Thursday, July 28, 2005

Holiday Time

I'm actually taking a week or so off. For those of you who know me and have the question at the tip of your tongue "Off off? or just not going into work off?" which I get all the time....the answer is off, away from the 'puter, blogging, writing (well at least for work).

We all need time to recharge our batteries, coaches included : )

I'll have a journal and pen closeby to jot down anecdotes, insights and anything else I think might eventually make it into my blog, though I'm sure the bulk of what's in there will be memories in the making just for me to take out years from now and smile as I read it.

We're going to go near and far to wherever strikes our fancy...exploring, seeing new sites, and revisiting some old ones. Still, a change in every sense of the word....great company, tons of music and places just lying in wait for us to discover.

I wish you all a wonderful week. Stay tuned....we'll be back soon!

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Top 7 Tips for Working Effectively From Home

For those of you who work from home on a regular basis, or, decide to give it a try a day a week, now and then, whatever… are some tips as to how to stay effective. Now for the Kings and Queens of amazing willpower, these tips won’t be necessary because you’re going to be able to stay on track anyway. These tips are more for those who need external influences, people and tools to help keep you on the straight and narrow.

1. Working from home can be a double edged sword. On one hand, some people love the idea of being able to work in their pajamas. Well, I have news for you pajama buffs….it’s been proven that if you don’t dress the part, your effectiveness goes way down. Sure you can dress casually, but as if it were ‘dress down Friday’ not getting ready for bed.

2. For you multi-taskers who decide once you’re home, you might as well put in a load of laundry, cook 10 meals, make those phone calls, well, you’re either going to be absolutely exhausted halfway through the day as you’re doing 2 jobs not one, but you’re not going to stay focused on the work that needs to be done. Create a plan of action ahead of time and stick to it. Household chores can be done after hours. You’re saving time on the commute, and if you stick to your plan you might even finish early. Focus on one thing at a time, the first being distinguishing between your work life and personal life.

3. Make sure someone from the office, a colleague or team member is in touch with you and that whatever you do from home has a direct bearing on what they are doing as well. That way if you stray, someone else will get you back in line because there are consequences for them too! A buddy system works….a colleague, staffer…anyone who might be waiting for your input before being able to continue with theirs. In a word....deadline.

4. Don’t stick to tedious work. It’s really easy to get into trouble and stray away from the job if you’re not happy with the content of the job. Have fun, make sure you love what you do. You should be loving what you’re doing at any rate as that’s what keeps you energized and on top of your ‘game’.

5. Prioritize. Keep a schedule. Write that schedule down in your planner (if you use one). Outlook isn’t as good when you’re sitting at your desk because you’re not as in tuned with that list that is on the side of your desk staring you in the face. Make sure those priorities are just that and get to them first. Then cross them off the list.

6. If family and friends know you’re working from home, then make sure they know it’s WORK. If you answer the phone and start a conversation, then why should they take you seriously if you don’t? Let the answering machine pick up messages and get back to them after hours. If the bell rings and you’re not expecting a delivery, then don’t answer the door. You’re working, remember? And if you were at the office, the carpet cleaners, driveway sealers and all those other tradesmen who love to come by and sell you something will come back when it’s convenient for you….not them!

7. Make sure you have a home office because working on the dining room or kitchen table doesn’t cut it. You’ll have to move everything later on and that’ll just create more chaos. If you have a home office, make sure it’s one you love that’s organized and inspires efficiency. If you have a home phone in there, turn off the ringer. Make sure the room also defines work from play.

Remember what works and what doesn’t work for you so you can automatically implement the necessary changes for the next time you choose to work from home. You might just find yourself ahead of the game rather than playing catch-up.

Donna Karlin

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Milestone…..All of a sudden there were 50….and then there were 51!

Two years and a bit ago I jumped into the world of blogging. I remember coming home from a conference in San Francisco right after Thomas died (Thomas Leonard) half my mind thinking that he should have been there…and somewhere in the back of my mind I heard Hal speaking about blogging, a term I had never come across before. Instantly my attention focused on this new concept, at least for me …. a way to hone my writing skills, get the word out about what I was doing within the Coaching industry and to create some kind of interactive conversation amongst coaches and clients.

I remember when I got home, walking into my son’s room, all smug because FINALLY I’d know about something in technology that he never heard of and asked “Mike….do you know what a blog is? (a smirk on my face while I asked). Oh the 5 seconds of glory! He turned to me and said “Sure! I’ve had one for 6 months now!”

Well so much for that.

Now, two years later, I was checking the subscription page to see that someone from country 50 just signed up to Perspectives. FIFTY! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have regular readers from 50 countries coming by to read, comment and email their three cents. And before I could write a post to celebrate that milestone, another subscriber came on board, making it 51!

So, welcome 50th subscriber from Oman and the 51st from Brunei Darussalam.

I hope you stay for a long time and share your perspectives, insights and ways of being as we create a community of like minded and not so like minded individuals. Through your comments and ideas, all of us will learn in ways we never imagined.

Someone once asked me why I blog as it takes commitment and time, which is always at a premium.

My answer is simple. To connect, to learn, to grow and experience life through your eyes.

And through my growth will come the growth of others…. students, colleagues and clients alike.

If nothing else, writing about life will help me to take a step back and acknowledge what’s happening within it and not be so busy or so caught up in my world that I fail to see the rest of the world around me.

Let me know if there are specific subjects you’d like to hear more about and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime thanks for dropping by and spending a few moments here to help me celebrate this personal milestone, for it’s you I’m celebrating after all : )

Donna Karlin

Monday, July 18, 2005

Generative Dialogue

Putting everything in relevant relation to what you already think and know without being open to the possibilities that there's more, is a dialogue of the deaf. Talking openly means being willing to expose to others what is within of us. Listening openly means being willing to expose ourselves to something new from others.

Generative dialogue goes way beyond the simple every day conversation. It’s a way of listening from both perspectives, yours and the person you’re conversing with.

Not only do I shadow clients. I shadow meetings for effectiveness, deliverables and results. I can’t tell you how much time is wasted in offices as meeting after meeting takes place with no definitive plans or tangible results. In most organizations, it’s difficult to see the impact that might have. In industry, when millions of dollars are on the line at that meeting…..the results being the difference of you getting that contract or not, the end result is critical to the success of the organization.

Most executive groups create their own stress. Their dialogue doesn’t meet the needs of the organization and they lack the vision or broad-mindedness to try something new.

Often as I observe what goes, on, I’m asked to give advice on what they can do to improve the effectiveness of the group to which I often reply “Nothing will change until you begin to talk about the issues that really matter to you….not everything around it, causing the trouble, keeping you back, but bottom line, no skirting around issues….what matters. Right now you are talking around the issue. Most probably you will leave this boardroom table with the same challenges haunting you that were there when you walked through that door”.

Often executives talk at each other. They speak from a downloading perspective….only hearing what already confirms what they already think and know. They don’t generate solutions. It is a dialogue of the deaf. Conversation is more than words thrown back and forth at the table. It’s an art, a competency. Conversation is a skill one has to master in order to see growth and change.

When you don’t listen to colleagues and staff you are telling them they and their opinion have no value. Ignore them a few times and they will stop communicating. Decisions will be made on false assumptions, incomplete information and denial. Participants will be on the defensive sticking by their story. Their means of communication alone will be dysfunctional.

As competent as each individual is in the organization, as a group they rarely progress, as power and appearances become more important than the growth of the organization as a whole. The more people guard their knowledge and create boundaries, increasing internal competitiveness, the greater the chance of the organization becoming stagnant and eventually failing.

One leader with a vision cannot save an organization like this. That leader needs to translate that vision to a group of strong people who will be engaged, implementing that vision as a team.

People who devoted a lifetime to work they believed in become disillusioned and ultimately blamed for the ineffectiveness and stagnation of the organization. Key people leave and go where they are appreciated; where they have a chance to grow and learn and take ownership of the successes they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Leaders who inspire others through a period of change begin that change with themselves. They grow with their team, reinventing process, thoughts and ways of being along the way. They are no longer only process driven. They regain their humanistic characteristics along the way showing all they interact with, they’re valued for their uniqueness and contributions not only to the organization but to all within it.

They get into the heads and hearts of those who share that vision with them. People want to feel they are appreciated for being their authentic selves. People see the world not as it is, but as who they are within it.

Where do you see yourself?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, July 16, 2005

It's All About People

I’m working on a mini-course / program / perspective-maker on people. (Stay tuned…it’ll be out this fall).

I’m a Shadow Coach. I observe people all day long, those I’m coaching directly and all those around them. I watch interactions, behaviours, communication styles and even more than that…ways of being.

I also watch as people place boundaries around themselves, and make assumptions by which they live their life which, in many cases, hold them back from growing. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “I want to be able to do ----- and when I can, I’ll be exactly where I want to be” and here I am, having observed them in action for the last few days, watching them already doing it. They just aren’t aware. They are making assumptions that they aren’t aware of making. They are demonstrating behavioural traits well beyond what they wish for. They just haven’t put a name to it.

And on the other side of the coin so to speak, people know what they want and set all sorts of boundaries around them to stop them from getting what they want. It’s quite amazing to watch.

For eg. People want to take more time for themselves but feel guilty taking it. So they bring up every excuse in the book why they can’t have it, can’t take it and by the time they’ve verbalized that list, they are so mentally and emotionally exhausted, even if they did take time, the guilt would take all the joy out of it. They articulate that too….adding “So why should I bother?”

Something as simple as taking a half hour just for them can be magnified to such an extent that they make excuses for it to those around them for the rest of the day. Talk about an energy drainer instead of replenisher.

So that becomes their ‘homework’ and they have to tell me the following day what it felt like, what they were going to do with their half hour the following day and the day after etc etc until it becomes habit; a joy, not a chore. And, miracle upon miracle sometimes it actually turns into an hour! It begins to feel positively decadent.

This is just one example. People want more time….they want to be healthier but aren’t responsible for their well being. Again that magic wand is supposed to save them when they aren’t. People are a lot more complicated than we realise. We just know a fraction of who they are and make judgments accordingly. People spend more time planning a two week vacation than on what they do the rest of the year. Makes sense to you?

And so the list goes on.

The whole point of this mini-e-teaser is to make us think….be aware, intoned. It will also push many a button as some of them come too close to home. But isn’t that the purpose of a coach? To help people stretch beyond their comfort zone until it’s comfortable?

If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them. What have you observed about people that might help us all learn more about ways of being?

Donna Karlin

Friday, July 08, 2005

Actions that inspire others to dream more

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams

There has been a great deal of talk of late on leadership. Many have completely different views of what characteristics a leader must have. And, like anything else, leaders are only considered such by those who follow. However I liked this quote because it covers more than one realm of what a leader is. One can be inspired and motivated by someone in a position of leadership, however if that vision isn’t translated in such a way as to facilitate movement or growth, eventually the motivating aspects of that leader wanes, wears thin and disappears.

One can be a visionary, energetic, inspire others by virtue of that energy and enthusiasm but if it’s not translated in such a way as to create action and ongoing movement in an organization, helping others grow in the process, a rift forms which can paralyze the effectiveness of that leader, eventually diminishing the overall effectiveness and success of the organization as well.

A leader inspires, communicates his/her vision in such as way as to encompass and harness the uniqueness of those he/she works with. A plan of action is created and those who implement it are left to use their own unique talents to make that vision a reality. A leader does more, learning in the process as he/she collaborates and creates with colleagues, peers and staff. The end effect is everyone involved is pumped, energised and grows exponentially in the process.

A true leader becomes more powerful with people around him/her pulling the organization forward. With each subsequent project the team hones their skills and works like a well-oiled machine working better, faster, more collaboratively.

Organizational leaders who forget their talented people lose the loyalty and excellence those people can bring to the table thereby remaining leaders in name only.

I can’t tell you how many leaders I’ve observed over the years prior to coaching them who are brilliant in their own rights, passionate, energetic yet have no skills at translating those passions well enough to engage their talented resources resulting in anything concrete. They are scattered, unfocused, thinking about and creating the next brilliant idea (and yes, they are brilliant), but because they don’t communicate them well, do much with them, deliverables are few and far between, there is little sense of purpose or accomplishment and slowly but sure the best of the best leave and move on to other organizations.

There is more to leading than throwing ideas around a table. A leader with no one following is not much of a leader.

What do you have to do to make sure that doesn’t happen?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from 49th country……Serbia and Montenegro!