of the great things that we have here in Alberta and here in the Alberta School of Business. And I’m particularly appreciative and enthusiastic when I meet students or former students, alumni such as yourself because our goal, our mission and what really animates me is the ability to impact both individuals and organizations through our fantastic teaching, groundbreaking research and the engagement that we have here at the Alberta School of Business. So really thrilled to be here and really happy to be talking to you today, Gordon.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, thanks so much for that introduction of yourself because what’s great is we can draw from so many different times where we can hear a real progression in leadership opportunities. You moved through that student phase, you’ve got this industry experience. I know in your bio there’s some serious boards that you’re involved with at that level. Here you are leading the school of business in a significant educational institution. The progression is there.

The opportunity in this show is to again, help leaders pick up some leadership skills from experts like yourself, and then learn kind of the nuances of that kind of thing. And I know we were talking about the possibility there of maybe as you think about your successor in the future, or maybe your view, we were talking to a student in the hallway, or maybe if you were even talking to your young self, what’s kind of the main leadership tip that you would start out with in that type of conversation when someone’s asking for your insights in this area?

Joseph Doucet: It’s a great question. And I’d say that at the outset there are innumerable books and magazine, articles, and discussions of leadership, and what I’d suggest to people is, first and foremost, you have to be authentic. So there’s no single recipe that there’s no single way to do it. You have to figure out what works for you, and what works for your situation in your organization. So you mentioned succession, and as I get further along my path, I think more about not who will succeed me because that’s still far away, but the fact that there will be a successor. And that person, she or he will come into really a very different school than I came into eight years ago.

We each need to think of ourselves and how we want to lead, and be authentic for ourselves and for the context, the organization in the situation. That said, I’ve thought about many different things and one of the, I believe important qualities of a leader or for a leader is to be able to listen and empathize with the individuals who are part of your team, part of your organization, part of your context. It’s too easy, too tempting sometimes to believe, and believe falsely that you have all of the answers, that you know everything, that what you’re going to do, what you’ve decided or analyzed is going to be the right thing. You really need to be out there. You need to talk to individuals, and at the same time you have to find the right balance between listening, and engaging, and being open to input and being decisive.

Gordon Sheppard: I’m so glad to hear the pieces that you’re bringing in here because they’re so consistent with so many of the other experts that we’ve had on the show. But I have to say, wait a second, you’re the Dean. You must have all the answers. Isn’t that correct?

Joseph Doucet: You know what? I could introduce you to my wife and children who would gladly tell you that I don’t have all the answers. The Alberta School of Business is a modestly sized school of business. We have about 200 employees. That includes the tenure track faculty, the sessional instructors, the support staff. Well, there’s no way Gord, that I can know everything about every role, every strategy, every constraint or opportunity. And I certainly never assume that I’m the smartest person in the room.

There are a lot of smart people here in the school of business. There are a lot of smart people in every organization. So a leader really needs to be humble. But as I also added, very importantly, while you need to listen to other people, and gather that input and be collaborative, you need to be able to be decisive, make decisions because at the end of the day, as a leader of an organization, you are expected to make decisions. Sometimes they’re easy ones. Oftentimes they’re hired ones, but you have to decide.

Gordon Sheppard: I really can hear in your tone of voice. I like that shift that you made in there. And I wonder if there is sort of an example that comes to mind where you’ve been in a leadership moment for where you had to make a tough call because like you said, you’ve gotten to the end of that collaborative moment, you’ve listened, you’ve had the humility, but at the end of the day in the leadership role, you’ve got to pull the trigger. Is there one that comes to mind that you can share as an example? Again, not naming names necessarily, but maybe situationally describing that for us?

Joseph Doucet: Sure. When you think about a school of business, and you as an alumnus of this school, you’re very familiar with the different disciplines in this school. We have a great finance group, great accounting group, great strategy, great marketing and so on. And each of these groups in this school is world-class. We have world-class teachers and researchers that we’ve recruited globally. They’re all very competitive. And they also want to attract more colleagues within their disciplines.

Well, at the end of the day, we always have choices to make and constraints. The next hire, the next faculty member or sessional that we hire isn’t always an easy decision. And as you would expect, as I expect my colleagues in finance believe that finance is a very important priority. I agree with them. My colleagues in strategy believe that strategy is very important priority. But I have to decide what that next hire is going to be.

I have to decide how our programs are going to evolve such that we have different or new course offerings. And that may be in business analytics or data analytics. That may be an operations management, that may be in finance or particular area of accounting. So it’s an interest in conundrum, where it does require that I the Dean be decisive and at the end of the day while listening to all my colleagues and taking in their input and suggestions as to where we need to hire and what we need to prioritize as areas. I have to make the decision that this area this year is the most important.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, I’m so glad again to take in. You can hear you’re very experienced perspective on that, but I’m going to really glean off of your tone. I think what strikes me there that people will take away as they can hear that that’s really what carries the day, and you’re not always going to be right. And in fact, my curiosity just coming off of what you just said and given your background, where’s your growth through yourself in leadership? Is there something more to gain or if you’ve already got all your tools done?

Joseph Doucet: No. Well, I like to believe and very honestly believe that I am not done, and I will continue to lead. And you mentioned some of my outside activities. I am the Chair of the Board of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, which is a fantastic organization and a very interesting organization in terms of its structure and governance, the relationship with the city, the relationship with firms and businesses. And so in the time that I’ve been on that board, I’ve learned a whole lot, and I’ve been chair for about six months, and it’s a fantastic opportunity. Now of course, opportunities always come at a cost. And here the cost is the time and energy required, but I say to you that I welcome those new opportunities even though they are demanding, they are taxing that I have a very busy schedule because I continue to learn a lot.

Gordon Sheppard: Wow. What a great gift to yourself in a sense to have that lifelong learning piece as you go forward. And it’s always interesting to me meet folks at different decades and times, and it sounds like you’ll have a very rich future going forward. And I wish we could continue this general part of the leadership piece. The second part that we’d like to get into in these interviews, and given your experience, Just said chair of a significant board and all these other leadership moments that you’ve been in. My guess is that you’ve been in a few meetings?

Joseph Doucet: I might say Gord, that I’ve been in too many meetings.

Gordon Sheppard: Oh my goodness. I tell people I’ve actually, with my corporate experience and combined it may be age 52, I’ll all say to an audience, if I’m speaking at a conference, I’ll say, “I’ve either run or participated in more than 2000 meetings.” And you can hear the younger people in the audience gasp, and then the older people, their faces start to drop as they add up the 3,000 and 4,000 and 5,000 depending on what industry they’ve been in. What are your tips or can we hear your leadership perspective, what are your tips for running a great meeting?

Joseph Doucet: So I’m very clear with regard to meetings that I run. I believe that you need to have an agenda. I believe that people need to arrive prepared. And so the expectation needs to be that people have read the material or thought of the issues. I very much believe that you should receive the material ahead of time. One of the horrors I believe is to get to a meeting, and be given a slide deck or a 20 page document and be told, “Well, we didn’t want to distribute this ahead of time.” To me that sends the complete wrong message. If you want me to participate effectively in a meeting that requires that I’d be prepared. And for me to be prepared, I need to have time to think about the material, think about the issues, think about the strategies or solutions.

So well prepared meeting with the materials distributed ahead of time and a shared expectation. And I say shared expectation, and the chair of the meeting or the person leading the meeting needs to set that tone, that shared expectation is that people will have arrived prepared. And I guess finally, we need to be really clear on the different types of meetings. There are meetings where we simply want to share information, and there are other meetings or parts of meetings where we want to make decisions come to a specific decision on an issue. And so we also need to be clear on that.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, I’m so glad again to hear. It’d be fun to be in your meetings because it sounds like they’ll go really well. What happens when someone in one of your meetings doesn’t meet your expectation? Do you cancel the meeting? Do you stop the meeting? How do you really, again, create that culture around the situation to actually carry your expectations out?

Joseph Doucet: That’s a good question, Gordon. It’s sometimes a little bit more delicate because you want the meeting to be as effective as possible. You also want to set the stage for the next meeting and the interactions that you and the individuals are going to have in the success of the organization. So sometimes it might not make sense to publicly dress someone down in a meeting because they’re not prepared or because they arrive late so on. But certainly, if it were a recurring issue, then I would want to take someone aside, and gently but firmly and clearly explain to them what the issue is, and why that type of behavior, whatever it may be, whether it’s not being prepared or arriving late, why that doesn’t contribute to the success of the organization.

Gordon Sheppard: You are a true diplomat. And I’m not sure if you picked up these gifts either from your career or your marriage that you mentioned earlier, but the diplomacy is clearly there in your words, and I know a lot of people are going to appreciate the fact that that is actually not a black and white issue, but there’s really a bending aspect in it. And I’m just wondering while you’re here, if you could comment on this. I actually teach now at conferences across Alberta, and getting out to Ontario down to the states, this kind of thing.

I’m stunned that when I’m in front of, I’m going to say doctors, engineers, people from professions, lawyers, this kind of thing, that these kind of meeting and based skills often aren’t taught in their school. So I quite literally, it could be in a room full of 20 surgeons, and they’re frustrated that their committee meetings aren’t running well. And there’s all kinds of factors around personalities and aid types in this thing they run into, but they haven’t actually just taken the time or been mandated to take the time at some point in their training to learn these skills. Do you have a feeling about maybe why that is and what’s happening?

Joseph Doucet: Well, I think running a meeting, similar to managing a team, similar to being part of a team and coming to a decision, these are very important skills that sometimes people assume that they’re easily acquired or don’t understand that they need to be taught and practiced in order to be perfected. So you gave the example of surgeons. And I have obviously the greatest respect for the medical profession and the training involved in the medical profession, but too often as you suggest, people are trained for those skills related to their profession, but not trained for being part of an organization, or the organizational skills that are required for them to, in some sense, support the fundamental activities such as delivering healthcare. So I really believe in, and of course, being the Dean of a business school, I have a bias here, but I really believe that there are many fundamental organizational skills that are understood and communicated or articulated in business education that could be of great value in many other situations and professions.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, and I would agree with that completely. And it’s only because when I’m in these training situations, and I’m meeting these people, and they’re coming up to me afterwards ,and I would say the three out of 24, the 20 are highly motivated to actually get into this, but they just simply don’t have the tools. And a lot of my tools are very practical and move them forward in a quick way, but some of them want to do deeper work in this kind of thing.

I’m so glad to hear that that resource might be included through the offerings at the school of business. And again, your perspective is a great one to have there. And I appreciate the bias aspect as well. It’s nice to hear you. This leadership description that you’ve had. You’ve taken us through a few great tips. I know that anybody who’s been listening to the show is already picking up a lot. Again from again, the attitude that you have towards leadership, the tips that you’ve got for great meetings. And the final question that we’d like to ask in these interviews and I’m just going to lay it out there for you. Is this, what inspires you?

Joseph Doucet: Well, I’ll come back to my role here in the Alberta School of Business Gord. What inspires me each and every day is the fantastic students, colleagues, alumni, and all of the other stakeholders that I work with. And that could be my Dean colleagues here at the university, employers who interact with us here in the school, but often I bring it back to the students because we have 2000 undergraduate students here in the school. We have close to a thousand graduate students in our different masters and PhD program.

They are also incredibly bright as you would expect. But they’re also engaged, and they’re mature, and they’re strategic and they want to make the world a better place. Of course, many of them want to end up in business and do well in a career, but I’m always heartened by the fact that they’re not thinking only of themselves and personal riches or glory. They’re actually mostly thinking about how they can contribute to important organizations and how they can be better citizens and community members.

Gordon Sheppard: Wow. So you get to really smile a lot when you go into work?

Joseph Doucet: You know what, I tell the students that what I hope for them is what I have. And that is an ability to see every day as a great day because I love what I do. I feel very fortunate to be in this role, and I’m just so thankful and appreciative that I get to do this every day.

Gordon Sheppard: Wow. Just you can hear again how lifted up you are by the story that you’ve just told. To add in one piece to maybe put a bit of a bow on the conversation we’ve been having. So I came out of a career, and helped to use the MBA to transition into the work that I do now. One of the premises of my work would not have occurred. I would have had I not been through the business education piece, and come to help people, in this case, training them to have better meetings, which is what I do a lot of and leadership skills. I’m able now to articulate a basic premise of my work, which is I believe that you should be able to stop any meeting at any moment and connect that moment directly to your strategy.

And the ability to be articulate in being able then to help people with their strategies because often they don’t know their vision statement, they don’t know their mission statement. Those strategies are sitting up on the shelf. Having the bundle to be able to pull those things together. And again, back to just being one of that gang that those thousands you’re mentioning who’s literally out there to change the world. In my little piece of the world, I’m carrying forward what’s inspiring you. So I’m so thrilled to hear that that all goes really well together.

Joseph Doucet: Well, thank you Gordon. I appreciate hearing that from a happy and successful alumnus. I really do.

Gordon Sheppard: And if anybody ever needed to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that?

Joseph Doucet: You can connect with me through my webpage. Just Google search Joseph Doucet at the University of Alberta. And I answer every email that I get.

Gordon Sheppard: Wow. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Joseph Doucet: Gord, It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, I think that you have to agree that that was a highly valuable episode. Some of the favorite tips in there for me were, making sure that as a leader you listen and empathize, and really find your own way to be authentic when it comes to leading your teams. And I also want to pick up on another aspect that Joseph referred to as in be aware of what type of meeting you’re going to be in. And if you’d like to learn more about that topic, check out Episode 41 on the Meeting Leadership Podcast. It’s called, Why All Types of Meetings Need To Connect To Strategy. And you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/41.

Gordon Sheppard: And I also want to let you know 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 get some really great options for live training for you and your team as in half day options, one on one coaching and anything that you’re going to need when it comes to resources, especially online resources to really take your meetings up a notch and build your leadership skills. And you can learn more about that by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/academy. And if you’re already a subscriber, thank you so much for being here. And if you haven’t done it yet, take a moment to hit the subscribe button on your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss an episode in the future. And as always, thank you so much for listening. And we’ll see you next time 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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