Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Five Tips to Leading Virtual Teams

On one of my networking sites, I posed the question "What has to change in order to effectively lead virtual teams?"

As organizations are increasingly decentralizing, and social networks have a greater organizational presence, how has that impacted leadership?

The answers I received were what I had expected....unfortunately.

The dynamics of virtual teams are very different than in-person teams. The connection, the sense of relationship and collaboration is not as present. Staff can't wander into your office to ask a question or even feel that personal presence when seeing their leader or manager walk through the halls of the building. It harder to feel that sense of team when you might be spread all over the city, country or globe.  So leaders have to take notice. Those entering the workforce have to notice as well as their working relationships will be different than in the past.  

I've been working on material for guest lectures and keynotes. Organizations are looking for direction on how to lead in an increasingly virtual world. With the advent of social media and teams connected by technology, relationships have to be forged, however in a new way. If you can't create that connection and strong, cohesive team, then you won't produce. And you know what that means.

So here are some tips to point you in a direction:

  1. Make it personal. Start the conversation off with a question that invites people to share who they are, not only what they do. I call them tidbits.
  2. Find out something they have in common. Half the fun is finding out what that may be (and make take place over numerous calls.
  3. Bring video in if at all possible.  Seeing everyone's faces makes it more personal (and keeps their attention on the virtual meetings). 
  4. Follow-up the calls with a short email. Stay in touch so the staff doesn't feel isolated and ignored.
  5. Change the timing of the meetings to honor all time zones.
Remember you're working with people through technology, not the other way around.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Leadership is Leadership

"Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers."— Dee Hock

As long as you're learning and growing, and are open to both, so will others be. If you live your word, then trust will be there. If you have purpose and conviction, then people might disagree with you but they'll still respect you. Managing people tp death for the purpose of having control over them isn't leadership. It's dictatorship.

In my opinion, managing from a perspective of 'power over people' is keeping people under your thumb and saying "I'm important and you're just here to serve a purpose". Leading them in the way that inspires others to be their best, do their best and encourage others to do the same says "You're important and contribute to our organizational purpose".

What do you think is best?

Managers light a fire under people and have to do it often. Leaders stoke a fire inside people and feed it just enough through their leadership so it continues to burn.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Formula for Business Success

I was re-reading John Spence's blog from January 2010 where he shares his formula for business success.  Not surprisingly, much of it is about people... connecting, collaborating, and caring about the people you work with.

I absolutely agree when he says "The ONLY way to attract top talent to your team is to give them the opportunity to make a difference." If they can't connect what they're doing with why they know they need to be doing it (speaks to purpose and passion), you won't lose them (as in the future); you've already lost them. Then it'll be an uphill climb to try to win them back. 

If you can.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Diversity is Key to Creative Teams

One of my best lessons learned was when I was speaking to a client of mine who was looking at moving to a different position in the federal government. He wanted to expand his horizons and learn new skills. As the government looks to be an increasingly diverse public service, one can identify themselves as a visible minority. I asked my client "Would you identify yourself as a visible minority?" to which he replied "Donna, I'm brown. Haven't you noticed?" and continued..."You are colour blind. That's great from one perspective but at the same time, remember we shouldn't ignore differences and make everyone 'the same', we should celebrate the difference and bring them all to the table."

I have never forgotten that conversation. I look at each person as someone unique who brings a specific flavour, unique skill set and perspective to the table. I also know, that diversity brings a richness to the conversation that can't exist in an organization or team that is a sea of sameness.

In his article Why Diversity is the Mother of Creativity, Jeffrey Baumgartner talks about "The best thing you can do is to diversify your thinking" and "It is essential that your people are diverse in background, education, knowledge and experience".

Sameness just doesn't cut it.This really does bring home how we're 'better with, not better than".

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holidays in Out of Awareness Places

Yesterday I loved reading about my friends' Thanksgiving celebrations on Facebook and Twitter. Some of what was shared was so vivid I almost felt as if I was invited into their homes to share the laughter, conversation and myriad of culinary favorites. Last night on the news I watched Missions and helping organizations serve dinner to those who are struggling so they could have a bit of Thanksgiving celebration. Then I wondered why no one was sharing the in-between stories of celebrations in places you might not know of. Not hospitals, missions, or nursing homes. Those we hear about. I'm talking about places like Ronald McDonald Houses.

For many years we spent most holidays in Ronald McDonald House in Norfolk, Virginia. As we tried to schedule as many surgeries and pre and post surgical appointments for my son over school breaks, usually that meant Xmas, often Thanksgiving, summer breaks and most other holidays when he would miss as little school as possible. Most of our holidays over about 17 years were shared with other families living at the House at that time.

No matter where you live and might see a Ronald McDonald House, as they're in many parts of the world, from outside you see a building that has something to do with sick kids and a place to stay. Walk through the doors and you'll see it's much more than that. The people inside, the staff, House mother, and other families become your family for the time you're there. It's a place where we gathered, talked about our challenges and fears, and shared what we learned with other parents and kids. From visit to visit, we'd continue the conversations as if we'd never been away. The moment we walked through the door it was into open arms for a giant hug and welcome.

If we were there over a holiday, no matter for what religion, we helped decorate the House. Xmas time at RMH was magical. Every square inch of the place was decorated, animated and glowing with light. Donations of food would come from all over, sometimes filling the fridges and freezers to overflowing so the families could come back from the hospital to a meal ready to be warmed. We shared family stories with the others and watched the kids play as if there was nothing wrong in their worlds. I remember all the holidays we spent there and many of the people we met, some whom I worked with over time.

I will never forget how at home they made us feel and how loved and supported we were no matter what we were going through nor will I ever forget the little munchkins who would crawl all over my lap while they played. I know they're looking down on us from some better (for them) place.

Now that Xmas is about a month away, I'll ask you to think of this....

If you can't figure out what to get someone who seems to have everything, places like Ronald McDonald Houses always has a wish list; everything from towels to food. Do as I do and for clients, make donations in their names. If you have a House in your neck of the woods, call them and see what you might buy for the House that won't break your bank but that will make a difference. Remember that there are many, just as we did, who are spending their holidays away from home, family and friends. It's not paying it forward, it's giving forward.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Great Day

So my friend and working partner in crime John sent me a video of The Black Eyed Peas live in Chicago from September 2009. Now I love the song they sing on the video but what caught my eye was the crowd. I observe people for a living and something was different here. I leave it to you to check it out so you understand what I mean.

Thing is, after watching something like this, how could it not be a great day? This is contagious. Forward it to many so they can experience the energy and 'attitude' of this huge crowd in downtown Chicago. 

May your day be great and to all of you south of the border, Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Planet as 'a Limited Condition'

I was watching Carter Emmart's 3D atlas of the universe on for the umpteenth time. Something about it, other than the obvious, keeps me coming back to watch it again and again. He speaks about understanding out planet as a limited condition. We have finite resources available to us and yet, in many instances, we have to be told how to use them wisely as we haven't yet figured out that they will run out soon enough. 

Looking at this video what comes to mind is how small a speck in the universe each of us is and yet, one person can change the world even one person at a time. Collectively we are powerful. One person saying "Who am I to change the world?" can also impact others if them in turn step back and let other people do what has to be done to ensure a sustainable world. People are our most valuable resource. If we lead through a sense of humanity, we will thrive and if we lead trying to have power over others, we won't. This video is a reminder that even though the world is so much bigger than each of us, it's what houses and nourishes us all both as a physical planet and by the people who inhabit it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Power of our Beliefs

I love working with university students and lately, I especially love working with students in business programs. Why? Because their minds are bombarded by so much external information they're not even aware of how limiting that can be, and how these beliefs shape our personal operating systems. They are absorbing everything around them. They look at savvy marketing specialists, advertising, the bottom line financials, business models and so on.  What they don't look at is how much of this creates an environment that promotes limiting beliefs.

When they start to understand what beliefs are limiting and which beliefs help them fly in their careers, they begin to 'get it'. Even those who have a sense of what their operating systems and beliefs are, rarely look at their implications. That's where coaching these groups of students and having conversations with them (rather than speaking at them) builds greater awareness. Once they start recognizing the power of their beliefs, what supports them and what holds them back they will start creating something unique to them and have a much better chance of leaving the program heads above the crowd. That's the best part of my job; supporting students to evolve into their level of excellence.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Light and the Shadow

Everything we experience in life has a light and a shadow. If life only handed us wonderful experiences, we wouldn't be able to look at them in wonder as there would be no opposite, nothing dark to measure them against. With that, we would no longer look at our experiences as anything other than commonplace. It's all about balance.

My friend, Dave Lent shared a video of Bill Moyers Journal with me; his last show where he interviews Barry Lopez. It's an extraordinary interview, one I've already watched three times in order to absorb it fully. In it he speaks of technology and says, "I believe that there is a way for people to communicate with each other that they have never known before. It's never, I mean, part of this electronic world we live in, you know? It's got its darkness as well as its light.

But for people all over the world, in small groups, to be in touch with each other about what is welling up in every country, among every group of people, which is a desire for justice. You know, there-- I'm trying to remember the story. I don't remember the philosopher, the Greek philosopher who told the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Which really stuck when I first heard it, is that Zeus said to Prometheus, "Okay, you stole fire. Great for you. Now your people have technology. Wonderful. But here's something you don't know. You lack two things. And if you don't take these two things that I will give you, this will be a failure. Technology, you know, fire, all your magic, it will fail completely. It will be your undoing. And the two things that you need to make it work are justice and reverence. And if you have these two things, you won't get in trouble with this third thing that you thought was the be all and the end all."

We have the ability to connect with and touch more people than ever before. The question is, once we do, what is our message and how powerful an impact can it and will it have? Will it be positive or negative?

I invite you to listen to the rest.

And I thank Dave for sharing it so I can with you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Scheduling Life

Life doesn't unfold in consecutive and determined chunks of time that we can plan and schedule. Life happens as it happens and concurrently.

You can't leave your personal life behind completely when you go to work and you can't park all that you do or think about doing with regards to work until you walk back into the office the following day. Life isn't scheduled. Choices are.

If you choose to take on more than is humanly possible to do in a day, then you'll deal with the consequences tomorrow. And if a monkey wrench gets thrown into the equation if you get a flat tire or someone, yourself included, gets sick. You'll have to deal with that too. Either let life happen and choose a path along the way or, at the very least, learn to schedule in your emergencies. Life will still happen regardless.

Gift of a Gift

I just received a gift of the book Gift from the Sea. Just by reading the introduction I've already fallen in love with this book and know I will be reading it more than once. To quote the intro "The book makes it possible to quiet down and rest in the present, no matter what the circumstances might be. ....Even the sway and flow of language and cadence seem to me to make reference to the easy, inevitable movements of the sea."

I love being by the water, whether a lake, river or ocean. It's powerful while at the same time, mesmerising and helps me maintain my center and a sense of calm.

I often ask my clients to think of a place in nature that they can visualize when in the middle of a crisis or challenge. By closing their eyes even for a few moments and thinking of that special place, they find their center, breathe differently and after a minute or so can re-enter the chaos in a more reflective and responsive way.

I just ordered 5 more to give to the special women in my life. Gift From the Sea was a gift in more ways than one: Firstly that a dear friend thought of me to send it, the gift of the book itself, and one that I can pass on others to enjoy as well.


Monday, November 08, 2010

You're a Manager...Now What?

People in positions of leadership aren't necessarily great leaders. Many are promoted into high level positions and they're not sure they can do the job. Many think if they refuse a promotion it's a career-ender. So they take a breath, take the job and then ask "Now what?"

I just read an article from the Wall Street Journal "Bosses Overestimate Their Managing Skills". Many never questioned their ability to lead others in their first year as a manager. In my experience Shadow Coaching clients to help them integrate into their new role, many don't question their ability to lead because they're afraid of looking at what comes up in the answers.

People don't necessarily have blind spot about where they're weak. They do have fears about others seeing weakness which is why they rarely shine a light on them. Thing is, most people will say they respect a leader who admits to not having all the answers, especially when they listern, learn and co-create with their peers and staff.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reality Checker Posters

Many of my clients have been after me to start selling my reality checker posters so we listened!  

We'll be updating our offerings regularly as we format them  for high resolution printing so visit often to check them out. .

Click here to check them out

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Real Conversation is...

This morning I read an article by Preston Manning about political discourse in Canada. A question he posed was, "Why is it so difficult to have meaningful debate on health-care reform or environmental conservation measures in Canada’s political arena, despite the importance of such issues and the desperate need for action on both fronts?"

I would like to say the column is relevant and applicable beyond Canadian borders. How many times have you listened to a political debate in the US when the discussion (if you could call it that) promoted fear, slammed the opponent and totally ignored the issues at hand?

What happened to generative dialogue when two people come to the table, listen (yes, that word) to each other and then generate something very powerful for the sake of sustainability, thrivability, to serve the people they're supposed to be or wanting to be representing? What would it take for them to get over themselves and be present to the issue and challenges at hand?

How does this apply around a board room table? Governments? The UN? Executive committees? What would it take to make it stop?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Change Master

I just finished reading MJ Ryan's manifesto called Change Master. " In order to not merely to survive, but to thrive during the greatest period of transformation humans have ever experienced, we are all being called on to stretch mentally, emotionally, and spiritually into the future."

Now how relevant is this? There isn't a client organization I walk into these days that isn't dealing with change, transformation, downsizing, staffing up, redefining, centralizing, de-centralizing, going name it. Change is a constant and until you're able to contextualize it and integrate it into what you do every day, you're going to struggle.

This manifesto is a keeper. Read it. At least twice. Share it with others and then discuss it. You'll be amazed at what emerges.

And here's a book that I just bought on my Kindle that's giving me a great deal of food for thought and to get me going on a few projects. "GIST" ("great ideas for starting things"). If you want to check it out, first link is for books, second for Kindle.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commitment - Part 2

"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." - Goethe

Years ago I adopted the motto "I live my life in direct proportion to the commitments I make and keep". That applies to my life...personal and professional. We seem to live in a throw-away world where we throw away people by disrespecting or ignoring them, throw away jobs as we run from what might be difficult, rather than learning from difficulty, run towards something we might think is easier, when it usually isn't and throw away things when they lose their novelty.

When we honour our commitments, we honour ourselves and those we've committed to. If for some reason the status quo has changed, then we still honour ourselves when, if need be, the commitments are redefined and not ignored or not thrown away.

For me, that's called authenticity.

But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, am I?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

What Do You Have to Let Go Of?

I've asked this question before and, based on current trends and pressures, it looks like it's time I put this question on the table again. 

In order not to compromise quality of work, reputation, and trust, and to honor commitments, we have to look at what we accept and are accountable for and what we have to say no to. We also have to make choices to let go of some things so we can take on others.

Digging yourself out is making the difficult choices.  Digging yourself deeper is in thinking if you ignore those commitments, and remain silent about them, that they will go away. Not only won't they disappear but they'll turn into the shovel.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


If you want to succeed, be known as someone who lives by their word and honors commitments. I've been hearing way too many people lament on broken promises, commitments that aren't kept, appointments that are forgotten or tossed aside for something better and for promises made that are hollow with no intention of honoring them.

In one of my book interview conversations we spoke about how all too often people state something and then don't do it. People take their word so lightly. Why say something that you're not going to do? 

We have loyalty to businesses and professionals who value our time, energy and business. No matter what the deal, if we feel as if we're screwed in the process, we'll hesitate to go back. If it happens a second time we'll end up returning to or searching for the place that believes in authentic customer service. 

It happens in relationships, families, friendships, partnerships, all realms of our life. If we feel we've been set aside for something or someone 'better' that comes along, we won't stick around for long. I see it happening with social climbers. They made a commitment to do something or see someone but if someone more famous or better connected wants to book something, they're quick to cancel. 

Think twice before making that cancellation. That person just might end up being your boss or inlaws someday. Being set aside is something they will never forget.

Note: We are now up to 141 country subscribers!  There are too many to list here so to see what countries are a part of the Perspectives community of readers, check out the sidebar.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are Conversations Still Alive and Well?

Mitch Joel, in his blog Six Pixels of Separation asked "Are we seeing a new shift in Social Media? Are the conversations dead? Were they ever - really - alive?"

Yes, Mitch, conversations are still alive although floundering. Our organization ICCO (International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations) not only creates venues to have these generative conversations but make sure we keep the numbers small so we can approach the topics of the day, the future, and what organizations are living from multiple perspectives to create solutions. Those conversations don't happen talking at people.  They happen at in person edgy conversations that aren't happening anywhere else.These conversations continue through social media. Our Facebook, LinkedIn groups are alive and well and we continue the back and forth that was started in person.

I believe people engage in social media to get messages out there, and perhaps to get input. I see the power of blogs (evident as I'm posting on one right now) and how blogs like Mitch's get my mind going so I can share my perspectives with you.  I don't believe gathering a gazillion twitter followers and letting them know I'm having coffee at the Starbucks in Washington is going to stimulate (sorry about the pun) anyone's thinking or learning.

So again I find myself waffling about whether or not to keep my twitter going.

Conversations are powerful. They're necessary so we don't become a superficial world. In my book Leaders, Their Stories, Their Words, I explore this with Barry Libert who insists that a combination of social media and in person conversation is what's necessary to keep a healthy balance. I agree. Connection happens in two way conversations. Thanks for the reality check Mitch!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Passionate Creatives

One of my favourite sites, is filled with edgy manifestos, insightful material and brings together great minds who aren't shy about sharing their perspectives. My kind of people! I read one this morning which really resonated about the Power of Passionate Creatives by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison.
"Everyone can be a passionate creative. We all have the capacity to become passionate about some element of the world we live in. And passion fosters creativity, especially if we have the discipline to master the practices required to drive performance to new levels."
It's a great read and will get you thinking. I'd love to hear some of those thoughts. 
The Power of Passionate Creatives 
And if you'd like to read the whole book....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What's Changed in the World of Blackberry?

The constant here is Blackberry's reliability (as reliable as one can be in the world of technology) and consistency. I've been using a Blackberry as far back as I can remember. It almost never lets me down, and keeps me connected no matter where I am in the world.  In times of crisis, my clients can reach me and I can support them in whatever manner necessary and while keeping confidentiality which is paramount in my profession.  That too is a given. None of that has changed.

The Berry is a technology tool and, unlike what some people think, doesn't have a mind of its own (although hmmm sometimes I wonder) All those are givens.  Nothing's changed there either.

Controversy abounds around Blackberry because of its reliability.  What a concept. 

What has changed is how some people view that reliability and security as a potential threat. In order to be reliable, RIM has to exist and be profitable. In order to be profitable, they have to, in some way without compromising their integrity, make sure they don't alienate countries that buy the product and keep it profitable.

That's where the conversation has to happen...within the place where everyone feels supported, non-threatened and the company can thrive. It's about behavior, expectations, assumptions and accountability. That's the conversation I want to be a part of. You?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wisdom vs. Knowledge Continued

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about Wisdom vs. Knowledge. To expand on that for a moment...

Learning is more than gathering information”. Learning life's lessons, definitely and learning what lessons to hold onto through your life, absolutely. It's learning to learn.

Students are getting ready to go back to school and have to start asking the question "What do I really need to learn in order for me to create a future I love?  Who do I need to surround myself in school who will positively impact my future to be?

In this electronic age it's easy to create superficial relationships on Facebook on Twitter and by texting as many people as you can in the shortest amounts of time. What is that bringing you? Is it using your focus and time to your advantage or filling it up with 'whatevers and whoevers'?

This is the time (excuse the pun) when you're going to have to learn how to really make the best use of your time. When you're 'on', be 'on' and learn and absorb as much as you can…the tangibles and the nuances and subtleties of life. When you're off, fill that space with people, activities and experiences that will fill your life and not just fill up your life-'time'.

You will be bombarded with stuff.  Be smart about what you choose to pay attention to and what you choose to ignore. Getting to know people, connecting with people in relationships and making the choice to continuously be a learner will always serve you.

It's a start.

Hold onto some things and let go of others. Learning to make those choices will be the best lesson you ever learn.

Oh and for those of you who are long past school age? Whoever said this only applied to that generation? Ask yourself "What am I unwilling to let go of?" and "Why?"

Monday, August 09, 2010

What (Who) Are You Paying Attention To?

Friendship survival guide: Barbara Mahany has some great points here. And to take it a step further, how about relationship survival guide? Sure you might go out Sat night, but when's the last time you went out on a date during the week on the spur of the moment? Or do you let the 'I have to pick up the kids, do the laundry, watch that program' get in the way of deepening a relationship? Hmm...chores vs. someone who's (supposedly) important to you. What (who) are you paying more attention to?

I can imagine some of you poised and ready to flex your fingers and start typing every reason in the book why you are so busy you don't have time for a middle-of-the-week date. You're about to defend your POV to the hilt. For those of you who are married I'm hearing "I see her / him every day? Why do I have to go on a date?" For those in a long term relationship in separate abodes, perhaps at the beginning you did the spontaneous stuff but do you continue to do that to keep the relationship alive? Stuff you used to do those first few months such as sending notes in the middle of the day, surprise phone calls for no reason?  Those things that don't take much time but do take thoughtfulness. The kind of things that create a smile on someone's face for hours afterwards and gives them the feeling that they're important.

Friends, partners, family...this applies to all. Yep laundry has to be done and there are other times to do it (like when you are watching that special show, maybe even with your S.O.?) and no, you don't always have to pick up the kids if they're old enough to bus it, and whisking your partner away for a dinner out on what was a crazy busy day just might be the perfect gift to show someone how much you care about them.  

You get my drift. 

It's not about busyiness. It's about taking a moment to think about someone you claim to really care about. And if you're about to give me a what for for bringing this up? Just before you press send ask yourself "What or who am I fighting for?"

The laundry will be there tomorrow.  But will that person be?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Why Do I Blog?

I don't write often enough, I know. My readers tell me that on a regular basis....which means they're reading and wanting to read more. There isn't a day that goes by when I'm not asked "Why do you blog?" 

I blog to share, to get my thoughts down in some semblance of coherence. I write so I hear what you have to say on all sorts of topics and write because writing doesn't come easily to me.

To quote one of my favorite bloggers, Seth Godin, "Blogging is free. It doesn't matter if anybody reads it. What matters is the humility that comes from writing it. What matter is the meta-cognition of thinking about what you're going to say. How do you explain yourself to the few employees - or your cat - or whoever is going to look at it? How do you force yourself to describe - in three paragraphs - why you did something? How do you respond out loud? If you're good at it [blogging], some people are going to read it. If you're not good at it, and you stick with it, you'll get good at it. This has become much bigger than, "are you Boing Boing or The Huffington Post?" This has become such a micro-publishing platform that you're basically doing it for yourself... to force yourself to become a part of the conversation, even if it's not that big. That posture change, changes an enormous amount."

Beautifully stated.

So stay tuned as I'm going to be writing more often and look forward to hearing you, what you want to be reading, what you're living and what your three cents are.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Telecommuting Keeps You Balanced

Well this is refreshing. Data actually supporting telecommuting from a individual perspective.

ScienceDaily (June 2, 2010)Not surprising: Telecommuters balance work and family life better than office workers.  Surprising: They can maintain that balance even while sometimes squeezing in a couple extra days' worth of work each week. Read on...

We won't go into the challenges to the organization at the moment. Stay tuned for that. Data supports that telecommuters have a better (OK for the record I really don't like this term but will use it here) work / life balance, enables telecommuters to have fuller lives, be more productive and, of course increases the big H or happiness factor. What a concept!

So if people are happier, more productive and you have reasons as long as your arm as to why telecommuting is detrimental to an organization's effectiveness, time to get over it. You just might have to redesign how the organization is structured to support all these happy, productive people. Rather than figure out all the reasons you're going to come up with (and write me about) why it doesn't work, how about figure out how it can and let us know? Let's face it, unhappy people leave an organization. Happy people want to stay and be successful. A building filled with stressed, 'unbalanced' people doesn't sound effective in my book. It might be easier for managers to keep their thumbs on staff and monitor their every 5 minute break  but is that the kind of organization you want to be working in?


Monday, July 12, 2010

Living in an anything but linear world

If anyone wonders why I do what I's described beautifully here. Not only do love what I do because it is more who I am than what I do, but because I help people from the first category, find their way into the second and then fly! 

One of the reasons why I Shadow Coach™ is because my clients' worlds are not linear. Their shadows are often revealed when they're not paying attention and their discoveries about themselves and their worlds happen in the moment. Thus, they benefit by being coached in real time as well.

This really makes you think. Check out Sir Ken Robinson on

And talk about timing.  This was today's Hugh masterpiece!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Ins and Outs of Effective Listening

Effective listening is an essential competency for anyone who wishes to be a leader. They need to understand how to motivate and empower others. Active, clarifying listening skills is important when people need direction or advice and prevents us giving premature solutions without having all the facts, thereby very often magnifying the problem rather than solving it. As well, it helps us to avoid misunderstandings coming from wrong interpretations of what is being said. Listening effectively also helps us control feelings and emotions that may be triggered the moment we feel blame comes into play.

Effective and active listening helps one to avoid conflict, obtain knowledge we didn't have before, capture ideas and expand on them with another individual and recognise others for valuable input and contributions to an organisation's success.

When we don't listen to others....hear where they're coming from, we in effect show them they have no value whatsoever. These people are not leaders. They are dictators.

Those who don't listen usually feel they already know what they're going to hear (clairvoyants?) or seek confirmation not information (their way is the only way so why waste time and hear another point of view?).

Be honest with any of these ring true? And if you don't want to be honest with yourself, (that would be seeking confirmation of what you want to hear not information), ask those around you what they think.

• You Compare - You don't listen because you're already wondering who is better. (One upmanship)
• You read minds - You already know what they're going to say and are trying to figure out what's behind it (feelings, emotions, water cooler talk etc).
• You're Rehearsing - After the first two words you're already figuring out your response (without really hearing what you'll be responding to. A great way to start conflict)
• You Filter - You hear what you want to hear and filter out the rest.
• You Judge - They're not worthy of your attention, so why waste time listening?
• You Daydream - You listen to a fraction of what's said. You're thinking about your last meeting or date.
• You Identify - Everything they tell brings to mind something that happened to you, but it was MUCH better or worse or faster or ......and jump in with your story right away. Their experience doesn't count.
• You give advice - Miss or Mister Fix-it. After three words you can solve the problems of the world. Oh...there wasn't a problem? (Now there is!)
• You Argue - You love debate. It's been too instead of "hearing" the other person, you're going to look for something to argue about (mentally rubbing your hands together with glee just looking for that first target.....)


It's time to realise you don't know everything. Everyone who walks by you, who works and lives with you knows something about life that you don't. Leaders acknowledge this and look to expand their realm of knowledge every minute of every day while strengthening skills and talents at the same time.

A Few Guidelines:

• Listen for ideas, not only facts and ask yourself and the other person what they mean. What it means to you can have an entirely different meaning to someone else. This is how ideas are born.
• Judge what they say not how they say it. Keep your emotions out of it.
• Listen for value. It's in there somewhere.
• Don't judge and jump to conclusions without all the facts.
• Be flexible. How a person communicates isn't necessarily the same as you. And if you don't understand the point, take notes to ask the speaker later.
• Concentrate. Keep eye contact. If you start daydreaming you're just going to have to ask them for the same information again and there's no easy way to do that without showing them you've ignored them the first time around.
• Listen at the Speaker's pace. If you forge ahead, you're going to lose what HE'S saying.
• Open your mind to the possibility that you don't know it all! There might be something new for you to grasp.
• React to what the speaker is saying. Nod, use body language that shows you're listening. Keep eye contact, use language that invites more, and ask for clarification if you don't understand where this is going.
• Listen for the other person's point of view.

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand." - Karl A. Menninger

Donna Karlin

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Have I mentioned I love my Kindle?  As a tactile person I wondered how I'd take to this piece of technology. I love the feel of books, turning the pages, the texture of the paper so I'm surprised at how much I have grown to love my Kindle.

I am forever in airports, travelling for work, sometimes commuting to another country for a day at a time. There is something to be said about travelling light, taking my Kindle out at the airport or in another city or country, reading my newspaper from home, being able to call up and download a book in seconds that would benefit me and my clients and being able to take 20 or 30 books with me as reference points, all in this light weight, easy to read piece of technology.

What does that mean for me though?  Bottom line? I'm reading twice as much as I did before. I can read in the in-between times.  I read the paper from cover to cover because I can pick it up everywhere and can read fiction, business books even documents I would have had to wait to get back to my office to access before.

Ahh tech life is good!

Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6" Display, Global Wireless, Latest Generation)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

For the Sake of ....?

"Progress is built, in effect, upon the foundations of necessary failure. That is the essential paradox of expert performance." - Matthew Syed

Is it always a bad thing when people or organizations fail and have to start over?

We've heard the terms constructive destructionism. We've seen great people come together as teams and create a toxic environment.

Is it better to keep organizations together no matter what or revisit what has to happen "for the sake of what?"

Just askin.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Is your day...your life so jam packed that you struggle to try to fit things and people in? Time to create space in your world, make some choices as to what to do and what to don't, to stop doing what's expected of you and start doing what you can positively impact (including for your life).

What do you absolutely have to do and what do you absolutely have to NOT do? That's a place to start.

Donna Karlin

Note: We stand by the commitment to our clients to not take on more people than we can have time to serve and serve well. To that end, we have just transitioned two clients into new positions and are now open to taking two new clients to fill those slots. Contact us for more information.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saying yes when you know you should be saying no

Do you say yes to things you know aren't in your best interest because you're worried about what others will think if you say no?

You only have so much time in a your life. Why in the world would you want to be throwing that time away? If you say yes to something, does it evolve you? Have impact? Make a difference in someone's life? Your organization? Unless you can say yes to some of those questions, it's time to redefine.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


If you want to be 'fixed' or explore the reasonings behind why your past is dictating your choices for your future, then get a therapist or counsellor. If you want to grow, explore possibilities beyond your knowing, experience or present thinking, evolve, become superconductive, hone your talents and strengths so you become masterful at them and craft an amazing future, then hire a coach.

Two people...thought partners in crime are way better than none.

Your choice. It starts with perspectives

Friday, April 30, 2010

Learning Comes from All Perspectives

I just spent most of the week working in Washington DC at a Performance Improvement Retreat..a government experience: turning to a new playbook. What a concept being able to toss the old aside and create radical positive change, especially in a bureaucratic environment. Did I achieve my goal in helping them see through new eyes? I believe I did.

One of the participants came to me at the end of the 2 days and asked me what I had learned. That's not a question I'm generally asked. It was a great question and I think I shared an unexpected answer, both for the asker and for me.

It's amazing where learning happens. I learned what the participants were living in their environments from many departments and agencies, federal and state, high intensity positions and more low key ones. I learned about the assumptions they were operating from... and what it looked like to them when I helped them see beyond the assumptions and over the roadblocks that seemed insurmountable. I learned that no matter how de-energized some of these participants might have been, they were willing to dive in and co-create something powerful with people they had just met for the first time so they could bring back learning and a new play book to their respective worlds.

I learned that situations are similar on both sides of the border and how powerful a coaching model can be in these types of situations. And I learned how trusting a group can be when you show them you're really interested and are there to speak with them not at them.

I learned a lot and will bring that learning to everything I do from now on with clients, colleagues and students slike. Most of all I was reminded at how learning continues well beyond retreats and ocnversations if we keep our eyes open to it and learn to find what we don't know way more fascinating than what we do know.

Donna Karlin

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tech Toys

OK, I admit it...I love technology. It brings the world closer, makes it easier for me to be able to read in the in-between times, has lightened my briefcase considerably when I travel and allows me to connect with, talk with and stay in touch with those who are important to me. 

I'm constantly asked about the technology I use, how it benefits me and what I recommend.

And before you ask the question "Are you addicted?"  I do know where the off switch is on my Blackberry and use it.  I don't talk on the Berry when in restaurants as I want to be 'present' to whoever I'm with, don't glance at it in concerts or theatres and don't wake up in the middle of the night and sneak a peak at my email.

I do, however keep in touch with family, friends and past clients on Facebook,  many of whom I wouldn't have stayed in contact with any other way.  I use LinkedIn to connect with potential collaborators and clients, let my professional world know what I'm up to and cross post, so what I write here will automatically be tweeted, sent to my LinkedIn and Facebook professional page, different networks, one post.  I don't Tweet everything I do at every moment of the day nor do I follow the world as if I spend any time on Twitter it will be to read something valuable to me.

I discovered which makes scheduling for personal and professional life a breeze (not to mention choosing a restaurant, menu choice or colour), for my online scheduler, can't imagine my world without iTunes and my Kindle world so I have music and books with me wherever I go and my trusty little netbook which tucks into my purse and brings a myriad of eBooks, documents and graphics with me as I run to clients, in and out of airports and hotels on my travels and keeps me connected via Skype so I can call home, work, friends all for a song.

And watch out 'cause as an avid writer and one who loves to play with logos, I cannot WAIT for this!  Courier journal

In my opinion there is nothing like face to face connection but when it isn't possible, I know I can bring a piece of the world with me, one tech toy at a time.

Now off to download a couple of books to read on the go.  Any suggestions?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Powerful or just busy?

You can…

  • Wade through emails and be thrilled when the number in your inbox is diminishing
  • Answer the phone every time it rings, just because it rings
  • Cross off the L O N G to do list which was generated for whatever reason, without considering whether everything on there is important or not
  • Fulfill an obligation even though neither of you might benefitting from it
  • Try to anticipate roadblocks and build in safe guards "just in case", often creating them in the process
  • Aim for "good enought to pass"
Or, you can...
  • Create a team or community of practice / interest where you can collectively bring your best to the table to pack a punch
  • Instead of wading through a to-do list, ask yourself "What do I absolutely have to do?" and "What do I absolutely have to NOT do?"
  • Give value just because (in other words, for no specific reason at all)
  • Open yours (and other's) minds to possibility rather than worrying about potential pitfalls and problems
  • Define excellence rather than a passing grade or mediocrity
  • Give up worry and replace it with focus and action
Your choice....or not

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Basic Understanding of Our 'Personal Operating System'

Is it time to pay attention to your 'personal operating system' and perhaps upgrade it if it's buggy? What ARE you thinking?

While I was waiting for my client in a busy area of her organization, I reflected on some of the observations I was making with regards to conversations going on, emotional triggers, wondering at behavioral drivers, automatic responses, levels of disinterest and stated perceptions. People are fascinating. It's extraordinary to observe and coach leaders in action. The learning curve for me when it comes to behavioral drivers and organizational chemistry is huge. Listening to some of the staffers in conversation boggled my mind.

So as I sat there, watched and listened, I wondered why some people didn't care if they learned anything new ever again and yet wondered why they were so unhappy. As I listened to someone share tidbits of her vacation with a colleague I heard the response "One day I want to..." and all her energy went into the 'one day' but not the "how can I make it happen?" I wondered at a group of people stopping at the foot of an escalator, seeing another group approach and not move. What good could ever come of that? They only moved when they were about to be run over. Can we draw that analogy to life? Doing things when it's necessary and not a moment before, taking care of our health when the doctor or circumstance gives us a life or death warning.

I listened to a discussion about winning vs. losing. I always wondered about how some people think there can be a win-lose (I'm not talking about a competition here). There's win-win and lose-lose and when someone thinks they won and someone else lost, then it's definitely a lose-lose. They might not see it at the moment but it becomes evident over time. I watched a couple of people being bullied openly. I wonder how someone at a high level of leadership can think there's anything acceptable about bullying others. There isn't. Ever.

Then I listened to some state how bored they are. How can anyone find this world a boring place when there is more to learn than anyone can in ten lifetimes?

And then, as my client approached, I listened to someone speak to her in double talk with nothing of substance, no position, no stated objective but just trying to placate my client and thought of a wonderful quote that was shared with me a while back. "What takes real effort (and in final analysis is most rewarding) is making a stand and then living up to it." - Elliott Powell, Assistant Director, National Business Center, Department of the Interior.

That says it all. It goes for us, towards others and for those we impact whether or not we're aware of what that impact is. It's time for us all to figure out how to upgrade our personal operating system. What's out of date and buggy and has to be replaced? If you're leading at any level, remember your attitude is contagious. How deeply you're trusted is contagious as well and will be shared throughout the organization. People don't want to hear "yes" all the time. They want the truth, and to know what's possible, what's do-able and how they can contribute to the overall success of the organization. They want to know someone is watching their backs, to be able to set personal boundaries and to know they are supported to excel. Oh yes...definitely the most rewarding, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Redefining How Government Works

Do you work in government? Are you a leader? Change agent? Are you wondering what's on the horizon when it comes to taking how government works into the next decade and beyond?

The Center for Radical Improvement is holding a retreat to do just that.

To quote Jeffrey Press, the Executive Director of The Center for Radical Improvement in Washington, DC "The only thing holding us back from radically improving our performance is our beliefs about our work and our organizations. Once we have the opportunity to change those beliefs, a whole different world of possibilities become available." to a Coach's ears, especially one who works within government and political organizations.

Generative and interactive conversations will include:
• We don’t make widgets: overcoming the myths that keep government from radically improving performance appraisals: why they backfire and what to do instead
• the ethics of dissent: managing guerilla government
• creating a high performance culture in the public service
• leading program performance by asking the right questions
• using performance information to drive decision making and improve results

If you're serious about morphing how government works and you're a leader who's had enough of what is, come and help create what can be.

Click here to

Don't miss it!

Donna Karlin

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Slowing Down to the Speed of Thought

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not the only the scenery you miss by going to fast-you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” -Eddie Cantor

Slowing Down to the Speed of Thought
I recently had a short session with a client where he said “My fundamental weakness is I’m not the type of person to make split second decisions. I need processing time to figure out how I’ll respond to things and what’s happening as a result is I’m getting killed by those wanting an answer and now!”

I turned to him and asked “Why in the world do you look at that aspect of your personality as a weakness? In this context, what you’re doing is helping the other slow down to the speed of conscious thought, therefore making informed decisions rather than jumping into the deep end without a life preserver”. He had never thought of it that way.

So, when you hear the term “buying time”, what is the first thing you think of? Is it more time to do things, see things, to play and shelve work for the time being? Is it “I wish I could clone myself so I could do more” and “I wish I had more time to…”? Truthfully it had nothing whatsoever to do with having more time, saving time or finding time (did you lose it somewhere?) so something else could be slotted into that chunk of time. It’s having extra time….unplanned time, space….nothingness, quiet time, time to just be, to let the thoughts fly in any direction, to think, imagine and explore possibility.When do you have creative time, time to conceptualize, to strategize, to play, learn, and get to know others? Or time to just unwind and relax?

It’s All About Choices
“You can’t do everything you’d like to do. You must hold on to some things and let go of others. Learning to make that choice will be the best lesson you’ll ever learn”
– Donna.

What do you have to let go of? What are you holding on to, figuring you yourself have to do it or you have to finish it, even though it no longer serves you? For most it’s not as hard saying ‘no’ to others as it is giving yourself permission to use that word. How much more could you give others if you freed up time to do what you should be doing? These are hard questions, but important ones to answer.

Donna Karlin

**Note: For experienced coaches, The School of Shadow Coaching™ is holding the next training in Toronto, Ontario March 11th – 12th, 2010.
Click here to register. Class sizes are kept small so register now to ensure your place in the training.

Remember, the gap between where you are and where you want to be is filled by what you choose to do in the time available to you…every conversation, thought, choice and decision, so choose all wisely. - Donna Karlin

Friday, February 12, 2010

Leadership - Defined?

What is a great leader exactly? That is one of the questions consistently tossed about all over the world. I've read books upon books on leadership, write about leadership but is it defined in the true sense of the term or does a leader's unique style define it along the way?

If defining a leader was based on proficiency or criteria, would that align with the individuality of the organization or the people within it? Is it something one can be measured against now or after the fact? Think about it. How many people are considered great leaders the moment they walk into the position? They don't. That is earned after they've achieved success.

A catch 22 perhaps?

Theodore Roosevelt said "The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."

If you take that quote and take it to mean a person in a position of leadership (who else would be picking their people?) then does it mean someone that gives direction and then backs off?

A constant complaint from clients.....their work is checked and rechecked and half the time discarded. It’s demoralizing to them and deflates their desire to produce. Yet how many leaders do that?

Ralph Marston wrote "Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You're able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment." By doing that, you not only empower those who work with/for you but grow and learn at the same time. Is that a better definition of leadership?

Ask yourself this question....if you lost your title, position and power tomorrow, would others still support you and want to work with you? A difficult question to ask, but an important one at that. It's a question many don't want to be asked because they're afraid of hearing the answer. In this day and age that question is translated into a 360°. You're told in every which way whether or not staff, peers and superiors would follow your lead. But what is done with those 360s afterwards?

I know...many questions. Coaches are great at asking questions for clarification. And as there are many of you out there who are quick as a whip, have insight, opinions, ideas and perspectives I'd love to throw a few questions out at you..

1. How do you define a true leader?
2. Should there be a tool or assessment for a future leader to be measured against before taking on the position?
3. Should peer assessments be done on a regular basis to see if that leaders is measuring up?
4. In some organizations, staff is now choosing their leader. Does that ultimately make a difference in the success or an organization?


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Are You the Best Communicator in the World?

"If you feel shy, nervous, or afraid, you're not crazy, you're not alone, and today
is the day you stop letting ugly communication damage your relationships. Authentic
communication can become as natural as breathing - when you pay attention to a few
essential aspects of what connects people." - Jon Wortmann

We can evolve people through language or we can demolish them. The same applies for relationships, business, personal or even meeting strangers in passing. This is a great manifesto and will get you thinking and asking the question "What do I need to do to be able to express exactly what I'm thinking, feeling, wondering...all of it.

Read on...

Then let me know what you think!

Donna Karlin