organizational behaviour department. There’s a component of my
work that is traditional teaching, but I also participate in organizational
change initiatives, such as faculty visioning exercises
and setting strategic priorities. The third part of my role is to be a
conduit between the university and the local, national and global
business communities. I am basically here to be a professional resource
to students and faculty.
What do you love about your job?
MS: The first thing I love is that I don’t actually have a job in the
traditional sense – I have a portfolio of interests. I have a wonderful
position at McGill, where my experience and expertise
are being well leveraged to help students see the world through
a different perspective. This role also pushes me to keep learning
myself, and I have a lot more control over what I do, so that I have
variety and complexity on my own terms.
What are the challenges you experience in your job?
MS: I’m a very community-oriented person, and very loyal to my
group of people. So, being a free agent all of a sudden was very challenging
– where do I belong and who are my people? There wasn’t
an obvious answer. Fortunately, I now have several organizations in
which I feel at home. Another challenge is that in the university environment,
we’re under constant budgetary pressure. It’s always a
challenge to make tough decisions when there are a lot of competing
demands for scarce resources. The last challenge would be having an
impact in the limited time I do have with the students.
What’s key to leading HR during a difficult
time for a client organization?
MS: I’ve had both good times and bad times in my career. It’s interesting
how some of the key leadership attributes are the same
during both. From a leadership perspective, the challenge is always
to focus on the bigger picture. You may feel you’re playing tennis
with one racket against a hundred opponents who are all lobbing
balls at you, but focusing on the overall outcome will always get
you through. Also, be a source of calm amidst the chaos. People
will look to you to stay above the fray and provide a sense of direction
and optimism for the future. And, finally, get things done! Say
what you’re going to do, and do it.
What skills are important for success in HR?
MS: Clearly, HR exists as a service to the greater enterprise.
Knowing the business of the business – the intricacies of how that
business works – is a given. For HR in particular, you need the
ability to know your function at a level where you can engage, inspire
and challenge in the best way possible. You also need good
listening skills and integrity. We have to deal with humanity at its
best and worst, and we must get the right things done.
What tips do you have for new grads or those in entrylevel
HR jobs who want to move up the ladder?
MS: Do your homework and know what opportunities are open
to you. Once you know those parts of the puzzle, get out of your
comfort zone! Move into a line job or a supervisory role to understand
the challenges of management, so you can be a better adviser.
What’s the future of HR?
MS: To me, HR should not be isolated. There are too many articles
about how to get HR to the table. Let’s get over that; HR is at
the table! The real question is how does HR become more effective?
Essentially, the things that make each business unique are the
people who show up to work every morning and go home every afternoon.
Organizations need to understand how to leverage that
uniqueness as a competitive advantage and deploy it in support of
the enterprise goal. n
First job: I was a lifeguard at an apartment
building pool when I was 15.
Childhood ambition: I wanted to be a
doctor. That lasted well into my undergrad
degree and is one of the reasons I
did the master’s in health administration.
Best boss and why: I had some really
great bosses, but I’d have to say my
last boss at AIMIA, Group CEO Rupert
Duchesne, was probably my best for
a couple of reasons. First, he had intellectual
horsepower to the max and
constantly challenged my thinking. He
was also one of the most humane leaders
I’ve worked with – he cared as much
about the people as the profit.
Current source of inspiration: I have two
daughters, aged 18 and 21. They inspire
me for so many reasons. They are strong
young women who have clear views
of the world; they give me a fresh new
Best piece of advice you ever got: This
goes back to very early in my career. I
was flailing around trying to get a handle
on how to implement a new mandate.
My boss said, “Just do good work.” So,
focus on doing the best work you can
do and stop being paralyzed about how
to do it.
Favourite music: Classic rock going
back to the early 1970s. Carole King is a
Last book you read: Hillary
Rodham Clinton’s Hard Choices.
It was a good description of a
tough job in a tough environment.
How you spend your time away from
work: My primary activity is helping to
support human rights education and
development through my work chairing
the board at EQUITAS-International
Centre for Human Rights Education. I’m
very involved in supporting their efforts.
And, I also like to travel with my husband
IN A NUTSHELL
70 ❚ MAY/JUNE 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL