VOCL 033 – An Interview with Mike Kennedy

Twitter Episode Focus: In this episode, we feature an interview with Mike Kennedy, an entrepreneur and “serial volunteer” currently living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We discuss his experiences and what he learned in Southern Ontario as part of the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC for short).  We also cover his background, some leadership […]

Written By chris

On June 15, 2014

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Episode Focus: In this episode, we feature an interview with Mike Kennedy, an entrepreneur and “serial volunteer” currently living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We discuss his experiences and what he learned in Southern Ontario as part of the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC for short).  We also cover his background, some leadership quotes that motivate him, as well as some exciting stuff that he is working on right now.  If you are contemplating applying for the GGCLC (nominations close 30 September 2014), you’ll really love this interview.


  • The interview is 30 minutes in length, so I’m skipping the articles section this week.  You can always go to the website to see the latest posts.  Better yet, sign up for the newsletter and you’ll get them automatically every week!
  • There were a few glitches in Skype, so I had to do a little more editing than I normally would – at one stage, I had to re-record one of my pieces after the fact so it sounds a little different.  Can you pick out where it happened?
  • I try to include pictures for all the posts that I do, but sometimes there isn’t a stock image available that adequately sums up the article title.  I love Canadian nature and landscape photography, and I love supporting local artists. Accordingly, I have partnered with Daryl Whaley of Daryl Whaley Photography.  Currently living in Greenwood, NS, Daryl also happens to be in the military, but he could easily transition to being a photographer.  I love his eye for composition, and I think his images will be a welcome addition to the occasional post.  Of course, if you don’t want to wait to see more, please check out his images at https://www.facebook.com/DarylWhaleyPhotography.
  • I’m rapidly coming to the realization that I now know quite a fair bit about websites and podcasting – if this is something that you are thinking about getting into, give me a shout!
  • We will now look at the main topic of the show – “An Interview with Mike Kennedy”.  

VOCL Main Interview

Guest Bio (Margaret Narration):  Mike Kennedy, CA, is a proud public servant by day, and entrepreneur by night with experience across public, private, and NGO sectors. In his role with the Nova Scotia Government, he advises on intersectoral collaboration and social finance. As Co-Owner of the Canadian Bacon Cookhouse and H2O Golf, he is building a portfolio of private companies that bring value and entertainment to the people of Halifax. He is dedicated to making Halifax a better place to work and live and currently serves as a director with multiple community organizations including the East Coast Music Association, Halifax Awesome Foundation, Hope Blooms, and the Springtide Collective. He is an avid runner, cyclist and musician.

Mike Kennedy

Mike Kennedy

I’m really excited to have you as a guest today – I’m a big fan of your many initiatives (especially bacon) and I am very impressed with how you fit it all in.  I love your LinkedIn profile tagline – “Mike Kennedy, CA, Entrepreneur, Energizer, Serial Volunteer, Advocate of Awesome, Proud H/LIGONI/N, Unapologetic Fan of Rush.”  So Mike, tell us a little about yourself, who you are and your journey on how you got to where you are today?

  • Raised in Porter’s Lake, NS
  • Lived in several locations including Wolfville (NS), Saskatoon (SK) and Calgary (AB)
  • Graduated from Acadia University with a Bachelor of Business (accounting major), and has subsequently graduated with a Master’s in Public Accounting
  • Getting lots of things done with the assistance of coffee, passion, working with people who have complementary skill sets, and motivation that comes from ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out’)

What is a leadership-related quote that motives or inspires you?

  • You are an average of the 10 people that you spend the most time with (a personal take on Jim Rohn’s “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”)
  • Paul McCartney / John Lennon opening lyrics to Hey Jude (“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad.  Take a sad song and make it better”)

Why does that motivate you?

  • Various meanings – there are many things outside our span of control but we choose how to perceive events

How do you use that quote in your work and everyday life?

  • It serves as a grounding tool
  • Do something neat (e.g., H2O Golf), lobster shell golf balls

You did the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference in 2012, the same year that I did – what made you volunteer for the GGCLC?

  • Recommendation by Louis Brill – GGCLC alumni, friend, business partner
  • Opportunity to experience Canada with people of different backgrounds and values
  • Do something “out of my comfort zone”

Tell us about your tour – what did you enjoy most about the tour (you can have several highlights)?

  • Ontario 2 – Tour of southern Ontario including Toronto, Kingston, Cornwall, and Ottawa
  • Plenary session – high calibre speakers including Dominic Barton, Thomas Homer-Dixon, and Naheed Nenshi (these were also featured in VOCL episodes 3 and 4
  • “Ontario 2 family” – very diverse group with different beliefs
  • Walmart Eastern Canada Distribution Centre – we need to be world class in a finite area
  • Zachary Weeks – a greater understanding of disabilities and how we need to focus on inclusion

What was it like spending 15 intense days, with little rest, with a dozen or so people you had not previously met?

  • Ton of fun
  • 10 days of doing a road trip, with 7-10 stops per day
  • Quickly formed group dynamics – intense yet respectful
  • You can’t be strong headed and use a bullhorn to communicate with others – you have to be respectful and inclusive of multiple viewpoints

What leadership lessons did you get out of the tour?

  • Not everyone has the same viewpoint – it can be challenging to reconcile, but done correctly provides great opportunity
  • Being okay with uncertainty
  • There are lots of “grey areas” – few things are black and white

Would you recommend the GGCLC to anyone else?  If so, who should apply?

  • Recommended – provides a better understanding of worldviews, your leadership style is examined and pushed, understand Canada from different points of view

We are now switching focus to personal views on leadership.  If you were to mentor a younger version of yourself, what advice would you give knowing what you know today?

  • To not be afraid to be vulnerable or empathetic > talk about it
  • Making mistakes is the best way to learn – don’t be afraid to pivot
  • Importance of taking time for yourself each  day

What do you think are the three most important attributes that a leader can possess?

  • Being purpose-driven vice egocentric – paraphrasing a quote from the Governor General “you can achieve anything that you want as long as you are not married to getting credit”
  • Passion/drive – it’s contagious
  • Empathy

If you could pick only one, which would it be?

  • Being purpose-oriented

Anything else you would like to bring up?

  • Apply for the GGCLC!

What are you working on right now and how can people get a hold of you?

  • Public service renewal – tri-sector leadership
  • Businesses – Canadian Bacon Cookhouse and H2O Golf
  • Springtide Collective – helping Nova Scotians understand politics from a non-partisan perspective
  • Hope Blooms – youth from North End Halifax – their salad dressing got a $40,000 investment from CBC’s TV show “Dragon’s Den”

That was a great interview with Mike – I’d like to thank him for his time and insights.

VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action

Takeaways and introspection

  • Apply for the GGCLC!
  • I want to discuss leadership with Canadian leaders.  Let me know if you think you would be a good guest for the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast – I’d love to chat with you.

I’m Chris Hache, asking you to be VOCL for a better Canada


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