Facilitator + Trainer + Creative Coach |
Based in Connecticut, Working Worldwide

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photo of a hand holding small green buds of the dahlia flower with dahlias booms in the background

What can you learn about leadership from gardening?

What can you learn about leadership from gardening?

What can you learn from the natural world about growth, transition, and transformation? That’s something I think about a lot.

You see, when I’m not designing and facilitating workshops for organizations and teams, I like to spend time in nature.

Getting my hands in the soil and caring for plants really grounds me. (See what I did there? 😉

Actually, if I’m honest – and what’s very obvious if you follow me on my socials or collect my art – is that I really love flowers. Come June you can find me oohing and aahing over my peonies. Ditto for the later summer and autumn beauty of dahlias.

And here’s the interesting thing about dahlias: They can grow to 14 inches in diameter!

But before that incredible blooming happens, the plants make one bud at the end of each branch with two or three side buds.

But here’s the thing: in exchange for those magnificent blooms, you need do something that I still find hard to do.

You need to practice disbudding. A simple process, disbudding is when you snip off some of the flower’s growth buds on each stem so that all the plant’s energy is directed to the central bud.

The result? You get larger and better flowers with longer stems.

If you don’t disbud a dahlia plant, the central bud and the two side buds will bloom, but the stems will be short, and the flower heads will be smaller.

Of course, you can choose to do what some gardeners do and leave all the buds and get more, but smaller flowers.

Or you can do what I do: say a silent “sorry” and “thank you” to those side buds as you remove them. That way you can give the main bloom the best chance of reaching its maximum size.

Your reward? You get to cherish fewer, but more spectacular blooms.

So, what does pinching out a dahlia bud have to do with you and leadership?

Essentially, disbudding is about harnessing energy. To be effective as a leader you need to be very intentional about the choices you make and about how you channel your energy.

Pouring your energy across multiple projects is probably what you do most of the time…and that approach may work for a while.

On the other hand, focusing on one organizational goal – launching a product, rolling out a new system, or onboarding a new team member, for example – may be the right decision for you and your team at this moment.

The most successful leaders – people who want to build their business, nurture a healthy work environment, and have an impact – excel at managing energy.

Again, it’s all about making intentional decisions that align with your professional goals.

What about you?

What are the “side buds” – inefficient habits or processes – that are draining energy from you? From your team?

What steps can you take today to direct more energy to the things that really matter to you, your business, or your team?

Where will your channel your energy today?

I design and facilitate transformational learning experiences for teams worldwide. Reach out to me to discuss how I can help your organization or team elevate performance, harness creative energy, and grow your business, together.

timeline graphic

How important are values to leadership success?

How important are values to leadership success?

“Tell me what you pay attention to, and I will tell you who you are.” ― José Ortega y Gasset

That quote came to mind recently when I was preparing to facilitate a session on values and leadership to a group of mid-level managers. We kicked off with the lifeline reflection, a deceptively simple but powerful tool.

The set-up is easy: Take a sheet of paper, turn it vertically, and draw a line across the middle. This line serves as the baseline. Next, starting with your early years, you plot the watershed moments in your life. Place anything above the line that you feel was a “positive” moment; events and experiences that you deem “challenging” go below the baseline.

If you’ve been on this earth for any length of time, you’ve experienced lots of pivotal moments. Here are some examples shared by one of the participants:

* got a college acceptance letter
* met a mentor at a networking event
* lost their job 
* launched a business
* lost a loved one 
* made partner
* was rejected for a promotion 
* met their life partner

When I facilitated this exercise for these emerging leaders, I was pleased to see that the group was able to accurately identify this person’s core values.

What about you? If you shared your lifeline and those significant milestones with people you trust – family, friends, a mentor, your colleagues – would they be able to discern what matters to you

What events and experiences would you feel comfortable sharing?

Where and why might you hold back?

For leaders, business owners, and any individual who wants to make decisions that are aligned with their values, doing this type of self-reflection can be very eye-opening. 

Teams can also benefit from charting their individual lifelines + values and then, with the help of a skilled facilitator, exploring where these come into play at work.

Curious about bringing this kind of organizational development and team building to your workplace? Reach out to me and let’s talk! 

Why you need your own personal talisman

Why you need your own personal talisman

Some people talk about “putting on your big girl panties” when you’re nervous or face a challenge. For me, that means putting on my sankofa bracelet, a gift from my father. The symbol is an ostrich reaching back for its egg.⁣

A dear Ghanian friend taught me that in “twi”, one of the native languages of Ghana, “sankofa” literally means “go back and take” and symbolizes the importance of how our past and history informs our present and future.⁣

This particular talisman has a special significance for me because for years I told myself a negative story – that I was somehow lacking in some way because I did not know my true full heritage because I never met my biological father. ⁣

With time, I have come to deeply appreciate the lessons of my search for wholeness and I now recognize that knowing your genealogy is only a small fraction of what makes you who you are. ⁣

I am forever grateful that the man who raised me and loved me — my soul father — chose and gifted me with this bracelet, without even knowing its meaning. I can still picture us together in a little shop in Brooklyn, NY where my dad had spotted the bracelet. 

I cherish it because it helps me choose which parts of my history I want to elevate and which part of my “story” I can set aside. ⁣

In my work as a coach I support my clients in the same way — honoring our past, yes, and also intentionally choosing our way forward.⁣

If you want to write your own story, reach out to see how we can work together.⁣

compass on tiles

Which direction are you headed?

Which direction are you headed?

Whoa! There is so much going on in this mosaic tile that I spotted in Málaga, Spain. First up – the compass rose smack dab in the field of blue.⁠⁣

Also known as a wind rose or rose of the winds this symbol indicates the four cardinal directions. Look at any compass, map, or nautical chart and you’ll probably see a compass rose. ⁠⁣
For over 600 years people have used tools like this to figure out where they are and what direction they are going.⁠⁣⁠⁣ 

Even wanderers like me. And I’m guessing you, too.

While we might not use an actual physical compass, we all need resources to help us navigate life.
Because, let’s face it, a lot can happen.⁠⁣

A change in a relationship.
A child leaving home. ⁠⁣
A new job. ⁠⁣
A pandemic.⁠⁣

The good news is with awareness and intention you can stay true to you. 

⁠So, today I invite you to consider⁠:
✴️ What are the important points on your personal compass rose? ⁠⁣
✴️ How do you feel about the orientation of your life right now?⁠⁣
✴️ Which actions will you take to keep yourself aligned with your inner compass?⁠⁣
➡️ Want help moving in the direction of your dreams? Reach out to me to get started!⁣

an illuminated Ferris wheel shines in the late summer sky with the full moon glowing in the distance

What Is Taking Your Breath Away Today?

What Is Taking Your Breath Away Today?

What’s taking your breath away today?⁠

For me, it’s the ⁠quiet and steady fall of leaves as we transition more fully into a new season.

Some are already nestled on the forest floor. Others are only just now beginning to let go and drift to earth.⁠

What about you? Are you allowing yourself to move at your own pace and change in your own way?

Whatever you’re working toward, you will get there in your own sweet time.

Believe it.

a photo of a handprinted mandala with a butterfly in the center created by Justine Ickes copyright 2022

How to be merry all year long!

How to be merry all year long!

Did you know that “merry” comes from an Old German word for “slow” or “leisurely”

I know! Not the vibe we typically associate with the end of the year, right?

In the holiday hoopla, we forget all too easily that relaxing, reminiscing, savoring moments alone or with family and friends, and simply BEING are what give us energy. 

Nature takes breaks and so can – and so should – we! 

So, as this year winds down, I hope you’ll give yourself the gift of downtime and rest!

Perhaps like many people – me included! – you might find yourself not measuring up to your own expectations when you take stock of the year.

Remember, no matter how much you did or did not achieve in (insert whatever year you’re reading this :-)), you are still worthy. So, go easy on you!

Here are some affirmations that might help.

🪬 I have done enough.

🪬 I created enough.

🪬 I offered my best to this year.  

🪬 I am allowed to take time to rest.

🪬 Other people’s accomplishments have no bearing on my own worth.

Would you like some support in making those affirmations stick? Coaching can help!

a photograph of a pink and white wooden mail box with an image of a white envelope and a red heart painted on it

Slow Starts and Sweet Surprises

Slow Starts and Sweet Surprises

To be honest, it always takes me some extra time to warm up to the new year. What about you?

Luckily, I’ve learned that, if you bundle up well, go for a wander, and get curious, you may stumble on a nice surprise.

I sure did, thanks to this sweet Love Letter box I found in the little town of Norfolk, aka the “icebox of Connecticut.”

A note on the box invited people to “write a love letter to someone unknown and to take a note for yourself.”

Imagine my delight when I pulled out this message! –>>> “You are singular and spectacular!”

I mean, c’mon! How great is that?!

Did I keep the note?

Well, I wanted to. But in the end I decided to leave it for the next lucky person.

Because here’s the thing: Every one of us is singular and spectacular. 

To be clear: “Every one” includes you.

Even if you haven’t chosen your word of the year, yet. Or ever.

Even if you’ve already bailed on your New Year’s resolutions.  

And even if you still aren’t sure what to make of the year ahead and your goals for the year have yet to come into focus.

Trust that they will in time.

Meanwhile, repeat after me: “I am singular and spectacular!”

metal heart

Who is your Mrs. Frizzle or Dumbledore?

Who is your Mrs. Frizzle or Dumbledore?

Why am I asking? Because it’s important to give props to the educators* and mentors in your life.

In my experience, the best gift you can give (and receive) is a thank you note (A+ if it’s handwritten).

Even better if you take the time to specifically acknowledge the person AND how they impacted your life.

Is there someone in your life you’d like to show appreciation to? Here are some fill-in-the-blanks to get you started:

Thank you. Because of you I’ve come to love…

You gave me the strength / skills / encouragement I needed to take the next steps toward my dream of…

You inspired me to…

I’ll always remember being in class and that one time we…

I’m grateful for knowing you because you taught me…

You made an impact on my life. What I learned from you is…

Research shows that consistently practicing gratitude has lasting positive effects on our mental health and our relationships.

Pro tip: Make it a habit to practice and express gratitude!

*Special shout-out to all my classroom teachers and also the folks who have taught me extracurricular “life lessons”. You know who you are! 🙂

a quote by author Karen Blixen that says "We must leave out mark on life while we have it in our power."

What are you doing here?

What are you doing here?

What did you come here to do? In other words, what’s your life purpose?⁣

Not sure? ⁣

Here are some ways to find out:⁣

* Help other people. – Studies have shown that being of service can help you feel a sense of purpose. ⁣

* Seek feedback. – Ask people what they think of when you enter their mind. What they notice about you can give you insights into your purpose.⁣

* Take note of topics that interest you. Do you regularly post about certain things on social media? Is there an injustice that deeply bothers you? These could be clues to your life purpose.⁣

Identifying a clear sense of purpose — aka the mark you’re here to make — can help you lead a better, happier, healthier life.⁣

So, ask yourself: What’s the mark I’m making?⁣ And is that what I really came here to do?

large boulder painted with a bright yellow smiley face in the shape of the sun

Go Big or Go Home!

Go Big or Go Home!

Ain’t that the truth?

I love seeing people’s creative expressions on this Block Island landmark. The messages and images change on the daily, sometimes even hourly. I’ve spotted folks happily making their mark in broad daylight and by flashlight.⁣

The thing is you don’t need spray paint or a boulder to speak your mind.⁣

Every day you are making a statement with your words and actions.⁣
Tell me: If you could express your truth big and bold, what would you say?⁣

Need help figuring that out? I’ve got spots opening right now for new coaching clients. Reach out and let’s work together!