by Angus MacCaull

Every office goes through transitions. New people start careers. Those with unimaginable expertise retire. Sometimes transfers are arranged, or, less common at AA Munro, someone will leave an office or even the industry for what they believe to be greener pastures elsewhere. Through everything, through the wild mix of to do lists and remembered conversations and full e-mail inboxes, the work has to get done. The work doesn’t wait. And we do key parts of the work together in shared spaces, so it’s important to find ways to line up workflows and personalities. In our core values, this is expressed as a concern for interrelationships.

Two brokers who serve as a great example of honouring interrelationships are Joanne Poirier and Jill Larade in Cheticamp. Each of them brings a wide range of soft skills into the office to create a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere. Joanne has a playful, high pressure style, which is well tempered with her good humor and joie de vivre. Jill is laid back and easy to talk to on the surface, but underneath she’s a driven and industrious soul. They’re both very active and busy people, always on the go whether it’s with family or the minor hockey board or even “running Mi-Carême”—the Acadian tradition of dressing up in masks in the middle of Lent and visiting neighbours.

Strong, semi-permeable professional and personal boundaries form the basis of their productive days. They try to leave what they can at the door each morning when they arrive and get right to work. A little chat in the afternoon is nice and they’re definitely there for each other to lend an ear whenever a problem comes up. There’s a lot of mutual respect. But with very fulfilling lives outside the office, they just don’t have time for much except work during office hours. As the saying goes, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

Joanne and Jill knew each other before they started working together. They first met in a family context because their husbands are cousins. Then when they both had kids around the same time, they got to know each other further as community members. They were also both in the insurance industry before they started sharing an office, so they had a professional relationship from day one as well.

All the different ways in which Joanne and Jill know each other support their particular dynamic and make them an efficient team. But having a lot of connections with a colleague outside of the office isn’t necessarily the answer for everyone. If there’s one aspect of Joanne and Jill’s relationship that might be applicable to situations where colleagues don’t know each other to the same degree, it’s their emphasis on communication, both direct and indirect.

Joanne and Jill maintain an open and constant bubble chat, even though they sit just around the corner from each other. If a client comes in and talks with one of them, the other will often recognize the client’s voice and feed questions and updates through the bubble chat. At any given time in the office either one of them might be working on a client file belonging to the other. This particular approach to communication might not work for all brokers, but Joanne and Jill find it helpful. The key is that they have a conscious eye on how they’re managing communication. Both of them are okay with answering quick work texts on days off too. When everything’s transparent at the office, questions don’t take long to answer. And they’re also very good at reading each other’s body language in person so that they’re able to offer help whenever the other looks a little stressed.

It’s always a bit of a mystery why certain people click and work well together while others don’t. Interrelationships can be tricky. Joanne and Jill find that shared contexts and open communication are a part of the magic for them.

Jill and Joanne at the Office
Jill and Joanne at the office