Saturday, December 31, 2011

Memories, Intentions and Wishes

"The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind."  - Thalassa Cruso

I love this time of year when, after a fresh snowfall, the trees sparkle in the sunlight and our boots make that squeaky crunching sound. Last year I wrote about scent-triggered memories of our time in the country. I make a point of revisiting it, as a reminder of what is so precious in our lives…the gift of time to create these kinds of memories. So many of these traditions are carried on in our home today.

We still bake and cook up a storm as family and friends come in for the holidays. Meals and stories are shared, as is laughter and happy tears in the telling of them. Some of the mental snapshots are brought back by the scent of the snow-covered pines that wrap around the house, the smell of cinnamon and chocolate, slow-cooked stews and spiced orange cakes fill the house with the scent of home, present and past. A new puzzle is ready to go so anyone coming into the house can find that piece we'd been looking for for what seemed like hours. Music, well, music is always a part of our home as we listen to oldies, hum as we putter, and all in all, create the space we need to enjoy, share and make new memories to share in the future.

As the new year dawns, it's time for me to set some intentions.  I've been thinking long and hard on what they need to be in order to craft a great year and here is what I came up with...

I intend:
·    to remember that life is not black or white, all or nothing;
·    to do what really matters and make smart choices for how to use my time and money in the best possible way;
·    to mentor more…teach more;
·    to ask people to share their stories and learn more about life and living through their experiences;
·    to continuously learn; and
·    to protect and cherish the "space" I create in my life to live and enjoy life with those I love so we can create new wonderful memories in the making.

So for the year to come, I encourage you to look at everyday moments as extraordinary. Celebrate the small things as much as the huge ones, let people celebrate you, give to you and pamper you even just a little…then a little more and remember to reciprocate. Pay attention to who's around you, what's around you and what you surround yourself with (thoughts, feelings, people and experiences), for those choices will create what your life will be. 

Question things. Recognise you might not always get the answer and might have to live in the questions, but that's OK too. I wish you a fresh, sparkling new year filled with joy, a newfound awareness of yourself and others, good health and the realization of your deepest and innermost dreams.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

15 Tips to Live 2012 Intentionally

Many of my clients talk to me about making New Year's resolutions to bring about change in their lives, professionally and personally. I don't think we can separate the two. We live life by intention, either actively or passively. Intentions = results. It's not about resolutions that might get left by the's about what do you intend to do about how you hold yourself, make choices and interrelate that will create the shifts you want to see happen? Here are (in my book) 15 absolutes. If you adopt even some of them, shifts will occur. If you adopt all of them, the shifts will be dramatic.

  1. If you make a commitment, keep it.  If you can't honor it, then don't make it in the first place. That means considering what you have the capacity to do before committing. Which leads to...
  2. Don't take something on unless you can do it fully. It will not only negatively impact your reputation for excellence but take time, focus, energy and money away from what you could be doing really well.
  3. Let go of what others can do as well or better than you. Stick to what you're masterful at. Why be one of a million when you can be one in a million?
  4. Figure out what you have to let go of in order to free up space for opportunities. Too many opportunities are missed because they're put on the back burner for when you "have time". Too many opportunities are missed because you're so bogged down you didn't see them in the first place.
  5. Get out of your realm. See what other people are doing and living. Yes, hone your skills by being a continuous learner but check in with those you impact by the work you do. That's the best way to know what shifts you have to make to serve them better and, in turn, you'll be better for it. That's the road to mastery.
  6. Try something new every day…a food, another genre of music, speak to someone you've never spoken to before…..then reflect on the experience and learning.
  7. Say thank you.
  8. Ask someone to share their story. 
  9. Book at least 15 minutes a day for reflective thought. 30 minutes is better.
  10. Figure out what limiting belief (one at a time) is holding you back. Then figure out what you have to do to let go of it. If you need help with that, get it. Holding on to limiting beliefs won't serve you. Period.
  11. Whatever you do for others, do it from choice not obligation. Both of you will know the difference.
  12. Do what really matters. Don't do what doesn't.
  13. Simplify. Just because life might be complex, it doesn't mean it has to be overly complicated.
  14. Give the gift of presence. If you're with someone, be with them.
  15. Take risks.  Playing it safe isn't playing at all.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shared Learning....and What's Next

2011 was filled with learning in every realm of my world and my life. There were so many shifts for me. I not only wanted to share what the learning is and was but acknowledge those who were instrumental in creating those shifts.

I continue to learn that it's possible to grow older without growing old from my parents. They are more with-it, energetic, insightful, and up to the minute than pretty much anyone else I know. I'm constantly learning what new leadership looks like from my son and daughter-in-law. It's not about off with the old and on with the new. They integrate what they learned from those before them with what works for them for their present and future.  I learned from Ray what it means to disconnect and enjoy life, (although what I do is as much who I am as my profession but he's really good about putting up with me. He makes it so easy for me to be me). 

I learned the art of sharing knowledge, time, energy and expertise graciously and selflessly from Renee Freedman and  John Spence. 

I learned you can have the difficult, courageous conversations with a friend and still remain a true friend. I consistently learn from my friends who are my family by choice what authentic friendship means and from others what friendship isn't and make my choices accordingly.

I learned how to dive in and (as Seth Godin would say) know it's time to say "Ship it". 

I learned a lot from Seth this year. I'm waffling between saying thank you and saying "Seth, get out of my head" …but as his words of wisdom were not only timely but a great 2 x 4 to the side of my head reality check, and because of them, I made a lot of changes in how I do what I do, whether coaching, writing, teaching or living…. "Thank you" wins hands down.  And I've learned that pretty much anything he publishes, either his work or someone else's is something I WILL learn from, tangible or intangible. It might push every button I have and then some, but the learning curve will be HUGE!

I experienced the differences between having a book published and publishing a book... when to draw the line and acknowledge that delays are more damaging than the odd typo….and not to wait until 100 people think it might be good enough before getting it out. I learned who I could work with and who I couldn't, what conferences I'd attend and which ones I won't any more. It's time to see what people are living in realms outside of coaching. I need to learn more about people and what they're living in order to work best with them from their perspective, not coaches'. I continue to learn how to shift my view of the world and my place in it. 

I learned that we learn from stories and how we connect our stories with those of others'. It's personal that way. We learn better and remember  the lessons longer when a story connects to who we are or who we want to be. I learned from my clients everything from turbulence and chaos to success and accomplishment and that sometimes the latter is harder for them to deal with than the former. 

I learned from the TED Fellows that everything I didn't think was possible…is possible.  Thank you Jessica, Dominic, Adital, Su, John, Jon, Cesar, Naomi, Katie, Zubaida, Colleen, Kellee, Rachel, Eric, for opening my eyes to your worlds and inviting me in.

I learned from Ron Kitchens and Ruth Ann Harnisch that it's not about giving just to support….it's about giving to support greatness, growth, innovation and learning. It's about giving so those they give to get stronger and are independent.  They are Human-Based Leaders in more ways than I can list here.

Through this year's experiences, not to mention through Laurier LaPierre, I was reminded of how proud I am to be Canadian. I love travelling and working all over the world but really love coming home. I am continuously reminded that, although we are similar to other countries, we are unique as a people and a country. We're just quieter about it. We have to be more vocal about it. 

I learned from everyone in my book Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words.  They shared their lives with me above and beyond anything I knew before. Thank you to John, the two Rons, Ruth Ann, Joe, Laurier, JD, Rick, Tom, Barry, Frank and Robert and all the others who shared their words of wisdom. Even though it's my book and I've read it 1000 times, I learn something new every time I read or share a passage from it. 

Everyone has a story and I can't wait to hear them all. Everyone knows something I don't know about life and living and through their stories, I'll continue to learn about them, their worlds and myself. 

For next year, there is a ton in the works. In addition to client work, I'll be doing more team and team dynamics work, part of that will be working with clients on putting in place a reverse mentoring program in their organizations and coaching what emerges through those conversations. I'll be speaking at Catalyst University in Kalamazoo. Talk about an innovative, community-growing initiative! I will be collaborating with client and friend Tuuli Sauren from INSPIRIT International Communications on a workshop for sustainable design to take place in Milan, Italy and partnering with friend and colleague David Drake as we bring Shadow and Narrative Coaching together for the first (but I'm sure not last) time in Toronto early next year. I'll be continuing my work with the TED Fellows which is such a gift to me, wearing my Dean hat with the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations, and teaching more with MBAs, university students and even doing some guest teaching at the high school level which I'm very excited about. 

There will be another book in the works….maybe two. What form that'll take is still to be determined.  Stay tuned!

I'm continuing to learn how to better use Social Media and am thankful for the amazing people I've met through it who I wouldn't have connected with any other way.  

There's more but I don't want to clue you in on everything just yet. 

Suffice it to say, I'm hoping from reading this you'll reflect on your learning this year. The easy lessons and the hard, the life lessons and professional ones. I know I want to learn at least as much or more from the up-and-comings than from the leaders who are about to retire. I want to continue to believe that nothing is impossible. It just hasn't been invented yet and even then, the TED Fellows are showing me otherwise.

I'm sure there will be challenges in 2012 but I know the year will be extraordinary nevertheless. With people like this touching my life, how could it be anything else? If you see that I've missed something or someone, then let me know. Tell me your stories, share your dreams and aspirations and maybe I'll be able to point you in a direction. We all have a definitive amount of time to make our presence felt. Choose what you do with it wisely… who you spend your time with, learn from and what sandbox you're going to play in. Make whatever changes in life you need to make to be the best, the happiest, and the most fulfilled person you can be.

Begin now and in doing so, remember to take risks. Opportunities and people don't stay around forever. Live life to the fullest extent, don't just exist from day to day. Share your dreams with others, as if you keep them silent they will eventually die away. Help them help you make them happen. And may 2012 be great in every way.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011


John Spence, Human-Based Leader, bar none (Chapter 1 in Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words) wrote this amazing list called "What Should You Give"? in The Jungle of Life. With his permission, I'm re-posting it and asking you, what would YOU add to this list?

"A Damn: “Life is a dar­ing adven­ture – or noth­ing at all” ~ Helen Keller

Help: to any­one you can offer it to.

LOVE: to your­self first… then to as many oth­ers as pos­si­ble – you have an end­less      sup­ply!

Respect: because EVERYONE is wor­thy of it.

Hugs: as long as HR does not have a rule against it – ugh!

Freely of your best ideas: the future will be unlocked through col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­ativ­ity.

Advice: when it is asked for… and then… care­fully!

Advice: some­times – only some­times – when it is NOT asked for… and then even MORE care­fully!!

Men­tor­ing: help oth­ers to avoid some of the mis­take you have made.

Gen­er­ously: to a char­ity you are truly pas­sion­ate about.

Time: to peo­ple who will not waste it.

Wis­dom: to those who love you and will lis­ten.

Your­self a break: you are not sup­posed to be per­fect – let that go.

Praise and thanks: to every­one – often!!

100% of your per­sonal effort: life is not a dress rehearsal.

A smile: pass along some warmth and joy to oth­ers.

Under­stand­ing: remem­ber that every­one you meet is fight­ing a mighty bat­tle.

Give, give, give and give some more. Embrace an abun­dance men­tal­ity by under­stand­ing deeply that if you just help enough other peo­ple get what they need – you will get every­thing you need.

I promise this works – I GIVE you my word!"

One that I added was Presence. Be present with the person or people you’re with. Pay attention to them, which means stop doing three other things when you’re with someone. Listen, learn from them, hear who they are and what they’re saying (and what they’re not saying out loud).

What would you want to give?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Journey and Birth of "Leaders"

Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words finally launched this past Wednesday. Through recent months we tossed around ideas for the launch, where it would be, and what we wanted to do. For those who come to book signings and launches, show up at a book store, stand in line to have your purchased book personalized, and perhaps have a few seconds with the author, it's a fleeting, impersonal experience that you might remember when you pick up the book to read it.

We wanted something more personal, a celebration of sorts. The launch was that and so much more...but I'll get back to that in a moment. Surprisingly, many of the people who attended asked me about the journey of writing this book, the around the edges story behind the book of stories. I wasn't expecting that.

Was it an easy journey? 

Was it a memorable, lessons-learned one?
Definitely. So much so, that it almost warrants a book on its own to take you through the journey and birth of "Leaders". Bottom line is, I learned it's not only alright to ask for what you want rather than have to live with what you think you can get when you publish but it's mandatory. A book takes a lot of time, focus, energy and commitment. It might not be the most perfect book but it's an expression of you and what you want to bring to light to the rest of the world. It's your voice in print. I know I will do this differently the next time around.

It was a journey of twists and turns, roadblocks and delays, missed deadlines, commitments not honoured, celebrating milestones, and heated debates - the full spectrum of highs and lows. I had to stand firm with my first publisher on the language that was used as these were conversations in our words, not a series of crafted, perfectly constructed sentences which were always grammatically correct. Let's face it. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone and worried about sentence structure and punctuation?

I also stood firm on the spelling, which probably drove my copy-editor batty as I insisted if I were speaking, and speaking to a Canadian leader, the spelling had to be in Canadian English and when speaking to an American, my words had to be in Canadian spelling and theirs in US. The spell check on the computer lit up like fireworks. Honouring cultures is critical to me and in my work. This is a small fraction of how that manifests itself. There were many heated discussions about terminology. Where I grew up in Montreal, we often use words that are direct translations from French, although I'm an Anglophone. So you might hear me say "Open (or close) the lights" rather than turn them on or off and other terms such as "Go to the cash" to pay for something. I'm still not sure how others say it but I insisted I leave it in as that was what I said in the conversation. I constantly found myself telling my editor / publisher "These are our words, not yours." Too often I found the magic of the conversations compromised for the sake of ensuring perfect grammar or sentence structure. I had to fight to protect it.

Finally, due to delays and capacity issues my publisher was dealing with, it was time to sever that working relationship and move on. Was the book going to go to print? This labour of love was in jeopardy. I had to make some tough decisions not to mention do rewrites and design changes if this book would ever get out.

Well it did. After more than 2 actually closer to 3 years of delays and unmet commitments, many lessons learned, some, thanks to Seth Godin's reality check questions around delivering, shipping, commitments, what are we willing to put up with etc., it was ready to go. Now what? I called my son who pointed me in a direction of Copper Canary editing (they are a gift), another suggestion from a colleague to call CreateSpace (Amazon) to self-publish and within 48 hours turnaround time, this book, with its new cover, layout, and edits was being reviewed. Another 36 hours later, a proof arrived at my door. A few more edits and format changes and off it went to print.

A mere week later it was out on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and this book was born.

Like many births, this one wasn't easy but oh, was it worth it!

We celebrated. The location was perfect...even its name "Play" reflected the atmosphere we wanted to create for the event. We talked, ate, reminisced, shared....clients met other clients, and family and friends got a taste of what it is I do through the words of a short reading and through the others who spoke.

So what's next? I'll continue having these conversations. Everyone has a story all their own which shapes who they are today. I'll be using the book to work with high school students in leadership programs to help them see their leadership through the eyes of these incredible stories. I'll be speaking at Catalyst University in Michigan in January on sustainable leadership, how to pay your success forward,and group coaching some of the community's identified rising stars. I'll be guest lecturing at the post graduate level and speaking at conferences and workshops to bring Human-Based Leadership perspectives to the business, government and technology worlds...arenas which often struggle with the human or soft skills aspect of leadership. And I am pondering over what to write next.

What form that writing will take is yet to be determined. I prefer conversations with people rather than lecturing or speaking at them. So let's talk. Tell me your stories and through them, let's see your Human-Based Leadership emerge.