Sunday, March 26, 2006

Watching Politics Unfold

The end of March is nearing and soon the House will be back in session. I look forward to watching the interactions, dynamics and style of leadership the new government will bring to Canada. I love my work….have to remain apolitical, especially in a time of constant political change. I cannot be of service to political and government leaders if I presume to coach them on their politics. If I wanted to be a political advisor, I would have embraced that profession. However I am a coach and need to remove all filters from my work so I coach my clients based on their choices, not mine.

I can’t unconditionally support a political leader if I’m constantly criticizing their political slant. In removing all filters, I can serve them to the best of my ability. Another myth I would like to put on the table is that my clients do not need to be ‘fixed’. They don’t need someone to help them learn how to do their jobs; these are extraordinary people who want to be even better. They want to serve the citizens of their countries in the best possible way and if that means learning how to respond rather than react, be more effective, and eliminate any roadblocks to energy drains and flow, then I commend them for opening their eyes to the fact every one of us can be better at what we do….can be masterful in our areas of expertise and recognise the fact we don’t know all there is to know and can always learn and grow.

If I can help them communicate more effectively, utilize their staff better, become aware of what they’re not currently aware of, hone their skills and recognise talents, then we all grow in the process. We move from inter-developmental to, what Thomas Leonard used to say ‘Inter-magical’. We do what we do for the absolute joy of it, development being a byproduct of that joy and energy. And wouldn’t we all want corporate, political and bureaucratic leaders to be open, aware, energised and enthused while they continually learn and grow in the process?

I know I do!

I also know that as a new regime makes itself at home in the House, I’m looking forward to the possibilities.

Instead of continually picking apart and knocking down our leaders, instead ask yourself “How can I help?” What’s good that can be even better? How do we monopolize and build on strengths so we create models, concepts and ways of being anyone would give their eye teeth to emulate?

Donna Karlin

Sunday, March 19, 2006


We seem to live our lives through filters. Choices, ways of being, decisions, are often filtered through past experience, likes, dislikes, cultural tethers, ‘parental programming’. This limits choices and the possibility to discover the extraordinary, because we want to box things into what we already know, not delve into the world of what we don’t.

Filters take on many forms. They can be by choice, such as prejudices, comfort zones, ratings, and I’ll get back to that in a moment, or they can be by circumstance such as being exhausted after lack of sleep and not having the energy to do something or be ‘present’ in a situation. As for ratings for example, how many times have you not gone to a movie or a new restaurant that caught your eye because the critics told you it was terrible?

At work, the filter that is most damaging is one of history and gossip where you hear the words and then abide by them such as “He/She NEVER delivers, is always late, is impossible to talk to etc etc. so whatever communication or interaction one has with that person is based on the past and filters everything in the present. That doesn’t give an individual a chance to grow or change now, does it?

The more personal filters keep us within the realm of what we already know. If we look to meet people from within our own race, religion, educational background, how will we ever know how rich and diverse this world is? Yet, when you look around, how many people surround themselves with friends who are generic to who they are? If you always went to restaurants you know, which served the foods you like, how will you know how much of an explosion of the senses curry could be or the beauty of an Asian dish that is laid out like a work of art? The same goes for different musical styles…places to go on vacation, things to study and learn.

Last week I wrote about learning how to say yes. Let’s take it one step further and see where this goes. Remove some filters. When you automatically feel yourself about to say no to a new experience, one that doesn’t put you in jeopardy of course, then stop for a moment and say ‘yes’ instead. Try a new kind of food, listen to music you never listened to before and go out of your way to meet and listen to someone from another culture or country and you’ll be amazed at how much deeper and richer your life will become. Remember if you prejudge a book by its cover, you’ll miss a heck of a lot of page turners!

Looking forward…
Donna Karlin

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Learning How to Say "No"

This morning I was reading an email from a friend and colleague Andrea Lee which challenged some of my thinking. She has a habit of doing that and really well! And then, after a phone call with another friend and colleague in New York, I started to smile as two of my dilemmas were solved; the first being what to write in my blog this week and secondly, that sometimes one has to look at the opposite of what’s right in front of you in order to grow.

Susan, in NY chuckled and told me I was destined to experience all these opportunities once I started hanging out more with Andrea Lee. I don’t have to be in the same room as Andrea for her to twist me into a pretzel. She makes one statement and that translates into 100 opportunities for me, all of which historically come knocking at my door the same month! Thank you SO much Andrea.

Andrea eloquently wrote “As the owner of a business that inspires for a living, I know without a doubt that you are here to elevate the lives of people you serve. What have you been saying no to, and what would happen if you said yes? Try saying yes instead, even if you don't know how it will unfold. Just try.

My dilemma came when I was saying yes to too many things and people. I had to learn to say no in order to free up time to be able to say yes to what would help me evolve in my practice and life. I went from trying to define the shape and direction I thought my business should go towards to, as Susan said “Opening windows and letting things come to me”. Oh they came to me all right. I had think tanks, book opportunities, guest lecture bookings and clients knocking on my door all in one fell swoop. OK so there’s always enough time.


Something has to give…and sleep just isn’t an option.

This taught me many things. I know what my clients live when they are swamped with work and have unrealistic deadlines. As I told my son, I know this is unusual for everything to happen at the same time. I also know rather than get overwhelmed with everything that’s on my plate, to dive in, finish one thing at a time, get it off my plate and move on to the next. Then after I got through this period of crunch time I needed to learn how to say no to what didn’t capture my imagination for the future.

I’m now learning to think with my instincts, looking at what doors will open to me when I say yes. Being bogged down with commitments doesn’t allow time for growth or reflection. Freeing up time and mental space now allows me to think more strategically but in alignment with my intuition. So Andrea, for me, in order to be able to start saying yes, I first had to learn how to say no. Not easy for me, as I love jumping into life with both feet. The difference is now I’m flying and enjoying everything that’s coming my way.

Donna Karlin

By the way, If you need or want to be inspired in your business, go to and read and follow Andrea’s words of wisdom.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Helping Others Evolve into their Level of Excellence

Leadership….it’s been talked about, defined, studied and has become the buzz word for many organizations. I can’t ever remember having had so many conversations about any one topic than this one.

I’ve been asked “Can it be taught?” “How does one define leadership so we can learn and emulate it?”

Can anyone ever emulate someone else’s style? Perhaps in some ways, but isn’t leadership a part of an individual’s personality? I look for that and wrap words around what I see when I shadow coach my clients and I can honestly say that no two people are alike in their styles of leadership. Why? Because it’s who they are more than what they do. As obvious as their style of leadership is, in another it’s subtle. Something about that individual inspires others to take notice, listen and learn from them. It’s not something that’s taught in a textbook. And even though I can discuss the “Leadership Proficiencies” my group created, all it does is give me a vehicle with which to begin the conversation.

Under the surface, where the key dynamics of a personality lie is the person that builds pieces of our world as we know it, one who dreams and translates that dream into a vision we can all wrap our heads around. Those leaders are risk takers because to not go after their dreams isn’t even a remote possibility. Their energy, passion is a never-ending spring that never dries up, as with each person who comes on board and wants to ‘live it too’ that passion continues to feed the human spirit.

That’s who a leader is. It’s not what they do as much as what they live, breath, talk about and make happen. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Leaders, by virtue of who they are, help others evolve into their level of excellence, and make them feel they did it all on their own.

Donna Karlin