Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound, something so laser and to the point that an individual can want to spend a lifetime becoming masterful at it. Once we know something, we can't begin to imagine what it would be like to not know it"

That is the world of Shadow Coaches™ and their clients.

In the world of coaching, we have to be at least two steps ahead of current trends. If we can't think outside the box we're not serving our clients. And if we give clients what they think they can get instead of what they need and want, then we're serving ourselves first. Coaching is about the clients, supporting them, partnering with them and helping them stretch beyond where they've ever been before to fly.

As Coaches, we have a finite amount of time available to us to coach clients on the fly, in the centre of complex challenges in chaotic times. Unlike most coaching sessions, shadow and laser coaching sessions can be a matter of moments in time, where we coach on one thought, one moment in time that had just unfolded in such a way that when they're coached on it, they not only "get it" but it sticks.

Add to that equation working with client's shadow personalities, and not only do they 'get it' but they embrace it, all aspects of themselves within the context of their worlds as they know them.

Combining evidence with patterns of behavior I can say that 50% of the data I use when Shadow Coaching my clients is what they don't tell me. It's located between their words. I discern what wasn't said, pick up what wasn't evident and become a catalyst so my clients could discover what it was they weren't aware of, in real time. It's all about context.

It's fast, dynamic, powerful and, because it happens in real time, they create sustainable change.

What circumstances unfolded where you would have benefited from having an observational Shadow Coach there to help you process what had just happened and learn from it, grow from it and respond rather than react to it? It's partnership without judgment....a rare occurrence in our lives these days.

For those of you who want more from your coaches (or want to work with a coach) remember to ask for what you want and don't settle.

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 29, 2007


What is 'Breakthrough'?

1. an act of overcoming or moving through an obstacle or restriction.
2. an important discovery in a particular field that encourages an acceleration in knowledge.

Have you had a breakthrough lately? It’s very different than making small changes in your life, career, or ways of being that might or might not be sustainable. It’s the tipping point that shifts paradigms permanently. It's changes the way you process thought, the way you tackle something and interact, deal with issues, lead others,…it’s all of it. You’ll never be the same or 'go back' because the fundamental way you think will come from a different place altogether.

To use an analogy, picture being surrounded by tinted glass, an enclosed room muffling everything around you. All of a sudden something comes along that smashes the glass. It’s not removed, it’s eliminated. There are no more barriers, no filters. All of a sudden the walls are opened up no longer boxing you in, allowing light, or illumination to stream in. The epitome of the 'AHHA!' moment bringing absolute clarity and direction.

Take that analogy and apply it to your life, your leadership, your perspectives. Now what would it look like?

*Note: We just hit 115 subscribers! Welcome our new reader from Luxembourg. Sit back and enjoy and we'd love if you'd share your thoughts with us.

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If you're even thinking of publishing, contact David. You won't be sorry!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's All About You...Really!

I'm in content creation mode. This is the time of year when I take concepts and ideas and come up with a virtual program that works. For example, for our 'It's All About You...and Others" program, a human behavioral program, writing content wasn't so difficult for me. Sending it to my R & D team for their input, edits and thoughts and expecting to just get regular every day feedback is next to impossible. Consider a 26 week program which means 26 segments along with intro sheets for each being analyzed by coaches. Do you think any of them agree on concept, approach and impact and not want to talk about each and every point? I think you’ve figured out the answer to that one.

R & D teams are amazing resources and I am very thankful for mine and the other one’s I’m involved in. Getting my 'It’s All About You…and Others’ program vetted, tweaked and launched was probably one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever undertaken. It wasn’t because it was so hard to write content, as let’s face it, humans are very unique, multi-faceted beings so I’d have enough content to write for the rest of my life! It was that the dialogue that evolved because of the button-pushing questions in the program was so good none of us wanted it to stop. Perhaps there’s a blog in there somewhere.....

We can either live in a rationalizing world or one where we look at the truth of our lives and our places in them and change, tweak and embrace pieces of it accordingly. When we live in a world of rationalization, we tend to make or try to make the unacceptable acceptable and that’s where cracks in our foundation of life start to form. Cracks can become craters if we’re not careful.

People tend to ignore those cracks and often only start paying attention when a chasm forms.

In one of the weekly modules I state “People fail to see that they are the magic wand they wait and wish for. They’re always looking somewhere else for a magical solution. Why are you looking for that magic wand? What choices do you have to make to create those results all on your own?”

That one thought inspired weeks of dialogue for us personally as coaching professionals and because of what we see in the lives of our clients as well.

How many wait for that perfect time? What is that perfect time exactly and what makes it perfect? They wait for ‘one day’, or for retirement. They make lists of places they want to travel to and yet never pull those lists out of the drawer because they’re waiting for that magic wand to give them their promotion first, the winning lottery ticket, that grasp at the unreachable, which is reachable only if they started making changes in their lives. It’s so much easier to lead others than lead ourselves through life.

Someone I was in a group session with recently was so busy talking about her past that she had no thoughts at all focused on her future. She could articulate every single thing she ever did in her past, endless numbers of jobs and careers… all aimless, none focused on helping her achieve and live her dream. She looked at what was, not what is or what might be. It was so much easier reliving the past through the filters of rationalization. Her work is in limbo, her life is static and that magic wand is slightly out of reach.

Oh yes, 26 weeks of content wasn’t difficult to come up with. Choosing only 26 centers of focus was.

Are you waiting for that magic wand to make that job better, give you the perfect career, the perfect hours, perks, or location? How could you look at your life right now as perfect, even if it clearly isn’t? There’s perfect according to you and perfect as in you’ll learn more about yourself in 'this' context than anywhere else for it’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever encountered. You might look at others and how they react to things in their worlds, and criticize them for it but are really looking at them or yourself?

If you lead in any capacity, look at the impact you have on everyone around you as they will watch what you do and how you do it and respond to that way more than the words you speak. It really is all about you, how you look at things, process things, accept, gravitate to or reject people, experiences and opportunities. It’s much easier to critique others’ ways of being than our own. And for those who want a reality check and have kids, just ask them what they've paid attention to over the years; what you've said or what you've lived.

How can you become your own magic wand?

And what will that life look like?

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Know Thyself as a Manager

Blogger Phil Clark posted a great blog titled Communications Made Simple. In it he lists 4 questions a manager should ask him/herself daily which are:
  1. Does the person know the critical duties of their job?
  2. Do they know what my (the manager) priorities are?
  3. Have I let the employee know if they are doing the job correctly?
  4. Do the employees know what I look for in successful performance?

He has a very good point. All too often I see managers assume their staff knows exactly what to do, how to do it and when it's got to be done for. That is not the case. In one organization where a staff survey was implemented and analyzed the staff stated that in many cases they didn't even know who some of their managers were. I kid you not! When asked who their direct managers reported to in their department, branch, etc they couldn't answer. That alone should send a signal.

I wonder if the survery was redone, if the results would be different?

Managers need to pay attention. Often they don't see some staffers are about to burn out, are up to their eyeballs in work with no relief in sight or are doing things that are no longer a priority. At the very least, they need to know enough so they can determine whether or not some of the work is redundant and speak to their managers about redefining priorities.

If they know what their managers' priorites are, then you can be certain they'll know whether what they're doing is in alignment with that or not. That one answer alone will save a lot of people a great deal of grief, wasted time and energy, not to mention money to the organization.

Have you asked your staff these questions?


Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subcriber from The Republic of Tanzania. 114 countries and counting!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Can a Workplace Be Too Enticing?

Some organizations are making the work environment such an enticing place to be, people are lining up at the door, clamoring to be hired. Let's face it…from an organizational perspective, if you're competing for the best talent, why not tempt future employees with perks? It gives you the edge right?

Many companies are cutting back on the extras and staff find themselves bone weary as they work long hours in less than energizing environments. Many burn out and many more leave for greener pastures if they have the caliber of resume that attracts potential employers. From the hiring perspective, if you lure the best people away from their current jobs and universities by offering them more money, that might be good enough bait to get them into an interview or conversation, but add on perks like an executive chef on premises, nap rooms for when you need a break, showers and state of the art work out centers and why wouldn't someone want to come and work for a place that has all that, right? It's in the bag...you've got them!

That's the goal. Get the best people and make life so comfortable there that they wouldn't think of leaving. Sounds like a plan, but have these companies thought of the ramifications of this?
And even if they have, do they care enough to do something about it?

What I'm talking about is, staff love working in these organizations so much and enjoy the perks to such an extent that they're spending really long hours at work. Some are sleeping over to get an early start in the morning and not going home every night to the detriment of their home life…that is if they still have a home life to go to once they've (as their spouses and partners call it) gone MIA.

Companies preach work life balance, however if they're making the environment so 'luxurious', and know their employees will stay longer, don't they realize there are consequences to their home life? And if they do realize it, what are they doing about it if anything?

The company becomes a community of sorts and the staff is so used to having meals together and interacting for so many hours straight they forget about the outside world and the people they've left behind. It's subtle. One day gets a bit longer than the one before and before they know it the rest of their world ceases to exist. There's no one left to go home to.

Oh it's great to have a company care enough about their people to make sure the environment is a comfortable one, but it's also important to make sure that's not taken to the nth degree to the detriment of everything else in their staff's life. That's a whole other balance.

Does this scenario or a part of it describe what's happening to you? Do you want to define your life by what goes on within the walls of the company you work for? It might boggle your mind to think this might be happening but take the 'might' out of the equation because it is. What started out as a great idea for all the right reasons, is creating results no one considered then. Some are taking stock of this now, paying attention and doing something about it. And if they're not, I certainly hope you are.

It's fascinating. I wrote about this last summer in Fast Company Experts and received some very interesting responses such as "OK so now you're complaining that a workplace can be TOO good?" and other similar comments. I'm not complaining about anything. I'm just asking the question. That's what coaches do...ask questions to help you figure out what works for you.

So is it working for you?

Donna Karlin

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Election is Around the Corner

First let me stress that as a Political Leadership Coach I must remain a-political when coaching my clients. It's not about my politics; it's about whether they're where they want to be and if not, how to get there. So the following blog would apply to anyone running from any party. It is, however about the person who is the incumbent for my riding.

I should have titled this blog "Things NOT to do when running for office" but thought you'd figure that out for yourself.

It all started over a month ago when I began getting recorded message blasts by phone asking me to support the leader of my incumbent's party on a provincial level. I was getting one or two a week, voice mails when I wasn't home and messages blasting in my ear when I was home and picked up the phone. Those escalated to sometimes two a day. I wrote this politician's office asking them to cease and desist stating that if she wanted my support, then she should have the decency to have a conversation with me. If she wasn't interested in my viewpoint then why, pray tell would I be interested in hers? The questions that had come to mind were 1) Did she not care what I had to say or felt and therefore wanted to be as visible as possible regardless of my opinions? 2) Was she not able to carry on a conversation and needed a script to follow to get her message across? I couldn't think of a third but neither would make me want to vote for her.

I got a response, a canned response akin to what you get by machine when you're put on hold and told "We're sorry for the inconvenience". Please send us your name and address and you'll be removed from our list.

I did.

I wasn't.

Adding insult to injury I later received a phone call from someone who sounded like she was no more than 12 years of age asking (and I quote) "Can we count on your vote in the upcoming election?" Now this phone call, after 9:00 PM came about an hour after a recorded message call. My answer to this teenager was "I haven't made up my mind yet". I wanted to see what she would do with that answer.

Her reply? "OK Fine." and she hung up.

So, if this happened to you...would you entrust your well being in your government to someone like this?

When I start with a political leader, one of my first questions is "Who are you and why would anyone care?" If they can't tell me something that engages me, well they won't captivate or engage the media or anyone else for that matter and will be trying to win favor as long as they're in office, if they get into office. Well, I can tell my incumbent that there is no way in hell I would ever vote for her. To be insulted by someone who expects she will represent me (not earned that right) is not acceptable. This behavior is nothing short of insulting. It's not about the party. It's about trust.

So when you go to the polls, no matter where you live, ask yourself "Do I trust this person with my well-being?" Then vote with where the answer takes you. And when I'm working with political leaders I ask the question "Can the people going to the polls trust you with their well being?" And we go from there...

Best! Donna Karlin

Note: I'd like to welcome readers from 2 new countries, Botswana and the Republic of Moldova. Please come often , share your comments with us and make yourself welcome in our international community of readers.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Being the Best

We live in a competitive world. From sports to the boardroom, it's about getting ahead, getting on top and getting that promotion.

As much as I'd like to say that does not apply in coaching, unfortunately I can no longer make that statement unilaterally. Many of us who have been coaching for eons are much more comfortable in sharing our resources with others, though of course, when it comes to intellectual property, we protect it like our young. That goes directly to the integrity of our profession.

Someone recently asked me what it is I do. That's not an unusual occurrence, not by a long shot. How can you define coaching as distinct from consulting and therapy when there are so many blurred areas between them. However when you bring stewardship into coaching and the basic values, ethics and guidelines by which we should be practicing this profession, it's more easily defined. A colleague Lloyd Raines, who I greatly respect, put it succinctly at an ICCO Symposium last year (International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations) when he said re: Stewardship in Coaching. "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).

The focus is shifted to a whole other level. It's not about competitiveness, it's not about us as coaches, it's about what we do that affects this world, even one person at a time.

Now what if we turned that towards a conversation about leadership? How dramatic an impact would the concept of 'best for the world', world such as the organization, industry, population served, staff etc, be?

Best! (now you know what I mean re that word)
Donna Karlin

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Magic of Music

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. " - Victor Hugo

I can’t imagine a life without music being a huge part of it. As it was my ‘first life’ as I call it, playing in the symphony taught me more than any single course in school. It taught me to think with my heart instead of my brain, to work in a cohesive group in spite of egos, politics and competitive and artistic natures. No matter how quickly tempers flared and one might have competed with another for that ‘special part’, once we were on that stage, it all disappeared and was replaced with a desire to do our best, and come together as one single unit, giving and taking and meshing in the most perfect way possible. All that mattered was the end result, the pleasure of those listening, and their desire to come back again and again and share in the beauty of an exquisite piece of music.

It’s team work at its best…. mindful of colleagues, cognisant of their talents and how they could intertwine with your own, silently cheering them on when they would play a solo and shine. And as I sit here working in my office and listening to the BBC online, it all comes back to me….the grueling practice, the striving for that passage to be more perfect the next time around….the hours upon hours of playing that one difficult section until I could hear and picture it in my sleep.

What if we approached life like that? Wanting the best for others, letting go of power trips, egos, taking the time to ask of others what it is they want for their lives? And listening!

But what if? And what would it take to make it happen?

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” - Cecil Beaton.

Life is anything but commonplace. We might try to force it into a box that says "normal" but what about our lives is normal? I met someone this week who reminded me why music is such an important part of my life...my being ...and that's because it doesn't fit any mold. It permeates our soul unlike anything else can, becomes one with us beyond time, place, circumstance or experience. To put that into words is next to impossible, but to feel it through a piece of music is.

If we did that with life, took down all barriers and let life in, ahh then that would be more than 'diving into the deep end of each day'. It would be diving into the deep end of life.

Music is magical. Magic and the extraordinary does exist in our every day lives when we take the time to notice, embrace it and welcome it. What a gift! Thank you for the reminder. It's not something that I would ever want to take for granted.

It's not always easy thinking with your heart, but I wouldn't want to be any other way, because if I tried, it wouldn't be me.

Donna Karlin