Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Different Kind of Christmas Poem

On the day the 134th Canadian soldier lost his life in Afghanistan, I thought this would be worth reposting. I have no idea who initially wrote it but whoever it was, thank you. Canadian troups are out there too and we should remember.

"The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light, I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest, My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white, Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe, Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep, Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem, So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near, But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear, And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night, A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old, Perhaps Canadian, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled, Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear, "Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve, You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift, Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right, I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line, That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me, I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Dieppe on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."

My dad stood his watch in that Korean Land', And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while, But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag, Something red and, white, ... a Canadian flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone, Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet, I can sleep in a trench with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another, Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all, To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbour no fright, Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least, "Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done, For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret, "Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone, To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead, To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust, That we mattered to you as you mattered to us." - Author unknown

"Thanks for reading it and perhaps for passing it on to others.

Best wishes to you all...

Monday, December 14, 2009

In a word...FANTASTIC

Seth Godin's new eBook brings you perspectives from some amazing people. Click here to read it now and ask yourself....what if I actually paid attention to what was on these pages?


Donna Karlin

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Story Worth Telling

The story worth telling is the one that strikes closest to the heart of the matter. When I first started teaching and broke my model of coaching into proficiencies, ways of being and logistics, the participants got a great deal out of the class but it wasn’t personal. It didn’t sink in as deeply as I wanted it to. And then I started using examples to illustrate the various bits and pieces of the proficiencies and uniqueness of the Shadow Coaching™ model. That still wasn’t enough.

So one day I decided to watch myself in action as I shadowed. I was with a client I’d been working with on and off for almost a year and I was able to look at the intricacies of what I did. That’s when it hit me that the best way I brought forward increased awareness was when I used a story….a story that was personal, not generic, that would illustrate not only where my client was at the present time but where he could go if he made certain choices. We created his story in real time.

That’s when I decided to use a story to pattern my training around. Not only did the story bring context to our work in class, but gave a commonality to how we could build the model in real time as I took the participants through the life of a specific corporate client.

Stories, narratives, have a way of reaching beyond models, concepts, and ways of being to what’s real. Everyone can wrap their heads around something real. Not everyone has as easy a time taking concepts and making heads or tails of them.

Coaching via narrative is becoming more and more the norm. Any mode of teaching, mentoring and training can sink in so much deeper when applied and put into context via a story. It’s also the best way for someone to see inside of who we are…telling the stories of our lives, our past, moments in time that will always stay with us for one reason or another.

How many of you have taken the time to share the stories of your past with those special people in your life? These stories create a three dimensional image of who you are… more than a photograph or resumé…it’s you in the context of life. You and that image have traveled very far together to become who you are right now. Write these stories down…share them….let others get a glimpse.

It’s one of the reasons why I blog. I’m more that the Shadow that runs through the halls of an organization coaching clients. It’s a way for those who know me, heard of me or have never met me at all to see a bit deeper into who I am and why I have become what I’ve become.

Welcome. I’m happy to share with you.

…and wish you the best!
Donna Karlin

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How Can Coaching Advance Synergy in Community?

This August 27th, 28th and morning of the 29th, The International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations will be holding a symposium "Synergy in Community". For the first time a team of Master Coaches will be going into the community the day before the symposium to coach them in their organizations. Then on the Thursday we will be holding a ground breaking symposium to help the community move forward in these challenging economic times.

My colleague and fellow design team member for this event wrote a wonderful piece about this upcoming symposium which I'd like to share with you. Even more so I would love to share this event with you. Click here to find out more and to register.

How Can Coaching Advance Synergy in Community - by Mary Jo Asmus

Our ancestors, in the spirit of community, regularly sat around a fire to have conversations that deepened their own communal connections. This dialog assisted in increasing the quality of life in the places where they lived. In our modern-day communities, there is a longing for shared meaning, connections, and the deep conversation that coaching can bring to our world of electronic social media and speed-of-lightening pace.

• How can coaching support the individuals and organizations that sometimes struggle to define their roles and find their place in the modern community?

• What are the ways that these organizations can work synergistically to optimize the spirit of community? What does coaching have to learn from a community?

• What can a community learn from coaching?

A number of senior coaches and community leaders will explore these topics through “Synergy in Community”, the first ICCO Community Symposium on August 27-29 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The word “synergy” invokes the combined sum of individuals doing greater good than a single person can alone. In this ICCO community symposium, we will be exploring how the combined sum of individuals and organizations can work together to create and sustain greatness within our communities.

In the places where we reside, people often pass by their next door neighbors without knowing them; they expect their governments or “somebody” to take care of the problems of crime, poverty, empty buildings, unemployment, litter and whatever else plagues the places they live and work in. These problems must be dealt with in order for us to enjoy the successes of synergy in our communities. They can be only be addressed by the “somebodies”(individuals and organizations) who are willing to roll up their shirtsleeves and work together for the common good of the places they live and work in.

Does coaching have a role in supporting the somebodies who are responsible for enhancing the quality of life in our communities?

Many believe it does.

Kalamazoo, Michigan is a mid-sized city with a cultural history of somebodies who have taken responsibility to assure that life in their community is the best that it can be. It is a city of business innovation, beginning with W.E. Upjohn and his “friable pill” that fueled The Upjohn Company growth, as well as a myriad of companies throughout its history, embraced the innovation that fueled prosperity and the growth of the community: Checker Motors, Gibson Guitars, Stryker and many others. More recently, it is the home of the ground-breaking “Kalamazoo Promise”, where an anonymous group of donors has funded the college education for every graduating high school senior. In refusing to accept the economic recession as reality, Kalamazoo has recently supported new and existing companies in moving here or expanding, resulting in several thousand new jobs in the region.

However, Kalamazoo, like any city, cannot simply sit back and revel in its success. The quality of life in any community requires an ongoing collaborative spirit of dedicated individuals and organizations willing to “grab the rope” and work together, as in this excerpt from the book, Community Capitalism: Lessons from Kalamazoo and Beyond, by Ron Kitchens:

Grab the rope!”
That is what you are likely to hear if you find yourself on a ship, becalmed and threatened. That is what you will hear when you have no wind to sail by or engines to propel. You must resort to kedging to get out of trouble.

…..Kedging is the act of having a light anchor (a kedge) loaded into a rowboat and taken out as far as the lines tied to it will allow. After dropping the anchor, every man, woman, and child on the main boat grab the rope and pull the line as if his or her life depended on it, literally hauling the ship to the anchor. This is repeated again and again until the ship arrives at its destination or the fair winds once again blow.

We hope that those of you who work, live, volunteer and have your heart in your community will consider joining us and grabbing the rope at the ICCO Symposium in Kalamazoo, Michigan on August 27-29, to explore and learn together how coaching can support the synergy in our communities.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Impossible Things

"There is no use in trying," said Alice;
"One can’t believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven’t had much practice,"
said the Queen. "When I was your age,
I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as
six impossible things before breakfast"
- Lewis Carroll

Dreams to some can be pure nonsense....and to others, the means with which they shape their lives. To believe something is impossible is to never try....never have hope of the possibilities that your dream can happen. But to have that spark of hope where there’s even a tiny possibility, helps you be ready for the a wonderful surprise waiting to happen.

When I was speaking to friends recently about circumstances turning lives upside down, what came to mind was the only constant in life is change. And if we live with that premise, then we no longer have a feeling of being out of control, reacting to circumstance. Rather it’s the anticipation that something’s going to happen. Life then is never boring...or stagnant.

Woodrow Wilson said "We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true."

I believe that. If we bring our dreams into the light of day and nurture them, they will shape our lives forever.

So make them be great!
Donna Karlin

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Clarity vs. Transparency? Why Choose?

I was recently reading a blog by John Maeda "Leaders Should Strive For Clarity, Not Transparency" and shared it with a colleague as this is a topic that always comes up in conversation, especially in times of organizational crisis. My colleague asked me a great question, "Why do we have to choose? Why does it have to be an either or?"

Great question. Why does it have to be either or? Why do we often feel we have to choose one over another when more often than not, we can choose both?

The article talks about transparency in times of recession where in his opinion a leader is better off being less transparent as difficult decisions have to be made. How about making them in such a way that embraces transparency and gives staff truth?

What a concept.

Where clarity comes in is in articulating that decision so that everyone can wrap their heads around the why it was made.

The clearer the simpler. And I'm all for simplicity.


Donna Karlin

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There Can Be Order From Chaos

The reality right across the board is that my clients are overwhelmed with work, and their offices look like a tornado went through with stuff everywhere. They can't find anything, find time for anything and find enough time to do anything well and then have to find time to do it over 'cause it just isn't good enough the first time around (another whole conversation).

If this is you, you KNOW you're not going to be taking a whole day off any time soon to clean up the clutter. So start in small increments. Start processing, storing, filing, and delegating today's stuff and add a couple more things from yesterday's pile. You keep this up and before you know it, you'll have some order out of the chaos.

It works. THEN we'll have the space to work with the behavioural drivers that create the chaotic environment in the first place.

There is a method to my madness. Clear the clutter for some breathing space and then we have room to dive in.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is Your Comfort Zone Shrinking?

I recently had a conversation with a client about our comfort zone, what it is and how you purposefully have to expand it or, without you realizing it, it begins to shrink, especially as we grow older.

To use a simple example, when you were a teenager and your friend bought a pair of jeans that you loved and you found out the only place you could get them was clear across the city, you'd get on a bus and travel an hour or more to get them. Sometimes you'd call a group of friends and make an outing out of it but you did go and get those jeans no matter what it took.

As you got older, perhaps without realizing it, even with a car, first you'd get on the phone calling other stores closer to work or where you lived to see if they might carry them. And then the rationalizing would start as to whether or not you really needed them because you do have two pairs of jeans and so what if these were great looking 'cause it was clear across town.

As you get even older often people say "No, I don't feel like going so far. I'll buy a pair that's similar or won't even bother". They'd start going to stores nearby rather than venture out of the neighbourhood 'without even recognizing you're doing that.

And so it goes. Your comfort zone or world begins to shrink unless you purposefully stretch it and go beyond your immediate boundaries. That goes for trying a new food, listening to new music, expanding your horizons in your area of expertise, especially if you tell yourself you're too close to retirement or "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". Who's boundaries are those exactly? Who said you have to stop learning or stretching into new territory?

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself." - Alan Alda

Even though we grow older, we have a whole world out there to discover, starting with who we are and our place within it. People do things out of habit rather than conscious choice until they start paying attention. Are you paying attention to your choices?

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Succeeding in a Challenging Economy

How do you succeed in a challenged economy?

You stop thinking about the challenged economy.

H. Jackson Brown Jr. once wrote, “Your mind can only hold one thought at a time, so make it a positive and constructive one.”

That goes for the economy, someone you’re having difficulty with…even a toothache.

OK, I know that might sound like a ridiculous example but think for a moment to the last time you had a toothache . Your tongue continually goes there to press on it so you make the pain lessen. Are you thinking about anything else at the moment? Or when you get a mosquito bite and it’s itching like crazy, is your mind able to completely focus on anything else?

Same goes for the economic environment. I have been listening to clients in the corporate world talk incessantly about the economy to the exclusion of everything else…leaders in government who only talk about cutbacks and what they can’t do because of them and coaches, creative and other solopreneurs talk about how people are cutting back.

Let’s face it. We always have parameters within which we have to do our work. Change how you do it. Build something great in spite of it. Figure out what’s amazing with what you have right now. Make it be great! Make your thoughts be great and share them.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Always Room For...

OK, I love Seth Godin's way of thinking. Today's blog is priceless. "There's always room for jello" How many times have we heard that?

Seth writes "Think about your schedule... is there room for an emergency, an SEC investigation, a server crash? If you took a day off because of the flu, is your business going to go bankrupt? Probably not." Click here to read on..

Wishing Canadians and Canada a Happy Canada Day for tomorrow. And you know what? Your working world will still be there on the 2nd so enjoy the day and whichever way you decide to celebrate

Donna Karlin

Sunday, June 28, 2009

For The Record....About Coaching...

There are many misconceptions about what Coaches do, not Coaches in the sports world but in the executive, organizational, government / political, and business worlds. So I'd like to set the record straight, at least as it applies to my world...

My clients are not damaged people who need to be fixed, they are very healthy people who want to fly and partner with someone who can help them do just that.

My clients are amazing people who want to learn what they don't know and see what they don't see. They're not ones who think they're experts and the best at what they do. Even if they are deemed best, they realize they will be really smart when they recognize they don't know everything there is to know.

Shadow Coaches are not Coaches who only follow people around. They are dynamic Master Coaches who observe, look at behavioural drivers, Coach laser for clarity and focus, know when to speak and when not to speak (we are not mimes), and help our clients look at their darker side or shadows and accept that they're there, seeing the world through a multi-faceted lens. We help our clients bridge the gaps between where they are and where they want to be.

Those I accept into the Shadow Coaching training are already master level Coaches, dynamic, powerful and insightful. Shadow Coaches are NOT beginners in our field.

So taking this all into account, for those political leaders who work with a Coach, I say BRAVO! They are open to changing, being more powerful, seeing their impact and learning how to truly connect with those they lead so if anyone from the media is reading this, applaud those political and government leaders who are working with a Coach, 'cause remember, these people don't have to be fixed....they want to evolve into their levels of excellence.

My three cents....
Donna Karlin

Click here for How to choose a coach that's right for you

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Yin and Yang of Language

These past weeks I heard colleagues and friends say the most amazing things that inspired thoughts in so many directions in me and many who I shared with...

One went something like "The language I use creates my reality". There are so many ways to expand on that. We mirror and make decisions and respond based on what we receive. For those in a relationship with a bully when attacked, hide within themselves. For some, silence begets silence until a chasm is so deep it's almost impossible to cross as we lose sight and respect for what that relationship meant. Attitude and language are contagious. Humour sparks humor. Romantic overtures invite them back.

Many lose sight of how powerful language is. It creates images so strong in someone's mind they become indelible. Pay attention to the words you use. How does the saying go? Your words should be soft and sweet 'cause you'll never know when you'll have to eat them". You can't take them back.

Another dear friend use the term "The juicy part of life..." and there are so many ways to complete that sentence. The juicy parts of life happen when we least expect them...when we pay attention to what's in front of us...when we create something on purpose or just because of our ways of being.

A great deal of that has to be on purpose. If we don't pay attention what's juicy, life just continues, however we are separated from the joys of life and settle into routine until that's all there is....same old same old.

This week I asked a client to pay attention to what he learns every day even in a fast paced, chaotic environment. We need to feel we're growing, making a difference, and bring some meaning to someone's life in some way or mean something in someone's life to truly feel alive.

We get what we give.

Someone once mentioned to me they never got hugged. My response was "If you give one you'll get one back. " Life's like that. If we just take, the well runs dry all too soon. That applies to people, relationships, money, time...all of it. When we give, we replenish and the return can be immeasurable. That takes a risk but hey, if you don't jump in, you won't realize the magic that can be waiting for you with open arms.

On the 22nd of June, many of us are sharing our experience and expertise with all who want to listen and learn with no financial reward whatsoever. We'll help you grow your businesses, learn what you don't know, see what you haven't paid attention to and in return, because of your engagement and participation, many amazing non-profit coaching organizations will be able to do what they do best, make a difference in the world. That kind of reward one can't put a dollar figure to.

You don't have to get out there and speak to the world to make that difference. All you have to do is reach out and touch someone's heart and make them see they mean something special to you. The response and ripple effect just might blow you away.

Best, always
Donna Karlin

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not Having All the Answers,...or Any For That Matter

As long as I hold onto who I am right now, I won’t be able to grow into who I might become.

Mondays, when I’m not working with a client, I spend a good chunk of my day handling administrivia, writing, doing paperwork, and wading through that special file I keep of “seed thoughts”, ideas, and reminders to add to, create or morph a program or concept. There is also this file I keep of emails that I parked because I know I need a lot of thinking time to process them. Mondays are when I schedule that time in.

This morning I came across an email exchange I had with a colleague way back when. We had been talking about learning through the process of coaching, not just learning the business of coaching, or through class material, conferences or seminars. Coaches should learn from their clients daily….increasing our awareness of who we are as individuals and professionals.

I remember writing her in response to a comment she made about my work. I shared the following: “What was amazing was how much I learn when I’m Shadow Coaching. I see and learn about things I never knew existed. But even more than that, the feedback I got this afternoon showed how many levels I work on with my clients when I’m on the scene. That’s what amazed me the most. This client told me how I also helped him change in a ‘holistic way’. That blew ME away. I wonder how many coaches are so wrapped up with coaching that they can forget they’re students at the same time? It doesn’t make us any less effective. Quite the opposite. It helps our clients realise the depth of their knowledge when we share how much we’ve also learned in the process. It’s a true collaborative partnership".

”Her response was “That’s why you’re so go damn good at what you do Sherlock! I learn tons from you and also keep you in my mind when I’m consulting and not sure what to do.”

There have been many a thread in coaching articles as to old ways of coaching, models perspectives etc. In the “old days” of coaching, we used to hold back any advice-giving or communication with regards to any sign we might not have all the answers. Now, things are changing dramatically. It might be easier because I’m a situational/observational coach and there to deal with situations and truth as it unfolds. It’s even more powerful when I’m able to tell my client “It’s not important to know what you do as much as how you do it or the drivers behind why you do it”. However it’s also incredibly powerful to turn to a client and ask “What is it you want from me right now? What am I missing?” and admit we’re both on a learning curve. Sometimes we need ‘permission’ to admit we don’t have all the answers but that in itself leads to a fact finding, collaborative learning curve.My clients are all unique individuals. Why would I even presume to use one methodology or answer for all of them?

How does the saying go? “It’s a very stupid man who believes he has all the answers”. Something like that?

One way I let go of who I am right now to become the person I may be in the future is by asking one question at a time, then paying attention to whatever unfolds without having the need to control what that might be. That just might be what it means to live in the questions.


Donna Karlin

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Emma Gives Back

Last fall, I was a keynote speaker at the HOW Magazine Mind Your Own Business Conference. One of the exhibitors was Emma. To say I was enthralled by what they do in creatively getting messages out is an understatement, but when I found out how they give back to the world, well, that really captivated me. I am a Coach after all and one who is involved in giving back through my work on the Board of The Coach Initiative. I felt this should be shared far and wide so I asked one of the founding partners if he could share with me how Emma gives back...

"When it comes to giving back, we like getting lots of people involved. For example, this will be the sixth year of our Emma 25 initiative, where we donate 25 Emma accounts each holiday season to small, deserving charities. Our customers nominate their favorite causes, our staffers pick the list of finalists, and our customers vote for the final 25 honorees. With the trees we plant each month - we plant five for each new customer who joins us - we designate half of them for the equatorial regions that produce the most growth (and therefore the most oxygen) and let our newest customers choose where the other half go (typically somewhere in the United States). Again, it's an easy way to not only remind them they're helping us plant trees, but to actually give them a say in the project.

And we take a similar approach with our monthly donations to and In each case, an Emma staffer takes charge of the program and has a rotating group of colleagues help distribute the funds each month - to deserving third-world entrepreneurs in the case of Kiva, and deserving classrooms in the case of DonorsChoose. In most of our giving, there are stories and names and faces that make it all feel really personal and rewarding, and by taking a collaborative approach we make sure everyone on staff gets to experience it first-hand.

Of course, this is just the tip of the collaborative iceberg for us. Meals on wheels? Two staffers collaborate each Wednesday to handle the food delivery. The newly formed Emma bowling league? Collaborative. Designing the all-important bowling league commemorative socks? Collaborative. Finishing off last week's kegerator beer to make room for the new stuff? You've never seen such a collaborative spirit
: ) "

Clint Smith, Founding Partner Emma®
Emma helps organizations everywhere communicate & market in style.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Instructions For Life - 2nd Edition

I can't remember where I got this from but love it and wanted to share it with you. It's worth revisiting don't you think?

If you have anything to add, share it with us

Donna Karlin

Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

When you say, "I love you", mean it.;

When you say, "I'm sorry", look the person in the eye.

Be engaged at least six months before you get married.

Believe in love at first sight.

Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much.

Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt, but it's the only way to live life completely.

In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

Don't judge people by their relatives.

Talk slowly, but think quickly.

Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

Say "bless you" when you hear someone sneeze.

When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions.

Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

Spend some time alone.

Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Read more books and watch less TV.

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll get to enjoy it a second time.

Create a loving atmosphere in your home is so important. Do all you can to create a tranquil harmonious home.

In disagreements with loved ones, deal with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.

Read between the lines.

Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.

Be gentle with the earth.

Pray, meditate or center. There's immeasurable power in it.

Never interrupt when you are being flattered.

Mind your own business.

Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.

If you make a lot of money, put it to use helping others while you are living. That is wealth's greatest satisfaction.

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a stroke of luck.

Learn the rules then break some.

Remember that the best relationship is one where your love for each other is greater than your need for each other.

Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Remember that your character is your destiny.

Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

How We See

We see things through our own perceptions rather than looking at life through an unfiltered lens. We miss so much when we only look through our own stories.

This past week at the Conversation Among Masters conference, that was cemented through so many realizations...

One was that a friend and colleague of mine was perceived to be loud and boisterous because she looked like she should be...yet she speaks quietly and thoughtfully and if you would watch her in her work you would instantly see how she centers the people she interviews and brings a sense of calm to any conversation.

Another was to bring to mind something that is always said to me "Your brother is busy. He doesn't have time for...." a usual excuse for him getting lost in his own self and ego. He's brilliant in what he does but by virtue of being a surgeon and a male, whether or not he works longer hours than others doesn't matter. He's busy. "We are not."

Some ask me how in the world I can do all I do in a day. I'm not necessarily busier than others, I just do things differently and have a different focus than others perhaps. Another perception...some people have more time than others. No. Time is finite and we all have the same available to us.

After dinner one night, one of my friends told me about a woman she shared a table with who had some fascinating stories. I knew of her but hadn't had any in depth conversations with her. I asked her if she would have time to meet the next afternoon during break so I could get to know her. She happily accepted my invitation and as we sat outside in a quiet corner she shared with me that she had known about me forever, about my work but never in her wildest dreams thought she would ever have face time with me. I was taken aback and asked why. She said "Because you're so well known, famous for your work, I just never thought it would happen."

I've met the most amazing people because I approached them through their humanity, not their role, title or position. I don't bow to people who say they're busy because of their status. I honour those who give of themselves despite how busy they are, based on humanness, not title or position. I never want to be too busy that I forget the important people in my life. I never want to be too busy to take time to meet new people and learn from them. Because if I do, if we do, then what is the point of being so busy? To what end? For a better life? To mean something?

Donna Karlin

***A book to take note of...

I was so blown away by the insights this book generated that I just bought 10 of them to give away to the special people in my life. That is how strongly I recommend it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Smarter, Faster, Better

Buy this book! This is one of those no brainers where it won't serve you to borrow it from friend, colleague or library because you're going to refer to it time and time again.

For many books I do a summary of why I think it's a valuable addition to your library and that goes without saying when it comes to this book.

However to take it a step further, this book brings insight and understanding at so many levels I can't begin to describe them all.

"As leaders, the way we change the world and our organizations is through taking responsibility for something larger than ourselves. This requires us to ask ourselves a new set of questions..." - Karlin Sloan

I have yet to devote an entire blog post for a book recommendation but this stands on its own. I recommend it for clients, colleagues and students alike. It will bring perspective and create some paradigm shifts no matter what career you're in or at what level within it.

The rest, well, I encourage you to discover for yourself.

Donna Karlin

Monday, April 27, 2009

Teaching in Milan

Last November out of the blue I was contacted by a professional coach in Italy who wanted me to bring The School of Shadow Coaching Advanced Coach Training to Milan. When she first wrote, it didn't remotely occur to me I would be standing in front of a group of amazing internal corporate and executive coaches in Milan a few months later. When a second coach contacted me, I figured it was worth a look. The first question I was asked was "Will it slow you down or make a difference if the class has to be translated?" I answered "The pace will be different yes, but it will only be an issue if we make it an issue and for me, it's not".

So, mid April arrived and there I was standing in a conference room in Milan teaching them the Shadow Coaching methodology; action / experiential learning, fast paced and interactive. A good number of participants spoke little or no English and I spoke no Italian.

By the second day I was translating words from Italian (don't ask me how, but I was) and the class was speaking more English than they did before. They talked, learned, we discussed, translated in real time when needed and percolated ideas. We all evolved because of that class.

Different language and culture aside, coaching is, if nothing else, fine tuned communication between individuals. If we don't understand, we discuss until we do and then discuss again until we evolve.

There were many paradigm shifts as they learned the methodology of Shadow Coaching. One of the participants thanked me because he said before the class, when coaching clients, his head told him one thing but his heart another. Now, through this methodology head and heart came together as one and he would never go back to his old way of coaching.

Looking back, I realize there was never a language barrier though we spoke different languages. As I reflect, I realize it was a huge leap of faith for them to bring in a Canadian coach who spoke no Italian, and who for many, was an unknown entity, however they dove in with everything they had and were, and embraced what I had to offer. I felt welcomed, and in many ways adopted by this ever growing professional coaching community.

Lessons learned or shared would be, don't let what might seem like an obvious barrier stand in the way of sharing your knowledge and expertise around the world. Language, culture, ways of being aside, coaching is one of the few areas of practice that bridges all gaps.

I believe the ability to ask a powerful question at the right moment and for the right reasons, whether to others or ourselves, is what makes a coach masterful. Being there to see that moment unfold and recognizing it, is what takes a coach to the next level, and, in turn, the client and, in this case, I add teacher and student.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Choices go beyond the immediate result. There are ramifications, consequences and results for each choice we make.

We can choose to honour someone which will make them feel valued and worthy or to put them down (for whatever reason) and make them feel small and minimalized.

We can celebrate the important people in our lives so they know what place they hold in your heart, strengthening relationships even more or they can be taken for granted by not letting them know what we're feeling until all of a sudden they're just not there anymore.

We can choose something easy because it won't rock the boat or we can stand for what we believe, with respect, and be respected by others for our choices, even if they don't agree with them.

We can choose what we want in our worlds so we evolve, continue to learn and fly or not choose and let lack of choice guide our lives, bringing regret and perhaps anger, as no choice is a choice in itself.

We can be true to ourselves by choosing what is in alignment with our hearts.... or not. The consequences of all are profound and create the difference between living a life of joy and choice or existence and feeling a victim of someone else's choices for you.

“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.” - Barbara De Angelis

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Who Is The Real You?

Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, "This is the real me," and when you have found that attitude, follow it. - William James

A few years ago a client of mine, at our first meeting over coffee, remarked "You really know who you are". For me that was a profound comment. It took me years to be at one with who I am, and that is a continuous journey of discovery, however I know what I connect with, who I connect with, what resonates with me, and what and who lights a fire in me.

Recognizing it, looking for it and embracing whatever it is fuels that in me, makes all the difference in the world. Many feel they have to behave in a certain manner, live a certain way, live up to the standards set for them and lose themselves along the way, living a life that's been defined for them. It's not easy taking a stand and saying "This is who I know I am and want to remain being"

Have you discovered your authentic self? And if so, are you at one with who that might be?

Donna Karlin

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Speaking Beyond Your Fears

I won't say anything about time evaporating, as it's the end of March, but we blink and it's gone.
So the way I look at it, I have to make the right choices in real time.

I'm always amazed at how people put things off to "One day" or "I'll do it later" and they never really get to it. I have more people come to me not wanting to have any regrets. Well, not regretting anything is easier than you think. Just do things, don't just think about them. Change your focus in conversations and look at life as a clean canvas to paint the most glorious picture on. Close your eyes, see it and then make it happen!

People are putting things off because of the economy, because of lack of resources or not enough time. thing is, you can't buy back time. You can ask yourself (and answer) the question "When is the right time?" But while you do that, look at the ramifications of putting it off for the 'right' time as well.

And while you're at it, remember along with every choice you make, every conversation you have will shape your future.


Everything you share is processed by the person listening through their own story. Speak to what they fear most, and they'll fear more. Focus on what you fear the most and you'll fear more, for you and the other person on the other side of the conversation. If you start the conversation complaining about the economy and the difficult working and living environment, everything you say from that moment on will be filtered through that first sentence.

There are people thriving in these less than optimal times. Why? Because they see beyond the immediate and each choice on its own to what they want to create and grow into for their future.
Those people are successful people.

It's not about ignoring what's happening in the world; it's about choosing your place within it.
I love this quote: "I endeavour to be wise when I cannot be merry, easy when I cannot be glad, content with what cannot be mended and patient when there is no redress." - Elizabeth Montagu

Puts things in perspective, don't you think?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome 138th country subscriber from the Dominican Republic!

***Book to take note of: Unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology fills that void.Visual thinking is one of the most powerful ways to get the point across, when done right. This book is a must have for anyone who has to get the point across in a memorable, powerful way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Top Ten Sleep Thieves

A colleague of mine Ramiro Ponce wrote this piece which I thought brilliant.

With his permission I am honoured to share it with you. Please share your insights and perspectives...

Next time someone desperately comes to you asking for some “sound advice” during hard times, beware. The person may be suffering from “Sleep Thieves”.

The” Top Ten Sleep Thieves”, as I call them, are derailed, tempting thoughts/behaviors we all have during hard times of perceived or real loss - times of anxiety and stress. Far from being abnormal, they are very natural ways in which our mind tries to deal with uncertainty when there are no clear signals or direction indicators “outside” about what’s best to do in the face of it (uncertainty).

Overcoming them usually requires increasing self- awareness, and some kind of re-framing of the context/situation, re-sizing it and daring to ask for help. Phrases like “There's life after “X” - fill in your organization-, “there are more fish in the sea” or questions like “what's the worst that could happen? are colloquial, practical ways to stimulate this re-sizing of the problem. Almost always immediate relief is experienced because we touch base with reality again.

The arguments presented in the "Reflection" part of the section below may be useful for you when you –as leader or team member - are confronted with questions which look for certainty in uncertain times. E.g. "Look, they're offering me this job, but I'm afraid to leave now. On the other hand, things here are just worsening. What should I do?" Because anxiety caused by uncertainty doesn't necessarily decrease with certainty, you must NOT answer the question, but rather stimulate the other person to look for the indicated context.

For example, you could answer: "Well, what would you say your scenarios are? Leaving / Staying? Things go wrong / things go OK.? Try mapping your options on a 2 x 2 table, analyze them and decide".

When the Thieves are active, day to day managerial interventions of this type can make all the difference between the success or collapse of the transition process in the organization. Of course the concepts underlying the “thieves” presented here are not new. But systematizing them in an accessible, practical, and usable way may add real value to you in your daily role as a coach, leader or team member.

Thieves and Reflections

1. Rush decisions: “I’d better leave at once…”
Reflection: What if things improve around here? Imagine scenarios, don’t decide immediately

2. Extreme “Love”: “I won’t be as capable as I’ve been here at any other place…”
Reflection: There’s life after “X” (this organization)”. Write down your skills inventory/look outside

3. Clogged brain: “I can’t even think…my mind is in blank” …”
Reflection: What’s the simplest scenario I can visualize? Start with ANYTHING.

4. Dejection: “What’s the use of going on?”
Reflection: Has giving up on oneself ever brought something good to anyone? Begin picking up your own pieces. Pay attention again to those “little things” (personal appearance, punctual again, and so on)

5. Hostility: “I won’t strain myself anymore... to hell with all this…”
Reflection: Is this the way I want to be remembered here? How you leave is more important than how you arrived.

6. Detachment: “This is business as usual…no need to be dramatic”
Reflection: It’s OK to feel and be even-tempered. It’s not OK to be indifferent and lower one’s performance.

7. Denial: “Me?... I’m just trying to help!”
Reflection: Dare to ask your team mates: How do you see me? Am I sometimes part of the problem? Ask for specific examples.

8. Bargaining (with life, God, your boss…): “If they only gave me more money, training, time…”
Reflection: Is there a chance to drive forward sensibly if you look always at the rear mirror? Go; move ahead, even if the scenario is far from ideal.

9. Temporarily going down: “Maybe it’s me, I’m not good enough. Oh my… oh my…”
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • How did I get out of similar situations?
  • Who can help me?

10. Control Need “I have to turn this around (on my own)”.
Reflection: Is this really under my control?
Look around you, verify common symptoms of loss in other people, find a shared positive goal.

Ramiro Ponce is ICCO Board Member, Executive Coach, Engineer-Psychologist and develops leaders and their teams throughout the Americas.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Taking Stock of What's Happening

There’s a lot going on these days. People are stressed, no two ways about it. I’m observing a ‘tired’ group of executives whose staff are looking to them to ‘fix’ things. Well, no one has a magic wand, or… does everyone have a magic wand?

It’s the latter as you are your own magic wand.

It’s time to take stock of what’s happening that’s within your control and perspective and make necessary and wanted changes accordingly.

“Stress is the body and mind’s response to any stressful pressure that disrupts the balance in the mind or body. It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations and we don’t manage our reaction to the disappointment. As a response, stress expresses itself as resistance, tension, strain or frustration, that throws off our physiological and psychological equilibrium, keeping us out-of-sync and stressed-out.” - Doc Childre and Howard Martin

What magnifies stress even more is when one dwells upon that which upsets them in the first place, rather than creating a future they want. If you dwell on that which you don’t want, you will continue on that downwards spiral.

So what are some key points to that magic wand?
  1. Stop doing what you don’t want to do. I’m not talking about your job. I’m talking about every day things you got talked into or felt you were obliged to do. Do things because you really, really want to do them. When it comes down to it, if you stopped doing things out of obligation, chances are most people won’t even notice anyways. Doing things you don’t want to do depletes your energy and when you’re stressed you don’t have a heck of a lot of extra energy to waste.
  2. Guess what I’m about to say! Start doing what you want to do. Fill a part of your days with things you love to do. When you’re doing what you’re passionate about you’ll be energized, optimistic and a downright pleasure to spend time with. Know what that’ll do? People will want to spend more time with you and if you’re having fun, stress flies out the window.
  3. Speaking of which….find someone you want to spend time with and visa versa. That goes for just being, ‘playing’, talking, mentoring, sharing and brainstorming. That best friend, partner, reality checker…someone who will accept you at your best and worst and visa versa. It’s been proven if you don’t have that close friend and feel like you’re in this life on your own, you’ll be wearing the problems of the world on your shoulders. Why in the world would you want to do that?
  4. Don’t let doubting Thomases talk you out of your dreams and while you’re at it, make those dreams really big! It’s hard to be stressed when you’re working towards your dreams.
  5. Need less. I’m not saying want more. That’s different. Needing things because you want them is a whole other ball came. Wanting things and being able to have them now and then is a gift. Needing them and being unhappy until you get them will shift the focus away from what you truly have right now…and to appreciate it all.

There's more but I think this will give you a good head start.

I’ll leave you with this….

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” - Hans Selye


Donna Karlin

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To Don't List

Robyn Greenspan, Editor in Chief of ExecuNet sent me a piece on “Making a “to don’t” list. I’m not one to write to do lists (to me they’re wish lists) or make new year’s resolutions. For those of you who work with me you’ll know what I mean when I talk about setting intentions. Robyn’s list is a different perspective and an important one. I loved it and, with her permission am sharing it with you.

Here is Robyn’s “to don’t” list i.e. actions and behaviours to stay away from in the new year.


· Set unrealistic or unfair expectations of myself. Say, “yes” to everything without first assessing the emotional, professional, personal, karmic ROI.

· Neglect to quickly give credit to the team.

· Solely focus on short-term benefits unless it is a pathway to accomplishing long-term goals.

· Get complacent.

· Count on anything before it is a reality.

· Forget to network because it often benefits someone other than myself.

· Stop critically thinking, but refrain from always shooting holes in others’ ideas.

· Always eat the goodies in the kitchen without bringing some to share too.

· Lose sight of the fact that I can replace my job but not my family.

· Stress!

I’ll leave you with this…

“You were born to be exceptional, to blaze a trail into territory where no one has ever gone before. Choose today, and every day, to let your own unique, exceptional light shine brightly for all to see.” - Ralph Marston

If you don’t choose to be who you know you are, then someone else will define it for you. If you’re trying to be who others believe you should be, then who in the world will be you? The greatest contribution you can make is to be your authentic self and to let others see that it’s OK for you to choose being you. That way, they in turn can choose to be themselves as well. It’s not only acceptable; it’s celebratable!

Donna Karlin