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.

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‘Tis the season

I have a book called Giving 2.0, it is a fascinating book essentially about philanthropy.
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‘Tis the season of giving, and just a quick visit to the shops can reveal that the purchasing of gifts and presents sometimes verges upon frenzied. I was in a shop just yesterday when an altercation broke out, over a pair of slippers of all things! Many of us were chuckling, strangers and onlookers united in the slight ridiculousness of the situation.

However, on a recent trip to New York one couldn’t help but notice the many homeless people in the streets, prevalent in all cities across the world, but nevertheless serving as a stark reminder of the many differences and inequalities in life.

Blake Mucoskie’s TOMS One for One program is a very practical business model, which gives to a person in need for every product sold. Since 2006, TOMS has given away over 45 million pairs of shoes. It started with shoes, and now the program extends to eyewear and clean safe water. Testament to the power of giving; a robust bottom line, impressive growth, and undoubtedly making the lives of others better through sharing both material items and the non-material too.

Sharing invariably brings more back to us than we give in the first place. It is often the smallest acts of kindness or generosity that pay the biggest dividends. There is much research out there about what children would most like from family and friends, and whilst the latest toy and cool brands feature, by far the most requested is time. Time to play, time to talk and one-to-one attention. In this time-pressed world, that’s something to consider.

I work with a senior business leader who generously gives of his time and support and he notices the little things that impact upon others. The business year on year exceeds expectations, morale is great and I truly believe that his staff would do anything for him – in the main because they believe he would do anything for them.

Mark Zuckerberg has recently given away a remarkable 99% of his wealth, which seems to have been lauded as much as criticised in the press. I overheard someone rather animatedly stating that the money he has given away shouldn’t have had strings attached. Surely giving away a massive amount of wealth to people in need with a few rules is the only sensible way to do it.

Either way the amount of good that philanthropic act will achieve is immense.

As Mandela said:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”

Have a wonderful Christmas and we wish you a happy prosperous and successful 2016!

My warmest wishes,

Kate

The Art of Possible – new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action’
Out now on Amazon in hardback and Kindle; eBook on Google Books and iBooks.

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.