7 Best business books to steal

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Best Books
Best Books

For the past 8 years I’ve helped people source great information to aid them with their career transition. This includes developing a small but successful collection of book titles.  How do I know the collection is successful? Because there are certain titles that consistently migrate off the shelves and out the door!

For those of you thinking of changing roles, jobs or careers, below are some well-read titles that you can check out on Google Books – food for thought.


  1. Who moved my cheese? by Spencer Johnson
  2. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
  3. Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine
  4. Work the Pond by Darcy Rezac
  5. First 90 Days by Michael Watkins
  6. People Styles at Work by Robert Bolton
  7. Flawless Consulting by Peter Block

How about you? Read any good business books? Like to make some recommendations?  Go ahead and share your favourites in the comments.



National League of Cities: City Treasurers, the New Urban Super Heroes?

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Pennies saved are pennies earned

I heard the weirdest story on CBC’s The Sunday Edition: Treasurers for the Poor.  City Treasurers in US cities are creating programs to help their citizens out of poverty!?  Apparently those treasurers, who are members of the National League of Cities, have developed Guides and Tools, based on actual programs.  The program highlighted by Michael Enright interviewing Heidi Goldberg is designed to help with basic financial literacy such as:

  • a roster of financial empowerment initiatives
  • Bank On Cities: a step-by-step guide for launching “Bank On” initiatives that help working families avoid high-cost check cashing and other fringe financial services.

In a previous career I worked at a bank and I can tell you there is no reason to assume that most people understand anything about basic banking and financial management.  Sales tactics from financial firms focus too much on debt: credit cards, loans, mortgages and credit lines.

Not too long ago the bank that holds our mortgage called me on the pretext of a service quality inquiry.  The real reason was to sell me a pre-approved line of credit “…because in these uncertain time, if I lose my job, a line of credit will be a source of financial security…and I need to act now because employment is a requirement for a line of credit…”.  Madness!  Most people don’t understand the premise of paying themselves first.  When you have savings, you have options, including saying no to debt. But first you need savings. Perhaps it’s the bankers’ goal of indebtedness that city treasurers understand well enough to create program helping their citizens.

People generally want to live well: earn enough to be comfortable, pay their way, know their neighbours have a chance to do well too.  This includes doing well enough to pay your city taxes.  Would you have thought that the local tax collector would be a social activist for their rate payers?  I sure didn’t. What a nice surprise!

International Women’s Day: 6 women, 2 hours, 1 video and a couple of bottles of wine

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If you’re following this blog you’ll know it’s part of a course requirement: Foundations of Digital Communication and Social Media.  Part of the course requirement was the video assignment:

  • form a team, in our case 7 women
  • come up with a premise for a video
  • establish a social media plan
  • create a script.

Then, in the subsequent class we had 2 hours to shoot and edit the video – no more than 2 minutes in length – and present it in class!   Ah, the the joys and sorrows, highs and lows of a pressure assignment.  We had some bumps along the way.  No bumps, no learning.  Here’s the special thing about this experience: I had an opportunity to work with 6 very cool and supportive women on something creative.  We all have different backgrounds and experience in communication and social media.  We all have different demands outside of our course time.  We all had a commitment to turn out the best video we could and do right by each other.  As a result, this was one of my best group efforts, both educationally and professionally.  I’m pleased to share our little video with you.  And to keep the good vibe of International Women’s Day going I’d like to thank the 6 talented women who ‘made it happen’:

Michelle Rosen – Hej! Sweden
Meg Shannon – Palate Practice
Jill Kennedy – That’s the Idea
Silvana Aceto – Painted Ladies
Rachel Low – Eatable Films
Natalia Mozayani –rsicsandbox


Warmer weather – best social channel

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It’s one of the few weekends in recent memory when going outside seems like fun.  The windchill only made it feel like -10 celsius. The sun was wonderfully warm.  We (my husband Mike and I) decided to go out to the other end of the city to visit one of our favourite bakeries and try a new one.

Mincemeat Tart
Mincemeat Tart Anna’s Bakery & Deli

Our first stop was  Anna’s Bakery and Deli on Bloor West.  The store window is great, completely filled with baked goods.  It’s quite possible that the calorie count in Anna’s window far exceeds the retail prices of the clothes in Holt Renfrew‘s windows!  Holt’s would drool over the crowd that was mesmerized by the pastry display.

Anna’s has two things that we truly appreciate, fresh doughnuts and pierogi.  We walked out with three bags of pierogi featuring cabbage & mushroom, cheddar cheese and white cheese.  In addition to the plum doughnuts, we also succumbed to raspberry turnovers and mincemeat tarts.  The tart is truly wonderful, I’m munching on it as I write this entry.  It has a crumble topping in place of pastry which is a great idea.  The mince is very spicy!  Whoo!  Love it.

Having purchased far too many goodies from Anna’s we headed off to our second destination, on Queen West in Parkdale.  It’s a fair walk from Bloor to Parkdale.  Mike took us south on Roncesvalles through the village.  I’ve live in TO over 10 years and I’ve never walked this neighbourhood. What an amazing little place.  What a busy little place!  It was past 1pm and we were looking for some brunch.  We’d stopped to look at the menu for The Westerly when a lady who’d passed us turned, smiled and said, “It’s good, you should go in”.  OK!  I don’t need to be told twice.  It’s a funky little place with an enticing menu.  Finally I settled on the mac & cheese while Mike had the short-rib hash with poached egg.  The folks in this kitchen know how to keep everything tasty and light.  They also served up some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.

Fortified, we headed down to Queen Street.  Hmmm, so this is where the edgy, hip spirit of Queen Street moved.  And yes,

Banana Cream Doughnut
Banana Cream Doughnut, Glory Hole

Glory Hole, our second destination, does know more than a thing or two about doughnuts!  The gent behind the counter asked if we’ve been to the store before.  Nope.  A friend made a Facebook post with a glowing recommendation.   These are not your typical doughnuts, so the choice was a challenge.  We each chose two treats.  So far, we’ve split a Tiramisu with a lovely espresso cream filling.  Mike shared only a taste of the filling to his Banana Cream doughnut. It clearly features real bananas. The London Fog and Chai doughnuts are for tomorrow.

This city has great food! And along with great food comes great neighbourhoods, great community and great social interaction.  People who stop and chat over a pastry display.  A complete stranger passes and offers a restaurant recommendation.  A friend makes a Facebook recommendation and we walk 4k out of curiosity!  It’s amazing what happens to Torontonians when the weather improves.  We thaw out and take our social inclinations off line and onto the street.

Wanna share your favourite bakeries?  Post your recommendations and we can all plot out weekend walking tours of a #greatfoodcityTO!

Freedom to Read!

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Freedom to Read Week 2015
Freedom to Read 2015

It’s Freedom to Read week in Canada!

Is there anything we should not be permitted to read?  Is there anything too dangerous for us to know?  Every year the Book and Periodical Council sponsors a week of awareness around the issues of intellectual freedom and  censorship. The list of challenged works is long and interesting,  It includes Maclean’s Magazine and Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale.  There are various reasons for works to be challenged. Have a look at the Challenged Works list and you’ll get an inkling of what they are.

Beginning March 16th, CBC celebrates our love of literature with Canada Reads. You can get in on the conversations and debates because the CBC makes the most of every media opportunity: live events via Eventbrite, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Podcasts, YouTube, Blog, and oh yeah, Radio!

This year the roster includes:

  • Cameron Bailey, defending the novel Ru by Kim Thuy
  • Kristin Kreuk, defending the memoir Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee
  • Craig Kielburger, defending the non-fiction book The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
  • Elaine “Lainey” Lui, defending the YA novel When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
  • Martha Wainwright, defending the novel And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier

We have the freedom to read what we choose.  Enjoy!



Alan Cumming is the new 50

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Alan Cumming drops by my place on a semi-regular basis, whenever Masterpiece Mystery is on.  As the host he functions as the preface to the story about to unfold to a very devoted community of viewers.  I’m particularly fond of his introduction to Cabal, one of the Zen episodes, and his saucy suggestion to “…use your imagination”.

This past week the Globe and Mail started a new column, Milestones in which Alan Cumming authored his own article entitled Why I keep Dancing as Time Marches On.  In this piece we’re treated to a another kind of preface, one that introduces us to a person beginning his 5th decade.  Before reading this article all I knew about Alan was what he shared through performances that I’d seen:  Boris in Goldeneye, Kurt in X-Men 2, and Mr. Gold in The Good Wife.  (Not to be confused with another Scottish actor playing another amoral TV character named Mr. Gold in Once Upon a Time, Robert Carlyle.  Cool typecasting coincidence, eh?)

Last year I turned 50, and so it was interesting to read what it takes to keep a Broadway performer going. One of the things that struck me is the notion of ‘team Alan’.  There is no ‘team Fran’, but I’ve decided to create a little version of my own.  What will it take to keep me going in order to live my life well?

  • Pilates/yoga:  like too many people, I sit all day and little aches are becoming normal.  Gotta keep those joints happy.
  • Continuing education: recently I’ve rediscovered the fun of learning for its own sake.  I took a singing class with a bunch of other non-singers. It was fun laughing at myself as I advanced from terrible to bad.  Our teacher, Jennifer Tung at the Toronto Royal Conservatory coaches real singers and she treated us like real singers too. I cannot remember when a group of students were so impressed with their teacher.
  • Events: for lack of a better term.  It’s time to get out more frequently and enjoy the fun stuff a big city has to offer.
  • Keep writing: I love stories and, in my youth, actually had a desire to be a writer of some kind.  But when I graduated from university student debt and the pangs of responsibility narrowed my focus to finding a ‘real’ job.  Tsk, tsk.  So, keep putting fingertips to keyboard and write on!
  • Ramp up the salon visits.  A few more facials and assorted maintenance work would boost morale, not just my appearance.

Now I can’t say that I have the energy perform in a Broadway chorus line or to party like a 20 year old.  Even as a 20 year old, that wasn’t my thing.  But I can stay healthy, curious and most importantly, engaged.

If you’re reading this and have a milestone birthday coming up, I wish you a very Happy Birthday.  It’s your new year and I hope you make the most of it.



Finding a voice: a surprisingly difficult challenge

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Understanding Academic Library Research: A Guide For Students
Understanding Academic Library Research: A Guide For Students

It was a surprisingly difficult challenge.  In a previous role I had been asked to write a booklet (link to Dropbox) to help undergraduate students with their library research skills.  Academic libraries are choc-a-block with finding guides: how to find this type of information; how to search this type of database.  There really wasn’t any point in trying to write a guide-of-guides.  So if the goal wasn’t about focusing on the ‘how’ of library research, I would focus on the ‘why’.  The simple answer, the utilitarian one, is that if students want good grades then they need good secondary research materials.  They should do what their profs tell them to do and use the library.  Condescension disguised as education.  How parochial.  How dull.  How hard it is to escape an attitude when it’s all around you.

Even with the best of intentions, every time I started explaining what undergrads typically do wrong I seemed to blame them for it.  What’s wrong with them? Eventually I remembered that, when you run into the same answer and you know there’s something wrong with that answer, it means you’re asking the wrong question.  The question wasn’t why students don’t know how to do library research.  The question was why should they know how to to do library research.  And then, like Alice following the white rabbit, I followed my question into a wonderland of fabulous insights. Suddenly the tone of my writing changed too.  Suddenly I was no longer telling students what to do, but engaging in a conversation because now I was in my reader’s shoes.  They were sharing their needs with me.

It’s fascinating to see how much changes when we move from a closed communication system to an open one.  A marketing professional once told me that ‘people need to be told what to think’ and by extension, what to buy.  How parochial. How dull. How hard it is to escape an attitude when it’s all around you.  I should have thanked the marketing pro for speaking so plainly though. It’s easy to be the expert, to hold all the answers, to dictate terms when you can opt out of listening to anyone who doesn’t sound like you.  Or more dishearteningly, when people: students, employees, clients, women, minorities, etc., don’t actually ‘buy’ what they’re being sold or told.  Social media has enabled, in some case empowered, people to be heard and not ignored.  The questions are changing. Less interesting is ‘why I should buy your product, service, or idea’.  More interesting is ‘why should I listen to you at all’, and ‘are you listening to me’?  We’re now questioning notions of status, hierarchy, authority as we open up access to information sources, funding, productivity tools and networks.  It’s disruptive. It’s innovative. It’s confusing.  It’s a lot like being a fresh-faced undergrad facing 1st year university.  Hopefully we’re all learning to ask better questions.

In case you may have forgotten how powerful it can be to questions, to be a little less parochial, a little less dull, and attempt to escape an attitude that seems to be in the very air that surrounds you, have a look at this little video.  It will remind you of how powerful it can be to think different.