Monday, February 28, 2005

Speaking to Strengths

“Appreciation is like looking through a wide-angle lens that lets you see the entire forest, not just the one tree limb you walked up on.” - Doc Childre and Sara Paddison

I use this quote as an analogy to illustrate the concept of speaking to one’s strengths. See the entire person, not just their strengths but speak to that part of them and you will not only help them grow and evolve because of it but help them focus on their talents.

In many organizations, history gets in the way of people working well together. They see the “What was” rather than the “What is or what might be” and because of that, don’t communicate well nor trust that the other will come through for them.

When I work with clients who share difficult history with me, the first thing I do is ask them what they’ve done to create a new, different history. Generally the answer is “Nothing” or “Why should I bother if they won’t see it anyway?” Even though there is strict confidentiality and it’s in every one of my contracts, it never stops their bosses from asking “How are they doing?’ My stock answer is “GREAT! And don’t ask me anything else because I’m not going to tell you anyway”. My clients need to know everything they share with me is in confidence; that it’s ‘safe’ to share. However, when asked about the changes I’m implementing with a staffer, or that I see, I also add “Don’t ask me to articulate the changes. Look for them and you’ll see them. And if you DO see them, remark that you do because if it were you, would you want to work hard at changing if no one would bother acknowledging it?”

If there is one message I can get across to those of you who are reading this, it would be “Speak to others’ strengths”. Even indirectly, when you speak to one’s strengths you are telling them you not only acknowledge the existence of those strengths but want to see more of them. You’re not ignoring their weaknesses or past history; however you’re no longer focusing on them.

One of my clients told me I see her worst side and yet it doesn’t make a difference. I always walk in wanting to know what great things have happened; and in helping her focus on those things, she automatically begins to work to her strengths because that’s what I focus on. History is just that. If you allow others to approach you from that perspective, you’ll attract more of the same. And if you don’t ‘go there’ in conversation or deed, then in a very subtle way you help others focus on the ‘now’ as well and eventually leave the past exactly where it should be, in the past.

“There is no stimulus like that which comes from knowing that others believe in you. There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as your effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer where ever you are.” – Author unknown

When you focus on the good in others, it’s much easier to interact with them positively, with a smile and good wishes. They in turn will probably do the same and the ripple effect will go way beyond that moment. So for those I’ve worked with or not, when you’re able to share a comment like “He/she never comes through…can’t trust him…….she never meets deadlines” whatever you’re about to say, remember those words will linger long beyond the conversation and others will look at the people you’re remarking about in a negative way. At the same time if you say “He’s really great at…why don’t you ask him to collaborate in this area”, or “She’s incredibly intelligent and analytical. Don’t give her deadlines but ask her to help you with research” you’ll get beyond missed deadlines because you’re speaking to strengths and helping a person grow.

When you stimulate a passion in someone else, deadlines are rarely an issue because they dive in with both feet enthusiastically. Speak to strengths, task to strengths when at all possible and focus on the good. You’ll get more of all.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Thailand! 'Perspectives' is honoured to now have subscribers from 34 countries

Monday, February 21, 2005

Letting the World In

I can't ever recall a time as busy, chaotic, or intense as these past few weeks and it looks like the coming month will be the same. As I run with my clients, if I can teach them one thing only, it would be to find some quiet time and space to think; a place to walk and get some fresh air to just 'be'.

When I talk about that, many tell me it's running away and ask me as a Coach how could I prescribe running away to my clients when they should tackle the chaos head on?

I was thinking a great deal about that. I need to speed up to the life of the client to teach them to slow down to the speed of no longer react but instead respond to the chaos. And the first step towards that is solitude. It's not escaping the world. It's clearing away all the 'stuff' and letting the world in.

Something to remember when you feel guilty even for a second to a break and go off somewhere. You'll come back more focused, energized and centered and will be ready to tackle the world!

So toss that guilt right out the window. Stop for a moment and enjoy what's right there in front of you before jumping right back into the center of it all. The difference is, now you'll be ready for whatever comes your way.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Right Questions

"Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions" - Earl Gray Stevens

As a Coach I couldn’t resist this quote as that’s what we do best….ask the right questions. From a client’s perspective, being open to the questions their Coach throws at them and accepting the challenge of some of them is the first, second and third steps to getting to where they want to be in their lives. Status quo can be a seductive place to be as it’s the known. It might not be where they ultimately wish to be in life but in their world of whirlwind days, one crises after another and demands on their time, ‘what is’ in their lives is easier to live than going after ‘what will be because I’m going to work at making it happen’. That takes time, energy and incredible focus. In my opinion, that’s the first gift a Coach can give their client….the mental space and perspectives to make choices towards change.

If we don’t hit the nail on the head with a laser question, then we ask another question until we do. What I love about being a Shadow Coach is when my clients start anticipating what I’ll be asking them. What I love even more is when I change directions and they don’t expect what’s coming. My goal is for them to see the entire situation not just their part in it and to go that one step further and grow because of it.

It’s very easy to live your life as you know it, even if it’s not one you love, however not as easy to look back on that life without regret. As George Eliot said “It is never too late to become what you might have been”.

So as I am a Coach I will end this blog with a question, maybe two for you and invite you to answer. “What one thing will you do today to get you one step closer to your dream? And what steps will you take after that?”

Donna Karlin

* Note: People from 33 countries subscribing and counting! Welcome reader from Kuwait!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Defining Work Life Balance

This is a term that’s being used very often these days….balancing work and life in such a way that one area doesn’t lack for focusing on the other. It’s also what feeds you as an individual and nourishes you in many ways.

I was in California last weekend for a three day meeting of peers. It was an amazing experience as the energy in the room was so tangible you could cut it with a knife. Our days weren’t 9-to-5, they were in many instances 7 to middle of the night. One night in particular when I tried getting to my room at a decent hour (10:30 or so) it took me close to 3 or more hours to get there as people kept stopping me along the way for coaching or sharing or to find out more about what it is I do specifically.

When I got back home quite a few of my clients wanted to know where my tan was, after all, I WAS in California. First of all redheads don’t tan, we scorch and red hair and face isn’t too complimentary, but in all seriousness, when they gave me the “What happened to work-life balance?” question I was taken aback. Not because of the question itself because I do work on that with clients, but because it was asked in the first place.

I was in California to work. I came back home for the balance.

It was a busy energizing exhausting trip because life didn’t stop while I was away so travel on the red-eye and trying to get in every second before going to and from airports is draining, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! True as well, it was great to be home, to share my experiences with my son, to relax at least for half a day before jumping back into work with both feet. Besides which I was so pumped with ideas and topics to write on (heads up ….2 books on the way) I wanted to be back in my own surroundings to let the ideas germinate and grow.

This weekend is for work-life balance. Some work and lots of play, seeing friends, family and spending quiet time to write (which I love to do) and have the focus time to prepare for my next week client. Anyone who owns their own business knows the line is often undefined. And because I love what I do so much, a great deal of it is play. But one of my life-long intentions is to always have time for those who are closest to my heart so I’ve asked these very people to give me a swift proverbial kick when they see me losing focus.

Work life balance is crucial for a healthy and happy life and creating a future to look forward to. However it is defined by the person living it, not by their observers. Work life balance doesn’t mean equal parts of each. It changes over time and with circumstances. It’s for you to determine what works for your life.

Donna Karlin

* Note and update: Perspectives now has regular subscribers from 32 countries. Welcome readers from Germany and Taiwan!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Inspire Yourself to Life

"Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life." -- Adele Brookman

Inspire yourself to life….what a concept! I just got back from a meeting in California, or, perhaps I should say a meeting of minds. Over 125 Coaches from all parts of Canada and the US and a few representatives from overseas as well came together and the energy in the room was indescribable! It was a way for like-minded people to come together to coach, create, collaborate and become ‘partners in crime’ for the future of the coaching industry. We talked well into the early morning hours, pens flying across paper as ideas and concepts came to life.

Inspire ourselves to life. That’s what we did. It never occurred to us that we couldn’t do everything we set out on paper. That’s one of the many things I love about Coaches. The words “We can’t” don’t exist. Rather it’s “How can we?” and in this conference not only how but “When will we?” And the last statement that described us this past week was “Just do it.” Don’t think about it, toss it around, wonder when…..just do it.

Could you imagine if everyone adopted that attitude?

Thomas Leonard used to say “Coaching is a solution looking for a problem”. It’s also a means of creativity within human form. We help people achieve their level of excellence, attain what they never imagined possible.

Just because they ‘do it’.

What one thing have you been wanting for a very long time that you just haven’t plunged in with both feet to accomplish? The only thing that’s stopping you, is you. What one thing can you do right now to make it happen? Now is as good time as any….better than most.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Just Hit Thirty!

This is a blog to thank my readers for coming by and staying awhile.....for the group of you who subscribe and want to know what's going on in the life and mind of a Shadow Coach here in Canada's capital.

As of today, you are from 30 countries from far and near.... regular subscribers and commenters who read, write, email and keep me on my toes. Thank you SO much for being a part of this and sharing your ideas, thoughts and time with me. You are very much appreciated.

In alphabetical order, here's a list of where my readers are from....all 30 corners of the world. Welcome! Put your feet up, click on a blog or two, throw in your two cents or three and I hope you keep coming back for a very long time to come.

Donna Karlin

New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States