By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community,

Every week when I coach clients (organizational leaders, teams and families) – I take notice whenever the same words keep coming up in different conversations. This month, the word I kept hearing was “boundaries”, and the direction these conversations took often involved the following questions:

  • What are boundaries?
  • Why are they important?
  • If we don’t have them – how does this impact productivity and emotional wellbeing?
  • How to set boundaries for working remotely?
  • How to set boundaries for online school?
  • How to teach others your boundaries?
  • Are there different types of boundaries?

These are all great questions! I love this topic because having healthy boundaries can impact every part of our life – our leadership. communication, mood, emotional well-being, relationship dynamics, managing expectations and productivity.

The research is very consistent – healthy boundaries are critical for leadership and wellness!

Research has found that workers with greater boundary control were better at managing stress
and less likely to fall into a negative mindset.

Source: University Of Illinois

So how we can build healthy boundaries? Here are 3 tips to get you started!

Tip #1:             Know WHY Boundaries Are Important (For YOU)

A boundary is a line in the sand. It represents the finish of one task and the start of another. It’s the end of your work-day / school-day and when your personal time begins. It separates what needs to be kept apart. Healthy boundaries help us to focus, drive productivity and reduce stress / anxiety because our mind knows ‘I’m working hard now so I can relax later’. Without boundaries, we risk burnout, anxiety, stress, and a lack of mental focus, which will impact our productivity, communication and relationships. Boundaries are critical for both effective leadership and emotional well-being.

If you think some of your boundaries may need some work, a great first step is to identify situations in your work or personal life that have been affected by poor boundaries and figure out WHY you need to redesign them. Once you’ve identified the benefits, it becomes a lot easier to enforce your boundaries.

Tip #2:             Clarify The Boundaries

Even before COVID, boundaries were a challenge for many. In the midst of COVID restrictions and colliding home and work spaces, setting boundaries has become increasingly difficult. For those who are working from home – I often hear that they “can’t get away from work,” especially if their co-workers or managers also lack firm boundaries. Many students are learning remotely, and receiving homework and marks at all hours of the day; one of my clients recently told me that her daughter received a grade back from her teacher at 9pm! Because there are often no clearly-defined rules in place – many students feel responsible to check their emails at all hours of the evening to make sure they are not missing any assignments. This is NOT healthy!

Regardless of age, we all need clear and healthy boundaries to separate work and school from personal time. So it’s important when interacting with others to clarify your boundaries:

At Work:

    • Clarify with your colleagues or boss – when they send you an email at 10pm are they expecting that you read and respond OR are they just emptying their inbox?
    • Just because you are “working from home” does not mean you are available 24/7. Clarify to your team what your working hours are.  If you only “work 8am-5pm” – let your team know that to help manage their expectations.

At Home:

    • Confirm with your school and teachers – what are the boundaries for teachers to be sending emails (assignments / grades) to students? One teacher I know has communicated to her class that she will not email her students anything past 5pm. She wants her students to prioritize their class-time – and recognizes the value of protecting their personal time. As a result her students feel calmer, more focused, and less anxious.
    • If you are working from home, confirm with your family when you “stop” working and when you “start” your personal time. It’s confusing for kids when they see their parents on their cellphones at home non-stop. One of my clients decided to teach his kids that all of his ‘work’ calls would happen only in their home office, and only personal calls (ex. talking with grandma) would happen outside of his home office past 6pm. This helped his kids not to interrupt important phone calls, and created a clear boundary for them.

Tip #3:             It’s Your Responsibility To Teach Others Your Boundaries

Once you know what you want your boundaries to be – stand up for them, and assert them in a kind, clear and respectful way. It is the responsibility of each person to teach others their boundaries – it should not be anyone’s job to mind-read and try to figure them out. One of the missteps I often hear about is when people assume that others “should know that boundary,” or thinking “that boundary is so obvious, so why can’t they figure it out?” The truth is that we have all been taught boundaries from different sources, including employers and our family of origin. While some boundaries may seem obvious to one person – they’re not always common to another.

Taking the simple step of discussing your boundary expectations ahead of time can prevent frustration and allows you to make the most of your work-time, while truly enjoying your personal time. If you are planning a holiday from work – let your team know you don’t want to receive emails from them unless there is an emergency. If you are going on a date with your spouse – let your babysitter know you don’t want to receive texts or calls unless it’s a critical situation. When those around you understand your boundaries, they are much more likely to try and respect them.

Learning how to voice healthy boundaries in a respectful and firm way – so that others respect them  – is an art and a science. Communicating this information can often be a short conversation, but it provides major benefits. Not only does it manage the expectations of others, but also allows you to be more present and focused while reducing your anxiety.

Do you have a question about this topic as it relates to work or home? Email me ( and I’ll do a video Q&A (keeping names confidential). Let’s learn together :).

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach,
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

I am a White privileged individual who is fully committed to racial equity and passionate to learn how to be a strong White ally. I want to use my platform to challenge anti-Black racism and equip leaders at work & home with practical tools in this movement towards change.

Hello DK Leadership Community,

This month has seen an awakening for many on the topic of anti-Black racism.  Many of us (especially those who are White) feel uncomfortable to discuss racism, so we usually don’t. We might not understand the nuances of the topic if we haven’t personally experienced racism. Perhaps we don’t know what to say and/or we are afraid to say the wrong thing.  And yet, as I shared in my last article, if we (meaning all of us – White, Black, Indigenous, People of Color) want to develop great leadership in ourselves, our families, and our teams at work, it’s essential that we lean in to understand the complexity of racism, to listen to and learn from each other.

Black leaders and organizers have spoken this month, and many are asking all of us, including White and non-Black folks, to raise our voices. I appreciated the Globe & Mail quote by Masai Ujiri, president of the NBA Raptors, in which he said “Your voice matters, especially when you are a leader or influential figure, and especially if you are White. Leaders have to be bold enough to state the obvious and call out racism.”

If what I’m saying seems obvious to you, whether because you have already done this work for yourself, or because you have experienced the oppression of racism and been denied privilege, then please be patient with those of us who are learning, and know that my intention is to try and contribute to this needed conversation, and hopefully bring clarity and tools to those who want to learn more.


What is “White privilege?”

There are many layers to discussing racism, but today I want to start with the concept of “White privilege,” because as I spoke with many White and Black colleagues this week, I realized there is a lot of confusion about it.  Allow me to share my own story to help shed some light on this. Growing up, if you had asked me if I benefited from “White privilege,” I would have said “No.” Here’s why: I did not come from money or wealth and at the time this was my only measure for what privilege meant. Although my family life was filled with love and support, financially it seemed like we were barely getting by. My clothes were hand-me-downs until I could afford to buy my own, which I did by earning money at part-time jobs throughout high-school.  While I had to completely pay for my university and graduate studies on my own, my group of high school friends received cars for their birthday gifts and had their education fully paid for by parents.  To me, my friends were privileged, but I was not.

I had to work for everything I achieved, and while I am still proud of my hard-working background, I realize now that I was equating a lack of “class privilege” with having no privilege. Until recently I didn’t fully understand the term White privilege, and the benefits it endowed on me, and chances are there are people you know who also misunderstand it.

To really understand the difference between class privilege and White privilege, it’s helpful to read some definitions. Class privilege can be defined as “being born into a financially stable family” (Source: Duke University), while White privilege is an “unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are White” (Source: Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre).

Peggy McIntosh, who is an anti-racism activist, gives a great overview with this quote:

 “Having your White privilege mentioned doesn’t mean that you are being labelled as someone who is actively prejudiced toward non-White people. Instead, it is making the point that as a White person, you receive benefits from being the dominant ethnicity in society. 

Also, admitting that you have White privilege doesn’t conflict with your own acceptance of diversity.”

Peggy Macintosh, Ph.D
Ant-Racism Activist

The following statements are from Peggy McIntosh’s ground-breaking essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. There are dozens of questions she references in her work, but I recommend you start by asking yourself whether any of the following are true for you:

  • “I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”
  • “I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.”
  • “I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.”
  • “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”
  • “When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.”
  • “I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.”
  • “I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.”

How many did you say yes to?

So what is the impact of this racial conditioning?
The outcomes of this scenario are predictable. Many White people unconsciously or consciously learn: I belong. I matter. My voice is important. I’m special. I’m safe. I’m deserving.

Meanwhile, many Black people unconsciously or consciously are told: I don’t belong. I don’t matter. My voice is not important. I’m not safe. I’m inferior.

If you are White – stop for a minute. Before you challenge this theory (I’ve already heard lots of White folks tell me “yeah but…”), I encourage you to STOP and think about this. If you are unsure about it, ask a Black friend / colleague whether they would be willing to share their thoughts about the above paragraphWas this true for them? Listen. Don’t defend!

Another outcome: the topic of Racism or Racial Inequality is usually avoided within White communities, which makes it extremely difficult to challenge, debate or discuss with White people.  This is not the case within Black communities, where it is often spoken of, just not generally with their White friends.

For those of you who are non-White, you may get this right away. For those of us who are White, we likely have never thought of racial conditioning before unless it was pointed out to us, which only confirms our White privilege. We take our status for granted, and either assume it is the same for others, or avoid asking ourselves the uncomfortable questions that follow this line of thinking.

So What Can We Do?
For our White and non-Black readers, below are 7 Steps for yourself, your family and colleagues at work to help move forward.
For our Black readers and readers who do not have access or proximity to White privilege, share this list with your family, friends and colleagues at work – and I welcome your feedback and suggestions. As I learn and write more about anti-racism – from my White racially-conditioned worldview – I am certain my unconscious bias will emerge, and I will make mistakes along the way. Let me know when you see this; I welcome the accountability.

Step #1:          If You Are White, Acknowledge Your Privilege
If you are White, you need to deal with this.  Own it, do not defend or deflect it. Start thinking about how being White has benefited you, and by extension has oppressed others.  Robin DiAngelo is the best-selling author of the book “White Fragility” and she goes one step further, suggesting that White people “remove this claim from your vocabulary: ‘I’m not racist.’ … It’s liberating to start from the premise that there’s no way you could have avoided internalizing a racist worldview… It opens up everything on this journey.”  Here is a great video from her to further understand:

Step #2:          Stop Saying “I Don’t See Color”
This comment is extremely hurtful for many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and disregards White privilege.  Psychology Today writer Sam Louie says many People of Color will internalize this as “You don’t see me.” Instead, the goal needs to be to recognize the color, listen to their concerns, experiences, and real-world issues of racism, and then confront how to deal with it.

Step #3:          Talk Openly About White Privilege & Racism
Silence perpetuates racism. We need to push through the discomfort of discussing race. At home, discuss anti-Black racism with your kids. Share your experiences, including your bias that you have learned.  Here’s a great video, created by Vera Ahiyya, a kindergarten teacher from New York, to teach children about race:

At work, the same rule applies. We need to lean into this uncomfortable topic. Forbes writer Janice Gassam said “White privilege is one of the most polarizing topics a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) professional can bring up and it is often met with resistance and defensiveness. There needs to be a deeper understanding of what White privilege is, how it impacts an individual’s life in and out of the workplace and what those with this privilege can do to deconstruct systems of oppression.”

This needs to be an ongoing dialogue in our sphere of influence and social circles, remembering that this is a movement towards change – not a trendy news story.

Step #4:          Surround Yourself With Diversity
We cannot learn about racism if we only surround ourselves with the voices of White people.  We need to make sure our social and professional worlds have diversity so we can hear different perspectives. Do a quick check-in with yourself:

* At Home: How many really close friends do you have from a different race? Look at your wedding photos? Look at your social media pictures?
* At Work: How much diversity do you have in your organization? What about in management or in your senior teams?

And it’s important to avoid an attitude of tokenism here; the goal is not to check off the box that “I have a Black friend” or “We have _% Black colleagues”– but rather that you are prioritizing diversity because you genuinely value their voices, and want them at your boardroom / family dinner table to spend time and learn from. By taking this step you acknowledge you are missing out by not having diversity in your home and work life.

Step #5:          Change The Racism Question
If you really want to discuss racial equity with your family and teams at work, don’t discuss racism from a binary yes or no –“Are you racist” lens (which often makes many White people defensive) and instead shift to “how.” For example: 

How are we allowing racism to function in our family life?
Ex. We only read books written by White authors.
Ex. We don’t talk about racism as a family – it’s awkward.

How are we allowing racism to function in our business? With our teams? With our clients?
Ex. Our senior team is 95% White.
Ex. Over 80% of our clients are White entrepreneurs.
Knowing these answers, you can brainstorm what positive changes you will make at work and at home.

Step #6:          Be Committed To Racial Equity
Author Ibram X. Kendi says that “the heartbeat of racism is denial,” so it’s critical that we see this as a lifelong journey and commit to ongoing learning. Here are a couple of great books I would recommend:

  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Dr. Robin DiAngelo
  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

You can watch a great interview by both of these scholars here:

Step #7:          Focus On White Responsibility, Not White Guilt
We cannot control the color of our skin, but we can control how we respond today. Shift your focus from guilt (which is usually driven by thoughts such as “I should…”) to responsibility. Ask yourself: “How can I use my White privilege to help, empower, lift, and create more opportunities for People of Color (at home, in my community, with my team, at my business) because I want to, not because I have to”.

We are just scratching the surface on this topic. But for those (like me) who are new to the conversation, I hope these 7 Steps have equipped you with more understanding, empathy and confidence to discuss White privilege with your families and teams at work.

Together we are developing GREAT leaders – while we FACE uncomfortable yet critically important topics!

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach,
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community,

Are you ready to step up and start designing how you want your 2020 to unfold?  Are you determined to not only set goals, but actually achieve themI hope so – since goalsetting is one of the best ways to build confidence, reduce stress, increase happiness, build relationships and help a person to really feel in control of their life!

So let’s get this out of the way: the sad truth about this topic is that very few people actually achieve their goals. Why? Many potential reasons – but I believe it’s mostly because they have not developed solid habits to support their goals.

Research says only 8% of people actually achieve their goals.

Source: Inc. Magazine

When I am teaching on this topic, I always describe “Goal-Setting” and “Habit-Training” as partners. Here is how it works:

  • The goal is what I want to accomplish (Ex. “I want to become more physically fit”)
  • The habits are the baby steps needed to execute the goal (Ex. “Going to bed by 10pm; Putting my clothes out the night before; Getting up at 6:30am for my workout)

I call it “Habit-Training” because it takes 3 weeks to break a habit and 3 weeks to make a new habit and you don’t want to take off the “Habit-Training-Wheels” before you are ready to run on auto-pilot. But once a person crosses that 6-week line, new behaviors have started to become routine, and they no longer require the same attention. When this happens, it saves a person time & energy PLUS they reap the benefit of their new habit – it’s incredibly energizing!

So for today, I want to suggest some habits that will help you to make your goals stick this year! There are so many I could suggest, but here are the top #6 I would encourage you to start with:

Habit #1:       Write Down Your Goals
It’s critical to write down your goals – just thinking about them is not enough. Write down your Top #10 Goals that you would like to achieve this year, and focus on making them “stretching but realistic” goals.

Habit #2:        Share Them With 1-2 People (At Work Or Home)
Sharing our goals is scary and powerful! Its scary – because we are being vulnerable with others (be sure to share with people who are trustworthy!). But it’s also powerful, because these 1-2 people can also be your accountability partners.

They can cheer you on when you take action and also respectfully ask you about it if you don’t. This type of sharing can work extremely well in both work and family cultures. It’s great for teambuilding – I’ve had many groups do this in organizations – and although people may often be reluctant at first – once they start sharing it changes the emotional energy. You can see people relax once they feel safe, and it’s powerful for team bonding!  And for family cultures – it’s energizing for family members to listen to what is important to each other.

Habit #3:        Post Them So You Can Look At Them Regularly
Every day we are bombarded with 100’s of demands on our time and attention. It’s easy to get distracted and lose track of our priorities, so it’s important to post your Top #10 Goals where you can easily see them.  My husband puts his on his phone. I have mine in a journal that goes with me EVERYWHERE! My kids put them on their computer, as well as on their bulletin board. We have to continually remind ourselves what is important to us, so we don’t become distracted!

Habit #4:        Focus On One Goal At A Time
Nothing kills goal-setting faster than feeling overwhelmed. It’s important that you make this EASY for yourself! So I strongly recommend that you only work on 1 goal at a time. Make sure to finish before moving on to your next goal.

Habit #5:        Focus On Easy FIRST
Look over your Top #10-12 Goals and start with the easiest one. It’s the hardest thing for most of us to just get started, but once you achieve your first goal – you will usually feel energized and excited. This new energy can then fuel you to tackle your next goal.

Habit #6         Review Your Goals Weekly & Hit Reset If Necessary
Our goals need our energy and time. They need a plan and attention. Try the habit of weekly reviewing your goals. What worked last week? What didn’t work? What do you need to change to help yourself move forward? For me, I’ve learned that taking 10 minutes on Sunday night is the ideal time. I can quickly review my goals, and identify my “one” goal for the coming week to keep myself focused. If I tried the goal the previous week and failed – no problem – I simply need to hit the re-set button. Stop. Study it. Ask myself, “Why didn’t I work towards the goal last-week?” Then problem-solve and try again.

The recipe is to stay focused, start with one goal, build in your accountability partners, and then tackle the next one. These simple habits will help the process become less overwhelming – and instead extremely energizing!

I hope these habits have inspired you to take action for 2020! Do you have other habits for making your goals stick?

I’d love to hear them! Email me at

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach,
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community! 

It’s not easy to find workplace happiness today. Young people consistently report having a lot of anxiety when it comes to figuring out their “Dream Career” – and for good reason! Times have changed – when I was in high school (ok, now I’m aging myself!), most of my peers were considering between a few of maybe 20 common careers. New graduates today are faced with literally 100’s of options, with more being created every day! And while choice is usually a good thing, we are now living in an era of “too many choices”; many students feel the burden of having to “get it right” – first in choosing their education, but also in finding the right job, and it leaves them feeling overwhelmed, anxious and often too paralyzed to make any big decisions.

80% Of Current Students Are Uncertain About Their Major.

Source: New York Times

Plus, this is no longer just a ‘teen issue’ – this is impacting many adults as well! The average adult now can expect to have 11 careers (no longer just 1 like our parents may have experienced), and 77% of adults express dis-satisfaction with their life and career (Source: Globe & Mail). So it has become a critical question for many of us: How can I help myself and my teens / young adult children to be part of that 23% who love their life and career?
Thankfully, there are concrete answers to this question, and if it is a relevant concern for you or another family-member, I hope to get you started on the right path today!

Below I’ve listed 3 great tips to get you started, but before you read them I want to mention this:

If you need more help in this area – I have 2 options:

  1. Come hear me speak on the topic! I speak at dozens of educational conferences & schools every year (often it’s free for the adults / parents attending)
  2. Attend our “Strategic Career” Event (LIVE Webinar or Toronto Office). It’s an inspiring full-day event with 3 customized assessments to help you understand yourself and what careers fit you best! Our past students (high school / college / university / adults in transition) from 17 countries around the world give us rave reviews, with 96% rating it ‘outstanding’! (You can read more about this event and upcoming dates by clicking here)

Ok let’s dive-in with 3 simple tips to equip you (or your teens / adult children) to discover their Dream Career!

Tip #1:            Know Yourself

Who are you?  Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Dreamer or detail-oriented? How do you manage your time? When I interviewed 50+ Industry Leaders 3 years ago, nearly 75% of them said the first step to finding your Dream Career is to know yourself!  This is the foundational question. I did my first personality assessment when I was 21 and to be honest, I was skeptical. How could answering 100 questions on a form tell me anything about myself? But I was wrong! When I read through the 20-page custom document – it nailed me! It explained how I get my energy, how I make decisions, how I manage my time and even described how I respond to conflict. I appreciate anything that saves time – so yes, we could spend our entire lifetime trying to ‘get to know ourselves’ OR we could use high quality assessments designed to do it for us! It’s your choice…

Tip #2:             Learn Our SECRET Formula

So what’s the secret for finding your Dream Career? I have learned personally and through working with 100’s of leaders and organizations that it’s a combination of knowing your personality (what naturally energizes you) + knowing the industries that you are interested in + knowing your values!  Over 90% of the adults that have taken our course say it was our values assessment that gave them their ‘A-Hah Moment’. We need to know our values so we can make career decisions that will align with them!

Tip #3:             Know Where The Jobs Are

Once you know your career direction – the next step is to do your research on the job market.  Talk to industry experts in your field to hear their insights, suggestions and tips. Where are the jobs? What education would they recommend? What should a person do to give themselves a competitive edge in their industry? What schools would they recommend?  Every industry has their “Super Stars”. You need to track these people down, and then take initiative, pick up the phone or send an email, and ask for their input.  You’ll likely be surprised with how forthcoming they are with their knowledge!  Remember, information is powerful, and every piece you gather will bring you 1 step closer to reaching your Dream Career.

Do you have other tips for helping a person find their career direction? I’d love to hear them! Email me at

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community! 

The topic of resilience is everywhere. I was recently asked to speak at a conference that wanted to help build resilience in younger employees. That same week I was asked by 4 different parents how to build more resilience, or toughness in their kids.  As a Leadership Coach (for companies & families), I get asked about resilience a lot, and for good reason – difficulties in life and work are guaranteed! In our complex modern world, change is constant, rapid, disruptive and often unpredictable. Resilience, the capacity to recover quickly when something doesn’t go the way we want it to, is an essential tool for navigating these uncertain times, and it begins with having an optimistic mindset.

Harvard researchers have identified an optimistic mindset as the top factor for overcoming difficulty. They discovered people who never gave up interpreted their setbacks as temporary (“It’ll go away soon”), local (“It’s just one situation”) and changeable (“I can do something about it”).

Source: Harvard University

Researchers also suggest that learning optimism can prevent “learned helplessness” and even help manage depression and anxiety. Optimism is actually a core component of Emotional Intelligence – which research tells us is one of the greatest predictors of whether someone will be “successful” in their life and career.

The great news about this topic is that resilience is a muscle we can all develop and personally, it’s a skill I am passionate about teaching! Resilience empowers us to face life’s challenges head on so we can foster progress from our pain.  It helps us deal with unexpected challenges and changes in our lives, whether it’s a poor test score or the loss of a job or loved one. Below are 4 takeaways to build resilience; I hope these tips will inspire you, your team and your family.

Tip #1:            Expect Roadblocks & Failure

In one of my favorite books (it’s a classic), The Road Less Traveled, Dr. Scott Peck challenges readers to learn to manage their failure by expecting it to happen. It sounds crazy, I know, but expecting life to be difficult is exactly what helps us move beyond disappointment, blaming and victim-hood.

Tip #2:             Focus On The Big Picture

Failure can feel discouraging, and it’s easy to get worked up over temporary setbacks. Don’t let small roadblocks make you lose sight of how they affect the larger picture. One sure way to keep a long-term perspective is to remember why you failed in the first place: you were trying to achieve something you care deeply about.

Tip #3:             Keep A Gratitude Journal

One of the superpowers of Great Leaders (at work & home) – is to tap into the secret weapon of gratitude. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for years, but last year after reading more research on this topic, I increased my gratitude & meditation time to 30 minutes – 1 hour each day. It’s been a game-changer for me (just ask my family & team, since they noticed an immediate difference!) Why? Because focusing on things we are grateful for fuels optimism and mental toughness, it reduces stress and overall increases our emotional energy. Gratitude, simply put, helps us be the best version of ourselves. And the best news – its free and we can do it anywhere / anytime!

Tip #4:             Surround Yourself With “Realistic Optimists”
Staying objective can be tough to pull off on our own. That’s why it’s so critical to be around colleagues, team members, friends and family who will not only provide a hopeful perspective but also a healthy dose of realism. Personally, I have my inner “core group” of friends and family. They intimately know me, my strengths and weaknesses and have a powerful way to encourage me (optimistic) while still being honest (realistic) – an incredible combination!

Do you have other tips for helping a person build their resilience muscle? I’d love to hear them! Email me at

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community! 

Are you laughing enough? Really think about it. Think about a typical day for you at the office, with your team or your clients. Now think about your personal life, at home, with your friends, spouse or kids. If you are interested to build a great culture at work or at home – tapping into the superpower of laughter is a must!

I first started thinking about this when I signed up for a class during my undergrad (25+ years ago!) on the psychology of laughter. This was the first time I actually recognized the power that laughter can have on individual relationships as well as on overall culture.  More recently, research tells us that children seem to appreciate and benefit from laughter instinctively – they laugh all the time! But adults are missing out:

“The average four-year-old laughs 300 times /day.
The average 40-year-old? Only 4 times.”

Source: Psychology Today

So why is laughing together a MUST for cultivating great culture? Here are a few top reasons, as well as some ideas on how you can use laughter to improve the culture around you!

Reason #1:      It’s A People Connector

When we laugh together – we are sharing a common experience. It builds emotional attachment and bonding.
Not only do we feel closer to others when we laugh together – but others are attracted to it. Great leadership is when people want to follow you, so if you want to be a great leader (at work and home) it’s essential to loosen up and laugh at yourself!

Reason #2:      It Reduces Stress

Research from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says people who laugh decrease stress-related hormones. Laughter also relaxes our muscles, decreases pain and even boosts our immunity!  When I’m coaching high performing teams they are often extremely stressed, and one of my first goals is to get them to laugh within the first 15 minutes (I’m not kidding). As a coach I’m trying to build trust as fast as possible, in order to teach skills so that we can create change. I have consistently noticed that if I can get teams to laugh together, they become more relaxed and open to learning.

Reason #3:      It Improves Productivity (& Bonuses!)

A common concern with laughter is that it is going to waste time and diminish productivity, but research has found that if it’s done in small chunks of time – it actually increases productivity. Harvard Business Review found that employees were 10% more productive than their colleagues after watching a comedy clip.  In addition, they observed that the “funnier” an executive was – the higher the average bonus! People value ‘funny’!

Reason #4:      It Defuses Conflict

Try to think of a time when nothing was going right for you. For me these times always seems to resolve around cooking (not my strength). Last year I remember working for several hours trying to make my family a fantastic holiday meal. The result: 2 out of the 4 dishes were fully burnt (I’m talking charcoal black), with another dish just “ok”. Sitting at the table, one of my sons said to me sincerely, “Thanks Mom for trying.” – and then we all just burst out laughing. The meal was a disaster, and yet the laughter we shared instantly soothed it (we still talk about this 1 year later), and actually bonded us.

Hopefully you have been persuaded to inject a little more humor into your life – so where should you begin? You don’t have to be a comedian for this to work – start with trying to loosen up and just share a funny story from your own experience with your team. You can also look for funny images or online memes to share.  One of my favorite methods is what I call the “Top 5”. You can ask both your teams at work or your family at home this question (daily or weekly):

  • What are your top #3 highs?
  • What is your #1 low?
  • What is your #1 funny thing that you experienced?

This question gives you a quick pulse on what is happening in their life, but also ensures a funny spin on it to finish off with.

Do you have other tips for helping to inject humour with your teams at work or at home? I’d love to hear them! Email me at

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community! 

How do you make great decisions? Have you ever really stopped to think about your “decision-making process’? I have had this conversation with 3 people in the last few weeks, and it inspired me to write this article! The first person was a colleague who was trying to decide whether she should accept a career promotion; the second was my 17-year-old niece, deciding what to do with her summer; and the third time was with a CEO whom I’m coaching about whether he should sell his business. So 3 very different individuals, with very different decisions to be made – and yet my advice to each of them was the same!

I taught all 3 of them my “3 Step Decision-Making Process,” and it allowed us to have meaningful conversations about all the options being faced – and in each case it helped to bring enormous clarity for each individual in their choices! The reality is – life is full of making decisions – so it’s important that we have a process to help us (and to help those around us!) as we try to navigate wisely. I hope my 3 steps will inspire and equip both your work & family teams!

Research says adults make 35,000 conscious decisions every day!

Every decision carries its own rewards and consequences.

Source: Psychology Today

Step #1:           Know Your Values

Knowing your values is the starting point for making any decision. Values provide our foundation and direction. When we know them (and abide by them) they will bring us great clarity and happiness! So your first step is to identify and KNOW the top #5 values you want to live your life (and career) by.  Write them down (don’t just think them).  What is most important to you? Career Growth? Adventure? Family? Security? Making A Difference? Once you have identified them, prioritize them from #1-5.

Step #2:           Gather Your Data & Insight From Others  

When you are making important decisions with several options – gather ALL the data you can and research all the different choices! Information can bring clarity.  Talk with as many people as you can to hear their insights (it doesn’t mean you have to follow their advice – you are just gathering data to help you look at it from all sides). For example, if you choose Option A – it might look like this. If you choose Option B – this is the upside and this is the downside. Researching online can be helpful – but I have also found the best way is to talk with real people who have faced similar decisions. Real stories and experiences are powerful!

Step #3:          Filter Your Data Through Your Values Lens

Once you’ve done both steps, take each option from Step #2 and filter it through your Top-5 Values from Step #1. Try and figure out which outcome will be most aligned with your values, and then move ahead with confidence!

Several years ago I was offered an incredible work opportunity. Four out of five of my trusted colleagues said I should do it – but one strongly discouraged it. Why? Because this individual knew me well, and they were concerned it would cause me a lot of conflict.  Yes, this opportunity would have been an incredible career advancement (checks off my value for ‘Making A Difference’) – but it would have required a great amount of work travel, time away from home, unpredictability and less control of my schedule – and since my #1 value is Family – I declined it.  My colleagues thought I was crazy, and yet even as I sent the email declining the offer – I felt enormous peace.

Do you know the secret of happiness? Here’s what I’ve learned – it’s when we make decisions that are aligned with our top values.  As an Executive Coach and Family Coach – I don’t tell my clients what decisions to make, but I DO teach them how to make their own effective decisions. I get them to dig deep, clarify what it is they value & want, and then to have courage to follow their inner voice.

Do you have other tips to help you make great decisions? I’d love to hear! Email me at

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn

PLUS: How Businesses & Families Are Being Impacted

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community! 


This past month we filmed a full 1-hour TV special (on the international syndicated talk-show “Cityline”) about the epidemic of loneliness in America. I work in this field and yet even I was surprised and deeply saddened by the stats: 

Psychology Today says that loneliness has doubled, regardless of geography, race, gender or ethnicity in America over the last 50 years!  

  • 25% Say they rarely feel understood
  • 20% Say their relationships are sometimes not meaningful
  • 20% Say they rarely / never feel close to people
  • 82% Say they do not have people in their life with whom they can really communicate

So… Why is this happening? 

The research points to many potential influences:

  • Society Has Changed

Today people are living alone and isolated. Many of us have moved away from home for school or work, and we no longer live in villages of people who know us.

  • Lack Of Tools

Even if we have plenty of people around us, many of us lack the skills to really connect with others. Sure, we can make small-talk with strangers or even coworkers, but how many of us know how to have meaningful conversations with others? Even 60% of self-reported lonely people are married – so just because we have people around us, it doesn’t shield us from feeling lonely.

  • Social Media

Many blame social media – but the research on this is mixed.  Studies have shown that if people are using social media as a substitute for real relationships, it can lead to feeling more lonely. But the amount of time we spend online is also a factor. Psychology Today says that people logged on to social media for only 30 min. / day were less lonely than those who were logged on for more than 2 hours. This might indicate that if we use social media as an extension of our real relationships to communicate with those we care about, rather than as a replacement for real-world connections, it can actually be a helpful tool.

How does this impact businesses? Work is the “New Family”!

What’s fascinating to me about all this is how our “loneliness epidemic” is impacting businesses. One of the highest values for younger generations in the workplace (including Gen Y, Z) is looking for an organization with a ‘Family Culture’.  They want their managers to be less of a ‘boss’ and more of a mentor (or an aunt/uncle!), someone who can really get to know them and pour into their life. In years past – businesses kept clear boundaries between work and home, but no more! We are seeing progressive businesses design their office spaces to feel more like homes, with open living room areas, and large desks where team members can work side by side. There is even a strong trend for organizational teams to have potlucks and lunch together – just like a big extended family! Smart organizations are recognizing that if they can help to meet this need for connection, they will be rewarded by higher retention and the engagement of their workforce.

How to empower your kids? Help them find their tribe!

Share with your kids that we don’t need 50 friends, we just need a few really great friends that understand us and have our back – and with whom we can be authentic!  I call this “Finding Your Tribe”. Help your kids to identify other kids who they know share similar interests and similar values. Introverts and extraverts alike – we all need a place of belonging where we feel supported and safe! 

Want to help yourself or someone you know to feel less lonely?

I’ve got 3 great steps for you to try…

1.  Develop The Skill Of “Meaningful Small Talk”          (Emotional Intimacy Level = Low)
I used to really dislike the idea of small-talk. It felt fake to me, draining and shallow. And then I realized that learning this skill is actually important, because it’s often the first step in making a connection. So what should you talk about? Focus on pop culture, current events, news, things that everyone can relate to on some level. (Example: “Did you watch the Raptors win the NBA Finals?”) YES- I’m a proud Canadian/Raptors Fan!

2.  Find Your People           (Emotional Intimacy Level = Medium)
Ask yourself who are “your people”? Foodies, entrepreneurs, artists, athletes? Be intentional to find networks to expand your options. This might involve joining a sports league or an arts class – you might need to go where other people with the same interests would also like to go.  And think about your small-talk partners – who was it easy to talk to? Chances are, you had something in common. Ask them to meet for coffee or dinner to connect. You may experience false starts – no problem! Keep trying! 

3.  Identify Your Tribe & Connect Regularly          (Emotional Intimacy Level = High)
Identify 3-4 people who you’d like to be part of your “tribe” – people that you can share your highs and lows with. Plan to meet regularly (ex. monthly) so you can really track with each other about what is happening in your lives. Be intentional to become interested in their lives, and how you can also be a great friend for them!

There is so much more that I could say about this topic, and so many other ways within each of these emotional intimacy levels that you can take action to help yourself if you are feeling lonely. But I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Do you have ideas or experience about how businesses or families can help decrease the epidemic of loneliness? Email me at

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

Learning how to manage our energy and our time is truly an art form!  If we master them – we are balanced, energized and the best version of ourselves. When we don’t, we risk burnout, exhaustion and being the person that no one wants to be around. The stats on this topic are revealing:

Research from Gallup says we are seeing a burnout crisis, with 44% of people reporting they ‘sometimes’ feel burnout, and another 23% of people saying they feel this way ‘often or always’.

Clearly, being in a state of burnout has a major impact on our physical health, productivity and overall happiness, but the good news is that we are not powerless in this fight. Burnout is totally preventable, and I have personally witnessed many people in a state of crisis who have managed to turn their life around by making a few critical changes! 

So what are some easy solutions to get you started on the way back to balance? Here are 3 tips you can share with your team at the office and your family at home, and maybe put them to use for yourself if needed!

Tip #1:     Remember Who Is In Control

This tip may seem like an obvious one, until we actually stop and listen to our own words and the words of those around us. Earlier this month I was at a conference and found myself chatting with some employees who were concerned about managing heavy commitments at work plus their intense family lives (4x / week hockey practices, 3 x / week ballet lessons, 2x / week gymnastics classes, multiplied by their 3 children). I felt exhausted just listening to the complexity and details of their schedules! And what I noticed is that each of these busy parents was speaking as if this schedule had been given to them – and it’s not true!

The truth is that whether they realized it or not, they had chosen these schedules. Think about this – regardless of the pressures we feel (from our kids OR from ourselves) to keep up with what we see other families doing – ultimately we as the parents have control over what we do or don’t do. We are the adults and we can choose to say ‘No’. 

Even in the workforce we may think that our employer has total control, but the truth is that we always have some control over what we choose. We can either choose to say ‘Yes’ to the demands being placed on us, or have the courage (and potentially face the consequences) to tell our employer /manager that their expectations are unrealistic. We can choose to take on the more demanding, high-stress job with more traveling (higher pay), or the lower-stress job (with less pay). We must remember that life is about choices (some with far more attractive outcomes than others, but choices none-the-less).

So it’s important to own our choices and not play the victim.  Sometimes we may find ourselves in a bad situation because of past choices, and even in this scenario there is power in recognizing how we got there. Owning the choice won’t necessarily make us feel less stressed in the moment, but that’s not the point. What it can do is allow you to feel more empowered, and this places you in a far better space for solving the problems you may be faced with, and may also force you to think differently about your current circumstances, and about the future choices you make.

Tip #2:     Identify Your “Big Rocks”

Years ago I learned about a concept called “Big Rocks” – many of you have likely heard of it!  Here is how it works (you can do this as a team building exercise at work or home): First, get a jar, enough sand to fill it half-full, and 3 big rocks (make sure they can fit the jar opening). Next, try putting the sand in first and then adding the rocks. You will likely have a hard time fitting the rocks all the way in. But if you reverse this process – put your 3 big rocks in first, then add the sand around it – it all has room to fit!

The truth is that as humans, we all have a finite amount of energy and time (as represented by the jar) – so it’s crucial to identify our biggest priorities (the rocks) and make room for them first! Ask yourself – what are your top 3 priorities you want to focus on this month or this season? Start with your 3 big rocks and then allow the gaps to become filled with sand (which represents the other items you want to get to – but only if you have time and energy leftover).

Tip #3:     Create Your Strategy Plan

My work, like many of you, has both high & low seasons. Some months are very full with speaking at conferences and events (many of which include traveling). Other seasons are a lot slower. So when I know I’m heading into a busier season – I sit down and create a strategy plan to make sure I’m fully energized, which will increase my effectiveness and reduce my stress. So what’s my plan?  There are 2 basic parts to it:

First, I share with my husband and kids that I will need their help with my chores.  I’ve learned not to give ‘hints’ but to ask directly for what I need them to do. One of my family chores is folding the laundry – and today as I’m writing this, I am so thankful that one of my 11-year-old boys helped me last week by folding the laundry for me – even though I am wearing 2 black socks that are definitely not a matching pair… 🙂 – I think I have to do a little more training!

Second, I focus on my 3 big rocks for self-care and energy management! I’m often asked how I have so much energy in my speaking and presenting – and while it’s true that I am ‘high-energy’, I would emphasize that it is not by accident but rather by design. I’ve learned that MY secret for maximizing my energy and reducing my stress is to focus on these 3 big rocks:

  1. Sleep = I’m a bit of a baby when it comes to rest – I need 8-9 hours of sleep every night. I envy people who can feel energized with 5-6 hrs, but I’ve accepted that this doesn’t work for me. I need to really prioritize my sleep!
  2. Meditation & Gratitude = Starting my day with 45 min. of meditation & gratitude is so refueling and calming, and gives me such a healthy perspective! I started this habit a couple of years ago and it’s been a game-charger for me! (Important to note: my success with this habit depends on prioritizing my sleep habit!)
  3. Organization = I’m an organization geek. I LOVE organization. I love organized homes, office spaces, schedules etc. So I’ve learned that taking the time to get really organized (at work and home) before I head into a busier season really anchors me. And although it sometimes takes some work, I know my family appreciates my organizational needs too, especially when life gets busier!

So what is YOUR strategy plan going to be? What are your big rocks?  The key is to STOP and reflect, then create a plan that will work for YOU! Remember that we are humans, not robots. Taking the time to remember who is in control, focusing on your 3 big rocks, and creating your own strategy plan will INCREASE your energy and productivity, and will REDUCE your stress and risk of burnout!

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

As most of you know, the heart of what we do at DK Leadership – for organizations AND families – is focused on teaching about and (more importantly!) building Emotional Intelligence (EQ). We do this by providing leadership events, keynotes, private coaching & online training. Regardless of the format, the challenge we constantly face is that while most people have heard of EQ – the majority of people cannot define what it is, and until we explain it they don’t understand why it is important.

This was confirmed again for me this past month when I was speaking at a business conference. I asked this group of highly educated professionals and business owners, “Who has heard of EQ?” – 100% of their hands went up! But when I asked who could define for us what EQ is – only 1 hand went up in this group of 250 people. This is unfortunately a typical response, and it clearly demonstrates the knowledge gap we are working with!

Researchers at Harvard University have found that
Emotional Intelligence accounts for 90% of what makes people successful

I often share with my audiences – if you want to be successful (however you may define it) – EQ is not a suggestion – it’s a requirement!  There has been an enormous amount of research that says EQ is now the #1 predictor for how successful a person will be in their life, both in career and family. But too few people realize this, and even if they did, most would not know HOW to build it, which is the most important part!

The good news is that EQ is simply a set of skills that can be learned by anyone, just like a language. And the first step is to understand what it is and then to become more self-aware.

Click here to watch me explain EQ in this short video:

EQ Simplified

My personal passion is taking a lot of information, data and research, and simplifying it for all age-groups, and I have been doing this for years with Emotional Intelligence. There are 5 main skills associated with EQ (as well as several more sub-skills), so I created the acronym “CARDS” to help people understand and remember them! As we go through this list, ask yourself: How would you rate yourself (0-10) according to these 5 skills? This is a great first step, and it will quickly reveal for you where you may need to do some self-improvement work! You can also do this simple exercise with your family at home or your team at the office!

C – Communication Skills:     

Strong communication is essential for success and overall great leadership! People with high EQ know how to give effective feedback, inspire change in others, and most importantly know how to receive feedback (especially critical feedback), with an attitude of humility instead of defensiveness. They are open to learning their blind-spots and are genuinely hungry to grow and learn!

A – Attitude & Goal-Setting Skills:

Attitude skills include the attitude you have toward yourself, your overall self-esteem, and your ability to set goals. Someone with a high EQ will be confident (not arrogant), and will be aware of their strengths while also acknowledging their weaknesses. They set meaningful goals for themselves professionally and personally, they seek excellence rather than perfection, and have the courage (and humility) to ask others for help as they move towards their goals.

R – Relationship Skills:

The majority of work I do today with organizations involves building thriving relationships and strong teams to drive performance. People with high EQ seek to genuinely understand each other, and to understand their differences (personality, multi-generational, cultural, etc.). This allows them to create powerful relationships and develop strong team dynamics, which in turn leads to increases in engagement, productivity and building an energized culture.

D- Decision Making, Time-Management & Self-Discipline Skills:

Cultivating good self-discipline, setting priorities and managing time are essential for helping an individual to achieve meaningful goals.  A person with high EQ is clear about their priorities, carefully manages their time, makes decisions according to their values and is extremely self-disciplined about executing their goals.  For young people in particular, a huge amount of stress and anxiety can be decreased by teaching them the basics of time-management and self-discipline.

My own twins (age 11) exemplify this: they have learned how to eliminate stress in their morning routine by applying some simple time management skills and self-discipline. They now understand that doing their chores first allows them to enjoy their free time afterwards so much more! I love to teach simple habits that have powerful rewards!

S – Stress, Anxiety & Emotion-Management Skills

Teaching emotion-management skills is one of the most popular keynote topics I’m asked to give to companies!  Parent / educational groups are also hungry for this topic, given the epidemic of anxiety-related problems we are now seeing in younger generations. Someone with a high EQ will understand how emotions work, is respectful toward themselves and others when under stress, and knows how to manage change effectively. They will also know simple tools/ strategies to decrease their stress and anxiety, and all of this will serve to increase the quality of their focus, productivity, communication and overall mood with others!

So that is a (very) brief understanding of EQ! I hope that it has helped to clarify what the term means, but also that it has helped you to identify some of your own strengths and perhaps also some “growth areas” to be worked on. Make sure to rate yourself, and remember that ALL of us can learn these success skills, but self-awareness is the first step!

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn