op-ed: on leadership, writing, and BC wine

op-ed: on leadership, writing, and BC wine

To grow good writers, like good leaders, we have a part to play in an unspoken but necessary social contract in which it’s required of us to hold them to task and provide an environment for them to get better at what they do. And before we unpack this loaded statement, let’s take a breath together. <breathe, please>

The sentence begins with a series of assumptions (the reader is in a democratic place, has the ability and want for good writers and good leaders), and includes an agreed upon definition of ‘good’ in relation to ‘writers’ and ‘leaders’ with a not-so-thinly-veiled layer of morality. A ‘social contract’ assumes the reader is part of a type of a (likely privileged) society, participates in it, and understands the role they play. Further, there’s an assumption we want to improve: on our participation, our status, ourselves as people along that scale of ‘good’ for themselves and the world in which they belong (the immediate and greater).

A reader can infer a lot about the writer from a seemingly simple sentence presented as opinion editorial. Recently I had opportunity to briefly discuss my inherent assumption of the social contract (thank you, Christine & David), that there is one, and how I use it as a lens through which to view my participation and the engagement of others. The conversation was challenging, but not a challenge of my ideas and perspective; it required me to ask questions of myself and in doing so helped me to better see my own lens (read: bias). As a writer, my continued development requires an awareness and it’s something I struggle to remind myself of.

on leaders

While it’s part of our social contract to engage with each other and our leaders (political, employment, community), it behooves us to do so constructively (another term loaded with assumption). On my new writing platform I’ve written about leading with heart (my friend Sandra Oldfield) and I subscribe to general concepts of leadership as touched on by poet and author David Whyte. A strong element of ‘good’ (assumption) leadership is the willingness to be vulnerable, allowing space for those around you to do the work they’re meant to do and, in doing this work, provide breathing room and growth opportunities for those in positions of leadership. It’s akin to geese flying south, each taking turns to lead; if one remained in the leadership space, it would be exhausted and the whole flying V would fail. Geese are emblematic of offering that space, of showing their vulnerabilities (“hey, I can’t do this alone”), of asking for help.

From small businesses to larger corporate organizations, good leadership can make or break its workplace culture and the culture within which the business operates. I have experience with all aspects along this spectrum, from great leaders in small businesses to poor leaders in larger ones and vice-versa. One common fault with poor leaders is an inability or reluctance to see success in others as their own. One universal strength in great leaders is the value they place on the successes of their team, as individuals and a larger group. Basically, good leaders give a damn about the people around them.

on writing

Part of my social contract as a writer involves engaging with my surroundings, looking for, and seeing, these differences. At present my surroundings include a still somewhat fragile and relatively new BC wine industry, growing at a fast rate. It’s an industry I love and believe in, populated largely with people who work tirelessly for something they might not realize in their lifetime. Friends, acquaintances, colleagues put forward a vision larger than themselves and strive to see it – and others – succeed. That’s leadership, from the ground up. A large part of my role is to identify those people, champion for them, and help direct a small light their way whenever I can.

This shining of light on the good in our industry comes with the equally important task of doing the same in the darker corners that we’d rather not speak of. Perhaps it’s part of that hard to define Canadianism where politeness obscures a need for frankness, but I struggle with how to mindfully engage these darker corners publicly – although I have an obligation (social contract) to do so. However, earlier this week I broke free of my reluctance and asked a difficult question in a very public forum. I didn’t expect an answer, although I do expect some attention be paid to it and will follow up.

And so, here is the start of an open correspondence with one of the new leaders in the BC wine community.

Mr. Peller, I’m a writer who pays attention to BC wine. Almost exclusively, as a matter of fact. I have been a small voiced champion of the BC wine industry for 1o years, since I moved to the Okanagan in 2007 and began to write. Like BC wine, my platform is small. And like a good amount writers I have a day job to pay the mortgage because many of those in our BC wine industry who value the contributions of people like me don’t always have the resources to support me with regularity. But here I am.

My commitment to the BC wine industry is in continuing to champion the great things being done by nice people who are good leaders, and now with equal weight I’m committed to holding to task those in positions of leadership within the BC wine community who have the resources and strength to truly lead. People like you and your organization. Your new social contract with the BC wine industry began the moment the physical contracts for your recent acquisitions were signed. Please know this, truly, deeply, and hold it with much gravity.

You are not alone. You have the strength of the BC wine community with you should you choose to engage with it, as good leaders. Your success can be found in those within the community you help to lead, and that happens when we’re united in realizing our collective success.

Before we head down the road of any five-point-plans, we need to look within ourselves to be the community team I know is there. That takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable. I’ve seen it in every facet of this BC wine community. I hope you, Mr. Peller, can see it too. I hope you’re willing to be vulnerable. That’s the kind of leader that can help realize the collective success of the most awesome group of skill, talent, and dedication that is within our BC wine community.

I’ll be in touch. My people – well, I – will contact your people.

~ Jeannette

 

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get a job – in BC wine country

Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm
Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm, July 2014 – author photo

 

You’re so lucky to live in the Okanagan. I wish I could.

Guess what? You can.

In 2006, my fella and I decided to leave the big city. I was working in human resources at Vancity Credit Union and he was (still is) a merchandiser with Canadian Tire. Our combined income was probably what many expect a single person to live on in Vancouver. So when looking to purchase a home with a garage (my fella wanted the garage, not the home), we chose to move somewhere else. One year later we’d sold our condo, found jobs, and bought a home.

I miss Vancouver. I love the Okanagan. There’s nothing wrong with holding those sentiments simultaneously. Did I give up a skookum gig with an upward career trajectory? Yes. Are we living in the same fashion here? No. We could if we wanted, but we didn’t move to replicate our urban life. There I didn’t write. Here I do. That’s difference enough.

My first gig on moving to the Okanagan was in a winery tasting room. I washed and polished glassware, swept the floors, and cleaned the bathrooms. Daily cashout included sipping a glass of wine. In my second week I found a rattlesnake curled up behind the front tire of my car – so I lingered on the patio with another glass of wine.

When I was inevitably laid off at the end of the season I found a job, this time in an office for administrative-y type work. That kept me going while I finished university (I drove to Vancouver every other week for the first year we lived here, to complete my undergraduate degree) and while I stretched my writing wings until I could eventually dive into the unfamiliar world of freelance work.

The timeline: five years.

This time of year, many of my Okanagan business friends are hiring staff for the season. While I can’t help you make the decision to haul stakes and join us in the wilderness (the tasty, BC wine wilderness), I’m happy to share with you some of the awesome gigs available at lovely places where you could work with nice people.

Local Lounge * Grille (Summerland): Top of the food chain for service and quality, with a stellar new executive chef on board as of April. Relentless in their pursuit to deliver excellent customer service, this is an ideal environment to excel at over-delivering. Hiring for both front and back of house, email your resume to employment@thelocalgroup.ca.

Miradoro Restaurant (Oliver): Flawless dining experiences, for both service and cuisine. Restaurateur Manuel call-me-Manny Ferreira and executive chef Jeff van Geest bring their A-game to every day. They cultivate one of the most engaged and proud teams in hospitality. Hiring server, server assistants, and back of house, email resumes to info@miradoro.ca or stop by in person. (PS: Tinhorn Creek is also hiring in the wine shop, vineyard, and for grounds maintenance)

doLci Socialhouse (Osoyoos): A brunch/mid-afternoon/evening watering hole, frequented by locals and recently refitted from the former “doLci Deli”. Now with a focus on small plates, evening specials, and local beer/wine/spirits, doLci is the answer to the ongoing Okanagan question of what do we do in the evening?. Answer: hang out here. One more thing: house cured bacon. Now hiring servers and cooks, apply to lunch@dolcideli.com.

Wine Jobs: They’re everywhere right now. Search for a particular winery you’d like to work at and check for employment listings. Or, visit one of these aggregate sites:

  • Wine Plus+: MW Rhys Pender posts BC wine jobs shared with him
  • WineBC.org: the British Columbia Wine Institute posts BC wine jobs on behalf of member wineries
  • Wine Jobs Canada: MW James Cluer posts wine jobs from across Canada

The next time you think I’m lucky to live here, know that yes indeed I feel that I am – but I (and those living here) work very hard to stay here, so luck really has nothing to do with it.

~ Jeannette

6 reasons you should be at WBC13

Today marks 82 sleeps ’til WBC13 in Penticton. I think. Whatever the number, that means it’s soon. Hooray!

If you’re not familiar with the acronym, WBC13 is the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference. 300(ish) bloggers, wine folks, and grape-oriented enthusiasts gather to taste a region – while attending seminars to help hone palates, pens, or postings. This year, WBC is on Canadian soil for the first time – in the heart of BC wine country, Penticton. That’s awesome. It helps that I live within a 30 minute drive, but distance hasn’t stopped me from attending past conferences – in Walla Walla (2010) and Portland (2012).

There are oodles of reasons why someone into wine should attend a Wine Bloggers Conference, and the folks at WBC can list the highlights better than anyone. Past attendees are often enthusiastic cheerleaders, and the host city (chosen by the bloggers) will readily give dozens of good arguments as to why theirs is THE hotspot. Every one of those reasons, endorsements, and arguments are totally valid. Listen to them.

If you still find yourself wavering about attending, I’ll try to give you a push in the right direction. (I’m entirely biased because I live in BC wine country and think it’s skookum)

1. Random encounters with awesome people = new friends. A few friends are in my life as a direct result of WBC. I’m not kidding. Sure, it’s likely we would have connected some other way – eventually. But the combination of time, place, and people made for a solid foundation. Even if I don’t see some of these friends very often, they’re pretty fab to have.

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Summerland, December 2012

2. Full immersion in a region you’re not likely to have such open access to, unless you become a rock star. Let’s face it – most of us are regular folks with a day job and one hot-damn expensive hobby/enthusiasm/habit. We don’t get the red carpet treatment all that often – that’s fine by me. However, I like having a region all to our wine-loving selves for a few days (that’s how it feels). This is the uber-tour of uber-tours. It might not be total rock star treatment, but it’s like having the ultimate backstage pass to the coolest gig of the year.

3. BC makes great wine, and unless you live here you might not get to taste it. That’s not because we’re a bunch of jerks – honest. We’re really nice people. We can’t share much of what we make because this is the land of small production, and we have some hefty provincial and federal legislation issues that make it challenging to trade within our own country – not to mention outside of it. Yes, we export some wines. But not nearly as much as we make and keep here. We have fewer than 10,000 acres under vine in the province, and more than 200 wineries. Do the math.

4. The dude who rocked the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with spoken word? He lives here. Yes, he travels a little more now – but Shane Koyczan calls Penticton home. I’ve seen him everywhere – from art openings to having a beverage at a local diner (the diner has a sweet collection of lava lamps, but that’s another story). Shane is really nice, buys local art, and supports our small music scene. If you see him, say hello.

5. We have turtle crossing signs, because we love our turtles. Originally, well-meaning individuals put up hand-drawn signs to help drivers become aware of sharing the road with our hard-shelled friends. Recently, the Ministry of Transportation (and probably the tourism folks, I’m not entirely sure) added official signage on Road 22 between Osoyoos & Oliver. That totally rocks.

Sloan rocks the stage at Tinhorn Creek, September 2012

6. Sloan. Yes, they’re an iconic Canadian band that every indie group outside of Canada lists as one of their obscure musical influences. No, they’re not playing at WBC. Yes, they DID play at a local winery last summer (Tinhorn Creek). And yes, I have a serious addiction to them – so they’re on every list I create, regardless of the theme. I’ll love them for the rest of my life. (I also have a significant radio crush on CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi – again, that’s another story)

So, get here. If you can. My friends and I would really like it if you did.

~ Jeannette