Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Blogathon Ends

Today marks the end of our blogathon. I have enjoyed getting to know my fellow National Speaker Association members better through their writing. It’s a fabulous way to help members of a professional association connect and support each other.

I have learned more about blogging from my buddies’ examples and through tips from our fearless leader Jackie Dishner. Because of our increased focus on blogging and connecting, it became natural to ask any blogger for ideas (thanks Paula Shoup for telling me about great pictures at using advanced search selecting the “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” option).

Best of all, we have developed a more regular writing habit which will really help as we shift to writing more on our book on collaboration.

Several of our participants had major life events that got in the way of their participation and Jackie has said she will coordinate another event in a few months. I will definitely do this again!

Thanks Jackie and all of our blogathon buddies!


Pressed Into Collaborative Service

Be forewarned! If you go out to dinner with me on a day when I didn’t get to write, you may be pressed into collaborative service. Such was the fate of my husband and friends last night.

by Angela Rutherford on flickr creative commons

Writing – blog posts and book pages – is my top priority from now until March and I am applying reward incentives to keep myself focused. One of those is “No wine until I write two!” The two is two blog posts (to stay ahead of the game), two pages (on the book) or two genuine hours of writing (even if it doesn’t yield a finished product).

Yesterday got away from me before I could write my quota. With me at dinner were my husband George, and friends Mike and Diane. We’d already ordered the wine so I had to act quickly. I asked, “Can someone give me two examples of how collaboration worked for you this week?” Both Mike and Diane came up with an answer. I’ll save Diane’s collaboration example for another day.

Mike talked about finding a problem with the way a customer’s data was showing up on reports that his company produces. He got his team together to solve the issue, considering whether the data was coming in incorrectly, what happened to the data next, finding the source of the problem, deciding if it applied to other customers and estimating the cost of fixing it. The point of the story was that the team collaboration helped to resolve the issue quickly.

Much to Mike’s dismay, Diane and George started asking him a whole lot of questions, attempting to collaboratively solve the issue all over again! My glass of wine was perched at my place-setting waiting for me to take my first sip so I asked Mike if he needed any help and he said “No everything is being handled.” Yahoo!

The moral is: If you’re out to dinner with me and supply an example be sure to start by stating what help, if any, you need. Hmmm…that’s a tip that might work in other situations too.

How do you motivate yourself to stay focused on your priorities?


Who do you find through Social Media?

The Phoenix chapter of the International Coach Federation holds periodic Living Room Salons — small gatherings (20 people max) in a member’s living room to discuss a coaching related topic and share ideas.

Last week’s Salon included a mini discussion about whether people’s networks of contacts are growing more like-minded or more varied as a result of Social Media (for this purpose include things like chat rooms and special interest listservs, as well as LinkedIn, Face book etc).

What do you think? Take our poll at and/or leave a comment below.


Collaboration, Commitment, Renewal, Habit and Accountability

Sometimes collaboration alone is not enough to get something done. For example, to get our blog started, Maddie and I collaborated. We posted twice and then 2 months went by.  Hmmm… that wasn’ t working.

We made a commitment to blog twice a week — I’d take the beginning of  the week and Maddie would take the end. Gwyn Nichols also weighed in with ideas and encouragement. We were going along well for awhile and then life got busier. We had 8-day, 13-day and 11-day gaps. Then no posts in December. Yikes!

Thanks to Rob Cottingham for permission to use his terrific cartoon. Check out

So when Jackie Dishner offered the National Speakers Association AZ Chapter Blogathon we jumped on board. We committed to posting and visiting regularly, daily if possible. Now we had Jackie cheering us on and offering ideas as well as our blogathon buddies visiting and posting comments. How encouraging!

Even then, it took awhile to establish a habit. The accountability to others helped us to stick with it long enough and I’m happy to say that we’ve now accomplished 8 days in a row! We’re still committed to writing daily though we may focus on our book and not post quite as often.

What habit do you want to establish? How can collaboration, commitment, renewal, and accountability get you through to the habit?


Collaborating Long Distance

Shackleton was not impressed by our ideas

I have a lot of experience with collaborating long distance and find that it works quite well.  For example, yesterday I met by phone with Maddie Hunter, who lives in NJ, and Gwyn Nichols who is here in AZ. We talked for about an hour or so, brainstorming and planning a presentation that we will give in a few months.

Then, we divided up some assignments and  hung up to write individually for a half-hour. We emailed our drafts and got back on the phone to discuss and edit and plan next steps. It was productive and fun, and together we came up with ideas that would not have occurred to us individually.

We’ve used google docs ( brainstorm by writing ideas simultaneously in a spreadsheet and to store documents that we both need to access. Now we’re trying a collaborative online project management software program that Gwyn introduced us to – Has anyone ever tried it?

What tools do you use to collaborate long distance?


Collaborating with yourself?

Photo by mil8 from creative commons of

I was conducting our Maximize Your Performance through Collaboration workshop and mentioned that an over-expressed strength can also be a challenge. As an example, I used my strength of taking responsibility for things (sometimes everything!!!). While it is truly a strength, when over-employed, it can inhibit the contributions of others.

One of the participants was nodding his head and shared this story. “I learned an important lesson early on in my Navy career. I was feeling pretty good about a brainstorming session I’d just had with my staff.”

“My superior said ‘Congratulations! You just did a great job collaborating…with yourself!’ He was right. Most of the ideas that we generated came from me. I never forgot that lesson.”

Do you have a strength that gets in the way of collaborating?


Compete or Collaborate?

I often suggest that entrepreneurs, coaches, writers and other “free agents” find ways to work together. It enables them to take advantage of the power of collaboration, reduces the loneliness of working solo, is more fun and frequently provides greater opportunities than one would have alone. It has certainly worked that way for me on many occasions.

Our fearless blogathon leader, Jackie Dishner, is once again setting a great example – she’s off collaborating today and tomorrow with two other writers!

FRIDAY/SATURDAY, JAN. 22-23. The Authors & Adventurers (Christine Bailey, Teresa Bitler and Jackie Dishner) will be in Sedona at Sedona Rouge, presenting a travel talk and signing books. Come help us celebrate the new year, while we offer you some new travel ideas. Details here

I asked Jackie a few questions and included my thoughts (in italics) on lessons we can learn from her.

Debbie: Some people might think it odd for an author with a brand new book on travel in Arizona to seek out two other authors of Arizona travel books. Aren’t they competitors?

Jackie:  We don’t see ourselves as competitors. Each of our books has a different focus. We think they complement each other. And that makes the collaborative approach work so well. Because we each have different personalities, interests and skills, we work well together. We manage to break up the duties fairly easily. Who can do this? Or, who can do that? It just seems to work.

The power of collaboration is in bringing our different skill sets and perspectives to the task at hand.

Jackie: Now we’re even getting some press. The Arizona Republic is going to do a story on our team. That’s very cool. Watch for a story about us in the newspaper in early February.

Combining forces can lead to bigger opportunities.

Debbie: How did you meet each other?

Jackie:  We are all published by a small publishing house called Countryman Press, a subsidiary of W.W. Norton. I met one of the authors (Teresa Bitler) several years ago, when she was researching her book. I was thinking of starting a writers’ group, and she was interested in joining. It didn’t pan out, as I just got too busy.

Don’t give up if your first idea doesn’t fly.

Jackie: But then I met the other author (Christine Bailey) at a book fair in Scottsdale. They were both, at the time, working together to promote their books. But they didn’t know quite how to do it. Publishers do not offer much help on this end, I’m afraid. So they just showed up at a few signings together. They didn’t even have a blog then.

I bought their books at this festival and took their business cards. Soon after, I wrote about them on my travel blog The Phoenix Traveler. At the time, I was writing about things to do in Phoenix and statewide for

Keep in touch and  look for ways to connect.

A year later, after my book was released, our acquisitions editor suggested that the three of us could work together.

Be open to suggestions.

The first thing I wanted to do was a signing at the downtown Phoenix Visitor Center, so I walked in and asked how that was possible. I was referred to the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitor Bureau, made an appointment, invited the other two authors to join me, and after that, things just started happening.

Ask for what you want.

We joined the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau as the Arizona Authors & Adventurers.

Joining together can provide economical access to opportunities.

We had our signing at the downtown Phoenix Visitor Center. We had the next signing at Press, a coffee shop at CityNorth, and now the Sedona event. That happened because I answered a request for help on LinkedIn.

Be open to and look for opportunities everywhere.

With each event we do, we are finding out more and more ways we can work together to help promote Arizona and our books. We even managed to get a job writing an iPhone travel application together. And now we have a blog together.

We don’t want to just sign books. We want to do Travel Talks, like what we’re doing in Sedona. That’s our goal—to help people learn what’s out there and what they might be missing.

You may be able to create services that didn’t even exist before!

One thing I’d add about our group is this: it happened because all three of us were willing to say yes. None of us knew each other that well. So we had to have some trust in the process to turn it into action. We do think about what’s next, or what could be next and we discuss it. When an opportunity comes before us that looks like it might work best if we did it together, that’s when we call the others up and ask, “Do you want to do this?” And we also do our own things (speaking, writing, etc.).

You don’t have to collaborate on everything – or collaborate with the same people all the time.

We’re finding success together–and it sure makes the process more fun.

Collaboration can be fun and effective!

Debbie: Thank you, Jackie, for sharing your story and inspiring us all to find great ways to collaborate.

The Sedona event is sold out! We can watch for future events for Jackie Dishner at her blog and for events with the Arizona Authors & Adventurers at their brand new blog


Collaborators Jackie Dishner, Christine Bailey, and Teresa Bitler

Collaboration as Performance Art

I’ve been studying Sacred Theater for years with a master teacher and actress, Peggy Rubin.  Sacred Theater is a workshop that Peggy offers to enable participants to look at their lives as performance art.  Sacred Theater players, as we participants are called, become playrights, directors, set designers, composers, choreographers and leading actors in our own productions.  There is creative challenge in many of the activities, a call for all to be daring and willing  to step out on the workshop space “stage” and always….always an abundance of fun.  I began this work as a way to spend time with close friends and to build my comfort being in my own skin.  What I  also discovered along the way was that having a shared, intimate, challenging experience with many of the same people year after year has taught me a lot about collaboration as an art form.   I’m recalling one workshop where we were asked to write a few lines of dialogue about a current life situation and take only 5 minutes to do so. We then were told to hand our writing to another player who then directed others to enact the dialogue in front of us.  In this scenario, I became the audience for my own writing.  I had chosen a difficult subject matter – the recent death of my adopted son’s birth mother. There was so much left unsaid between me and the woman who gave birth to my son  but I felt I only captured a taste of it in the lines I wrote.  What absolutely stunned me was  as my fellow workshop players enacted the conversation I would never be able to actually have, I experienced the comfort and closure I was strongly seeking.  The “stand-ins” for my story became my collaborators.  They took the words I wrote, riffed on them as actors do, and offered me the gift of finishing an unresolved  conversation.  If you would like to know more about Sacred Theater, collaboration through performance.  art as collaboration or performing art as collaborators, check out Peggy’s new book, To Be and How To Be:  Transforming Your Life Through The Nine Powers of Sacred Theater.


Notice That Thinking

Last week I became certified to deliver Mental Works: Thinking for Results, developed by John Stoker (

The course allows us to become aware of and observe our own and others’ automatic thinking patterns. We all have them. They come from hundreds of factors such as how we were raised, the geographic region we’re from, what we’ve read or watched, our physical size, the things  we’ve studied and learned, our work experiences, the traumas in our lives as well as the jubilations!

I could go on and on but I’m sure you get the idea. [“Notice that thinking,” John would suggest, drawing my attention to my assumption. As the class continued we all got in the game of “Notice that!” chuckling over the obviousness of someone else’s assumptions and puzzling over our own.]

Truly, much of the impact of our mental models lies in our assumptions – especially the ones we don’t even realize we’re making.

I saw this principle at play in several of the exercises we did throughout the two days. Our little group would be working under certain assumptions – and not making a lot of progress, I might add, when one of us would say “Hey the rules don’t say we have to…” or “Maybe it’s this…”

The details don’t matter and I don’t want to spoil the surprise in case you get a chance to take the class sometime. The point is that whatever the brilliant idea was, it hadn’t occurred to me! Imagine!

This is the underlying power of collaboration. If each person in a collaborative effort can open up our collective thinking once or twice, imagine the terrific ideas that can evolve.

Do your assumptions get in your way? What do you notice?


Rodin's The Thinker at the Musée Rodin; Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

A Collaborative Dance

This blogathon is providing all sorts of new learning. Check out The Top Dog’s (Eileen Proctor) Blog for details about freestyle — a sport requiring collaboration from your dog!

And take a look at this delightful video of Carolyn and Rookie.