Authors Posts by Ian Hope BCom, CMA

Ian Hope BCom, CMA

Ian Hope BCom, CMA
Ian Hope is a management consultant; certified facilitator; speaker, and writer, who trains others in people and leadership skills highly valued in today’s workplaces. Ian sees a strong association between health and improved outcomes in interactions between people, and specializes in assisting others to improve their lives by competently using their people and communication skills.


Offering more flexible work options for employees is the key to success


Clearly, people are at their most productive when they are healthy, happy and have some control in their lives. In fact, stress is inversely related in virtually all situations to our amount of control. So, allowing employees more authority is usually a really good thing. With that in mind, wise leaders should consider how we might better support our employees’ needs to have more controlespecially over their scarcest resourcetime!

In traditional workplaces, not enough thought is given to this issue. The effects become quite obvious when looking at the struggle that many people have in combining their personal and family needs with an inflexible work schedule. This amplifies the stress in the lives of our staff members, as they try to attend to the health needs of themselves and their dependents, get their kids to and from school and their activities, care for aging parents… well you get it, the list goes on and on.

“Staff can feel isolated and alone with their problems.”

It’s unfortunate that, in many companies, work-life balance issues are seen to be exclusively the worker’s responsibility. Parenting issues, for example, are not seen to be at all relevant to the business of the employer, and employees often feel they must conceal home concerns. 

In these organizations, the view of bosses is that work and personal issues are separate, and they seek to avoid discussion of family matters when they arise. Staff can feel isolated and alone with their problems, with little in the way of support within the workplace and/or with inflexible work schedules, and thus, motivation, productivity and retention rates can suffer.

“Employers would do far better to accept, and even encourage, flexibility in work structures.”


Contrasting that, in “workplaces of choice” (what many employers these days say they are, or wish to become), bosses and others clearly recognize that people at work “have a life.” The quality of that life is recognized and valued by the employer as the link to performance, morale, and ultimately, the success of the organization. People are encouraged in their efforts to keep a healthy and effective balance between their work and their needs and commitments away from the job.

In this instance, bosses show an interest in their employees as people and are more alert to what is happening in their lives. People feel valued, and connected, in the company. The bottom line is that this type of business thinks longer-term, and workers less-often fail and burn-out.

Therefore, why not think of work options that afford staff members increased flexibility, so they can better respond to the competition for their time and attention between work and home? There is one option I liked most when I was an employee—one that recognizes that no two human beings are exactly the same, and that we are subject to different needs and pressures. I am talking about getting away from the “in the box” mindset that everyone must work the same days, the same number of hours, and the same shifts at the same locations. I prefer to ask employees “what works best for you?”

I am suggesting that, wherever possible, employers would do far better to accept and even encourage flexibility in work structures, including being open to alternate work schedules and compressed hours of work. Avoid taking a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to work arrangements. As a further example, be open to telecommuting and other arrangements that will not only allow the work to get done, but also may yield a happier more productive employee! Remember, happy workers tend to want to stay!

“Avoid taking a cookie cutter approach to work.”

As we see our employees heading out the door at the end of each day, we can make it more likely that they will have well-deserved opportunities to spend quality time with their families and others by recharging their bodies, minds and creative spirits. Adaptable work schedules can directly contribute to that result, and often the work can be designed so that it is done just as well using alternate arrangements, and may even be performed more efficiently at less cost!

The Work-life Balance Reality
  • Absences due to work-life conflict have doubled in recent years and are estimated to cost over $4 billion per year in Canada (Canadian Policy Research Networks 2001)
  • Work-life conflict affects most people, not just those with children.
  • Many people with conflict in their life point to work as a major cause.
  • In companies struggling to retain valued employees, failure to support work-life balance is often a major contributing factor.


Poor hygiene could be holding you back from career advancement

He needs a shower

I often raise this question with leaders at training programs: “What is the one thing you most tend to avoid bringing up with an employee or team member?” More than 75 percent of the time the answer given is “poor hygiene.”

Poor hygiene can cover a great many things—everything from uncombed hair, to crumpled and soiled clothing, to body odour, offensive fragrances and everything in between.

It’s too bad that managers and supervisors are so reluctant to address hygiene issues because the truth is that the many employees with hygiene issues aren’t the least bit aware of it. Many managers also don’t see how it affects co-workers, customers and others in the workplace—not to mention how it can limit their own job and promotional prospects.   

When I was quite young and already supervising others, a situation arose which I found myself unprepared to deal with. Two ladies complained to me about the body odour of another female employee working in our open office. There were seven women altogether and the subject of the complaint sat smack dab in the middle of the group. And yes, I admit I had noticed and then ignored these odours when I was near her myself from time to time. I swallowed hard, overwhelmed with the thought it would be up to me, a young man barely half this lady’s age, to bring this embarrassing issue to her attention.

At the time I did what many supervisors would have done, and tried to deflect the complaint away from myself. I suggested to the ladies that it was within their right to mention this, “woman to woman,” to the offender. A few days later I looked at the workstations and saw that instead, each desk now had a large air freshener strategically located at the closest corner to this lady’s workstation. This seemed to have been their solution, and the snide remarks about this lady’s poor hygiene simply continued. 

I look back on this now and realize that while my intention was only to spare my staff member’s feelings, I had not done her any favours in the long term. I had not done my job and made things better for both her and the work group. For years she may have wondered why she was so unpopular within the group and organization.

After a great many leadership ups and downs, and in particular a lot of learning from mistakes, I’m confident that if a similar dilemma presented itself now, I would respond far more proactively.   

As an example, just a few years ago a colleague came to me to seek some helpful feedback about his hygiene that he very much needed. He had wondered why he’d been consistently overlooked for appointments to senior committee work that would put him together with some of our top people and clients.

In my view, he had some fairly evident hygiene issues and I felt these were holding him back. I found a way to give him some coaching on these issues which he later said had never been mentioned by his ‘up-line.’ They were all things I believed he’d find easy to remedy once brought to his attention, such as the telltale lunch stains often on his tie, the hair that was seldom trimmed and combed, the perpetual five o’clock shadow from not getting close enough to the razor in the morning, and the shirt that was always one or two neck sizes too small leaving the knot in the tie askew.

When looking in the mirror this fellow simply hadn’t seen what was so plain to others. Taken together, they were becoming career killers for him. Happily though, I recall that the very next day he stuck his head in the door of my office grinning with a closely shaved chin, sharp haircut and also wearing a crisp shirt and new tie. Wow! He looked like a completely different person!

What made our discussion work was that he could clearly see I was providing my suggestions only to help, and not to hurt him. This is the basis that we have to establish with everyone we are giving feedback to about things as personal and sensitive as their hygiene. And by the way, this gent did get the appointment he had so much wanted about a year later.

So my advice is not to wait for others to point out that you have a hygiene issue. Take stock of your hygiene and make improvements that happily are almost entirely within your own control. You can enhance your own potential in the workplace and on the team by being at your best and this includes reflecting a high standard of personal cleanliness and appearance at all times. Happy thoughts to you!

Top 10 Reasons To Maintain Good Hygiene


Taking care of yourself is the highest form of self-love. Caring for your hygiene shows respect and gratitude for your body and your life.

Sex Appeal

When you take care of your personal hygiene you smell good, dress well and bring a fresh air of confidence. No one is attracted to someone who is dirty, unkempt and smells bad.


Bad hygiene is an embarrassing and socially unacceptable quality. Others will be less likely to invite you to join in social activities and gatherings. Conversely, if you keep good personal hygiene others will feel comfortable around you and find you approachable.


Taking good care of yourself shows that you are responsible and self-reliant. Good personal hygiene also makes a good first impression on potential employers.

Mental Health

What happens to your body affects how you feel inside. Having a high standard for taking care of yourself gives you a sense of pride.


Maintain good hygiene to prevent bacteria from weakening the body by growing in unwanted places.


A clean mouth with brushed and flossed teeth is far less likely to have cavities and require dental maintenance. A clean body less likely to harbour viruses and bacteria.


Others can also be infected by diseases and illnesses you carry if you do not maintain personal hygiene. Viruses and bacteria spread quickly between people.


Setting a good example for personal hygiene will help your children incorporate it into their routine and make it a healthy habit for the rest of their lives.

Lower Costs

Brushing your teeth and keeping clean could reduce visits to your doctor and dentist, saving you money on prescriptions and extra dental procedures.



Change your mind set when it comes to cigarettes

Lungs made of black powder explosion isolated on whiteI smoked for 28 years and I finally did quit. But how? During that time I must have tried to quit a thousand times. In my mind each pack was my last explaining why I never did buy a whole carton. “What would I do with the other seven packs?” I reasoned.

As well, I openly admitted I didn’t smoke because I enjoyed it, but instead smoked because I was hooked, or addicted… and I never let go of the intention and the hope that I would one day quit forever.  It seemed like such an unreachable dream though!

Like many smokers I always looked at the prospect of quitting somewhat forlornly, as if it would be like saying goodbye to an old friend or something enjoyable that I would no longer have in my life. The truth of course was that what entered my lungs was not a friend, nor bringing me pleasure or any other form of benefit. I wasn’t as much sucking on the filter, as the butt was sucking life from me and I could feel it every day.

What changed things was hearing one day about the simple concept of “choosing not to smoke.” The wisdom in this went along the lines that one shouldn’t think of it as “quitting” but instead of simply “choosing not to smoke.” When someone asks if you want a cigarette for example, instead of saying “no thanks I quit” which can make you feel the pressure of a commitment that you may not be able to keep, you simply say, “no thanks, I choose not to smoke.” Say it again… do you hear the difference in that?  Your emphasis is not on any commitment or attempt to go “over the wall.” Instead you have stated something that is now, at this moment, completely doable.

“The truth of course was that what entered my lungs was not a friend.”

How that worked for me is that I was about to go to a spring meeting in the mountains where I knew that I would be with a number of folks in a social situation, many of them smokers (it was the early 90’s). It was a five-day event and I had the mindset that I would choose not to smoke for those five days and see how that went. With nothing in my mind but a long list of the many positives that would come into my life by choosing not to smoke, I got through it without too much angst and then thought, “hey, that was pretty easy, let’s choose not to smoke for the next five days also.” And so it went until 10 days became 20 and eventually 100 and 200. By now it’s been 22 years and I still tell people who offer me a smoke that “I choose not to smoke.”


As a leadership speaker and trainer, I always want to help people—it’s no different when it comes to smoking. When I get on an elevator with a smoker or get near them in a line-up at the coffee bar, I wish they could observe what others do about them. The smell or even stench of smoke in their hair and on their clothes is indescribable.

This is so unfortunate for smokers since it subtracts from the attraction they could otherwise have. Dating is a clear example: most smokers would not reject out of hand dating a non-smoker but the reverse is certainly not true! Do smokers see that their date may note their kiss is like tasting an ash tray? 

It is a negative in the workplace as well. For example, I recently had my hair cut and styled by a hairdresser I had gone to for the first time; and honestly, she reeked so bad of smoke that I barely got through the experience. She seemed unaware of how her habit was impacting her customers and her own career.

It’s the same with virtually all other forms of employment. The simple fact is that most employers faced with choosing between an employee who smokes and one who doesn’t smoke will consistently choose the latter. Whether correct or not, their view is that non-smokers don’t take as many breaks or at least when they do break, the breaks are usually briefer. As well they expect non-smoking employees will experience fewer sick days while being more alert and energetic on the job. Sorry smokers, but that’s the way many employers see it.

“The smell or even stench of smoke in their hair and on their clothes is indescribable.”

For me, I found it helpful to keep daily track of the many benefits that were now coming into my life as a non-smoker. That included marking off the days, weeks and months since I had last smoked. I also ran a total of how much money I was saving as a result of my choice to not smoke. The numbers added up pretty fast and I was impressed when each time I looked at my results on a sheet of paper it added to my determination to continue the next day with my choice not to smoke.

In closing I want to say that if you really do want to quit smoking, you will. If not this time, then next time or the time after that.

The smokers who never quit seem to be those insisting they smoke because they enjoy it… yeah right. The main thing is to not give up on yourself.

Top 10 Reasons To Choose Not To Smoke

1. Live longer.

2. Improve your health.

3. Have more energy.

4. Save a ton of money.

5. Be more attractive to others.

6. Breathe, smell and even taste better.

7. Reduce stress and facial lines.

8. Have more time in your day.

9. Provide a positive example.

10. Increase your confidence by feeling empowered.



Why smartphones can prevent meaningful conversations


Recently I stopped at a lounge and while I was there I was was surprised to see so many people much younger than me sitting at tables in groups of three or four, but not really talking with one another. Instead, they all had their heads down and were staring into the screens of their smartphones, thumbs deftly pounding away… or perhaps simply lost in the great abyss that is cyberspace.

It made me think of a graphic I had seen shortly before that included a quote by Albert Einstein. He once famously said that “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” While watching these young folks in their new communication protocol, I began to share in Einstein’s worry.

Of course I am not saying that these people are idiots, or that their generation is the only one to embrace this technology, as the phones do have its place and there are times when texting has advantages—I even use it now and then to pass along simple information or updates. But when I was young and went to a lounge or restaurant with friends, in contrast our discussions were always full of laughter, stories, and jokes. Heck, you could hardly ‘get a word in edgewise’ as the old saying goes. We used the time together to share our highs and lows, our hopes and dreams as well as our disappointments and fears and to update one another. I always felt that this did much to strengthen our relationships.

In this day and age of exponential growth in technology, it is vital that we all maintain competency with the basic communication skills that make our interactions so very meaningful and effective. Consider that text messages, despite their every increasing popularity, provide only words. Yet according to the communications experts who study these things, words represent merely six percent of the information content of a human message! The other 94 percent in content comes from two other sources—our body language and our voice.

“When we speak to another person we take more than half of the message from simply what we see.”

Body language is the largest of the three factors, counting for 55 percent. That is, when we speak to another person we take more than half of the message from simply what we see—the facial gestures of the person speaking, their hand gestures, the way they have positioned their body, the way they are physically moving and so on. Their smile will tell us they are happy, while their brow may reveal they are frustrated or angry. Their eye contact may assure us that they feel a warm and supportive relationship with us, while a glare may put us ‘on guard’ for the words that are yet to come.

Cellular phones

Voice characteristics provide the balance of 38 percent in message content. Voice clues will include pitch, the loudness or softness of the voice, the intensity and speed at which the person is speaking and of course, the emotions that are detectible from how it’s being said.

In texting, it’s often said that you shouldn’t capitalize since that represents yelling. Well if so, that along with LOL and OMG annotations, would be one of the few things you could communicate aside from the words themselves within a text message. It is important that we realize these communication basics and in particular, the very real limits that pertain to text messaging. With that knowledge, it would be unlikely that a wise communicator would actually send a nasty note to someone either by e-mail or by phone text since the words by themselves, and unsupported by the intended body language and voice intonations, can be horribly misinterpreted by the person receiving the message. We all sometimes have corrective messages for others, but I have made it a policy with messages that might be taken to be corrective or in some way negative by the receiver, to provide these personally and preferably face-to-face.

This allows me to support the corrective information within my words, with body language and voice clues that tell the person listening to me, that I still value our relationship and that I am optimistic that we can still resolve the issue and make things right.  Even speaking to the person on the phone as a next best option, allows me to soften the harshness of any criticism that the listener may otherwise perceive and to provide offsetting ‘positive’ clues that will allow the issue to be dealt with, while preserving our relationship.

By regularly practicing the basics of personal human communication, relying less on written e-mails and text messages – you’ll get much better outcomes at work and at home. Happy thoughts to you!



Investment in employee wellness will help the bottom line for businesses

work_1As I have stated previously, employees have their own responsibilities to maintain their own work-life balance. But the ability of the workplace to support and enhance the employee’s health and wellness can have a huge impact on not only on the employee, but also on the financial health and success of the business! But let’s now consider what employers can do to stimulate greater health and well being within their workplaces. 

Strong and dynamic organizations usually have healthy and well-balanced employees. Healthy employees have more energy to expend on their work, experience less absenteeism due to illness and medical appointments and are generally involved in fewer accidents, both on the job and at home.

Although the bottom line benefits of investing in the health of employees are in themselves clearly impressive, great employers also show concern for this workplace characteristic as they value their employees and see how their investments in health and wellness contribute to the lives and futures of their employees.

“Progressive employers have made health and wellness an integral part of their HR program.”

Whenever I approach ideas for making a better workplace, I always like to start with suggesting this—ask the employees. No different than other workplace attributes, it’s always a great idea to ask the employees themselves what they would like to see in terms of health and wellness supports. Proactive employers go a step further by forming a Workplace Enhancement Committee composed mainly of staff representatives; within this committee, health and the workplace environment would be included on each month’s meeting agenda. This committee’s role would be to foster discussion, gather ideas and make recommendations.

workNext, provide employees with information on health issues and on negative and unsafe behaviors so that they understand the consequences. This could include providing pamphlets, videos or even speakers on health subjects. Include family members in these presentations where possible as the employees will benefit from support at home… and recognizing that they are impacted by situations where family members are also exposed to the risks.

The provision of health and wellness information is such an important corporate activity these days that many progressive employers have made health and wellness an integral part of their human resources program and have assigned staff to seek out useful and important information and programs for staff members.

As far as improving the safety and health culture in the workplace, there are almost limitless initiatives that the employer might consider as they try to draw a focus on what the employees themselves most need and value!

For example, arrange a referral program for staff members and their family members who may need special help from professionals with health issues—and make it easy for them to confidentially access these services. There are also a few ‘quick wins’ that all workplaces can and should do. Since the perception of a healthy workplace is also important, keep work areas clean, neat and tidy. An unkempt workplace tolerates hazards, encourages carelessness about sanitation and the spreading of bacteria and disease as well as unsafe practices.

Further, the cleanliness of bathrooms supports our need for personal hygiene. Despite this, the conditions in workplace washrooms and change rooms are too often abhorrent. So encourage good personal hygiene for everyone and ensure that facilities are cleaned thoroughly and regularly.

Cleanliness and sterility in all areas where food is kept and prepared is also critical to employee health. No one likes the feeling of opening up a microwave to warm your lunch, shuddering when you look inside and then deciding that, ‘gulp… no, cold will do just fine today’. Clean up of all kitchen appliances and areas must be well controlled on a roster basis or better still, assigned as a specific job responsibility.

Lastly, consider have health professionals come in to administer inoculations during the flu season for staff who choose this precaution. As always, happy thoughts to you!


  • Set up flexible health and wellness accounts for employees allowing them to expend a certain amount each year on health and wellness initiatives of their own choosing.
  • Encourage and promote exercise and physical activities; if possible provide showers for those who jog or walk to work, or who exercise at lunchtime.
  • Often there are staff members who are trained in facilitating workout regimens (example aerobics). Ask if they would volunteer to facilitate a lunch time workout program. Or, allow a willing staff member to take training so they can facilitate.
  • Work with your staff to make the workplace smoke free. This could include smoke cessation programs and supports.
  • Also work with staff in developing policies and programs to deal with alcohol and drug abuse issues, sexual and other forms of harassment as well as bullying and violence in the workplace.




Don’t become a victim of circumstance!

cover_edit-01The ability of the workplace to support and enhance the employee’s health and wellness can have a huge impact on the employee, but also on the financial health and success of the business.

Strong and dynamic organizations most often have fit and robust employees with more physical and mental energy to expend on their work, who experience less absenteeism due to illness and medical appointments and who are generally involved in fewer accidents, both on the job and at home.

Although there’s been a great deal of focus in the written material over the years about what employers can and should do to support the health of their people, clearly health and wellness are joint responsibilities with the employees carrying the lion’s share. The simple fact is nobody has more control over health aspects (those that can be influenced) than the individuals themselves.

While employers can spend exhaustively on health and wellness opportunities for employees, it’s up to the employees to fully participate. Too many just don’t ‘pick up their end’! With that in mind I encourage my clients to think about what they can do themselves to maintain and improve their health and wellness outcomes, or in other words, how they can get “more of the good stuff”.

“Do we slow down because we get old, or do we get old because we slow down?”

 This involves looking after yourself, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. It starts with taking personal responsibility for your health and recognizing that you do have a measure, and in most cases a significant measure, of control – in particular about healthy choices that you are able to make regarding your behaviors and habits.

We can usually make a noticeable contribution to our own health and wellness by trying to maintain a positive outlook and attitude. Too often it seems people see themselves as victims of their own genetics or circumstances and that little can be done to change whatever their fate may be. People often feel helpless when they put all their eggs in one basket and place themselves entirely in the hands of others, most notably medical professionals and care givers and then hope for the best.

Such a resigned attitude though fails to recognize the reality – that our system of health services is largely reactive. Our mainstream health system is really more of a sickness and injury treatment system than one with a preventative focus. If you’re looking for something proactive in terms of our health and betterment that part is pretty well up to us … we’re the ones who have to step up to the plate!

“We’re the ones who have to step up to the plate.”

One of my personal motivators is this question: Do we slow down because we get old, or do we get old because we slow down? I’m not taking any chances and have decided I should keep moving, stay active and do what I can! I’m convinced this will have a lot to do with determining how I’ll spend the last 10 years of my life!

So let’s take a moment or two to do a personal audit regarding lifestyle and personal choices. Who controls what nutrition, good or bad, goes into your body? As for the “couch potato” factor, who decides what kind of exercise you do to stay active? If alcohol is affecting you, who picks out and pays for the spirits that are allowed into your body? For smokers, who buys and lights up your cigarettes and who is going to get you to take smoking cessation measures? Who chooses your mental state and emotional reactions? Who decides when you will retire at the end of the day and when you will arise? You get my point.

“We can usually make a noticeable contribution to our own health and wellness by trying to maintain a positive outlook.”

While you may feel that I’m pointing a finger at some folks who really do seem to be their own worst enemies, health wise, my intent is actually to shine a light on the very simple ways that we can get out of our armchairs, step away from the television and fridge and start the process towards much improved health. We can literally start today, this very minute! I smoked for 28 years before literally “seeing the light.” I struggle with my health like most other people, but the point is I do try to do better and that’s what I’m trying to encourage.

As always, happy thoughts to you!



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