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Donna Carlson

Donna Carlson

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Hi Ellevate women! I'm Donna, a women's leadership coach and life strategist in Colorado. I love what this community has built and cannot wait to jump in with both feet. I'm headed to Seattle on business and plan to connect with Ellevate sisters there this week. I'm in town to develop a women's leadership curriculum with a partner there and visit my eldest daughter, who is adulting well after graduating from Seattle Pacific U. My focus? An upcoming women's leadership retreat in Colorado Springs, providing a place for women to rest and rebuild a more life-giving rhythm so she can be the leader she's made to be.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

The only story I can tell is how I found you. I was thinking what a great idea it would be to build a portal for women to connect online across the world and share resources. Voila! Here you are. It doesn't need to be done twice, so I joined and I'm off to my next great idea.

How would you define your professional mission?

George Bernard Shaw says it best, "I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

A successful coach is a great listener. Early in my career, I kept interrupting with my "great advice" and thankfully learned early on that the most successful coaches listen and ask questions. We truly exist only to help you discover the truth that's already planted in you!

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

Quitting my job right after I turned 50 to unleash Life Strategy Design Workshops & Retreats on the world. I was sick and tired of hating working in the wrong job and proud of the courage it took to make this leap so I can provide a path for others who are on the hamster wheel without a purpose.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

I'm 52! The 15 year plan I launched in 2017 is already running behind schedule, so my challenge is to slow down so I can go faster. I'm learning to listen and cultivate curiosity about the road blocks so I can turn them into opportunities.

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

I just submitted a women's leadership development proposal to a global non profit and I have a vision to open this up via webinar to other non profits elevating women! I also built a unique women's leadership retreat using the characteristics of a fine wine as a metaphor for leadership. I'm excited to turn this into custom retreats for teams.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

LOL. It's a funny story, really. For about 25 years I sat in a lot of meetings thinking we'd get a whole lot more done if everyone would act like a grown up. Fast forward to the first time I learned there is such a thing as leadership development 30 YEARS into my career. How is it possible I worked for 30 years before I knew companies provide training and coaching to help leaders succeed. I signed up for that because I love helping people thrive and share their gifts with the world.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

By far the most rewarding part of my job is that moment when a woman realizes that she's not stuck in a career or lifestyle that drains her soul. When she sees the light of day and realizes that with a strategy she can change the scenery in her life, THAT is my reward.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

I write my vision every day to remind myself that everything I say, do or write is to equip a world of women experiencing the fullness of this life, living her dreams, sharing her gifts to create a thriving environment around her. When we have more people living that vision, we will be living in a happier world.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

My job is the perfect fit for my innate gifts as a connector and a catalyst. Part of my program is helping women design the network she needs to put her life strategy on rails. My kids call me the Network Queen for a reason. I love to curate a black book of amazing people so I can connect them when the opportunity arises to catalyze some great action together.

Who are your role models?

So many. Early in my career, Shari Benjamin - the Silicon Valley maven of tech PR, then Ginger Porter with Golin. Today in my career, I have access to so many really smart and accomplished women there's not enough room on this list, but someone I quote a lot is Sheryl Sandberg. I love and celebrate that she brings her whole self to her leadership.

What is your morning ritual?

Time with dog 5:30 - 6:30. Literally, I brew a French Press and sit on the couch with my dog on my lap, my journal and my Bible and fill with inspiration for the day. Part of that is writing out a very articulate description of what my life looks like when I'm at my best. Then I have my daily 20 minute workout, usually walking or yoga, then I hit the work plan I created over the weekend.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

Believe it or not, in my childhood imaginary life, the Bionic Woman was my secretary. I wonder what that says about my ego, but we're getting off topic. My personal superpower is catalyzing action. I connect people and inspire them to do greater things together than they can do alone.

What does success look like to you?

Creating a world where my three daughters can succeed in anything they pursue. Wait! It's happening. We do have a lot of work yet to finish.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

There is no such thing as balance. That would imply that you can do it all at once with equanimity and grace. At best, we live in symmetry and harmony - at least that's what I teach in my Life Strategy Design program. We recognize the outcome we want and create harmony between ALL the factors of life to bring that into being.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

Don't quit your day job until you have enough clients to replace your income.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

You are inspiring the future! I tortured myself with working-mom-guilt for more than a decade before my kids started to graduate and grow into adults. NOW I see they are the most responsible, fully formed adults they can be and it's because they had the additional responsibilities in childhood that are just necessary for working moms to enforce in order to keep our sanity, like learning to do their own laundry from the time they can reach the dials on the washer...with a stool. You're amazing!!

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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