We provide organizational consulting & coaching:
Get in touch! 1.415.440.7944
Contact us

A New Year: Look Back Before Planning Forward

January 14th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

Admit it. How many of you, as you rang in the new year, secretly (or maybe even publicly) said, "Thank GOODNESS 2018 is over!" or words to that effect?

Certainly, there were things in the past year we'd all rather forget. And yet, you are doing yourself a major disservice if you don't pause to reflect on - from a personal and professional standpoint - some highlights of your year. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What challenges did you overcome? What new skills did you develop? Taking stock of these items will not only improve your view of the past year, it will also help guide your thinking as you plan your goals, intentions, whatever you want to call them, for the new year.

So. Grab a tablet, a pen (or your laptop), and a beverage of your choice. Find a quiet place and allow yourself 30 minutes or so to list out the following for 2018:

What I accomplished

What I learned

A challenge I overcame and how

A new skill(s) I developed

Once you've made your list, give yourself some time to reflect on (and feel good about) all that you've achieved. Focus on the positive! Then, as you plan for 2019 (and you are developing a plan, right?) let your list help guide your intentions (that's what I like to call them) for the new year.

I think we've all figured out that New Year's "resolutions" don't work. They are typically too broad (lose weight, get out of debt, win the lottery) and not tied to specific actions or deadlines. Research shows that 80% of them are abandoned by February. So why bother, right? Wrong!

I suggest a different approach. First of all, keep it simple yet specific. Second, keep it balanced. Too often we focus so much energy on changing one aspect of our life that we totally neglect the other aspects. For example, there's that promotion you want, so you put 110% of your energy into doing the work, gaining the visibility, and finding the opportunity that will get you there. Pretty soon you're skipping the gym, eating junk food at the office for dinner, and saying "no" to time with family and friends. "Vacation? Not happening!" And do you get the promotion? Maybe. But at what cost?

Here's my guide for creating a simple plan that will help keep your life balanced and moving forward. It's called the Circle of Life. As you consider your intentions for 2019, think about the eight aspects of your life illustrated below. Where do you spend the most effort? As you look back on 2018, what aspect did you neglect or ignore? How will you change that this year?

Now make one or two intentions for each aspect. Make them simple, make them specific, and write them down! Include due dates wherever possible.

Once you've created your plan, keep it visible. Put it someplace where you can see it every day. Schedule time on your calendar once a month to assess how you're doing. Pay attention to what's getting out of balance, e.g., when work is eating into your intentions in personal growth or friends/family. Make some adjustments to get back on track.

Taking a look back before moving forward and being more intentional about creating balance in our lives are components of my GET REAL philosophy. So often we burden ourselves with what others tell us we SHOULD do - "find passion in your work," "lean in," "keep climbing that corporate ladder," - that we lose sight of what we WANT to do. We are so focused on the destination that we miss the view along the way.

Here's to an amazing and balanced 2019! I'm declaring it a year to GET REAL! Stay tuned for more GET REAL developments.

"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." - Neil Gaiman

Till next time,


Goal setting, Life, People, wellness, Work-life balance


Time to be Accountable to Yourself!

April 1st, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Accountability-4When was the last time you woke up and decided it was going to be “your day” and you did EXACTLY what you wanted to do? Can’t remember? Well, you’re not alone.

If you’re like most of us, you spend a lot of time during your work week making sure you meet all of your commitments, arrive at meetings on time, return calls and emails promptly, and get done what you said you were going to do. Because if you want to get ahead, if you want the good performance review, you’ve got to be ACCOUNTABLE. And that usually means being accountable to your team, your manager, the company.

And little changes on the weekend. You need to be accountable to your family (as you should be!), accountable to the “homestead” and the pets and your friends and so on.

What about being accountable to yourself? Where do you fit in the mix? Generally last or a close runner-up. Am I right?

I’m here to suggest that it’s high time to start being accountable to yourself. This is different from “personal accountability” which is about owning up to your mistakes, accepting responsibility for your behavior, admitting limitations in knowledge or skills, etc. Most likely by now you’ve got that down. Being accountable to yourself means taking some time to think about what you really want and then allowing yourself (and expecting yourself) to do what it takes to get it. It means taking risks, being bold, stretching to the point that it’s scary and exhilarating and FUN.

Think about it for a minute. Is there something you’ve been longing to do – develop a long-percolating idea, get out of a job you hate, move to a place you love – but keep putting it off because you’re too busy being accountable to others? Who’s in charge here? YOU ARE.

Follow these steps:

    1. Write down what’s truly important to you. Don’t know? Get REAL and figure it out!

    2. Make a plan. Goals. Actions. Deadlines. STRETCH!

    3. Implement the plan. Be BOLD! Be ACCOUNTABLE (to yourself!)

    4. Give yourself a STELLAR review.

    Remember, you’ve only got one life to live. Make sure it’s your own.

    Till next time,


    Accountability, Learning, Life

    , ,

Color Your Year Fulfilling: 3 Key Career Questions for 2014

January 28th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan


Career_Questions The beginning of the year is a good time for self-reflection. In my last blog, I talked about reflecting on your life as a whole, and making sure that you are taking good care of yourself and your heart this year. For many of us, where we are in our career and/or what we do every day as our “work” will have at least some impact on that.

Taking some time to think through whether you’re on the right path – one that is fulfilling for you – will help you assess whether you need to make changes. It will also provide you with the opportunity to look differently at where you are. Maybe it’s the best place for you – for now. Maybe not. Either way, unless you pause and reflect, you’re not gonna know! So…grab a blank piece of paper and some colorful markers. Find a quiet place and give yourself the gift of some time to think through these questions.

How do my values map to the organization I’m working for? Of course, you need to know what your values are for this step. Think about your top 5 values. Write them down. Then think about the values demonstrated by your leader and by your organization. Do they align with yours? Or is there a major disconnect that may be contributing to your discomfort or dissatisfaction?

Why did I choose my current role, and why do I stay? Many of us end up in jobs based on opportunity or need rather than by career design.  This may go on for years until we wake up one day and realize how far off we are from our desired track. This is your WAKE UP CALL!!

How is what I’m doing moving me toward my ultimate career goal? Now that you’re awake and thinking about all of this – take it deeper. What IS your ultimate career goal? What skills, knowledge or experience in your current role will help you get there? If nothing, then it might be time to give some serious thought to making a change.

Reflecting on these questions (and, of course, doing something about the answers!) will help you identify what’s important to you, and ensure that you are coloring 2014 in a way that is going to be meaningful and fulfilling for YOU.

Till next time,


“Like” us on Facebook for more tips about career and leadership.


Career, Career planning, Learning

, , ,

Building Your Bench Strength – The 4 Key Steps

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

As the economy begins to rebound and more opportunities become available, many companies will be faced with the harsh reality of losing their brightest stars. Worn down from increased workloads and fewer perks and growth opportunities, high potential employees will be quick to answer the call to greener pastures.

Companies succeed in large part because of strong leadership. And yet, according to a recent ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) study, less than half of the companies surveyed had plans in place to ensure ongoing leadership strength. Of those who did have succession plans in place, only 14% characterized their succession plans as effective.

Effective succession planning involves four key steps:

  1. Identify the critical talent needed – key skills and competencies

  2. Create individual development plans for high potential employees, based on the key skills and competencies needed, and connect those plans to corporate goals

  3. Communicate the succession plan to targeted individuals so they know they have a stake in the future of the company and vice versa

  4. Validate and improve the program through employee feedback and measurable results

As companies focus less on how to survive and more on how to thrive, succession planning becomes a key strategic lever. Knowledge and wisdom from leaders need to be transferred to those on the bench. High potential employees need to be retained and developed to guide the organization to the next level. And a plan for continually supplying the leadership pipeline needs to become a part of the culture.

Succession planning is not a nice to have. It is a must have.

Till next time,


Leadership, Professional and team leadership, Succession planning

, ,

Get Real About Your Career – Start by Taking Inventory

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

The start of the New Year is typically when we “resolve” to make changes: eat less, exercise more, learn something new, change careers…
If a career change is on your list this year – whether it’s moving to a new career, finding new work in your current field, or creating more work/life balance – an important first step is figuring out where you are today. This is what I call Taking Inventory. Clarifying who you are and what you want will help you define, communicate and achieve your career goals. Here are 8 key areas for your self-assessment.

  1. Skills. What are the skills and competencies that have helped you succeed in your career so far? Which of them are transferable skills that will help you contribute regardless of industry or position? Write them all down.

  2. Values. What are the things you MUST have in a company, a position, a leader to be happy and do your best? What motivates you?

  3. Natural talents. What are those innate abilities that keep coming up in compliments and performance reviews? “You’re a natural at…” Fill in the blank.

  4. Interests. What do you like to do? Think large on this one. You never know when an interest you haven’t really focused on so far may lead to a new opportunity…

  5. Job Satisfiers. Or, as I like to call them, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” What are the factors that have made your past work situations rewarding (the good), boring or frustrating (the bad) or something you never want to repeat (the ugly)?

  6. Barriers. Here’s where you really need to “get real.” What are those internal blocks that have kept you from being all you want to be? Write ‘em down. Recognizing them is the first step in eliminating them.

  7. Key accomplishments. Think back over your career and other areas of your life. What have you done that made a difference for your team, your department, your company, your community?

  8. Salary requirements. In today’s job market, this is often one of the first questions asked, so it’s good to start thinking about this early. Consider what your basic expectations are and then, when you’ve determined your target market, do some research to validate your expectations.

Completing these inventories will take some time. However, you will be amazed at how much you’ll learn about yourself, and how the resulting personal career snapshot will guide you to “what’s next.”

Want to know more about how to “Get Real” about your career? Check out our online guide here.

Whatever you do, don’t stop believin’. ‘Til next time, Karen.

Career, Career planning, The Get Real Guide to Your Career

, , , , , , ,

Dollars on My Mind

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

Let’s continue our walk through The Get Real Guide to Your Career. We’ve been very busy in the last seven blogs taking inventory of who we are today. We’ve looked at skills we want to use, our values, the natural talents that make us who we are, and of course, we’ve even looked at the themes that are the foundation for our accomplishments and have established our career path.

No Running Away!

Now…it’s time to look at the one area people normally run away from screaming – the dreaded financial conversation. I can already hear you all saying “I’ll wait till Karen’s next blog. I’m cool with money; I don’t need to look any closer.” And…I can even hear “has she gone completely nuts? Why do we have to discuss money? I was having so much fun rediscovering who I am.” Yep…I’ve heard it all…and…I doubt there will be much that will surprise me. So, here’s a thought…just keep reading for a minute and see whether you can power through without shutting down.

The Financial Conversation with yourself…

I know that the financial conversation can bring up emotions we don’t want to deal with. The financial conversation can remind us of our upbringing, it can remind of us what we haven’t achieved and it can remind us of how incredibly lucky we are to be where we are today. My vote, let’s go with the last one and be very grateful for where we are today. Remember…success is defined by each of us individually, and we have to judge our success on ‘our terms.’ Our financial situation don’t define our success, and it is only one component of our life. As we look back at all we have learned so far, maybe we can take the “charge” out of the money conversation and realize our life is made up of multiple successes and experiences, and that darn money part is just a piece of the entire picture.

You’ve got to SEE it to internalize it!

So…let’s go for it. You might as well get out your paper and pencil because you know what’s coming. Ya gotta write it down. Ya gotta see it to internalize it and make some shifts.

As we begin thinking about what’s next, and the financial rewards we want with our new career role, we also have to think about our financial requirements today – what we will need to sustain our lifestyle while we look for that next opportunity. The first part should be fairly easy for us to define. What are your current fixed expenses? Those bills that you know have to be paid each month: mortgage/rent; auto and health insurance; car payment; child care. Well, you get it. We all have our fixed expenses, so really think that through and get it down on paper and total the amount. See that wasn’t so painful, was it?

Now let’s think about our variable expenses: groceries; gasoline; credit cards; eating out; entertainment; clothing; shoes (a girl’s gotta have a new pair of shoes – maybe that should be in the fixed category!) Again, you get the idea. Write down the approximate amount you spend in each category and get your total.

How about those savings? What amount of accessible funds do you have available (just in case you need them): savings; stocks/bonds; IRAs; change in the piggy bank; money stuffed in the mattress. Get it down on paper. I am in no way suggesting you use your accessible funds; however, it is always good to understand the amount of money you have, where it is and how to get it if necessary.

Remember, this is all so we can truly understand how much money we need/want to make in our next position. Some people will be thrilled with their current financial situation and will not want to take big risks for big rewards. Other people might want to take some bigger risks so there is a bigger payment in the end. All of this is an individual decision and needs to be based on what is best for you.

Time to do some discovery work on what you are looking for from a total compensation perspective. It is important that you understand your salary/income requirements prior to your search. This will be based on your target market – including geographic location, industry or type of organization, position/function (all coming in future blogs). Look at your requirements in the following five categories. List what you: a) would like, and b) what you are willing to take in each category. Be realistic. Or…maybe you can dream a little bit and have two lists. Why not? One that is realistic, and one that is completely out there in dreamland. You are going to write that book you know is in you, get on Oprah and become a zillionaire!!

  1. Base salary

  2. Commission

  3. Bonus

  4. Benefits

  5. Other (stock, signing bonus, extra vacation time, etc.)

See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The salary conversation is often the hardest one to have and you need to really think it through. That is why it is so important to be clear about your requirements and be able to clearly articulate them. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be for you to answer the question “what are your salary requirements?” You don’t want to hesitate…you want to be sure of yourself…and say exactly what you want. Remember…if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

Hope this helped, and you don’t have knots in your stomach. In fact, I hope this exercise took the knots away. You are now clear about fixed and variable expenses. You are clear about your compensation requirements, and you are very, very proud of where you are today.

Your success is defined by you and for you!

Remember…your success is defined by you and for you. Don’t let anyone else place their values on you and tell you what success looks like for you and your life!

Here’s to the greenbacks coming your way!!!

Till the next time…Karen

Bruce springsteen, Career, Jersey shore, New jersey, Performance Reviews with The Get Real Guide to your Career, Professional and team leadership

, , , , , , , , ,