Posts by Karla Brandau

As an energizing speaker, entertaining trainer, and insightful consultant, Karla Brandau, has customized speeches and workshops for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and associations for 20-plus years. Client companies include Motorola, AT&T, Panasonic, BYD America and Nortel Networks. She specializes in leadership for a more productive workplace and customizes programs in leadership, team building, creative change and time management. One of her niche topics is "Outlook on Steroids" - a program that infuses time management principles into Microsoft Outlook. Her popular leadership program is entitled "Superior Relationships, the Differentiator." This course helps managers and supervisors develop emotional intelligence skills and gain proficiency in establishing authentic and productive relationships with employees. Karla has a degree in education and has written "Wake Up The Winner Inside," "101 Time Management Tips for Busy Professionals," and co-authored "Ready, Aim, Improve," a book on leadership and change. She is a Certified Speaking Professional, an earned designation given by National Speakers Association.

Charismatic Leadership: Give Unselfishly

Christmas Tree with Presents

Merry Christmas 2011

The Holiday Season engenders feelings of empathy, kindness and tenderness, especially for those a little down on their luck.

On Giving and Generosity

Giving and generosity are defined as the transfer of something without the expectation of receiving something in return.

When expecting nothing in return, the benefits of giving are exponentially higher than if giving and expecting payback.

Generous giving ensues, making the season even brighter, certainly for the receiver of the kindness but more strangely and predictably, for the giver as well. What might be perceived as a loss or a deficit by the giver is quickly overshadowed by feelings of well-being.

Benefits of Giving

When considering the benefits of giving, the giver often benefits economically via tax breaks. If the giving is public, the gift builds the status of the giver by signaling to the community wealth, thus giving the giver status.

The famous industrialist John D. Rockefeller, said, “God gave me my money.”

In a book entitled, The Rockefeller Billions, by Jules Abels, Rockefeller’s philosophy is explained: He believed that if he stopped giving his money away in the right way, God would take his money away from him.

The Oprah Challenge

In 2006, Oprah Winfrey, a billionaire and one of the greatest black philanthropists in American history, gave 300 people in her audience $1000.00 and one week to spend the money on a good cause.

  • Many paid for groceries
  • One woman bought mittens and hats for kids
  • Another helped a paralyzed girl
  • Yet another woman purchased movie tickets for the homeless to see the Pursuit of Happiness with Will Smith – the message being that their present situation can be temporary.

Oprah’s challenge gave participants true joy, not just happiness.

On Giving, Joy, and Endorphins

Giving provides an unexplained euphoria that instantaneously spreads through your body. This euphoria, this sense of joy is different from the happiness of receiving a gift, even if the gift is a diamond necklace.

This feeling is an elation and elevation of the soul.

You forget your own problems for a small moment in time and focus on the peace and love found in helping another human being.

To achieve the good feelings, you do not have to spend money. Offering your time to a colleague to help finish a project, lending something as simple as your stapler, or merely spending time with someone who seems alone can make you feel satisfied.

Angels That Give

I was inspired by an anonymous woman who kicked off a giving-spree throughout the United States.

She wanted to honor her husband who recently passed away so she visited a local K-mart store and paid off the lay-away accounts for numerous people. As the AP story states:

Christmas Shopping CartOMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.
He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.
“She told him, ‘No, I’m paying for it,’” recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. “He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn’t, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears.”
Full Story here:

On Wings and a Prayer

I have also been impressed by a nonprofit, Luke’s Wings.

Luke’s Wings is an organization dedicated to the support of military service members who have been wounded in battle. Luke’s Wings provides families with the airline tickets to visit their loved one in the hospital and to be with their service member during recovery and rehabilitation.

This year they have been making Christmas much brighter for many honorable service men and women. To learn more, visit

No matter when you choose to give, there are infinite opportunities in your world every day. Just watch this YouTube video from Lifevest Inside.

Giving and the Organization

So, we know how giving benefits you personally and benefits the people you help, but how does giving relate to charismatic leadership?

In an article entitled, Why Giving Matters, Arthur CBrooks who is president of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, makes the case that if you want to be seen as a leader and if you want to be happier, then give more.

Brooks’ research shows that:

“If people see you as a giver, as someone who cooperates and serves others, they see you as a leader and they will want to follow you.”

Giving also makes individuals more productive. Because giving puts you in a positive mood, you are able to concentrate on your work, make decisions, get ideas to solve problems – you are more productive. This diagram illustrates the process.

3 T’s of Stewardship: Time, Treasure, and Talents

People who give, share of their resources, volunteer their time, show empathy, and help others in the countless opportunities presented each day are happier people.

The process of giving permits them to operate in a positive feedback loop – they give, they are happier, they give more, they are happier, etc.

Don’t take my word that giving makes a difference in your leadership stature. Make a New Year’s resolution to give this process a try. Model for your employees a giving spirit and extend your hand to help when appropriate.

Your employees are always watching you.

They will imitate your good works and our organization will flourish.


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Karla Brandau is President of Karla Brandau & Associates
She is an expert at infusing time management principles with Microsoft Outlook
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Web | 770-923-0883

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Time Leadership and Your Bottom Line

Time Leadership

How can your leadership impact the bottom-line? Take a look at the clock and see how “time leadership” can work for you…

Olivia entered her office, sat down at her desk and looked at her calendar. Then her eyes darted from to folder to folder as she wondered where to start. With three projects due and an update meeting with her manager right after lunch, she fumbled through papers and clicked through computer files looking for missing information.

She felt a tinge of a familiar “worry” headache and hoped it would not turn into a migraine. Finally in exasperation, she walked to the break room for her favorite Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, trying to calm her nerves and focus her mind. The distress of half-finished projects with eminent and foreboding deadlines was immobilizing Olivia. She was stifled and her productivity evaporated.

How much productive work time do you think Olivia lost that morning thanks to anxiety and poor organization? One hour?

Some Quick Math

Do the MathIf Olivia earned $20.00 an hour, the company just lost $20.00. That amount does not have immediate negative effects on costs, but if Olivia loses one hour every working day, the organization will lose over $6,000.00 in profits in one year.

Multiply this by the number of employees in the company who struggle with Olivia’s problems. When you see the numbers, compelling reasons emerge to examine the connection between individual distress and time management, organizational productivity, and employee well-being.

The best antidote for Olivia would be to don a Superman suit and reverse time to the beginning of each project.

Olivia would then invest the necessary time to plan each assignment, break it into each component, place mini-deadlines for each step on the calendar with pop-up reminders, and build in a time-cushion so that the project is easily finished by the due-date. She would then only feel the positive stress fueled by the excitement of accomplishment.

But this planning scenario exists only in a fantasy world, right?


Frazzled MomTime management and distress are familiar rivals for your psyche. If your mind represented a busy mother, time management and distress would be siblings fighting for your attention. When individuals have good planning and time management skills, they have less distress.

And when employees have the emotional skills to calm distress, they will be able to organize their work and accomplish more.

Stress vs. Distress

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s separate distress from stress.

  • Stress is positive and is the mind and body mobilized for coping with change and challenge.
  • Distress is negative and is the perceived inability to respond adequately to demands.

Humorist Mark Twain said, “I have experienced many horrible things in my lifetime, a few of which actually happened.”

The Work of Worrying

MultitaskingIn the example above, time was rushing upon Olivia at a pace too fast for her to handle and it made her perceive that she would not finish on time. In reality, this may be a false assumption. To be ready for the accountability meeting with her manager, Olivia could slow time down and turn distress into positive stress by doing the work of worrying; which is planning.

Contrary to popular practices of multi-tasking, your mind can only do one thing at a time. To turn from distress that immobilizes to stress that energizes, stop your mind from flitting from idea to idea. Make your problems line up one by one.

Prioritize and choose the assignment with the most urgency, then work accordingly.

Bottom of the Ninth

If you were up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with the count 3 and 2, one person standing on second, and your team down by one run, what would you be thinking? Would you be worrying whether or not you would hit the ball?

The champion player would be saying, “I was made for this moment.”

Total focus on the task at hand – hitting the ball – would greatly increase the odds of getting the person on second home.

In the same fashion, when it is the bottom of the 9th for your assignment and you are behind in the score, calm your distress by quieting the inner voice of self-doubt and fear.

Then do the work of worrying: break the task into action steps, prioritize the steps, and move into action.

The mind filled with distress believes this process is a waste of time and prefers immediate action, even if that is shuffling papers or running in circles. However, the seasoned producer knows the work of worrying, or planning, is the only way to release positive stress (energy) to finish the project on time. Being proactive with problems replaces the immobilizing feeling of victimhood with personal power, thus increasing personal well being.

The Producer’s Mindset

After the past stressful year, which we are all glad to have almost behind us, contemplate what could happen in 2011 if every employee in your organization had the producer’s mindset and did the work of worrying instead of giving into immobilizing distress.

I once asked a group of employees for a personal injury law firm to contemplate the benefits to their firm and their personal job stability if, through the producer’s mindset and their personal efforts to be effective and efficient, their firm could close just one more case a year. The face of the partner who hired me lit up with hope.

If you are serious about improving your bottom line, encourage employees to eliminate ruminating around their offices unproductively, pay attention to the individual attitudes and work to build a producer’s mindset in your entire organization.

Karla Brandau is President of Karla Brandau & Associates
She is an expert at infusing time management principles with Microsoft Outlook
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Web | 770-923-0883

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Leadership Recipe for Success

I am always inspired by stories with a Horatio Alger touch. Like how impoverished young people can believe in a better future and work hard to improve their status in life. As a nation and world, we have been through months of impoverished circumstances and those organizations who have entered 2010 with their companies intact have undoubtedly implemented Horatio Alger success principles.

Success DNA

Success has two main elements: Positive expectation and hard work. My own Horatio Alger mantra is “Expect Success, then work as if there is no other option.”

Successful managers implement the Right Thoughts Plus Right Actions success principles in a variety of ways. Think about the techniques you implemented with your workforce to ensure your survival through 2009 to 2010. Perhaps your success tactics included some of the following I have documented as I have spoken with managers from a variety of companies.

These principles are:

1. Maintain a close connection to the customer.

A friend who manages at Motorola gave me this insight: “I asked my people to believe they could make a sale. Then I asked them to call each customer, ask about their situation and show empathy for their troubles. By listening to their problems, the rep had a good idea of what we could sell them to ease their pain, how we could structure payments, or add value to their order.”

• What you can do: As you assign projects, work with the belief system of the team members until they believe they can be successful.

2. Refine goals and objectives.

I have noticed that the major newspapers (my favorite is the Wall Street Journal) regularly carry news about companies jettisoning divisions or acquisitions that are not part of their core business, enabling them to focus on their recognized expertise.

• What you can do: Sponsor a luncheon with your team after everyone is in a good mood from eating delicious food, ruthlessly examine every standard product or service, all proposed products or services, and eliminate those that pull you off target of your core business. Focus your team on solid product lines that have the most potential for sales.

3. Focused work time.

When stress and uncertainty are high, concentration on tasks is difficult. Workers may exhibit short attention spans which cause them to wander aimlessly just to try to focus their minds or make frequent trips to the break room for coffee or a Hershey Take5Bar.

• What you can do: Reinforce solid time management principles, i.e. making task lists, setting deadlines, and collaborating with colleagues to avoid projects that veer in the wrong direction, wasting time and resources.

4. Eliminate negative thinking.

The economic conditions of the world have made it easy to give into victim thinking and retreat to a pity party. The book Wake Up The Winner Inside teaches strategies to implement the “Expect Success” philosophy. One of the strategies involves ridding yourself of negative thoughts such as:

“There is no way I’ll get that project done on time,”

“I know I won’t make quota,”

“Nothing in this economy is working.”

Negative expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. I’ve never seen a study but I’d like to see figures on the hours of precious time that is wasted each day because of negative attitudes and discouragement. My guess is at least two hours – that is nearly 1/2 of an employee’s focused working time. Thus a monetary case can be made to use the power of positive expectation to eliminate pessimistic attitudes and increase productivity.

• What you can do: When employees make disparaging remarks or critical comments about how rough life is, encourage them to see what is possible, what the next positive step might be and where the silver lining may be shining. That silver lining may be a narrower but more profitable focus on products and services.

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Karla Brandau is President of Karla Brandau & Associates.
She can be reached at

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Leadership Evolution, You Ape

Earth Globe

In needing to kill some time while on vacation, I stepped into a used bookstore. Right away the book I Seem To Be A Verb jumped out at me. I thought it was a pretty strange title and I was intrigued. I picked it up and was introduced to Buckminster Fuller, famous American inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician, poet, and author of the book.

I Seem To Be A Verb starts with this verse:

I live on Earth at present,

and I don’t know what I am.

I know that I am not a category.

I am not a thing — a noun.

I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.

Are You a Verb?

Instinctively I related to this prose. I live on earth at this present time but I have never wanted to be seen as a thing…a stationary object that is to be acted upon. I always wanted to be known as a person of action – a verb – a person who gets things done and makes things happen.

Leadership Questions:

Do you make things happen in your life and in your organization? Are you a verb or are you an immobile object that someone has to point in the right direction and tell what to do?

Are you part of an evolutionary process?

Some of the stress associated with today’s economy is symptomatic of the evolutionary process. Collectively, we resemble the new chick pecking its way out of the shell. We are pecking through the shell of 20th century paradigms, assumptions, rules and regulations, creating the new world of the 21st century.

Are you part of this evolutionary process? Are you making suggestions and pecking away at obsolete practices?

New Challenges

The opportunity of these economic times is to jettison the obsolete. This economic environment gives us an opportunity to scrutinize organizational and departmental processes, products, and services with a fine tooth comb to see what has value and what needs to be morphed or dropped immediately. Being actively involved in this process will help you be part of the evolutionary process.

Darwin is known for his “survival of the fittest” philosophy. He said, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, or the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Even though what is happening in our economy is painful, those who are responsive to change are remaining strong.

Are you an integral function of your organization? Or are you just monkeying around?

Capture the future direction of your organization and you will be part of the evolutionary process and an integral cog in the wheels that turn your organization. Most managers distinguish themselves by tightly and efficiently managing their operation and budget. These are important factors but the manager that becomes an integral part of the organization focuses on reinvesting in the organization. They identify problems and/or defects, fix them, and then take steps to prevent them from happening again. These managers raise the bar—driving the performance of their organization and their people to the next level.

A strong, vibrant organization is the result with job security for those considered an “integral function” in the organization.  Does “integral function” describe you?

Leaders Tips for Evolving the Organization

Sponsor sessions with your employees on:

  • How can we innovate?” The goal is to have new products ready when the recession ends.
  • How can we streamline processes?” It is not just about cutting costs, but it is about finding better solutions. The objective is to save as much limited capital as possible and preserve precious profits.
  • How can we increase our “stickiness” with our loyal customers?” You are looking for ways to make your company the company of choice when your customers decide to spend money.

As you conduct these sessions, be sure to:

  1. Create a fun, entertaining atmosphere so off-the-wall ideas flow freely. You can judge the merits of ideas later.
  2. Use creativity principles and activities to open minds for innovative solutions to problems.
  3. Reward employees for their ideas by turning them into entrepreneurs: Give them time and a small budget to try their ideas.

Make “expect success” your daily mantra. Added to your positive belief in the future, build morale by rewarding employees with gift cards to local Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Lowes, or your local supermarket. The value of the gift card is that it can be spent for necessities that might be short if a spouse is out of work. Those necessities include groceries and gas. Home Depot reports that gift cards today are not being spent on new kitchens and bathrooms but items to maintain the home like new faucets and light bulbs.

Be a Verb: Here’s a Fun Fresh Idea!

To increase morale and show appreciation for employees, one manager decorated the bathrooms…both women’s and men’s. Men make the trek to the 7th floor men’s room from all over the office building so they can take advantage of the chair, table, a candy bowl and the current copy of Sports Illustrated.

What are you doing to insure that you are learning and growing to become something more valuable to your team, your organization and to those you lead? How are you evolving with the times, technologies, and changing temperaments of the day? What can you do to inspire the people you work with to help them want to engage more and contribute willingly? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions!

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Karla Brandau is President of
Karla Brandau & Associates.
She can be reached at

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Diamonds: A Leader’s Best Friend


Leadership Questions: Is today’s economic and business environment to hot to handle for you? Is the intense heat and pressure of competition causing your team to strengthen and shine, or is it wilting their performance?

Or another way to phrase the question: “With this intense heat and pressure, are you creating diamonds or graphite?”

Diamond is a derivative of the element carbon. So is graphite, but diamond and graphite have very opposite properties. Even though they share the same chemistry, graphite is soft (the “lead” of a pencil), and diamond is hard.

Unfortunately, the “high heat” to perform plus the “intense pressure” of deadlines usually turns employees into graphite instead of diamond. Why? Because of poor focus, emotional intelligence, and stress skills.

What if you could take the intense pressure and the high heat of our economic environment and mold a resilient diamond team instead of letting stress turn your employees into soft graphite? How are you handling the environment to your team’s benefit?


Every organization is looking for rock solid performance amid cutthroat competition. Competition used to be relatively friendly in more bountiful times, but in today’s world, competition is aggressive, hot, and uncomfortable.

How do I lead my team with this heat and pressure? How do I create diamonds instead of graphite?

Let’s look at some of the physical properties of diamond that can help your employees withstand the pressures of the cutthroat world economy while giving rock solid work performances. A diamond is 4 times harder than the next hardest substance, corundum from which rubies and sapphires are mined. On the Knoop hardness scale for minerals, corundum rates 400 and diamond a whopping 1600!

The physical properties that made diamond the ultimate example of rock solid work performance are:

  • Hardness: A diamond is a perfect “10″ in hardness, defining the top of the hardness scale.

Your employees need “hardness” in order not to fracture and break from the economic pressures faced in most organizations worldwide. This hardness or hardiness comes from a belief in their inner powers to triumph in hard times. It comes from a determination to succeed and a commitment to find new, innovative answers to nagging problems and stumbling blocks.

By valuing and respecting each employee you can increase their self-esteem and their “hardness” in the face of adversity.

  • Clarity: Diamond is more transparent than any other solid or liquid substance – nothing else even comes close.

The current economic times demand transparency in leadership with clarity on what the organization stands for, where the organization is going, and whether or not the organization is keeping its commitments. Translated to you as a leader, transparency enhances the credibility and trustworthiness of your team, thus providing stability in the organization and integrity with your customers.

As you become more transparent, transparency will steadily permeate throughout the employees you manage. Honest dialog that clarifies questions and gives straightforward answers in non-combative ways will become the norm, thus facilitating productivity and thrusting you and your people forward.

  • Thermal Conductivity: Diamond conducts heat better than anything – five times better than the second best element, Silver!

In physics, thermal conductivity is the property of a material that indicates its ability to conduct heat. For this article, the “heat” that we want to conduct is positive energy and belief in the future.


As your employees become “harder” or “hardy” and as transparency seeps through the ranks, I challenge you to add “thermal conductivity” to your arsenal of leadership tools. Become a conductor of positive energy, transferring optimism and encouragement to everyone you interface with in any given day, and witness the results as doom and gloom transfers into solid growth strategies.

  • Melting Point: Diamond has the highest melting point at 6416 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone in your organization had as high a melting point as a diamond? If it were so, employees would maintain their cool and composure in tough discussions. “Meltdowns” would be few and far between, reserved for extremely important issues. During any given day, most meltdowns between employees are over somewhat trivial matters.

By teaching emotional intelligencestress principles, and communication techniques, you can help your employees replace “meltdowns” with dialog. Conflict becomes a catalyst for change as differences in opinion are explored with an eye toward making organizational products and services better.

Apply these diamond properties to your work environment and employees who may be diamonds in the rough will be cut to shine with exquisite brilliance giving you an edge in global cutthroat competition.

So, how bad is the heat in your Leadership Test Kitchen? Are you handling it well, or are you seeking to get out of the kitchen? How are you handling the pressures? What challenges do you have in recalibrating your thought processes so that you can help make your team a team of diamonds instead of graphite? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Karla Brandau is president of Karla Brandau & Associates
She can be reached at

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