Monday, August 29, 2005

You're Writing The Story of Your Life One Moment At A Time

Clients are overextended. They feel as if they need to be cloned. They are faced with demands for action on numerous priorities, are expected to deliver all in the same time frame and when pulled in all directions, the reaction is a given; mind-numbing stress.

The first step is to calm your mind enough to realise there is a solution. Once you approach the situation(s) from that perspective you can achieve that solution. However it’s getting one’s mind to the point of that comprehensibility that will lead to a time-saving advantage. Saving time gives time, increases effectiveness and facilitates freedom of mind clutter to accomplish even more.

Through my years of experience in coaching, the one theme that recurrs most often is the issue of time; lack of time to do focused work that creates results. A great deal of the time I’m called in to help my clients clarify just what it is they want to accomplish within the organization. Creating a strategy is only as good as the plan put in action to execute it. There is nothing more demoralizing than having this wonderful strategic plan and doing nothing with it or even more damaging, being expected to do it all at once. Execution of the plan is critical to its success. For that you need to choose fewer priorities and do them faster. Once those are off and running, you gauge the ripple effect and chances are your next three priorities will change and be redefined in some fashion. First step is to take a step. It’s a sequence of events. Everything cannot in any realm of possibility be done at the same time. That stymies growth.

There is something to be said about the old saying “One thing at a time”. In this faster paced world that might translate to two or three but never ten or twenty. When you find yourself tasking more than three priorities to your staff, stop yourself, take a look at that list and divvy it up. More than three aren’t priorities. They’re wish lists….stress triggers and a quick trip to hitting an organizational brick wall.

Start today on purpose.... on intention, not by chance.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subscribers from Trinidad and Tobago and Poland!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Growing Into Who I May Become

As long as I hold onto who I am right now, I won’t be able to grow into who I might become.

Mondays (when I’m not with a client) I take a good chunk of my day to do some administrivia. I do my paperwork, the bill paying, and wade through filed emails to see what I still need to keep, what I might work with for future projects and what follow-up B.F.’s I need to deal with.

This morning I came across an email exchange I had with a colleague way back when. We had been talking about learning through the process of coaching, not just learning the business of coaching, or through class material, conferences or seminars. Rather, coaches should learn from their clients daily….increasing awareness of who we are as individuals and professionals as well as ways of being for people as a whole.

I remember writing Sylvie as a response to a comment about my work. I shared with her “What was amazing was how much I learn when I’m Shadowing. Things I never knew existed. But even more so….the feedback I got this afternoon showed how many levels I work with them on when I’m on the scene. That’s what amazed me the most. This client told me how I also helped him change in a holistic way. Blew ME away. I wonder how many coaches are so wrapped up with coaching that they can forget they’re students at the same time? It doesn’t make us any less effective. Quite the opposite. It helps our clients realise the depth of their knowledge when we share how much we’ve learned in the process. It’s a true collaboration.”

Her response was “That’s why you’re so go damn good at what you do Sherlock! I learn tons from you and also keep you in my mind when I’m consulting and not sure what to do.”

There have been many a thread in the Coaching Insider as to old ways of Coaching, models perspectives etc. In the “old days” of coaching, we used to hold back any advice-giving or communication with regards to any sign we might not have all the answers. Now, things are changing dramatically. It might be easier because I’m a situational/observational coach and being there to deal with situations as they unfold is much easier from a coach’s perspective to deal with and process than if we only relied on the awareness factor of our clients. It’s even more powerful when I’m able to tell my client “It’s not important to know what you do as much as how you do it”. However it’s also incredibly powerful to turn to a client and ask “What is it you want from me right now? What am I missing?” and admit we’re both on a learning curve. Sometimes we need ‘permission’ to admit we don’t have all the answers but that in itself leads to a fact finding collaborative learning curve.

Maybe it stems from a conversation I had with my son a very long time ago when he asked me a question and my answer was an immediate “I have NO idea!”. He was in shock! He thought being a mother, I should have all the answers. Why? There’s no manual that deals with raising children 101… kids are all different. Just as my clients are all unique individuals and why would I even presume to use one model for all of them? True leaders not only realise the uniqueness of each of the staff, but harnesses it and grow because of it.

How does the saying go? “It’s a very stupid man who believes he has all the answers”. Something like that?

I would much rather ask the questions, teaching and learning from the answers.

One way I let go of who I am right now to become the person I may be in the future….. one question at a time.

Donna Karlin

Something my friend Ross Quinn asked me to share...

Joe Ranft in memorium

Joe was a very talented man who touched the lives of millions upon millions and made the world smile. He will be missed and remembered

Here’s to you Joe…..

Joe Ranft died in a car accident on California's Highway 1 on August 16, 2005. Joe was a major player in the Feature Animation industry ... providing stories, storyboards, voices, artwork and more ... for some of the most beloved Feature Animations of all time (see below for a link to his complete list of credits).

For all his amazing achievements, I will always remember him as the voices of Heimlich (A Bug's Life) and Wheezy the Penguin (Toy Story 2).

Joe was only 45. He is survived by his wife (Su), two children (Jordan -- 13 and Sophia -- 9), his mother (Ruth) and father (James), his two brothers (James and Jerome) and a sister (Ruth Ann Scott).

While the national media have virtually ignored his passing ... by August 19, searches for Joe Ranft were ranked THIRD by Technorati (a website that tracks search activity of over 15,000,000 BLOGS) just behind Cindy Sheehan and Jude Law.

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Joe RanftBorn: March 13, 1960 in Pasadena, California

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Only Way to Do Great Work

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. You can do a ‘good job’, you can meet deadlines and give the organization what it needs, helping its growth but those who do amazing work, innovative, energized, inspirational work are those who absolutely love what they do.

Last week I had a meeting with a woman in a position of leadership who I absolutely admire and respect. She turned to me in the middle of our conversation and asked “You really know who you are, don’t you?” We talked about that for a while. Yes, I know who I am and it’s a wonderful feeling. I love what I do and it shows. A colleague of mine pointed that out recently as well. We were talking about the difference between therapy, consulting and coaching (a heated discussion as we never see eye-to-eye on this) and when I told him a Coach is not supposed to advise a client; rather we’re supposed to challenge, show other perspectives, think globally if the client is thinking through tunnel vision. However the choices our clients make are theirs and theirs alone. When I spoke of my success using this model his immediate response was “You are successful because of who you are, not what you do”. That got me thinking….

Perhaps he’s right. I don’t know. I believe every person who is successful in his/her profession is so because of enthusiasm and love for what they are doing. Yes, a level of expertise is necessary (a given) however one can learn a skill and be proficient at it, but it’s those who are talented in their realms, and absolutely love every second of their work who create magic in their field.

Even though this is career 2½, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I live what I work at, live the concepts of the programs I coach by, the ways of being I speak about and, because I teach by example, I’m able to translate those concepts into real life situational change with my clients.

If life threw me a curve I know I would find a way to continue to coach. Can you say the same? Do you wake up every morning eager to begin the day, possibly not knowing what it’ll bring yet not caring as you know it’ll be something extraordinary even in an ordinary day?

What you do for a living will take up a huge chunk of every day….of your life. And if you don’t love it, then you need to find a way to. If you can’t see yourself changing professions, then find a way for your vocation to fund your avocation so you are doing what you love in some way shape or form.

In the last few years I’ve developed a personal motto to not settle. Nothing should be ‘good enough’….it should be great. Good enough for me is a steppingstone for what could be better. It’s not perfectionism; it’s knowing I’m working right now on what will be something I will look back on in the future that is great, creating a smile every time I think of it. But every day is like that for me. It’s either a learning experience, watching a client fly, a new idea or concept to explore and expand on for the future, or a moment in time that makes me stop in my tracks and take notice.

It is jumping into the deep end of each day and rising to the surface.

You will not be satisfied and have a sense of accomplishment if you’re settling. And before you come up with every reason in the book why your dream can’t happen, start by listing every way it can and begin building it right now.

Donna Karlin

* People from two new countries have joined the Perspectives ‘family’. Welcome readers from Dominica and the Czech Republic!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jumping into the Deep End of Each Day

Day 1 back at work after almost 10 days off on holiday was fascinating. It took me an hour or so to get back into the rhythm of the intensity, but after that hour, I hit the floor running!

Monday was a quiet day spent in my office wading through approx. 2,600 emails, phone messages and scheduling changes (which continued to come through until 7:00 pm) Ahh a sense of accomplishment when the last email that had to be answered was dispatched and I could begin the next day with a clean slate. I’ve made a habit of booking off the first day after I’m back from any trip to wade through correspondence as there’s no point in struggling to play catch up all week long which would negate all the benefits of my time off.

Yesterday was hitting the floor running; back to back meetings, seeing clients, booking in my schedule for the fall and juggling Shadowing with creative time and teaching. I’m often asked how I can keep all the balls in the air and it’s easier than you’d think. It’s a matter of creating that balance within your work life as well as personal life. Knowing how much energy you typically have, mental and physical and working around that, creates an effective work balance.

Time management isn’t only about how many minutes you have in the day and how you compartmentalize them. It’s about knowing flow of energy, attention span, when to say no and when to jump in with both feet. It’s knowing your industry, profession, demands of the workplace and how to fit priorities around that.

My usual question to clients is “What few things can you do that will give you the most results the quickest?” Sometimes your second or third priorities will give you the biggest ‘bang for your buck’….and a ripple effect that will allow 10 other things to fall into place. It’s also knowing who should be doing what.

I often hear how my clients are short staffed and they don’t have enough people to get the work done. In many cases that is a fact. In others there are too many people tasked with one deliverable and what happens is, they are so strapped for finding time to meet, communicate, and forced to collaborate on so many levels that too many people slow down the process. Tasking to fewer staff, but having communication between staff increase about 25% actually increases the effectiveness of any organization.

So as I ran from meeting to meeting and heard “You have a tan! You look rested and energized! You actually DID take a holiday?” : ) to Oh no! She’s going to be even more pumped. Trouble!” I decided from now on to take shorter breaks but more frequent ones for mini-energy-boosters, though not long enough to put a monkey wrench into the flow and ebb of client demands and creative work with my R and D team (get ready guys ‘cause come September I’m going to hit the floor running there too!).

In the meantime I leave you with this…
Days like this, especially for us Canadians, days of warmth and sunshine and delicious heat are precious and leave all too soon. Remember to jump into the deep end of each day. Experience all the days have to offer and enjoy every moment of them.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The End to a Wonderful Holiday

Well slowing down to the speed of holiday life was a stretch for me….for a short while. It wasn’t relaxing that was the stretch; it was relaxing of the mind where I’m not waking up at dawn to hit the floor running.

Days were lazy and easy……long drives, sitting by the lake, talking, laughing, cooking when we felt like it and eating out the rest of the time. Each day was planned as it came, more by whim and spontaneity than careful planning. In my world of meetings, sometimes every half hour or less, taking each day as it came was also something to get used to. The one exception were the two plays we got tickets for and pretty much planned the rest of the week around them. For those of you who haven’t yet seen Mamma Mia, I heartily recommend it. It’ll bring back memories of times past, have your feet tapping at your seats and laughing until your sides ache. The other play we went to was called “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!” Hysterically funny, wonderfully talented cast in a small playhouse, the Brockville Arts Centre, in Brockville Ontario. It’s a short drive for those living in Ottawa or Kingston, so do yourself a favour and get tickets while you can. You’ll be more than pleasantly surprised!

Thoughts came and went through the week, nostalgia, wishes, things to add to the few lists that have been growing over time; things to do, places to see and experience. I, as many others are, was so used to planning a vacation far away from home, that I failed to see what was right in front of my nose….a lake that’s like a slice of heaven (picture is of Otty Lake near Perth, Ontario), wonderful theatre, some of the best restaurants around and all within an hour’s drive.

It made me think that there’s a lot to explore right here and I’ll have a great time discovering all these hidden treasures over time. Ahh but that’s the thing….to remember to take the time to take it all in. As much as I adore my work, I can almost get used to this!

Monday it’s back to the crazy pace, but, as my friend John Pistorius commented to my last blog, “Ah, the peace of mind that can be had with rest. And the energy that can be realized after a good rest.” Well get ready because I’m energized and ready to go!

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Scent Triggered Memories

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.“ - Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses.

Yesterday I took a trip down memory lane….to the places I grew up, the restaurants I frequented for years with family and friends….walked along the lake where we spent almost every weekend and holiday break, winter and summer, and, as I stood across the lake from the boathouse by the water, I remembered all the times I sat up on the balcony, seemingly suspended over the water, watching many a sunrise and sunset and black sky filled with a gazillion stars. The smells brought it all back….the pines the fresh air….even the smell of the maple syrup cured ham sandwiches we used to eat many years ago.

Some of the places have changed drastically, though Au Petit Poucet, seemed like it was frozen in time, servers wearing the same costumes, the walls, curtains and decorations staying the same though looking brand new. Ahh but the smell of the ham and baking maple syrup pies filled the air. That too brought back more memories than I could process.

It reminded me of a time where there was no pressure, no chaotic schedules…..just times by the lake, picking raspberries, walking to family nearby. It was a place where the rest of the world ceased to exist. The same feeling permeated me yesterday as I stood watching that boathouse breathing in the clean country air.

What an amazing feeling. Do you have a place out of time you remember like that? A place where you can travel back in time to, to put life into perspective?

Donna Karlin

* Note: Welcome new subscriber from the Bahamas. 52 countries and counting!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Switching into Holiday Mode

Well it’s now Day 3 into my holiday week. It’s been jam packed with a trip to the cottage, skimming the water in a speed boat, lazing by the lake under a tree, walking, exploring our own city’s centre, browsing through the tiny shops of the market….a place nearby but one I rarely take the time to explore like a tourist. And I have discovered the neatest tucked away places along the way.

We drove to Ile Perrot, Quebec, West of Montreal for the best Smoked Meat sandwich known to man…at Smoke Meat Pete’s and then wandered through my ‘roots’….where I grew up, the schools I went to and the old haunts where we hang out as kids. It was a day of reminiscing, remembering and lots of laughter and sharing. I can hardly believe it had only been two days.

And now a day of rain helps us slow down a bit and take in a movie, shop a bit and just be.

It’s taken me the 2 days to slow down to the speed of normal life, one I am not used to anymore. I live in a fast paced world of corporate and political intensity, where I might finish with one client by day and still have sessions with 2 afterwards. Much of the time the work starts when I leave my client’s office as I have to process it all, see trends, where they’re heading and present it back to them so they have a broader picture of their life as it is right now.

The mind is always going and is harder to slow down than the body. So even as I lazed by the water to unwind, it was much harder to do the same with my mind.

One of my friends looked at me and said “You need 2 weeks. One isn’t enough for you”. He may be right but adding on a weekend at the end, just might be perfect. This is already a stretch for me. However, if I like it….it just may become a trend : ) If I just didn't love what I do so much..... (that blog is coming up soon)

Sometimes making the decision to take the time off is the hardest of all. But you know what? The crazy and wonderful world of work as I know it will still be there when I get back next Monday morning.

In the meantime, I wish you a wonder-filled week.
Donna Karlin