Stop and smell the…yellow-bellied marmot?!

Leadership: Develop Unlimited Talent
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Jun 3, 2015 | Blog

For those of you who have stood across from the Tourist Information Centre in Victoria harbour and admired the Fairmont Empress at the corner of Humboldt and Government, you may not have had a clue you were so close to such an unlikely celebrity sighting. I certainly didn’t on a recent visit, until a small hand grabbed mine and yanked me down a little path leading into The Empress gardens. Rather than a detour to “smell the roses”, however, this detour offered us quite the unexpected – Roger, the yellow-bellied marmot. 

What a wondrous moment to spot this (somewhat elusive) colony of one. Upon reflection, two things are worth highlighting that opened up this truly enriching opportunity: 

Someone else led the way

In handing over the tour-guide reigns to our young travel companion, we were led down a path we wouldn’t have otherwise stopped to explore. What else might we be missing out on when we’re skimming the surface of a typical city tour using a typical city guide map? When it comes to our staff, volunteer, and board roles within the not-for-profit sector, what might we encounter, in wonderment, if we were to go beyond using the “trusted” or the “best” practices in leadership, governance, and people engagement. Where are the opportunities to take a detour down a little travelled path to reveal a truly impactful course of action?

I let go of needing to know what would happen next

In general, I like to know what comes next. As a parent I’ve been challenged to lower my expectations in that area (yes, something of an understatement!). And I’m a far more skilled and authentic leader as a result. As Branislav Henselmann reminded us recently during his guest appearance at our City of Vancouver supported In-Depth Lifecycle Series, the opportunity for leaders to move the dial on organizational sustainability and mission achievement lies in our ability to “accept ambiguity as a permanent state.”

It has struck me that these two states of being are critical in opening up our organizations to the many wondrous, enriching, and incredibly impactful volunteers (or knowledge philanthropists) that may be awaiting an opportunity to contribute to our missions. Our true leadership capability lies in developing the skills, the comfort, and the will to encourage, support, and inspire others to lead the way – board, staff and highly talented volunteers. Our greatest mission potential lies in reversing the gravitational pull towards needing to know what will happen next. Sharing leadership takes a high degree of trust and confidence – and it is so worth the investment.

In truly co-creating our family sojourn to Victoria we experienced the intricacies of the space capsule in Miniature World, a wander around wild flowers at little-known Summit Hill Park, two rounds of mini golf, slide slipping and zip lining at umpteen playgrounds (we highly recommend the octopus playground at Cadboro Bay!), and a memorable stop at the corner of Humboldt and Government to stop for a visit with Roger, the yellow-bellied marmot.


What memorable stops will your organization’s many leaders take you to? 


Maria Turnbull

Maria Turnbull brings over 20 years of leadership experience in staff and director roles within the not-for-profit sector, both here in Canada and in the UK. With a BA in International Relations and MBA, Maria is a skilled facilitator and consultant in board governance, organizational development,…

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