Holding Patterns

On a recent flight across the pond I was lucky enough to sit next to a very interesting fellow passenger. He was a highly regarded and renowned surgeon. On our approach into Heathrow, he turned to me and confided ‘ I hate this bit’. ‘Which bit’, I replied, the crew were tidying up at the time, ‘the landing, we’re in a holding pattern and I’m not in control’. An acutely candid admittance, I couldn’t help but notice. I too, hate ‘ that bit’, from years working in the airline industry I am well aware that calamities, shall we say, mostly occur on take off or landing. Anyway, my concerned neighbour didn’t need to know that, so in the moment, I just reassured and chatted until the landing gear hit the tarmac.

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Prior to this moment of honesty, we had been discussing leadership in a clinical environment, and he had talked about how some surgeons occasionally ‘lose it’ in theatre. This surprised me. He was about to receive an acutely candid concern from me at this point but I held it in. He was talking about highly talented surgeons that occasionally succumb to stress, and that unfortunately this often plays out in a high-risk theatre scenario. He went on to say that with a strong team there would usually be someone who would step in and disperse the tension. Of course, the surgeon takes the lead in an operation and this scenario can impact not only on the outcome for the patient, but also the performance and productivity of those around him or her. Some may feel able to call something out and others not.

Of course, this doesn’t only occur in a theatre situation, we see it play out daily with the senior leaders responsible for large corporations and huge numbers of employees, small businesses and politically, where the consequence for a nation and its people are immense.

Recent events have given rise to many feeling utterly shaken by the uncertainty and complex times in which we currently live. It is therefore understandable that people may feel disorientated and anxious about the future.

However, our futures aren’t entirely based upon the actions and decisions of other people. Humans are remarkably resilient, flaws and all, and history has documented it. So, whether you agree or disagree with what’s happening in the world, you do have a choice over how you tackle your own challenges and the things that you can influence. You are utterly in control of your own thoughts and actions, if you choose to be.

We can sit in a metaphorical holding pattern and hope that someone else will provide a lifeline in whatever guise that takes, or take an action ourselves. As a friend said to me yesterday, the best way to tackle fear is to get out there and get busy.

Sometimes it takes guts and a dollop of bravery, but to coin one of my favourite quotes, as Eleanor Roosevelt herself said, ‘ Humans are like teabags, you never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water!’

As for my new surgeon friend, he continues to champion good leadership in a clinical setting and personally he doesn’t have to get on a plane for at least three months so he’s happy.

Get comfortable with discomfort and leave the holding pattern.

Wishing you every possibility,

Kate

Kate Tojeiro is an Executive Coach to executives and leaders across the world in both large corporations and small cutting edge businesses, and author of The Art of Possible.

Who are ‘they’ anyway?

“But they said we had no choice!”, I overheard a rather frazzled individual say to another in the reception of a rather large organization. “Turns out we did. It was an unmitigated disaster!”

My client then appeared so I know not how the dialogue continued.

‘They’ seem to be quite a powerful bunch, I couldn’t help but wonder.

When we don’t know who specifically is responsible or accountable, the collective ‘they’ tend to appear with punishing regularity and untold influence.  In the same way that when we’re perhaps anxious about a significant event, we start considering, sometimes unrealistically, what ‘they’ will think.   Do we stop to think who ‘they’ really are? Not always.

The media is currently awash with news about what ‘they’, collective politicians, company executives, did or didn’t, will or won’t do.

When ‘they’ becomes a specific individual, it is so very much easier to make progress and identify who is doing what. Useful when it’s all going swimmingly, even more so when it’s not!

I wonder if those executives at Tesco knew who ‘they’ were , the ones that were supposedly accounting for what was going on financially and should maybe have been accruing more effectively?

They (!) evidently hadn’t come across the salutary little poem ‘Who’s job is it’.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.  Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

Do you know specifically who is doing what for you in your organization or personally?

It seems that ‘they’ have a little too much power in the world. Is it timely to start reclaiming some of it back and redressing the accountability and responsibility balance.

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After all when people are given autonomy, generally individuals rise to the challenge and deliver……very, very well. Richard Branson knows this and has recently announced that his employees can choose exactly when and for how long they take a vacation.  Productivity will soar.

People are very able and have names with history and heritage, let’s be specific and perhaps the collective ‘they’ might just start to go away or at the very least have a little less influence.

Have a fantastic week.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out

 Why fit in when you were born to stand out.

Having spent some of the weekend with nieces, nephews and assorted friends under eleven, Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’ is still playing in my head. I can’t claim to know the words, as the kids all had slight variations to Pharrell’s original lyrics. The ‘ Happy, Happy, Happy……’ was a consistent and a constant though.ImageWhen life is throwing various shades of excitement and challenge sometimes the ‘happy’ bit seems a bit hard to find. Whether you’re the CEO of a global business with hundreds of thousands of employees or running a neat charity full of volunteers, one thing I’ve observed clearly is that the most content and comfortable in their own skin perhaps, are more often than not being ‘themselves’.

What I mean to say is; they say what they think, are not afraid to challenge the status quo and maybe, in fact often, put themselves out on a limb, so to speak. This can take bravery and courage and of course, we are all bound by certain processes, systems and rules however those that work the rules so that they can be themselves rather than be or do or say what they think others wish them to be are generally happier and achieve whatever it is that they’ve set out to achieve. Do we really ever know what others think anyways?

I met with the founder and CEO of a well-known fashion label a few weeks back, the company had just been offered a significant amount of growth funding. ‘I can’t take the investment, Kate’ he said, ‘it would suck out our soul and we wouldn’t be who we are’. It just didn’t feel right. So, they didn’t take it and whilst to some, that might seem a harder path, it’s their path and it works for them and innovation and creativity (without pots of cash) is thriving.

Divine Chocolate is a brilliant brand known for standing for what it believes, once awarded for “its courageous and creative marketing stance in favour of fair trade in the highly competitive chocolate confectionery market”. Way to go!

An amazing lady, Steph Jeavons left the Ace Café in West London yesterday to travel around the world on her 250cc motorbike with £5 a day to spend on food. The challenge; living, learning and enjoying by circumnavigating 42 countries across at least 6 continents and following her dream. Just fantastic!

She’s being herself . When we do the thing that is utterly what we believe and syncs with our purpose (even if we don’t know it on a conscious level) but it just feels right, the results speak for themselves.

As Sir Martin Sorrell, of WPP once said, ‘impossible is nothing and nothing is impossible’.

And as As Dr Seuss beautifully put it ’why fit in when you were born to stand out’.

ImageHave a fantastic Spring and if you need a little help putting a little bounce in your stride, you know where we are.

If you were truly being yourself today, what would you do differently, now?

Alternatively……a little bit of ‘Happy, happy, happy…..’ goes a long way…….

My warmest wishes,

Kate

 

Be bold. Be brave. Be you.

I had the privilege of meeting aviator Tracey Curtis Taylor this week. She has just returned from an epic trip, flying solo in her beautiful open cockpit vintage Boeing Stearman plane  ‘The Spirit of Artemis’ across Africa.
Tracey was recreating this pioneering journey first made by Lady Mary Heath in 1928.  She is an inspirational, courageous and driven aviator with an indomitable spirit and talks enthrallingly about the sheer joy of flying, the odd drama, and risk.

We talked about doing what you believe in and that sometimes you just have to get out there and ‘do it’, whatever ‘it’ is in your world.  Many times fear of whatever ‘it’ is stops us or as Tracey confirms, on occasion it’s the fear of the fear.  Finding one’s true purpose, if you will, which syncs comfortably with your values can sometimes appear hard, but when we do, invariably everything comes together and it feels easier.

I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt that said, ‘do one thing everyday that scares you’. And of course the upside beyond the ‘ scary bit’ is that we learn something and that’s almost always a good thing.  Kids do this every day be it swimming out of their depth, riding a bike, asking for help or as a little boy I spotted half way up a tree the other day yelling ‘Mummy I’m scared’. He was talked/ helped down and promptly went straight up said tree again but higher! 

The organization Netflix has a very clear and strong set of values; how they operate, how they treat their people and a very clear sense of what works for them. They most certainly don’t fear the hard decisions, such as informing people that they don’t fit, removing products that don’t work and the success of the company is testament to that.  Great values and standing by them invariably works.

Overcoming the little hurdles or indeed the big ones broken into chunks, takes steps towards overcoming the fear.

In the words of author of The Alchemist, Paul Coelho “ there is only one thing that makes a dream impossible; the fear of failure”.

Francesca Simon, the author of the multi-million selling Horrid Henry books talks of the getting started bit of writing a book, taking that first step.  She says she ‘tricks’ herself by starting in the middle; a few notes here, a few ideas there and voila, a new chapter, literally and metaphorically, has begun.

Whatever it is that you want to do; take a baby step, trick yourself, be bold, be courageous, believe in you and have a fabulous 2014.

And if you’d like a little help, you know where we are.

New Year – what does 2008 hold for you?

Making the right choices;

A few little words stood out last week, ‘being constantly concerned about other people’s perception of you will never make you happy’! That was the sentiment anyway – I was reading Russell Brand’s autobiography, half-way up a hill in Tuscany – so that may not be word-perfect!

At this time of year, a time for reflection, review and looking to and planning for the year ahead – as individuals, managers, chief executives – it is sometimes easy to be swayed by others views and doing the same thing. Not rocking the proverbial boat! I work with many clients to make choices that are for them, truly for them and not what they believe others desire from them. How they should behave, what they should drive, how they should live etc……. be true to you and the rest will follow.

I was party to a conversation just before Christmas about ‘choices’. One individual in the debate was of the belief that some things we just ‘have’ to do, and he believed that there was no choice in certain situations; his example was the following; a friend supporting a large family and large house with correspondingly large mortgage, and commuting to London from the home counties, and working for a boss that he dislikes….. One of my colleagues rather artfully assisted him in changing his thinking… having a large family – a choice, a large house with a large mortgage – a choice, commuting to London – a choice, working for a boss you dislike – a choice……all of the above can be changed if you truly want to.

Of course these are all choices, each and every one and whatever it is that we are doing in life, there is always a choice…

  • People will always give you differing opinions on which choice you should make.
  • You will never know if you made the right choice.
  • Someone will always feel you made the wrong choice.
  • Not all choices have a “right” or “wrong” answer.
  • Any choice can be “right” or “wrong” depending how you treat them.
  • What you choose is not as important as how you choose and what you do with your choice.
  • You can live with any choice you make.
  • You can take responsibility for any choice you make.
  • Only you can make your choices.
  • Making a choice is an act of will that shapes your life to your dimensions.
  • Everyone inevitably makes “wrong” choices sometimes but that’s okay.
  • You are the choices you make in life and your future will be determined by them.
So, because you know what happens if you put off thinking about the important stuff i.e. you then put off making things happen.
A few thoughts to help you on your way;
How do you decide what you really want? Try considering your options at each of the five stages that go into every decision.
Usually, we choose so fast that we don’t realize just how detailed the process is. But when you think about it, there really are five parts to every decision:
  • Identify the issue
  • Think through possible solutions or alternatives
  • Evaluate the ideas
  • Take Action act out the plan
  • Learn for the future
For example, during a rather smart meal at Christmas I was confronted with some oysters – which I really don’t like.
Identify the issue (how to not eat the oysters and not offend the host), Think through (feed to the dog, slip into handbag, give to some-one else, be honest), Evaluate the ideas (dogs outside! don’t want oysters in new handbag, paper napkin!), Take Action (honesty won – apologized elegantly – then gave to nephew!), Learn (find out before hand what’s for dinner to take pre-emptive action or carefully position dogs).
So, have a wonderful New Year – filled with all the success, prosperity and excitement that you deserve. For an executive coach to assist you along the path and avoid whatever your own ‘oysters’ maybe, call or email me and I’d be delighted to speak with you. http://www.the-x-fusion.co.uk/, or 01763 853 924.