Rosemary McCarney of Plan Canada on Self-Actualization

Today it is our pleasure to feature Rosemary McCarney, President and Chief Executive Officer of Plan Canada, a “global movement for change, mobilizing millions of people around the world to support social justice for children in developing countries.”

Plan Canada works around the globe in 69 countries, including developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. They empower communities to break the cycle of poverty and create sustainable solutions to help improve their lives. And Plan Canada is also behind a very interesting imitative called Because I am a Girl – a program stretching around the world to end gender inequality, “promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them – out of poverty.” (Plan Canada Website, 2013)

So how incredible is it that we’re talking with Rosemary McCarney today on Sister Leadership? Rosemary was a speaker at the last Ottawa WXN breakfast. She advised the crowd that the road to our dreams is often not linear, and looking at her experience you can see how she’s lived this statement. Rosemary has been a corporate lawyer on Wall Street, a volunteer in African children’s clinics when HIV first appeared, and has more than 20 years of international development work. She’s a major driver of the Because I am a Girl campaign, and a mother of three children.

So how does a woman with such an incredible career achieve that level of success? We asked Rosemary some questions around self-actualization and balance. Read on to learn how she prioritizes and reflects upon her accomplishments before moving ahead.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

“This is an interesting question because this is the first year all three of my children are not at home, so I am “transitioning”.  The children still are my prime non-work focus and passion but the time commitment needed is certainly less.  I love to read and I devour a couple of non-related books a month at a minimum.  More significantly, we have a seasonal household – as long as there is snow on the ground we are avid alpine skiers and as soon as the snow melts we head to our lakeside cottage, where physical chores and time on and in the water with family and friends is paramount, away from all things “urban”.”

How do you make time to do things you truly enjoy? What are some of the benefits both you and your career receive from those activities?

“I have a very large and extended family – my Mother was one of 9 daughters, so making time for them is easy to prioritize – they come from all walks of life and I think we recharge each other when we are together.  Our lives are intense at Plan – we are passionate about the work and mission, so it is easy for us to rack up 70 and 80 hour weeks without thinking about it.  Doing this continuously wears us out, and I find my judgment might become reactive and my leadership style too abrupt. Time out attending to family and friends enables me to regain perspective and facilitates a filtering process that brings the real priorities of the job back in focus.  If I “burn out”, I am of no help to anyone personally or professionally.”

Tell me about your process for setting goals? How would you describe the goals you set for yourself?

“Goal setting is an organic and continuous process.  People always ask about goal setting in the context of work-life balance.  I am a proponent of “integration”, so that your life in all of its dimensions is seamless and about you and your choices. I have never been a natural or disciplined goal setter particularly on the professional side.  I have had to become more so because leading an organization requires leadership clarity for the team supporting you.  I try to take a step back about once a year and ask myself three things: (1) did I get it about right last year?; (2) what are the critical “in close” things I have to get done and by when?; (3) what are the long term adjustments/evolution I need to be readying the organization for and what do I have to do now to accomplish that?”

Sister Leadership would like to extend a big thank you for sharing her insights with us. It’s always amazing when such an accomplished and busy woman takes some time to share here on the blog. If you would like to learn more about Plan Canada, you can link through to their page right here.

cararesourcesThe Sister Leadership Tool Box

This week we’re leaving you with a tool to help increase your self-actualization through reflection. There’s a wonderful exercise for getting into your “Learning State” (but I like to call it Purple Dot Moments). This is an exercise adapted from the Hawaiian practise of Hakalua, deriving from the word Huna that means ‘secret’. Give it a try and see how you enjoy the exercise. You’ll see a similar theme of reflection here, and of paying attention within the present moment. Enjoy and let me know what you think! (It’s a good idea to read the instructions first, then try the technique.)

Let the chair you are sitting in support you and relax with a couple of belly breaths. Breathe in and let the belly fill up with relaxing, creative oxygen to nourish every cell of your body. Exhale and let go all the tension you have in your body. Notice what you notice and repeat three times.

  • While facing straight ahead, pick a spot on the wall to look at.  Choose a spot that will be above eye level so that your field of vision seems to rest up against your eyebrows, leaving you with full vision.
  • As you stare ahead just let your thoughts come and go, and focus all your attention on this spot.
  • Notice as you stare at the spot that within a few minutes your vision begins to spread out.  Allow it to continue to do that. You begin to see more in your peripheral than you do in the central part of your vision.
  • Now, pay attention to the peripheral.  Notice what you notice and begin to focus your attention on the peripheral rather than the central part of your vision.
  • If you are looking at a wall, begin to notice that you can see the corners of the room, the ceiling and the floor, all without moving your eyes.
  • Now imagine that you have eyes behind your head and imagine what you see, feel, hear and note as you have full 360  vision.
  • Now pay attention to your head and imagine that there is an opening at the top of the head connecting to all that is above you.
  • Go to your feet and connect to a doorway to everything that is below you and envision, feel, hear and observe the perspective.
  • Stay here till you feel comfortable to withdraw from this focus exercise.

Till next week,


Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, certified in EQi 2.0 and EQ360, a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), has been coaching high-level women and men for over six years, and is now opening her expertise to those emerging in business. Camille pulls her blog topics from her unique coaching approach that combines her training as a EQi 2.0 and EQ360 certified facilitator with the dig-deeper tools of NLP.

Get in touch here if you’d like to talk with Cam about group or one-on-one coaching, and EQ assessments. With the miracle of Skype and telephones – distance is no issue!


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