2014 has been another wonderful year of consulting. I am thankful for all the opportunities to learn and add value for my clients.

This year, I welcomed seven new clients:

  • Calgary HandiBus Association
  • Job Safety Skills Society
  • City of Lloydminster
  • Wainwright Credit Union
  • Calgary Family Services
  • Town of High River
  • Calgary Housing Company

I was honored to be selected to work with Mayor Nenshi and Council this fall. We in Calgary are fortunate to have this caliber of political leadership.

I had the great fortune to be partnered with Sam Hester and to see the benefits of graphic recording during a strategic planning session I facilitated. To learn more about her work, visit her website.

This was also a great year of learning. I joined the Institute of Corporate Directors, completed their program, Governance Essentials for Not for Profits, and attended several one day seminars and webinars to enhance my skills as a Board member.

Many thanks to my clients and colleagues, and best wishes for a successful and joyful 2015.

What’s in a facilitator’s toolkit?

Have you ever wondered about the “tools of the trade” used by a professional facilitator?  I use the following list as a checklist before I head to a client event.  I no longer trust hotels and other event venues to provide even the basic facilitator tools so I travel with my own.

My toolkit is a Jack Georges bag. It is large enough for all my materials as well as the inevitable rolls of flipchart paper I bring back from each event.

I always travel with:

  • Markers, usually Sharpies or Mr. Sketch
  • Masking tape, green painters’ tape or Blu Tack
  • Packages of Post-It notes in various sizes and colors
  • A small clock

I often add:

  • Small toys such as palm sized footballs or stress balls
  • Hard candies
  • Tibetan bells
  • A talking stick
  • A camera

In terms of paper, I sometimes add:

    • Extra copies of the agenda
    • Handouts
    • Wallcharts
    • Questionnaires
    • Psychometric instruments
    • Evaluation forms

In the past few years, most of this material is distributed electronically.

And then, depending on the icebreakers and other experiential activities I am planning to use, I pack:

    • Blindfolds
    • Egg timers
    • Rope
    • Bolo Bats
    • And other eclectic items

One thing I do not travel with, but intend to, is a selection of upbeat music that can be played during breaks.

In addition to the physical toolkit, I travel with a toolkit of models and processes in my head that I can bring forward as different situations require. Early in my career, I was privileged to take a workshop from Jim Weber, and receive a copy of his “toolkit”, a binder with hundreds of frameworks  which he later published as “Facilitating Critical Thinking in Groups” .  His binder became a model for how I built my process toolkit.

So there you have it- a peek inside one facilitator’s toolkit.  I don’t leave home without it.





Executive Presence- Get It, Got It, Good

Competence should be a given by the time you are being considered for an executive role.  So what could stop you from being selected for promotion, or successful even if promoted?  One answer is weak executive presence.

What is executive presence?  It has been called the “Je ne sais quoi” of executive success – invisible, hard to define, but definitely palpable in the boardroom. Bates Communication calls it the “wow factor” and defines it as “the ability to walk into a room and instantly attract positive attention”.  With it, a leader is heard and considered; without it, overlooked and dismissed.

In my work with succession planning and executive team coaching, developing executive presence is emerging as one of the most critical development areas.  Although some might think presence is the same as charisma, I believe presence is a skill that can be developed, not a charm that some are fortunate to have.

What are the building blocks of executive presence?

  • Character
  • Confidence
  • Conviction
  • Clarity
  • Consciousness


Someone with executive presence is grounded in deep values and known for consistency between his or her words and actions.


A healthy self-regard attracts the confidence of others. Self-doubt and a need for approval create warning flags as does arrogance.


The ability to stand alone marks someone with presence.  Doing what is right despite opposition and obstacles has immortalized leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.


The ability to communicate good and bad news and connect with others in a straightforward, compelling manner earns the respect and commitment of others. Waffling and confusion do not.


Without strong self-awareness and emotional intelligence, a leader with confidence, conviction and clarity could be cunning and controlling.   That kind of presence creates fear and resentment.

To sum up, competence is a necessary but not sufficient foundation for executive presence. Character, confidence, conviction, clarity and consciousness must also be developed.

Is it a coincidence that the building blocks to enter and thrive in the C-Suite all start with “C”?  I think not.

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