I have taken the answers to specific questions from Kevin Shea’s, Carrie Katz’s and Lois Fallis’ interview and presented them so you can compare and contrast. I will do this today and tomorrow and next week I will present another Invisible Mentor interview. Think of the questions below while you are reading the blog post.
- How does the information relate to your work and life?
- What are five takeaways?
- What qualities do you have that are similar to the interviewees?
- How will those qualities aid your success?
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Montreal, and my family moved to Los Angeles when I was nine months old, and I’d like to say it was because I was having difficulty with two languages. My parents moved back to Canada, to Toronto when I was about 10. I grew up in Toronto and was involved as an actor when I was a kid and was always connected to the broadcasting television business. I knew that was the business that I wanted to get into. I went to York University and studied history, I’m not sure why I did that. After university I started my career in the cable industry.
Many years later I am now running my own company SheaChez Communications, have been for the past five years. I get involved in various start-up companies where I assist them with CRTC licensing applications, which is a role I did with Sirius Satellite Radio. And I sit on a variety of different boards of private companies and I am chairman of what’s called the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
When I lived in Montreal I was always involved in community affairs. From when I was a child my mother would take me when she went from door-to-door under the heading of UJA requesting money for the poor. My mother has three children, and for some reason, I’m the one that that resonated with. So from a young child I was always involved in something in the community. As a young mother I started the Montreal Career Women’s Network in 1984. At the time, there weren’t any similar services of its kind. In Quebec it was more difficult to get it going because of the line between French Quebecois and the Anglophones, so that was a lot of work, but it was fantastic how we brought the two groups together. The Network is still operating today so I am very proud of that.
I also started a successful business with a friend called Origami Plus which operated for 19 years until it closed in 2009. Origami Plus was synonymous with people who were interested in paper. It was the first paper store that people could come in and do creative things, like make invitations, anything that had to do with paper.
I moved to Toronto and once again became involved in community work. For me, I think it’s my essence, it helps me to feel like I’m participating in the world.
We had quite a large family, and this was after the Second World War (World War II), and many people were having large families at that point. I was one of two children, and my brother was killed in the Second World War so I became an only child in a way. I had a great deal of music instruction in my life because my mom was an organist and choir leader, and I had singing and piano lessons from her. As I became older I developed that, and one of my major jobs in life was being a musician. I have six children, three boys and three girls.
Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
My big break came when Phil Lind at Rogers hired me to operate Cable Satellite Network way back when, and put me into Rogers a much bigger company than I was with in a leadership role. He remains both a close business associate and key mentor of mine. When I moved around in Rogers, Colin Watson who was my boss was an incredibly supportive and smart guy, so I would say it was a big break getting into Rogers at that time.
Bluma Appel gave me my biggest break, in being my mentor and offering me a position to work with her in 1976, The Year of the Woman. She was the Liaison of Women and Industry and I became her assistant. That was definitely a turning point in my life.
The big break is probably in the musical world. I decided that I wanted to do something different so I joined the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir led by conductor Elmer Iseler . By then I had done a lot of singing, and I was asked to be a part of a small professional group that Elmer had that was called the Festival Singers so I was with them for four or five years, then I went into teaching. I had an opportunity to teach Orff music in Toronto schools and I did that half time. I had some help come into the home at that point.
Note: Orff music is a type of music with xylophones and glockenspiels. It was started in Europe and then we brought it to Canada. Orff is named after Carl Orff and is sometimes called Music for Young Children.
What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
- Patience is huge
- Work with great teams
- Respect your work mates
- Make change quickly
- Family is the most important thing
- Be kind to others
- Listen when someone speaks
- Like yourself
- Have laughter in your life
- Make it work, that is a phrase that we had in our family. If things weren’t going right you negotiated or talked it through. No one walked away not speaking to each other. I think that’s so important, you don’t walk away from the problem, you face it with whomever.
- Take risks and do not worry about what other people think. Try to make decisions on your own, and do not have everybody try to tell you what to do.
- Listening is very important and I wish I would have listened more and I would have loved to spend more time with friends. As I’ve said, I’m all over the place.
- I have always been interested in the church, religion and spirituality and have taken many courses in that, and I have continued because it’s important and it is not necessarily any one religion, it’s what you believe in, and try to figure that out. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you are always questioning, and you should, because for each generation you change and you aren’t the same.
- Tell people that you love and care for them, and don’t be afraid to do that. Don’t be afraid to phone somebody, and don’t wait for someone to say, “I haven’t heard from….” I always think that’s a two-way street. You should telephone people and you should be interested in them and don’t be afraid to show love and affection.
What process do you use to generate great ideas?
I don’t think that I have a specific process. Ideas come to me then I bounce them off people. I mean ideas can land at any time, it’s more what you are doing with your ideas opposed to having them. How can you move on them? I just joined the Idea Council for a major ad agency that I can’t name. Big ad agencies are struggling today and they are trying to figure out how to respond to the market. The ad agency has brought together five of us from completely different walks of life. We meet once a month for three hours with the entire management, and we are basically charged with coming up with ideas. Ideas in terms of new kinds of partnerships, things they should be looking at, these are the emerging technologies, how to win particular clients, and it’s kind of fun. We are given nothing in advance, they make a presentation as soon as we get there, and it creates a very interesting environment because the single purpose is to share ideas.
I have a friend in HR who I’ve been friends with for over 35 years. She conducted a series of test and the thing that keeps coming through is that I’m an idea person. I’m always idea generating about whatever, it could be about making dinner for friends. It’s part of my DNA, it’s an every day process for me.
I write down what I’d like to get across and bring in more than one idea at a time. I do this by email, then I come back and let’s say there were five ideas, I narrow it down to one, then start generating the concept.
I have written a couple of children’s song books and they were published and were great successes and are still out in the market. They are called Seasons and Themes, and A Glass Slipper, and I wrote all these songs myself, and it was partly because of teaching. I found that it was so easy as a teacher, the songs kept coming out of my head. I’d come out of the classroom, and I’d have so many wonderful ideas because I was where the children were, and I’d write songs about whatever, the spring, whatever they were doing I would write a song. I wrote a dinosaur song, and the songs came to me quite easily. I got ideas from being around the children. I always have ideas, if someone says something I would say why don’t you think about this, it just seems to flow.
What are five takeaways? What ideas can you adapt immediately? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.