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 (www.annfriedman.com)

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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.

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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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Thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg and Her Book “Lean In”

Lean InSheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, nationally syndicated speaker and author of the book “Lean In”made the news recently due to the tragic death of her 47-year-old husband, Dave Goldberg while traveling on a family vacation in Mexico.

Ironically, I had been working on a story for my blog that pertained to Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” which was published in 2013. When I originally heard about the book, my first reaction was to hate it. I remember thinking, “easy for Sheryl Sandberg to tell women to lean it. After all, she is the COO of one of the most successful and progressive companies on the planet.” In addition to her success at Facebook, Sandberg had previously held senior management positions with Google and the U.S. Treasury Department. She represented to me sort of the “1 percent” of most working women out there.

Can All Women Learn to Lean In?

Most women I have known over the years didn’t have the luxury of an ultra-high price tag compensation package or of working for a company like Facebook with progressive workplace policies & culture. Many of these women worked because they needed to support their families, put their children through school, or provide a caring home and environment for their aging parents. In other words, I didn’t particularly think her advice applied to these women — the other 99% who might feel pressured not to speak up for fear of financial or professional reprisals.

I have experienced first-hand and through my coaching clients what can sometimes happen when women “lean in.”

 What About Push Back?

At first blush it seems rather obvious and simple. Right? How hard can it be to lean in? I have found, through coaching countless female executive clients and in my own experience as a corporate executive and entrepreneur, it can be plenty hard!

For many women, speaking up can still be challenging for a number of reasons. It seems that many in our society still believe that when a man speaks his mind forcefully he is being assertive, an effective leader per se. But when women speak their minds – especially in the business world — it is often perceived in a negative manner and they can be labeled the “B” word. 

It Really Does Work

But I gave the book a chance, and I liked it. In fact, I thought she provided pragmatic advice to women as to why we should have the confidence to do things like speaking up at a business meeting or conference when we feel strongly about something–even if we are in the minority. Instead of sitting back and deferring to those in power (often still men,) Sandberg suggests we sit forward in our chairs, lean in and speak our mind. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you pick up a copy of the book, “Lean In.” It provides outstanding advice for women.

 The advice Sandberg offers is not only applicable in the workplace, but it is also in our personal lives. So when I read the story about Sandberg’s tragic loss, I realized how fleeting life is. How in an instant our lives can change. And the courage that is required of each of us when we are faced with an unkind twist of fate. Dealing with such a profound loss is perhaps one of the most difficult experiences one could imagine. So in the coming months as she processes the loss of her husband, a man she describes as “her best friend – her rock; the person who makes everything possible,” I hope that she draws upon the great advice she offers to other women. 

Read, Watch and Learn

So, take some time to sit with Sheryl’s message and put some of her suggestions into practice. In addition, I suggest observing Sandberg as she works through her loss and the grieving process. I suspect she will do so with the utmost level of dignity, grace and fortitude. I suspect she will deal with this incredibly difficult period in her life by leaning in.

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A Quiet Mind

chester path_Fotor

We’ve all had those experiences if life when something touches our soul in a profound way. I had one of those experiences recently at an Enneagram training program I attended in the beautiful Connecticut countryside.

The Enneagram is a personality assessment that has been around for ages and is now hitting the mainstream in the coaching profession. The program I attended was a grueling six and a half day affair with sessions that went late into the night–especially difficult for me because I’m a morning person. But I stuck with it; in fact, we all stuck with it: 17 fellow students and two master Enneagram teacher.

Be Present in the Quiet

We began each day with a meditation or chant–a much more difficult task than I expected. I found it to be one of the most challenging aspects of the training: to be present in the stillness with a quiet mind.

Like many working parents, I am always so busy doing: checking email, writing proposals, doing laundry, working out, organizing the carpool, feeding the dog, texting, sending invoices, coaching, making dinner, etc., etc. Just the thought of stopping to take a breath seems implausible. But deep down I have known that I needed to find some way to slow down and be still.

Yoga has been one of the ways I have found to accomplish stillness. Mind you, I was not a big fan of yoga originally. The thought of sitting around humming with a bunch of strangers seemed downright silly. But, after some initial misgivings, I gave yoga a try. You know what? It worked. It is the one place where I can go and find inner peace, a quiet mind so to speak. I have since learned that there are many methods and ways of meditation. It could be prayer, yoga, taking a walk in the woods or any practice that allows us to enter a place of stillness: a quiet mind.

Look Inside to Move Forward

I’ve also learned how necessary it is for personal or career growth to be quiet and listen to yourself to learn what success means to you and how to achieve it.

Sometimes it requires the help of a coach, teacher, mentor, priest or rabbi to find what works best for you. The Enneagram workshop I took did this for me. I have learned so much more about how to look inside and be present.

Find Your Style

Be good to yourself and find the time to pick the practice that works best for you. You just might find that doing so will help you to achieve a quiet mind and state of inner peace. You also might find that you will have a renewed sense of purpose, clarity and energy to tackle whatever life brings – whether it’s about your career or your personal life. It’s amazing how loud the quiet can be if we just listen.

Enneagram 2_Fotor

To learn more about the Enneagram and my work as an executive coach, Contact Us today.

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Spring Cleaning—It’s Not Just for Closets!


Spring has sprung in my part of the country and it brings with it so many wonderful things: daffodils in bloom, birds chirping and the itch to start spring cleaning closets, storage spaces and even the dreaded garage.

Careers Need Cleaning Too!

Many of us get the urge to de-clutter our homes at this time of year, but our efforts don’t have to be confined to our private space or any space at all. In fact, spring is a great time of year to de-clutter our work environment and habits as well.

I find that the best way to start cleaning up my business life is to revisit my objectives for the year: what are the things I really want to accomplish and then take a critical look at the tools, resources, skills I will need to accomplish those objectives.

First, take a look at the physical clutter in your office. I recommend using the 5-year rule: if something hasn’t been used in five years, it means it ‘s time to send that item to the recycle bin. In today’s age of electronic everything, it really isn’t necessary to keep hard copies of materials that are saved electronically.

The de-cluttering concept can also apply to purging old, nagging habits that are no longer serving us well. I have worked with many of my clients to identify what are the skills they need to take them to the next level. Sometimes, it’s even more important to identify what to leave behind.

Old Habits Die-Hard

Old habits die-hard and often we don’t realize what ‘s no longer needed for success in a new role. For example, you may have always been a detail person and that served you well in the early days of a career. But as you move into higher leadership roles, staying too focused “in the weeds” can prevent you from seeing the bigger picture. It might be holding you back from being perceived as more strategic: a valuable skill for leaders.

Working with a coach or mentor is a great way to get an objective look or assessment of your skills in key areas. It’s hard to get this kind of clarity on your own and working with an objective third party might help you achieve greater success in your current role or the next role/assignment you are shooting for.

Shake Out the Dustwebs

So take some time this spring to reflect on the steps you can take to make your work-life less cluttered. By doing so, you just may find that you have more time and energy to focus your efforts on the things that will bring greater career satisfaction and success.


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Play at Work

A friend of mine recently suggested I write a blog about having fun at work. I remember thinking at the time it was kind of a crazy idea – an oxymoron if you will. Just the idea of putting the two words together in the same sentence seemed rather silly.

The more I thought about the topic – the more the concept intrigued me. What if we could find a way to play at work? Surely there must be research out there on the topic. So I did what good bloggers do when facing writer’s block: I Googled it.

Play at work. Right before my eyes came streaming a litany of articles, books, research and – you guessed it, blogs. Even the New York Times had an article in the Sunday paper – actually an obituary – about Brian Sutton-Smith, a professor, author and developmental psychologist who spent his life and career studying play – more specifically children’s games.

And while Sutton-Smith’s loci of study pertained to child’s play, there are some concepts in his theories that can be applied to the workforce such as team building programs, brainstorming and participating in March Madness brackets at work.

I reflected on my own career and times when along with my co-workers we played at work. In my case, the best example was when I worked for a small, entrepreneurial geo-demographic firm in San Diego. We had a blast! We were constantly playing trivia games with one another and spoofs on holidays such as when one of the researchers brought his large stuffed rabbit into the office the day after Easter. Another time one of the staffers road her bike around the main floor of the office to let off steam. Both examples were playful and they worked to create an engaging, creative and fun work environment.

So it turns out that the concept of having fun on the job – play at work – is not such a silly idea after all. In fact, it just might lead to more creativity, job satisfaction, and productivity in the workforce.

Or in the words of the famous poet Emily Dickinson, “It is easy to work when the soul is at play.”

So, the next time you want to shake things up with your staff,  encourage a little fun in the office. Set the tone—try it yourself. It might be just the trick to turn things around. 

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Go Ahead, Harry. Make My Day!


It was Halloween; I was a newly minted MBA who had recently joined the venerable medical supply company, Baxter International.

With my new colleagues, I was at my first quarterly results presentation. Normally given by the division president, on this day his stand-in was the CFO for Global – the wiz kid finance guy, Harry Kraemer. He donned a mask – I can’t remember if it was the Joker or Nixon. Makes no difference. There was no joke about this guy. He was witty, engaging and obviously going places within Baxter and beyond. The folklore is that Harry was the brains behind Baxter’s bold move to acquire American Hospital Supply in 1984. Whether fact or fiction, Kraemer was definitely a man to watch and went on to become the CEO of Baxter International nearly 10 years later.

Fast forward to 2015. His Baxter days long behind him, Harry is thriving in one of perhaps the finest examples of an “encore” career. Having been “run out of town” at Baxter, as he states in his book From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2001), Kraemer now appears to be having the time of his life as a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and executive director at Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm.

In addition to Values to Action, Kraemer has written a new book Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization through Values-Based Leadership (Wiley, 2015). Both are outstanding – well worth the read. He suggests that the most effective leaders must employ techniques of self-reflection and values-driven leadership in order to inspire others. He embodied these principles in his leadership role at Baxter and was the type of leader that you wanted to get behind and work hard to achieve the best outcome.

As I read his most recent book, I remember being inspired by Harry all those years ago. I thought, this is heady stuff in today’s era of corporate leaders who are usually perceived to be anything but self reflective and values-driven. As I closed the book, I felt inspired to incorporate this style of leadership in my work and pass it along to my clients. Thanks, Harry. You made my day.

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