Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Coach's Christmas Wish

The tires slipped on the snow-covered roads. Traffic crept slowly into the parking lot. Zigzagging through the erratically parked cars, I squeeze my car into a narrow spot and hike what seems like forever to the mall entrance.

As the year winds down and the seasonal craziness winds up, I would like to take this chance to say a sincere “Thank You!” to everyone that has been a part of my life this last year and ask you to pause, take a moment, and reflect on what inspired you in 2010.

I hold the door open for a family behind me. They barely acknowledge my presence as they push like blitzing linebackers breaking through an offensive line to sack a scrambling quarterback in football.

Sometimes being a coach is difficult because with coaching comes confidentiality. Holding true someone’s confidence means I can’t give specifics on why I am so inspired by my clients and colleagues. And with that a bit of this message may be lost but please bear with me.

The buzz of panic, frustration and urgency is a sharp contrast to the jolly themes of the Christmas carols pumped out of the mall’s speakers. Shoppers push and shove, balancing parcels, bags and boxes as they make their way through festively decorated trees and store fronts. Their faces scowl, their eyes frantically searching for clues to that elusive idea, that last special gift.

To be a part of the journey in achieving a life long dream is a special privilege. To see someone embrace their vulnerability and accept their greatness is magical. To hear a barrier being knocked down and a decision made from a position of self-power is exhilarating. To see someone achieve a goal they previously thought was impossible is inspiring.

Heads bob up and down as people balance the tight rope of walking and texting on their phones but time is of the essence and to stop is surely the death penalty. A mother with two small children, one on each side, cause a traffic jam near centre court. The slowdown in speed confuses many as they twist and search for a way out. A phone bounces on the floor and a cuss breaks into the “Little Drummer Boy”.

Coaching is about getting results – no question. Many of my clients achieved their goals much faster than they expected. Doubling the size of their organization, moving into a leadership position, being recognized as a leader, establishing a new business, creating new ways for philanthropic investment and starting a family.

A quiet oasis of leather chairs is packed with sad faced gentlemen. Their exhaustion complete as they stare empty faced into the crowds. A small boy kamikazes through the chairs screaming as his dad tries to catch him. A sudden tranquility takes hold and almost in silent slow motion, a parcel floats through the air before hitting the floor with a shattering of breaking glass followed by a sharp scent of perfume. The small boy stands in stunned silence. “Joy to the World” goes into its chorus.

Coaching is also about enjoying the journey itself. It’s about seeing the opportunity when things don’t go as planned. Being positive when negativity surrounds you. Many of us have been trained all our lives to look at “what’s wrong” and it takes time to retrain ourselves to look for “what’s right”.

A group of teenage boys loiter in a corner, striking a pose that is surely the essence of cool. Three young ladies of similar age walk past giggling then turn and walk past the boys again. An elderly gentleman who obviously appreciates the finer things in life struggles by with his walker, the cut of his coat and pants immaculate yet his hair rebels as his comb over flies upright like a proud flag.

I have been so inspired by so many of my friends, clients and colleagues that I don’t know where to start and would have no idea where it would end. I’ve seen courage, bravery, passion, creativity, honor, humbleness, and more. I have seen reluctant leaders embrace their own leadership style and thrive. I have seen a client simply say “no” – one of the most courageous acts I have ever witnessed. I have seen the power of saying “yes” to dreams.

A doorway opens and a courier pushes two carts into the mall, boxes smashing onto the ground as he jockeys into position to keep both doors open until he is through. His face is set in determination and frustration. He kicks one of the fallen boxes into the open and the doors crash behind him.

I have felt the camaraderie of fellow coaches and was privileged to learn from an elite group of coaches while being coached myself by brilliant, caring, insightful, challenging coaches. I have felt the joy of love and friendship. I have felt the freedom of making a decision and with the knowledge that I am not alone, that I can do anything.

There’s a palpable shift in energy, like I have physically pushed through a hidden barrier and entered an alternate world. The air almost crackles with electricity and I feel my hair rise with anticipation. One of the teenage girls stops the gentleman with the comb over and gently brushes down his hair then gives him a hug. The teenage boys don’t notice because they have rushed to the aid of the courier, smiling and joking as they help repack the carts.

A world of peace, happiness and fulfillment is ours for the making. This is not an “if we want it” statement – it is a “when we want it” statement. It takes courage to ask for what we want and to take the actions that will let us receive it. Old habits, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours that we no longer want to guide us will struggle to maintain their power over us. Yet if we look for inspiration where we least expect it, we can change our world and ourselves.

Santa crouches next to the crying boy as his dad helps mall maintenance pick up the pieces from the broken perfume bottle. A candy cane appears and the boy hesitantly takes it from Santa, then turns and tugs at the coat of his dad. Dad turns and the boy offers up the candy cane, a look of “please still love me” on his young face. Dad takes the candy cane and says, “You know, I think mom will like this even more”. He smiles and picks up the boy in a big hug.

2010 has been a year of personal and professional growth for me. Personally I celebrated a high with my 25th Anniversary with my bride and best friend, Barb, while on the other side of the spectrum I struggled with the impending mortality of my own Dad as he ages. Professionally I received my Professional Certified Coach designation from the International Coach Federation and became a licensed trainer for Coaching Out of the Box® while continuing to build my coaching business. I also joined a group of entrepreneurs in an exciting new initiative that puts people first, the planet second and profits third and I will be sharing more details on it in the New Year.

The sad faced men have moved off to the side as one, away from the overpowering scent of the perfume. Yet they seem to take comfort in their closeness, even though they look like they do not know each other. Smiles appear and soon an animated discussion rises, as strangers become friends, even if just for a short time.

2011 will be an exciting year. I am looking forward to helping more people reach their goals and live the life they want. New programs and offerings will make my coaching more accessible to more people while having higher impact. There will be more opportunities to work with me one-on-one and also more opportunities to learn from your peers with my group coaching programs and workshops. Plus training for managers from all works of life in how to use coaching skills and, of course, continuing my contribution to the charities that help make the world a better place for all of us through my consulting, coaching and volunteering.

As I exit the mall, the stillness strikes me. The air is crisp and cool with not a whisper of wind. The sun shines bright casting long shadows into the parking lot. The snow crunches under my feet. For just a moment, I feel totally at peace. I beckon to a car and the driver follows me like a devoted puppy wanting a treat but this time the treat is a parking spot. As I drive out, the other driver gives me a smile and wave, the bounce in her step infectious. I smile too as my little part of the world just got a bit better.

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season and a fantastic 2011.

Your coach, colleague and friend,



Thursday, September 16, 2010

being a social entrepreneur and changing the world

When I was a kid, I remember every Saturday I
would hop in the car with my Dad and we would
drive down to his furniture store. Dad was the
consummate entrepreneur and he always taught
me to look for opportunities while he showed me
the business.

As I grew up, I worked in the warehouse,
sweeping up after the cabinetmaker and cleaning
up all the cardboard from the containers of
furniture. Later, I started to assemble furniture
and eventually did deliveries. From there, it was
apprenticing with the cabinetmaker and from
there into the office where I learnt accounting
from my Mom.

My parents were always stressing the need for
me to prove myself and learn from the ground up.
And did I learn.

I learned that you should be prompt and
courteous. Even on deliveries, we set a time with
the client and we were there on time – none of
this “we can be there sometime between 9am and
4pm” stuff. If we were going to be more than 10
minutes late, we called to let the client know.

I learned that as the “owner’s kid”, I had to work
harder to prove I wasn’t just there for the ride.
And I did. I worked my tail off.

I learned to respect all people regardless of what
they look like. I remember one regular client
coming into the store when I was on sales and I
asked my colleague to greet him. She looked up,
said something to the nature of “he’s only in jeans
and t-shirt – he’s not worth it” and went back to
reading a catalogue. Well, my client was a
specialist in internal medicine at the local
children's hospital and he dressed in jeans and t-
shirt to make the kids feel comfortable.

I learned that there are many ways to impact
people’s lives. Selling furniture to me wasn’t just
selling a table and set of chairs, it was helping
make someone’s house a beautiful and
comfortable home.

I also learned some things that hurt. I was a
skinny little whip and I just didn’t have the
strength to lift some of the really heavy pieces of
furniture. And some of the warehouse guys
bugged me about being a weakling. But I worked
on my lifting technique and over time, I built up
my strength so that even though I wasn’t as big as
they were, I could still match them pound for

I learned that when things were tough, the
owner’s pay cheque was the last to be signed –
everyone else got paid first.

I learned that sometimes you have to make a hard
decision – when something or someone wasn’t
working out, you had to change it and I still feel
having to fire someone is more my fault than

And sometimes I wish I could just go back to
being a kid again. While I seemed to always have
worries back then, now they seem to be not so

Then I came across this video and it’s got me
thinking, maybe I can be a kid again! I am an
entrepreneur as much as my Dad and I can still
dream. I’m a thinker, a doer, and an innovator.
I’m going to continue looking for opportunities to
make a difference changing people’s lives. It’s
what I do. It’s who I am.

Are you with me?

Entrepreneurs can change the world

Your coach,


Carlo J. Jensen, BComm, CEC, PCC
Certified Executive Coach


Thursday, August 26, 2010

How to piss off a funder

OK, the title might be a bit strong but I really did
piss off a funder big time. Here’s the story…

At the last nonprofit I worked at, we provided
management support to other nonprofits. One
client came to us with a very complex project and
we submitted a proposal that the client sent to a

The funder’s response was that it was too
expensive and that they wouldn’t fund a project
that big. That confused me because the funder
had provided funding for less complex projects with
higher dollar value than our proposal. So I did a bit
more digging for the real reason and found that the
funder had told the client that the proposal was too
complex for my organization to do – we didn’t have
the experience.

Well, that upset me because I had worked hard
and I felt I had assembled a team that could take
on any other consulting firm in the nation. But I
took the high road with the client, explained my
side of the story in an email to the client and then
did something stupid…

I took an email of all my notes back and forth with
the client and forwarded it to my CEO with a
comment “This is Bull%#&”. Can you imagine what
happened? My CEO forwarded my message,
complete with the bs part to the funder’s CEO.

If our relationship with that funder wasn’t already
on rocky ground, it was now. To add to it, I was
going to a function that night put on by the funder.
Oh, boy…

A coaching colleague likes to say, “With adversity
comes gifts”. I went to the function that night and
made a point of seeking out the funder’s CEO
before he could seek me out. I explained my side
and how my emotions had gotten the best of me in
the bs email but that I did feel we had the
experience and expertise to do the project and do it

While it was a very uncomfortable situation, it did
open the door for my team to meet with the
funder’s team about this project and over time, we
got to know each other much better and came to
trust each other and support each other in future

The lessons I learned were many.

First, I don’t put anything into an email that I don’t
want someone else to see – it is just far to easy for
someone to forward it.

Second, to use uncomfortable situations as an
opportunity to build a relationship not to drive us
further apart.

Third, if I am not seeing eye-to-eye with someone,
to take the time to see things from their side and
appreciate a different perspective – even if we still
end up disagreeing.

Fourth, to take responsibility for my actions. I still
feel I was right in advocating for the skill of my
team but I was wrong to put my emotions into a
“bs” email.

And lastly, to look for the gift that comes with
adversity. We ended up with a great relationship
with the funder. It didn’t happen overnight and
maybe we could have done it an easier way, but
we did it and isn’t that what really counts?

Your coach,

Carlo J. Jensen, BComm, CEC, PCC
Certified Executive Coach


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Changing the way we think about nonprofits

The nonprofit sector has had a tough time lately. Funding challenges, board recruitment challenges, bad press, huge executive turnover and more. As nations, organizations and people address these challenges, we also think about what it's all about and for the past few years, lots of ideas have bounced around on renaming the nonprofit sector.

Is the term "nonprofit" appropriate? Is it right to call a sector based on what it is not? Should it be the "voluntary sector", the "human sector" the "charitable sector" or what? One name that stands out for me, not because of the name itself (which may be too long) but because of the philosophy behind it is "the Community Benefit Sector" which comes from Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis of Creating the Future. Now changing the name of the nonprofit sector may not do much, but changing our beliefs will.

In this video, Hildy challenges not only the name, "Nonprofit Sector" but she also challenges our core beliefs and behaviours from the way nonprofits operate to the way funding grants are done. I invite you to take about an hour to watch this engaging video and then comment on it below.

I hope to see some dynamic conversations start as we challenge the way we think and act. What impact, if any, did watching this video have on you? How can you start changing the way you think and act?

Comment (anonymously if you like) below.

Your coach in spirit,


Carlo J. Jensen, BComm, CEC, PCC
Certified Executive Coach


Friday, July 23, 2010

What is sustainability?

Sustainability… probably one of the most over
used words in the nonprofit sector.
Organizations want sustainability, funders want
orgs to be sustainable, staff want sustainability in
their jobs, the people we serve want
sustainability in programs.

But what does sustainability really mean?

A lot of times when an organization comes to me
asking how to become sustainable, it shortly
becomes clear that what they are really asking
for how they can get more funding. “If we could
raise more funds, then we would be sustainable.”
“We don’t have enough funding to be sustainable
right now and that needs to change”

Sure, other things come up in the discussion like
good staff, great programs, a nice place to work,
but those are always qualified with “but we need
more funding first.”

Yet, at the same time I have also done work with
organizations that have lots of funding but are
still struggling to be sustainable. What’s that all

So I was really interested to come across this
video by someone who always gives me
inspiration when I hear her talk, Hildy Gottlieb, of
Creating the Future in Tucson, Arizona.


In this short (less than 10 minutes) video, Hildy
challenges the notion that sustainability is about
the funding. Indeed, it is much more and funding
is not the first thing you should focus on, it is
really the last thing.

Take a look and then let me know what you think
sustainability means to you and your


Your coach in spirit,


Carlo J. Jensen, BComm, CEC, PCC
Certified Executive Coach


Friday, July 9, 2010

A faster way to success

A few years ago I was in Brazil to sail on
a 120-foot wooden tall ship that a friend
had built. Some of you may have heard
about the story of this ship, the
Tocorime, and if you haven’t, check out
www.tocorime.net, it’s a great story.

But I’m not going to talk about the ship
today (I could talk forever about sailing!).
I want to tell you about the taxi ride from
the Rio de Janeiro airport to our hotel.
We arrived in Rio dead tired after about
15 hours in numerous flying tubes. We
picked up our bags and headed to the
taxi stand. We had been told by a friend
to make sure we got a “blue” taxi, as
those were the good ones.

We stood in the “blue” taxi line and
finally we saw our cab drove up.
Actually, we heard it coming first –
banging, rattling, coughing, sputtering –
then we saw the smoke and finally the
car. It drove up, belching blue-black
carcinogens out the tailpipe and finally
coming to a stop with a death-like
shudder. The friendly porter tossed our
bags in the trunk, held closed with a
bungee cord, and ushered us into the
back of the cab.

Our cab driver was in about the same
shape as his car, old, rough, and
belching just about as much smoke
as the car out of one corner of his mouth
while a cigarette dangled on the other
side. But we were so tired, we didn’t
care – we just wanted to get to the hotel
to crash. And we hoped we wouldn’t
crash before the hotel.

The taxi lurched away from the curb and
was soon up to top speed on the 6-lane
freeway leading to the city. I’m not sure
if it was a good thing or not but the top
speed of this car was about 25 miles an
hour – about a third of the real speed
limit. Huge trucks barreled past us and
cars blasted past us honking furiously at
our taxi. Motorbikes appeared from the
James-Bond-like-smoke-screen behind
us as if they materialized from nothing
and then disappeared just as fast.

Our driver was a sweetheart though and
while we spoke no Brazilian Portuguese
and he spoke no English, he valiantly
tired to play tour guide as we drove. He
would gesture and point animatedly as
the car putted along. First he would
point to the left and say something
unintelligible, smiling and nodding. As
he pointed, the car would start drifting
left across the lanes of the freeway. He
would then point to the right and the car
would slowly start drifting back across
the freeway to the right. Then left again;
then right again. All during this time,
other cars and trucks were flashing past
us and swerving to avoid our slow
meandering path.

Like the taxi driver that drifted towards
whatever he was looking at, so do our
paths take us to what we are looking
towards. Are you looking for
possibilities and opportunities or are you
looking at limitations and restrictions?
Are you looking to the future or are you
stuck looking to the past? Do you have
clear goals for your business, life, and
career that keep you focused or do you
aimlessly drift from one lane to another?

Yes, we eventually got to our destination
but it was slower and filled with a level of
stress and anxiety that we really didn’t
need to experience. I encourage you to
set clear goals, keep focused, and
create an environment that ensures your
success; faster, with more certainty, and
with more fun.

Your coach in spirit


Carlo J. Jensen, BComm, CEC, PCC
Certified Executive Coach


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Think financial rewards motivate? Think again...

Way back at the turn of the century, I did
a major shift in my career.  I left a great
paying, great benefit high tech job with
stock options and went into the nonprofit
sector.  I took a pay cut of about… oh,
40% and that was just in my base

Anyway… I did it and I have never
regretted it or looked back.  So part of
me is confused with all the attention on
nonprofit salaries and how I hear we
can’t get the right people because we
can’t pay enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m the first to
say doing good and making a good
living are not mutually exclusive.  I truly
believe we can earn a great living, make
a huge difference in the world, and get
intrinsically rewarded too.  Yes, I want it
all and so should you.

So I was real interested to come across
this video featuring Dan Pink.  Dan has
some real interesting studies on
financial rewards and the link to
performance and they may not be what
you think.

Take a look at this 20-minute video and
then come back and answer the
following questions.

Watch the video here

Great video, eh?  Autonomy, mastery,
and purpose – powerful motivators.
And my questions to you are:

- What rewards will motivate you?
- What rewards will motivate each of your
- What rewards may be unintentionally
- What can you do to find out?
- What would your organization be like if
you had motivating rewards?
- What can you do to start getting (for
yourself) and/or delivering (for your
team) those rewards?

Your coach in spirit


PS - Comment on this article below

Carlo J. Jensen, BComm, CEC, ACC
Certified Executive Coach