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

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

The topic of anxiety is all around us – at work and at home! I recently did a TV segment for Cityline  (CityTV), and in my 10 years on the show, I have never received more emails and questions from parents, grandparents, managers and employers afterward! And this doesn’t surprise me, because the statistics are staggering!  Anxiety has always been around – but what is different is the spike we are now seeing, with nearly 41% of the population at risk for mental health issues according to The Globe & Mail. Millennials are reportedly 2x more likely to take stress / anxiety leaves than previous generations, and a University of California study reported that almost 50% of entrepreneurs had a mental health condition.

Research From The University Of Toronto Says That
Anxiety Is The #1 Mental Health Issue In North America

And while awareness is the first step, taking action and learning practical tools, solutions, and skills to manage our emotions needs to be the next step – and too often it is missing from this narrative! It’s critical that we understand what anxiety is (and I do think many are overusing the term), what causes it and most importantly what we can do to manage it. This applies to all age-groups – for families and organizations. If you want to see my full TV segment – click here:

We originally published the following article several years ago, but I wanted to share it with you again, as it is clearly still relevant! It’s called 5 Practical Strategies To Understand And Manage Anxiety – Be sure to share it with others to inspire and empower them! Enjoy!

Strategy #1:    Understand Anxiety

Many people think anxiety is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, which is simply not true! Part of managing emotions is to understand them. The truth is we have 100’s of emotions and anxiety is simply 1 of them. Feelings are not good or bad – just pleasant or unpleasant. I often say anxiety is our ‘friend’, not our ‘enemy’ – it’s trying to tell us something and we need to stop and pay attention!

Thoughts drive emotions – so when someone is feeling anxious – it’s usually because of a toxic thought that is underlying it (ex. What if I don’t pass this test?; What if I don’t get this promotion?; What if I don’t get into this university?) The feeling is not the problem – it’s the thought! Anxiety tends to be driven by thoughts related to the future and ‘What if’s”.

Strategy #2:    Understand The Performance Anxiety “Lie”

Performance anxiety is a more specific type of anxiety in that it is connected directly to performance (school, sports or work). I see this a lot when I work with high-performing students, athletes, professionals, entrepreneurs and CEO’s.

The irony is that on the outside, these people (usually overachievers) appear great! They are often the top of their class, receiving the highest professional awards or getting the latest promotions. And I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong or unhealthy about achieving, but the challenge arises when these high-performers start to attach their self-worth to what they do or what they achieve – that’s the real problem!  Their thinking is, “I’m ok if I achieve…”, so they often struggle with issues of perfection and confidence. In fact, I often say that anxiety, low self-esteem and perfectionism are “3 best friends who often hang out”. They are all separate issues that are highly correlated!

Strategy #3: Focus On What You Can Control

The secret to changing how we feel (we can’t do it directly) – is to change how we think. Our minds are extremely powerful, and the great thing is that we can control the thoughts we are telling ourselves! If we feed ourselves toxic thoughts: we will feel terrible! If we feed ourselves healthy thoughts: we will feel confident, happy and peaceful.

When I speak at organizations or educational conferences, I emphasize that we need to change the thinking from, “I’m ok if­ __X___” to “I’m ok as I am”! Yes, I may like to work on __X___ but my self-worth is not based on my achievements. When we have the courage to change the things within our control (and have a plan to do so), we will start to feel our anxiety decrease.

Strategy #4:    Re-Define Failure

Part of healthy thinking is re-defining failure or negative feedback. I once heard someone say that when he fails he simply studies the failure as ‘data’. He doesn’t personalize it – it’s simply information for him to study and learn from so he can improve. This type of thinking is extremely healthy!

When I started speaking professionally many years ago, I decided it was imperative to always (and I mean always!) get feedback sheets from my audience.  This can be a little risky, because feedback includes both the positive and the negatives! At first when I started asking for this feedback, I admit that I often took the negative feedback personally.  But I quickly realized I needed to stop doing this. People were simply commenting on my speaking skills, not who I am or my character. We need to detach from feedback and simply see it as data to help us grow!

Strategy #5:    Accept What You Cannot Control

I’ve noticed that many of the high performing clients who I help with managing anxiety are living their life OPPOSITE to what I suggest for Tips #4 and #5. They are accepting what they can control and focusing on what they can’t control, which will only drive their anxiety higher! We cannot control whether people like us, whether we get the job promotion or anything else that is in the future (external). But we can control today – how we think and what we do – which will highly impact the outcome (internal)! For example we can control:

  • Telling ourselves healthy thoughts
  • Detaching our self-worth from our performance
  • Striving for excellence in all that we do (work, school, relationships)
  • Surrounding ourselves with those we can learn from
  • Asking for feedback to improve
  • And seeing “failure” as data that we can learn from

These are the practical strategies which will not only reduce anxiety, but also lead to greater success! Many of my high performing clients with anxiety have admitted that they were ‘afraid’ to let go of their unrealistic, unhealthy, unloving thinking that their self-worth is based on their achievements. They were afraid that if they didn’t think this way – their performance would decrease (even though they would likely be happier).  Can a person change their thinking? Absolutely!! We’ve helped 1000’s of clients radically reduce their anxiety and increase their confidence! What surprises most of them is that not only are they much happier – but often they achieve more because they are more fearless and courageous in taking risks! What a great side-effect of managing anxiety!

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

Happy New Year! I’m a big believer in stopping to write down our goals – both at work and home. I like to do it over the Christmas holidays, and as I was doing so last week, I was reminded that although the process of setting inspiring goals is an energizing experience for me, I realize this is not true for everyone, which is the point of this entire article!

A simple challenge we all face is that life is filled with many tasks that need to get done, even though they are not energizing – and in fact may be just the opposite! These tasks are frequently draining, dull, boring and honestly just exhausting for us (commuting to / from work; giving 360 feedback; grocery shopping; housekeeping, cooking, exercising etc.). Our lists may vary when it comes to WHAT we find energizing or draining: for example, some of us enjoy exercising, while others of us find it rather dull.   But the principle remains the same – we can ALL learn how to find joy in tasks that are important to do, whether or not they excite us.

Now, your first response to this may be to ask, “Why is this important?” And I can think of many reasons, but the simplest answer is, “Why not?” Honestly, if you could do the same task with joy or do it with none, which would you prefer?  Why would anyone choose NOT to feel joy? A second reason to think about this topic is because our moods and emotions are contagious. This is a principle of emotional intelligence. If we feel joy, we feel better about ourselves, we are more relaxed, our body language changes, we smile more, and others around you sense it and will often mirror it right back. As a manager – people will want to work harder for you when you are joyful, and as a parent – I guarantee your kids will want to be around you more! Managing our emotions – especially joy – is important. And the research supports this!

Psychology Today says that “Engaging in tasks that are monotonous or unstimulating seems to be a prime cause of boredom” and LIVE Science says that boredom has been linked to “negative outcomes, including low academic performance, high dropout rates, mistakes on the job, depression, anxiety and a lowered sense of life purpose”.

So what’s the solution? Try following these tips, and watch how they impact not only your joy, but the joy of those around you, as you share it with them!

Tip #1:     Make A List & Reset Your Attitude

Take 5 minutes and brainstorm a list of tasks at work and home that need get done – but that you find dull or draining. Next, circle your top 2 tasks that you want to tackle first. I like to choose 1 for work and 1 for home. Finally, CHOOSE to reset your mind and really pay attention to your thought patterns. What are you telling yourself? Is it “I hate this job”, or is it “I’m thankful I have work”? Do you tell yourself that “I can’t stand commuting”, or is your message to yourself that “I’m so thankful I can afford a car & drive to my work”? Just by CHOOSING to reset yourself to a grateful mindset – you will feel more joy!

Tip #2:     Use The “Piggyback” Technique

I figured out the power of this technique (“Piggybacking” is my name for it) years ago when I had stopped over to visit one of our cottage neighbors (who also happens to be one of Canada’s top interior designers). She would frequently encourage me to come over anytime, so that’s what I often did. This one time however, she was cleaning her cottage as I arrived, a task I think most of us would not look forward to.  But what became clear to me as we visited that day was that rather than just trying to get it over with, she was doing this work in a state of joy!

Now let me backup for a moment. I’m not sure if you clean your own home – but I do. And before this day – it was always an “un-joyful” experience. I wore “work clothes” (clothes that no longer really fit, or were terribly out of style) and I was usually racing to get the unpleasant job done as fast as possible, all the time maintaining an irritated mood (I’m being honest and vulnerable here). But on this day, as I spoke to my neighbor, it was obvious to me that she was having a JOYFUL experience.  She had energizing jazz music playing loudly throughout her cottage, and she was wearing a fabulous dress (stylish yet functional – a far cry from my unattractive cleaning outfits)!  She also showed me the flowers she had just picked from her garden to liven up her space, and even brought out her beautiful new cleaning products that smelled fantastic!  She had “Piggybacked” cleaning her home (a mundane task) with other elements that she really enjoyed and found inspiring (styling, music, flowers, fashion).  The result? She was energized, joyful, and inspired – AND she got the task done!

That day changed my perspective, and a new habit was born! I started making a list of tasks that I disliked doing – and I began pairing them with things that I found inspiring. I even started sharing this simple technique with my coaching clients (many of whom became hooked on this simple technique right away)!  Here are some of their examples, to inspire you:

JOY  =  Mundane Tasks  +  Things That Inspire You / Lift Your Spirit!

A Few Examples From Others…

JOY  =  Commuting To Work  +  Listening To Podcasts

JOY  =  Commuting To Work  +   Calling Your Mother, Whom You Love!

JOY  =  Traveling For Work  +  Going Early & Getting A Massage At The Airport

JOY  =  Waiting In Lines  +  Using The Time To Sort Through Pictures On iPhones

JOY  =  Writing Reports  +  Going To A Funky Coffee Shop

JOY  =  Grocery Shopping  +  Discovering A Great Farmers Market

JOY  =  Cooking  +  De-cluttering The Kitchen & Buying 2 Inspiring Cookbooks

JOY  =  Cooking  +  Signing Up For A Cooking Class With My Family

JOY  =  Working Out  +  Signing Up For A Yoga Series With 3 Close Friends

Tip #3:     Share With your Friends

Once you’ve tried our “Piggybacking Technique” with a few dreary tasks, repeat Tips 1 & 2 as you go through your day, and just watch to see the positive impact it has on yourself and those around you! You will likely feel more energized and inspired, and you may even find that you are more productive! So once you have noticed the positive changes for yourself, make sure you share it with someone you know who could use a lift. It’s a great response to be able to give someone the next time they complain about a task that they simply haven’t found the joy in yet!

Personally, I love easy and simple tips that just make our lives at work and home more enjoyable – and this is one of my favorites. That’s why I shared it with you!

Happy “Piggybacking”!

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

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