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