Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Who are You Thankful For?

As I've said many times, "It's not what I have in my life that's important, it's who".

I was creating some material for a client on the "Seven Environments of You" and one of the questions in the people section I often ask is "Who are you thankful for?" I am usually so focused on the needs of my client that I create the material with only that person in mind. But as my afternoon freed up and I had some extra time to ponder, I started asking myself the same question.

This is what came to me. I share this with the hope that you'll do the same, take time to think about this and share it with the people who have made a difference in your life. Unless you tell them, they might never know....

I'm thankful for my family who have always supported me unconditionally in all my endeavors. And my friends...the true friends who take time to be interested in what's happening in my life, sharing in my victories and challenges, celebrating the first and helping me through the latter. My son, who is my best teacher and biggest fan, who always keeps me on my toes and lets me into his life so I can share in it, even from so far away. Well, maybe he's not my biggest fan, because that might be shared by my friend David who always applauds everything I do and never agrees with or imagines there's anything I can't do and reminds me that being me is perfectly OK. And the teachers I've had in my life who have encouraged me to pull myself forward and never stop asking questions and looking for a different way. Bottom line, they taught me never to think the words 'no' or 'impossible' or that something can't be done, because there is always a way.

I'm thankful for my clients who, without often knowing it, help me grow and learn and trust me enough to let me into their heads and hearts and help them find their way to creating a better life. And in that I don't separate work and home, as they're all one. They aren't just clients, there are an important part of my life and have enriched it immeasurably.

You know...just thinking this feels darn good. It's a reminder that I am surrounded by some pretty awesome people and there's nothing better than that.

So I ask you, who are you thankful for? Who has made such a profound difference in your life that you can't imagine ever going back to the way it was before knowing them? How have they helped you, encouraged and supported you and when was the last time you told them just that?

There's no time like now.

Wishing you the best...
Donna Karlin

Monday, January 26, 2004

Planning Ahead by Looking Back

As you plan ahead, getting your week's schedule in order, look back at the week before. Did you accomplish everything you set out to do? Were your daily intentions met? Did you control your days or did the days control you? This will give you insights into planning ahead. And as you plug in meetings, time to work on projects and various appointments, ask yourself if in past weeks you chose the right priorities and worked on them, or, did you get sidetracked along the way.

These thought-provoking questions will help you make the necessary changes to tweak the way you work, so the process works for you.

It's not only making choices....it's making the choice to choose, rather than get lost in the chaos of the moment. And in making choices, you are now in control of your life. The chaos doesn't dictate who you are or what it is you do. That paradigm shift might be all you need in order to de-stress and focus on what's truly important.

Evaluate the work you did last week. Did it give you energy, fuel you..... inspire you? Or did it deplete you? Are you prioritising and scheduling what matters most to you? That's the true definition of working smarter, not harder.

Leave room in your schedule for reality....i.e. checking email, verifying meetings haven't been cancelled or moved to a different location and, if so, that you have plenty of travel time to get there if needed. Changes, deadlines, and interruptions happen. That's a fact of life so begin with that mindset. If that isn't the case, then you have found time and, if it is, you'll have booked enough buffer/thinking time to be flexible and not reactive.

By looking back at what was, how you did your work, scheduling, planning and prioritising, you can better plan the present with the realisations of what worked and what didn't and using what you learned to work smarter.

What 'was' is our best learning tool, only if we use the experience to grow and change what didn't work to a way that does.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Building Teams

This past week I did two team building retreats for two completely different groups, from level of responsibility, to the jobs they did. One was primarily men and the other all women. Even though the goal of each of the workshops was the same....to build strong, cohesive teams, and many of the interactive exercises were the same, the results were dramatically different. One group the outcome was blatant. They walked out of the room at the end of the day, percolating with ideas and new ways to utilise the new found awareness of each other and individual talents into a plan of action and distribution of tasking. They learned who each other is other than their job descriptions. The newfound awareness created a bond that won't easily be broken. And even into the week the energy was still tangible and the feedback I was given as positive as I could ever have hoped for.

The second group. all women, reacted differently. Not more emotional or (as some of my clients love to tease me about) touchy-feely.....but more subtle. And it wasn't until the end of the second day where the bonding was more apparent, definitely cemented further on the train ride home to Ottawa. These were no longer just co-workers but friends, willing to work together with whatever it takes to get the job done and be there as a helpful resource for each other. Distance would not be an issue with this group and I can almost guarantee emails will flow, asking for input, advice and feedback, further bonding these colleagues together. My ultimate goal.

Facilitation is just that, being an enabler to change. And sometimes it's knowing how to orchestrate questions to draw out information and awareness and, other times knowing when to step back and task the group to make up the questions....for if they ask ones they want the answer to, they'll remember those answers for a very long time. No longer will these be faceless names on emails or phone calls. They will be colleagues with families, people with hobbies and talents outside the workplace, common backgrounds or passions which will make these relationships stronger.

And now the ball is in their court with what to do with this newfound awareness. Not only do they know personality types but how to work with the uniqueness of the various types. How to build groups, task accordingly and allow the individuals to go with their strengths.

When these separate groups went their way, I can almost guarantee they will look at each other through new eyes. They will now be people, not job descriptions. How much better would the workplace be if people were treated as individuals, not means to an end or deadlines?

Many heads of companies and organisations hesitate to spend the money for these kind of workshops and retreats, but what they don't realise is the outcome and benefits far outweigh the costs and the results prove this every time if for no other reason than the staff feel valued. It shows them the 'powers that be' know they are worth the layout of cost and are the most valuable resource any organisation has. For without their people, they would cease to exist.

When is the last time you provided a vehicle to make your staff more effective....stronger, recognised for their talents and strengths and helped them build on them? What could be the downside for enabling people to do better? In doing so, people begin to work smarter, not harder and burnout diminishes as does stress leave and staff turnover. The cost of the latter is far greater.

Something to think about.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


"This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind...let it be something good." - author unknown

Let it be kind words, not those of anger.....a choice to enrich your life and that of one who means the most to you. A lesson for us all, unfortunately most don't take notice until something touches us that is life threatening. Then it is too late. Time stops for no one, no matter how much we wish it. Seconds turn to minutes into days, weeks, months and years. The only thing that changes in how time passes is in our choice as to what we do with it, not time itself. The sayings "one day" or "when things slow down I'll......" don't apply. Things only slow down when you slow them.

As George Bernard Shaw was quoted as saying "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can't find them, make them."

Those who let circumstance determine who they are, always regret what they didn't take time to experience. They blame the ones and things they want the most and make them suffer for their lack of choice, further strengthening the blame. Remember the last two letters of that word, blame. And instead of living in denial and regret, no longer allow time to slip through your hands like sand....impossible to trap or hold onto. Instead, experience the blissful warmth of becoming one with it.

Donna Karlin

Friday, January 16, 2004

Field of Dreams Concept

"Build it and they will come". I'm not sure what was more popular...the movie or the message behind it. Those three words are used regularly in every possible context. The movie? Not earth shattering, but there's something about it that resonates within me. I love it. I can't tell you how many times I've watched it. And when I think of the concept "build it and they will come", that too can be applied to so many things in life.

Build a successful company or organisation and people will flock to you, wanting to be a part of it, be a customer, supplier, team player.....you name it. Build a great name for yourself and you'll have people knocking down your door, or at the very least, thinking off you first and foremost for your area of expertise. And build a friendship, relationship, anything based on integrity and passion and you'll be unstoppable.

You know what it's like for the "popular ones"..... those who are surrounded by people wherever they go. People want to listen, share, be a part of their life. They're not always sure why. There's a level of energy present that they thrive on. Similarly in a relationship...one that meshes, deeper, more powerful than others, incorporating an intuitive level that enables you to know what the other person is feeling even when they don't verbalise it. A perfect fit in every way. "Build it and they will come".....They will to those who have an aura of self-confidence that exudes strength and power. It's very seductive.

People like this make things happen. For those who try to be like this....putting on a fa├žade.....it never seems to work, or, if it does, it's not for long. It only applies when it's an integral part of who that person is, not for what they'll get out of a situation behaving this way but because they believe in themselves and everything in their lives with a passion and surety.

Build yourself into who you want to be and before you know it, your circle of friends, colleagues, and circle of influence will grow exponentially. It's being you, not someone everyone else thinks you should be. And when you're not only accepted for yourself, but are celebrated because of it, you're already there.

They WILL come.

Donna Karlin

Monday, January 12, 2004

Roles and Goals

I've had many a debate with friends and colleagues about goal setting. I used to work with my clients on setting goals, and lately have replaced long term goal setting with 'daily intentions'. These are more powerful for the simple reason they're immediate, and ultimately help us get to where we want to go.

However after rethinking the process of setting goals, and I know this will create a great deal more debate, I realised it's just as, if not more important to determine what your roles are in life, personal and professional and work from there. If you choose your most important roll as manager, parent, friend for example and work on those, your life will automatically balance itself.

So instead of asking yourself what goals you can set in the four areas of life, ask what the most important thing is you can do in each of your roles. For eg. "What is the most important role I have as a parent this week?" "What is most important for me to do in my role as manager or leader?" Then build on them using your weekly schedule and choice of activities. Plug time in for each and slowly you'll see everything fall into place.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, January 10, 2004

The Ins and Outs of Delegation

Managers, leaders, and people in general have trouble letting go when they delegate and, when they do, it's with the instructions "Do this", "Do it this way and I need it back by Thursday".

Often that's the extent of the communication which could cause a tug of war throughout the duration of the project. It's hard to supervise one person, never mind many, when you become involved in every thing they do, how they do it and partial results along the way. It's not up to a manager to be involved in every step their staff makes.

Effective delegation focuses on the results not how they came about. It allows staff to empower themselves by using their talents, imagination, innovative ideas and values to get the job done.

Here are some points to follow when delegating

1. Articulate desired results....what needs to be done, the outcome you need, not how to do it. Have a conversation with the person you're delegating to and describe those results in such detail that they see the same picture, can visualise it and can come up with a plan of action to get there using their techniques, knowledge, expertise and plan of action. NOT yours. Everyone approaches a task differently. What you need from them is the outcome.

2. Give them guidelines. What parameters do they have to operate under? What are the possible challenges, or what are the possible ways the project can fail and how can that be avoided?

3. Let them know how much support they have on this i.e. resources, both human and financial, technical or organizational they have at their disposal.

4. Accountability.....what's on the line for this. Responsibility and accountability are key elements. If your staff buys into the process, and desired goals of this, it will never be an issue. And, they'll have great results to add to their list of accomplishments because THEY found a way of getting it done and well. As well, it's a feather in your cap because you can show you have a strong independent team who gets the job done.

Micromanaging deflates a person's sense of self-worth. And at the same time, sets you up for having to be responsible for that staffer next time around and the time after because the attitude becomes "I don't have to put much effort into this because he/she will change it ultimately anyway. Besides which every time I turn right I'm told to turn left and never know how things will change from one moment to the next". Micromanaging breeds indecisiveness. Leading breeds strength.

What kind of team do you want working with you?

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

What is Life For You?

Are you looking in a specific place? Expecting something to happen? What energises you.....makes you feel alive? Life is yours. It isn't what happens to someone else, it's what happens and how it happens to you. And, no matter good, bad or indifferent, it's how you process the experience and use it to enrich your life. Life isn't about somewhere else, some other time or place or the 'what ifs'.

It's about now and how you make the most of this moment in time or, waste it.

It's absorbing all there is around you, learning, growing, feeling all emotions. Not just the good ones. It's acknowledging your choices might not have been the best ones and knowing nothing or no one is stopping you from making new ones. No one other than yourself, that is. So often I hear the words "Life is flying by. Where did the time go?"

You can't recapture it. And you know, when you're doing exactly what it is you want you don't want to recapture the time, because the innermost feeling that runs through you is "It was perfect just the way it was and I wouldn't change a thing". That's when you know you lived it....didn't let time escape.

I had a brief conversation this afternoon with someone who is about to retire. We had never spoken before. I asked him if he had anything planned for his retirement and his answer was that he had been on a schedule for 31 years while he worked. Now was time for no plans...just play. It was interesting. My question was what he had planned, not scheduled. I was asking myself, did he have things he wanted to do yet never got around to doing? Was he going to wake up each day, at whatever time he chose, with a sense of exploring the unknown...trying something he had never tried before? A sense of anticipation and wonder? Or, would he ask himself a few days later "Is this all there is?"

So many wait for the 'perfect time' .......wait for retirement, vacation. And years later, they turn around realising they never did anything about it. Why wait? Why not be with the one you want to be with, learn something new, travel, experience? Is there ever a perfect time unless you make it so?

And by the time what you think the 'perfect time' is comes along, do you look back at all those wasted moments with regret, or take the bull by the horns and congratulate yourself that you made the most of each moment in time? It's your life. You choose. Inaction and existence or action and blissful energetic joy?

I know what I'd go for.


Donna Karlin

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Second Guessing

How much of our lives is spent on second guessing ourselves? "Why did I run down the stairs to answer the phone when I have voice mail?" (A thought while having a cast put on a broken leg from falling down said stairs). "Should I have hired this person? What if he doesn't pull his weight? Maybe I should have hired the other candidate instead." "Maybe I should have gotten a degree in science rather than arts." "Should I have bought that car?" "What if.....?"

A second guess only gets you second guessing yourself which can paralyze and frustrate, definitely taking focus off the reality of the situation. How can you trust you made the right decision? By doing as much research as possible beforehand AND by making the decisions. CEOs and leaders make decisions quickly because they have a lot of practice. They trust their instincts and go with them and, if things don't work out exactly the way they envisioned, they make new decisions and build on the positives, learning along the way. And they brainstorm, using the powerful minds of those around them.

Second-guessing or mistrust of oneself brings worry. Many hold onto worry as a close friend.....one to 'protect' if things don't go the way they want them to. It helps place blame. The more you worry the more you convince yourself that in the long run, the worrying translates to constructive thinking (not) which will in turn create solutions.

Worry turns into self-nagging which creates anger, for not only did you waste all that energy, learn that worrying or mistrust didn't solve any problems, rather, created new ones, it was a blatant example of being more wrong than you thought in the first place. It starts consuming you....festering.....affecting health, focus and ability to lead.

Don't beat yourself up. What did you learn from this process? How can you turn it around and use it as a source of energy? Was there a missing piece of the puzzle when you made that decision and, if so, how can you prevent a similar thing from happening the next time round?

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement. -- Golda Meir

Go with your instincts. They are rarely wrong. It's when our minds rule out our hearts that we have regret.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Dawn of a New Year

A new year dawns....we begin 2004 with hopes, dreams and for some, resolutions.

Last night I was with good friends....some long time and some newer and it was wonderful. Even the ones I just met were the kind of people who you felt you knew forever, not were meeting for the first time. We were just enough to sit around the table, no huge party, loud music or heavy imbibing. What we did have was sharing of wonderful memories, stories of our kids and families, never ending laughter and some broken telephone conversation which turned out so funny it should have been on reality TV, though no one would ever have believed it! (And I promise not to mention the paper hats and noise makers).

I walked into my friends' house with a feeling of welcome and left with a smile in my heart knowing I was indeed very welcome. Linda and Steve and my family go way back. My dad and brother used to kid me about calling them up to meet them when I moved to Ottawa and by chance, not phone, I did. We laugh a lot about that day. It's something I'll never forget. Now I kid my family back that they might have met them first but I see them more often! They live right around the corner. And Betty and Ed who live in the other direction around another corner always look out for me, even when I'm not aware of it. I am surrounded by incredible friends.

A few minutes before midnight we watched the ball in Times Square descend to call in 2004 and I made my wishes for the new year. Resolutions no.....wishes and intentions, yes. While I was sitting there laughing and sharing with my friends I realised I didn't see them as often as I'd like and I intend to change that for the new year. And there are others who don't live around the corner, too far away, who I miss very much and intend to do something about seeing them more as well....or maybe get them to move here? Now that would be the best of the best! Hey I DID say there were wishes made too.

My son leaves in 3 days to go back to the UK (much too short a trip home!) and I intend to write more and surprise him with packages from home now and then (Michael, you didn't read that). I intend to be more aware of those around me and the wonderful parts of the world that are right there before my eyes. I don't intend to do more, rather a bit less so I can stop now and then and let the world in, instead of running around inside it.

And I intend to let the special people in my life know they are just that.

So I ask you, when is the last time you picked up the phone or wrote to someone who makes you smile from the inside out to tell them just that? How many people are you speaking to because you have to, not because you want to and then have no energy to speak to those who matter the most? And what does that say about your priorities and how much the special people who bless your life are valued?

If a list of people come to mind, why wait? Why not call or write them now? You know how you feel when you hear the smiles in their voices on the other end of the phone. MUCH better than being sucked dry of energy from duty calls. Just do it. You'll feel great, I promise you.....and so will they.

And lastly, what do you intend for you in the new year? Whatever it is, I wish you the courage, strength and focus for them to happen.

Donna Karlin