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.

Procrastination is okay and curiosity is a winner….

Here in the UK we’re having something of a heat-wave ; for those of us in climate controlled environments we’re probably chilled, if possibly longing to be in the warmth and sunshine. Those of us in less ‘well-equipped’ environments are keeping cool as best we can. Either way the weather in the UK creates an extraordinary amount of conversation, action and indeed inaction.

Having not written a newsletter for some long months, it was in fact icy when the last one was written, I have been asked for an explanation.

A couple of years ago I found myself completely on my own, astride an off-road motorbike, slightly terrified, in the foothills of the Pyrenees with a 45 degree slippery slope to ascend on my bike. That particular experience turned out to be the catalyst to writing a book. It was to be a two-year journey of writing, and meeting and interviewing some extraordinary people. Individuals that I feel hugely privileged to have met or worked with, that have been successful or overcome some incredible difficulties and hardship to reach their potential. People from all walks of life, business, sport, the charitable sector and everything in between.

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What is it that irrespective of wealth or talent, successful people do that is open to us all? That is what I set out to find out and share, from observations of the incredible people that I have worked with and those that I interviewed and met in the last few years.

Along the way, I met a neuroscientist who contributed the science and rigour to what it is that we do that enables us to flourish and grow, and of course the actions that cause the opposite effect. If we harness our brains and work together, anything is possible. As someone once said, ‘Everything is impossible until someone makes it possible’.

Turns out that procrastination is okay, it occurs due to a lack of information and our brain is signaling that you need to do a bit more research. Curiosity is undoubtedly a winner and I have certainly seen this quality in the greatest leaders and the elite in sport.   What will continually grow our brains however and enable us to reach our potential is constantly seeking out the new and different, our brains work harder and create new cells in doing so. Finally, the power of deliberate action – there’s no denying what can be achieved.

Whatever the weather (wherever you are) what can you do today that is new or different that will shape your future?

‘The Art of Possible – new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action’ is out now on Amazon in hardback and eBook, on iBooks for iOS devices, or click on the picture below.

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Look forward to seeing you very soon.

My warmest wishes,

Kate

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.

On the run….

Is there something of a feeling of being constantly on the run…..? Leading, tweeting, speaking, emailing, reading, exercising, building, posting (new age not postman styley), inspiring, eating, drinking, socializing, friends, family, travelling, ticks off the list, YOLO of course and then there’s sleeping…. Unless we physically turn stuff (technical term) off, it will happily buzz, bleat & chirrup news, info and more stuff ad infinitum….

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We’ve heard recently about people attending ‘digital detox’ programs, however is this perhaps missing the point. For all the distractions and disadvantages to our time from the digital world, the advantages and new ways of living, communicating, helping others and running businesses are extraordinary. Is it perhaps as it ever was, just different?

Carving out time to just ‘be’ has perhaps always been tricky in a busy life.

Not for nothing did WH Davies write the poem Leisure…..’What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’……..in 1911.

I’m working in collaboration with a neuroscientist and I discussed with her that there appeared to be greater need for people to stop and pause even if just for a few moments. With a wry smile, she looked at me and said, no, for the brain to truly reinvigorate not a pause or a stop, after all our brains don’t stop or pause, unless of course something wholly terrible has occurred, just observe, take time to just look, observe and notice. It clarifies thinking and gives the brain a ‘rest’ – layman’s (my) term.

So, with permission from the pinnacle of current neuroscience to be nosy, I mean curious, perhaps we could all do with a little ‘time to stand and stare’.

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After all, a key component of the vast majority of successful businesses is watching, listening and learning about customer, employee and client activity and then doing something about it. Hard to do if we don’t know what ‘it’ is.

Have a wonderful summer.

My warmest wishes,

Kate

And if you have time for the whole poem, here it is….

Leisure by W.H. Davies:-

 

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

 

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

 

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

 

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

 

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

 

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

 

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Nasty Gal, the devil’s in the detail….

 

My first boss was fond of saying “it’s the little things that make big things happen”. 

More specifically noticing the little things, the details, and also intuitively spotting how others feel. 

 

In the course of the last few months I have interviewed some extraordinary people for my forthcoming book; a young lady who, from a very hard childhood indeed, now has an apprenticeship and is studying for a degree and is possibly one of the most uplifting people I’ve ever met, the CEOs of several Fortune 100 companies, and some elite sportsmen and sportswomen from netball to racetrack.  I have felt humbled, awestruck, slight terror and excitement, as the passenger of a well-known former racing champion on a track. And huge inspiration. 



2013 BTCC Media Day. #5 Rob Collard (GBR). E-Bay Motors. BMW 125i MSport.These people all notice, they notice lots (or have learned to). One trait they all shared almost palpably was the sheer ruthlessness around attention to detail.  Be it personal fitness, technical excellence, product detail or superb team communication, nothing was left to chance.  Nothing that is, that was within their control.  It was the racing driver who articulated it most powerfully. Listening to him, it was evident that he went to incredible lengths to ensure that everything that was within his control was exactly that, under his control.  Can’t control the weather, track conditions or what other drivers are doing but you can know exactly what’s going on with you and with your car. 
 


Nasty Gal is a $100m, 7 year old, online vintage retail company with more than 350 employees.  Sophie Amoruso, the straight-talking, irreverent and fabulous CEO and founder, talks compellingly about attention to detail, the painstaking attention that goes into styling, sourcing and curating outfits.  Most importantly noticing the customer, ‘ignore your customer, at your peril’.  If an item sells – they stock more items that are similar, if it doesn’t or a customer complains, that’s it – they don’t go near it ever again. 


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There are countless examples of organizations that haven’t listened to the customer and certainly not minded the little things so that the big things take care of themselves. 
 


As Giorgio Armani succinctly put it ‘to create something exceptional, your mind must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail’.
 


Do you need to pay attention to any little things today? 
 


My warmest wishes,
 


Kate Tojeiro

 

Having built up a string of prestigious FTSE 100 and Fortune 100 clients over the last 15 years, Kate Tojeiro works as an executive coach with the boards, senior leaders and teams of some of the world’s most illustrious organisations and some of the most cutting edge, organically-grown start ups.

Contact her at www.the-x-fusion.co.uk. 
 

 

Nasty Gal, the devil’s in the detail….

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

 

Clarity, feedback, football ….and the lure of a V8.

‘Epic! But what was your Mum doing there?’ exclaimed a friend of my daughter’s in barely disguised shock.  ‘She knows nothing about football!’

And so it was, a few weeks backs, I was pinching myself at the UK launch of a long-awaited supercar surrounded by those at the very heart, one might say, of football, past and present and from sport, and the motor industry.  Whilst I perhaps didn’t fully appreciate this until after some stealthy googling, I was indeed in the company of greats; players, managers, coaches, fans and the inimitable Jose Mourinho himself, the new UK ambassador for Jaguar. Image

Having a discussion with the former CEO of a Premier League football club was in itself fascinating and an honour, and a conversation ensued about leadership.  That much discussed topic of leadership in sport and leadership in business. He was telling me about a football coach whose particular modus operandi was of two guiding principles; clarity & feedback. Clarity; what are our goals and aims for the next match and the season, and feedback: in the moment and definitely on the same day.
I’ll be surprised if anyone reading this doesn’t fully agree to being clear and giving clarity and focus at all times, especially when in a position of leadership.  Most recognise the power of feedback and that it works exceptionally well both in sport and business. However, only a minority of companies do this really well, where feedback is a genuine part of their culture and the results speak for themselves in the business, and on the bottom line.

Feedback is often the once a year review (incidentally that’s not feedback),  or it is feared , clumsy and ill-delivered, especially if it’s a difficult message.

With a modicum of practice, feedback can be one of the easiest, least complex and potentially game changing (forgive the pun) tools in your kit as a leader or indeed friend, partner, colleague or team mate.  In this world of complexity, changing markets and an ever-developing customer and consumer, something easy and that works, is surely a good thing.

Feedback at best is clear, honest and specific. It is also frequent.  The aforementioned CEO asked his coach why he always gave his players feedback on the bus on the way back from a game, even if it was difficult. His response, I like to start each day on a high and if that means challenging feedback at the end of the day that the action occurs, so be it.

‘Tis currently the season for company results and if this isn’t a good time for greater clarity and feedback to either grow and learn, or improve and vitalise performance, I don’t know when is.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions, as Ken Blanchard once said, and in the world of football I can see testament to that and perhaps the bridge between leadership in sport and business is closer than we think.

The V8, the stunning F-type R Coupe, metaphorically spoke for itself.  Jose Mourinho, very much his own man, said “I know what I like and I know what I don’t. I like this.”

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Enough said. Clear as day.

And if you’d like a little help with clarity for 2014, you know where we are. If, on the other hand it’s football advice you’re after, I know a man who can!

See you soon.

Warmest regards,

Kate