Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528


You Are Invited!

Many of you have inquired about when and where I am delivering public presentations.  Get out your calendars!  I am delighted that I have two presentations coming up in September and October. For details, please go to the web sites posted below!

Thank you for your support and interest-I hope to see you there!

September 14, 2011
“Coaching: The Ultimate Leadership and Performance Management Tool”

Event: Next Level Networking

Sponsor:  Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce

Where: Educational Service District 112  2500 NE 65th Ave. Vancouver, WA

Time: 7:00-9:00 AM

Web Site:

October 19, 2011
Rapid Change: How Resilient Are You?”

Event: SoHo Mastermind Presents

Sponsor: SoHo Marketing Institute

Where: 953 Officers Row, Vancouver WA

Time: 12:00-1:00

Register: 360-882-1298

Web Site:

Job Search and the 3 “P’s”

In working with my clients, I have become aware of the stamina it takes to be successful in this job market. Associated with this stamina are the 3 “P’s”: Patience, Persistence and Proactive.

Patience: You may have the best job search strategies in place-why aren’t they working?  Let me rephrase the question……how do you know they aren’t working?  If any of you fish, you know the role patience plays in catching “the big one”. Casting your line out in the water, you have no idea what is going on under the surface:how many fish and the type of fish that are in the vicinity, how the tide/water conditions are impacting fish behavior etc. and yet you keep fishing. You know that if you do, you will eventually land “the big one”. This job market is not unlike the water-you just have to keep your resume circulating, keep networking and presenting yourself in the best possible professional light-sooner or later you will land “the big one”!

Persistence: You have got to be relentless in your approach to your job search. If you are clear about what you are going after, do not let up! Applying for one position means you praise yourself for a job well done and then move on to the next. When you are fishing, you do not know which cast in the water will produce the strikeyour job search is no different! And like the fisherman whose persistence pays off and has a boat load of fish, wouldn’t it be wonderful to suddenly have more than one job offer? 

Proactive: When is a “no” really a “no”?  Those rejection letters and phone calls can be very disheartening! What if the “no” really means “not now”?  Accepting a “no” implies that your relationship with the organization is over. Continuing to cultivate the relationship beyond the position you applied for is crucial to finding out about other positions before they open. In addition, on going relationship building or “friend raising” will give you a strong inside advocate when an opening occurs.

Career Circle “Job Search Boot Camp” Is Launched

The Portland Career Circle is pleased to announce a new affordable and flexible  format for providing job search services!  It starts with a 2 day intensive “job search” boot camp and then follows up with a subscription based series of teleconference classes/calls, one on one coaching and on line resources.

What is the minimum investment for the 2 day workshop and 3 months of follow up service?  $600

The benefits to you?  Build a supportive community, Develop and practice leading edge job search tools and Reduce your job search time!

The Career Circle Job Search Boot Camp is open to anyone in need of job search support. It is available as a public seminar and can be brought into organizations.

Want to learn more? Contact me:

Learn from professionals, learn from each other and land that job!

Portland Career Circle Starts Feb. 7

Are you one of the many job seekers who believes that jobs are non-existent in this market?  I encourage you to consider this perspective from Ford Meyers, author of  Get the Job You Want Even When No One’s Hiring: “…..regardless of how bad the economy and job market may seem, the fact is that every company is hiring all the time, if you can offer precisely what they need when they need it.”  I highlighted this last phrase for a reason.  In the business world this phrase is the determining factor of whether a business succeeds or fails. Businesses spend considerable dollars researching, branding , and developing strategies that will get to their customers precisely what they need when they need it.

A successful job search requires this same approach. YOU are the product seeking the right “market” for your skills and abilities!

The Portland Career Circle’s mission is designed to transform the “job seeker” into a “jobpreneur”. In a small group setting [registration is limited to 12], participants will apply the four basic tenets of entrepreneurship to their job search:

  • Innovation
  • Energetic Practice
  • Creating Opportunity
  • Taking Action

Does this process work?  Here is a testimonial from Jason J. who had been in Portland only two months when he enrolled in the Portland Career Circle :

“I attended the Career Circle class after moving to Portland from Colorado. Changing my work from solar contractor to project manager was a challenging prospect. Sarah expertly guided and encouraged me in the fine points of self-assessment, focusing skills and values, networking, introductions, marketing, speeches, resume and cover letter development, and interviewing. Sarah pulled out all stops to ensure her clients succeeded. Her personal attention and assistance were invaluable. I attribute my successful career search to her care and construction. I recommend Dr. Stebbins to anyone considering a career or market change.”

How about you?  The Portland Career Circle is starting again in February-let us help you become a successful “jobpreneur”!

Here are the details:

Portland Career Circle

When: Monday evenings, 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.

February 7 through April 11, 2011.

Location: Amenities Room, Atwater Place • 0841 SW Gaines

Portland’s South Waterfront

Cost: $400 includes:

  • 10 weeks of structured class content and discussion
  • Three 30 minute private coaching sessions with Dr. Sarah Stebbins or Mel Lee, Career Circle Facilitators
  • All course materials with the exception of the book: Get The Job You Want Even When No One I Hiring by Ford Meyers-this book will be  purchased separately.
  • Video taping of a mock interview
  • The synergy of a supportive community with group and one-on-one accountability

Are you new in town and looking for a position?  The Portland Career Circle is YOUR “Career Re-location Specialist”!


Contact Dr. Sarah Stebbins, C.P.C. for additional information

It’s Now or Never: A Retreat for Women

I am proud to be serving on the board of the NW Docere Institute an organization dedicated to “elevating the presence and prominence of women in the world”.  One of our educational offerings is a 3 day event called “It’s Now or Never: A Retreat for Women”. We will be presenting it for the third time, October 14-17.

Who should attend? If you are a woman who has suddenly realized she is 50+ and is asking the quest ion, “I am 50+, now what?”  This retreat is for you!  In our time together, we explore the beliefs we have about aging, the limitations we place on ourselves that prevent us from creating what we truly want in this “third act” of life and how we can create a vision/action plan for ourselves.

I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about us and the retreat at:

What is “OD”?

I have had numerous people ask me what “OD” or Organizational Development is. Those of us in the field know what we are talking about but to people on the outside, the concept is quite fuzzy and confusing.  Here is my own interpretation!  I prefer to use the phrase “Strategic Organizational Management” [SOM] when describing my work to others who are not familiar with this work/discipline. Imagine that SOM is a stool supported by four important legs. My colleagues and I partner with organizations to strengthen each of these legs by developing/implementing strategies/actions associated with each leg:

  • Strategic Positioning: Vision/Mission Development, Strategic Planning
  • Sustainability: Culture, Economic, i.e., Asset Management, Environmental and Social
  • Organizational Structure: Work flow Analysis, Work Process Improvement
  • Talent Management: Leadership Development, Training, Work Place Dynamics, Coaching

Talent Management [TM]  is often associated with  Human Resources [HR]. In my opinion, there is a close yet different relationship between HR and SOM with regards to TM.    From my perspective, the TM focus within HR is with succession planning, benefits administration, recruitment/retention and performance based coaching.  SOM, on the other hand, directly links TM to the organization’s vision/mission through team/work group development, internal capacity building ,i.e, leadership development, leadership coaching and training which is one foundational piece of its TM work.

Organizations’ desire to truly become a “learning organization”, i.e., one that is “continually expanding its capacity to create its future [Senge, 1990]”, requires  four healthy legs and Strategic Organizational Management is the vehicle for supporting organizations pursuing this ideal.

Important Elements of Managing Change

A recent slide show on Managing Change that I just posted to my LinkedIn site comes from a course I teach at Portland State University.  The 8 steps for managing change that are outlined in the slides are derived from John Kotter’s Our Iceberg is Melting.

I recognize that the rapid rate of change inside organizations today demands fast action and therefore, following the 8 steps may seem counter intuitive.

In my work with organizations, I have observed that many unsuccessful change initiatives are the result of not addressing three of the eight steps in Kotter’s model.  Those steps include:

Communicate for Understanding and Buy In.

The internal “champions for change” often overlook a fundamental principle: they forget that those who will ultimately receive the message about the change and be expected to implement it,have not had the benefit of being immersed in the detailed planning of the proposed change. Thus, the inevitable resistance that comes with change is met with some bewilderment.

Gaining buy in from the beginning is essential and the process for getting it can be derived by answering two key questions:

1. Other than in the “internal change champions” who are driving the change, what stakeholders need to be included in the planning?

2. What are the mechanisms for communicating the change, the time lines for using these avenues and the content of the “change” messages being conveyed?

In my experience, the greatest resistance to change is caused by inadequate stakeholder involvement and inconsistent communication about the change.

Empower Others to Act

Those involved in change implementation need to know they are supported:

  • How will they be relieved of normal daily tasks to focus on change implementation?
  • What resources will be required for implementation to be successful?

Manager/leaders need to understand that their roles must shift to that of “advocate” in order to support the work of the “change agents”

Produce Short Term Wins

Resistance to change will dissipate  rapidly if individuals observe/experience successes stemming from the change and the subsequent forward momentum. These successes have to be big enough for people to feel/notice a difference.

I invite you to read Our Iceberg is Melting to fully understand the process for fully managing change. Is it easy? No and is it necessary? Absolutely!

Book Review: Leading With Questions

Though this book has been out for a while, I continue to be impressed by its relevancy as I work with organizational clients.

Book Review

Leading with Questions

Michael Marquardt

Jossey/Bass/Wiley: San Francisco, CA: 2005

Reviewed by: Dr. Sarah Stebbins, C.P.C.


“Change begins with inquiry, and Leading with Questions jump-starts the process with its practical approach for leaders who want to develop and ask questions that provoke reflection, get meaningful information and initiate action.”

Martin B. Kormanik, President and CEO, O.D. Systems


Through a series of interviews with twenty-two leaders from around the world, Michael Marquardt demonstrates the critical importance of asking questions and creating a “questioning” organizational culture.  The author states that the process of asking questions is “an underused management tool”. To make his point, he organizes his book into three distinct parts.

In Part 1 he explains the power of asking questions: for individuals and organizations. He claims that when one becomes a leader the assumption is that he/she is to “have the answers rather than questions.”  He continues, “Asking questions-or being unable to answer questions addressed to us-may show that we are some how lacking as leaders.”

In his seminal 1980’s book The Fifth Discipline , Peter Senge coined the term the “learning organization”. If an organization is to adapt and change, it must open itself to practicing inquiry. This concept is aligned with Marquardt when he states “the ability to ask questions goes hand in hand with the ability to learn. A learning organization is only possible if it has a culture that encourages questions.”  Among the benefits of asking questions are:

  • Increased self-awareness: In addition to being action oriented, leaders need to be self-reflective. As Marquardt explains, “Astute and clear understanding of personal motives is one of the most critical of leadership skills……when we feel free to ask questions and are open to the questions of others, it heightens our need to reflect.”
  • Greater Self-Confidence, Openness and Flexibility: Environments that cultivate innovation and curiosity support personal development.  According Marquardt, “People who ask questions have more self-confidence as they see the people they question show appreciation and respect for the question and the questioner.”
  • Better Listening and Communication: The ability to listen without judgment and truly gain an understanding of another’s perspective are benefits of asking questions.
  • Managing Conflict: Research clearly demonstrates that those leaders who question effectively are better able to manage conflict.  Marquardt states that this is due to their ability to “draw out all parties, understand the differing perspectives, and then find a common ideal that everyone can endorse.”
  • Greater Understanding and Skills in Organizational and Political Realities: Maintaining a pulse on the political and organizational climate is a prime responsibility for leaders and Marquardt explains that “questioning leaders” are more “politically astute and better able to detect crucial networks.”

He concludes by stating that if we feel defensive when we are asked questions and if we are fearful of being viewed as ignorant when we ask questions, then we are limiting the flow of critical information required for effective decision making and creating necessary relationships.

In Part 2 the author provides insight into why effective questioning is a challenge for leaders, how to select the right questions and effectively ask them.

Here are the reasons he cites for leaders not asking effective questions:

  • “We avoid questions out of a natural desire to protect ourselves
  • We are too often in a rush
  • We often lack of skills in asking or answering questions due to lack of experiences and opportunities, of training, and of role models.
  • We find ourselves in corporate cultures and working environments that discourage questions, especially those that challenge existing assumptions and policies.”

He goes on to describe the difference between those questions that empower and those that disempower. Disempowering questions generally focus on why something didn’t get done or the individual who was responsible for not meeting expectations. Marquardt’s examples of disempowering questions include:

  • Why are you behind schedule?
  • What is the problem with this project?
  • Who isn’t keeping up?
  • Don’t you know better than that?

More empowering questions he cites include:

  • How do you feel about the project so far?
  • What have you accomplished so far that you are most please about?
  • How would you describe the way you want this project to turn out?
  • Which of these objectives do you think will be easiest to accomplish? Which ones will be most difficult?
  • What will be the benefits for our customers [students, co-workers] if you can meet all these objectives-for our company [department, PCC] for our team, for you personally?
  • What key things need to happen to achieve the objective?  What kind of support do you need to assure success?

Elaborating on questioning, the author continues his discussion with examples of the types of effective questions:

  • Open ended
    • What do you think about………?
    • Could you say more about…….?
    • What possibilities come to mind? What might happen if you…….?
    • What do you think you will lose if you give up [the point under discussion]?
    • What have you tried before?
    • What do you want to do next?
    • What happens if…..?
    • Have we ever thought of….?
    • What would happen if you did nothing at all?
  • Exploratory
    • Have you explored or thought of…..?
    • How would [source 1=”idea” 2=”etc.” language=”,”][/source][/source]help you?
  • Probing
    • Describe how…….
    • Can you elaborate on…..?
    • Would you please expand…….?
    • Can you clarify….?
  • Reflective
    • You said there are difficulties with——-, what do you think caused those difficulties?
  • Clarifying
    • Could you explain more about this situation?
    • How exactly do you see——getting done?
    • What exactly did you mean by——–?

Selecting the right questions is the first step to gaining the desired information.  Marquardt goes on to describe the “art of asking questions”.  He indicates that one needs to provide a context for the questions. This “setting the stage” focuses on the one asking the question rather than the other person.  By being inquisitive, rather than judgmental, the one asking the question makes it clear that his/her purpose for asking is to learn. He offers suggestions for conversation openers:

“I hope to get a better understanding of why we are having this problem.”

“I want a better feel for how——–are responding to ————.”

“I want to understand how you feel about my plan for ———-.”

The author clearly points out that setting the context and asking the right questions are irrelevant if the one asking the questions does not listen effectively to the responses.  He provides numerous suggestions for becoming a competent active listener.


Part 2 of this book is concluded with an in-depth discussion of how to create a “questioning culture” in an organization.  Marquardt states “The goal for the inquiring leader is to… everyone see and understand that questions need to become their primary communications tool.”  Among the strategies he suggests for creating this culture are:

  • “Create an environment that enables people to challenge the status quo, take risks, and ask more questions.
  • Connect the values and processes of the organization to the use of questions.
  • Optimize the opportunities to ask questions by building questioning into every business activity, including formal and informal meetings, calls, conferences or presentations.
  • Provide training for people to be better at and more comfortable in asking questions.”

Part 3 of Marquardt’s book is a “questioning guide” for leaders. The chapters guide the reader toward using questions for: managing people, building teams, shaping strategy and enabling change.

In summary, Marquardt’s research and the importance of questioning as a management tool should not be over looked.  If one can truly master asking effective questions, one can truly become a model and catalyst for organizational change.