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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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.

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….

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

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.