Sunday, November 27, 2005

People are Evolving into Who They Will Be

People are fascinating simply because they are evolving into who they will be. And I love watching it happen at so many levels.

Every day brings a new bit of knowledge into our lives….if we look for it. Focusing on what we expect, on schedules, problems, the mundane same old same old, will give us just that, over and over and over again. Approaching those times with a mindful approach will give us so much more. It will teach us subtleties, show us the unexpected, show us how people interact. I often challenge my clients to be acutely aware of everything around them and to be ready to have a discussion about it. As I’m a Shadow and attend the same meetings as my clients, it’s an opportunity to share information we’ve both gathered to see if we were on the same page. It also gives my clients an opportunity to see if they can “stump their coach” which always gets them pumped and raring to try anything new (there’s a method to my madness).

My goal as a coach is to be redundant….to work with my clients at a level in which they begin to self-shadow or become their own observer, looking for how the pieces in a situational puzzle come together. Eventually they start to be aware of all the subtleties around them and how they fit within that puzzle.

One of my favourite ‘games’ I play with them is during such meetings. I just love hearing “Here we go again. Another hour or two wasted while my work piles up on my desk”. This is exactly what I love to hear. When clients have to attend committee meetings, especially those they’re not presenting at, they lose interest, focus and their level of energy starts waning. What I challenge them to do is to report back to me all the intricacies of the meeting….the personality plays, the politics….who plays up to whom and who is vying for attention even if they really aren’t a part of the central dynamics of that meeting.

Opportunities like this don’t come along every day. This is a time where my clients can learn volumes about colleagues, staff and superiors AND about themselves. It’s a lesson in personalities. This gives invaluable knowledge which they can use when working with these people.

Learning how to hone your radar skills is one way to help a relationship evolve into something completely different. Learning how to approach people by virtue of their personality profile is a very effective way to strengthen and cement relationships. People help you evolve. How you communicate with them evolve you even more.

Awareness is the key factor in self growth at every level. What you look for, you’ll get in others. What you look for for yourself you’ll get as well and if you’re open to the possibilities, you’ll get more than you ever dreamed of!

There is no ceiling. Only the sky.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Impostor Syndrome

"True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier and better for our living in it." – Pliny the Elder

I keep coming across this quote in so many settings. It’s words like these that tease a coach, as it’s the basic reason why we do this kind of work in the first place, or so I would think.

I often look at the disconnects clients have in their life, their work….how they stop themselves from creating, sharing ideas, writing, as many suffer from the “Impostor Syndrome”, feeling they aren’t good enough to share their innermost thoughts and ideas.

Success comes from the inside out. You can’t be successful or recognise it if you don’t acknowledge it. And if you’re suffering from the Impostor Syndrome, then you don’t feel worthy of success, feel you’ll be ‘found out’ and dubbed the Impostor. Those living this, live in fear of being found out and not worthy of the position they hold.

Day after day they have this hidden fear that others will find out they’re not as bright and capable as they think they are….they’ll be exposed as incompetent any second. Excellence in their field, awards, recognition have nothing to do with their success; rather people living the Impostor Syndrome routinely dismiss their accomplishments as luck, being in the right place at the right time or having an engaging personality. Basically it’s a collection of feelings of inadequacy that simmer under the surface and undermine and persist even when they’re presented with information that shows otherwise.

Even in a subtle way I’ve heard how coaches don’t want to bother me because they’re not up to my level, they don’t feel they would have anything to contribute therefore won’t share. Not only are they underestimating themselves, but they’re not giving others the opportunity to listen, share and learn from experience and expertise, no matter how new.

An impostor can be one of a few things….
Firstly, feeling as if he/she doesn’t deserve their success, position or level of responsibility and by some fluke got there. They feel like intellectual frauds.

Secondly, they’re just lucky. They’re not sure what happened but it CAN’T be because they were qualified!

And thirdly, they have a very hard time accepting compliments and kudos. Successes aren’t celebrated; rather they’re minimized so as not to draw attention to the fact they don’t deserve the recognition in the first place.

Coaching people who live the Impostor Syndrome is more difficult using the classic tele-coaching model as the coach isn’t there to point out specific situational examples which would prove this theory invalid. Therefore the coach is only going by the client’s recounting of the event. Working in real time with the client is the best way to share situations as the truth of them unfolds. Clients therefore have much more difficulty convincing themselves and their coaches that the success isn’t well deserved. It’s a great starting point.

This isn’t an all or nothing kind of syndrome. Most of us could probably pinpoint a situation (or many) where someone has reacted in the same manner. Generally this syndrome is associated with high level, powerful people in positions of power. This is what distinguishes it from low self esteem. Low self esteem is when a person has a very low opinion of him/herself. The Impostor Syndrome is a disconnect between the person’s impression of their worth and their actual earned achievements.

When asked what the hardest thing to work on with clients is, my immediate answer is always “The Impostor Syndrome”. It lives deep and wide within them and takes a very long time to get past. But when they do, nothing can stop them. They just soar! And when they begin to live in alignment with who they really are....... contribute, give, share, learn and grow, the world really does become better for them living in it.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I just returned from the 10th International Coach Federation Conference in San Jose, California. 1752 coaches from approximately 44 countries. Boggles the mind! I had great expectations of an event marking this special milestone in any organization, especially one in a field as young as Coaching. On one hand I was quite disappointed that there was no ‘meat’ to the conference for seasoned, experienced coaches. On the other hand, because the breakout sessions as a whole didn’t attract me or entice me to stay, I did one of two things: I either went to a session that intrigued me as a person, even if it didn’t relate to my work or, I networked with other coaches from across the Globe and listened to who they were, what they were doing, and made connections. Connections….not only for myself, but when I heard something that would connect to a colleague or friend, I’d pass on their name so connections could be made even after the conference was over. Some connections were by chance…by hearing something somewhere that sparked my interest and instigated a longer conversation off line. Those were the best.

I listened to a narrative coach (who greatly intrigued me as I believe the best way to capture one’s attention and imagination is through narrative). I listened to a first nation member who lives the art of listening and communication. I spoke to coaches from Singapore to Europe, Mexico through Australia. They all had different perspectives, insights…. ideas to share.

So even though the conference itself didn’t inspire me, the people who attended it did.

I connected with old, dear friends who I don’t get to see often enough. And I made new ones who I know I’ll be connecting with for many years to come. All of this created a synergy that goes well beyond venue. It goes to the heart of why we become coaches in the first place. It’s all about people.

It’s about people defining their dreams and living them, helping others achieve their level of excellence by support, interaction and collaboration. It’s about connecting and seeing where the dots lead you and it’s about knowing no matter what the content of an event like this presents, you will leave with a feeling of time well spent as the people are the ones who make it extraordinary.

On the way home we suffered a series of airport delays and bumpy rides. A combined six hours of flying turned into more than ten with lost luggage thrown into the equation. I was lucky enough to spend most of that time with coaches from the conference who I got to know better, and meet other ones who I hadn’t come across through the week. We laughed and shared and processed and decided to collaborate on projects all because of the extra time sitting in airports and on planes.

All in all I learned a lot, taught a lot and came away with a feeling of anticipation as I know these connections will enrich my life and career exponentially. So many possibilities ahead.

Donna Karlin

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