Plan C: See You in 2016

CDW - Copy (433x640)There was an unexpected pause in the promotion and marketing for launch of The Can Do Workplace brought on by a Christmas crud virus that would not go away!  Being a solo shop, that meant that everything stopped. Not that I did not try to keep going, but it was just futile!

So, I quit trying so hard and am focused on getting, and staying healthy. It’s my new year’s resolution. I hope you make those same kind of good choices for 2016.

Happy New Year!





Misteaks…. and lessons learned

Wish you could have a do-over? I sure do! Lots of them – and, one specifically that I will talk more about below.

During the interviews for my new book The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits, I was struck by the candor of all four CEOs of the featured nonprofits when talking about making mistakes and failing. A hallmark of a Can Do Workplace is the unusual, positive approach to how mistakes are handled – openly, honestly and as a learning opportunity. I believe that a great workplace is built on and made much stronger by the learning opportunities afforded from both the good and the bad times. Being open about mistakes and lessons learned in a Can Do workplace helps to foster and develop important personal and organizational values. The by-products of those learning opportunities are what I call critical nuggets of wisdom that help identify gaps and needs in an organization. And, they are vitally important in preventing mistakes from happening again – and again – and again!

Here is a quick excerpt from the book, with Michelle Kinder, Executive Director at Momentous Institute in Dallas discussing how mistakes are handled there.

Momentous LogoAt Momentous Institute, they “fail fast and fail better,” learning the lessons and moving to the next step. Michelle Kinder shares, “Problems are happening every single day – some little, some big. We can’t be derailed by setbacks and we have to be very careful what meaning we ascribe to it when we do fail. Careful to check how we are thinking about ourselves, our colleagues, and the families we exist to serve. It takes an enormous commitment to look honestly at situations that don’t go well, stay in the discomfort and then move through it to a better version of ourselves.” They think this transparent and candid approach is not just a good model for operating the organization, but provides a great example for their clients. “We do not want to appear to be perfect; we want to be honest and show the kids and families how messy and hard it is to grow and succeed – and also how very much it is worth it. The message from our Board is: They strongly encourage us to push the envelope and chase innovation. When things fail they never play ‘gotcha’ with us, but they have extremely high expectations that we learn a lot from our failures and move forward.”  (The Can Do Workplace, page 58).

My Lesson Learned: Here is my true confession about a recent painful mistake and embarrassing lesson learned. shutterstock_62610805I discovered last month that I had made an error while editing the book: I did not have someone do a final proof of the entire manuscript after I and others had completed our edits. I reviewed the places where I saw content changes were needed, and then I released it for publication.

The result is not a huge, horrible mistake, but rather a number of places in the book where words are missing. Some “the’s” and one “exceptional”, to name a few. Enough to be a distraction to the reader at times. And, as someone who secretly corrects other peoples’ grammar and edits other peoples’ writing in my head, this is a source of significant embarrassment to me.

I have given great thought, often at 4AM, about to how best to approach dealing with it since the proverbial horse is out of the barn now – the book has been published and there is no do-over. I decided to own up to it and tell you about it out loud – in articles, on the blog, on the website and in trainings as a personal and powerful teaching tool!

I want you to know how sorry I am that this wonderful book is missing some words that might distract you from the important work of building a Can Do Workplace. And, trust me, I promise you all and myself that I will never let a manuscript go to publication that has not had a cold read by a copy editor whom I personally pay to ensure that every sentence is complete and makes sense!  Worth.Every.Penny.And.More!

Whew!  As a committed Can Do leader, I really believe that transparency is the best policy, but that was very hard and pretty risky. This may be the first many of you have heard of me, and some of you may reject the book, its nuggets of wisdom and me, based on this information. That is a risk I am willing to take – and hope that more of you respect me for being candid and honest about it.
Time To Learn ConceptMy focus on lessons learned goes beyond my “true confession” here. I am a big believer in using lessons learned and the role they have not just in building a Can Do Workplace, but in living a Can Do Life!  I realized when writing the book that I needed to include the realities of how difficult and messy it is to build a quality organization, so in Chapter 5, I offer some guidelines on how to “make lemonade,” if you will. I present four case studies of “lessons learned” from across my years of nonprofit leadership that correspond to the four Can Do Workplace practices of Alignment, Decision-Making, Change & Growth and Simmering the BEST Secret Sauce. As a supplemental resource to the book, I am designing a framework for developing and using lessons learned to strengthen the work and people of a Can Do organization that will be used in trainings and posted on the Can Do Workplace website.

To help me create this framework that will include new and insightful strategies for “making lemonade”, I am launching The THAT will never happen again! Contest on the Can Do Workplace Facebook page and website and on the Can Do Blog. **

Everyone has a “lesson learned” or two to share – most of them learned the hard way.  By sharing them, we commit just a little bit more moving away from repeating them, and we help others to avoid them! I will give away a free copy of The Can Do Workplace (with its missing words!) to a total of four nonprofit execs, Board members and managers who submit the best and most useful answers to the following questions. I ask that you focus on one of the two questions per entry, and multiple submissions are permitted. The deadline is Thursday, December 31st.

The THAT will never happen again! Contest Questions:

shutterstock_123517816Question 1: What is your most important and meaningful lesson you have learned in your nonprofit career?  If you could write a policy memo to help prevent it from happening again, what would it say and why?

Question 2: What is the most important advice or lesson learned that you share with a ten year younger version of yourself that would have helped you move more quickly into a position of Can Do leadership?

Please limit your responses to 500 words as a Word Document with your contact information included at the bottom of the page. Submit entries via email to  Please put “lessons learned” as the subject line. Reminder, the deadline is 5PM Eastern Time, on Thursday, December 31.  If you have any questions, please submit them via the same email with Contest Questions as the subject line.

I look forward to reading your entries and learning Can Do lessons from you!

** Any content from the contest entries used in the development of the Lessons Learned Tool will only be used with the written approval of the person submitting the contest entry.


The Next Chapter: It’s About Connected Relationships….

The journey of life, just like a good book, has chapters. Today marks the passage into a new chapter for me – from learning and writing to sharing and doing!

CDW - Copy (433x640)For the last 18 months, I have talked about, written about, and then talked some more about gratitude, mission, alignment and change, decisions and secret sauce as I researched and wrote my second book, The Can Do Workplace: A Strengths-Based Model for Nonprofits.

There were days and weeks when I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and days when I am sure my publisher, Motivational Press, did too!

At the center of the book are “case stories” featuring four exceptional nonprofit organizations that embody the best of the Can Do Workplace model. They are not perfect organizations, and their stories describe their struggles right alongside their victories. What they share in their work and mission are:

  • an understanding of the importance and role of gratitude in their work and workplace
  • firm commitments to meaningful, respectful and “connected relationships” with the people who work there, the people whom they serve and the communities that support them
  • an understanding of the need for change to bring growth
  • strong internal and external alignment to meet their missions
  • innovative decision-making
  • and an understanding of the need to simmer and consistently work to perfect their secret sauce

The official release date for the book is not until January 6, 2016 when it will magically appear on and

But, I hate waiting. So today I am launching the Can Do Workplace Website 

Website home page

and the first in a series of four podcasts, featuring the CEOs of the four nonprofits showcased in the book. 0304ee76646f6a944b46eae79a5b2038I hope you will take a few minutes to meet and listen to my chat with my good friend Michelle Kinder, Executive Director of Momentous Institute in Dallas, TX. Michelle’s candor, spirit and commitment to serving kids are nothing short of inspiring. She shares her insights and wisdom openly and with great energy, revealing her lessons learned and offering her recommendations for other nonprofit leaders and managers who want to make a Can Do difference in their little part of the world. You can link to the podcast directly here or from the Can Do Workplace website. 

This latest chapter in my life book has been a great adventure!  I have met wonderful new colleagues who have become friends. I have listened and talked and listened some more. I learned and learned until my brain felt full!  Now it is time for the new chapter to begin: one where I will share the concepts and practices to help nonprofit leaders build

a Can Do Workplace


CAN = what is possible

Meets DO = the action to make it real

I hope you will join me for the adventures to come in this new chapter! It will be a chapter that focuses on the potential that comes from connected relationships…

One last announcement and request before I sign off and hit the LAUNCH button!                     On December 15th, I will launch a Can Do @ Work Contest on the new Can Do facebookWorkplace Facebook page and give away four advance copies of the book to the winners. To start building interest and momentum for the contest, I ask you to please LIKE and share the new Can Do Workplace Facebook page.

Thanks – and remember to “imagine what you Can Do”!



When Things Just Don’t Work Out The Way We Planned…

shutterstock_124468138Want to hear God laugh? Make a plan! That old saying has been in the front of my brain for over a month.

My plans are spelled out clearly on my white board. For the new book launch: the website needs to get finished, the podcasts planned and recorded and three articles need to be written. For my client work: I have several major proposals that are due in the next three weeks and a capital campaign that launches in a month!

And, my long-anticipated vacation that finally gets here at the end of next week. I wish I could join Snoopy in a happy dance!happy dance snoopy!

Plans or no plans, I am being held captive by a never ending series of health challenges and complications. Gallbladder attacks were followed by surgery to remove it, which was supposed to be pretty quick and easy. A slight complication left me in the hospital for an extra day and a half. The following week, because my immune system is compromised, I got a bladder infection, which is not a huge deal, but slowed my recovery down even more. I was just about ready to take on the world again when I injured my back – a herniated disc that has caused a major league case of sciatica!  Walking is torture and the drugs make me sleepy, foggy-brained and somewhat stupid!

So everything keeps getting put on hold. A HOLD that just keeps getting extended. I am now at about Plan Q in the revision of my schedule. I have had to cancel numerous events: four great conferences that I was scheduled to attend. Mass with the Pope that we were offered tickets to attend, but had to decline. An art exhibit opening for a friend of mine. A birthday party for a pretty awesome one year old. A couple of committee meetings and a reception. We put our sweet puppy into “foster care” with friends, and she is coming home tonight.

shutterstock_53972776I feel like I am driving in a strange city where the route is under construction, I am following signs for the detour, but am not really sure where I am or where I am going to end up. For someone as goal driven as I am, this is simultaneously very hard and also really easy.

It is very hard because I have so much work to do, much of which is deadline driven! And, over the last six weeks, I have acquired a bit of planning anxiety because every time I make a plan, something else happens to deep six those plans.

Easy because it is obvious to me as I write this blog that my goal is to keep going and doing what I need to get healthy enough to go on vacation! Then, on vacation, I will get healthier and stronger, even if I have to do a little work while I am there.

As usual, writing it out here has helped me get my focus back and reminded me of great advice an old friend once gave me: “do the next right thing with what you have today, then get up tomorrow and do it all over again!” That is my plan.

Positive reinforcement word gratitude engraving on a rock

And, as part of that plan, I am making a gratitude list to help keep my perspective. The first item on the list is having great friends, colleagues and hubby who have been so supportive during this challenging time!  The second is that I have awesome vacation plans that will motivate me to get through to next Friday!

Now, back to work!


Journey of Discovery

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. 

To Marcel Proust’s oft’ quoted phrase, I would add, “and new ears.”

shutterstock_7507282The wonder of discovery that comes from seeing things with new eyes… hearing things with new ears. Or, maybe it’s just paying closer/different/better attention to what was there all the time!

Since the early spring, I have been job hunting for a CEO or Executive Director position of a small to mid-sized human services nonprofit. I gave this decision prayerful, careful thought. I am healthy again and interested in committing to a mission that makes a Can Do Difference. This perfect little job would be my “capstone” position to my very kid and family focused career.

The process has been very enlightening – and I have learned volumes about me and what my greatest strengths and skills are – and about the field, and where it is in the recruitment and selection of candidates for executive leadership positions. This blog is about me, my personal lessons-learned and the decisions I have made. There is a future blog brewing about the process and the field. (Stay tuned!)

At the beginning of August, I had tentatively made the decision to stop looking for a job, and to focus on building my consulting practice and promote my new book, The Can Do happy dance snoopy!Workplace, coming out this fall. There is lots to do with new workshops to develop, new podcasts to record and a website to build, etc. Then, I got emails that I had been selected for a first, then almost immediately a second round interview with a really great local nonprofit. That’s the kind of email that makes my ego do that age-old happy dance and say “oh, they might Pick Me! Pick ME!”

After the interview, where I did quite well for most of it, but left with the feeling that I was, perhaps, trying a bit too hard to figure out what they wanted in a CEO, (“Pick me!”) I spent some quality time with my go-to best resource:

The Three “CAN DO Questions”

  1. shutterstock_123517816What can I do? – this keeps the focus on the positive and what can happen, and off the negative and what is, or could be, going wrong.
  2. If not that, then what else can I do? – it keeps the positive juices flowing, and sets up for Plans B, C and Z, whether they are needed or not.
  3. And, just because I can, do I? – not everything possible is practical, healthy, or a good idea; sometimes the timing is not quite right or there needs to be one more piece in place (or taken out) before it is time to move a project forward.

The third question – I love that question.  It’s the gut check! Just because in the spring I thought I wanted to look for a new job (and can do it), is it really what I should keep doing? With quick and simple clarity, my gut-check answer was NO!  I listened to myself with new ears – and what I heard made a HUGE difference.

So, on the day after that interview, I made definitive decision to stop looking for that “perfect job” with the great mission to round out my career and, instead, use the platform that I have already built to create the perfect job for me. The “what” is not real different than what I was doing before: writing, training, capacity building, interim executive services with a focus helping nonprofits make a Can Do difference. It’s all right there, on the front page of my website!

What changed is the “why” and the “how”!  And, here’s how they changed!

shutterstock_17608348THE WHY: My goal is not to write grants, deliver workshops, mentor managers or to ensure compliance as an Interim Exec. I realized that I was so far in the details that I had lost sight of my goal! My goal is to help nonprofit leaders, managers and Board members make a Can Do difference. To focus on their missions. Create stronger alignment, create a plan to grow and make better decisions, and, simmer that secret sauce of theirs so that it attracts the best people. It’s where Cathi as the counselor in days of old, meets Cathi the consultant of today. It’s where I have great strength, not just of ideas, but with experiences that have taught me more lessons than most get in a lifetime – many of them the hard way!  It’s where I can be the most authentic and resourceful me!

THE HOW: For a number of reasons, some of them quite good at the time, I was being responsive to requests for my services, and not focused on how to define a client profile and establish my client base. I had grown a little too comfy in my cave (read: office) and flip flops and was not putting enough energy into getting out there, reconnecting with the people in the great network I have built through the years. And, in finding ways to meet not just new people, but the right new people.

Trust me, it’s not that I’ve been lazy – I have been quite busy. But, not as productive as I know how to be. And, I allowed myself to be lured into the adrenaline rush (and crash!) of the waiting for something wonderful to happen dynamic that occurs when I am looking for “the perfect job”! (“Pick ME! and life will be wonderful for all of us!”)

In the last few weeks, I have shifted my focus, and become my own inner-coach, and asked myself another question: “what would I encourage me, the client, to do if I was the coach?”  And, I started doing those very things. One of them on the list was writing this blog!

Lesson learned: take time to look with new eyes, listen with new ears – to our gut and our goals!

I leave you with the question: how will the Can Do Questions make a difference for you? What will you see? What will you hear?  And, then, what will you do!

P.S. Stay tuned for the launch of the Can Do Workplace Website. It’s only a few weeks away!






Let’s Hold on to Summer Just a Little Longer…

It’s not like I have slacked off all that much this summer. After all, I finished writing The Can Do Workplace in July, and have been popping grant proposals out all through August. It is more about my summer state of mind. And, yes, my flipflops!

cruise PC 151

Friends are posting about pumpkin spice and sweaters.  Inside I cry, “NOOOOooo” Somehow, once you start wearing sweaters, it’s almost Halloween – then it’s almost Thanksmas or Christmasgiving season. Then it’s SNOWING. Sigh! No flipflops in the snow.

To the sweater and cider lovers out there, I reply: “Take time out and celebrate today, just where we are.” I know I can’t hold on to summer… or keep my bare toes out for much longer without great discomfort and looking pretty strange! But I can today, since it is going to be in the 90s!  And, I can take long walks in my sandals, with toes hanging out there.

The future is filled with potential and discovery. I want this fall to be an adventure, but not until it gets here. Life goes fast enough without getting so far ahead of ourselves. Today, I am happy summer warmth remains. My pace is not as hectic. My flipflops remind me to pause and be grateful for these last, fleeting days of summer.

Won’t you join me?



Puppy Love!

IMG_20150819_064045174On Monday morning, we welcomed Gracie, a 10 week old Westie, into our home, our hearts and our lives! She is full of light, love and unending energy. For the next several months, our lives – hers and ours! –  will be filled with “training”. First there is the usual “housebreaking” routine. So far, it is going pretty well. Then comes learning to NOT chew on electrical cords, the fringe on the good rugs and the leg of my side table. We are also trying to get her to understand what the words “no”, “down”, “come” and “stop” mean.

Watching her discover her world in such a free form way with a pure zest for life gives me pause and invites me to reflect on the careful balance that this “training” needs to keep to allow the most and best “Gracie” to emerge while she learns some of the important rules of the road. Remembering that it’s about all of us learning what she Can Do, not just teaching her to understand and respond to “NO!”

As I watch her entertain herself with toys and scraps of paper and run and jump like a bunny in the yard, I also reflect on my own need to let go a bit and rediscover some of the creative, goofy, carefree puppy energy in myself. Not full time – I still have lots to do and deadlines to meet. But during these special, formative weeks ahead, I want to be intentional, take the time and join in some of Gracie’s puppy moments with her. Including taking great naps!


I want her to train me, too!