Kirstine Stewart’s Life Lessons Know No Industry Boundaries

"The time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace." Kirstine Stewart in Our Turn


October 20, 2015 was the release date for “Our Turn” by Kirstine Stewart.  I waited patiently for my local book store to call to let me know my copy had arrived. Twitter was abuzz with details and positive comments about this hot new book on women and leadership. When the call came, I hurried to the book store.  The owner was as happy to put the book in my hands as I was to receive it.

I selected this book to review after reading Kirstine Stewart’s bio on the Advancing Women website. She had been a keynote speaker at AWCWest2015. I knew her book would be at more corporate and executive level than my daily life, but, I was equally sure she had something to say of importance for all women.

I wondered

….does working your way from Girl Friday to the head of Twitter’s North American Media Partnerships transfer to the world of women working in the businesses and companies that research, develop, support, supply and promote the agricultural industry?

…..would her strategies and wisdom apply to women involved in the business of on-farm production? I wanted to find out what the former head of the CBC might offer those who manage businesses from office windows overlooking animals or on a screen in a tractor cab or at a board room table shaped like the tailgate of truck.

As women engaged in agriculture, our ladders of success are unique.  Stewart’s words for her daughter speak to the value of that uniqueness. “What I tell her about ambition, as I would tell any woman, is that success is not just about climbing.  Leading comes from learning, in all its forms, and personal happiness will only be yours when you choose your own ladder.” (p12)  No matter where you are on your ladder, Stewart’s book guides your next steps!

The Details:

202 pages (very manageable)
$29.95 (most reasonable)
9 Chapters, Multiple subsections (all with captivating titles)
Index (11 pages – love this feature)
Numerous dog-eared pages (New copy does not come with this feature, must read & mark important pages)

Reading Response #1 – Dust Jacket Success

Kirstine Stewart’s photo greets me as I open the cover of my shiny new book. The front flap accomplishes its’ purpose.  I am intrigued by the statement “Simply put: the time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace.”

Reading Response #2 – Did I Make the Right Choice?

Stewart’s writing is current, honest and impressive.  It’s high profile, corporate and speaks to her experiences at Paragon Entertainment, Alliance Atlantis, CBC/Radio-Canada and Twitter Canada.  I can’t help but wonder how her words will apply to me and my readers. Page 3 has already given me a positive indicator.  Stewart gives importance to working at a bookshop, library and an agricultural museum (Milton??) by including them as early points along her career pathway. She tells how she responded to an ad, in a newspaper, for her first job as a Girl Friday.  The experiences, as she worked her way through university, gave her the skills and confidence to see the job opportunity, take a chance and then apply herself beyond measure.  The successful results of this attitude resonate in all work worlds.

Reading Response #3 – “Young lady, stop ruining your book”

Reading, reading, reading….. I’m turning the corners of pages to mark content I want to reread or quotes I want to include. My high school English teacher would cringe watching me happily ruin the appearance of this book.  Almost every page is provoking my thinking and inspiring me.  No questions now on book choice.

Reading Response #4 – Quotes & Notes

Stewart’s main message is that women have the talents, skills and attitudes that are best suited for the work world of today. She provides practical strategies along with experiences, observations and visionary statements.

I challenge myself to select four quotes to share.  It’s difficult to narrow down all of those dog-eared pages.

Personal Development – “If you never fail it means you are never trying anything new.  Success means you’ve made more right decisions than wrong ones, but you can’t let failure define you.” (p61)

“The idea of balance doesn’t reflect how the world works, or how we truly spend our time.  It’s not about achieving balance, it’s about flow.” (p130)

Family – “Life’s great hat trick-love, kids and career”…”What has to change is the question.  It’s not “How do you do it all,” but “How will we do it all.”  ….”The work-life juggle isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a family issue-no matter the makeup of that family.  No player scores a hat trick alone; it has to be a team effort. (p102,115,117)

Leadership – “To me, that’s how we need to lead today: being there at the top to clearly express the aims, set goals and expectations, ensure people have what they need to work and then get out of the way so they can get the job done.” (p95)

“The more you act like a leader, the more you learn to be one.  And the more you will be seen as one.  Like strengthening a muscle, it just takes practice.” (p99)

Workplace – “What matters to modern employees is to feel that they’re making a meaningful contribution, that they have purpose and a stake in the work they do, and a certain amount of autonomy in how it gets done.” (p151)  The meeting table isn’t a place to go it alone, but a place where you anchor yourself as part of a team. (p77)

Reading Response #5 – “Dig in your heels & stand tall”

Book finished. Mind full. Wondering.

If you tweet @kirstinestewart late on a Friday night, will she respond?

She does, not once but twice.  She even makes a joke.

I look for a specific quote and find it on page 172. “But today, when it’s not about power but about building connections with employees and the customers you serve, it’s the smartest way to operate.”

Kirstine Stewart is that smart operator.  She talks the talk, walks the walk.

(And “yes”, it was the Ag Museum in Milton!)

-Joan C.

The Biggest Key to Success? Happiness!


When I was a co-op student in high school, my employer led a training program developed around the principles employed at the Seattle Fish Market. One of the key messages was “Choose your attitude”, and when I left that role, she presented me with a gift, a framed image of a water droplet and ripples. The message read, ”Attitude: a little thing that makes a big difference.”

The Happiness Advantage can be summed up in that one word too. If you need proof it’s worth changing, this book has it. If you need tactics to try and train yourself  to be more positive, this book provides them. If you need validation that your success is more the result of your positive outlook on life, this book will give it. It pulls together that which we may already be implicitly aware.

For as much as the world throws its punches at us, we can choose how we respond and react to them. With some practice and training, we can bend our perception and see the opportunity to rise above and thrive in the face of adversity. We can seek the positive or we can be pulled down into the doldrums of the negative. It’s all in your attitude.

There are some super factoids in the book also. Like the Losada Line, which states 2.9013 positive interactions are needed to cancel out one negative. This made me think of business relationships and how complimentary and encouraging I am (or am not). If we are trying to develop a relationship and offering continuous feedback, ample positive reinforcement is essential.

I also love the part about moving the “fulcrum” (the balance point). I have made a conscious effort the past couple years to work on things I love and love the things I work on. We can’t always choose the projects we’re assigned or the teams we work with so when this happens, changing our mindset is a powerful way to still do your best work and get more out of the experience than if it feels like a chore. It’s also a great reminder for the ways you choose to spend non-work time. You must enjoy it or its for naught. I know this feeling well when I haven’t kept a positive frame of mind. It’s an empty feeling if I spend a weekend at the farm, as an example, and if there isn’t a task to throw myself into I sometimes feel like I wasted the time, which I so rarely get. I hate that feeling so I try to enjoy every moment I can, wherever I am, because ultimately, time is precious.

In all, there are 7 principles which Achor outlines to strengthen your “happiness” and take advantage of this positive mindset. We may do some of them already, but I suspect there is room for each of us to always improve in one area or another, so I liked the suggestions to develop each principle. Generally, they don’t seem difficult to put into practice so long as I can commit to them. For example, implementing the “20-second rule” and removing the barriers that cause procrastination will take some work and practice. To get motivated though, I decided to purchase a “gratitude journal” to start capturing at least 3 things everyday which I’m thankful for, another suggestion Achor makes to find the positive in our lives everyday.

At a recent Ag Women’s Network event, one of the women spoke of how she loves the energy the events give her and attending them is important for her personal wellbeing and motivation. This is partially the “Social Investment” I think Achor is talking about and our regular discussion around work-life balance fits well the emphasis he places on personal relationships. Our companies and industry will benefit if we can all find greater satisfaction by richer personal relationships.

Perhaps the coolest thing this book suggests is that leading by example truly works. In a workplace culture or an organization where the mood may be less than positive, a few employees can truly change the culture by changing their outlook. While it would be great for this to be led by management, employees can act in the interim to jumpstart the happiness ripple effect. At least until management can read this book! 😉

(Thanks to Christina Crowley-Arkley for loaning me the book and all its dog-eared pages. They were super helpful for writing this review!)

– JC