Leadership Lessons from the Wilderness

wilderness training

I recently participated in a 10-day intensive training to become a Wilderness First Responder through a NOLS training program that quickly took me out of my comfort zone and reminded me of the leadership lessons available in wilderness settings. They apply whether in the wilderness or in your indoor office context, as a traditional work setting is its own kind of uncontrollable wilderness even though its manmade construct gives the illusion of being controllable.  I want to thank NOLS for the great training and the following leadership reminders:

Effective leadership demands competence in the skills required by your position as well as the ability to manage a group, and capitalize on the knowledge, experience and abilities of your team.

Skill up and get training for any areas where you need more competence.  Find out who your team members are and what skills they have.  In one first aid wilderness scenario, five of us had to build a full leg splint out of whatever we had on hand.  We made the mistake of not emptying all our backpacks first to inventory everything we had before starting to build the splint and learned a good lesson from that.  It took twice as long and we had to start over half way through the process after we got smart enough to do our inventory.  After some creative problem solving, we ended up making e a very effective splint out of backpacks, hiking poles, spare clothes and ace bandages.  What tools and resources does your team have in their “backpacks” and how can you best put them to work on the project or problem at hand?

Very often the reason climbers die on Everest is because they become fixed on their goal of getting to the top without regard for their fellow climbers or the weather.  Ego, unhealthy pride and arrogance drive the decisions and people die for it.  Be situationally aware.  There may be a storm coming.  Continuously work on your team culture.  Have dignity, respect and a solid work ethic at its core.  Focus will be important for everyone once the initial excitement of the new project or journey wears off and the hard work begins.

Anxiety and fear can throw you off your game with grave consequences. We learned in our first aid training that often, when someone is struggling with a life threatening allergic reaction, the care giver under pressure inserts the Epi pen medication upside down, shooting it into their own thumb rather than into their patient, resulting in injury to themselves and a continued survival threat to their patient.  Self-awareness is an important personal trait – reflect on and learn from experiences. This takes objective self-assessment and humility.  Know how you react to stress and change, and what your hot buttons are.  Gather the internal resources you need to be calm and focused under pressure.  Reactivity and losing focus can be a killer in both the wilderness and the office.  There are many options to choose from to strengthen your capacity for calm under pressure, including the practices of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.

Listen to your team and the forces at work all around you.  Inspire both good leadership and good followers who empower leadership as well as do their part on the team.  Stay honest with yourself and your team about your goals, the risks and how you’re going to get there.  Have a plan mapped out, share it with your team, get their feedback and be flexible – circumstances may require you to change plans and find a different route up the mountain.

Tolerance for adversity and uncertainty is important as change is constant and in leadership easy, uneventful days are rare.   Expect the unexpected and get comfortable with discomfort.  The more capacity you have for it, the better you’ll perform.

sabrina roblin

Sabrina Roblin, CPCC has been a professional coach, mentor, and trainer since 2004.  She has worked successfully with individuals, entrepreneurs and for corporate clients that include Cargill, Medtronic and Stantec. Contact her for more information and a complimentary coaching session.

Cultivating Resilience

freedom in nature

Spring has arrived.  As I look out my window, I see four feet of snow everywhere, and yet underneath, asleep in the frozen ground are the green grass, flowers, perennials and vines that will burst out of the ground as soon as the sun makes its way to the soil.  It always amazes me that so much life and color slumbers in the frozen ground all Winter to re-emerge with great energy and enthusiasm in the Spring.  It is a reflection of the inner resources that lie dormant inside us until we need them, and of the resilience that is available to all of us if we know how to cultivate it.

Not only is Spring a season, but according to the dictionary it is “a resilient device….that can be pressed or pulled but returns to its former shape when released, used chiefly to exert constant tension or absorb movement.”  We need that kind of resilience in both our personal and professional lives, especially in leadership roles and times of change and stress when we’re pressed and pulled by forces beyond our control. Whether they come from work, parenting, relationship, loss or world events, resilience is critical to health and well-being.

We all have a resilience zone where we live most of the time, and we have a range of emotion and experience within that zone.  We can be angry, sad, or upset, but we are still able to stay calm and respond to whatever is challenging us.   A stressful event can happen that bumps us out of our zone.  When we get bumped out we can go out ‘high’ into anxiety, frustration and anger.  When we get bumped out ‘low’, we can go into depression and withdrawal.  The capacity of our resilience and what bumps us out is different for everyone.  The toughest situation is when the stressor is consistent over a long period of time.  That can strain our resilience the most and is when we need to be most attentive to our self care. The more we can cultivate our resilience the quicker we can recover back to our zone.

stress zones

The above graphic of the zone is from the Community Resiliency Model developed by the Trauma Resource Institute.  I became certified as a teacher of their model last year and have found the knowledge and tools to be really helpful to my clients – both individuals and groups.

Self care and engaging our five senses – taste, touch, hearing, vision and smell are keys to resilience.  The following practices will cultivate resilience:

  • Meditation, yoga
  • Time in nature
  • Singing, Dancing, Laughing
  • Creative projects that make you lose track of time
  • Rest
  • Awe, wonder, beauty
  • Any physical activity you enjoy
  • Hugs
  • Water – swimming, bathing in and relaxing with a drink of water
  • Gratitude

If you find yourself bumped out of your zone over a period of time and unable to recover, reach out to a trusted professional –therapist, coach, spiritual guide, etc. for support.

And remember, resilience and well-being are always within reach even when your personal landscape feels stark and cold.  It’s there ready and waiting for you.

Sabrina Roblin, CPCC has been a professional coach, mentor, and trainer since 2004.  She has worked successfully with individuals and for corporate clients that include Cargill, Medtronic and Stantec. Contact her for more information and a complimentary coaching session.

Love and Leadership

love and leadership

In a corporate environment, love can be a four letter word.  It’s just not used.  There is more sensitivity and fear about it in the workplace than ever before and yet leadership without love leads to tyranny and corruption.  We see it and experience it in the world daily.  So, what about love in the workplace?

What about the fear that if you show you care you will be taken advantage of, pushed aside, not respected?  Well, that’s what boundaries, discipline and structure are for.  Love alone will not lead a team or an organization and yet without it, leadership is not only unsustainable, it leads to breakdown, burnout, decreased productivity, diminished creativity and high turnover.

Research shows that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses, so if you want to recruit and keep top talent, in addition to your skills and experience, you have got to bring your heart to work.  Who are we without our hearts anyway?  We are not being human.  Without heart, work interactions are cold and transactional, resulting in the loss of caring, connection and humanity.

How do you show love in a corporate environment without getting yourself in trouble? You don’t have to use the actual ‘L’ word.  You show it through loving action – by caring enough to listen to, respect, acknowledge, empower, be curious about and show warmth to your employees and co-workers.  Of those, I’ve found the top three are listening, curiosity and acknowledgement.  So how is it done?

listeningListen with complete focus on the other person. Don’t be thinking about how you’ll respond, just be present and listen to them – their words, and the energy behind their words.  Then repeat back what you think you heard before responding to what was said.

Be curious by asking open ended questions rather than yes/no questions.  Examples are: “What did you learn? How can we turn this around?  What would make a difference?  How’s the family?”

Acknowledgement is more than saying, “great job”, to be effective it has to be specific – name what the person did and the positive impact it had.  Who or whaacknowledgementt did they impact and why?

In companies and teams where there is high productivity and low turnover, employees know they are loved, respected and cared for.  You won’t hear them use the ‘L’ word, but that is the ingredient that keeps them coming back.  You make a difference every day in how you show up, so make it a positive one.  Don’t leave your heart at home.  Express love through the practices of listening, curiosity and acknowledgement.  Add healthy boundaries and you will supercharge your leadership both personally and professionally.


sabrina roblinSabrina Roblin, CPCC has been a professional coach, mentor, and trainer since 2004.  She has worked successfully with individuals and for corporate clients that include Cargill, Medtronic and Stantec. Contact her for more information and a complimentary coaching session.

The Foundation Stone of True Presence


Do you want to improve your personal and professional relationships? Do you want to become a more effective leader in your life and your organization? Do you want to create a more fulfilling life for yourself? Then you need to cultivate the foundation stone of true presence. What is true presence? It’s the ability to be still, listen, focus and witness what is happening. It’s the ability to be in your body, feel your feelings and acknowledge the feelings and content of what’s in front of you, whether it’s a person, or a circumstance.

We’ve all experienced what it isn’t. It’s the friend or loved one who is checking their phone repeatedly during a conversation. It’s the partner who shows up late, is absent and/or often cancels at the last minute. It’s the boss who isn’t interested in what you have to say because they are too busy with something else. It’s the parent who is engaged elsewhere or lost in an addiction when their child needs their love and attention. It’s when we move through the world in dream land, disconnected from our bodies, the people and the world around us. Being on the receiving end feels awful and if it continues over time, it not only tanks relationships, it tanks the effectiveness to create the personal life we want, and in our jobs it can lead to being moved into a lame duck position or fired.

It’s only from true presence that transformation, connection, and the ability to influence change occurs. If you’re not present, you aren’t seeing, hearing or feeling what is going on around you and you have no power to engage. It’s a paradox that one of the most powerful ways to affect change and healing is to be still, present and listen without trying to change what is inside you or in front of you. Science bears this out. Quantum Physics experiments have shown that being present and witnessing sub-atomic particles affects change in how they behave with no other action on the part of those conducting the experiment.

This is counter to our Western culture, where we are taught to be ‘doing something’ all the time. We are either so eager to act or afraid to act, we completely miss the part about creating the foundation stone of true presence first.

So how do you cultivate and strengthen your presence? Get out of your head and engage the five senses of the body through the following  practices:
– To quiet the mind, mindfulness exercise and meditation of any kind that resonates for you
– To get into the body, practice awareness of body sensation – tension, temperature, heartbeat, breath. Exercise without input from any kind of screen or music, take walks in nature and engage your five senses, practice yoga. When sitting, feel your feet on the ground and the textures of the furniture.
– When listening to someone, don’t practice in your head what you’re going to say next while they are talking. Really listen to what they are saying, then reflect that back to them to make sure you heard them right. Just ‘be’ with them.
– Be curious about your emotional life. What happens in your body when you are angry, sad, happy, etc.

In coaching we talk about the ‘being’ and ‘doing’ in life. True presence of our ‘being’ must be anchored before any ‘doing’ happens for us to be effective. It’s like a muscle that you use and strengthen. Practice this and not only will your fulfillment and effectiveness increase, you will receive feedback from those close to you about the change they witness in you.

sabrina roblinSabrina Roblin, CPCC has been a professional coach, mentor, and trainer since 2004.  She has worked successfully with individuals and for corporate clients that include Cargill, Medtronic and Stantec. Contact her for more information and a complimentary coaching session.

The Heart of Christmas

heart of christmas

Christmas ignites a whole mix of emotions from delight to disappointment and in some strong dislike due to its commercialization. In others disappointed expectations in past family interactions or the religious context is a turn off.  I remember one year when I had a Christmas eve party at my home, my neighbor’s daughter brought a birthday cake.  When I asked who’s birthday it was, she said, “the baby Jesus”.  It was a ‘duh’ moment for me.  In all the holiday preparations, I had completely forgotten.  With the media noise, busyness and expectation it’s easy to forget the heart and spirit-centered origins of the holiday.

father christmas

There is love, compassion and generosity at the heart of Christmas and whether you’ve lost that along the way, or just need a reminder, it is possible to find a way back to it through story, love and intention.

The true story of St. Nicholas is one I find especially inspiring and compelling.  Our modern day Christmas tradition in the United States and beyond began with his love and generosity.  He was a third century bishop from what is now the coast of Turkey.  He was a shy man who didn’t want his generosity noticed, so each year on the day Christ’s birth was celebrated, he dropped gold and gifts for children in need down the chimney or through an open window of their house, and they often fell in a shoe or stocking that was set by the fireplace to dry.  When he became too old to do the gift giving himself, the town decided to continue the tradition they had come to love, which spread to other towns and from country to country, eventually becoming the story of good old St. Nick or Santa Claus that we know today.

St. Nicholas’ expression of love, generosity and compassion was so compelling, his legacy spread around much of the world and continues today almost 2,000 years after his death, which is remarkable.

xmas barnSo whatever your Christmas past has been, claim the heart of your Christmas present and future through conscious intention and action.  What is the compelling expression of love, compassion and generosity that will have a lasting impact on your family, friends and community this holiday season?  Each act of kindness, love and generosity touches lives and makes a difference in ways that are beyond measure not only for the recipient but for you the giver as well.

It’s up to each of us to keep St. Nicholas’ legacy alive, through the difference we make this holiday season.  Create and enjoy beauty through decorations, lights, the stockings, and generosity of spirit. Take in a favorite holiday movie, or just tell someone you love how much they mean to you.  Your heart will be gladdened by it.

May your home and heart be filled with love and laughter this holiday season.

sabrina roblinSabrina Roblin, CPCC has been a professional coach, mentor, and trainer since 2004. She has worked for organizations that include Wells Fargo Bank, Broderbund Software, and The Coaches Training Institute. Contact her for more information and a sample session.