Hi <<First Name>>,

My personal theme for 2014 was Year of the Viking Queen: Conquering New Territories. The first order of business was to get my Viking Queen IPhone case to go with a very robust Tor’s Hammer. The latter proved to be a slick way to keep my executive peer group tribes in line.

New territories: little did I suspect the magnitude of some of the territories that have been thrown my way this year, some life changing. In this issue, I share professional and personal highlights from 2014 and start exploring a new theme to anchor myself into in 2015: possibly “well-being”. Do you like?

Browse at your leisure and let me know what you think! Do you plan to let 2015 happen to you or step into it with intention? Scroll down to the end to get to Suzanne’s Yak Space for some of my more personal reflections and adventures.

Suzanne Elshult, Your Executive Coach
In This Issue:
What's Crackin Yak?
As this year draws to an end my business is booming. My website upgrade is still very much personally branded, a new Facebook business page integrating my YakBlog, this newsletter with a more interactive feel, and a broader/ better reach with social media in general have helped my practice with visibility and establishing thought leadership. My executive coaching practice right now is operating at (or even above) maximum capacity - a nice problem to have - and I have clients all over the United States. Technology enables amazing things and I AM KEEPING UP WITH IT- according to a recent quiz on Facebook, my age is 23. Not sure my body is in agreement, but what the heck, I will take it.
My Peer Executive Coaching Groups continue to build communities, learn together, and develop friendships. WE ARE THE CONTENT (thank you Rod Brooks, CMO with PEMCO for coining that phrase for us) and members from some 70 companies, both small and large, private and not-for-profit - take great pride in our collective commitment to a high level of engagement. Powerpoint presentations continue to be taboo in our sessions unless someone can really persuade me that it adds exceptional value and builds an authentic dialogue around powerful questions. Our sessions this fall have ranged from conversations around the power of story-telling (stories are remembered 22 times more than facts alone) to personal and organizational strategies to plan for the workforce of the future at a time when change is pretty much constant, exploring what "authentic" engagement looks like at a recent session hosted by Starbucks, and a dialogue around the NEW NORMAL and Why It Is OK for Brands to Support Good Causes AND Make Money!!!

A couple of long-term founding peer group members retired from the corporate world in 2014. After more than 15 years of community in the HR Executive Forum, it felt bittersweet to send Donna Schneider and Rochelle Crollard off to new adventures. Bon Voyage! Generally speaking though, turnover continues to be>minimal - turnover is my report card along with how little or much I talk at meetings - the less I talk the higher my score. Almost all vacancies now days are filled by member referrals. That has allowed me to focus significantly more energy on individual executive coaching in 2014 and going forward. Thank you all for allowing me to make a living doing what I love doing and do best. My life is full of incredible people, and many of you have become very dear, good friends in addition to being great professional colleagues and clients.

Our peer group agendas coming together for 2015 are exciting and vary from free-flowing sessions on wild ideas, great resources and hot topics, to assessing the competency and competency gaps of ourselves and our staffs - daring to hold up the mirror and be totally transparent of where we are at individually and together - preparing for and growing leadership in a dramatically changing world, making the shift from thinking about wellness to thinking about well-being in our workplaces and lives, to exploring how to build more effective relationships between Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Technology Officers, and lots more, perhaps even our very first Hackathon this spring!

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. I am determined to step into 2015 with intention. While the pressure for New Year's resolutions is mounting all around me, I am committed to my own personal angle which is to adopt a theme for the year. Anchoring myself into a theme allows me to project everything I do against a backdrop and stay in integrity with myself every step of the way. "Well-being" is a strong contender theme right now. For me, "well-being" goes way beyond wellness and health and speaks to things like meaning and purpose and embraces physical, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of "being". For a number of reasons too complex to go into here, I suspect 2015 will be a year of loss and challenge as well as opportunity. I want to approach whatever is coming my way with a sense of strength, connection and YES, well-being.
Featured Yak Post
Engagement: Please Cry At My Meetings,
Suzanne Elshult, Executive Coach/HRNow

Can crying at meetings be a measure of high engagement? I guess it depends. At my recent HR Executive Peer Coaching Group session on the topic of engagement one client organization shared that you will not infrequently find someone crying at one of their meetings. BUT, it is not crying out of sadness, but crying because an experience has been life changing and because of strength of feeling. For example, in companies like Starbucks and Google where employees/partners have the opportunity to go on missions in third world countries, experiences often become life-altering and in turn can deeply affect and lead to higher levels of engagement for employees "back home' as experiences are shared and stories are told.
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Recent Blog Posts:

Can crying at meetings be a measure of high engagement? I guess it depends. 

NEW NORMAL: OK for brands to support good causes & make money by Suzanne Elshult, Your Executive Coach, HRNow
December 17, 2014

Last week my marketing executive per group explored rebranding.
October 27, 2014

Many executives still think about workforce planning as a “project or bolt-on event” or perhaps a “mad scramble every Friday morning to put together headcount numbers” and deal with short-term planning; basically managing the tactics of ebb and tide.


Stepping Into My Own Fear: My friend’s gruesome death changed my life forever by Suzanne Elshult, Executive Coach/HRNow 
January 31, 2014

“Burned into my memory are the images of him, on that slick rock, grasping for something, anything, to hold on to, as he slid slowly but inevitably toward the edge."

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Top Yak Pick Articles
Follow this link to some of my recent favorite reads: 
  • Are You A Multiplier or a Diminisher by Liz Wiseman
  • How Successful People Stay Productive and In Control by Dr. Travis Bradberry
  • How to Do What's Be For Your Organization by Fraser Seitel (Forbes) 
Yak Happenings

1/22/15 Marketing Executive Roundtable: Wild Ideas, Great Resources and Hot Topics

1/23/15 HR Executive Forum: Assessing Capabilities and Setting Priorities. An Exercise in Transparency

2/12/15 Wine Social For Peer Executive Coaching Groups and Friends of MER and HREF

2/26/15 Marketing Executive Roundtable: Reinventing Ourselves At Three Levels: Individual, Organizational and Leadership

2/27/15 HR Executive Forum: From Wellness to Well-Being

3/12/15 Marketing Executive Roundtable: Marketing Analytics, Session 2

3/27/15 HR Executive Forum: Building the Ultimate HR Executive/Chief Information Officer Relationship 

4/17/15 HR Executive Forum: Organizational Design Like You Have Never Seen It Before

4/30/15 Marketing Executive Roundtable: The CMO/CIO Relationship in Changing Landscape

Resource Hub

Looking for some good reads? Below I have listed recent recommendations from my peer group executives for good reads.


Leadership and People Strategy

  • The Feiner Points of Leadership: the 50 basic laws that will make people want to perform better for you by Michael Feiner

  • Execution: the discipline of getting things done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

  • Leadership and Self Deception byThe Arbinger Institute

  • Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

  • Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

  • FYI For your Improvement byMichael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger

  • On Strategy by HBR Press, a collection of 10 HBR articles addressing business strategy, including Michael Porter's original.

  • What Management Is by Joan Magretta

  • Leading Change by John Kotter

  • Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz

  • The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

  • The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack

  • HR From the Outside In: Six Competencies for the future of Human Resources by Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank and Mike Ulrich



  • The Passion Conversation: Understanding, Sparking, and Sustaining Word of Mouth Marketing by Robbin Phillips and Greg Cordell

  • Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies that Turn Customers into Fans by Mack Collier

  • Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

  • Influence by Robert Cialdini
  • Creative Confidence byTom Kelley and David Kelley
  • Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

  • The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman

  • “Youtility” Why Smart Marketing IS About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer

  • Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers by Jeffrey K. Rohrs

  • The power of Visual Storytelling by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio

Suzanne's Yak Space

K9 Search and Rescue

Those of you that know me well also know that when I am not otherwise engaged in my business, my passion is with K9 search and rescue with Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue (SCVSAR) and Everett Mountain Rescue (EMRU), an avocation I have been involved in over the last 13 years. After a period of challenge and turmoil in our history, my K9 group was given the opportunity to start fresh about 8 years ago. We abandoned an old command and control model and set out on a journey to build a culture of collaboration, team, individual responsibility and accountability and a vision of becoming the very best K9 search and rescue team we can be. We have now built substantial depth and pushed leadership down and out in our organization. With better leadership bench strength in the team I have been able to get more involved in K9 search and rescue on a national/regional level and recently became a board member of the National Search Dog Alliance (NSDA). My K9 team also took leadership on a regional level to host a two-day event following up and capturing "lessons learnt" with the 83 plus K9 teams that deployed from 7 different states and Canada on the Highway 530 (OSO) landslide.
Regional collaboration and community building across K9 jurisdictional lines have been substantially upgraded in the aftermath of this tragedy. With the one-year anniversary approaching, we plan to once again loop back with all the teams and explore how our lessons learnt have translated into how we train and deploy differently now and in the future. K9Cop Magazine will be publishing an article I co-wrote with Marcia Koenig with King County Search Dogs on K9 Lessons Learnt some time in Q1. I hope it will trigger continued dialogue amongst K9 search teams regionally and nationally.

Changing culture and building a high performance team takes time and the last 8 years have not been without ups and downs, AND 2014 was a breakthrough year for many reasons:

In 2014 we developed critical mass. We are now a team of close to thirty members (quite an accomplishment given that only about 5% of our K9 Team prospects make it to certification and it typically takes at least two years for those who are successful). We expect to see several additional certified K9 teams in 2015. We also keep growing quality field support with a top quality field support certification program.

26 of my K9 team members (handlers, K9s and field support) deployed on the Highway 530 landslide, the largest landslide disaster in the history of the State of Washington. Our team pulled together, performed well as one cohesive group under very challenging circumstances, grieved together and ultimately were able to take pride in the fact that we provided comfort and closure for the families and friends left behind at OSO. We were amazed by the outpouring of support from the community. 
The K9 Team deployed a total of 1888 hours on missions and spent 5177 hours training with our K9s so far in 2014. Yes, it is a "lifestyle". On a personal level I deployed on missions so far a total of 17 times including two full work weeks at OSO, a mission on Mount Rainier (Keb, I and our field support were inserted in snow at the 7000 foot level by Helicopter), and a variety of other missions ranging from lost hunters and hikers, missing children to elderly people with dementia. Just this weekend within minutes of returning home from the Holiday in Ann Arbor the beeper went off for an avalanche mission and within ten minutes we hadfour K9Teams and 8 K9 handlers and field support on their way up in the mountains. Fortunately this mission was called off pretty quickly.

We are a volunteer organization funded 100% from donations. In 2014 we secured several grants allowing us to upgrade our equipment and also do more advanced training with external trainers. For example, I had the opportunity to train in Disaster with a K9 team in British Columbia, coincidentally immediately prior to the OSO landslide. Keb and I also obtained our national certification (NSDA) in Human Remains Detection the first week of deployment at OSO and subsequently attended a National Search Dog Alliance 4-day Disaster Training with top notch nationally recognized trainers at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. We recently did joint trainings with the Northwest Disaster Search Dogs Team. Keb and I have been able to do Water Training with the Kitsap County ABC K9 Team and the Intermountain K9 Team and NSDA in Eastern Washington

My husband Scott recently built a state-of-the-art K9 three station water training system, leveraging his expertise as an avid scuba diver, to help our K9s be more effective on shoreline searches (it is hard to NOT be deployed by water here in the Pacific Northwest).

Last, but not least, I was able to bring Keb with me to Sweden (much thanks to the terrific staff at Iceland Air (thank you Jessica Ginger and Jean Pierre Bailey) and met a wonderful K9 search and rescue group that is active in the county where my parents live. We were able to train together and even got to deploy on missions with Missing People Sweden. We had a great time with Karin and Solo on a mission in a little out of the way community called Sosdala.



My mom and dad are still doing great (now in their 90s) and I continue to be amazed with the Swedish eldercare system which is allowing my parents to stay home and get excellent care. It is hard being so far away and I am grateful that my older brother Goran travels to see them regularly from his home in Stockholm. My folks live in a beautiful place with some of the best rock climbing, scuba diving (to Scott's delight), and surf boarding in Scandinavia. Plus, I am close to my brothers with families and many of my childhood friends.

Scott, I, daughter Linnea, and her husband Chris visited the Dominican Republic together for the first time in May. It was a scuba-diving centric vacation, except for me. I took the opportunity to just decompress after OSO and enjoy the quiet of the ocean and turquoise waters. Linnea is in her third year of residency in Ann Arbor as an Orthopedic Surgeon and her husband Chris has accepted a fellowship in Denver starting in the Summer 2015 as an OB/Gyn Onc. I am a very proud of them both and miss them all the time! It is comforting to know they are trying to move closer to the west coast. We spent a great week with them over the Holidays.
Good ole Bosse, my 13½ year old lab is doing great, yet I can see him slowing down. Sometimes I think he is gaming me - suffering from selective loss of hearing (when food is involved it appears he hears just fine). After doing many trials and qualifying at the Open Level in AKC Agility my friend June and I finally had to declare his agility days over this year - he is a bit less steady on his feet. He is also officially retired from search and rescue work. Sad!!! In the meantime I continue to trial at the AKC Open Level with Keb as time allows. She is a formidable whirlwind on the agility course and we jokingly call her the Kebinator.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!




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Suzanne Elshult, Executive Coach - ICF

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