On Monday, February 15th, I met with Larissa LaPierre who is the president of the Tri-City Hockey Association.I interviewed her on what it was like to be in such a position of leadership in the community. Larissa herself never played hockey but it is an interest of her daughters so she decided that she needed to contribute in some way. Below is the interview I had with her. It has been slightly altered for length and clarification:
So to start off, how’d you get into the association?
Well my daughter plays hockey, and she had played for about two years before I got into being the position of secretary. And I really just got into it to help out and I didn’t play hockey growing up so it was just a way to learn a little more about what hockey’s all about and how the association worked. A big factor was she loves hockey so I could see her doing this for a long time so I thought this was a good place to get involved. That was probably three years ago now [since when I first became secretary].
Did you volunteer, like do little things at tournaments before you got into the association more?
Yea just helped out with her team and things that were going on just, being a manager and helping out with those type of things.
What sort of made you decide it’d be a good idea to step up?
That’s just kind of my personality I usually like to just get involved and take on some responsibility and you know just have a vested interest in what’s going on. A lot of it was just to, like I said, learn about hockey and how things work. I’m not an ice skater and my husband didn’t play hockey so we weren’t going to be helping out on the ice so I thought this was a good way to help out with. I work in IT so I’ve got an office kind of skills background so I thought that would be a good place for our family could contribute. That was the main reasons.
How long have you been the president of the association?
This is the first year. I was the secretary for two years.
Did anyone sort of ask you if you wanted to step up or was it like of we need somebody and you were like “oh I’ll help”
The fellow who was our president resigned kind of close to the beginning of the year so there was probably about six of us that were eligible to step up and I guess the other five people voted for me. I mean, I was in a good position to be able to just kind of step in. I had worked closely with the last fellow and in hindsight I didn’t know how much work it was going to be but I had a rough idea of where things needed to go so the member of our current executive were certainly on board.
What benefits do you have that you feel personally from being able to work at that or volunteer at that level?
I have learned a lot about how the association gets run and I think I appreciate a little bit better. Its’ amazing how many volunteers there is that goes into hockey. Our association doesn’t pay anybody who does an executive position and even if you take it up the ranks we’re governed by a body called Pacific Coast they’re almost all volunteer and even when you get to BC Hockey there’s still a ton of volunteers. I don’t know that people appreciate all the work that the volunteers do but I certainly do, it’s pretty amazing and our association wouldn’t exist without volunteers. I’ve got a way better appreciation for the thing that go on and have learned to be a bit more patient on some things that come up as issues. The other thing as far as leadership goes I think it’s just highlighted that if I want something changed then I can. I have the power to change it or I have the power to at least do something about it. It’s easy to complain about thing if you don’t like the way it’s going but it’s a lot of meaning to have the opportunity to actually make some changes which is great.
What do you find are sort of the challenges in the position?
Um, Volunteers. There’s this kind of this drawing that volunteers are a tough group of people to lead because their coming from all different walks of life and they didn’t necessarily apply of this job maybe they don’t have all the qualifications. You know there’s a wide variety of people so it’s a bit challenging to manage. Some people have a lot of time to give others have a little bit of time to give so you just have to be really patient and certainly the more the merrier.
It must be sort of hard as well because some of the volunteers might be a little challenging to work with in a way.
Yea some people certainly, most people I will say are there for the greater good but some are there because they have a certain idea that they want. But for the most part every ones there for the right reasons the other thing is we just never have enough volunteers for sure so it’s really one of those areas where you can’t really replace it with money, we need people and their hours and their time to really make things run. So yea there’s always a lack of volunteers for sure.
I didn’t even realize that it was such a volunteer run thing above the small associations as well.
Yea me neither. I didn’t either until this year and I mean there’s a lot of volunteers that they don’t even have kids that play hockey anymore they’re just giving back and at a higher level and that pretty amazing.
Yea that must be nice having parents that come back every year even when their kids aren’t.
It is. One of the things I’m hoping to do while doing this job is to get some of our alumni girls back so we got girls that are twenty and twenty one now that used to play for Tri-Cities and a lot of them are either refereeing or maybe looking to get into coaching so we don’t have a ton of that going on but I‘d really like to see that because all, like the little girls love all the older girls.
What other volunteering do you do?
I volunteer at the PAC across, at the school so similar situation, lots of stuff going on over there that requires, I mean it’s a lot centred around fundraising like any sort of social thing that goes on at the school is run by the Parent Advisory Committee. Then through work our department has a daycare in the Downtown Eastside that we volunteer through. So my work actually has a foundation, so rather than donating to United Way or something like that, we actually donate there and then my company matches all the money that the employees donate. From there you can actually apply to get money from the foundation to give to the places you volunteer for in the community. With this daycare it helps children who have addicted moms, so we go every quarter and volunteer and the foundation gives us like $500 to give to them. My work’s put a lot of focus over the last couple years on just getting out in the community and volunteering so we’ve been doing that which is pretty neat because most of the other volunteering I do revolve around the kids which is slightly self-serving so it’s really nice to do something that just has nothing to do with any self-interests I have, it’s just going to volunteer and helping out.
Did you do any leadership classes when you were in high school or any outside of school?
I do not recall there being anything in school. Honestly I’ve done a tremendous amount in the past year. My boss at work has taken this leadership training and it kind of has changed her life. She’s been with my place about eighteen months and she’s bringing this whole new focus around leadership and that everybody could potentially be leader. I’ve worked at my work for nineteen years and before leadership was always the thing that the guy does at the top and nobody else does anything. So she’s kind of bringing this whole everyone can be a leader thing and it is a little bit life changing actually. Then most recently I went to this week long course in Seattle that was extremely intense but just completely focused on leadership, not so much to do with your work but with life and how leadership is you doing and getting what you want, whatever you want you be a leader and go get it, kind of thing.
So that’s sort of something that influenced you just over the past year to step up more?
Yea I will say that I kind of tend to complain a little bit about hockey because there’s always a lack of volunteers like I say and you know there’s always a lot of work to do. However after kind of thinking a little more about it and going to this course, I’m thinking about it in different terms now and have a completely different outlook on it now. We tend to have, over the years we tend to promote people that just have been there a really long time so “oh you know your job really well so we’ll just promote you and now you’ve got people to manage” Where she’s buying into is you kind of have leadership qualities or maybe you don’t. I can see around now, we’ve got a lot of managers that are really not great at people management they’re really good at their job and they know it inside out but as far as managing people which is really what we want managers and leaders to do, they’re not that great at it, to be fair we haven’t provided any training around it so we’re talking about it any ways.
That’s good, especially as a manager you should be able to work with people.
Yea exactly and I mean her leadership is a lot about self-awareness so like “What are you doing to solve this problem?” Don’t blame everybody else and don’t point the finger at everybody else, what are you doing? And the all the way down the line like “How can I make my people think about what they’re doing and empower them to solve problems” rather we’ve been having the thinking where the one guy at the top tells everybody what to do and everybody’s busy doing stuff. Where she’s really onboard with “We’ve got 40 people in IT we should have 40 people potentially making ideas and decisions” You know what I’m going to send you this video. It’s a speech a commander of some submarine had. Let’s say he’s in the US army or something and he just talks about how there was a bunch of people who worked on the submarine and he made all the choices and all the decisions and there was 200 people who worked on the submarine and they just did whatever he said. And I guess he decided “hmm this isn’t really working like this doesn’t make any sense there’s 200 of them how could I possibly know more than them”. And so it just kind of goes along on how he changed his kind of leadership style, it’s pretty neat.
That’s all the questions I have, do you have anything else you would like to add?
I think that one of the things I’m going to try to do in the coming years is to figure out is how to attract more volunteers [for hockey] and more people to step up so that’s a bit of a work in progress. At work also because when you work somewhere for a long time you tend to get into a routine just come to work every day and do your job and go home. So yea those are the things that I’m trying to do is to you get people to get engaged and get excited about what they’re doing.
Yea you got to find some sort of motivation in the people
Well yea and that’s exactly what it is that everybody ticks a little bit differently so what is it that makes Bob tick and let’s make that happen for him.
I was very happy that I could meet with Larissa, and found it quite interesting how what her boss at work is supporting ideas we had learned last year in leadership with John Maxwell’s 360 Degree Leader. I watched the video that Larissa sent me and found it extremely interesting, I definitely recommend watching it here