Let’s Do This

Toastmasters Speech

OK Team! We have to get this festival ready! Heather, you and your people get 20 tables and 120 chairs from the storage, and set them up in the pub area according to this diagram. Nitish, take this list of required signage and ensure all the signs get put in place. Frasier, the perimeter and the licensed areas need to be enclosed – I need your group to get the fencing locked in place. The festival is sold out team, and it’s up to us to set up a safe and enjoyable event. Let’s do this!

Fellow Toastmasters, setting up the grounds for a music festival is a project that requires strong leadership, as I’ve recently learned by volunteering to help the set up crew at Mariposa – one of Canada’s longest running folk festivals. I wandered onto the site at Lake Couchiching in Orillia, with my water bottle, sun hat and dollar store work gloves and looked for someone to direct me. After asking around, I found the Crew Chief. The Crew Chief had finished assembling the various teams such as tables and chairs, signage, fencing, and more. Each of these teams was assigned a team leader and a set of tasks.

In issuing his orders, and in managing his crew generally, the Crew Chief used an Authoritative Leadership style. Some hallmarks of this leadership style are: a focus on the end goal, inspiring enthusiasm for the project, and giving clear directions. The Authoritative Leader tends to have more experience and knowledge than those on their team and this held true at Mariposa. Our Crew Chief had been working with the other Crew Chiefs for months and knew what had to be done, in what order and to what standard. He had been involved in setting up the festival for years. Nobody questioned his directions, and instead they got to work on their list of chores to bring the vision of the festival to fruition.

The Crew Chief asked if I had served on the set up crew before and I said that I had not. He looked at my skinny arms and never worn work gloves and told me I’d be on the team handling tables and chairs. He pointed to the woman leading that team and off I trotted to introduce myself.

This leader also had years of experience volunteering on the set up crew. Because of this, she held a vision of the end result. However, every year the plans are somewhat changed, and the directions given are not explicit. To get her team of volunteers to work together towards the end vision, this leader used an Innovative Leadership style. An Innovative Leader shares their vision, invites collaboration, and respects the creativity of their team. It’s an effective style when solving complex problems.

For example, the goal for arranging seating in the pub area is to maximize covered seating that accommodates patrons with mobility devices, patrons who prefer to sit on blankets, and patrons who prefer to stand. Some festival goers will want to eat at tables, and some will want to have tables only to place drinks on. All patrons will want to see and hear the musicians. While there were diagrams provided, they did not match the reality of the physical site. As a team we generated solutions and our team leader chose a suitable one that we could quickly implement to meet the pub tent requirements.

We found a similar mismatch between diagram and reality when we set up the Merchandise tent. The volunteer who had drawn up the diagram most likely didn’t have the dimensions of the tables or shelves to be used and it became apparent that we would have to go by our understanding of the intent of the diagram. As we were coming to this realisation, our Team Leader was asked to begin setting up another area at the same time. I offered to oversee the Merchandise Tent set up and she handed me the diagram.

I had a smaller team of volunteers available to me for the Merchandise Tent set up. They looked to me for direction as to where to place the tables and shelves. I would describe the leadership style I used for this task as the Altruistic Style. The Altruistic Style is personalized to the individual needs of the team, motivates by empowering, and utilises empathy. It’s effective in promoting high morale.

By this point in the day, I had come to know my fellow volunteers. I had noticed strengths and weaknesses in each and I had an understanding of their emotional and physical states after so many hours of working hard on a blisteringly hot day. I felt I knew who wanted to work hard and power through so they could get to the promised cold beer at the end, and who needed to be less active and to cool off a little. By naming their strengths as I explained my choices for who did what, each was empowered, the team cohesion grew, and the Merchandise Tent was completed.

The Altruistic Style is in my wheelhouse, certainly. When I did the Leadership Style quiz provided my Toastmasters, three styles shared equal top scores as preferred: Democratic, Innovative, and Altruistic. In contrast, my very lowest scoring style was Bureaucratic which explains a lot about why I was unhappy managing or being managed in the Bank!

In my opinion, it is best to understand, and to practice using each Leadership Style – even the ones we don’t enjoy. Projects, especially large projects, can require a combination of leaders and leadership styles. In our shared goal of setting up a music festival, many hands did indeed make for lighter work and the respectful and well-chosen leaders helped to keep those hands motivated and happy.

Cold Case of Cancer

Maple syrup instead of liquor with a Sunday morning coffee

The following is a speech I wrote for and delivered at my Toastmaster’s Club:

Let’s have a little quiz. I’ll read you a list of facts about alcohol and you raise your hand for each fact that you already knew.
1 Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects.
2 The recommended maximum number of drinks is 2 per day for women and 3 per day for men, with at least 2 non-drinking days per week.
3 Alcohol increases the risk of violence and abuse.
4 Alcohol can cause cancer.
According to a survey in 2018, only 28% of Canadians were aware that alcohol causes cancer.
Each “fact” in my survey is actually a warning label used on alcoholic products – or that have been used. In November 2017, a Health Canada study was launched in the Yukon to study the effect of warning labels on alcoholic beverage purchases. Bright yellow labels were used, one stating that alcohol can cause cancer, and the other speaking to recommended maximums.
Four weeks into the study, the Yukon Liquor Corporation gave in to pressure from the national alcohol brands and stopped affixing the labels to bottles and cans sold in their stores out of fear of expensive lawsuits.
Ten weeks later, the study was allowed to proceed, but with pregnancy risk labels instead of ones mentioning cancer risk.
It would appear that the alcohol lobby was afraid that if more people knew that alcohol causes cancer, fewer people would consume it.

According to Spirits Canada president, Jan Westcott, it wasn’t about fear of reduced sales. When asked about the studies linking excessive drinking with increased risk of some cancers, he said, “We’re not denying any of that. We’re just not sure that putting the word “cancer” on a label is the most effective way to convey that information.”
However, a study commissioned by the Canadian Cancer Society indicates that putting the word cancer on a label is an excellent method of communication. They found that two thirds of Ontarians would likely reduce their consumption if they learned that drinking alcohol increased their risk of cancer.
Another 2018 study, this one from the Global Drug Survey looked at how different health messages would affect people’s drinking behaviour, and found that the message “Drinking less can reduce your risk of 7 different types of cancer” could get almost 40% of drinkers to reduce their consumption.
So if harm reduction can be achieved by knowing the connection between a crisp cold beer and colon cancer, let’s look at some stone cold facts.
The World Health Organization classifies alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen similar to arsenic and asbestos.
The National Cancer Institute states that 3.5% of cancer deaths are due to the consumption of alcohol. Not “correlated with” but rather “due to”. The causal relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer is known and proven.
8% of breast cancer is caused by drinking – the risk of breast cancer increases even at light levels of consumption, meaning no more than one drink a day.
Moderate drinkers – two drinks a day – are one and a half times as likely as non-drinkers to wind up with colon cancer.
The risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed and there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
Is knowing a laundry list of alarming facts sufficient to decrease alcohol consumption? We can look at our history with public-health-initiated anti-smoking campaigns for an answer.
In 2017 the Centre for Disease Control surveyed five years of mass-reach communication campaigns and found a significant number of smokers decreased the amount they smoked, or quit altogether. When Graphic Warning Labels were introduced for cigarette packages, over 90% of smokers surveyed reported having read and thought about the warnings, over 80% considered them to be personally relevant, and over 40% intended to quit as a result of having thought about the warning labels.
While not everyone – and possibly not even half – the people who read and consider the warnings on harmful products will quit their use of the product, it does appear from anti-smoking efforts that SOME consumers WILL change their behaviours based on warning labels.
What about you? If you do drink alcohol, and didn’t know before today that drinking alcohol causes cancer – will you now opt for soda over scotch? How will the struggle to choose between a glass of merlot now and an increased risk of colon cancer five years from now play out in your life? Are you amongst the two thirds of Ontarians who would consider reducing alcohol consumption?
Knowing might only be half the battle – but hopefully it’s a half you’re now better armed for.

The alcohol version of this is delicious. The non-alcoholic version tastes awful!