Have you ever thought of writing your own book? What if you could showcase your wisdom while building your leadership through the power of your words in a book? Don’t know where to start?
Featured in this issue of CIO Women is the exact person you are looking for. Donna Dahl is an award-winning Empowerment Coach having won the Woman of Inspiration Award, and the 100th Anniversary International Women’s Day Award for Outstanding Service to Business. Entrepreneurs who work with Donna Dahl and her proven empowerment coaching system become clearer on their purpose and clearer on their messaging—book or no book. Communications improve. Their confidence grows as they build word by word, page by page and chapter by chapter.
Where did Donna Dahl start? Everything starts with taking action. In this candid conversation with her, we learn more about her journey and her desire to support your growth in leadership.
Every wonderful journey starts by taking the first step. You have to be bold enough to start somewhere. Where did Donna Dahl start? Well, that is something as interesting as her journey!
What inspired you to direct your journey?
“As an outside-of-the-box thinker, one of the things I have learned about myself is that I am excellent at stimulating conversation and generating new ways of looking at things. I look at the realm of CIO differently in that I think the ‘I’ stands for innovation, inspiration, and information.
A Chief Information/Inspiration Officer with a focus on communications as it relates to productivity might be just what the doctor ordered. In that light, I am comfortably able to coach C-suites, executives, leaders, and teams onsite or remotely as a contracted member of the work unit.
What inspired me to do this work? It all started with an invitation from a publisher to expand the boundaries of my voice by writing an article for a local business magazine. That invitation got me thinking about who I was and the role I was being asked to play. I accepted the invitation and took on the task as a challenge. That challenge turned into a success.
Success is a great motivator, and it was that original success with the article that ignited my enterprise as an executive coach. My success rate? Donna Dahl is pleased to be able to say it is 100% stretching over 17 years. I love collaborating with people who have a sincere desire to experience success.”
Rome was not built in a day, nor will it be! Every blooming flower takes its sweet little time. And those that bloom in the harshest of conditions? Those are the most beautiful ones.
How difficult were the initial years? Were there challenges you faced?
“It took daring in the beginning. Initially, I felt like I was wading into a body of water where I was not familiar with the temperature never mind how deep it was. Transitioning from living with a disability post car accident to becoming a solopreneur was scary. I had not been able to communicate well using my words for a decade. I had no idea if my coaching was something people would pay money for. I had letters after my name, but I did not think they meant much unless I could walk the walk and talk the talk.
Self-doubt was one of my biggest challenges. Taking deliberate steps to recapture my fluency was on my agenda. Without fluency, I would never be able to engage prospects let alone attract them as clients. As the testimonials in support of my work grew, my confidence built. It was the day a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of his as a coach’s coach that I knew I was on my way. What I felt in that moment was heartfelt and indescribable.
Overcoming the challenge of becoming a recognized authority swiftly was not easy. How does that happen? Donna Dahl had to believe that if I could author a thesis, I could write a book and I did so in a little over a year. Coaching as a career was gaining a foothold in the marketplace and, thankfully, with the book I had leverage as I entered this arena.
Having authored a book in support of my coaching business gave me an edge. The book was proof I had not only invested in myself but that I also had the courage to commit my process to print. I am certain the time Donna Dahl spent putting the book together helped me regain some of my verbal fluency. And if I were to start from scratch again, it would be with my own book in hand.
Needless to say, I am an advocate for adding value to enterprises through effective communication. Communication is often among the top three areas of concern in the corporate world today. Poor communication can lead to the deterioration of a company, not unlike cancer. Instructions don’t get interpreted correctly. Misunderstandings occur. Blaming tops, the list as a disguise for not accepting responsibility. Problems increase and their lack of resolution escalate into less-than-desirable outcomes. When effective communication is present, the workplace is in a better position to operate like a well-oiled machine.”
When the foundation is strong, you can build anything! Here’s a glimpse at Donna’s professional background.
“My professional background is multifaceted. If Donna Dahl were to operate in a single lane it would be communication. Communication is like the muscle of the enterprise. Muscles need attention and they don’t get to be developed without vigilance and effort.
My work experience alone spans decades where communication was at the core of my success. It extends from selling shoes in a department store to being a service representative for a telephone company. I have also been the editor of a newspaper, the editor of two professional publications and an education consultant.
In total, I view my work history as having been gifted the opportunity to fill over thirty distinct positions and I have written millions of words for publication as part of the picture. I hold a master’s degree in educational psychology, and I am a master practitioner of neurolinguistics programming. Donna Dahl work with a not-for-profit board in support of anti-bullying, and I have authored six books related to entrepreneurship and self-empowerment.
Today Donna Dahl is an award-winning executive empowerment coach, an inspirational speaker, and a manuscript coach. I have appeared on podcasts, and panels and spoken to diverse audiences including women in transition, teens, entrepreneurs, and specialized groups such as insurance sales associates, university students, small businesses, and corporate teams. As a manuscript maven and developmental editor, Donna Dahl has successfully supported authors in getting their books ready to go to market.
Recognition of my work includes the 2022 Top 20 Empowerment Coach, the 2020 Top 100 Canadian Professionals List, the 2016 Woman of Inspiration Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the 100th Anniversary International Women’s Day Award for Outstanding Service to Business.
My strengths? Bringing neuroscience into the picture, listening, and being a catalyst for change. My two pet areas of focus include communication be it visual, aural, or in print and performance culture.”
What shaped the enterprise? Striking a balance between education and personal life experiences, and from it emerges a whole new story!
“Isn’t it interesting how words of praise can deliver influence in such huge helpings that they empower a person’s entire life? During my studies toward my master’s degree, Donna Dahl wrote numerous papers. There is one paper that I still have. Maybe I should frame it. It is the paper where my professor wrote, “Donna Dahl, you should be a writer because you are.” It was just another assigned paper, but those words written in the margin were the most moving and I believe they have influenced my work ever since.
If it were not for the opportunities I had learning at the feet of a master, I don’t think I would have been able to successfully transition into the role of being an entrepreneur not to mention becoming a coach. That master was my father. My father was a farmer who taught me the significance of the handshake and that vigilantly performing tasks contributes to reaping a bountiful harvest. He taught me the importance of being a role model and how an effective maintenance program can save time and money. I think of these things as salt-of-the-earth principles that deserve time and attention.”
From the editor herself, what would a book on her life be called?
“If my life story were a book, Donna Dahl would have to title it Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist. I have had to learn that second chances and do-overs are gifts. If we were perfect at everything the first time around, there would be no need for second chances. Second chances stretch our talents and simultaneously create opportunities for personal forgiveness.
As a recovering perfectionist, I commit to serving up my best. My best is my best. I serve my clients with my best. Tomorrow my best may be even better than it was today. I have made a commitment to myself to be a lifelong learner and to celebrate my best. If tomorrow comes and I can do it better, that’s okay because I know I did my best today. No forgiveness necessary.
On the subject of forgiveness, a number of years ago, my husband and I were on vacation in eastern Canada. During our stay with our francophone hosts, we soon learned the universal meaning of the word “oops” in a bilingual context. Oops has two meanings, in fact. Firstly, it is a request for a second chance. Secondly, it is a statement of personal forgiveness for having made a small mistake.
Will I ever completely stop being in search of perfection? I doubt it. Will Donna Dahl ever stop doing my best? That is highly unlikely. But I am learning that it is okay when things are not perfect — when doing my best is enough and no forgiveness is necessary.”
Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self?
If we could turn back the pages on the calendar and have those do-overs, I would tell my younger self, “Go bravely. Disregard the naysayers. Walk tall.”
Donna Dahl let naysayers have far too much influence in my decisions way back when. I let self-doubt have far too much say. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question ourselves. It simply means I might have done a better job of drawing on my courage and following where my heart was pulling me sooner rather than later.
What was the one piece of advice that has had an impact on your leadership?
The best advice Donna Dahl ever got was that I don’t charge nearly enough for my service.
One client hired me to deliver a motivational presentation the last hour on a Friday afternoon before letting his staff go for the weekend. Talk about a tall order for a short person. Two months later he wrote, “I can proudly tell you that we have had two consecutive record months!!!!! I have now hired salespeople who are able to handle English, Spanish, Italian and French clients!!!!
Donna Dahl love all those exclamation marks. And with that superior outcome, I know I did not charge him nearly enough for my expertise.
A word for budding entrepreneurs?
You are new to entrepreneurship or taking on a leadership role, Donna Dahl highly recommends that you hire a coach. Be picky. There is no one-size-fits-all choice. Identify the kind of coach who will serve you best to get over that hurdle that is standing between you and your next level of success. A coach can do so much more than save you time or help you think through a problem.