Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Absolutely Anything Might Happen

There’s a quote by Monica Baldwin that goes something like “The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the twenty-four hours. No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen. And the fact that it practically always doesn't, matters not a jot. The possibility is always there.“

For my clients, and me, by virtue of my days becoming theirs, live in a world where it practically always does happen. No two days are alike even if it’s planned that way.

For example, in a global organization that is in the midst of major structural changes the top three in positions of leadership are new, my client is fairly new, and on top of it they are doing a structural change that affects all of management, and all departments as their structure and mandates will change as well. No two days are alike as they are still finding their way. The first thing I asked them was to define the differences between defining their roles and designing them. I wanted to them to take control over whatever it was they could control and if that was working together to define roles and responsibilities, reporting structure, deliverables and to a great extent, even where their offices were located, at least they would feel as if there was some order to the chaos.

Well today defied all the norms and I decided that if I was to break the acute tension that was so tangible you could reach out and touch it, I would have to ask or do something outlandish. So I asked the client I was Shadow Coaching™ what her day reminded her of. She paused for a moment and answered “I can’t say because I have never experienced anything like it! I’m in the Twilight Zone!”

Talk about being given a gift. We looked at the concept of that old favorite show and how it did indeed define their world today. It really was perfect. As we ran from meeting to meeting, watching others stressed to the nines, I engaged my client to partner with me and have a dialogue about working in the Twilight Zone and how even best laid intentions turned out completely different because the world wasn’t in our control. It brought a hint of humor to the entire branch which immediate lessened the stress.

It’s true that humor conquers all. The entire management team went from survival mode to what I call 'thrival' mode. When I left this afternoon they were pumped, smiling and even though mentally exhausted by the sheer volume of work they know they'll have to do in order to make this a success, at the back of their minds they have this vision of working in the Twilight Zone that they will remember with a smile for a very long time.

We changed an environment that wasn't sustainable and put a new twist to it so it just might work. What are you dealing with that you might want to turn around and bring a whole new perspective to? A question that I often ask clients and will leave you with is “What if the next thing you did or said could transform the organization? What would that be? And what would that look like?”

And the answer is?

Donna Karlin

Monday, May 19, 2008

Knowing vs. Not Knowing

I just finished teaching a class in Washington D.C. Every time I teach I'm blown away at the meeting of minds and perspectives and how, through each participant's story they generate entirely new concepts and perspectives and change their well worn paradigms.

People look at their worlds through the perspective of what they know. It’s obvious, right? What I love to see is when they discover what they didn’t know and then want to dive into the deep end of it and learn everything they can. That’s the best part of teaching; watching awareness as it dawns.

It happens to me on a regular basis. When I’m teaching seasoned experienced coaches and look at paradigms, concepts, ways of being and touch on something that had never occurred to them before, all of a sudden the energy in the room is tangible; enthusiasm so intense you can almost ‘taste’ it. Enthusiasm is contagious!

It all starts with each of them sharing their story. As story after story is revealed you can feel the awareness of how extraordinary each and every person is fill the room. From that, through that, it builds into a connection of sorts where everyone in the room trusts the other implicitly with their thoughts, insecurities the "I have no ideas' and do whatever it is they have to do to learn and grow. After all, that's why they come in the first place. They might be seasoned professionals but everyone in that room walks in to learn something new, to be able to go deeper with clients than ever before and to see what's possible.

Possibilities are endless, especially when assumptions are parked.

Thinking you know everything there is to know is the first assumption that has to be tossed aside. From there, it's an open slate, waiting to be filled.

“We can teach from our experience, but we cannot teach experience.” - Sasha Azevedo. I might be the so called teacher but I learn from each and every person in the class. They have a world of experience to share and through them my trainings morph and evolve, as do I.

Mind boggling hmm?

Donna Karlin

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Old Habits Die Hard

If they’re no longer working and continue to not work, replace them. What am I talking about? Old habits. Why in the world would you want to hang onto something that doesn't work for you when you have a choice?

Not only do individuals get buried in the past but when organizational culture enables this, the organization as a whole buries itself in the past and struggles to rise past it.

To combat this we need leaders who will look at human capital, not only financial bottom line, so people evolve and are well managed. It’s not only about the mechanics of how an organization works and leading them through an organizational change; it’s all about the people who run and work within it.

There are so many maverick thinkers in this world and if they’re not well managed and given a framework within which they can thrive and grow (in an organizational context), they will end up doing things their own way and pushing the buttons of everyone around them.

Leaders might manage process, as that’s how an organization’s nuts and bolts work, but they also have to lead their people within that framework. That way their amazing talents can be harnessed and benefit everyone concerned.

There is way too much energy spent on the bottom line, or cutting organizational overhead costs, support systems and human based components. Where a great deal of energy has to be spent so an organization can evolve and grow is in growing its people; paying attention to their uniqueness. Maverick thinkers or not, once you harness their passion and energy and show them the way forward, and that frameworks aren't something to fear but in fact a vehicle to success, they can leave the old habits by the wayside and create new ones that fit a future of their own design, not one of habit.

I’m not sure why old habits are hard to change (I don’t much like the ‘break’ term) especially when those habits no longer serve them. What I do know is there’s something very enticing to holding onto history, forgetting all the stuff that didn’t work and remembering only what did i.e. selective memory.

"Habits...the only reason they persist is that they are offering some satisfaction...You allow them to persist by not seeking any other, better form of satisfying the same needs. Every habit, good or bad, is acquired and learned in the same way - by finding that it is a means of satisfaction." - Juliene Berk

Toss those old habits and design those you want to adopt for the future and you’ll see a shift beyond anything you ever imagined.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Leadership in Context

I was going to write a long post about leadership within various contexts, however I thought I'd start a dialogue to hear what you have to say about this.

One can't remove leaders from their worlds and expect to measure their leadership style and effectiveness in any way. It's all about the context of their world, their surroundings, people, challenges, stability and sustainability of the organization.

From the other perspective often context creates leaders based on what unfolds in their realms. Take a third perspective and many a time context defines what style of leadership is needed. So do you put the cart before the horse? Horse before the cart or is it a give and take relationship?
Who seeks out a leader who hasn't proven great leadership? And yet, circumstances might dictate who a great leader is in one context while being a poor leader in another.

This is very intricate, has many facets and goes directly to defining sustainability and mastery in leadership. What are the common threads? How do you see it?

Donna Karlin