Leading with kindness and respect – Meet Sam Sele
February 8, 2023
Just as a surgeon needs fine motor skills, and a race car driver needs lightning-fast reactions, it takes empathy, knowledge of the regulatory process and excellent listening skills to resolve disputes between the CER, pipeline companies, Indigenous communities, and landowners.
After joining the CER in February 2014 as a Socio-Economic Specialist on the Damage Prevention and Issue Resolution Team in the Operations Business Unit, in 2015 Sam Sele found his home working in Energy Adjudication Business Unit in the role of Technical Specialist, on the Public Participation Team. This role saw him working with landowners, pipelines companies, Indigenous communities, and other parties to resolve disputes.
“I genuinely love the folks I work with and that my role requires me to be involved in programs and with teams across the organization. I also enjoy meeting with landowners and Indigenous communities at their kitchen table, hearing their stories, and doing my best to support them,” says Sam. “In the 10 years I have worked for the CER, I have learned that more often than not, my job of helping to resolve complex disputes begins with listening to their needs and helping them understand and navigate the regulatory process. Sometimes, folks just want to tell you their stories.”
Sam’s affinity for conflict resolution began early in life as a child growing up in the Liberian village of Fangonda. In the absence of a formal, but respected legal system, he learned firsthand the importance of interest-based and win-win solutions to problems.
“When there were concerns about property and land, not dissimilar to issues we face here at the CER, disputes were brought before the elders of our village and solutions were reached with the involvement and consideration of all parties,” he notes. “As I recall, there were never any punishments given, and disputes were looked upon as a means to strengthen village relations and to find ways to work together or exchange services for mutual benefit of the community.”
When asked what aspect of his career he is most proud of, without hesitation Sam answers his education. “I attended high school in a refugee camp which came with quite a few challenges, including not having the basic materials to fully participate. Within six months of leaving the refugee camp where my family and I lived after escaping civil war in Liberia, we arrived in the United States, and I was accepted to the University of Minnesota and supported myself through the entire undergrad degree. I’m very proud of that.”
After working in the US for a while, Sam and his wife moved to Calgary where he completed a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Energy Development at the University of Calgary. “Our daughter was born halfway through my degree and I only fell asleep taking the train to school once,” he recalls.
Sam gives special thanks to Paul Georgison for being a generous, supportive mentor throughout his career. “He supported my passion for conflict resolution and encouraged me to receive all the training, certifications, and qualifications necessary to do my job to the best of my ability,” he adds.
In reflecting back upon his career and life so far, Sam shares this advice: “I always think it best to lead with kindness and respect, regardless of a person’s situation and/or what they are giving back to me. There’s always a win-win. You just have to look hard enough to find it.”
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