Friday, August 31, 2007

Recently, on our Transformational Girlfriends blog (more about that in a moment) my friend and colleague and, as she calls herself (and is) my muse Susan Meyer wrote some insightful thoughts about the role of the Shadow in Appreciative Inquiry.

Susan Meyer writes...

"I am in the midst of a wonderful dialogue about the role of the Shadow in Appreciative Inquiry. This is shadow in the sense of the darker or unexpressed side, not Shadow in the sense of observer, as coined by Donna Karlin. Often, we work hard to eliminate anything that isn’t positive, light, cheerful. People say, “don’t dwell on the negative” or “lighten up” or “focus on the positive” as if it was possible to have a one-sided emotional spectrum. But the world is not one-sided. Emotions run a full range from joy to sorrow, ecstasy to depression. There is room for fear and anger alongside courage and compassion. In fact, how could one exist without the other? How could there be light without darkness? Day without night? Each shade in any spectrum has its own place.

I gained an new understanding of the word appreciation this morning. We have come to think of appreciation in a context drawn from finance - to grow in worth - and have come to see appreciation as solely positive. In a purer sense, though, to appreciate is to value - a term open to both light and shadow. I may appreciate the many joys in my life, and I may also appreciate the sorrows because of what they have taught me. As a coach and as a consultant, I can appreciate the shadow side of situations and experiences simply because they exist. As a practicing transformational girlfriend, I can allow space for the shadow side without encouraging permanent residence in that place and I can mine the shadows for the rich experiences that will inform the light."

As Coaches we are taught to look for the best in people, to look for talents and strengths and to help our clients evolve because of them. As a Shadow Coach™, one who sees all sides to a person, especially their shadow personalities, I believe we become stronger, not only as we recognize and hone our talents and strengths but when we pay attention to our shadow personalities, accept them as an integral part of who we are and work with them as well. We have to accept all of who we are and make those choices that will help us evolve because of all of who we are, not just a select piece of our true selves.

Transformational Girlfriends is a group of "stellar women involved in the transformation of organizations, people’s lives, and yes, even global events. Truly incredible transformational women." We started off as 8 in a house in Connecticut, women who not only grow people for a living but are all individually reknowned and masterful in their areas of expertise. We figured we can really pack a punch globally if we got together to create transformative change.

So keep watching because we're working on some truly transformational things. I'll keep you posted!

Donna Karlin

Note: Have you signed up for our newsletter "Perspectives in Brief" yet? Tips on the run with delivered right to your inbox. 2 minute reading time or less that will pack a punch. You'll also find out what's happening in the world of A Better Perspective™, new programs and services as they launch along with special launch rates for subscribers.

For those of you who want to hone your awareness skills, are leaders or grow people for a living, today (August 31, 2007) is the last day of the launch price for 'It's All About You....and Others' so sign up today!

And lastly but never least for those of you who want to explore diversity and cross cultural issues in the workplace, ICCO (The International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations) are hosting an international symposium in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 11 - 13th, 2007 on Leveraging Cultural Differences.

Participants will explore the idea of effectively operating in different cultural contexts is the integration and transformation of cultural knowledge, self/other awareness, and sensitivity to differences. The three cross-cultural contexts are interdependent and need to operate simultaneously. Appreciate how to leverage these three to move your organization forward.

Registration is capped at 30 attendees, so register as soon as possible to ensure a place in this cutting-edge event. Click here for more information or to register

Monday, August 27, 2007

Being a Part of a Global Community

I was recently asked what it meant to be a part of a global community. It's funny because in Coaching none of my colleagues and friends confine their practices to their general geographical area. However it means more than that....

In writing this blog, for example, I have created a global community of 110 countries and territories where people from many parts of the world can comment on their perspectives, ways of being, challenges and victories and educate us as to what's happening in their worlds in every possible context. I can't imagine confining my learning to just my city or country. How in the world could I bring a richness to my work if I was so boxed into one way of thinking? I certainly couldn't serve my clients well enough that way.

Technology has made the world a very small place where we can now pick up the phone, use Voice over Internet (Skype etc) to have lengthy conversations at very little cost. We can email, post blogs, contribute to Wikis and have intranets like CollectiveX bring global working communities together as if they were around the corner. Even with how easy it is to reach out, most people tend to stay within their immediate worlds.

Is it more comfortable? Perhaps. Is it a way for people to ignore some of the horrific things that are going on in other parts of the world? Also a definite possibility.

What does it mean for me to be a part of a global community? It means expanded learning, a ripple effect that goes beyond my wildest dreams or imagination, connection and possible impact.

What would it mean to you to be a part of a global community? What would it bring to your life and the lives of others?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Speaking of global community, welcome 111th subscriber country from Armenia. Make yourself welcome!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

People Tend to Support What They Help to Build

It’s about engagement, enthusiasm, the idea that “I’m a part of this and I’m going to do my best to make it succeed”. How powerful would it be if you could engage the staff to that depth of and passion for what they do?

People tend to support what they help to build, so how do you translate mandate, focus, and vision for an organization into projects that engage staff as key players in the future success of each one? One of my client’s managers does that with his staff when at all possible. Every organization has its pet projects and the ones that staff have to get stuck with, however when you strike that balance like ‘John’ did the result is engagement.

The key is paying attention. When the staff is sitting around the boardroom table and a new file comes in that they have to work on, he looks around the table to see whose eyes light up because of the subject matter. Then he starts asking questions of the group as to their opinions on how to get going on the file. He then listens for engagement, interest, level of energy in the responses and how each one begins a dialogue with the group and from that, along with their work load and all the other things managers have to take into consideration, tasks to the people who were fascinated by the project and look at it with a sense of possibility. They were already engaged, looking forward to tackling it and doing it really well, not to mention already having fun with the concepts and plans to get going.

Tasking to strengths; well this is one way of looking at it but it’s more than that. It’s letting people fly after their imagination has already engaged in the project and letting them go with it. Even if they don’t have all the experience and knowledge necessary to jump in immediately, with this level of energy they will find out everything they need to know and then some, and grow in the process.

It might take a bit more time to discern staff’s interests and level of engagement but if you did this on a regular basis, could you imagine how powerful it would be for your organization to have complete engagement, loyalty and a sense of ‘being a part of it all’, not just a small piece in a huge puzzle of manpower?

*Note: Welcome new subscribers from Maldives and Bhutan! 110 countries and territories and counting!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Are People Still Reading Books?

This past spring, when in California for the Conversation Among Masters Conference we spoke about publishing books, how many books are indeed published every year, and what the future of print books looks like, especially in the day of the Internet, blogs and audio. According to technorati, there are 71 million blogs online, that we know of. There has to be a reason, right? And yes, some of them have to be good as they're consistently attracting readers. Does this replace reading books? Can it ever replace reading books?

I am a book junkie, there’s no question about it and can never get enough to read, for my profession, life, or to feed and nourish my imagination but truthfully how many are still reading and how often? By virtue of you reading this blog, you're reading, yet how many books have you read this year?

My clients’ lives are so busy, that by the time they get home, spend time with the family, do whatever needs to be done at home etc, they have no energy left other than to perhaps walk the dog, and go to sleep.

Many collect books to read on their holiday as that’s the only time they have to pick up a book, but what are they missing?

I maintain that those who can read and don’t are functional illiterates; don’t as in never, by choice, not sporadically as time allows. There’s a difference. There is so much richness to books, all literature in various forms, that our world would be very mundane without the concepts, mental images and perspectives that come out of books of any kind.

As long as there are readers, there will be books written and published.

A few years ago a colleague challenged me to read a minimum of four books a year. For me never a problem! I read that a month. The caveat was to read books in areas I didn’t know anything about, not in relation to my work or hobbies or anything I already knew. He wanted me to grow in knowledge and awareness and one way to do it was to pick up a book about something or someone I knew nothing about. Talk about an eye opener!

How many do that on a regular basis I wonder? When you buy a book, a non-fiction book (assuming you do buy some non-fiction) is it about something that will increase your awareness of the rich world we live in? Ultimately, especially in my line of work, it gives me context in areas I never took into consideration before. How rich would your life be if you learned something new or about someone who made an impact in some way in this world that you never even thought or heard of? The more you learn the easier it will be to lead.

So now I’ve taken this one step further. I’m reading 4 books a year minimum on subject matter I have no prior knowledge of…am reading 4 new blogs a week to see what’s out there and commenting on them as well. The community of interactive dialogue because of that is blowing me away. Try it. And let me know your thoughts if you’ll share them. I'd love to hear.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Click here to sign up for our free newsletter Perspectives in Brief for tips on the run... to run with.

Monday, August 06, 2007

It's a Launch!

Well, it's finally happening. After a truck load of emails, and trust me when I tell you there is NEVER a shortage of emails in my inbox, we’re finally launching our newsletter Perspectives in Brief. We’ll have a home for it at, for those of you who sign up after tomorrow’s post so you can read what was sent out in the past.

And as comments keep coming in to this blog, through my weekly posts on Fast Company Experts, and through published articles and interviews, I realized I had to do a few things differently as well as add a few. So to meet those requests, I created a self-coaching program that will give people a piece of me even when they can’t (for whatever reason) have a piece of me and secondly set up a system by which I could be more accessible through phone or technology for laser and lightening round sessions.

We just launched “It’s All About You…and Others”. Click here to check it out! Soon to be released is our Time Mastery program, “If I Could Save Time in a Bottle”. Stay tuned. We'll let you know when that one's going to launch.

As of tomorrow, the first broadcast of Perspectives in Brief will be sent out to subscribers. It’s a short sweet, to-the-point 'tips to run with' and think about that can be delivered through your in-box or Berry. The way I look at it, anything longer than what you can read in an elevator is too long for a newsletter. To sign up, fill in the form on the sidebar of this blog to get you going. More in-depth and detailed articles, book recommendations etc will be posted here on Perspectives.

We’ve reserved a few days a month for laser and lightening round sessions. I believe executive coaches need to rethink how they work with many clients. Life coaches are a different realm altogether, but in this fast paced chaotic world when sometimes you might need a half hour to an hour reality check, brain storming session or removal of a roadblock, one session just might do it. And if you know it’s possible to book as you need, then you’ll get what you need.

For those solopreneurs, business people or those new coaches who are up-and-comings and need some help in designing a practice that works for you, hour long lightening round sessions will give you the chance to pick my brain and create something that speaks you, not a clone of someone else and to look at marketing, target audience etc. Let’s get you jumping into the deep end with an eye on the sky, OK? To find out more about how to book Lightening Round and Laser sessions with me, email us and we’ll get right back to you!

It’s time you asked for what you want, not just accept what you’re getting. But that goes for life too, does it not?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Hearing Yourself Think

My colleague Susan Meyer posted a blog on a similar topic. I wanted to share her view with you so edited this to add a link to her blog and some comments. It seems as if many of us are observing or interacting with those who only hear their own voices and have a difficult time hearing their own silence. In being this way, they not only don't let the rest of the world in, but stop others from being heard as well. It gives a whole new meaning to the expression "Silence is golden" I wonder what that person experienced in order to have come up with that remark?

"When I became quiet, they could hear themselves" - Byron Katie

As a coach we not only have to ask the right questions to evoke awareness and answers but we have to give clients the space to think. In the physical sense, I ask clients "When do you get out, go for a walk, clear some space not to escape the world but to let the world in?"

This is the same in dialogue, having the mental space to let thoughts in, to formulate, think, create, just 'be' or hear yourself think as you bounce conversation of someone else. There's nothing like someone finishing your thoughts as if they could read your mind. I don't know about you, but clairvoyance isn't a common thing, though many people think they know exactly what it is you're going to say and don't hesitate to make that known. People like this are in a dialogue of the deaf. They're not hearing you; waiting for you to complete a thought or idea. They're taking half an idea and moving it in another direction and putting it in the "It's all about me" context. People like this validate something about themselves or their past, negating where you're coming from in the first place and absolutely not hearing you in any way shape or form. People like this feel who they are and what they have to say is more important. They don't care that they might be cutting you off, throwing a punch line into a story out of context, making you stop dead in your verbal tracks or even caring about what you might be thinking or feeling. It's about them….them speaking, being heard or having to validate everything you say based on their experiences, not yours.

I always wonder how insecure that person was in order to behave that way. Still, in the scheme of things, it doesn't matter really, as that's their way of being you have to deal with….or not. Choices come to play in cases like this. Do you really want to spend any time with someone who doesn't acknowledge you have a relevant thing to say outside the realm of their worlds? Are you in any kind of relationship where you come away from a conversation feeling frustrated, exhausted and ignored at the same time? Ask yourself why and when you figure out the answer, then figure out why you're still in it. You just might find your contact list shrinking but your energy and enthusiasm for everyone in your life growing in leaps and bounds.

Donna Karlin

*Note: In "The Emotionally Intelligent Coach" blog, my colleague Susan Meyer says "It seems to be true that the louder you get and the longer you talk and the more often you interrupt, the less likely you are to have anyone actually hear what you have to say. Silence adds a great deal to any conversation. Thoughtful reflection allows the time to digest the thoughts and ideas of your conversational partners and to add something of value."

Click here to read the rest of her insightful post

Makes you think doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Many Shapes and Forms of Critics

Are you working for or interacting with someone who is constantly and consistently critical? No matter what you do there’s always an element of something wrong with it? Bullies come in all shapes and forms and are very prevalent in the workplace even at the highest level of leadership which is why, when going on an interview it’s just as important for you to interview the people in the organization as it is for them to interview you.

Critics make you feel about an inch tall. They criticize everything you do and even if the piece of work is great, find a way to criticize how you do it. Often they begin the sentence with “Yes, that’s good, however I would have done it this way…” and begin to describe in great detail how many ways you screwed up.

Often these individuals operate from a position of secrecy. The more information they hoard the easier it is to pull apart the numerous ways you didn’t meet their expectations and didn’t produce. When this behavior continues, you start feeling “Why should I bother if it’s going to be redone anyways and even if it isn’t I certainly won’t get credit for my work.” Eventually, hopefully sooner than later, you start looking around for another job and leave.

When looking to move to another job, one of the key points to look for is staff turnover. If the organization has a revolving door, then run the other way. If this is happening a level below leadership and the powers that be aren’t doing a thing about it, then run faster.

If you’re in a position where you have to deal with a verbal bully, then have some responses ready at the tip of your tongue. Don’t become them and bully back, as what would be the point in that? However show the individual you will not tolerate derisive behavior and challenge them on it. For example a way to respond is “Are you sure you meant to say that?" Would you like to rethink that perhaps?” Nothing like getting clarification as to whether or not they intended to be a bully. To shock them into awareness and not own their words, a good response might be “Did you really say that or was I imagining it?” Then walk away. A verbal tug of war doesn’t get either of you anywhere but if you take the high road and let go of the rope, then there’s nothing to war with. When you answer in one line, toleration-eliminating speech, they eventually back off.

As an organizational leader it’s paramount you keep an eye on the communication style of your managers. If this is at all prevalent you need to nip it in the bud before you end up in a staff exodus, for along with the people who end up walking goes corporate memory, knowledge and wisdom. As well, the possibility of generation wisdom when people are afraid to speak up is severely diminished. Bullying goes well beyond inappropriate behavior. It also speaks to organizational wisdom and excellence.

Bottom line is, if you accept this kind of behaviour, then you’re giving away your personal and organizational power to someone you least respect. What does that say about how you respect yourself?

Donna Karlin