Educating Our Workplace Leaders
/ Author: CLAC Staff
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Educating Our Workplace Leaders

For stewards, the national conference isn’t just a chance to celebrate and rub elbows with other stewards and representatives— it’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and become better at their advocacy and in their service to fellow members

By Rachel Debling and Janice Haanstra

THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF STEWARDS are large. As the faces of the union in the workplace, they are the first line of sup­port for members who have questions or are looking for solutions to sticky on-the-job issues. This is why it is so important for them to stay abreast of the latest best practices and to be given opportunities to flex their stewardship muscles—those they use for listening, empathizing, and springing to action.

That’s where the National Stewards Con­ference comes in, as its purpose is to provide these leaders with tools that can help them grow in their role. At the 2022 event, aside from the celebration of CLAC’s 70th anniversary, the theme of “Taking Care” was centre stage in each of the talks.

Why? Stewards shape and sustain the charac­ter of CLAC in their workplaces. They build rela­tionships with other members and employers and are critical in promoting the union’s vision of ensuring that work is a positive, rewarding, and fulfilling experience for all.

After the last couple of years, the importance of taking care of oneself, others, and the culture in which we work is extremely important. The National Stewards Conference allowed CLAC the opportunity to invest in and support stewards with this by having speakers and small group discussions focused on the Taking Care theme.

By the end of the event, many tears were shed, hugs were shared, and new friendships were formed. To all the stewards who experienced the magic of the conference, and to those who were not able to attend, we salute you and value all that you do, each and every day.

Keynote Speech – Lead with “And”: The Secret to Leadership Resilience and Results 

Speaker – Tim Arnold, author of The Power of Healthy Tension and president of Leaders for Leaders 
• Discussed the unavoidable tensions that exist for workplace leaders and encouraged the audience to use “both/and” thinking in an “either/or” world—that is, one should approach every issue with a willingness to see how both sides fit into a problem’s cause and solution and to not shut out ideas or opinions 
Key Takeaway – Creating a nonjudgmental and open mindset when dealing with issues in the workplace is of the utmost importance, and tensions in stewards’ own lives may impact how they serve members in their role.

Education Session 2 – Taking Care of Others 

Speaker – Darren Balsom, threat assessment specialist, Calgary Police Services 
• Described how to assess possible threats and determine risks to uphold safety in the workplace 
• Provided the audience with how-tos and practical guidelines for assessing threats and determining risks of violence in the workplace 
Key Takeaway – Rarely do people just snap. Instead, violent incidents are often the result of escalating reactions or behaviours. 

Education Session 3 – Taking Care of Culture 

Panel discussion moderated by Ryan Bruce, CLAC’s BC government relations manager 
• Explored how culture affects employers, employees, and stewards in today’s workplaces 
• Panel members included Melissa Mbarki, policy analyst and outreach coordinator of the Indigenous Policy Program at The Macdonald-Laurier Institute; Dr. Joseph Smith, vice-principal in the Toronto District School Board and executive director of Generation Chosen; and Hank Siegel, human resources specialist and member of the Sagkeeng First Nation #262 
• Shared powerful individual stories about overcoming prejudice and discrimination and how to recognize it in oneself 
Key Takeaway – We must acknowledge and confront our own biases and actively participate in the process of reconciliation.

Small Group Discussions 
• Stewards participated in discussions that followed a list of questions curated to guide members in talking about the education sessions. 
• Many stewards and representatives expressed that the small group discussions allowed them to meaningfully connect with those who they may not have gotten to know otherwise. 
Key Takeaway – By sharing the ways in which they process difficult feelings, as well as how they recognize and challenge discrimination in their workplaces, participants were empowered to be vulnerable and to feel the support and encouragement of their fellow stewards.

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