Ah, the idea of getting healthy. For so many of us, the phrase, "getting healthy" is really just a simple phrase that we use either A.) Right after we catch our breath after climbing up a rather miniscule flight of stairs, or B.) What we say in a drunken slur four minutes before midnight on December 31. Of course, "getting healthy" tends to be easier said than done; otherwise you would be spending your time doing something other than reading this article, wouldn't you?

So whether you have a goal of quitting smoking, getting more sleep at night, dropping that holiday weight or just laughing more, let's examine the tried and true way of getting it done. 

1.) Choose a specific goal. Make sure you know exactly what you are pursuing. Choosing a goal of "I want to be healthy" won't be doing you any favors. Do you want to want to have a slower body fat percentage? Do you want to reduce the amount of negative self-talk you participate in? Do you want to increase your endurance or strength capabilities? Choosing a specific goal allows you to outline a plan for accomplishing it.  

2.) Research your goal. The point of this step is to make sure your goal is realistic and, in fact, healthy. Committing to lose 20 pounds in the next two weeks is probably not a very good idea. It's completely unrealistic, and any doctor will tell you that trying to lose more than two pounds a week can be harmful to your health.

3.) Write it down. Research has proven that writing your goal down and keeping it in a place where you see it often (taped to your bathroom mirror, for example) can significantly increase your chances of reaching it. 

4.) Set a timeline. Are you hoping to lose weight for your upcoming wedding? Training for a 10k race coming up in 3 months? Set yourself up with some kind of timeline. This doesn't have to be set in stone, mind you (everything always takes some adjusting as you go), but it will help you to stay motivated as your end date approaches. 

5.) Make a plan. A plan needs to be put in place for two main reasons: 1.) You need a plan to outline what you need to do each day to reach your goal, and 2.) You need to have a way to measure your progress. Creating a step by step plan to reach your health goal will also help things seem less overwhelming and help to keep you on track. 

So think about what you're going to do each day to reach your objective. If you're hoping to fit into your favorite pre-pregnancy pair of jeans before your high school reunion, what do you need to do each day? Perhaps you could start by doing some kind of cardio activity, three days a week, for at least 30 minutes a day. You could also commit to swapping some of your most indulgent foods for lower calorie options (skim milk instead of heavy cream in your morning coffee).  And how are you going to measure your progress? Maybe you could weigh yourself or take body measurements once a week.

6.) Make a relapse plan.
This is probably the most important step in your "get healthy" regimen. Understanding that sometimes you will slip up, and then having a way to get you back on track will make sure you don't fall off the wagon completely. Sure, everyone is going to backslide once in awhile, but that doesn't mean all is lost. A cookie one day does not justify three cookies the next day. 

Get the idea? Good, now go for it!






Are you one of the lucky masses in the Bakken, huddled together, with people you barely know in an apartment or man camp?  It’s a little crazy isn’t it!  Even worse, are you just hoping to be lucky enough to find someone to share an abode with so you can accept work?  If living together, without the elixir of ‘true love’, is your fate I have a few tips for you.  You may be asking, "Why does Karen, a middle aged homeowner in Billings, Montana think she can give me tips about living with others?"  And that, as they say, is the rest of the story

I grew up in a tiny house- lots of people.  I married a man who likes big houses- and I like to fill them with lots of people. Through all of the people, all of the challenges I’ve learned to make it work for everyone.  Right now my daughter and her husband have lived with us for 5 years.  They added a grandson to the mix and, lo and behold, we are all still speaking.  I also have a brother, a consummate bachelor, living in our basement, and I invite various friends and relatives to stay at a moment’s notice.  Our guest list has included two Swedish bicyclists who were about to camp in the local park when I invited them to stay in our back yard.   They stayed for six days and we are still fabulous friends.   

Here are 5 tips you can use to live with others…no matter who or where.  

1. Avoid saying “This is my house.”  You may be the owner or the name on the lease, but you have invited people into the structure so they would have a home.  Nothing ever ends well when you say “In MY house.” Even though you very well may mean it.  Instead try this “In our home,…”  the simple change will improve a lot of attitudes.  Everyone wants to take care of their home, and if you keep staking your territory by saying ‘in my house’ they have no reason to take the desired ownership attitude of upkeep and improvement.

2.  Have a chore chart.  When people take turns doing the dishes or cleaning the floors, they are more apt to be careful with those things.  The other benefit of a chore chart is on the day you are really cranky, the floors are dirty, the sink full of dishes and there are your house mates watching TV and you are ready to scream “IN MY HOUSE” all you have to do is pick up the chore chart, say “I wonder what I have today?” and everyone will get the point.  Our chore chart includes the reminder that everyone does their own laundry and if you pee there you clean there.

3.  Leave once in a while.  Nothing kills the mood like everyone hanging out, fighting for space, being obnoxious and just when it is really getting to you, you might as well know you are really getting on their nerves too.  Take a break.  We often do one night get a ways, or weekend trips.  When you come home you have something to talk about and life is great.  You are no longer sick of them and they are no longer sick of you.  An added bonus…they may have tackled their chores while you were gone.      

4.  Don’t be an ass.  I know, that is kind of blunt but if you behave, clean up after yourself, share the remote, pay your share of the bills-on time, things will go more smoothly.  Be the one who sets the good example.  Make your mama proud.  Be the one who cheers for the others.  Every communal living arrangement needs a good guy and an ass.  Choose wisely.

5. Develop an identity.  People in our neighborhood know us as the crazy people who wear Christmas shorts (don’t ask) when we shovel their drives the morning after a big snowfall. (Being nice to neighbors is a good idea too).  One communal family is known for their music jams.  One family we know has a ‘for the love’ doll.  It gets passed around as a nod to the things in life that makes you say “Oh, for the love.” and having it in your possession is a perk.  Your homes identity will probably come upon you by accident and you get to decide if it is “Animal House” or “The Waltons” but embrace it and make it who you are.  Identity makes the chaos of living together easier to bear.

Living together is a sign of the times and it really can be fun.   Here are a few resources for more on the idea of sharing housing:

Learn how to share housing---save your sanity

How to live with relatives

Legal advice for cohabitation

This was written for Synergy Station
copyright 2011- Karen Grosz and Canvas Creek

Your team is going to achieve a goal this year. 

The question is will it be a goal you want, or a goal they want?   Will it be a goal you settle for or a goal you design?  Will your team ‘buy in’ or will they ‘sell out’ on the results? 

Goals for a group are different than your singular goals.  Most often owners, managers and team leaders set the goal for the team based on available data and performance pressures.  They know what has to be done, they know what they want to do and they expect their team to say “YES!” to achievement of the goal.  They are ‘the leader’ and they anticipate those who ‘follow’ will automatically fall in step and achieve greatness.  It is a singular goal, given to the group and, sadly, destined to failure.

To create a goal that a team of people will achieve requires more of an action plan and here are five steps to create ‘buy in’ and therefore success.

1.  Provide the group with available data.  Show them previous results. Clearly layout for the team your company objectives, timelines and any pressures, such as competition and market timelines, that affect their goal.   Don’t give them the goal; just give them the pertinent facts and your quiet expectation of success.  The facts you choose to layout will determine the direction of their goal.

2.  In a group setting ask team members what they can do individually. There are many reasons for doing this in a group, but I won’t delve into them here.  Using a bit of strategy ask your team what they want to add to sales, market penetration, or perhaps safety results.  As they offer individual goals keep a tally and prepare to be surprised, the final number will probably be bigger than anything you would have set singularly. 

3.  Now refine the goal so it can be achieved- together.  First ask the team if they can do this.  Make sure they are committed to the final number and that they understand what company decisions will be based on this goal.  If the tally was way too high, this is when it is adjusted.  If there is a worry the goal cannot be reached, or will fall short of company needs this is when you talk about it.  The team, who are actively building this goal from the bottom up, are proud of the goal, proud of the direction and will sort out the details for themselves.  Your job as leader is to facilitate the direction of the conversation.

4.  Fully support this goal- it came from them- it will be achieved by them.  Your role as leader is to give them needed tools, needed support and ongoing conversations about the goal.  If you have not already, initiate a series of brief weekly check- ins so you know where your individual players are in moving towards their contribution to the group goal and what areas  they need help with.  Advertise to everyone what results you are hitting and let them make adjustment to the activity that will drive success. 

5.  Know that people will do things for a team that they will not do for themselves. Nurture the idea that ‘if one wins, we all win’ and that Together Everyone Achieves More.  Singular success is team success.   It takes more than lip service to develop a culture like this, but it is worth the investment of time and resources.  People who are in collaboration are more likely to have job satisfaction and higher results than those who are in competition.   

I know that many things are easier to write than to achieve and that your team is a unique entity.  You have challenges, strengths and needs that make bottom up goal setting, and achieving, a challenge.  I also know that it is okay to ask for help.  Find a facilitator for your goal setting meeting.  Find a coach to support you and any key players who need, and are worthy of additional coaching.  The key to actually hitting your needed goal this year is commitment.  And, commitment is easiest to achieve when you, as the leader, and your team have full buy in. _

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Changing Chairs

Here we go!  Collaborate is moving to a new location and I’ve heard the rumblings… ‘Will the room be too big, too small, or too far from the parking lot?’  ‘Will we have the same feeling we have right here, at the Chamber, in a room quickly becoming too small yet packed with enthusiasm and great conversation?’  As a coach and team builder I hear these things and, honestly, want to lecture just a little.  My whole life is dedicated to helping people grow and to get along in groups, and I fully support a change of scenery. 

I have long held the belief that if we sit in the same chair, talk to the same people, wear the same hat, our world will become smaller and smaller.  Our life will become limited to what we know, not what we try.

As we move to the new location I think we should join hands and skip into the room, (stop now to imagine some of us skipping….that is a good laugh!) ready for what has always happened at Collaborate- connection, new thoughts, and  new friends. 

As we settle into the Depot be aware of how you are reacting and how you can help others react.  Are you grumbling or are you on an adventure?  Can you sit by someone new, welcome someone who has not been part of the group before, and suggest a new topic for conversation?  Of course you can!  You are stronger than where we have been as a group; you are where we are going and who we are becoming.

I am glad to know you and can’t wait to see you…in a new chair!

For those who are interested, my book “What’s Your Excuse?” goes into this concept of changing seats with a bit more depth.  I really am passionate about the challenge of new experiences!     

Just for fun…when you walk into regularly scheduled meeting, or you sit down for dinner tonight, choose an entirely new seat.  Changing your view can change the results.

©Karen Grosz and Canvas Creek Team Building 2011   

Painting a Baseball Story

 If a twelve year old handed you a bat, a ball and a glove and said “Go make magic happen.” what would you do?  Would you walk away, shaking your head?  Would you take that bat and swing for the outfield?  Would you stop for a moment, take a deep breath and tell your baseball story?  “I played when I was a child, I was never very good, but I loved to stand in the sun and catch that ball.”  “Baseball is life.”  “Baseball? My dad took me to games, played a bit of catch with me, but I never really understood it.”

 If I handed you a paint brush and asked you to walk up to the canvas and paint something, like a message to the Northwest Boys, what would you do?  Would you hand it back and walk away?  Would you write your name,’ we are proud of you’, or ‘good job’?  Would you shake while you painted?  Would you go find others to paint messages?  Or, would you stop for a moment, look at the colors on the canvas, and tell me your little league story?

There is not a right answer, but there is an experience here I have to tell you about.  August was defined for many here in Billings by twelve boys who stepped up to the plate and made magic happen.  You may have read the stories, watched the video and looked at the pictures, or maybe you were right in the middle of the story.  But, have you stopped and listened to what it meant to the people on the sideline, the fans, and the non-fans who could not help but say “Wow!”?   I hadn’t and I didn’t expect to either.   All I wanted to do was capture a few of the best wishes, a bit of the cities appreciation for a game well played, on a canvas to be presented to the boys.  So, I handed people paint brushes and stood back.    

The messages are short.  “Good Job!”   “You Rock!”  “You make us proud.” “Beast!”  Some are scribbles, some are the names of the painters, and few can’t be read, but all of them carry the strength of people coming together to celebrate something greater than themselves; a team.

Those messages are what I expected and all I wanted to do was watch as the canvas took on a life of its own, as I knew it would.  I wanted to celebrate a team doing what I wish all teams could do… winning and reveling in the moment.

Instead I came home feeling that the canvas, and I, had been covered in stories.   When I gave people a brush, more often than not they told me how they felt when Ben hit the homer.  They told me how they put life on hold and watched every pitch of the series, even flying to Pennsylvania for the games.  They told me how watching, and thinking about this team, makes them cry…with pure joy.  They said things like “My boy played on Jet’s majors team.” 

More than once old men told me how proud they were.  How they witnessed something they never dreamed they would see, a team, from Billings, Montana in the Little League World Series.  More than once those men, with sunflower seeds in their pockets and wisdom accumulated in gray hair, had to walk away because they were lost in emotion and embarrassed by tear filled eyes. 

One of the boy’s moms told me of her exhaustion.  One cried when she saw a heart painted around her son’s face.  One dad just stood and stared.  He came back later and stared some more.  And then he took a picture, and watched while people painted.  He wouldn’t talk with me; he just sort of smiled when I caught his eye.  He seemed to want to know, in this moment of quiet, that the magic of a baseball season was captured in the words on a canvas. 

When the boys saw the canvas, in the dark, after an eternity spent signing posters, they read the words, they tilted their heads and read some more and they smiled.  They also did something I did not expect, they applauded, because it felt good to be loved in this crazy artistic sort of way and they knew no other way to say thank you to the painters.    

There are not words to say what this summer has meant to these boys, these families, or this city.  Writers try to convey it, but we can’t.  Photographers try to capture it, but they cannot.  Artists will try to capture it, but fail.  What this summer event means is in our hearts, it is in our minds and it is too fresh to be described completely.  Eventually it will define us like tragedy or triumph can define an entire generation “I know exactly where I was when Kennedy was shot.”  “I remember how we all sat around the TV and watched, over and over, when we landed on the moon.” 

The edges of the memory will soften.  The raw emotion so many feel right now will fall away, replaced by the routine of life.  But there is not one of us who won’t come back to a memory of this time, to a feeling that in some way we were part of a team, a wondrous glorious team of people who cheered, cried, laughed and stood silent when a twelve year old stepped up to the plate and made magic happen.  

Copyright 2011 Karen Grosz and Canvas Creek Team Building 

Sometimes in pain promises are made that should not be kept.  “I am never speaking to you again.”  “Don’t darken my doorstep.”   “My attorney will contact yours.”  They are words hurled through anger, glass walls and shattered dreams, meant to inflict immediate pain, immediate reaction.  In some sort of perverse logic, the words are meant to instill self-courage, the courage needed to move forward.

And, in pain, forward motion is made, but always with the hole left by the regret fueled pride that takes over after anger fades.  “I am not going to call her.”   “If he wants to see me, he knows where I live.”  “I’ve not sued them…yet.”   The words become a line in the sand, and often reason falls to the pressure of being ‘right’ and life is lived in a new way, but with something missing. 

I didn’t know that kind of promise had been made as the participants stepped into Canvas Creek recently.  I didn’t know there were fear, anger, hatred, and deep consuming pain hidden behind the nerves of one participant.  All I could see was that being given the task to begin the canvas was more than she could muster.  I’d asked her to do something she could not do, and she was standing in front of the people who only knew her as strong.  They never knew her to back down…to anything.  They never knew her to cry, to shake or to walk away from any challenge.  And there she was; doing all of those things, her ‘tough’ persona crumbling like walls full of dynamite. 

I am not afraid to admit to you, it scared the hell out of me.  I wanted to test this team, to stress them and to make them stronger, but I did not want to see collapse.  I did not want to delve that deep into one person; I simply wanted to build a team. 

As she backed away from the canvas, the team took over, they had been given a task and they did what good teams do, they re-grouped and moved forward to complete it.  As they worked, I held her hand, hugged her and felt the pissed off tears.  She whispered to me that she had not painted in 25 years, she had promised never to create again.  Her work team had no idea about the promise and she wanted it kept that way.  I let her know she could do what she needed to do, paint or not, be with the team, or observe the team, it would be okay.  As often happens in these cases, she did what she needed to do---and it was for the team.  It was something she could not do for herself. 

She stepped into the middle of the group and put paint on a canvas. 

While she stood in front of that canvas, in the middle of a group, she was more alone than anyone I have ever seen.  And while she painted she shook more violently than I have ever seen someone shake.  She looked to me for support, but I was not part of the team, I was only an observer, I could not give her more than a weak smile and nod. I was overcome with every emotion she was feeling, her misery felt like my misery, her fear was my fear. 

She painted a stilted, squiggly line that meant nothing, yet it meant everything and again she looked around for support.  This time she found it in a teammate who simply gave her thumbs up.  And that was just enough.  The group did what groups do; they instinctively knew that coming together, supporting each other was better than standing alone.  Together they could help their friend and paint this canvas.  There was a surge of energy that went through the room.  The pain fueled the creativity of everyone; it became a catalyst for a change in their dynamics.

As they grew into a new team our subject painted.  She cried.  She painted.  She smiled.  The music changed, It was powerful, thumping now and angry.  I gave her a big brush and permission to paint with red pain(t) across all that was on the canvas. Tentative at first, then laughing and letting 25 years fall away the red changed the canvas completely.  Her destroying of the ‘art’ the team had created made them fall back and reassess where they had been going.  Finally, they all laughed, threw up their arms and they painted with new emotion; using their hands, new colors and bigger brushes.  The original painting, the rudimentary shapes, were gone, replaced by splashes, textures and colors, a creation representing them as a whole, not individual people. 

The promise had been to a dead child, that she would never create art again, that she would give up that most treasured part of herself as life made her give him up, that most treasured part of a union. In the end, I asked her if it was the right promise to have made and she said “No” and laughed and said “I’m back and all I want to do is paint, I promise never to stop again.”

It was a promise the team will help her keep.  She began by stepping to that canvas for the team and with that step began a new chapter in her life.  In silence the team learned volumes; each time they look at the creation of their journey, her pain, thumbs up and red brush strokes, they will be strong and they will be together, an unspoken promise was made, a promise to be a team.  As a team they will give encouragement, laugh and to let one person’s private journey be the groups strength; a promise of better tomorrows. 

And that is the best sort of promise to keep, don’t you think?    

Copyright 2011  Karen Grosz and Canvas Creek Team Building          

 Categories: goal setting | Tags: goal setting

If you are like me, there are a lot of things you don’t like. Thirsty kids in Africa, poverty in America, the toothpaste splatters on the mirror (yuck) and several, more personal things, like the size of my jeans. The problem with a list like this, is when complete it is overwhelming and you are often left right where you started; you don’t like it, but you live with it.

I would argue that, in fact, change is not only possible, it is healthy. I further contend that you don’t have to change everything on your list to feel better. All you have to do is choose one base element, the one that bugs you the most, work to affect change on that element and, wala, you feel better and the world is probably a better place as well. I write grants for Rotary to give children drinking water. I eat ice cream in the summer. Children with fresh water makes me feel better about my jeans.

So, what will it be? What are you going to change? Why? Who will notice?

And, as I ask in “What’s Your Excuse”, will you do it?

If your answer is yes, choose your excuse and set off. You already know you don’t like it. Now change it.

 Categories: None | Tags: Team Building
I stood knee deep in slimy muck, near tears as I pulled old tapes out of the goo. There were reel to reel tapes, 8-track tapes and video tapes, cassette tapes, and Super-8 films all combined in an anthropological layering of the march through entertainment and sentimentality of the last 80 years. I knew this was their life. Their interests, their experiences and there I stood, tasked with tossing it away. The weight of that action was overwhelming to someone who has spent much of her life helping others save their stories.

I felt a hand on my shoulder, and as I turned the homeowner I was helping to muck out after a flood said, “It’s okay, it’s a relief actually, we were drowning in stuff and things we needed to go through, to categorize and decide what to do with it. It’s done now.” With that she opened a new garbage bag and filled it with a life well lived and now completely undone.

Later in the day I watched an elderly woman turn from her task of unloading a flooded closet and sit on the seat of her walker. In her hands she held a doll, with yarn hair and nondescript clothing, which she placed, so lovingly, on a small wicker chair. She washed a bit of mud off the face, handed the whole thing to a volunteer with the request to place it on a high shelf. She directed exactly how to turn the doll and then she sighed and smiled. She said “That’s good.” A tiny bit of normal in a world of chaos.

During the day I watched her laugh as she uncovered treasures and cry as she threw some away. Before an army of volunteers (who swarmed her house like ants) arrived, she had been working for almost three weeks; just her, her walker, a gargantuan task and an attitude that said ‘move forward’. She told me how she had been in the yard one day, early in the task, when her walker got stuck in the mud. She was there for an eternity when someone she didn’t know came by, got a hose from the sump pump and “washed away my ‘stuckness’ so I could get back to work.”

It all made me think that there is a blessing in a flood, just as there is a blessing in any event that brings people together and tasks them with moving forward. We humans join hands, provide hugs, laugh and cry, and together we figure out how to wash away our ‘stuckness’ and embrace what is important. So, friend, I don’t wish for you a flood, but I do hope you can wash away your ‘stuckness.’ It is a good day to move forward.


Collaboration is such a delicate thing. You have an idea, they have an idea, combined the idea either works or it doesn’t…and you have to figure out how to deal with that fact. Collaboration takes trust, risk, confidence and grace if it is going to go well. Because Canvas Creek encourages collaboration I wanted to tell you what we just experienced.

We collaborated on a new logo. We had tired traditional logo designing. Our ideas, professional ideas, ideas from friends and still nothing resonated and made the team say “That’s it!” When you are launching a company, with a business plan that includes expansion, you need a logo. Every day we waited felt like an eternity.

So, we used an online collaboration web-site and sent our thoughts and dreams of a logo out to the wonders of the internet. Our first prototype was from Turkey, then came India, Venezuela, the US, Poland and Billings. We were able to say “We like this.” “Try this.” And finally, “That’s it!” Hundreds of ideas and thoughts went into a logo with one main function- be simple and show that we can make a team whole.

We hope you like it. And even more, we hope you get to collaborate today. It’s the best way to create.