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So, you've toiled for years in middle management, and though one day you'd like to snag that corner office, you fear you may have hit your ceiling. We can help. Reading our 30-minute EMBA won't open any doors for you, or give you the knowledge that one of Canada's executive MBA programs will (see our list of the best schools in Canada, starting on page 109). But we guarantee it will have you looking, and acting, like a world-class CEO.

Rule No. 73

Answer the damn question

The advice still given to most executives is to answer the question you wanted the media to ask, not the one they did. It's a strategy that enables well-trained spokespeople to plug their overrehearsed key messages even in the face of aggressive questioning. But Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman Public Relations, has conceived a revolutionary concept: Ditch the pitch and answer the question; set employees free to tell the real corporate story. Your audiences will appreciate it.

"It's better than coming out like the Wizard of Oz, once every full moon, speaking the truth before withdrawing into your bunker," says Edelman, who believes there's nothing wrong with displaying a little passion, or even anger--it shows you're human. "You're not expected to be Superman, and you're more credible if you're not."

Better yet, why not send someone else to talk to the media? According to a global survey by Edelman PR, polished pronouncements from a CEO carry less weight than communications from an employee. "It is profound that an average employee is seen as being 50% more credible than an executive," says Edelman. "Smart companies recognize there can no longer simply be a CEO-only communications strategy."

The big surprise in the Edelman survey: Even bloggers are considered nearly as trustworthy as CEOs. With this in mind, Microsoft allowed almost 1,000 of its employees to blog on the company's website; Dell and GM, too, have permitted groups of managers and execs to carry the company flag on the Web. The days of the "hero CEO" are gone, Edelman says. "It's a team game, and you've got to empower other members to talk."

Star graduate Philip Lieberman, managing director, Scotia Capital Inc.

According to prime-time television, you are 21 times more likely to be kidnapped or murdered at the hands of a businessperson than at the whim of a Mafia don. --From a recent report by the Media Research Centre, a conservative U.S. watchdog group

Rule No. 74

Define your style, but save the Reeboks for the gym

Many great leaders have had wardrobes that mirrored their success. But some execs go the extra step in defining their image. When it works, it really works. Bad outfits, however, can drag you and your business down.


Last August, Radio Shack Corp. notified 400 employees that they were being fired, via e-mail. If we had our way, each one of them would have received a personal call from Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. Here are his tips:

Don't break it to them gently

It's easier for me to let someone go if I am comfortable that I have a good reason, and I've given them a chance to get better. We have regular performance reviews, and we tell people if they need improvement. We put it in writing. You have to give someone a chance to improve--maybe a couple of months, up to a year, although that's a long time. But by the time it comes to letting someone go, the conversation should be short. It shouldn't be a surprise, although sometimes it is a shock.

It's never personal

I've let people go who have brought their spouses to my house for dinner, and I knew their kids. I do examine whether they've got a problem at home, a health problem or a family problem--anything they might be bringing to the office. I'm sensitive, but at the same time, the company needs the best people.

Stand your ground

Letting go of a high-profile general manager or coach always attracts attention. We prepare for that. I know there are going to be 14 cameras in my face, so I have some discipline. I have to put my head on straight and think about how I'm going to respond.

Help them out the door

Once we let a person go at the senior level, we offer outplacement to help them find a new home. They probably haven't thought about their resumé or networking in years, and the outplacement officer helps them get that together. I've read that the majority of people who are let go move on to some place where they're a better fit, where they even make more money. Maybe they're just a bad fit here, maybe they're just a bad fit with me.


Three questions you should have asked--if you wanted to recruit the right candidate in the first place. --Doug Steiner, CEO, Perimeter Financial Corp.

1 What are you bad at, and what wouldn't you do if you were offered a job here?

And don't think I haven't been through the "make-a-negative-a-positive" trick ("I've been told I'm just too diligent"). I want to hear, "I'm disorganized, I'm not focused enough, I keep going when I should stop, and I don't like meetings longer than 45 minutes."

2 Do you still have your Grade 11 report card?

Almost everyone does. My follow-up question: Would any of your teachers remember you? If not a single educator remembers the candidate, it's a bad sign. (FYI: Jack Schaffter, my Grade 4 teacher, remembers me. He would still give me a great reference, and I'd be proud to get one from him if I were looking for a job.)

3 May I please get a reference from someone who will not say nice things about you?

The candidate is tempted to call and prep the reference, but is usually too scared. If I feel the reference is too contrite, or he tries to make false-positive comments (see above), I know I've been set up. I learned this lesson the hard way--and so did my ex-employee.

Rule No. 268

Even Tiger Woods needs a coach

After more than 25 years working at IBM, Wayne Scott left Big Blue during the dot-com boom to join a tech start-up. Before long, his office was filled with colleagues seeking advice and guidance on their careers and responsibilities. The company flamed out six years ago, but Scott realized his future was as an executive coach. He launched Action Strategies Inc., and has since worked with executives at the Bank of Montreal, TD Bank and Investors Group. Here, Scott offers insights on this growing (but often nebulous) profession.

What's your elevator pitch for executive coaching?

Coaching is a one-to-one relationship that's all about the person being coached. There is no other agenda than the client's success, which is something that cannot be said of any other business relationship.

Can anyone just hang out a shingle and call herself a coach?

That's the reality, and I think it may be a problem for the reputation of coaching as a practice. There are no barriers to entry, and there's probably a wide variety of quality and value in coaching right now.

How do you know if you need a coach?

I start from the premise that we can all benefit from good coaching. But one really important trigger is when an executive is operating in a new role. Mid-level managers require coaching when they are identified as people with significant potential and their employer wants to accelerate their development. At the top level, it changes to more of a sounding board. CEOs are experts in their field, but they are very much alone at the top.

What kinds of things do you work on?

We all carry untapped potential that is blocked by blind spots and habits. One thing we work on is self-management. How well are you managing your time and what's expected of you? Another dimension is how well you are managing relationships with others.

So how do you pick a coach?

I'd want to find out what they're bringing in terms of training and credentials, and if they have other clients I could talk to. It's also important that you're comfortable with the person. If you're not comfortable working with them, it's going to severely limit the effectiveness of the coaching.

Rule No. 269

Vague, verbose oration only works for Alan Greenspan (and he's unemployed)

Business communication is too often packed with clumsy acronyms and jarring jargon. Please jettison these awful terms from your vocabulary.

Phrase: Go ahead

As in: "I'm going to go ahead and send you an e-mail. . ."

Banned because: It's superfluous (and your employees will make fun of you behind your back).

Replace with: "I will send you an e-mail."

Phrase: Leverage

As in: "How can we leverage this relationship?"

Banned because: It's overused to the point of having no leverage of its own.

Replace with: "How can we make the most of this relationship?"

Phrase: Bandwidth

As In: "My team doesn't have the bandwidth for this initiative."

Banned because: We're people, not network nodes. Lock this one in the server room.

Replace with: "My team doesn't have the time or resources for this initiative."

Phrase: Core competency

As in: "This fits with our core competency."

Banned because: It sounds like it belongs on Star Trek, as in, "Captain, our core competency is too high!"

Replace with: "This fits with our strength."

Rule No. 353

The only person allowed to give a little tickle with his handshake is your grandfather

Experts estimate that between 80% and 90% of all communication is non-verbal. We asked David Givens, director of the Centre for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington, to help us master the most essential North American business gesture: the handshake.

The Basic Handshake

101 Reach out with your right hand, gripping the other person's palm. Squeeze and proceed with a swift up-and-down motion (one or two pumps only). Release.

Advanced class "The best of all possible handshakes is where you take a reading as you are doing it," says Givens. "Use your hand and fingers as tactile antennae to pick up messages regarding firmness and how long to grip."

Use it Any time.

Warm it up "Cold hands betray anxiety," says Givens. Make eye contact and lose the death grip, GI Joe.

The Shake-and-Grab

101 A basic handshake in which the free hand is used to give the other person's shoulder or arm a (hopefully) light squeeze.

Advanced class "This can show who the dominant person is. It's okay for a boss to put a hand on an underling's shoulder," says Givens, "but it's not okay for an underling to reciprocate."

Use it With someone familiar, and only on occasions of significance.

Pad it down Givens believes men are more comfortable receiving this than are women, in part because of the protection a man's suit offers. "

That shoulder padding is there for a reason--to mask movements that show weakness and to offer a feeling of protection."

The Two-handed shake

101 Execute the basic handshake, but add your free hand on top, enveloping your partner's hand in a warm embrace.

Advanced class "If, for example, you're at a business awards ceremony and a colleague wins, you can do the two-handed shake to show your true emotion. Outside of that--even closing a business deal--it would be a little strange," Givens says.

Use it Sparingly.

Dry out "It's something you see a lot when people have been drinking."

The Hip-Hop Hug (a.k.a Pound Hug or Man Hug)

101 A handshake, often gripped at the thumbs or fingertips, with a motion that brings the shakers together at the shoulders. Finish with a one-arm hug.

Advanced class Make it smooth and quick. (Pat the back once and get out of there.) No lingering embraces.

Use it On weekends, if you must. This is a mano-a-mano greeting that has no place in a business setting. "I'd expect to see it between equals, but not with the boss," Givens says.

Wait it out "In the future, with Gen X and Y filling more power positions, I wouldn't be surprised if it crept into more formal meetings."


What you can learn from Jay-Z

He's 36 years old, worth $320 million (U.S.), and Beyoncé is his girlfriend: Even if you're not a drug-dealer-turned-hip-hop-mogul, or even a rap fan, Jay-Z is worth paying attention to. After all, this is a man who made 11 multiplatinum albums and won five Grammys, but "retired" in 2004 to become president and CEO of Def Jam, hip hop's biggest record label. Some of his other holdings: a fashion label; an international chain of high-end sports bars; a line of $50,000 Audemars Piguet watches; U.S. distribution of the Scottish vodka, Armadale; and Reebok's fastest-selling sneaker line ever. Did we mention that he's a part owner of the New Jersey Nets? Here's what Jay-Z could teach less-blinging execs.

Lyric I never asked for nothin' I don't demand of myself/Honesty, loyalty, friends and then wealth/Death before dishonour and I tell you what else/I tighten my belt 'fore I beg for help

From Justify My Thug--

The Black Album (2003)

Translation Lead by example. You need to earn respect

Lyric And for the dough I raise, gotta get shit appraised/No disrespect to you, make sure your word is true

From Politics as Usual--Reasonable Doubt (1996)

Translation Don't worry about offending future partners. It's far more important that you complete your due diligence

Lyric I read an article that said I was ruinin' shit/But every time I look, I'm movin units in quick

From The City Is Mine--In My Lifetime, Vol.1 (1997)

Translation Don't be discouraged by negative publicity. Let your results speak for themselves

Lyric Fortune 5, top 5 in the Forbes (you'll see) as you/Thumb through the Source I read the Ride Report

From You're Only a Customer--The Streets Is Watching (1998)

Translation You need to glean information from as many sources as possible. One voice does not a conversation make

Rule No. 417

Never call a meeting without an agenda (and we don't mean the nefarious kind)

Everyone says meetings are hell, yet we continue to run awful ones. Even worse: They're getting longer. According to a study by the Institute for Business Technology, Canadians spent an average of 6.1 hours per week in meetings, up from 5.7 in 1997. Ann Searles, president of IBT, offers four steps to running more productive, less stultifying meetings.

No agenda, no attenda Produce an agenda and send it out ahead of time. Politely respond to meeting requests by saying you will be happy to come as soon as you can see the agenda.

Ditch the BlackBerry Rude technology use in meetings is a big issue. Turn off anything that beeps, blinks or distracts. If you're there, be there.

No tourists Only invite people who need to be there. The fewer people you have, the faster the meeting can be.

Be ambitious about length If we really try, a lot of meetings can be conducted in about five minutes. And we can do most of what we need to in less than 55 minutes. An executive once complained that people were getting fidgety in his meetings. I told him, "It's because you serve coffee and bran muffins and have no bathroom breaks."

Rule No. 548

When in Rome, be nice to the Romans

Good manners are still in fashion--on every other continent on the planet except our own. Knowing the proper way to express thanks and show respect is essential in the global village. Here, a few etiquette tips to smooth your path to world domination.


North Americans may admire efficiency, but citizens of this gregarious, easygoing nation view a rush to get to the point as shifty, untrustworthy behaviour. Expect lunch to take up to two hours and dinner three, with the nuts and bolts of dealmaking reserved for after dessert. Wait for your host to broach the point of your meeting.


Business cards are the subject of much pomp and circumstance. List all of your degrees and accreditations, and pass one out upon introduction to the leader of the group. Spend a moment appreciating any card you are given. Most importantly, never, ever give or receive a card with your left hand--on the subcontinent, that hand's associated with things lavatorial.


You may be on a first-name basis with everyone from the mailroom clerk to the CEO, but in Russia, formal salutations are still a must. Introduce yourself by your surname, and be sure to address others in the same way. Make sure you know the correct way to greet doctors, politicians and other titled officials. For everybody else, use Gaspodin (Mr.) or Gaspazhah (Ms.) to show you've done your homework.


Exchanging gifts is common business practice in China, despite the fact that it's officially banned by the state. Leave the gifts until the end of the meeting (and the deal's done) to avoid charges of bribery, and to ensure that whatever you proffer is of equal or greater value than what you've accepted in the past. (Never give cash.) And don't forget: China's a superstitious nation, so be wary of objects and colours that might bring bad luck.


Historically, the only recourse for a public insult in Japan was violent revenge. Though it's unlikely you'll be sliced into sashimi nowadays, avoid criticizing your Japanese colleague in public (even if he's a fool). Direct confrontation, too, is an indication of losing face: Keep things harmonious by saying "That may be difficult," rather than blurting out "No."

The Middle East

Forget e-mail--in the desert, a single phone call produces better results than an endless barrage of electronic pleas. Arabs are traditionally verbal, preferring the spoken language to the written word, and most consider a promise made in casual conversation to be just as binding as a signed agreement. Don't overstate what you're capable of: Failure to deliver will be taken as a loss of honour.

20-second reads

Two books you should already be familiar with

THE WORLD IS FLAT--Thomas L. Friedman

Consider it a treatise on Globalization 3.0, with a slew of survival tactics for working in a global marketplace thrown into the mix. The essential lesson: Hierarchies are out; collaboration is in. Any rote tasks that haven't already been outsourced will be soon, so eliminate them from your business model and focus on what you do best.


Despite a human tendency toward consensus, conflict is what fuels good decision-making. The world's great leaders didn't assemble teams of snivelling yes-men, and neither should you. In his rather academic style, Sunstein argues that if JFK had encouraged dissent in his government, the Bay of Pigs fiasco would never have happened.


Your guide to 15 of the country's best executive MBAs


Athabasca University, St. Albert, Alta.

Tuition $40,425

Duration 2 to 2 1/2 years

Format Administered almost entirely on-

line (the residency requirement is only five days and can be attended in one of four Canadian cities), the Athabasca program offers various degree options, including an executive MBA in project management as well as electives in energy and policing.

Star graduate Tom Barlow, president, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. (Canada)


University of Calgary

Tuition $55,000

Duration 20 months

Format Students of this joint venture between U of Calgary and U of Alberta hail from a variety of industry sectors, including energy and technology. The course includes three "intensive weeks" in Calgary, a 10-day international study trip and an optional course in executive coaching.

Star graduate David Ackert, president, Halliburton Group Canada Inc.


Concordia University, Montreal

Tuition $52,000

Duration 20 months

Format The curriculum is traditional, lecture-based, and puts a focus on management skills. At the same time, it offers courses in international business and e-business. Classes are held on alternating Fridays and Saturdays at the school's downtown campus, with a 10-day international trip at the end of the second semester.

Star graduate Sylvain Allard, CEO, CHC Helicopter Corp.



Tuition $19,500

Duration Two years

Format There are no residency requirements. The course is administered entirely on-line--study materials, access to professors and live virtual classes. Students commit to about 18 hours of study a week, and while they are encouraged to set their own pace, they must complete the course within the specified time frame.

Star graduate Terry Conrod, director of strategic investment, Innovatia


McGill University, Montreal

Tuition $50,000 (U.S.)

Duration 1 1/2 years

Format Touted as the "next-generation master's program," the International Masters Program in Practicing Management takes senior executives on an intensive tour of world business practices (students spend two weeks at each of the participating schools in England, France, Japan, Korea and India). To obtain their master's degree, students must hand in a final paper after the course is completed.

Star graduate Christena Keon Sirsly, chief strategy officer, Via Rail Canada


University of Ottawa

Tuition $58,000

Duration 20 months

Format Classes are held on alternating Fridays and Saturdays; during the summer, students work a major consulting project. The program also includes an e-business project, a related trip to California's Silicon Valley and one additional international trip--this year to Bangalore, India.

Star graduate Denis Coderre, former president of the Queen's Privy Council


Queen's University, Kingston

Tuition $75,000, national executive MBA; $89,000, Queen's Cornell program

Duration The national executive MBA program is 15 months; the Queen's Cornell program is 17 months

Format Students of the national EMBA program spend about 40% of their time attending classes and lectures; the remainder is conducted via video conference on alternating Fridays and Saturdays. Students of the Queen's-

Cornell program can complete residential sessions on either of the university campuses. Graduates receive a separate degree from each school at the end of 17 months.

Star graduate Kris Dolinki, president and CEO, Zoom Airlines


University of Quebec at Montreal

Tuition $4,200

Duration Two years

Format Because tuition is subsidized, UQAM churns out more executive MBAs than almost any school in North America. There are few extravagant perks, however. Classes are held at the school's downtown Montreal campus three consecutive days each month. Students can take advangtage of the school's partnership with France's Paris-Dauphine University (there is a residency option, and students receive a degree from both schools).

Star graduate Réal Raymond, president and CEO, National Bank of Canada


University of Regina

Tuition $25,000

Duration 16 months

Format The curriculum at Kenneth Levene is traditional, but there are also courses in technology and e-commerce. Classes, typically small groups with about 40 students, are held alternating Fridays and Saturdays. Participants must take on one major project, carried out under a faculty member's supervision.

Star graduate None, as yet. It's a new program


Royal Roads University, Victoria

Tuition $33,700

Duration Two years

Format The bulk of the course is delivered on-line. There are also two residency stays of three weeks, as well as many non-degree programs and an international residency in France.

Star graduate Captain Kelly Williams, director of defence analysis, department of National Defence


Saint Mary's University, Halifax

Tuition $40,000

Duration 20 months

Format The curriculum may be traditional, but at the beginning of the semester, students are assigned a group for the duration of the program. Classes are held on alternating Fridays and Saturdays, and students use the summer months to work on major course projects.

Star graduate Peter Kelly, mayor, Halifax


Université de Sherbrooke

Tuition $25,000

Duration 20 to 29 months

Format Students customize their curriculum to fit their goals. Classes are small, typically around 35 students per class. French-language courses are offered on alternating Fridays and Saturdays at the university's Montreal campus.

Star graduate Francine Décary, CEO, Héma-Québec


Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Tuition $46,000 (subject to change)

Duration Two years

Format This is one of the more traditional MBA programs in Canada. Students receive classroom instruction every other Friday and Saturday. In addition to the regular course load, they must use their two years of cumulative study to complete a major consulting project at the end of the program.

Star graduate Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia


University of Toronto

Tuition $85,000 for a one-year executive MBA; $65,000 (U.S.) for the Omnium Global Executive MBA (excluding travel and accommodation)

Duration 13 months for the one-year program; 14 months, with five residency modules in four continents, for the Omnium degree

Format At Rotman, the focus is on decision-making and leadership skills; students are each assigned an executive coach for the program's duration. In the one-year program, student's attend class every other Friday and Saturday, and must complete four, week-long residency modules in downtown Toronto.

Meanwhile, those in the Omnium program study such topics as macroeconomics and international negotiations on-site at campuses in Europe, China and South America.

Star graduate Simon Cooper, president and chief operating officer, Ritz-

Carlton Hotel Co.


University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

Tuition $80,000

Duration 17 months

Format Ivey's classes are held at the school's Toronto location, but a new campus is scheduled to open in downtown Toronto in early 2007. The program focuses on case studies, and each of the three terms begins with a week-long residency session. There is also a Hong Kong-based program, where the emphasis is on doing business in Asia.

Star graduate Tim Hockey, co-chair, TD Canada Trust


York University, Toronto

Tuition $95,000

Duration 18 months

Format The program is offered in partnership with Kellogg School of Management in the U.S. (faculty travels to Toronto to deliver lectures). Students have the opportunity to complete their residency weeks at the Kellogg campus in Chicago. There is also an international study seminar that takes advantage of Schulich's alliances with schools around the world, including universities in Hong Kong and Israel.

Follow Denise Balkissoon on Twitter: @BalkissoonOpens in a new window
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