Sunday, December 31, 2006

One More Joined In Under the Wire!

I realise I posted my New Year's Blog and today is the last day of the year, but I would be remiss if I didn't welcome the 95th subscriber from Kenya. Welcome, stay a while and please share your thoughts and insights with us all.

Wishing all of you a very happy, joyful and prosperous New Year!

Best, always
Donna Karlin

Monday, December 18, 2006

Reflecting on 2006 and Looking Forward into 2007

Yes, it’s that time again where I sit down and reflect on all that’s happened in 2006. I’m amazed at how much was jam packed into a twelve month period! The year has been fuller, more enlightening and a huge period of growth for me…... a full spectrum of everything you could imagine. One of my clients keeps maintaining that I’m busier than any human being she’s ever known and that might be true, however busy also incorporates my personal world.

My work has morphed in a way. Last year I looked at how to change some of the dynamics of my work, for as I get older I have to take into consideration the extraordinary amount of energy required to Shadow Coach™ organizational and global leaders. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I find myself saying “I just can’t do this any more as I don’t have enough energy” and find myself in a place I don’t want to be. Rather, I want to continually reinvent what I do, grow, stretch, teach others so I can continue to pick and choose my clients and work with those who energize me and help me grow in the process.

As I look at “what’s new” in the world of ‘A Better Perspective™’, The School of Shadow Coaching™ and Donna within those contexts of course, I decided to share it all in a running list so you have some idea where we’re taking the company, the school and how, within both realms I’m making a point of growing in my field and figuring out ways of remaining on the cutting edge of Executive Coaching. And of course, if you want to know more, you know where to find me to ask : )

So, taking a deep breath…here goes!

January: 2006 began by being invited to co-author the book 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life with Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn and gang. I found myself frantically writing on planes traveling to and from England (wait times in airports and long plane trips are great for these things!) The School of Shadow Coaching™ launched its first international awareness session in Chicago. Also in January the office was wired with whatever we needed to launch the Microsoft Vision Team so we could meet virtually on our calls and start looking at the context of collaborative technology.

February: I chaired the Communication and Conflict Management Skills Conference in Ottawa which was a big success.

March: We formally launched the Microsoft Vision Team and virtually met our counterparts from across the country.

May: We had our book launch for 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life.

June: Our first face to face meeting with the Microsoft Vision Team players to plan, collaborate and look at next steps for the team.

July: I was asked to come on board as one of the Thought Leaders for ExecuBooks Blog and began an extraordinary dialogue with my fellow bloggers from all over the globe. I was very fortunate to connect with amazing individuals, get to know Tom Morris from ‘If Harry Potter Ran General Electric” fame (I love that book!) and Steve Harper. NO! Not our Prime Minister though I’m razzed about it every time others see his name in my inbox or schedule, not to mention he could pass as our Prime Minister’s double!

September: brought the launch of The School of Shadow Coaching Advanced Coach Satellite Training in Chicago and the Organizational Leadership Training.

October: Our ICCO group (International Consortium of Coaching in Organizations) met in New York City to look at Stewardship within our profession as we coach global leaders. We had a select group of coaches from all over the world look at various dynamics, issues, and case studies to move our profession forward.

November: I was a speaker at the International Coach Federation Conference in St. Louis and had hundreds pumped and energized as they dove into the world of Shadow Coaching™. What an amazing experience!

December I launched my blog called “Jumping Into the Deep End of Leadership” with Fast Company Magazine’s ‘Fast Company Experts’ and launched my Executive Coaching article in Canadian Government Executive Magazine.

Whew! Lots happened with a great deal more to come for 2007. Right now we’re in the middle of putting the finishing touches on “It’s All About People….And About You” Virtual Program, a Unique Time and Self Management Program (that one I’m keep under wraps until we’re almost ready to launch : ), we’ll be looking at planning a series of live events for organizational leaders. A book on leadership is in the planning stages and we’re looking at taking The School of Shadow Coaching™ global!

Perspectives blog went from having subscribers from 67 to 94 countries and territories. I am continually amazed at the community of readers that’s ever growing.

And before you ask if I have a personal life, as yes, I AM very busy, the answer is yes. It’s very precious to me and I will never compromise my relationships and take for granted the gift of those relationships to put them on the back burner for anything. If I can’t live a full life, I can’t coach others on how to. It’s not only how I manage my time it’s how I look at my relationship to time which is never a renewable resource. It’s only here for the moment and then poof! It’s gone.

So before I close by wishing you all the best for the upcoming year, I will encourage you to look back at the past year and remember all your successes. Share them. Celebrate them and BUILD on them. Read as much as you can, speak to at least one person you’ve never spoken to before every day if possible and find out what their story is. That’s the richness of our lives…the stories we create over time. And, if you haven’t started yet, start writing your own story and remember how extraordinary life is when you pay attention. To my readers, clients, colleagues, family and friends I wish you the best of the holiday season, 2007 and the best of life!

Donna Karlin

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Preconceived Notions

What is preconceived notions exactly? Pre-acting, clairvoyance? I’m constantly trying to figure out why people pre-act, absolutely ‘knowing’ what the future has in store in the realm of “this will never work’ this is ‘going to be’ a problem etc etc. They are already upset, angry, worried about something that hasn’t yet occurred. Clairvoyance 101? Crystal ball? Where exactly does that come from, I wonder?

What happens in life is not as important as how you accept it and what you do with it, but it has to happen first! So much energy goes into acting before the fact that what happens during and after pale by comparison.

Preconceived notions is in my category of behaviours that get people into trouble. They are in great company along with assumptions, expectations…and when you don’t articulate what those expectations are, then we’re back into Clairvoyance 101 as we expect everyone else to read our minds.

I’m just in the process of finishing up my program “It’s All About People….and About You” (stay tuned) and when I look at patterns of behaviour this one is at the top of the heap when it comes to erecting the ultimate roadblock to success. After all, how in the world will one succeed if they already see that it’s not going to work?

People (us included) are wonderful, aren’t they? With all our intelligence we do, think and imagine the strangest things. But it makes life interesting, especially for a Shadow Coach™ who sees it unfold in real time.

But you never pre-acted yourself, right? I thought not. Me either : )

Donna Karlin

* A couple of notes: First, welcome new subscriber from Macao! 94 countries and territories and counting! For those of you who wonder how to subscribe so you're notified when my blog has been updated, scroll down to the bottom right and you'll see a subscription box. Enter your email address and you'll stay current.

Secondly, check out my new blog on Fast Company Experts called Jumping Into the Deep End of Leadership. I know I know, three blogs and counting (don’t forget ExecuBooks Blog) but as they all hone my writing skills and allow me to virtually meet such amazing people, how in the world could I say or want to say no? Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Laws of Technology and Myths of Change

Kranzberg’s 6 laws of technology:
1st - Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
2nd - Invention is the mother of necessity.
3rd - Technology comes in packages, big and small.
4th - Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, non-technical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.
5th - All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.
6th - Technology is a very human activity - and so is the history of technology.

Melvin Kranzberg’s First Law helps to clarify the myths of technology change: “Technology is neither good nor bad—nor is it neutral. At the risk of spoiling its Zen-like nature, let me propose an interpretation: a technology isn’t inherently good or bad, but it will have an impact, which is why it’s not neutral. Almost every applied technology has a good side and a bad side. When you think of transportation technologies, do you think of how they enable a delightful vacation or get the family back together during the holidays—or do you think of traffic jams and pollution? Are books a source of wisdom and spirituality or a way to distribute pornography and hate? Do you applaud medical technology for curing plagues or deplore transportation technology for spreading them? Does encrypted e-mail keep honest people safe from criminals or criminals safe from the police? Are plastics durable conveniences or everlasting pollutants? Counterfeiting comes with money, obscene phone calls come with the telephone, spam comes with e-mail, and pornography comes with the Internet. Every law creates an outlaw.”

Now that I’m a part of the Microsoft Vision Team (no I’m not a techie…I am in fact an Executive Shadow Coach) I look at the context technology has in my life as well as the lives of my clients. I’ve had this discussion with many of them as technology has changed dramatically over the years. It’s not only how a computer has gone from being the size of a room to one that fits into my pocket i.e. my BlackBerry but how it’s so integrated in everything we do. We don’t pay as much attention to it. It’s no longer this mystical machine that a select few know how to use. Everyone from my son to my parents use computers. Almost everything we do has a technological component to it. However when it comes to what we do with it, do we still have a choice?

Another question that continually comes to mind is, how do we co-exist with all this wonderful technology without letting it take over our lives? Work life balance is not what it used to be nor is it the same for everyone. It used to be that we unplugged before going on vacation. Now we schedule in our email and voice mail check at least once a day even when on holiday. And before I get a plethora of screaming emails on that subject, in my world and that of most of my clients, there is no way they can go a week without checking for many reasons. First of all, they can’t disconnect their minds as to what’s happening. Some might be out of work by the time they get home if they don’t pay attention. For others, if their minds are on what might be happening back at home, then they can’t disconnect at all. Checking in once a day to see what might be waiting when they get back at least gives them a heads up which they can choose to put aside until they come home, or give instructions as to how to handle a sensitive matter so they don’t get slammed by it the moment they walk into the office.

If that does happen, all the benefits of going away on holiday are negated in seconds. If they deal with hot issues along the way and then put them aside for the rest of the day, then they can relax and let go. One can disconnect technology but not the mind. Work with it instead of fighting it, set your boundaries as to what you need to know while you’re away and technology can be there for you in just the way you want. It’s all about setting boundaries. In that, we do have a choice.

Donna Karlin

Monday, November 27, 2006

Moments to Remember and Laugh About One Day

When I was in St. Louis for the International Coach Federation Conference, I started off the week having dinner with 2 wonderful people / colleagues / friends. I posed a question to them which was easy enough to ask but not necessarily easy to answer. The question was “What was your most embarrassing moment?”

Now these are moments in our lives when we are mortified to have said something, done something, or circumstance put us in positions of total “I wish a hole would open up and swallow me” feelings. The reason why I had brought it up was it was a question I often ask clients. Why, you ask? Because once they start sharing it and verbalizing it, more often than not, they start laughing about it and its power no longer has a hold on them other than one of a distant memory.

It’s quite amazing. What we might have hidden for years suddenly becomes a source of amusement.

So I ask you…what was your most embarrassing moment?

I’ll start off with sharing 2 of mine. Two, because the first was the most embarrassing until the second happened! You’ll understand once I share them with you.

The first…
I broke the front door of the parliament buildings here in Ottawa.

Now can you picture how embarrassing that would have been to have pushed the door opened with my hand only to have it go THROUGH the glass of the front door? To make matters worse, at the time they couldn’t find a first aid kit so I was bleeding on the front steps of the Parliament Buildings. A special moment, I can assure you. One of those wanting a hole to open up and swallow me moments.

The second, which topped that one (yes, it’s possible) was the following…
I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for one of my oldest friends (45 years and counting : ) to show up as he was taking me out for my birthday lunch. He is always late so I took his being late in stride. The waiter kept coming over feeling very bad for me. I assured him it was something I was used to and took out my BlackBerry to catch up on messages. Now this friend had a dog, one of my favourite dogs, a long haired Belgian Shepherd and he was getting old and sick and my friend told me he had to go at the end of the week to sign the papers to have him euthanized as there was no other choice. I emailed my son from my BlackBerry giving him a heads up that our friend had to do this to which Mike replied “Oh no! Why?” to which I replied “Because he’s old, his back has gone, he’s losing control of his bodily functions and it’s time to have him put down. There’s no other choice”.

Now what all BlackBerry owners should know is that emails come into the unit in real time, so when I pressed reply it didn’t go back to my son. It went to my client’s executive assistant. My client just happened to have been out sick that day with a bad back. Need I say more?

Within seconds a response came back from her saying “You’re going to have him killed because he has a bad back? And what’s with this bodily functions thing?”


Within a minute or so (as she of course forwarded this to my client’s Berry) I got a phone call on the same unit saying “YOU’RE HAVING ME PUT DOWN BECAUSE I’M OLD AND MY BACK IS OUT? And there is NOTHING wrong with my bodily functions thank you very much!”

Good thing this wasn’t a new client. Embarrassed? Just a bit you think? Now we laugh about it. I no longer automatically press reply on my BlackBerry! That taught me a lesson or two!

…..A now smiling
Donna Karlin

Monday, November 20, 2006

Why Are You Doing What You're Doing?

Robert Townsend said “If you don't do it excellently, don't do it at all. Because if it's not excellent, it won't be profitable or fun, and if you're not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing there?”

In coaching we use the term “Mastery” a great deal. It has nothing to do with credentialing or education; it has to do with being masterful in our craft or profession. Certainly experience comes to play for the more people one works with, the richer the expertise and knowledge to draw from. As a coach, especially one who’s asked on a daily basis to teach others my Shadow Coaching™ model, I will not compromise my training or the value to clients as a result of it if the participants aren’t masterful at coaching. If they’re not having fun along the way then it becomes a chore, not a passion. Coaching has to come from a position of passion, not rules (and I’m not talking about ethics and guidelines here. I’m talking about rules that box one in). We have to coach from a position of personal integrity and we can’t begin to help others grasp their dreams if we’re not living them ourselves.

To quote Ralph Marston, “If you want to be exceptional, then be the exception. Forget about what most people would do in a given situation, and do what is best, what is right, what makes the most positive contribution. Exceptional performance is the result of exceptional thinking. Instead of merely reacting to circumstances and events, use the awesome power of your mind to develop a thoughtful, effective response.

To be exceptional, be yourself. You have something valuable and original to contribute to every situation. Exceptional accomplishments are authentic accomplishments. Allow your priorities and your actions to be based on the values, purposes and vision of life that you feel most intensely at the center of your being. Exceptional performance is meaningful performance. Look beyond the temporary and superficial, and put your energy into creating lasting value that serves a real purpose.

You were born to be exceptional, to blaze a trail into territory where no one has ever gone before. Choose today, and every day, to let your own unique, exceptional light shine brightly for all to see.”

When you do that, you will be masterful at anything because your mind and heart will be set on it.

Donna Karlin

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cultures and Ways of Being From Across The World

One of the things that constantly blows me away is the fact that in a very short time my blog has attracted a readership from 93 countries and territories from across the globe, including 8 Canadian provinces and 47 U.S. states.

As we plan for a global dialogue on issues facing communities, cities, countries and the world as a whole, I would love to invite all of you to share your biggest challenges and greatest victories, whether politically, culturally, organizationally, nationally or personally, so the dialogue could be formed and begun right here.

I look forward to the conversation..

Donna Karlin

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Meeting of Minds

This past week I was in St. Louis at the International Coach Federation Research Symposium and Conference which, as always, blew my mind. I would love to have said the conference itself was mind blowing but for me, what always takes me to new heights are the people I connect with...those I haven't seen for a year and can't wait to reconnect with, as well as the new people I meet who come from far and wide to share ideas, concepts and ways of being. Having more than 1,400 or so Coaches all under one roof is daunting enough, never mind the noise and energy that accompany us : ) but still, the level of interaction and mind melding is extraordinary.

This year, even though the venue left a lot to be desired, the people I met and shared ideas with were over the top. Over 30 countries were represented along with the richness of backgrounds and cultures. And as we left St. Louis to return home, we were already discussing what we could create for next year.

Continuity is a given. We want the best for the profession as well as the clients. One thing was very clear. If we continued to share ideas and let others help us evolve, nothing would stop us. It's not about continuing education credits as much as learning, integrating and contextualising what we learned through the week. One of the things I have to watch for with my clients is how quickly they integrate what they learn into the content and context of their lives. How often do we look at that for ourselves?

It's about people and how they put the same facts and concepts into completely different packages, utilizing them in unique ways. It's not as much as what we create as what the professionals will do with those creations afterwards, so even as I was heading back through Chicago to my home in Ottawa, I was creating a map in my agenda of who I wanted to connect with whom so their lives can be enriched exponentially.

In a world where 'knowledge is power' and many hoard what they know to hold over someone else, how much more powerful would it be if we shared that information and grew in leaps and bounds by virtue of having another tweak it to mean something else? Two minds working is always more than one....four more than two and so on. So tonight the virtual introductions begin. And to my friends Susan, Sue, David, Philip, Michelle and rest of the gang who already have numerous projects, books and classes aligned for me to get started on (yeah I know in WHAT spare time?) I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me think, wonder, imagine and begin creating. The sense of possibility has been stoked within me, so get ready for what's to come!

It's all about finding the best in life and wishing the same for others.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Uganda....93rd country and counting. Stay a while, 'put your feet up' and we'd love it if you'd share your ideas and perspectives with us.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It's All About You

What do you think? Does the title of this blog push a button or two?

I’ve had more conversations this past week with people wanting to set boundaries, but not knowing how. Or they know how but don’t think they can or should or, just don’t set them for other reasons. People think selfishness is a bad thing. They do want to make their lives easier but as they don’t want to rock the boat so to speak, they don’t set boundaries. They’re the ones who suffer and as they’re not practicing self-care, everyone suffers.

Why is that, exactly? I’d love to hear your take on that.

Respecting yourself means listening to your body and emotions constantly and then acting beyond the linear to do what’s needed for your own well-being.

I realise for some it’s cultural programming; being raised to put others first, to do the best for the family, community etc, but even those who are powerful leaders, who you might think wouldn’t think twice about being selfish, have a hard time taking that personal replenishment time.

Why do you think setting personal boundaries has to be detrimental to others around you? Wouldn’t it be teaching them to do the same as they see how well it works with you? And if you take good care of yourself, wouldn’t you have MORE to give someone else?

“A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly self-centered if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.” – Oscar Wilde (with a bit of poetic license from Donna Karlin).

Selfishness, or taking care of one’s self isn’t about having everyone else cater to you to the exclusion of their own well-being; it’s acknowledging that you respect yourself enough to care for yourself so you can give back more. How you perceive that will determine the level of self-respect and self-care.

What's the first thing you can do to begin?

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 19, 2006

In The Realm of Possibility?

People automatically assume they know all the facts and it not only often gets them into trouble but could cause difficulty for others at the same time.

For example, about a week ago, I was in a busy elevator in a Federal Government department where I’ve been working for the past 4 or 5 years and there was a staffer who I knew quite well next to me in the elevator. I hadn’t worked with him but had with his boss, so he knew the level of client I worked with as an Executive Shadow Coach. As I read a particular email, I started grinning at the content. Unbeknownst to me (and let me clarify I never read anything confidential in a public place), he glanced over my shoulder at my BlackBerry and saw who the email was from.

At the top of his lungs he exclaimed “You got an email from Stephen Harper?” Oh this was WAY too much fun to let go of so I remarked “Yes. He was commenting on my blog” to which this man called out “Stephen Harper reads your blog???” I replied “Yes. Steve reads my blog and I his. Oh and we are co-authors of another blog besides this one.”

Well that was more than he could handle. Keep in mind the rest of the occupants of the elevator were listening intently.

Incredulous, he exclaimed “OUR PRIME MINISTER WRITES A BLOG WITH YOU AND YOU CALL HIM STEVE??” to which I quietly replied “Who said it was the Prime Minister?”


I looked at him and told him he had no business reading someone else’s BlackBerry and if he’s going to do things like that, it’s going to get him into trouble and, by making assumptions, there would be a great chance he’d get the other individual into trouble as well. I work with the highest levels of bureaucracy. All he had to do was tell one of the people who had a Deputy’s ear that I co-wrote anything with the PM and it could jeopardize my work with him/her.

He assumed. If I hadn’t clarified, the others in the elevator would have left certain of something that just wasn’t true. The ramifications could be disastrous.

“The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable” - Paul Broca

How often do you read something at a glance, overhear something mentioned and create an entire scenario around it which just isn’t so? We’ve all been guilty of that over time, no?

Besides which….do you think it’s in the realm of possibility that a Prime Minister would feel comfortable and secure enough in his position to write a blog at all? A whole other question to ponder.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

People Are Their Own Magic Wand

Years ago I created a mini program about people, and about you.....and my friend Steve Harper unknowingly (well until now : ) reminded me about it. It was a compilation of so many perspectives about people, how they think, look at themselves, respond to the world and create their place in the world. I had forgotten all about it but once I read Steve's words of wisdom in our, I decided to unearth it and give it another look. It's time to start distributing it to those who want to look at their place in life and perhaps do something to change what's not working.

One line that resonated was "People fail to see that they are the magic wand they wait and wish for."

Why look for a magic wand when you are one? People become who they might be when they let go of who they are. If you're so busy holding on to what'll never know what's possible!

Donna Karlin

Thursday, September 28, 2006

History Starts Now

About a week ago now I was watching the season premier of a favourite show ‘Criminal Minds’ and as the show was drawing to a close, a song was played that captured my attention. The words were amazing which spurred me on to doing a search on the internet to see if I could figure out the name of the song and the group that performed it. I mentioned to my son that the group sounded so familiar but when I did the search and came up with the name of the band it didn’t ring a bell. Not anything unusual for me as I’m pathetic with names of bands, movies or songs, but their voices remain imbedded in my mind forever.

However once I did the search and other songs came up as well I realised I knew the band well and loved their songs. They’re called Five for FIGHTING and are quite distinctive, never mind socially aware in their work. I emailed the group asking permission to use some of the lyrics in my blog and was pleasantly surprised to get an answer within an hour. John Ondrasik, the lead, was more than gracious in giving me permission to share a bit of their work with you through my insights and comments. And, I hope you’ll run out and buy their CDs as their music really is extraordinary.

The song from the program was called ‘World’ and has many messages to it. My favourite of them all is “History Starts Now”. There is so much about that phrase I could write about in many contexts. History starts now in life as we create our life from this moment on…..every choice determining what our future will look like by our relationships, ideas, ideals, values and passions. It’s also very relevant in history when it comes to relying on an individual, judging one person by the actions of another, and using something in the past as a ‘written in stone’ guideline as to how a person might respond in the present or future.

That’s one of my biggest challenges in the workplace. Those I partner with as clients work very hard at changing what isn’t working in their ‘worlds’ and it’s very hard to break past history with colleagues and implement that change when others don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. People see what was, not what is. Using the ‘History Starts Now’ changes that paradigm. You can create a new history by how you relate to someone in the present. You can create a new history by seeing the best in people and acknowledging the changes they’re making.

“What kind of world do you want?
Think Anything
Let's start at the start
Build a masterpiece
Be careful what you wish for
History starts now... "

Years ago I decided to build a life I love. Slowly but surely I pruned my life of toxic relationships and replaced them with those who enriched my life. I’m happy because I choose to be, not give the power of that choice to circumstance. I look to learn something new every day, connect with people in all facets of life. I will soon attend an international symposium for coaching and we’re going to look at Stewardship in Coaching. This ties in beautifully. Coaching from a framework of stewardship is normative: “with accountability for affirming human rights and dignity, ecological health, and care for the health and well-being of the whole”. It also shifts focus from “Being the best in the world” to “Being the best for the world” (a triple bottom line: economically, socially, ecologically).

If you reach out to make a difference in some way every day, look to learn something new, speak to someone you’ve never spoken to before, make connections for you or connect other people, you will build a masterpiece of a life. No time like the present to begin. History starts right now.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Live Through Your Passions

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge, that myth is more potent than history, that dreams are more powerful than facts, that hope always triumphs over experience, that laughter is the only cure for grief, and I believe that love is stronger than death”. - Fulghum, Robert

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this quote and had a completely different reaction to it. It truly touches every aspect of life in one fell swoop. When I listen to clients, friends, colleagues or members of my family they might begin telling me difficulties they’re living or a challenge they have to face but ultimately the conversation veers towards something that has captured their imagination, and asking me to help them find a way to live it. Their passions come out and the sense of possibility. I watch as their energy goes from a low point to way up there beyond measurement. Their faces change from a frown to a smile that reaches their eyes and their heart as their whole being comes to life through imagination. One will reach for a dream no matter what. That will stimulate you much more intensely and quickly than a mere fact.

And even as they might sit around grieving for a lost loved one, through the tears come moments of laughter as they begin to speak of funny times shared that lightens the heart.

Human nature is resilient. A person’s mind can take them to places beyond belief. Instead of pushing those thoughts aside, ask yourself how you can use them to evolve into life….much more than growing. It’s becoming that dream, living it and experiencing it firsthand. Anyone who tries to control your thoughts or passions is fighting to discover their own. Don’t let others steal them away. “Patterning your life around other's opinions is nothing more than slavery” - Lawana Blackwell.

Live your life for you, not for anyone else. Teach others how it’s possible to live your dreams by creating your own day by day, thereby encouraging others to do the same in their lives. Accept others for where they are in life and ask them to do the same for you. Learn from those around you, don’t become them. And in doing so, give yourself the gift of a fulfilling, joyful life.

Best…Donna Karlin

Monday, September 18, 2006

Walking In Your Own Shadow

“There is a time when passing through a light, that you walk in your own shadow “ – Keri Hulmee.

This past week was exactly that for me. I was in Chicago doing an Advanced Shadow Coach™ Training session with a group of amazing coaches looking to see what else is out there in the realm of our profession. Some already knew me and about my work and walked in eager to jump in to whatever was tossed at them. Others walked in with open minds, not really knowing what it is I do and the rest, well it took a while for them to come around to my model of coaching as it challenged their paradigms in every way shape and form. Whenever I teach I have to take a good long look at everything I do and how I do it so I can articulate it to the class. In hearing their feedback and answering their questions, I did indeed walk in my own shadow as I’m a Shadow Coach ™ : )

Those dynamics are present in all my trainings and I love watching as the awareness sinks in. They not only learn how to go deeper and wider in the dynamics of working with clients but their self-awareness or walking in their own shadows increases as well.

The trip started off with a smile as I pre-cleared US customs. The customs officer wanted to know the nature of the work I’d be doing in the US and when I told him I was going to do an Advanced Shadow Coach™ Training, he looked at me and said “You DO realize I don’t have a clue about what you just said”. To which I replied “Even coaches don’t know, which is why I’m traveling so much to teach it!”

He wished me the best of luck and I went on my merry way.

But that’s what happens in every realm of life, isn’t it? Every day someone says something to me of which I have no clue and I can’t wait to hear more. That’s one of the best parts of Shadow Coaching. Our work is interdevelopmental. There isn’t a day where we don’t grow in leaps and bounds and as my knowledge increases, so does my ability to coach that client and all the ones that follow.

Are your relationships interdevelopmental? Are you both stimulated by your interactions and if not, are you engaged? Are you interested in what evolves? And are you open to and aware of the possibilities as they unfold? Especially for coaches, if you are so intent on having control of the process, the conversations and sessions, then you aren’t open to the client’s life as it unfolds. You are more intent in guiding the process and then it isn’t about the client. It’s about you. Shadow Coaching™ eliminates all that, as you coach in real time, not on an interpretation of that moment fed back to you later.

If we were more mindful of life as it unfolded and let go of the control of what we think we want before it happens, life would go in a totally different direction. We would learn more, grow more, meet people we hadn’t intended to meet and evolve on a totally different plane.

Have you caught yourself guiding a process that didn’t seem to work? Do you often feel as if you’re trying to force a square peg in a round hole in a given circumstance? Then perhaps it was meant to go in a different direction. Maybe it’s time you walked in your own shadow to pay attention to your own life as it unfolds. What a concept!

Donna Karlin

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Enjoying the Chaos

Are you enjoying the chaos? Are you enjoying every aspect of your day no matter what unfolds?

It’s a question I often ask organizational leaders, especially during challenging times. Often they look at me and say something like “Are you crazy? You’ve seen what just happened and you ask if I’m ENJOYING MY DAY? (This question usually thrown back at me with a smile, thank goodness : ) As a Shadow Coach™ I know full well what they’re living because I see it unfold before my eyes. I also see how my clients tackle what unfolds and at that point I mentally rub my hands with glee because this is where I do my best work….in the centre of chaos.

I don’t care what you’re living in your work environment, how intense it is or how crazy, but bottom line is, if you’re not enjoying the process, dealing with the problems, world catastrophes, whatever it is, then get out and find another job.

Recently I asked a government leader, one who is dealing with global challenges, that very question. It’s a good thing he knows me well, so when I asked him (knowing full well he had a weekend from hell) if he was enjoying his day, he stopped, looked at me and said “I wouldn’t EXACTLY call it enjoying.” But he said it with a smile. He knew what I meant and even though he had a sum total of about 5 hours sleep in 3 days, he was enjoying the knowledge he was doing something about it, at least what was in his power to do.

We can’t change the world. We can change how we look at the world and our place within it.

That’s what makes all the difference between being depleted in our jobs and energized, no matter what unfolds. I want my clients to be successful….successful by their definition not mine. I want them to create a sustained level of performance that is not easy to upset or restrict. Their mindset is what will take them from being reactive to responsive. If they are not enjoying the intensity, they will be in reactive mode which depletes them of energy. And it’s next to impossible to feel as if you’re accomplishing what you set out to when you’re always trying to catch up and take back control.

When you enjoy the chaos you’re the eye in the centre of the storm. It will energize you and help you focus and keep you one step ahead of the game.

Looking forward…
Donna Karlin

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jumping Back In

Our senses come alive through the summer. It’s a time when we savour the flavours and scents of the seasons….the blooming of flowers, cut grass and long summer nights. As fall comes we think of packing up cottages and leaves turning colour, soon giving way to falling snow.

Colours fade and are replaced with white and grey of winter and as the land goes to sleep and rests for a while, we become the most productive. Long, leisurely summer strolls turn to brisk walks in the cold, invigorating and energizing us.

Summer holidays are over and now the world gears up for a season of productivity. Kids go back to school and we return to our offices, ready to tackle whatever comes our way.

Or are we ready?

Many tell me the first day back is brutal when it comes to focusing and getting their minds off their vacations. They have to wade through voice mail and email and as the day wears on, fatigue sets in. Along with it come the feelings that holidays were a lifetime ago. All it takes is s small shift or two, a change in scheduling and that post vacation syndrome can be a thing of the past.

Don’t come back from holidays on a Monday. Come back on a Thursday. That way you have a day to play catch-up, check emails, phone messages and speak to colleagues to find out what happened in your absence. That way you’re in the loop. Friday, develop a plan of action and it’s already the weekend! You’ll still have all that energy you recouped when you were off work and with all the catch up under your belt, Monday won’t seem so daunting. And if you can really schedule carefully, the perfect scenario, for example is to come back the Thursday before Labour Day so you come back at a quiet time and end up with a three day weekend ahead of you. It’s like another mini vacation, except this time you’re all caught up and can hit the floor running.

Three day weekend or not, coming back on a Thursday will help you keep that spring to your step as you know the weekend is just around the corner.

Welcome back. Enjoy diving back into the deep end. It’s been waiting for you.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Macedonia, bring the subscriber count to 91 countries and territories!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Measuring Success

How do you measure success? Is it power, money, notoriety? Is it not having any worries in the world? Or perhaps it’s learning and growing every day?

If you don’t have an idea of what it is to be successful in life, then how in the world are you going to start living your life by design? So if I asked you this question, would you have an answer?

I tell my clients that everything you do starting this very moment will be how you invent or create your future. It’s not what happens years from now or how you set a goal for 5 years hence and magically it happens. It’s what you do this second and every one that follows that determines what your future will look like, because before you know it the future is the present and it looks way too much like what you’re living right now, simply because you haven’t done anything to change that.

In execuBookblog this week we’re discussing “Is Bigger Better?” and I love what perspectives are coming out of the conversation. I am frequently asked to join forces with large companies and have the conversations to see what it is they’re doing. As of now I’ve turned them all down. It’s not that they don’t do good work, because they do, but it’s way too generic for me. I truly believe those of us who coach from WAY outside the box are the ones who stay 2 steps ahead of trends and really partner with our clients to let them fly. Those who coach based on tools and canned approaches do achieve success with their clients but I firmly believe the level of success is nowhere near what they realise with those of us who rely on experience and expertise rather than what’s inside those various boxes of tools.

For some, success might be measured by what’s in their bank account and for others it’s fame. For me, it’s more subtle. It’s knowing I’m successful because of who I have in my life, that I learn and grow every day, and that I’m 98% free of tolerations. I know I’m successful by how I can’t wait to jump into the deep end of each day to see what gifts reveal themselves to me. It’s knowing I don’t want for anything and that I’m making a contribution in some way shape or form. In other words, the way I like to put it is "I know I am successful by how I can't wait to jump into the deep end of each day"

Here are some of the responses I’ve received from clients all over the world.

“I know I am successful by how I enjoy my creativity”
“I know I am successful by how I follow my whims”
“I know I am successful by how it doesn’t occur to me to even think that I need or want for anything”
“I know I am successful by how I fully enjoy every aspect of my life”

How would you define success according to you?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Power Mentoring

This week for our ExecuBooks Blog we’re blogging about ‘power mentoring’. I love the insights that come out of our weekly topics and this week is no exception. It never occurred to me to go to one source for absolutely everything. That would be like hiring an accountant to give you everything from financial to medical advice and that would be ridiculous. Yet many believe they have to go to one person for the end all and be all of mentoring to help them move forward in their careers.

That too is ridiculous for how many people do we come across in this world who is masterful at everything? None that I know of.

Then I wondered how many people were hesitant to become mentors because of the pressure that’s put on them to have all the answers. I know I wouldn’t want to be put in that position. Mind you, from a coach’s perspective all that means is asking a few more questions. We don’t ‘do’ answers.

In all seriousness, I would love to hear your perspectives on this. Many organizations, government included, have mentoring programs, though often it’s hard for them to find people to sign up as mentors. This might be the reason why.

Secondly, we don’t necessarily need to know or speak to people to have them mentor us. All we need to do is pay attention….read what they’ve written and what others have written and spoken about their successes, their ways of being and how they’ve moved up the ladder of success. We don’t necessarily have to use everything they share in its pure form. We can and should tailor it to us, our personalities, professions and ways of being.

If we remember that every person we come across knows something we don’t know, that we can learn and grow from them, we will continue to evolve into our level of excellence. We can learn something from each of them but not everything there is to know from just one.

Donna Karlin

Monday, August 14, 2006


def: BUSY adj
1. actively or fully engaged or occupied; "busy with her work"; "a busy man"; "too busy to eat lunch";
2. crowded with or characterized by much activity; "a very busy week"; "a busy life"; "a busy street"; "a busy seaport"

I’m often asked how I have time to do everything I do in a day. I wrote about this a few times, the most recent can be found here, ( but as it’s a question / comment I hear frequently, I thought I’d look at it again to see if there were any tricks of the trade I could share with you. Perhaps I need a shadow to shadow the Shadow! But in the meantime, here are a few of my own observations…

First of all, busy doesn’t mean effective or efficient. It means just what the definition says; busy as in crowded with activity. How the activity is executed is the key.

I still believe the best way to accomplish the most, or work smarter as it’s called these days is to simplify. Whether it’s looking at an email once, not 10 times, or compartmentalizing the day into workable chunks, any way you can simplify a schedule is the first step. One of my clients, who has an intense, chaotic schedule on a daily basis decided to schedule meetings in the mornings, leaving afternoons for chunks of time to get through her own work.

What needs to be stipulated are the variables because one way will NOT work for all.

  1. People have different levels of energy and sustained focus time
  2. Some people have more control over their days than others, though they still have control over some of the day.
  3. Some people have a hard time making split second decisions and waffling eats up time AND energy
  4. Some people insist on maintaining control of their administrivia and that eats up an incredible amount of time. Automate everything that’s automatable and you’ll have all this free time to fill instantly!
  5. Basically everyone is faced with the same dilemma; not enough time to get everything done. Therefore choices have to be made. Choices for what’s first, what’s last, what’s urgent, what can be put aside for now….who to see, who not to see, when to meet, when not to meet….get the picture?
  6. People frequently chase success…often in the wrong places. A colossal waste of time and energy. Become masterful at what you do well and success will find you. Attraction Principles at their best. But that’s another conversation altogether.
  7. People think technology will make their lives easier. NOT! Technology is a tool. Period! What you do with it will determine whether or not it will simplify your life or make it more complicated.
  8. People have bad days and they have great days. The key is to figure out what made it so great and repeat it. Often!

What isn’t a variable is the number of minutes in a day. We all have the same amount of time. That’s a constant. How we spend them is key.

I know I left out a great deal but blogs shouldn’t be 10 pages long. We can continue this. First I’d love to hear what it is that you’re dealing within the chaos of your day and we'll talk about specifics.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome 90th subscriber country from Kazakhstan!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Power: Possession of Controlling Influence

Power can be defined as possession of controlling influence. Is that leadership? And is that one and the same with power?

Or can power be the death of true leadership when defined as above?

I’ve been tossing this around a great deal. Leaders inspire others to greatness and to achieve their level of excellence. People in the position of controlling influence, or power, don’t necessarily lead….they can be destroying innovation, creativity and energy, one controlling, powerful decision at a time.

So how does one make sure they don’t abuse their position of power and continue to be true leaders?

I’d love your comments and insights on this.

Donna Karlin

Friday, August 04, 2006

People Seldom Picture This World Without Themselves In It

People are driven either to be someone special or to be the person others expect them to be. So who will be them? If they’re trying to emulate someone else, how will they hone their talents, discover their strengths and be known for their uniqueness?

People think their beliefs are grounded in logic, whereas they most often are based on emotions. They think life is all about them. It's not personal….yet it can feel so personal. But it really isn’t. So they miss amazing opportunities because they are distracted by the minutia of daily life…are so caught up in their worlds as they think it’s all about them, that they don’t see what’s out there.

Recently, I was interviewed about me and my work in a major US newspaper. The journalist interviewed a few of my clients. It was amazing to see their various reactions to being interviewed. One looked at the global impact of working with a Shadow Coach™ and was very forthcoming with stories, insights and anecdotes into how we worked together and the impact of my work. Another client made it all about him, how he looked, how he came across, that no matter what, he was quoted in the paper. It no longer had anything to do with the focus of the piece. It had to be all about him. Interestingly enough, when it didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to, he reacted, big time.

He’s still reacting.

From a coaching perspective, it told me volumes about roadblocks he was putting up that were stemming his success as that pattern is repeated regularly. It shows me where the focus of our work has to be and to help him see it. It’s not always easy to help my clients get over themselves.

It’s not always easy for coaches to get over themselves either and as I’m creating a new curriculum for the School of Shadow Coaching™, I realise that definitely has to be one of the proficiencies of our profession. If we make our coaching about us, what we think etc, then we are no longer serving our clients. Oh we’ll always have opinions as we’re human but it’s a matter of not letting those opinions and filters get in the way of how we work with our clients.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

People Never Reach Their Limits, They Only Think They Do

It’s amazing how often my biggest challenge as a coach is helping my clients past their ‘AHHA!” moments. Reaching the first wrung on the ladder towards achieving their goals can stop them dead and be the biggest roadblock to the realization of their dreams. Go figure!

Still, once they reach half way and are flying, many don’t want to ‘press their luck’ as they’re doing better than ever before and I hear “Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead”. Why in the world they would think of quitting when they’re halfway there is beyond me! But they do. My job as a Shadow Coach is to make them aware of this and help them past it.

People’s personal and professional lives are integrated even if they think they’re separate. And if a family member or close friend is struggling, that can often be stumbling block #2 in my client’s road to succeeding, for how can they fly without feeling guilty that others close to them aren’t doing the same? I wonder why they see that as something to hide rather than an inspiration to those around them.

People usually believe their actions and choices are right, even when it comes to putting on the brakes, so my work is cut out for me. It’s the fine line between helping them celebrate their road to success and not stopping dead because of that victory. There’s no ceiling, no limits to how high they can fly if they stop putting barriers in the way.

People never reach their limits until they impose limits on themselves.

People want things to be simpler, even if their actions say otherwise. That includes looking for all the reasons in the book why they can’t succeed. It would boggle their minds if they used that same energy to reach for the sky. My job is to figure out why they don’t and feed it back to them in some way they see what it is they’re doing….which is self sabotage. The funny thing about that is people don’t stay at the level of their most recent self-imposed roadblocks. They start spiraling downwards along with their waning enthusiasm.

People might want things to be simpler but find very innovative and creative ways to complicate life.

Life can become extremely complex, even when rich with opportunities and limitless possibilities. Even wonderful opportunities create pressures at a great cost. Success is seductive and often elusive when we chase after it instead of attracting it to us. Stop running towards something, and let life catch up to you. You’ll be amazed at what unfolds. It might just be a new definition of success.

Donna Karlin

Monday, July 31, 2006

People Who Let Go of Outcomes Lead Fulfilled Lives

People limit themselves without realizing it by reacting to situations, rather than responding and broadening their horizons.

People who communicate their expectations are very likely to have them met.

It's all about the laws of attraction. If you figure out who you need to talk to in order to explore the possibilities and what that conversation needs to look like, then you'll see and learn far more than you ever thought possible.

When I speak at conferences and teach master level coaches it constantly blows them away that I have no business plan. When I first started out in this profession, I didn't try to figure out where my business will end up 5 years later. What I did do was try to figure out who I needed to meet with, hang out with and interact with, to become absolutely masterful at what I do so I could have a strong foundation and create something of my own that would work for me and my clients.

I started saying yes to every opportunity, later figuring out what worked for me and what didn't and now I say no to what won't grow me in some way so I have time to say yes to what will. Business plan? No way. I see more people who are so fixated on their business plan they miss opportunities at every turn.

If you have a business plan and it's inflexible, toss it.

Once you let go of your business expectations there is no limit to how high you can fly as you'll be open to whatever possibilities come your way.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lighting a Fire Under Our Highest Potential

Over the past few weeks on the other blog, ExecuBooks Blog, we’ve been blogging on leadership, Evidence-Based Management, and the power of charm. We’re talked leadership, bantered, debated and looked at our fellow bloggers perspectives on these subjects and one thing became very clear to me and that is one doesn’t necessarily have to be a leader in every realm of life. It can be one area of work, life, learning…anything that makes others dream, learn do more, and realise their full potential. If anyone inspires you to that, then that person is a leader, not by virtue of position or title but by who they are and how they look at the world and those within it.

Whenever we’re lucky enough to have met someone who acknowledges us for who we are and what we might be, that leader will have lit a fire under what is to be our highest potential.

Don’t look for leaders, be aware of them when they present themselves. They might not be corporate or political leaders. They might be the wise old man or woman on the corner who, for whatever reason of their own, decides we’re worthy enough to be the recipients of their stories, words of wisdom and insights, hoping we’ll pay attention….or not. Perhaps they see in us what we don’t yet see and seek to inspire us through a narrative or anecdote from their past that we can relate to and draw a parallel to. Whatever reason…leaders are everywhere, in some realm of life.

Are you paying attention?

I can tell you when I was first approached to be a contributor to the ExecuBooks Blog, I was thrilled to be asked and knew it would help me hone my writing skills, never mind, perhaps reach more people than I could in my personal blog alone. However never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d made such a connection with many of my fellow writers and how much they have inspired me, helped me learn, grow, see other sides to life and the world as it is and how very lucky I am to be in such amazing company. Each one of the contributors leads, teaches and inspires. Whether or not they realise it, the ripple effect goes way beyond anything they’ll ever know.

I’m paying attention.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Are You in Email Hell?

I have been asked about email management so many times I thought it should rate a blog. I get about 300 to 350 email messages on average each day, including personal email. At the end of the day, there are no unread, ‘unresponded to’ emails left in my inbox. I often hear “How do you stay on top of your emails?” or “The one thing I can’t seem to get a handle on, is keeping up with my emails!”

Even though it’s a peripheral part of the work I do with my clients, I thought I’d let you in on some tips to get out of email hell.

Your inbox should be a ‘No Parking Zone’.

  1. Set up filters or rules wherever you can. I have a ‘rule’ for newsletters, another for the School, one for my blog, Information Requests through my website and well, you get the idea. This way they’re automatically filed and you can get to them when you want/need to. I don’t have to wade through all 300 or so to figure out which are urgent and which I can read whenever.
  2. I configure my Outlook to have a preview so I can see the gist of my email before opening it. That way I can pretty much determine whether or not it’s urgent.
  3. I read each email once when at all possible (and it’s almost ALWAYS possible). If I read each one twice, then I’d have 600 emails a day and that is just ridiculous. Why do twice the work? If I open it, I do something with it. With the preview set up, it’s easier to figure out what has to be opened first. I apply the Touch Paper Once Rule to emails as well. Trash File Delegate or Act. I cannot tell you how many clients look at the same email 3 or 4 times. It boggles the mind. At that rate, they will never be on top of their correspondence!
  4. Anything that requires a long response goes into a special folder with a flag and completion date so I’m reminded to get to it.
  5. I schedule in time through the day to process my emails….and I stick to that scheduling commitment.
  6. I tell friends, family and colleagues to please (very politely so as not to insult) cease and desist with jokes, petitions, news clipping etc. For those people in your life who you KNOW will be insulted if you ask this of them, set up a rule where they go into a file or bin and you can either glance through them when you feel like it or, if you know you’re not ever going to read them let the rule guide them gently to the trash bin. Remember…it’s not the person you’re rejecting. It’s the email overload that’s keeping you so busy you don’t have time to meet them or call them to catch up. Now which would you rather do?
  7. If you’re way behind and have hundreds in your inbox, you’re likely to procrastinate thinking you have to tackle it all in one fell swoop. If that’s you, then what I suggest is that you start doing this right now with today’s emails. Once you’re applying these tips, process the 10 most recent ones that have been parked. If you do that each time you tackle your current email, you’ll have eliminated all the old ones in your inbox in record time and will be able to stay current.

    I do have a BlackBerry so I can process emails at short breaks through the day. This also keeps me on top of any scheduling changes. Nothing like showing up to a meeting that’s been cancelled or relocated. Is technology working for you or is it a make work project? Remember, technology is just a tool. How you use it is up to you.
  8. If your email is anything like mine, when I get back from a trip or vacation, I have an overflowing inbox that is about to explode (figure out a week or two times about 300 emails a day. It’s too daunting to verbalize) I take one day off before heading back to work to read, scan, process and answer my emails so when I’m back, I’m back, and can hit the floor running from square one. It’s automatically factored into my time off.
  9. And last but not least, when responding? Make sure you’re clear, definitive and give enough information back because otherwise you’ve just generated 2 or 3 more guaranteed responses in your inbox if you don’t.

    Effectively yours : )
    Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subscribers (88 and 89) from Puerto Rico and Sri Lanka. I hope you stay awhile, and share your thoughts and insights with us for a long time to come!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Leading By Inspiration

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. I was waiting for the launch of another blog I’m contributing to because the topic is way too good to only write about it once. “If Harry Potter Ran General Electric” How perfect is that? To check out my blog post on that subject, go to as we launched, today!

I am going to say it. I’m a sucker for anything magical, whether old folklore which captures the imagination or the Harry Potter stories. He’s the kind of character that makes you hold your breath and cheer for him no matter if he’s in a Quiddich match (no easy feat) to finding himself in the gravest danger. I watch his courage and sense of fair play, his personal integrity and his striving to be the best he can be, in school and with his fellow classmates. There are many dimensions to the Harry Potter story. The same goes for the multidimensional levels of responsibility and intensity my clients live each day, especially when deep inside a crisis, chaos all around them. They rise to the occasion because of their innate leadership and sense of what’s right. People follow these leaders because of example and by virtue of who they are and how they live, not because of their position in the organization.

I see it from the lowest person on the totem pole to the highest. Bottom line is, leaders have a vision, they have energy to go after that vision, they share and inspire others to take part and make things happen and instill a sense of energy into the organization. They don’t talk leadership. They emulate it.

It’s magical.

Years ago when I was on a creative call with Thomas Leonard and we were talking about evolutionary progressions we spoke of leading by inspiration. There are three levels when working with others. 1) Interdependent 2) is interdevelopmental and 3) is intermagical. Interdependent is when you rely on someone else to get the job done. You get the support and it’s over with…mission accomplished. Interdevelopmental is when you rely on someone else to get the job done, but in the process you both evolve and develop into a level of excellence and knowledge you didn’t have before. But intermagical….well, that’s the special place to be when working with others. That’s when you not only rely on someone else, evolve because of the work you do with them but it’s absolutely magical just because. The synergy is there, the joy of popping out of bed each morning and the feeling that you can’t wait to hit the floor running with this person because you know something amazing is going to happen, even if you’re not sure what that something might be. It energizes you, inspires you to greatness and a level of energetic enthusiasm you never had before. Definition of leader don’t you think? Do you see Albus Dumbledore in there, just a little?

How are you inspiring others intermagically? You know what it feels like. What do you have to do to be it….live it?

Looking forward..
Donna Karlin

*Note: I heartily recommend Tom Morris' book "If Harry Potter Ran General Electric". Click here for more information or to buy the book

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Many Faces of Intelligence

Intelligence def. 1) The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge; a) the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations b) the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests) 2) mental acuteness

There are many different forms of intelligence. Many have delved into researching the 8 categories of intelligence and how they are exercised, recognised and demonstrated. Now there seems to be a new ‘Intelligence’ that has emerged and that is ‘Executive Intelligence’.

Looking at the truth of a situation or what is going on at any given time is the main responsibility of leaders for if they cannot determine the reality of the situation, they will not succeed in their role as leaders. Their capacity of recognizing this truth is determined by their level of intelligence. Cognitive ability testing, or IQ tests have proven to be the best predictor of work performance in any profession and, in some opinions give more information than a lengthy job interview. Some research even indicates that IQ tests predict what the performance of managers will be even more than job experience, one of the reasons being these tests show the capacity for a person to grasp information and process it.

As I’m Shadow Coaching™ my clients through their day, I not only have to see how quickly they grasp information and understand it and observe the speed of their learning curve, which is very important for anyone in a leadership role, but see how quickly they contextualize what they've learned. That is critical for a leader. I need to see how fast they integrate what they learn into their present worlds. If they absorb all this information, new processes ways of being etc and put them aside to do what they’ve always done, then I have my work cut out for me as they will struggle in their role as leaders.

Executive or what I call ‘Leadership Intelligence’ is set of abilities and proficiencies that leaders must be able to demonstrate in various contexts of their work in the realms of accomplishing tasks and how they prioritize them, how they work with people and utilize the people around them (effective delegation) as well as being absolutely aware of their own behaviours, responses, reactions etc. and the behaviours of those they work with.

Leaders must find a way to achieve their mandates while at the same time grow the organization and the people within it.

Leaders need to ‘get it’, understand the various perspectives of what they've just grasped, integrate at a very fast pace and evolve because of it.

My role is to make them aware of the roadblocks, tethers and filters that are standing in their way so we can remove them. Then I sit back and watch them, their staff and the organization fly.

Looking forward…
Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subscriber from Bangladesh. 87 countries and counting!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Different Way of Measuring

Yesterday I ‘Shadowed’ a retreat for high level executives. I’ve Shadow Coached™ many of the key players individually and my focus, my mandate for the day, was to see what action plan they would come up with and how they would integrate what they discussed into their every day lives. The reason why I created the Shadow Coaching™ model in the first place was to work within the fast paced lives of my clients, to help them achieve the results and ways of being they want without having to take them out of the workplace to do it. Let’s face it. Busy executives no longer have time to book off for training, never mind the time and focus to apply what they learned off site to their every day lives.

One of the Human Resource specialists wanted to know what it was I did with these individuals. Was there a possible canned answer that applied to them all? No. However many HR specialists think in terms of canned programs and courses, not in terms of the intangibles, the subtleties and the context of how the training or coaching is implemented as to create achievable results. The work I do is specific to the individual. What works for one is not even applicable to many of the others. The term leadership in the generic sense applies to all, however how it’s measured, how it’s lived is unique to the individual.

So rather than delve into intangibles, the only information shared at the retreat was what worked 15 years go. Going off somewhere to take a course where participants learn a great deal of useful information worked way back when, however what they integrate into their lives when they get back is minimal and if they do incorporate some of it, retention is very low.

What struck me however as one by one, the individuals working at this retreat walked over to discuss things with me through the day, was how sometimes the most dramatic thing I could do for them as a Shadow Coach™ was just that….to be there. By virtue of the fact they know they have a non-judgmental, unbiased observer and supporter makes all the difference in the world if for no other reason than to hone their awareness level. Knowing I’m aware makes them more aware and eager to share information back to me as the day unfolds.

There are ways to measure results that are black and white and documentable. However there are ways of measuring results that can’t be recorded on charts, in surveys or questionnaires. These results are not to be discounted and won’t make it into most research papers. Rather they will reflect in the energy level of the individual, the enhanced leadership and enthused response of their staff. There will be a marked increase in happiness and contentment with their lot in life.

All this to say it’s not something that’s usually found in HR 101, it’s something that is found in the ways of great leaders; those intangible immeasurable “I’m not sure what it is” factors that help them fly.

Don’t always try to measure, categorize or predetermine outcomes. Sometimes just ‘being’, being there and being aware is all it takes.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Power of 'No'

We live in a world where we seem to find the need to rationalize almost everything. When was the last time you said “No” to someone and didn’t have to feel the need to explain yourself or rationalize it? Do you feel that same need when you say “Yes” to them? Not generally.

What really amazes me is when we rationalize the ‘No-s’ to those we don’t even know. Take for example the person who calls from the duct cleaning company at dinner time. After a 12 hour day do you WANT to have a conversation with a person who wants to take the insides of your house apart? How many excuses do you give as to why you’re not interested? Perhaps you should get their name and number (how do they ours by the way?) and call them in the middle of their dinner.

How many times have you found yourself saying “Yes” only because the smaller, 2-letter word was much more difficult to articulate, and before you know it, you’re up to your eyeballs in work, deadlines, commitments and the one who is suffering, not sleeping, is constantly feeling the guilt of being late and not delivering is you. And who exactly is to blame for that?

If you can’t say the word and mean it then there’s no point in saying it at all, because you’ll just beat yourself up afterwards with guilt and find a way to do it for them anyways. Does that work for your credibility? I think not.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself and others around you is learning how to say “No” and mean it. It shouldn’t become a way of life so you’re saying “No” to everything; it’s being strategic about it and what you say “Yes” to. It’s being open, honest, choosing what it is you will devote your time to and doing it well. It’s learning not to jump in with both feet whenever you’re asked to do something just because you were asked and figure out what is the best possible choice and use of your time, knowledge and energy.

OK I can tell you this now because I finally got it, but let me tell you….because I was able to get it and do it, the most amazing opportunities have presented themselves and I actually have the time to devote to them. If I was so tired and over committed I would have had to say no to the opportunities that would grow both me and my business.

This month I was supposed to be in the U.K., California, Toronto and Montreal in the space of three weeks. Add in my Shadow Coaching™ (actual work work where I’m supposed to be aware, energized and ‘present’), writing, preparing for the upcoming trainings and marketing material for them and if I had done them all, I would have close to killed myself. I decided to take a good long look at options. The U.K. was a training and an opportunity to see my son. California was a meeting of like-minded professionals looking at the future of coaching in organizations. Toronto was a huge milestone meeting and the first face to face meeting with one of the think tanks I’m a key player in and Montreal, a family event. On top of that, add book sales from our recent launch, dealing with correspondence post New York Times article and, well, life could be very overwhelming.

First of all I took the time to analyze things properly. Family event, is a given. So Montreal is a definite. Toronto, also a definite as this is critical meeting. The others were both amazing opportunities but were they the right time, were the right people involved and was it what I needed to be doing right now? On top of that equation I asked myself was it what I needed to grow me and/or my business in the way I wanted to grow? Those two questions gave me the answer I needed. The California meeting in concept was amazing. It was the first of many to come. I read the agenda and realised the topics that would be covered was what I was doing professionally 10 years ago. Would I grow? Perhaps in off-line conversations but did I have to spend thousands of dollars and precious time to go to California to do that? No. Not only did I refuse the meeting but I told them that unless they got their act together and started looking at forward trends and not ‘what was’ in coaching, I would be refusing the next one as well. It got them thinking and I just might be going to the fall symposium. We’ll see.

And the U.K., well… when I spoke to the person who was going to host my training and was giving me all these criteria I had to meet, including reduce numbers to fit a room, I realised it was a definite no. I won’t compromise my training for anything, especially the size of a room not to mention explain myself to death so one person might be comfortable with what I would be teaching. I’m not even sure that type of personality should be taking the training never mind Shadow Coaching. The clincher would have been seeing my son but taking into account he’s coming back home in 2 weeks, that no longer was a factor. That one I cancelled. Two other opportunities presented themselves which I was able to run with. If I had been traveling I would have missed the boat, never mind not had a second to do either of them properly.

Ask yourself the question, “Yes or no”. Answer it openly, honestly, with commitment, foresight and conviction. Because if you don’t define your personal boundaries, someone else will!

Donna Karlin

Monday, June 05, 2006

Redefining Relationships

A while ago when I blogged about ‘pruning your life of toxic relationships’, I had more responses than any other I had written before or since. I realise one can’t always cut people out of one’s life. And I wrote about that as well. In certain circumstances when you can’t then it’s time to redefine what that relationship will be. That’s when I received more emails than I could count!

“How can I do that?” one person asked. Another said “It’s who I work for. How in the world can I be the one to redefine?” and yet another asked me “When it’s family, how am I supposed to do that?”

It’s not easy but very doable. Yesterday I had absolute clarity about that and thought I’d answer some of these questions by sharing it. First of all, no matter what the relationship is, the first step is to redefine yourself within it. Not the other person. You can only change yourself, not anyone else and when you try to, that’s when the anger and resentment set in. When you try to ‘figure out’ their behaviour, you can analyse a situation to death and drive yourself crazy in the process.

Just because a person might be your boss or manager, doesn’t mean he or she will give you everything you need, support you and your growth or be there for you. Some managers’ foci will only be on themselves and getting ahead at the expense of their staff. Redefine. See how you can grow through this process and move on to a better job when the time is right, not as a reactive mode. You will always come across and work with people like that and you need to know how to deal with them, not run away from them.

When it’s a family member, redefine how you will interact with that person and on what level. Just by virtue of that person being a blood relation doesn’t mean you have to take what is unacceptable and try to cram it into the realm of acceptable. When you do that, you are giving away your self-respect. Change how you interact and the frequency, for if that person is self-centered then chances are they won’t even notice and, if they do, they probably won’t do anything about it anyways. If it doesn’t serve or revolve around them in some way, then as far as they’re concerned, it’s not important. It’s up to you to decide what is important to you and make the changes accordingly.

Don’t get into the payback mode or the anger and resentment mode in either because the only one who will suffer is you. Rather wish them well in their own lives and move on. And once you’re able to do that the clarity will be extraordinary. The negative energy will no longer be a part of any interaction you have with them and you will feel freer than ever before. It’s quite amazing actually.

In this world you get what you give, I truly believe that. And for those who choose to discard your gifts, there are many who would love to have them. Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have collected them and attracted them in some way. What you choose to do with them is up to you. Choose wisely.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The best part of the work I do is helping clients move from where they currently are in life to where they want to be. The absolute best, through our work or partnership together, is helping them find out what that is, when often they have no idea where they want their lives to go. It’s a period of discovery.

Sometimes, because of my work, I’m lucky enough to come across an individual such as Michael Luongo who does amazing, breathtaking work. I am often interviewed for articles for various subjects, especially my work as a Shadow Coach™ and each time I wonder what it is that’s going on in the journalist’s mind as they ask the questions for their piece. I love to learn more about those who write about others for a living and as a passion, as in Michael’s work. That absolutely intrigues me. Oh to be able to Shadow some of these journalists on their trips around the world to see what I see through their eyes and have a dialogue on it from various perspectives and awarenesses!

I cannot imagine doing my work in any other way than being there as the context of my client’s life unfolds. From a journalist’s or photojournalist’s perspective they tell stories, often with no words, as each picture tells a story in itself.

I invite you to browse through some of Michael Luongo’s photographs.

Each one is extraordinary in its own right. As a collection they will take your breath away….make you wonder about the lives of each of the people represented there and what their future might be.

Michael is a freelance journalist for the New York Times, is a freelance writer, editor and photographer. I am very happy our paths have crossed.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subcriber from Lithuania. Readers from 86 countries and counting!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Did You Take The Time To Find Out?

One of my pet peeves is listening to those who are always bashing the current government; listing the endless complaints of what the government is either doing to (excuse the expression) screw them in some ways or what the government isn’t doing to make people’s lives better.

The first question I ask these individuals is “Did you vote in the last election?” Often the answer is “No”. Do they take responsibility for finding out the ins and outs of how government and the political world work and where they have power to implement laws, policy and change? No. But complain, and often, they do.

Another pet peeve is listening to many who snicker and ridicule bureaucrats for working half days, never getting anything done, living off taxpayer’s money etc. Again, do they take the time out to know what bureaucratic process is like? Not usually. There are checks and balances put in place to deal with ethics, accountability, etc. especially in last couple of years or so. My clients work long hours. Most are at work before 8:00 am, many before 7:00 and they work through to 6:00 or 7:00 at night, more often than not taking work home for the evening and almost always on the weekend.

With the advent of the BlackBerry it is assumed and, in many cases, mandated for them to be accessible at a moment’s notice. They work long hours and work hard, and every one of them that I have worked with are doing what they do, not for the money as they would make a great deal more in an equivalent job in the private sector, but for the good of the country and its citizens. How often does the general public really look into the level of expertise and integrity of most of their high level government officials? Yes, there will always be scandals one will read about in the papers, however I think you’ll agree that it’s a very small number who do something unethical, yet that brush seems to paint all bureaucrats the same colour.

In the scheme of things, when you hear “All ----- are the same” putting any word you can think of in that sentence….. Are all anyone one kind of people, professions, religions, etc the same ever?

An individual without all the information can’t take responsibility for change, however that same individual who chooses not to know or find out that information is giving the power of their destiny over to someone else, often one they don’t even know. It’s all about taking responsibility….for yourself, for what you know or finding out what you don’t to make informed decisions.

Just as, for example, people who read and don’t are functional illiterates, those who complain without even knowing the facts are prisoners in their own worlds --- by choice.

Something to ponder perhaps…

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Ghana. People from 85 countries and counting!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Last night at 12:01 AM Eastern Time our book project was launched. We all got together to share some of our words of wisdom to help people improve their lives. I can't imagine anyone saying no to a project like this and now that I'm making my way through my fellow authors words of wisdom I realize how much I have yet to learn, even as I teach, and what I did know already, well it was great being reminded of again.

When I read about Zig Ziglar's perspective of how much more effective we are at work the day before leaving on holiday I smiled as I recalled clients scrambling around to 'get everything done', making sure their desks were cleaned off, work delegated and on its way to the appropriate person. Everything was taken care of. What a concept! We all have within us the ability to work at our peak level of performance when the impetus is there.

"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." - anon

I know I'll keep reading this and every time I pick it up, I'll have a new perspective on what I already knew, an insight I didn't have before, and an awareness that everyone in this world knows more about life than I do. And if I learn one new thing from everyone I come across in my lifetime, my life will be full and rich indeed.

Donna Karlin

To learn more about this amazing book, click on 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life

*Note: Welcome new subscribers from Bulgaria and Afghanistan. We look forward to hearing from you, your insights, comments and stories. 84 countries and counting!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life

I am happy to announce that I recently co-authored a book with Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Denis Waitley, Brian Tracy, and other leading experts in various areas of expertise. The book, entitled “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life,” will be available May 17th. Stay Tuned!

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome 82nd country subscriber from Mauritius. We look forward to hearing your insights and comments for a long time to come.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Time Management is Self Management

"Not everything that can be counted counts; not everything that counts can be counted." - Albert Einstein

Time management isn’t about managing time, it’s about rethinking and making changes with our relation to time. It’s managing ourselves, not the 1440 minutes in a day. And it’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul where you ‘borrow' from one chunk of time to use for another task that takes a chunk of time. The stressors we feel is about our productivity, not how we use the time. It’s what we accomplish within it. If we’re scattered and are unfocused, then our productivity goes way down. Life is like being a goalie in a hockey game (OK so I’m Canadian, born and raised on watching the Canadiens); we deal with whatever is thrown at us.

So what are your time wasters? Some might say the way they waste their time is by doing the easiest things first. I don’t consider that a waster. I call that the “quick and dirties” to get everything off your plate you can as quickly as possible which energizes you, makes you feel as if you’ve accomplished a great deal and frees you up to plunge into the bigger chunks. That’s a relationship to time. Many work differently. Many feel they have to plunge into the deep end of their biggest problem first thing which is not necessarily the best way to go. Often one doesn’t have enough information to work through the problem properly and become frustrated that there’s no immediate solution, again a relationship to time and how it’s used. Positive delay is making sure enough time is given to get all the facts before plunging in. A strategically smart move to make which pays off down the road so in the meantime, the ‘quick and dirties’ will get a lot off your plate. Working that way will also raise your energy level as subconsciously you know you're accomplishing and completing something.

Poor delegation skills will also be a time waster as not only haven’t you given clear instructions to the person you’re delegating to, you end up controlling half the work anyways. If you delegate work, then do it well, so it doesn’t come back to haunt you.

Saying yes all the time might be the biggest time waster of all. If you’re afraid to say no to the boss and take on way too much for any person to handle, you will be overwhelmed. And if you need to have control of every step of a project, then that’ll be the clincher.

A few years ago when I was shadowing an executive, one of the first things he shared with me was that he was working twelve to fourteen hour days and never seemed to get anything accomplished. His was tired, stressed and didn’t feel as though he was creating anything of value for the organization. So I asked him to tell me all the meetings he had to attend, which ones he was chairing, which he had to attend and those he volunteered to be a part of. That included his one-on-ones with his staff as well as corporate meetings.

That night I plugged it into a scheduling program. The next morning when I walked into his office I told him “You have an hour and a half free time… ten minute increments….(Then I added) A WEEK!”

He looked at me in shock. He knew he was always “running to meetings” but never stopped to realise what a toll that took on his work. So we redefined. What could he say no to? Who could he delegate some meetings to? And what meetings didn’t have a direct impact on his work at all and therefore he could eliminate?

It’s all about relationship to time, how we respect it, use it to serve our needs rather than try to juggle. I even get my clients to schedule in their emergencies….to simplify, choose their top 3 priorities and not do 25, because if they try the 25, something’s got to give, and it ultimately won’t be something they want.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Sum is Far Greater Than Its Parts or a Different Picture Altogether

“Indeed, to some extent it has always been necessary and proper for man, in his thinking, to divide things up, as if we tried to deal with the whole of reality at once, we would be swamped. However when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to man's notion of himself and the whole world in which he lives, (i.e. in his world-view) then man ceases to regard the resultant divisions as merely useful or convenient and begins to see and experience himself and this world as actually constituted of separately existing fragments. What is needed is a relativistic theory, to give up altogether the notion that the world is constituted of basic objects or building blocks. Rather, one has to view the world in terms of universal flux of events and processes.” David Bohm

The contribution an individual can make in his/her life goes way beyond the bits and pieces of individual deeds and tasks. Lately I’ve come across this need for people to be able to reduce things or compartmentalize things in such a way that they can rationalize it or measure against it based on what they already know, not the depth and breadth of what they don’t or the infinite possibilities.

Let me give you a few examples….

In the government, in order to have someone in an area of expertise on call to be able to draw from their services when needed, there is generally a standing offer in place for the organization to utilize. When a service doesn’t ‘fit’ into any box they’ve categorized before, they begin to take the service apart. When I commented that if the description of the services is not articulated in the proper and specific way, what the organization will get will ultimately be a generic, watered down version of a service that nowhere near represents what they wanted in the first place. The response I got was “Other people will so some things similarly, so we will get some of what we want” or words to that effect.

Actually they won’t.

In another example, when someone wanted to take the training I do for the School of Shadow Coaching™ which teaches seasoned executive coaches this unique model of coaching, the person making the inquiry was so intent on being able to compare it to other means of coaching he had experienced in the past, that he didn’t look at the global impact or uniqueness and complexity of the training. He needed to have a rationale, understanding in comparison to what he already knew rather than looking to learn what he didn’t.

One cannot take apart a procedure, model, or concept into tiny bits and expect the same results. It’s just as much the putting together the pieces of various puzzles, perspectives, overlying concepts and key dynamics that takes what might be ordinary in its components and give you extraordinary results.

To bring an analogy to the table I know very well, years ago, when my son was born with partial paralysis, the treatment the specialist recommended was absolutely not acceptable and we looked elsewhere for answers. We had asked if surgery were possible and the answer was “No. It’s way too dangerous, never been done and it is not an option”. We could have taken that as gospel and not looked any further, signing the papers that would pretty much eliminate the problem (in the specialist’s mind) and redefine my son’s life or quality of life forever.

We found a surgeon doing research in this field who agreed to try surgery. When we went to our national health care insurance asking for funding for this, as the cost was thousands of dollars, what they did was try to compartmentalize it into what they already knew. So an exploratory was X amount of dollars, a nerve repair X amount and so on. The total came to a few hundred dollars as what they didn’t have fee charts to measure against, they ignored altogether. Did they take into consideration that microscopic surgery was being done on an infant, not an adult or that the nerve repair was just next to the spinal cord? No. It was generic. There was nothing about the day long procedure that fit any mold, however the outcome far exceeded the bits and pieces that the health insurance table described.

Shadow Coaching™ goes layers deeper than any conservative executive coaching and emerges the observer in the client themselves so results are ongoing, evolutionary and in many cases, life and career altering. It’s not the ‘what was’ of coaching. It’s the cutting edge of coaching.

So may I suggest to all of you who look to put things in boxes so they’re explainable and understandable within the realm of what you already see, know and have experienced in the past, that in order to grow and fly in life, you need to learn what you don’t already know, experience the unexpected, and forget measuring by the yardstick of what was, as there’s no ceiling to what can be; just sky. The sum can be far greater than its parts, or even another picture altogether.

Donna Karlin