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Sparking workplace success

Sophie Clyne-Salley, senior manager, provincial systemic therapy program, received the inaugural Workplace Inspiration award last fall.
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​Sophie Clyne-Salley, BC Cancer's inaugural Workplace Inspiration award winner, at last November's BC Cancer Excellence Awards dinner. With Clyne-Salley, from left: Dr. Michael McKenzie, VP of quality; Deb Walker, a member of the BC Cancer Network of Patient & Family Partners; and Dr. Malcolm Moore, former president of BC Cancer. Photo by Paul Willinsky, BC Cancer.

The BC Cancer Excellence Awards give us an opportunity to shine a light on some of the inspiring people and teams at BC Cancer. Nominations will be accepted from June 3 to August 16, 2019. During this nomination period for the second annual BC Cancer Excellence Awards, we’re taking an occasional look at one of 2018’s winners. Go to for more information and to submit a nomination today.

Sophie Clyne-Salley, senior manager, provincial systemic therapy program, received the inaugural Workplace Inspiration award last fall. Sophie’s BC Cancer choir, Songcology, will perform at the Excellence Awards dinner at the BC Cancer Summit on the evening of Nov. 22 at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver.

Sophie shares her thoughts on the meaning of the award and her work:

The criteria for the Workplace Inspiration award reads: “With their infectious personality and winning attitude, this person inspires those around them and is someone colleagues can look to for encouragement and motivation.” What does that mean to you?

This was such a lovely recognition to receive, I think for the most part because of how much I value the relationships I’ve built since arriving at BC Cancer. It was great to see some of the qualities I appreciate in others being reflected back as something I bring. This award also reflects someone who enjoys their work and the interactions they are able to have on a daily basis, so speaks to that wider culture of BC Cancer that has enabled me to show up in a certain way.

Around the time you were nominated for the award, you were a clinical manager at BC Cancer - Vancouver. Then you moved on to become the senior manager of the Provincial Systemic Therapy Program. Can you briefly talk about that new, big role, its challenges and pleasures?

I really loved being a manager at the Vancouver centre. I enjoyed the very varied and jam-packed schedule, and the high volume of meaningful interactions I was able to have on a daily basis. This “new” role is connected to some of the work I was involved in within the Systemic Program, but has a more strategic outlook with consideration of the needs of the population and BC Cancer at a provincial level. I’ve been exposed to a whole new world of national and provincial structures and organizations, and have a completely different appreciation of the field of systemic therapy. My favourite work has been tackling some of the systemic concerns that run across the province, and being able to take time to further explore these and collaborate on some solutions. I’ve enjoyed getting into some of those issues that I noticed as a manager, but didn’t have time to attend to – such as quantifying the impact of new treatments and exploring standard quality metrics. Another pleasure of this role has been the new relationships that I’ve had a chance to build in the Systemic and Provincial Clinical Programs portfolios.

We know you’ve been instrumental in creating many employee-focused initiatives, from the Staff Spotlight Series to the Next Steps Program to The Recognition Shoe. A lot of this is about empowering people. Why is that important – and is there one initiative above all that you’re most proud of?

For me, a great culture doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional action from leaders to create the conditions for people to thrive. We know from research that if there is trust and connection in an organization, then other factors such as patient safety and experience, and workplace enjoyment and productivity, also goes up. If we feel engaged and empowered as people, then we are able to offer our best selves and can often connect and solve issues with our colleagues before they escalate into problems.

Some of my favourite initiatives were the Speaker Series and the Staff Spotlight – a set of talks that were led by external speakers on specific leadership topics, and sessions that highlighted passions from BC Cancer staff. We had great attendance and feedback from these, and it was lovely to see the buzz following the sessions. It was also pretty special to see how the wider community and other organizations would willingly give up their time and expertise to support our organization and people, often sharing their own interactions with BC Cancer and why they wanted to contribute in this way.

You also co-founded Vancouver’s Songcology Choir – a great example of bringing a diverse array of people from many corners of the BC Cancer community. What do you love about the choir, about singing – and what’s your favourite song to sing with that group?

I love seeing people that I don’t have a chance to interact with on a daily basis, and coming together to create music. Seeing the pieces and voice parts painstakingly broken down, and then built up in rehearsal to the final end product is very rewarding. Particularly for those harder pieces, where we’re almost ready to give up, but have faith in our musical director that we can do it!

We have a pretty wide repertoire in terms of styles of music. The songs I probably enjoy singing most are those that I feel connect closest to the ethos of our group – Bridge Over Troubled Water or Let It Be both come to mind. Saying that, I also love singing Bohemian Rhapsody and some of our musical and Disney medleys with the group.

For more information on the BC Cancer Excellence Awards, go to

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