By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

I have a quick question for you – yes or no – what is your gut reaction to this question: Do you think you are operating effectively as a Team at work? What about at home? Let’s go deeper and talk about culture. What are 3 words you would use to describe your Team? Would you use words such as “partnership”, “playful” and “energizing”, or would it be words more like “imbalanced”, “argumentative”, and “burdened”?  It’s a simple but very important question!

The concept of Team Culture has always fascinated me. Why is it that some families can operate so effectively as a Team – each member contributing selflessly, with partners and children all working together to contribute towards a common goal? Meanwhile, other families lack this unity of purpose, and it seems like only 1 member is doing all the work. The same divide applies in many organizations I have worked with. Some have powerful and productive Team Cultures – while others have dysfunctional cultures in which expectations are unspoken or unrealistic, roles are not clearly defined, people are afraid to bring up conflict, and 1 or 2 people are doing the majority of the work.

Whether this 2nd scenario describes a family or a corporate setting, the results will be similar for either system. People will inevitably feel unmotivated, resentful, exhausted, and un-energized – and they will ultimately disengage.

The great news is – it just takes one dedicated Team Leader, regardless of work or family culture, to kick-start the change (this could be you!)

So how can we create this change? There are many ways – let me highlight 3 areas to start with!

Tip #1:     Know & Share Your Vision
Parents are supposed to be the Leaders at home. It’s our job to clarify our family’s vision and express it clearly, in a compelling and inspiring way, to our children. Some of you already know your vision, while some of you may have never considered it! No problem – this is a great time to stop and think about it.

The same rule applies at work: Attention – all Senior Leaders and Managers! An important part of YOUR role is to continually define and express your organization’s vision to your Teams!  WHAT is the big picture? WHY are we all working so hard? What’s the point of each of our jobs / tasks? Team Members need to know why!  They also need to see WHERE they are going, WHY you want to go in that direction and HOW they can contribute to this bigger picture! This clarity will create energy, alignment, motivation and overall engagement.

So here is a quick homework assignment.  Without prepping – spontaneously ask your family at your next family dinner – “What is our family vision?” Can your kids answer this question? Have you ever defined this for them? If not – focus here first! Same thing at the office: at your next Team Meeting – ask your Team Members to define your Company Vision! So often when I ask this question of organizations – people can barely recall any part of their vision or mission statement.  Your vision needs to be reinforced in an inspiring way at every Family Meeting and Team Meeting. It needs to become embedded in everyone’s brain!

Tip #2:     Work Together & Clarify The Roles

Let me share with you the key ingredient for every “Great Team” I have worked with: everyone is contributing what they can! These teams are working together, all moving in the same direction towards a common vision.  So as the Team Leaders (yes this is you, Moms & Dads / Senior Leaders, Managers) the next step is to really think about ALL the roles that need to happen to achieve your vision and who is best suited for each role. Put the right person in the right seat. I remember years ago when I first read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits Of Successful People”, he wrote about this in the family context. He shared that as a father, he and his wife clarified the vision for their family – then wrote down ALL the roles that have to happen to make this vision come to fruition – and they asked their kids to sign up for their own roles. What jobs would they prefer? Who is best suited for each task?  I remember reading that passage and thinking what a simple but brilliant concept to encourage buy-in for a family vision!

We recently experienced this as a family during Thanksgiving this year (yes, being Canadian we celebrate this holiday in October). We went to our cottage for the weekend, and our country property has lots of “opportunity” for Teamwork– weeding, raking leaves, chopping wood (we heat by fire), stacking firewood, etc.  There is no shortage of “work”. Not to mention the other tasks that needed to be done inside the cottage (laundry, cleaning, food prep and cooking). This year my husband and I were more intentional about talking with our kids about WHY it’s important that we ALL work together as a Family Team & HOW that looks on a practical level.  We clarified ALL the potential jobs – and quickly they each “signed up” for what they wanted to do.   My husband cranked the music outside, and for 2 solid days – we worked together. It was an incredible bonding experience. On the second day, our one son said “Wow, this is actually fun”. I don’t think we have ever worked that hard together as a family – and not surprisingly – we all felt an incredible energy and closeness as a result!

Tip #3:     Pause & Celebrate Together

Working together is actually quite magical. It’s bonding and inspiring when you can see a finished product or wrap up a project. When Teams are working on a shared goal, it’s exciting (and potentially exhausting) to reach the finish line – but hopefully also exhilarating! However, Tip #3 is just as important as Tip #2!  Great Teams work hard together – but they also celebrate together after the win. Too often when I work with organizations – they push their Teams, hustling the maximum effort from their workforce – but there is no clear finish line. As soon as they finish one project they start the next, and there is no pause or celebration of accomplishment!  When Leaders push hard but don’t celebrate with their Teams, Team Members will often not only feel disrespected (especially the younger generations), but they will also feel emotionally deflated and disengaged. Celebrating together is actually an essential ingredient for  building Great Team Cultures! Thankfully celebrations don’t have to be expensive – they can be simple gestures that pause, acknowledge, and affirm a job well done! In our family – celebrating looks different each time but often it includes simply “playing” together: things like letting the boys stay up later and watching a movie together, playing a board-game, having hot chocolate by the campfire, or going for a bike-ride. For work cultures – I’ve seen Great Teams do group potlucks, go out for lunch, attend sporting events, host wine & cheese events, etc. Try some of these ideas the next time you need to celebrate a milestone with your team; or better yet – ask your Team (at work and at home) what they would  value? Great Teams are highly productive (they get work done) AND they also highly value each other as people, which is WHY celebrating together is critical.

Happy Family & Work Culture Building 🙂

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello to our DK Leadership Community!

The topic of organization has always been a strong interest of mine. I’ll be honest – I LOVE organizing! The process of purging, sorting and reorganizing drawers, closets, cupboards and desks – I find it energizing and calming. And while some of you may be able to relate to this – my guess is that many others do not. My husband is an example of this alternate viewpoint; he loves the finished product of an organized space – but the process itself he finds tedious, and definitely not energizing.

For years I saw organizing as simply a fun task, something that’s good to do (like exercise) but not necessarily essential.  I never really thought about the positive or negative impacts that being organized or dis-organized might have, or how organization levels can impact a person’s moods, motivation, productivity, performance, creativity and overall emotion management. That all changed for me when I started to read more on the topic…

According to Inc. Magazine, the average person wastes 4 hours each week searching for items (because of disorganization and clutter), resulting in increased stress levels, and reduced creative thinking and productivity!

That article and others like it demonstrated clearly to me that being organized offers many benefits beyond just peace of mind, and we can all benefit from this habit!

When I participated in executive group coaching years ago, one of the simple tasks we were advised to do was to leave our office desk-space completely organized before we left the office every day (all files put away, nothing on the desk). We were taught that not only is it a good organization strategy, but it psychologically signals that you are ready for the next day. This simple 5-minute habit has truly been a game-changer for me!

Similarly, when I first began working with teenagers, I quickly found that the status of their desk (their “work station”) had a strong impact on the likelihood of them wanting to do their homework.  I now know that organization is a critical component for teen motivation, and we spend an entire section of our Dare To Dream Leadership Event on the importance of tidy desks and bedrooms.

So how can we start to get ourselves organized at work and at home? My encouragement is to start small: begin with just 1 simple area such as your work desk OR your home desk. Once you have the routine down, you can apply it to just about any space within your life. And like any great principle, this process will work for everyone – from students to CEO’s!

So for those who want to be more organized, here are my 5 tips:

Tip #1: Block A Chunk Of Uninterrupted Time

I’m a big believer in starting and finishing jobs. So I highly recommend setting aside a chunk of time during which you will not be interrupted so you can power through your ‘Organization’ task. Depending on the status of your desk (home / work) – this could take a couple of hours or more! So turn on your favourite playlist, roll up your sleeves and get started.

Tip #2: Break It Down

Trying to teach my 11-year-old twins these organizational concepts is a great reminder of the importance of having simple sequential steps. When people feel overwhelmed, they often get paralyzed and do nothing. When you have a clear road map with simple action steps, however, you will feel more empowered to take action. Here is my go-to list to break this task down:

Step #1: Take Everything Out & Clean The Space
Step #2: 
Sort Into These 3 Piles: (1) Garbage + (2) Give-Away + (3) Keep
When going through a lot of papers, try to avoid becoming distracted and reading every item (you will quickly burn through your time). Instead, stay focused on simply putting each item in the correct pile and tell yourself you will come back to it later.  For example, I have a file that’s called “Reading To-Do”. It’s a file with several articles / items I want to read when I have time.
Step #3: Put Everything Away Based On The Pile
Put garbage in the trash and give away any extra items the same day – don’t put this off! All of your “Keep” items should now go back in your desk, and the key is that every item (stapler, pens, hole puncher) needs a “home”. If you don’t establish a home for each of these items, your brain won’t know where to put things away next time, which is why our desks start piling up with “stuff”.

Tip #3: Make A List Of Essentials & Go Shopping 🙂

I once heard that to be highly productive, it’s important to have everything at your fingertips when you work. Do you have all your ‘tools’ close-by? Here is what I have at my DKL office as well as my home office: pens / pencils; erasers; stapler; hole puncher; sticky notes; lots of highlighters / liquid paper; binders, paper, binder dividers; a headset (I use this all the time at our office if I need pure quiet); and my luxury item is my own personal printer. Years ago I started noticing how much time I was wasting by getting up from my desk and walking to the shared office printer that was located in another room. So I solved this by buying a simple printer and placing it right beside my desk, both at work and at home.

Don’t forget the big items too: a comfortable chair is extremely important; a light on your desk so you are not straining your eyes; and my other favourite – a great filing cabinet right beside my desk to store all of my “tools”. Remember, your desk is your workshop – and it’s important that you have it all ready to work at when you arrive! So if you are missing anything from your list, you need to go shopping 🙂 .

Tip #4: Create A 5-Min. Habit & Watch Your Energy

Once you have done a thorough organization job – the key now is to maintain it. Keep it simple and quick. Start blocking out the last 5-10 minutes of your work-day to quickly put everything away and back in its “home”. This simple habit is powerful and energizing, and will work wonders for your mental state as well as your productivity when you arrive the next day!

Tip #5: Inspire Yourself

Now that your workspace is organized and functional, it’s important to place a few items on it that inspire you. For many it’s a few pictures of their family and friends, for others it’s flowers or treasured items (trophies or awards). The key is that your space should reflect who you are, and should motivate you and lift your energy!

So there you have it – your blueprint for having an organized workspace! As you start to implement these steps, pay attention to your emotional energy, stress levels, productivity and performance when you are in your “new” space. Many of my clients (from CEO’s to students) get hooked on these steps once they start to experience and recognize the benefits :)!

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello to our DK Leadership Community!

For many of us when we think of “summer”, it’s with a feeling of excitement and joy. We think about relaxation and rejuvenation, swimming, biking, travelling, connecting with family / friends, and having nothing on our “to-do list”.

According to research from Harvard, 50% of employees who work more than 50 hours per week do not use all or most of their paid vacation days.

But unfortunately for many others, thinking of summertime actually raises their stress levels.  There is actually a name for this and it’s called “Summer Stress Syndrome”, in which many people don’t know how to relax when they are not being productive. Others feel stress about spending more time with their immediate or extended family – it’s easier to hide at the office than to face the reality of relationships that are unhealthy or not going well. Many people also feel stressed by how much their “summer plans” (traveling / kids camps / extra daycare) are going to cost them.

So how can we take the stress out of summer and maximize this precious time? Below are 3 simple tips that I hope you will find helpful. If you need more ideas, I also encourage you to watch my recorded TV segment on “Cityline”(North America’s longest running talk-show) for some more tips:

Tip #1: Know Why Refueling Is Important

I’m convinced that when we need to make changes in our life we need to start with answering WHY! When we understand WHY, the HOW becomes much easier. Relaxing is important because it refuels us, and this is critical for anyone who wants to perform at a high level in any area of their life, both at work and at home. If we constantly push, push, push without refueling – we are at risk of burning out.  It’s healthy for us mentally, physically and emotionally to “give ourselves permission” to disconnect and refuel so that we can then return to our tasks and responsibilities more efficiently.

I have tested this on myself many times and I am a firm believer in this concept! When I assess my efficiency at work before a holiday, then take time off to refuel, time and time again I return to the office and see that my focus, creativity & productivity have MASSIVELY improved!  And the bonus is that because I am fully recharged, my emotional mood at home is much more relaxed (just ask my family!) – It’s a solid win/win!

Tip #2: Aim To Enjoy BEING With Your Family

Let’s be honest – I’m a doer. I love having a ‘to-do list’, and being productive while checking items off my list gives me such a great feeling of satisfaction.  But I’ve learned many lessons from being a mother – and one of my favourites is the power of JUST BEING PRESENT!  I often catch myself applying my default ‘productive mind-set’ when I’m at home, and while it’s great to get things done, I now recognize when I need to park this attitude and focus on being present and truly enjoy my husband and children!  I find children and teens are especially intuitive – they can sense our feelings and attitudes.  When I am not fully present, my kids KNOW it. Some people are very natural at BEING (and less natural at being productive) while others are by nature more productive and have to learn how to BE. There is no right /wrong to this, just different personality profiles and strengths.

For me – I had to learn how to BE; to slow down, enjoy the moment, “stop and smell the roses” (I’m sure many of you can relate!). It’s a great example of how our children can be incredible teachers for us, and this is one of the most valuable lessons they have taught me!

Tip #3: Discover 1-2 Hobbies

Do you have any core hobbies that help you to refuel? If not – I highly recommend that you use the summer to discover them! Taking time off in the summer is not very inspiring if we have nothing planned for that time. Research from Claremont Graduate University in California found that people will be most engaged in an activity or hobby that requires some level of activity and thinking, which makes sense – so try to find something that excites or inspires you to do more of it.

When I’m speaking at events I will often ask the audience for examples of what do they do to refuel? Unfortunately, the most common phrase I hear is “Well, I used to …” or, “When I was younger… “. The truth is that refuelling hobbies are critical for our overall well-being. So take a few minutes and jot down any hobbies that you used to do and enjoy (ex. painting, jogging, rock-climbing, dancing, biking, baking), and then prioritize some of those hobbies this summer. And if you can, try to do that hobby with your friends, your spouse or your kids.  Once you inject some fun into your life, just watch what happens to your mood, your emotional energy, and your creativity! The impact on your personal health, as well as the relationships around you, will demonstrate why the research tells us that taking time off is good for all of us, both at work and at home!

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Happy April to our DK Leadership Community!


Let’s Talk Personality…

The topic of personality is generally one that all my audiences (organizational, educational or parenting) get highly energized and excited about. I think there is something just generally fun about understanding how we are wired and how we are similar to or different from those around us! In one of my recent TV segments on the national talk-show, Cityline – I discussed this important topic! (Click the link below if you prefer to watch the video clip.)’re-an-introvert-or-an-extrovert/

What comes to mind when you think of an extrovert? A loud, over-the-top, outgoing person who dominates whatever group they’re part of? And what about an introvert? Someone who prefers to be alone, quiet, unassuming to the point of meekness? The truth is, while we can all be divided into extroverts and introverts, the differences are much more nuanced and understanding how we are ‘wired’ will impact ALL parts of our life – at home and work!

What’s Your Type?

Although there are personality tests that will define your specific type, there are often clues in our behaviours and preferences that reveal our most likely category. The difference between extroverts and introverts is their energy and how they respond to different situations. Extraverts get their energy from others – introverts get their energy from within. For example, I’m an extrovert and being in groups of people leaves me energized and feeling ‘alive’. Back in my student days, I landed a part time job in an accountant’s office where the money (at the time) was great – but I didn’t like it! Why? Because I was working all alone in a quiet office, and it left me completely drained and feeling uninspired. So, I only lasted 1 day there, but soon became a front desk receptionist at a hotel. The money wasn’t as good, but being around all those people energized me – I loved it! An introvert, on the other hand, may have preferred the office job simply because it suited their energies and fulfilled their need for quiet.

Another clue to understanding your type is in your thought / speech process. Extroverts tend to process out-loud so they “speak-think-speak”, while introverts process more internally so they “think-speak-think”. I’ve also noticed that many introverts I know are extremely observant; perhaps this is what they are doing while the rest of us are talking!

A great example is former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. I’ve never met them, however based on watching interviews I would guess that Barack is an introvert and Michelle is an extravert (yes, opposites in this category usually end up marrying each other). If you watch him in interviews, Barack carefully chooses his words and thinks before he speaks, demonstrating classic introversion tendencies, while his outgoing wife Michelle tends to be more animated, speaking freely off the top of her head. Different styles for sure, but both equally eloquent and completely engaging in their own way!

There’s No Right Or Wrong

I often find that western cultures tend to idolize extraverts while eastern cultures tend to idolize introverts. The truth is there is no right or wrong here, and neither should be considered better. They are simply different and the most important thing with this topic is to understand who you are so you can maximize your personality!

Author Susan Cain has written extensively on the subject of extroverts and introverts in her incredible book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She offers a fascinating look at how we can all gain from understanding these differences. In fact, Cain states that the most effective teams are comprised of a healthy mix of both personality styles, which further proves the point that there’s no right or wrong – and I fully agree!

Play To Your Strengths

Once you’re in tune with yourself and understand exactly what energizes you, you’ll have a much easier time playing to your strengths. One of the VP’s I interviewed for our Strategic Career Industry Expert Podcast Series shared a great story with me from earlier in his career. He shared that he had been getting increasingly frustrated at work when he kept seeing his extroverted co-workers networking with ease and as a result getting promoted. At first he tried to be like them, but that didn’t work for him. Then he realized he needed to simply play to his introverted strength. One day after work, he made a list of all the ‘key players’ he would like to network with in his bank. The next day he started emailing them, asking them out for lunch or coffee. He realized that his strength was in building relationships 1 on 1 (not in large groups). His strategy worked and today he is one of the senior leaders at his bank!

The takeaway is to know how you are wired so you can understand what energizes you and structure your life accordingly. If you are an extravert, make sure you are surrounding yourself at home and work with other people. If you are an introvert, structure your life with small groups, 1:1 interactions and plenty of alone time.

As a spouse – also try to make sure your partner is getting what they need so they too are fully energized. I’m an extravert who is married to an introvert. When my husband & I were newlyweds, I took it personally when he started to say he “needed space”. Thankfully, once I understood the power of personality, I understood it had nothing to do with me, as he had told me – he simply just needed space to be energized. So a little tip for spouses: first play to your strengths, and then also make sure your spouse is playing to theirs! This little “secret” can literally energize couples!

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

What exactly is “grit”? While most of us may think of it as a stubborn determination to get through anything life throws at us, is it so much more than that:

Angela Duckworth, a professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who has written a book on the subject, defines grit as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort towards very long-term goals”.

She has even devised a test to determine where you place on the ‘Grit Scale’, and explains just how critical it is as a predictor of success. So how can we build grit in ourselves and others? How can you encourage grit in your teams and with your children? I have found that how we handle failure is an important part of building grit!

TIP #1: Push Yourself & Expect 20-30% Failure

 I found it interesting when I learned that employees at Google are encouraged to set goals, and yet expected to achieve only 70-80% of them. Why? Because their philosophy is that if employees are achieving 100%, their goals are too easy! They want to create a culture that is fast, progressive and risk-taking, in which employees are not afraid to try new things. To create that kind of culture they need to inspire employees to stretch, but also to manage expectations that not all their ambitious goals will be reached. Pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone, striving for excellence and expecting (some) goal-failure is all part of building grit. It’s changing our attitude about goal-setting and failure, to an approach which is more realistic and empowering. Personally, I have found this new mindset very helpful; at our office, we have several exciting large projects on the go, and things are moving quickly! Recently, when something has been missed or doesn’t work, we don’t agonize over it and over-analyze; we say “that’s part of the 20%” and we let it go and refocus on our energy on our priorities. It’s been liberating!

TIP #2: Stop & Take Some Time

When we encounter failure, or we don’t reach a goal that truly matters, that’s when our “grit-muscle” is needed. We are not robots – we are humans! As we set goals, and sometimes don’t achieve them, this failure will often bring out feelings of sadness, frustration, or disappointment – it’s a natural emotional response! So how should we cope? First, don’t ignore those emotions; give yourself some “recovery time” to process them. According to motivational speaker and former sports agent Molly Fletcher, recovering from adversity, both physically and mentally, is the only way to achieve success, and it’s something she strongly encouraged in her former clients, many of whom became the top athletes in their field. Once you have gained perspective on your failure, and learned what you need to from it, then give yourself permission to let it go, hit reset, and start going after the next goal.

TIP #3: Lean In & Have A Growth Mind-Set

So what should we do during the “recovery process? Lean in and have a Growth Mind-Set! Often, our first reaction to failure is to run and turn our back on it. However, moving towards it and asking for feedback is the only way to learn from it and not let it defeat you. Ask yourself – what worked? What did not work and why? Without understand why, “failure” is likely to happen again. Having a Growth Mind-Set is using data (from failure) and really studying it to help you grow! Data is powerful – without knowing why you failed, you’ll simply be guessing, which is not only a waste of time but will teach you nothing! So the next time you think you have failed (at work or home), have the courage to lean in adopt the Growth Mind-Set. Ask others for their feedback (terrifying: yes, powerfully helpful: YES!). If you ask, most people will tell you, and that powerful data will only strengthen your success muscle of grit.

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn