An Gold Medalist Mother Choosing to Hold onto Hope

Mother’s day 2020 is one like no other. The new normal consists of sheltering in place, virtual celebrations with loved ones, and an uncertainty regarding when we will return to the life we once knew. In addition to the horrific death toll, the pandemic has impacted all aspects of our lives from church gatherings, graduations and cancellations of sporting events including the 2020 Summer Olympics.

One mom impacted by these cancellations is Allyson Felix. The 6-time Olympic Gold medalist sprinter has defied the odds as a world-class athlete and new mom. Eighteen months ago, Allyson became a new mom giving birth to a healthy baby girl via C-section.

At the time, Felix was under contract with her sponsor Nike who announced they would pay her 2/3 of her original contract because as Nike stated “…they needed to hold all their athletes accountable when they are marketing us to the next generation of athletes and consumers.”

Nike has since ended their policy that penalizes pregnant athletes. But not in time to win back Felix. She has since signed with the Gap and their Athleta brand whose mantra is all about empowering women athletes.

I had the opportunity to hear Felix speak on a program this weekend for women and young girls sponsored by Athleta. The context of the discussion was around the theme of connection during the Covid-19 crisis. One of the fallouts from the pandemic has been the decision to cancel this year’s summer Olympics until 2021.

Instead of focusing on the disappointment, Felix shared with the livestream attendees that she is choosing to focus on hope. She acknowledged that she was profoundly disappointed – even crushed when she learned of the decision to delay the Olympics. Why? Because her family and teammates have sacrificed so much to get her to this point. On a broader level she described what she referred to as a “global grief: a realization of the pain and suffering this pandemic has caused for so many people who have lost their jobs and even more tragic – those who have lost their lives and loved ones.

Allyson said she that in order to move on she had to first accept the disappointment by grieving the loss, and then move forward. As a result, she has modified her training from a workout facility to her home and neighborhood. And while she misses her teammates and coaches, she is extremely grateful for the extra time she is spending at home with her young daughter and family.

Like so many of us, she is adjusting to a new normal. She shared her training regimen, which was grueling including 4-5 hours a day of running and lifting weights. She talked about her belief that we all have the strength to focus on our goals for the things we are most passionate about. In the end, she has made the choice to hold onto hope. It seems to be working well for her so far. 

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Building Your Way Forward: Mind Maps, Odyssey Planning and Prototyping

Part 2: Designing Your Life Chapters 4, 5 & 6

The authors of the book Designing Your Life expound upon the most pernicious challenge of conducting a career search: getting unstuck. Feeling stuck or a sense of inertia is prevalent among individuals in career transition – whether their new status is due to choice or factors outside their control such as Covid-19. Acknowledging this reality is a critical first step toward getting unstuck, and Mind Mapping is a great technique to help accelerate this process. 

Why Mind Maps?

Mind mapping is a great way to unleash the power of creativity. I use mind mapping extensively with my clients and it is beneficial for most if not all individuals who are trying to open their thinking to a new construct such as a career strategy. Both the DYL book and workbook provide readers with step-by-step instructions on how to get started with the process.

Maps encourage boldness…they make anything seem possible.”

— Mark Jenkins

At its core, mind mapping is a form of brainstorming. And the first rule of any good brainstorming session is that no idea is a bad idea. There will be plenty of time later in the process to edit and synthesize. The idea right now is to open up your thinking to new possibilities.

Mind maps were popularized by British psychologist Tony Buzan. The process involves starting with a blank sheet of paper, lots of colored markers and one idea. Write the main idea on the center of the page and then start brainstorming related concepts using branches and assigning a color to each main concept or branch.

Chapter 4: Getting Unstuck

The DYL authors use mind mapping as a method to get the creative juices flowing. They suggest that we often hold disempowering beliefs that limit our ability to tap into our creativity. The mind mapping process is a great way to generate lots of ideas without feeling inhibited or pressured to come up with an immediate solution.

Whether you decide to use the traditional Buzan technique or the one outlined in the DYL book, the process is essentially the same: Start with your main them or topic then use branches or rings to link related topics or concepts. It is often good to set a time limit. Also, I generally recommend creating no more that 3-5 maps. The DYL authors suggest three that can be derived from the “Good Time Journal.” One map for aspects of your life that energize; one for aspects that engage; and one for those that result in a state of flow.

Mind Map Mash-Ups

Just like it sounds, the next step is to mash up your mind maps into a list of ideas that appeal to you. From these ideas, develop what might be a job title, description as well as a sketch or graphic representation of your concept. Another approach is to identify the core themes and develop a list of next steps.

Life design is about generating options.”

– Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Chapter 5: Design Your Life with Odyssey Plans

At first glance, the notion of an odyssey might have a negative connotation. It sounds a bit far-fetched and nebulous. In reality, it can be a quite liberating process. According to the DYL authors, odyssey plans are the various careers or life plans that we can pursue to find success and fulfillment. In other words, there is not one singular path that me must take bullet when it comes to designing our careers.

Exploring Career Career & Life Options

Strong Assessment Inventory

One great resource that I use with clients to help them explore difference career options is the The Strong Interest Inventory The Strong assessment is ideal for individuals who are in career transition as well as those who are trying to determine a particular direction in life – whether it pertains to selecting a career or determining a college major. In addition, the Strong assessment can provide individuals with important insights as well as targeted resources for ways to research potential career choices, areas of academic study and avocation or encore careers.

The approach the DYL authors recommend is developing three possible life plans or options as outlined below.

Life One: Your current life or the ideas you’ve been nursing for some time. 

For some individuals this one is a given: I’ve always known I wanted to be (fill in the blank). For others, this may be difficult. At this stage of the process, I find that it is helpful to provide those in the second camp with possible data points from career assessments such as The Strong Interest Inventory

Life Two: The things you would do thing one were currently gone.

The Strong is a great assessment because it provides participants with several career options to pursue. I generally suggest clients explore 3-5 options. For this exercise, clients should explore their favorite choice in Life One and their second favorite in life two. 

Life Three: The thing you would do or life you would live if money were no object.

Think Robert Branson. If you had all the money in the world, what would you do? Have you always dreamed of opening a restaurant or living on a farm? Whatever your Richard Branson career might be, this is the stage in the process to shoot for the moon (or the farm)!

For each Life Plan, it helps to follow the steps provided in the DYL book and workbook, which include developing a timeframe, a title for each life plan, the question that this alternative life is asking, and a dashboard that includes gauges for: resources, how much you like this option, your confidence in the option and coherency.

SMART Objectives

Another method that I use with clients for vetting career options or objectives is the SMART acronym. “S” stands for Specific: the options you are exploring should be specific. Vague concepts are hard to visualize, quantify and articulate. The life option should also be Measurable. Try to come up with metrics that can be associated with your idea. It is easier to evaluate options if there are metrics that can be developed. The “A” stands for Attainable or Action, as in bias for action. “R” is for Relevant. And finally, “T” is for Time-bound. A visual timeline can often be helpful. I generally suggested a timeline of 3-5 years.

Accountability Partners: Your Life Design Team

Share your ideas with trusting others who will give you candid and constructive feedback without derailing your ideas. It helps to provide your accountability partners with ground rules – their job is to listen carefully, reflect on your ideas, and offer empathetic support. At its core life design is about generating ideas and options.

Networking & Prototyping Conversations

The purpose of prototyping is to explore your options via hands-on experiences. This will require that you interact with others. And while in-person interactions are ideal, prototyping conversations can be done through virtual platforms such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime.

Also known as networking, prototyping conversations take upfront preparation and should never be thought of as job interviews. The objective is to learn more about the careers you have identified in your life planning exercise. Books such as “What Color is Your Parachute” have recommended the value of networking and provide greats suggestions for how to do so successfully.

Who are you Going to Call?

Here are some suggestions for successful Prototyping and Networking conversations.

  1. Do your Research: Learn as much as possible about the careers you have identified that interest you. A great resource for researching careers is the ONET database – published by the Department of Labor.
  2. Start with your Contacts: This can include church groups, LinkedIn contacts, former work colleagues, classmates, professors, neighbors and fellow alums. The career advising office of your alma mater is a great source for providing contact information for fellow alums.
  3. Ask Good Questions: See recommendation #1. You want your conversations to reflect that you actually know a great deal about a given career. You don’t have to be an expert but do show that you have taken the time to learn as much as you can about a given career.
  4. Follow-up: Be sure to follow-up with a thank you note. Email is fine – but be sure to get the person’s contact information. Also, ask for permission to connect with them on LinkedIn. This is a great way to stay connected as well as build your LinkedIn connections.

Life Design Interview Conversations

Here are guidelines for the conversations you are embarking upon.

  1. Get the person’s personal story – people love to share why they selected a particular career and how they got into their current industry. This is good information that you can use in your follow-up message (see step 4 above).
  2. Ask if you can meet virtually if a face-to-face meeting is not possible.

Chapter 6: Prototyping

The purpose of prototyping in the design process involves hands-on experiences or models that the provide a proxy for the actual job or career. When it comes to designing your life, prototyping experiences will allow you to learn via a direct, hands-on experiences thru internships, job shadowing volunteering, or a scaled-down version of the career and life plan. If in-person experiences are not possible, draw upon web-conferencing and virtual experiences.

Argyris and Schön

The groundbreaking work of scholars Argyris and Schön explored the concept of transferring knowledge from an expert to the learner. The focus of their original research was the relationship between practicing architects and their trainees. In the Architecture field it has long been the requirement that newly minted architects apprentice under the tutelage of an experienced practitioner.

Argyris and Schön’s research resulted in numerous insights such as the role of mentors, internships, and even prototyping experiences. The idea is to allow the apprentice to learn by trial and effort. A & S developed the concept of double loop learning where the learning incorporates what they have learned in subsequent iterations of a particular skill.

The DYL authors cite the following examples of prototyping experiences:

  1. Conversations with people doing something you might like to do – via a networking or Life Design Interview
  2. Job-shadowing professionals you’d like to emulate
  3. Volunteer work or unpaid internships
  4. A scaled-down version of the career you envision (e.g. launching a blog versus working for the New York Times).

Enlisting Resources

If networking interviews and prototyping experiences seem daunting, this is a good place to enlist the help of others. Many community-based career resource centers offer help in this area for a reasonable fee. Other great resources include the career placement and alumni relations offices of your alma mater. They have access to helpful information, and most will gladly help their alums with job search endeavors. 

Another great resource are colleagues from previous work experiences – even if they were in a different field. They might have ideas, suggestions and contacts that they are willing to share. 

Finally, there are professional associations for most if not all careers. Many of these associations have websites, newsletters, job boards, and even networking sessions for individuals in the field as well as those wanting to learn more about a particular field or career.


  • Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life you can Thrive in by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • Website –
  • Theory in Practice, Argyris & Schön 
  • What Color is Your Parachute? By Richard Bolles.

#arygis #careertransition #covid19 #doublelooplearning #mindmapping #networking #schön #SMARTobjectives #stronginterestinventory #zoom

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When Women Lead: Learning by Listening

Archetypes and Leadership

Fifteen years ago, I published a research paper and article on the topic of gender diversity in the workplace entitled, “Archetypes and Gender Diversity.” I was fascinated with the notion that women leaders might function differently than their male counterparts. Over the course of my 30+ year career as a corporate executive and entrepreneur, I have examined a plethora of leadership styles in research and practice: hierarchical leaders who rely upon command and control; collaborative leaders who actively engage others in the decision making process; and servant leaders who are driven by the common good and what leadership scholar and author Edgar Schein describes in his book “Humble Leadership.”

People often query me about what is the “best type of leadership,” citing examples from historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln. In reality, there is no one best type of leadership. Churchill was the best leader for our times as a war leader. His effectiveness as a peacetime leader has been debated.

Another question I receive is whether or not women are better leaders than men. Scholar and author Alice Eagly has conducted a vast amount of research on the topic of women in leadership. Eagly looks at characteristics among female leaders such as mentorship, collaboration, and the ability to enhance others’ self worth.

The question of women leaders can be incendiary. Political figures such as Hillary Clinton became a lightning rod for her opponents. Was it due to misogyny or simply a belief that she wasn’t the right leader for our time? While we may never know, there are characteristics that contemporary leaders possess that I believe will carry us forward in this trying and difficulty time in world history.

Starting with Images and Vision

One of those leaders is Eileen Fisher. I had the opportunity to hear her speak at a recent Zoom conference hosted by her Leadership Institute, Women Together. She described her approach to leadership as learning by listening and starting with a vision – whether that vision is for her clothing design company, her Leadership Institute or the farmers who supply the organic cotton used in the manufacturing of her clothing.

She discussed her reliance upon listening to others and asking questions as methods to keep things moving forward. Her desire as a leader to learn from others and from this input she is able to describe to others what sees for the future. She does this through collaborating and her belief that leadership is a journey and one that requires an openness to be learning all the time.

Listening, visioning, collaborating and learning – critical leadership skills at all time but especially important during times of crisis. To this list I would add humility: the ability to admit that as leaders we have challenges and need to rely on the input of others. Eileen Fisher candidly acknowledged her own challenges as a leader and the need to deal with those challenges decisively when the very core of her business model and our society are at risk.

Heart-Centered Leadership

Fisher referred to her leadership challenges as her “shadow side,” and areas that she is constantly challenges herself to master. When asked what methods she uses to deal with these challenges, she shared that she draws upon her inner strength, vision and what she described as a radiant heart – heart-centered leadership.

A Path Forward

In closing she offered a perspective of hope – that perhaps this time of slowing down as a result of the pandemic is both terrifying and exciting. That perhaps by slowing down we can heal the planet collectively and gain more clarity about what is really important in our lives as we forge a path forward in life and leadership.

#leadership #archetypes #womenleaders #vision #collaboration #leadershipcoaching #executivecoaching #aliceeagly #eileenfisher #womentogether #humbleleadership

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All You Need is a Dashboard and a Compass



Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life

A well-designed life is a life that is generative – it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise.”

— Bill Burnett & Dave Evans


The authors clearly articulate what motivated them to write this book and teach this class to students at Stanford University. Both authors are professors at Stanford at the school of design. That’s right, they are both designers by training. Their perspective is authentic and refreshing. There are a few commentaries I take issue with, but overall, I think their advice and process are outstanding.

And despite the fact they teach college students, I think their approach is applicable for adults who are grappling with issues such as unemployment, career transition, or determining what to do next after they have completed their “official career,” also known as an encore career.

You can order to book online at Amazon or through the DYL website. It’s a really terrific resource and offers several tangible steps to jumpstart the process of determine what you want to do with your life. They encourage prospectors to be open, curious and willing to experiment. One concept that resonates with me in my work is what the authors call “bias for action.” 

Bias for Action

The concept of bias for action goes hand in hand with experimentation. Try some things, see what works for you and revise when necessary. The problem is that we all seem to think that we need to have all the answers when we start. On the contrary. The best strategy is to start with questions, experiment, and reframe problems as opportunities.

For example, if you are out of work why not use this time to explore a variety of careers path. Consider learning a new skill that has been difficult for you in the past. I had one client who was inexperienced with Excel, yet it was a requirement for many of the jobs within her field. I suggested she use her new-found free time to take an excel class online.

Accountability Partners

Finally, the authors point to the importance of asking for help. I sometimes refer to this as “accountability partners.” Determine who are the people in your life who can help you along the way, provided you candid feedback and moral support when the going gets tough.

One suggestion I would add is that this process is not linear in fashion and it may require moving back and forth between the steps. In addition, you can combine these steps. For example, be insatiably curious when you are asking for help! Your niece might the best person you know who can help you set up a Zoom conference with one of your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to be creative about who you enlist to help you in this process. 

You are here – as in you are not where you wish you were or where you

think you should be.

—Bill Burnett & Dave Evens

Chapters One – Start Where You Are

As hard as it may sound, we can’t change the fact we are where we are and not where we wish to be. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the serious nature in which you might find yourself. Instead, acknowledge it, set a space for it, and work on strategies to deal with the stress of issues such as unemployment by taking care of your heath (meditation, exercise), surrounding yourself with positive people, and treating your job search like a job. Because, guess what? It just might be the most important job you have right now.

 “Health/Work/Play/Love” Dashboard

The authors describe their version of the dashboard for life, which consist of four elements: health, work, play and love. For each element the reader needs to self-evaluate their current situation on a scale from zero – meaning the tank is empty; to full where your tank is full; and anywhere in between.

So, for example, if you have just retired or recently exited the workforce, your work gauge might be lower than when you were working full-time. Work can include unpaid work such as volunteering or caring for children or elderly relatives

To help jumpstart your thinking, they have published a workbook that is a terrific companion piece to their book – In addition, they off the dashboard and other worksheets on their website for free at under the Resources tab.

Wheel of Life, Wheel of Business

Two additional resources that I use with clients are the Wheel of Life and the Wheel of Business depending on circumstances. The wheel looks like a pizza pie and has categories such as Career, Money, Personal Growth, etc. and can be customized based on an individual’s circumstances at work or in their personal life. Samples of the Wheel of Life and Wheel of Business are available in the book “Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life” by Laura Witworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phillip Sandahl.

Designing Your Life Dashboard: How full or empty is your tank?

For each of the four elements of the dashboard, it is your job to determine how much fuel you have. Is your work tank full but your love tank is empty? Have you focused so much on your health that you are obsessing about your physique but leave little time for play? Try not to overthink your responses. Come up with an estimation for your dashboard. Remember, you can always modify the dashboard later and no one is “grading” your work. Repeat this exercise for the all four categories of the Designing your Life Dashboard: Work, Play, Love, and Health.

Still stuck? This is where you can enlist the help of one of your accountability partners. Ask them for input. I remember when a colleague of mine was commenting on how she was missing out on so many aspects of her children’s lives. She then went on to say that she was routinely working 90 hours a week. It wasn’t hard for me as her colleague and friend to recognize that her work tank was beyond full while other aspects in her life such as health and play were woefully empty.

 All sailors know, you can’t sail a course in one straight line – you tack according to what the winds and conditions will allow. 

– Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

My parents were avid sailors and try as they might to teach me to sail, I never mastered the mechanics of tacking, but I did marvel at the beauty of it when tacking allowed us to get to our destination. I do love to sail – as long as I am a passenger — and I love maps, compasses, and guides. They are tools to help us when we are lost or when the seas seem rough and unforgiving.

Chapter 2: Building a Compass

The focus of this chapter is helping the reading articulate what is the purpose of work, life and how those two very important elements might be out of sync. There was a time in my career when I, similar to my colleague, was working 80-90-hour weeks. I had a young child at home and my husband was traveling a great deal for his work. My workview was to have a challenging career as a Vice President, but my lifeview was to be a participatory mom after having my first child at 38.

My work and life were completely out of sync. My compass was broken. I made drastic changes that meant leaving my corporate career, starting my business, working on my Ph.D. and working from home so I could spend more time with our 4-year-old daughter. It required a lot of sacrifices from a monetary perspective, but it is a decision to this very day I am glad I made. 

Tough Questions Can Lead to Insightful Answers

Some of these questions may be hard to answer. This is where you can enlist the help of a friend, relative or mentor.  For example, if you are finishing your degree, you might be working to pay for tuition. On the other hand, if you are a parent raising small children, you may need to work to provide for your family. There are no right or wrong answers.

Also, remember that your answers can be aspirational. For example, I want to work to make a difference in this world is a perfectly fine answer. If you your life, your career and your compass. Make it speak to who you are and what you think you want to do with your life.

 Finding Your True North

It’s a big world out there. How on earth can we decide which direction to go and where is our true north? In addition to the DYL books, workbook and worksheets and there are several great resources that I recommend. Two of my favorites are Discovering Your True North by Bill George and the companion workbook entitled The Discover Your True North Fieldbook: A Personal Guide to Becoming an Authentic Leader by Nick Craig, Bill Georg and Scott Snook. These two resources are especially good for senior leader so individuals aspiring to obtain a leadership role.

In addition, there is a terrific book by Martha Beck entitled Finding Your North Star: Claiming the Life You were Meant to Live. Martha is a guest contributor with a standing column in O magazine. Her work has a broad appeal and is especially directed to women.

Another great resource that has been available for many years and is applicable to all audiences is What Color is Your Parachute? By Richard Bolles. Even if you have read it before, it is worth a re-read and there is a new version out for 2020. You can download the Ebook for $12.99 through Google play.

Chapter 3: Wayfinding

The authors define wayfinding as the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination. Explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Captain Cook, Jacque Cousteau were wayfarers: they launched challenging journeys and didn’t always know their destination. Fortunately, wayfinding for your career search doesn’t involve building a ship or invading native populations hostile about your arrival – or your return as was the case of Captain Cook.

Wayfinding in the DYL construct involves what the authors define as engagement and energy. Engagement can also be thought of when an individual is in the flow. Think of Michael Jordon leading the Chicago Bulls to 6 championship titles. Or Simone Biles winning yet another Olympic Gold medal in gymnastics.

Zone of Proximal Development

Another related concept to being in the flow is the “Zone of Proximal Development” – ZPD, which was developed by Lev Vygotsky in the early 1900s. Originally trained as a lawyer, Vygotsky shifted his focus to psychology and human development. The Zone of Proximal development is when the conditions are right, and the individual is prime for a learning opportunity – also known as learner readiness or being in the zone.

The concept of flow was developed by a more contemporary scholar, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – also known as Doctor C. People in the flow – like Michael Jordon, or Simone Biles – experience absolute engagement in the task or activity at hand. It is as if time is standing still and they have complete clarity about what to do. 

Adding Energy to the Equation

The authors contend that some activities energize us while others can be draining. Seems like a simple concept, but it sometimes may not be apparent how to determine the difference between the two. The goal is to uncover the things that bring us joy and those that such the life out of us. Another way to look at it is to determine those activities that when we are engaged in create either positive or negative energy.

The Good Time Journal

The way to determine your energy and engagement levels is to keep a daily journal, what the authors call a “Good Time Journal.” Keep a list of each daily activity and rate your level of both engagement (Lo to High) and Energy (Negative to Positive). You can find examples of the Good Time Journal in the book and workbook. In addition, there are blank worksheets available to download from the website (see link below).


  • Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life” by Laura Witworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phillip Sandahl.
  • Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life you can Thrive in by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • Website –
  • Discovering Your True North by Bill George
  • The Discover Your True North Fieldbook: A Personal Guide to Becoming an Authentic Leader by Nick Craig, Bill George and Scott Snook
  • Finding Your North Star: Claiming the Life You were Meant to Live by Martha Beck
  • Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Lev Vgotsky
  • What Color is Your Parachute? By Richard Bolles.

#designyourlife #executivecoaching #careercoaching #truenorth #zoneofproximaldevelopment #coactivecoaching #anningroup #barbaraanninphd

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A Change of Plans

Copenhagen, Denmark

April 3, 2020


Today would have been our departure date from Chicago to Copenhagen to visit our youngest daughter, Josephine (Jo), who was studying abroad. It was to have been a thrilling adventure, visiting all the places she had experienced during what would have been nearly the end of her study abroad program. She had left Chicago in early January. She had planned this program for over a year, applied through the University of Wisconsin where she is a junior studying Economics, Environmental Studies and Public Policy.

Family Ties

But before we get to Copenhagen, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a little context. I come from a very large, close-knit Irish Catholic family: 14 cousins on my father’s side; 9 on my mother’s side. Holidays and family vacations always meant spending time with relatives. And since most of the cousins were in the same age range, it always made for lots of adventures that usually included boats, station wagons, and lost keys.

When my husband suggested we take a trip 15 years ago to the Florida Keys over the Christmas holiday, I was all in – as were many of my relatives. In addition, my husband’s parents were to join us and share the vacation home we had booked on Marathon Key. Unfortunately, they had to cancel due to health reasons. My father-in-law had been recently diagnosed with throat cancer and would be unable to travel due to chemotherapy and his compromised immune system.

Relatives from Florida and Denmark

I called my Uncle John to see if they might want to join us since we would have an open 3 bedroom home next to our rental. He didn’t bat an eye. He said that he and his wife, my Aunt Patricia as well as some of my cousins would gladly join us. It was an easy drive for them from Melbourne, Florida to Marathon Key.

In addition, my uncle mentioned that he was expecting some of my Aunt Pat’s relatives who would be visiting from Copenhagen, Bill and Winnie Linnane, and he would like to bring them along. I remember my Aunt transporting a Honey baked ham across the state of Florida and my cousin Ed making plans for us to tour Truman’s Little White House Hemingway house both on Key West.

Counting Cats and Seasick Snorkelers

Josephine was about 10 at the time of the trip. She along with our two older children from my husband’s first marriage joined us to Marathon Key as did my sister, her husband and teenage son. True to form, my uncle arrived with the ham, the Danes and lots of plans for adventures.

After he had no luck renting a ski boat, he decided we would all take a snorkeling adventure despite the fact some of our travelers feigned sea sickness. Never to be deterred, he led us on an experience of a lifetime where we encountered sharks, coral reefs and a little bit of queasiness. But overall it was a glorious day that bonded our group together.

The next day we drove to Key West and toured Truman’s Little White house and Hemmingway’s House where our daughter proceeded to count all the six -toed cats in residence.

Denmark Study Abroad Program Selected

Fast forward to 2019. Our daughter researched the various study-abroad programs available through her school that had the best fit with her major. See selected Copenhagen for the second semester of her Junior year.

This was to have been an experience of a lifetime for her. Denmark, she told us, practiced many environmentally friendly practices even in their everyday lives. She embraced the local tradition of riding bikes for transportation, buying food and volunteering at the local food co-op, and traveling to remote areas that had wind farms to generate electricity.

To say she was having the time of her life is an understatement. But like so many of us her plans came to an abrupt halt due to the Corona virus. Not yet a huge threat in either the United States or Denmark, we believed she was relatively immune to this disease. Denmark seemed to be doing all the right things and the communication from her school was upbeat, reassuring us that they had it under control.

But everything changed on March 11th. My husband and I had been closely watching the reports of what was happening in Italy. Germany seemed to be indicating that things were getting serious.

Communication from the Chancellor at UW Madison sent out messages that on-campus classes were to be cancelled after spring break. All domestic students were to evacuate their dorms. I reached out to the office handling the international programs, but they had yet to make a decision. How ironic, I thought. Our daughter was living in a dorm-like setting in Copenhagen. Despite this, we didn’t feel comfortable pulling the plug until we received the official work from someone of authority.

Prime Minister of Denmark Closes Borders

Early in the day on March 11th, my husband and I thought it would be good idea to start researching flights home for our daughter. Mike held a 45-minute call with Jo explaining that we suspected things were going to get dicey. After that call, he had finally convinced her that she would need to come home in a week.

I called our travel agent to explore our options were. Since on March 11th nothing had been made official, we would have to purchase an entirely new, one-way ticket for her to come home. We thought a direct flight would be best not wanting her to get stuck in another country on the way home.

We had 24 hours to confirm the ticket and break the news to our daughter – we were serious; she was coming home in a week. At 5 pm that evening, we turned on the news. At the same time, my husband received a text from our son Miles who was living in Richmond, Virginia. Text said, “Dad, you might want to check the news. PM of Denmark has just announced that she is closing their borders.”

It was after 5 pm. The travel agent was closed. I called the 1-800: they answered. Despite the fact our daughter was asleep in Copenhagen (they are 6 hours ahead of Chicago), I booked a one-way, direct flight ticket for her at 3:40 the next afternoon.

To give some context, I was on the phone booking this ticket 2 hours before President Trump announcing that he was closing the U.S. borders to travelers from Europe.

A Call for Help

I had reached out to Bill and Winnie to let them know that Josephine would be studying at DIS in Copenhagen. I asked if they would be willing to keep an eye out for her and we exchanged contact information. They were more than gracious and met for dinner with Jo on several occasions. Bill even took the opportunity to teach Josephine to drive his stick shift car.

Little did I know that I would need to text them in the middle of the night to ask them to get her to the Copenhagen airport before the borders closed. She did not have a car and we weren’t sure if the metro or taxis would be working. Here’s Bill’s text response.


The Space Between

We are all safe. Jo is home taking her classes online, are older kids are sheltering in place with their respective spouses, and my husband and I are working from home. Bill and Winnie are safe at home in Denmark as well. And while I am eternally grateful that so far, we have not experienced the ravages of this terrible disease, I am somewhat melancholy when I think about the adventure that might have been.

So, here are some photos from what would have been our trip. Bill sent them to me to let me know what he and Winnie had planned for us for our first day in Copenhagen. I hope we get a chance to take that trip and most importantly thank these two wonderful people who helped to get our daughter home safely.

As they say in Denmark, tak skal du have.

Dear Barbara,

Winnie and I have just taken a fun, short tour along the canal adjoining Copenhagen harbor. We had planned to take you on that tour when you came over. As you can see on the map below, we would have started at your hotel, and walked/bicycled around the canal, stopping at different interesting sites. The Five-Circle Bridge walking (bottom picture)  which is just across the canal from Marriott’s is beautifully designed in a Maritime style and its rotational opening and closing mechanism is an interesting engineering accomplishment. We would also have included stopping at the Actors Play House, which is a part of the Royal Theatre, and where our son-in-law Christian Lollike presented his successful version of Aladin last season, and incidentally included Winnie’s choir. And we were going to stop in at some of the excellent restaurants, where places like Informel, a wonderful Michelin restaurant was meant to give Jo a better experience than we had together at Bindia (an Indian restaurant). But Jo, we also heard that you did get some great guidance among your classmates and friends. So we, not wanting to be a burden, decided to wait until the family was together for some eating treats. Our bad! – should have been more active.

But the Corona virus will eventually drop, and we will be very excited to get the chance to see you again, if you decide to come on by. You are always welcome, and it would be fun to show you some of Copenhagen that isn’t just on the tourist map.

Love to you all and take care.

Winnie and Bill


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Wall Street Journal Special Report on the Coronavirus

From time to time, I share materials from journals that I read. The Wall Street Journal is one that I go to often for in-depth coverage on topics ranging from industry updates to best practices pertaining to leadership development. Today, the Journal published a special global report on the Coronavirus and suggested subscribers share this information.

I realize that many of us — including myself — are feeling a bit of information overload. I offer this guide as something you can refer to as we continue to work through this pandemic. I hope you find it informative. Be well, be safe.



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Designing Our Work & Life in the Time of Covid-19

The past few weeks have been truly surreal. It is hard to come to terms with a reality where even going to the store requires a series of decisions that have impact on our personal health, the well-being of our loved ones, and our community as a whole. Terms such as sheltering in place, social distancing, and Covid-19 have become part of our everyday vernacular.

Many of us may have loved ones who are elderly, have underlying medical conditions, or are in professions such as healthcare where they are on the front lines of this pandemic. Others of us are fortunate in that we are in professions where we can “work from home” and “shelter in place.” Online learning has become the new normal for everyone from kindergarteners to adults. For many it can be challenging. We all learn in different ways. Some are tactile learners, while others are auditory learners.

In an effort to provide information in a meaningful way, I am launching a series of courses on topics that I have been trained including leadership development, adult learning, career planning, and managing change effectively. My expertise over the past 30 years has been focused on working with executives, managers and front-line employees in the corporate arena. In addition, for the past 17 years I have worked with individuals who want to enhance their effectiveness in their chosen career.

I am going to do what I know best – share my knowledge and expertise with others. Some of my offerings will be workshops while others will be book reviews and articles. In addition, I plan to offer coaching and personality assessments online including the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Strong Interest Inventory, the Enneagram and others.

I am not sure where this journey will lead. My hope is that we will all learn something along the way that will help work through this difficult time and perhaps learn a new skill that we can apply once we get through this challenging time.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

The first program is going to be a review of two books by Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. The first is listed below. My plan is to cover 2-3 chapters per week and share the learnings via videos and webcasts.


After completing their first book, I will move on to their second book, which was published in February of 2020, “Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work and Home.”


Learning Journey

I hope you will enjoy this learning journey. Like you, I will be learning along the way. Learning about myself, new technology, new ways of living and working. And together, we will get through this challenging time.

#anningroup #barbaraanninphd #adultlearning #designingyourlife #designingyourworklife #careers #worklife #covid19 #shelterninginginplace

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How to Handle Feedback

A Review of The Disapproval Matrix by Ann Friedman

Handling feedback and criticism is challenging for most of us and is a common issue on which I coach my clients.

So when I came across a great article in the Chicago Tribune by Rex Huppke about a journalist and blogger named Ann Friedman who refers to herself as a “low-maintenance swagger lady” and a feminist, I was intrigued.

Her writing is a tad irreverent and likely to offend you if you lean toward the political right. If you can get past all that, which you should, she actually created a terrific model to help us deal with criticism (aka “feedback”) called “The Disapproval Matrix.”

In my work as a career and personal coach, I have found that one of the things most clients struggle with is handling feedback and criticism. Even those who are willing to hear the feedback often can’t discern if it’s genuine and if it is, what to do with it. Friedman’s Disapproval Matrix is a great tool to help solve both issues. Here’s how it works.


disapproval matrix 2_FotorThere are four quadrants. The horizontal axis has a line with arrows pointing to one label on the left: “People who know you well;” and one label on the right “People who don’t know you.” The vertical axis points to “Rational” on the top and “Irrational” on the bottom of the diagram. We’ve all seen a lot of these models and may assume this one is just like every other 4 quadrant schematic out there. But it’s not. It’s much more powerful because it helps you vet your critics, regardless of your profession or walk in life.

Quadrant 1: Upper left quarter of diagram labeled “Lovers.” It consists of those people who know you well AND are rational. These are people who want you to succeed and who give a darn about you. (Friedman uses an explicative here.)These are people such as your mom, your closest work colleagues, or your best friend. In other words, they are the folks for whom you have mutual respect. Their feedback is worthy of listening to and acting upon.

Quadrant 2: Upper right quadrant, labeled “Critics.” This section of the diagram refers to people who know of you and are rational. These people are experts in your field – people for whom you have a great deal of respect. These are people who are criticizing your work not you personally. You absolutely want to listen to these folks. Their feedback is critical to your success. They are smart and know something about your area of expertise.

Quadrant 3, Lower right with the label “Haters.” These are the folks who don’t know you and are irrational. Why the heck would you give any credence to the feedback they are giving you? They often deliver their messages in a public forum like comments on your blog and with such venom and force, it make you want to reach through your computer and strangle them. Freidman calls them “ignoramouses.” (I love that term.) You are best to turn blind a eye to what they say. Walk away and don’t look back.

The final quadrant is perhaps the trickiest and Friedman calls “Frenemies.” These are the people who know you well but are irrational. They’re not necessarily bad people. In fact, they could include your screaming toddler in the checkout line at Target, or an undermining co-worker who gives hurtful and irrelevant 360 degree feedback, but never had the courage to tell you to your face. It is even sometimes your boss who is too nice to tell you that you are failing. And sometimes the most damaging “frenemy” of all is that person you look at in the mirror every morning. Yep, that’s right: yourself.

So the next time you get a little dose of feedback, think about where it sits on “The Disapproval Matrix.” You just might find it a whole lot easier to both swallow that feedback, take action or not.

The Disapproval Matrix
Source: Ann Friedmann (

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Many Paths Lead to Rome

This blog has little to do with my business. It is all about family and Italy and I just wanted to share. I hope you enjoy reading about our trip as much as we enjoyed being in Italy.

IMG_7365 IMG_7007 IMG_7552

It has been 2 decades since I had last traveled to Europe Over the years, my husband and I have taken the obligatory trips to Disney, out-of-town swim meets, and a few special destinations along the way, but we had never traveled to Europe together.

Traveling to Italy had been a lifelong dream for me, but not so much for my husband. For his dream vacation think fishing in Canada, sleeping in a rustic bunkhouse or under the stars or white-water rafting along the Colorado River. For me think white sandy beaches overlooking any ocean, white cotton sheets with lots of pillows and European destinations with exquisite views, wines & cuisine.


Our fabulous tour guide Ricca and his darling wife Jennifer

Our brother-in-law Ricca lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife, my husband’s sister, but he grew up in Italy and now runs Suite Retreats, a travel destination business, specializing in trips to Italy. So what better way to see Italy than with a well-traveled native? So, with encouragement from Ricca, my husband and I, with our 16-year-old daughter in tow embarked on the journey of a lifetime that began with a flight from Chicago to Rome.

My how international travel has changed since my last trip overseas. In some good ways and bad: far less smoking in public places, far more security restrictions due to terrorist threats and the aftershock of 9/11. Even with the increased travel obstacles, getting to Rome was fairly easy and well worth the effort.

Event-free direct flight, wonderful accommodations overlooking the Coliseum, delightful fun-loving family members and local “guides” who seemed more like old friends. Wonderful Roman sights, sounds, wine and people.

While once more seasoned travelers, my husband and I realized that along with age comes limitations: arthritic hands (me), knees (him), and the ire of a teenager who seemed permanently mortified by her parents. But we soldiered on and had a delightful time with in-laws and cousins who showed us the way and introduced us to their familial home.

Warm and breathtaking Tuscany!

Warm and breathtaking Tuscany!

If you have never been to Italy, I suggest you do so by any means possible. It is that exquisite of a place. So plentiful are the sites in our three destinations (Rome, Tuscany & Florence) that it would take a lifetime to see them all. As hard as Ricca tried to squeeze it all into 10 days – he achieved an even greater objective by infecting us with a love for his country, hometown (Florence) and province (Tuscany).

Cousins at our villa in Tuscany.

Volleyball match poolside in Tuscany

Unfortunately, Ricca and his family could not make the return journey home with us via Rome. So we bid farewell at our Villa in Tuscany and took off for a quaint airport on the outskirts of Florence.

Travel weary and bleary eyed from one too many glasses of the finest beverages, volleyball matches, and late-night conversations, we returned to Rome. Without Ricca as our guide, the trip back to Rome wasn’t nearly as easy as we expected. Our limited command of Italian phrases and only a few remaining Euros in our pockets made the trip a little challenging.

But we made it – perhaps with a few bruised American egos, bus-sick tummies, and a redundant snow-globe or two. I think Ricca and the rest of our guides would have been proud. To say it was easy would be a lie, but we left Rome with memories for a lifetime. In the end we learned the greatest lesson of all, whether by plane, bus or train, there are indeed many paths to Rome. Whatever it takes, I encourage you to find your path. It’s so worth it.

Cousins at the Coloseum

Cousins at the Coloseum

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Collaboration Defined


verb col·lab·o·rate \kə-ˈla-bə-,rāt\
: to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something
: to give help to an enemy who has invaded your country during a war

Full Definition of COLLABORATE

Intransitive verb

1 : to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor
2 : to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one’s country and especially an occupying force
3 : to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

Source: Merriam Webstermerriam webster

 Collaboration Defined

The definition seems so simple, kind of obvious, right? I have found in my many years of business experience – including launching a coaching business 12 years ago – that one of the most challenging skills for even the most successful people to master is the fine art of collaboration.

The tricky thing is that not every challenging situation, project or conflict calls for collaboration. People often chuckle when I mention this to them. They say things like, “I thought collaboration was the best strategy – especially in the workforce when tackling a very difficult situation or problem.”

To Collaborate or Not to Collaborate

The truth is that knowing when to collaborate is just as important to success as knowing when not to collaborate. For example, most crises when a qualified expert is at hand are usually not good candidates for collaboration. If time is of the essence and the expert can do the job more quickly and with better results that consulting with others, it’s usually best to let the expert jump into action.

On the other hand, if you have a little time and a team of experts from a variety of disciplines who all have necessary skills, by all means, get a team involved and let them collaborate.

Perhaps an example can illustrate the point. Say your spouse has been severely injured in a car crash and is taken by ambulance to the closest trauma center for emergency surgery. The trauma team, including the anesthesiologist on call, is at the ready. The trauma anesthesiologist will need to act quickly and decisively to administer the appropriate drugs in order to allow your husband to go under the trauma surgeon’s knife. In this type of crisis situation, you want that anesthesiologist to handle your loved one’s crisis in an expeditious manner.

This is an example of a crisis situation, a situation of do or die when the parties involved need to act swiftly. In my field, this is a time when key experts need such as the trauma anesthesiologist need to act quickly to do whatever it takes to “compete” to save your loved one’s life.

Collaboration wouldn’t work in this type of situation. Why not? Because time is of the essence. Your loved one needs immediate care to save his life. There would be no time to delay. No time to consult with outside experts to come up with a integrative solution by getting everyone’s input. Your husband would be in dire circumstances indeed if that team decided to collaborate instead of competing to save his life.

A Good Time to Collaborate

Here’s my own personal example of a situation when collaboration was the perfect solution. As mentioned previously, I launched my coaching practice 12 years ago. I have had hundreds of wonderful clients, all of whom I acquired through referrals. I knew one day I would need a website and a blog, but it wasn’t a priority – AND – I am technically a little challenged, so did what I coach my clients not to do: in dealing with the situation, I avoided resolution by procrastinating.

Finally, in January of this year, I realized it was time to bite the bullet. I set out to accomplish three objectives build a website, start a blog, and complete the Enneagram Riso Hudson instructor certification. The problem with my first two objectives was, lacking the technical skills to do this myself, I needed to hire someone.

So I started to get quotes. The estimates were more than I expected and, again, I was stalled on this goal. I was telling my woes to a former colleague, a wonderful person whom I knew from my days at CNA insurance. I actually called her to schedule a time for lunch and to reconnect when she blurted out, “Barbara, I can do your website. That’s what I do in retirement! And, I’ll do it for you for free!”

It wasn’t easy. I would have given up months ago. But we stuck it out – Monica and I. We laughed, actually guffawed. We met in person and over the phone. We even met with our husbands – both named Mike – over a lovely dinner.

She challenged me because you see she wasn’t only my “webmaster.” Yes, she has outstanding technical skills, but more importantly, she has great marketing savvy and is an amazing writer and editor. Just what I needed to launch my online presence. I had great coaching ideas that I wanted to share with clients and prospect. Monica helped do so in a cogent, approachable manner.

I had to swallow my pride at times when she chided me for using way too many Ph.D. words and long paragraphs. The end result is something we are both pretty proud of because of what we were able to accomplish together.

Keeping Focused

I think the reason this was so successful is because we intuitively followed the rules of collaboration:

  • We each brought skills and knowledge the other didn’t have and we respected each other’s expertise;
  • We listened to each other and didn’t let our egos get in the way;
  • We overcame obstacles by research the solutions – even sometimes enlisting the help of other outside experts; and
  • We created some simple goals at the onset and focused on our overall objective.

So keep these rules in mind the next time you encounter a situation and wonder: to collaborate or not to collaborate. Just like Monica and I. Collectively, we accomplished more than either of us could have done individually.

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