058 Labour Relations: Lessons for New Managers with Mike Abbott

“You don’t need everything to come to you immediately. Learn the business. Gain the trust and respect of the people around you, and you’ll be very surprised how quickly those career goals will materialize.” – Mike Abbott

Today my guest is Mike Abbott, VP Labour Relations at Air Canada. We discuss the most impactful lessons Mike has learned as chief spokesperson in over 50 rounds of collective bargaining with large, multinational unions across many countries. This episode is full of sharp insights for new leaders.

Prior to Air Canada, Mike held senior roles in Operations and HR at Brinks Canada and McCain Foods. He holds a BA/MA in Political Science & Business from Memorial University, as well as a Masters in Industrial Relations from London School of Economics.

In today’s episode, we cover:

  • The importance of learning the business. Understanding the realities of not only your own function but other business units in your organization is critical in developing your business acumen (and your credibility with senior leaders)
  • How self-awareness links to great leadership. Knowing what drives you, how that changes over time, and being able to self-reflect are simple actions that any leader can take right now.
  • Who wins the title of greatest guitar player of all time…and much more!

If you find this episode valuable, please rate us on Apple Podcasts

If You Want to Be a Successful Manager, Learn Your Business

Especially when you’re new to the industry, you really need to take time to learn your business, to learn the inputs and the outputs that run your business; like what are the factors that drive profitability, customer satisfaction, and what helps you keep employees and keep them motivated.

You can’t do that unless you know your business.



Good Managers See the Bigger Picture

Try to see the big picture, like what the vision of the company is and where the company is going, and where your particular department falls in, but also try to see what drives the people you’re managing. Because not everyone is driven by the same things that you’re driven by.

Labor Relations: Looking at Overarching Themes

If a union has 20 proposals, try to find out the commonalities. Try to figure out the general constructs that they’re looking for, and likewise with the operation, too.

Look for overarching themes. Keep that in the back of your mind when you’re negotiating. A chief negotiator needs to be able to see through that and look at the common pieces you need to put together so that both sides are satisfied.

Links and Resources

Connect with Mike: LinkedIn

Getting to ‘Yes’ by Roger Fisher & William Ury (book)

Any book by Peter Drucker

Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig (book)