Sunday, January 27, 2008

Daring to Imagine

It’s been a very busy time for me as a Shadow Coach™. One of the things I love being able to do as I run from client to client is to ‘hang out’ in an office space between sessions and observe what’s going on. For many the routine is way too repetitive and they lose a sense of adventure in their day to day worlds. Can they dare to imagine they can have a different life? Many don’t even want to ‘go there’ as if they’re disappointed their life will seem even more mundane than it was before.

What if you did dare, though? What if you realized your life could be as great as you imagined and then some if you just gave yourself the freedom to explore what’s possible and the presence of mind to look at the life you’re living right now through new eyes?

Rabindranath Tagore says “Do not say,"it is morning," and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name.” Make it something new, create and learn something new, regardless of circumstance. I really mean it when I say I can’t wait to jump into the deep end of every day. Because of that I have met the most extraordinary people some of whom have changed and enriched my life a thousand fold. If I didn’t take that chance I would never have known. I’d never know what I was missing as all that would be left would be a boxed in existence. I’d never know what I’ve yet to imagine because until I take those chances I don’t know what that might look like.

We live in our worlds…the worlds we know and are comfortable in. Just think of how much we’re not paying attention to along the way and unless we make a conscious choice to look further, live in a broader world we won’t know what there is. Daring to imagine brings it all front and center. Nothing is impossible. Remember that. It’s just how to get there that you have to figure out, and oh…is it ever worth it!

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome 121st country subscriber from Bolivia! We hope you enjoy what you read and stay awhile.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Attaching Labels to Things

I was talking to someone just the other day about how foolish it is to attach labels to things, people, or situations as good or bad. Once that’s done, everything else that follows tends to be colored by that same brush. If we do that, we might miss a richness of learning, of forming a relationship or exploring the possibilities of a situation that we’ve already dubbed ‘bad’. It really is a foolish thing as what happens in those cases is we filter out everything that might stretch us and help us learn and grow. The ultimate result is we create walls around us that keep us in our own comfort zone and don’t in any way rock the boat of our life.

I look at all the people I meet through the course of the day, at every level of responsibility, and how knowing them and having conversations with them enriches my life exponentially. It’s not about their job or position, it’s about who they are as human beings.

When I led a workshop way back when in my training days, I asked the people in the room to stand in a circle and look around the room to see who the other participants were. This group would end up with buddies through the training so I wanted to see who they would want to pair up with. Human nature is to judge someone by their cover so to speak and to gravitate to the one person you feel you would be the most comfortable with. That wouldn’t have served my purposes at all. So I asked the group to look around and silently choose the person they would want to work with, for superficial reasons only of course as they didn’t know each other. I then told them “After I give you the next set of instructions, I want you to walk over to the person you’re going to choose for whatever your reasons are, ask them to be your partner for this training and then stand next to that person. If someone else reached that individual before you, then choose another."

To tell you this is chaotic is an understatement but there is a method to my madness. I then told the group to walk up to the person in the room they thought would be the one who would stretch them the farthest, the one who would be completely out of their comfort zone. So for example if a woman tended to gravitate to a woman, then she should choose a man and visa versa, or if a person with a scruffy beard intimidated you then choose that person. I wanted those in the room to choose people they don’t often interact with because of a pre-judment or label. The first lesson was to not attach a label on a person without knowing them. Most of the group told me that was the best lesson they learned over all; how they tended to ignore whole groups of people by virtue of how they looked --- a prejudgment.

What or who have you attached a label to where you’re not quite sure why you did in the first place? What would happen if you let go of that judgment?

Should be fascinating to find out, don’t you think?

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Connecting Through Language

There are many ways of connecting with people, from our language such as the words we speak to the unspoken language, body movements, stance and eye contact. How we connect with people in real time as opposed to through the written word gives us completely different perspectives. Through writing one can either express more emotion than in real life as the comfort zone of not being face to face gives a modicum of anonymity or can leave out a great deal of emotion which lends a coldness to the correspondence, whether on purpose or not.

It is so easy to second guess or assume what a person is thinking when we don't have them right in front of us and can ask for the meaning behind what they say, that is if there is any ambiguity.

Still, how we present our words, craft sentences and use language to correctly reflect our thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions and perspectives will determine how deeply we connect with that person. And that's what it's all about isn't it? Defining our relationships and attracting the ones that make the difference between having a good life and an extraordinary one.

If the communication on one part is silence, then the person on the receiving end will definitely make up their own story and usually it's not a good one. People tend to fill in silences with what they're most insecure about. Something to keep in mind. As well, when communicating we need to set a flow and rhythm that will lend to the needs of the relationship itself, on both parts, so that the space of silence isn't filled with what neither of you ultimately want.

The people in my life... family, friends, clients and students know they will hear back from me in a timely manner. I'd much rather have a conversation with any medium I could in order to deepen a relationship and be on the same wavelength than leave someone hanging, assuming the worst and wondering.

Next time you wait for all your answers before getting back to someone, remember they might not be as patient as you are and look elsewhere or move forward with incomplete or wrong information. Communication is a dance of sorts but think of whether or not you want a dance or a walk on the tight rope.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Speaking of communicating, a fellow blogger from Fast Company Experts writes an amazing column you don't want to miss called Conversation Agent Bookmark it because you're going to end up visiting it often.

Buzz Words

Tom Stern, one of my co-bloggers on Fast Company Experts wrote a blog on Business Buzz Words We Can Safely Get Rid Of that is priceless. To read his hillarious words of wisdom click here

Languaging is everything and this is way too good not to share!

Donna Karlin

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Leadership: Assumptions or Facts?

I was revisiting many of the comments I've received in the past and they got me thinking….

I heard everything from “Talking about leadership style is a distraction” to analogies re the present Administration to definitive ideas of what makes a leader. These are amazing, insightful comments.

I wonder how many assumptions are made around the term and definition of ‘leader’? One might assume that a leader needs followers. One might assume a leader is brought on board to help evolve an organization. And one might assume that a leader has the ideas, insight and innovation to bring a stagnating organization forward. There are assumptions that leaders have the “ability to see a bigger picture than us and an ability to make meaning for us”. That is definitely not the case, though something most people crave in their leaders.

I could ask 100 people about what they look for in a leader and get 100 different answers. Oh yes, there would be commonalities, but as everyone’s needs differ, so do their needs for what they want in a leader.

A question recently asked is “Do leaders really listen to advice or do they use advice to validate what they already know and want to do?” A great question. To find out the answer I’d have to poll many a leader. You might assume I’m going to pose that question to you (and you would be right)

Listening to advisors and integrating their advice are very different and can really impact a leader’s world. Paying attention to informed advisors can also make or break a leader. I know many in positions of leadership who are known for their experience and level of expertise but that doesn’t mean they have the up to the minute information they need or are up on current trends. No one person has all the information necessary to run an organization. What they need are the right contacts in various areas of expertise to give them what they need when they need it.

As a Shadow Coach™, one of the dynamics I question clients on is when they say “Interesting concept, however I would have done it this way”… and continue to outline their perspectives. When this happens on a regular basis, I challenge my clients to stretch beyond what they know into the world of the unknown to listen for and integrate what they didn’t know.

Great leaders listen to the wisdom of those around them. I’ll go out on a limb to not only say that’s an assumption but a fact. Learning is more than gathering information. It’s being open to realizing you don’t know and will never know all you need to know to lead and operate from that premise.

Your thoughts on this?

Donna Karlin

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