Why Downtime Means Less Crash And Burn

You can visualize it now, that perky flight attendant explaining the importance of putting your mask on first in case of an emergency

If you’re responsible for leading people, culture and developing ideas, whether it’s a small start up or a large organization, then taking a step back from your fast paced role isn’t a nicety it’s a necessity in order to create great work and solutions.

You may be like me waiting till the point when someone else says you need to take a break before you breathe and let go of that last meeting,  at that point you’re usually wobbling either mentally or physically. Spending a few days in bed sounds like a good idea at this point because of the sheer volume of tasks you’ve been trying to accomplish.

What we know is that to produce outcomes and collaborations which positively impact others while still making ourselves happy, we need to build in gaps that allow us to think, learn, and connect with others and lessen the overwhelm. You may be saying, who has the time?  The answer is, you do.  A recent article from Scientific America focuses on how productivity and developing better results is linked to not working more hours, but being smarter by etching out much needed down time. I’m not suggesting that you get on the lounger and lie still, but actively schedule time to do more of what you love and in that re-energize, actually making you  better able to help with the people and projects in your circle. You end up accomplishing the tasks that matter most personally and organizationally.

Making space to connect and build community inside and outside of your work culture, so you’re not relying on a “Lone Ranger” model of solving situations that arise is also a critical factor. I’ve recently experienced my own intense and chaotic project and after months of trying to stay in the zone to work through it, it took a nudge from an outside source for me to make time for fun, friends and activities. The results have been much better ideas and a renewed  sense of optimism to take on some of the larger components of the process, and it all started with ensuring my oxygen was tightly secured.

If you’re a leader of people and culture you owe it to everyone to take a moment and schedule down time. This single act sends an incredibly powerful message to everyone, including knowing your limits and what being your best self looks like.

It’s summer and there isn’t a better opportunity to begin experimenting with creating space that leads to innovation. It can be as small as finding 3 min in your day to actively let your mind wander, without digital, to your favourite vacation place. See if your return has you feeling a little more restored and focused.

Wondering how to get started now ? Why not join myself and other People and Culture leaders wanting to reignite curiosity and build skills in risk taking, innovation, and collaboration, while gaining insights on stress reduction and high performance at my one day summer camp. It’s going to be a fabulous hands on experience in extending your leadership skills in the sunshine.  I’ll look forward to having you come out as part of the crew.

Innovation Is For The Hesitant

In a recent conversation with an HR professional from a technology company who attended  one of my Superpowers Innovation sessions, we had a dialogue around how they could engage their organization in more connected problem solving. They said that the session was great but just couldn’t see people from their organization making the leap to a workshop on superpowers, “our guys would think it was too fluffy to produce results”.

I told them that this is not an unusual challenge, most organizations and people want to quantify and organize learning and engagement in a more linear way, ie. it fits into this existing category, especially when trying to be able to tell a story to others which would make them want to leap towards it instead of run fearfully in the opposite direction.

The truth is creativity and innovation have some fuzzy edges which do scare most organizations away from developing people and strategies in the area. Most of us like things to come packaged  in a way that is absolutely straightforward with no curves in the road.  Give us something with grey areas and then add the possibility of vulnerability, and most of us won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. When it comes to creating and collaborating to produce outstanding solutions the best ideas live nestled within the curiosity, talents and ideas of many that often haven’t seen the light of day for a while. It takes bravery, experiments and failures to get to the really great thoughts and actions and that means finding a place to build trust from.

I left the conversation vowing to find a practical plan to assist them and of course the universe has a funny way of answering the questions we have. Two days later I had a call from an organization wanting to do a workshop on time management for their IT department. Once we chatted a little further it became clear that this wasn’t really about time management but more around productivity and with that I was able to reframe the solution through the lens of creative problem solving tools which would help them to deal with both time and productivity issues. It was an Aha moment for me and clear that being able to provide an edge to pull towards them which was familiar meant they were able to make the leap to new tools they might not have considered before.

I quickly sent a note to the HR person I had been speaking with and her response was fabulous, including that it made total sense to use a starting point that felt known and which they could create an opening for various teams to join in the conversation from, shaping an outcome they all were connected to.  By the way that’s exactly what great problem solving should be, a feeling of having put our best selves forward in an open non judgemental way that leads to people feeling more connected.

Start by finding a safe place for everyone to work from and they will end up using the powers they have to take themselves, their ideas and your organization to a whole new level. Often it’s just finding a comfortable spot to begin taking risks from.

The Rise of a Z nation?

So all kidding aside,for the Zombie Apocalypse creative showcase we currently have you might have been lulled into believing that it was just a horrible fantasy world.

What if I told you that I thought we might be on the way to breeding a Z nation right now, not the kind that literally eats others but is eating up our human capacity for greatness. I don’t want to sound too out there but stick with me for a moment.

In recent times we’ve seen an immense increase in our reliance on digital technology, and while I’m the first one to look to technology and more specifically digital for the next great shift or find.  There also is a real reliance building on our digital tools which is not only taking away our ability to develop bigger ideas but maybe more importantly our skills to create relationships and collaborations that will help us feel connected and allow us to produce bigger outcomes.

At a time when we’re facing a greater need for outstanding problem solving and  bridging gaps between people we’re spending less and less time doing just that.  We’re also spending a lot less time “making” and doing things. We’re becoming content to sit back and have other people on youtube feed us their experience.  Don’t get me wrong like all good creative development being able to work from the starting point of others is critical in order to make something new, but when it becomes the fallback for actually thinking and doing then we’ve got a zombie like problem brewing.

If we look at  student experiences it’s even  more critical, many of them spend almost no time outside just tinkering so that they could begin to understand what they’re capable of and how to leverage it. I think about the study from Cisco that sites college students willing to give up their pinky finger for their phones, it doesn’t take one long to figure out what else they’re willing to give up in order to keep their digital connection going.

We all need to be aware of how we’re balancing our time between digital and actual thinking and  action, both with others and on our own.  It doesn’t have to look one way but feeling connected physically and mentally to the work your doing is a good start.

Why not begin with purposefully making sure we disconnect from all your digital for at least 1 hour a day, outside of sleeping, to really get ourselves and our crews to concentrate on what other small clues and insights they can pick up from the interactions they’re taking part in.  I think everyone would be amazed at what they’re missing and how it can help to create new ideas and solutions by just being connected back to your immediate environment and the people in it.

How are you creating balance for yourself and the people in your life in order to ward off the potential of us becoming a digital Z nation?


Risk Taking For Women ( Archery) Workshop



Lessons In Risk Taking

and Change (Archery)

Saturday June 6th

Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club 1284 – 184th Street
Surrey B.C.
Time: 1:00pm-4:00pm

(Registration 12:45)

Lynn Oucharek, People, Change and Innovation Strategist

  • -  A fun interactive workshop for women of all ages wanting to learn more about taking positive risks in their ideas and actions to create bigger outcomes.
  • -  A 1.5 hour skill building session on tools for risk taking and problem solving
  • -  1.5 hour archery introduction with all equipment and instruction included
  • -  Bring a friend and your willingness to create the targeted change you really deserve.
  • -  For more information contact:Contact: lynn@ovisionconsulting.com or ph: 604-862-9054

This energetic workshop is made for women wanting to ignite positive change in their lives and work. It will also give you the skills to take care of zombies and gain the bow power of Katniss.

As women we often hold back our best ideas and actions.

The question is how can we feel empowered to take more risks, which allows us to create amazing ideas, collaborations, and actions no matter what challenges we face?

It’s about living our life “wholehearted”, and stretching out further through the ongoing change around us.

This session is part I in practical risk taking tools and mind sets. We’ll discuss: design thinking tools, a risk taking challenge and practical methods for getting “unstuck”.

As part of this session you’ll learn how to wield your power day to day, and in a small group setting with instruction in the sport of archery.

Cost: $65.00 + tax

Tickets at Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/risk-taking- for-women-i-archery-tickets-16754877289

Constraints Help Us All Become Better Problem Solvers

Constraints Help Us Become More Creative Problem Solvers




With children we tend to make sure there are plenty of constraints around them, what time they go to bed, what they eat, what they read.

We know from a number of different sources that they are more likely to thrive given these positive constraints. I would liken it to the comfort that new borns have being swaddled in a blanket in those first few months of life.  Being able to feel the edges nearby allows them to relax and grow, it’s no different for older students and us all. Our ability to become more confident creative problem solvers, requires some constraints to blossom.

As students get older we begin to let go, a necessity for them to build experience and paths, but sometimes we also let go of helping to put positive constraints in place which would allow them to build creativity and better problem solving muscles that will follow them into work/life paths. I’m not talking about controlling them or keeping them close, but getting them to practice creating solutions without every possible option open.

For instance you might ask them to find a way to clean the garage.  You give them time parameters, expectations and possible tools but you don’t tell/show them exactly how to get it done, that’s up to them.  For some this will be easy they’ll use past experience and look at what else is available to them, for others it will seem daunting. I have one who is easily distracted. By the way this theory is the same if you’re managing others on the work front.

The fact is that the learning or even failure which might come from the experience is more valuable than we could imagine and chances are even if it doesn’t work out exactly how you predicted, I’ll pay my brother to collaborate with me, they will have learned something new about their capabilities under set circumstances or their ability to find their way back when things don’t work out as planned.

I recently saw a great example of this at a Maker Fair our school hosted, where a student in grade one unsure as to what her talents were decided to make an instrument out of papertowel rolls (available resources) at the last minute ( time constraints). It was magnificent and her explanation even better (community facing).  The cherry on top, she won a random prize for taking part.

Sometimes we need positive constraints in place to make progress and to create a reason to flex muscles we’ll require in order to succeed as we progress in life and work.

Taking Risks With Our Children Isn’t Easy


The other night I was speaking to a group of parents about the necessity of risk taking on behalf of our children’s futures, and really us learning to take more risks ourselves.

What I realized when I returned home was that I had missed sharing a couple of key points in the discussion, and none of it came home faster than when I opened my computer the next morning to an article on how dramatically we may see the economic landscape change for our children, and why we need to arm them with skill sets that will outlive what ever changes the world is going to throw their way.

I missed telling them that even having the knowledge of what the “right” thing to do is, can sometimes not be enough to convince us to give up the bunny slippers and put our students in the middle of trials and experiments.  Like when I had to decide two weeks ago if I should enroll my  youngest in an inquiry program for grade 8 vs main stream learning, despite the fact that I know it’s exactly what he’ll need to succeed moving forward.

But you know nagging thoughts about his writing skills and shyness had me holding back, just that little bit, would he succeed, thrive, in a series of other big changes?

Thankfully I was able to do the mental math on how important gaining these skills are vs. the short term pain or possible failures, but how many of us, even myself might have decided to go the safe route and not risk possible failure?  Based on lots of conversations I’ve had recently, I think many of us faced with the degree of uncertainty in the world today are looking to connect with elements we recognize and which might give us at least a small sense of comfort.

Here’s the thing, every time we make that safe decision, I really believe we are robbing our children of the opportunity to not only experience new things, but gain new skills, including the ability to be more resilient in the face of adversity.  The research is saying that resiliency or the ability to learn from our failures, bounce back and keep moving forward, is the strongest predictor of long term success.  I think this note is as much of a reminder for me as it is for other parents, because when I think about all of things we do to try to ensure that our children are happy, healthy, safe and ready for the world, I have to step back and keep asking myself, am I’m creating enough space around them to experience both the failures and successes they’ll need in order to tackle what’s going to come their way?

Hopefully we’re going to choose bravery on our part, and if you’re waffling, try bouncing your decision off of other people to get their feedback. The truth is no one said we had to do it on our own, you’d be amazed at how collaborating with a few others makes you realize you’re not in this alone, and helps in creating better solutions and bigger wins for both you and your children.  If you know me, you know I like the “Bill Gates to Batman” no one does it alone phrasing, there’s always an Alfred somewhere along the way.

Believe me when I say your children are going to give you a big hug in a few years, when they feel confident and capable of tackling any shifts which come their way.

Start The Year By Showing Your True Sparkle



Like some birds and many women I know, the attraction to things that sparkle is undeniable.  You would think that most of us would tire of those glistening bits, I’m sure there is neurological research that explains the brain’s attraction to it, but the fact still remains that we’ll pick sparkle and shine over dull any day of the week.

All I know is that when you catch a glimpse of that person or thing which gains your attention and really sends out a spark, you just can’t turn away, you have to see more.

True sparkle feels like there is some kind of magic that you need to be part of.  It brings you back to an earlier time, maybe when you were 8 and there really did seem to be more fantabulous people and things. It allows you a momentary rest from the realities of every day, and sometimes provides a glimpse of a part of you that has been tucked away for far too long.  It inspires, provides hope, and mostly it makes you smile or laugh, which many of us need more of.

A couple of years ago I started to talk about the sparkle in others jokingly.  You know things like, “have a sparkly day” and “sparkle on dude”, and “may the sparkle be with you”.  To my close group it was a fun way to say, have an incredible day and let others see that special bright part of who you are, the one that you often only show to your inner circle.

It turned out there was more to it than I had imagined, as one of them decided to take it one step further and create a pseudo sparkle club.  She invited other people she came across that she deemed “sparkly” in their attitudes and actions, and even picked up some glistening bracelets to give out to everyone.  While we haven’t taken the club much further, plans are under way, we have agreed that being part of this club and what it represents; an understanding that showing your true, kooky brightness which makes you unique and lights the way for others to shine, is a necessity in this life, both for you and them.

As you start this new year I want to challenge you to bring forward your true sparkly being, the one that is a little quirky, interesting and fun, and certainly isn’t afraid to show up to an event with a lot of sparkles on, which may or may not look like a fur trimmed skirt at Christmas or fake Guy Fieri hair at parties.

How will you know when you’ve got it right?  For me it was when my 15 year old son told me that I was “like a cake with A LOT of sprinkles on top, silence, you know that’s a good thing right?”

Have fun and sparkle on.

Helping Children Lead With Their Strengths




It’s that time of the year, where the holiday buzz is getting big again.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m the Spirit Lady on and off the school court, so I’m all about holiday fun, but what I’m trying to do differently this year is really turn the season into an opportunity for my children and those around me to put their true strengths in action, instead of waiting on just presents or the big day to define what makes this time of year so great.

A few weeks back we decided to have a family pot luck dinner, it included all of our nieces, nephews, grandparents.  The theme of the dinner was “makers”, so the fact that we all had strengths and talents, were expected to bring those talents along that night in the form of a handmade gift for someone picked in advance.

I have to say it was fabulous, the youngest of the group created an outstanding water colour , my nephew his first cake from scratch, lucky me, and everything from handpainted ornaments to squash soup was exchanged.  Why does this matter?  Well besides being told it was more fun than Christmas by many, it gave each and everyone of the young people in our group a huge sense of accomplishment.  The fact that they’re item was going to be seen by not only the chosen person but everyone else in our family/community meant that others were going to really “see” them and what they were capable of.  Not only was it a night full of surprises but most important you could see the pride and accomplishment written on every face.  We are by nature “makers”, if you know me you’ll know I’ve written about the importance of this before, but beyond the physical ability to use our strengths is also the knowledge that we are capable beings who come with elements that others also see as valuable.

Research has shown again and again when people, and particularly young people, give back in a way that highlights their strengths and is community facing, the level of learning, impact and self esteem that transpires is out of this world.  Suddenly they experience how their gifts can make a real difference.

Two days ago I launched another community facing event for students through a local dance studio called Dance Effect, lets see if you can get your young people to join in as well.  It’s a holiday kindness initiative that doesn’t require any money and very little time.  You take a few post it notes, write positive messages, like you’re fabulous, smile it looks great on you, or something about the holidays, and then anonymously leave them for others to find in public spaces.  If you get your student to take a picture we’re posting to #holidaylovebomb on various streams.

Helping them lead with their strengths sometimes just means showing them that their strength is in the ability to take actions and that the greatest gift they have is the ability to give their natural talents to others in some small way.    Happy Holidays.

Building Trust



When we think of all of the challenges we face with our children, very seldom do most of us consider how heavily trust factors into them.  From an early age I think we just assume that we’ve built relationships on trust with our children, and shown them how to create this with others.  When trust doesn’t exist, very little can move forward.  Whether it’s trusting in our own abilities, taking the step of trusting in another we don’t know 100%,  or having to trust again in others once we’ve been let down, all of these are important skills we have to gather in order to make our way in life.  The alternative is to literally stay still, afraid of what might/might not happen.  This week’s article by        Tim Elmore breaks down some key factors in cultivating trust, and here are a few more starting points for any of us helping young people to become confident, well rounded people:

1. Think of building trust as a series of small experiments, I’m big on this for idea development and it works the same here, smaller trials lead to larger ones and that helps everyone build bigger bridges and outcomes.

2. Use your superpowers for good.  If you’ve got a special skill or hobby, try using it as a way to build trust.  Often we don’t think we have anything of value to give first, we all have strengths, start with those to begin with.

3. Never take for granted the trust you have.  As parents or leaders, I think we sometimes assume that because we’ve worked with students or others before that means they still trust us.  We need to model the idea that building trust is an ongoing consistent process.

4. Explain that trust is like a bank account.  If you never put anything in, you’ll never have anything to take out.

Starting Can Be Harder Thank It Looks


If you’re like most parents you’re really glad to see your children get started again with the new school year.  With summer an almost distant memory and everyone excited to get back in action.

It’s fine if you have a plan, your courses chosen, your direction thought out, but for many young people, particularly those in the 16 and over category, there can be a tremendous amount of stress connected to starting back to school.  Why you ask, well for many young people they are beginning to really look at where their next phase of life will take them. At 16-18 most of us aren’t thinking about what our very first step to starting could be.  It’s easy for other people to say, don’t worry just do what you love, but what if you’re not sure what that is and more importantly, what if every time you look out there it just seems like a big black hole.  I can’t think of anything more terrifying than believing you don’t know where you’re headed and more importantly believing you don’t have what you need to get there. Of course neither of these things are true, but it’s the getting started which can be really tough

This recent advice  from Eat Pray Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert in this Huffington Post video might seem surprising but actually it’s right on the money with one very good place to start.

So what else could a student making life changing decisions begin with?  The simplest answer, what they already have.

1.  Write down their strengths, loves, interests, hobbies.  Get them to really give details on what they love about these areas so they can begin to look for offshoots from them.

2. Start a conversation about what other people think they are good at.  What do people tell them seems easy for them and they enjoy doing, everything counts even the small things.

3.  Stretch out and get them to start wondering and wandering, chances are they haven’t been moving much outside of their comfort zone in terms of diverse input, check out sites that will show them new trends and ideas like Fastcompany, Gizmodo and PSFK.


The truth is not everyone has a clear idea of where they’re headed and that is absolutely fine, but when faced with the situation it’s important to take small steps in order to get going in the right direction in order to move around the overwhelm that can then rise up.

Keep reminding them, “they already have what they need”, it just requires that they work at uncovering it and building skills that will work along side of it.