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.

holding-pattern

 

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.

Advertisements

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.

x
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….

ontherun

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’.

stare

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.

When the going gets tough……

When the going gets tough ….
My eldest daughter was recently somewhat embarrassed to hear that I love “When the going gets tough…” by Billy Ocean and the occasional power ballad! It wasn’t just the admission, it was that I happened to air this guilty pleasure while being interviewed on the radio.

She then went on to say, musing a little, ‘It’s cool to say what you like though’. And that, was that.

I couldn’t help but ponder later: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ is something of a mantra for the best leaders out there. Their words, of course, might be very different. The fine line between successful leaders and less successful one’s, is nearly always evident when the going gets tough. The same can be said of great sportsmen and women who, under great physical and mental stress make things look effortless. But you know for sure that a massive amount of hard work, energy and effort has gone into honing that ability, even if it’s on a foundation of natural skill. They practice daily!

Image

For many of the banks, the going appears to be getting even tougher, and the proposed PFIZER takeover of Astra Zeneca is proving challenging for many, at industry, city and even government level.

‘Getting going’ when it’s hard, navigating a path through uncertainty, challenge and difficulty, means taking into consideration all those involved around you. I recently discovered through a fascinating discussion with a neuroscientist, that through rigorous research it is understood that ‘successful people’ do indeed have a very high level of self-awareness and that of others.

Whilst dealing with complex technical scenarios, compliance, product issues, markets, the press et al, they are also very aware of the impact a challenge is having on the individuals involved. And they subsequently take the actions and interventions needed to make it easier for them. Sometimes, just admitting that it’s tough goes a very long way too.

Some years ago, I was at a company meeting with the CEO of a tech company that was six months from running out of cash. They were only just making payroll each month. The CEO got the team together every single morning, in person/ via teleconference call/ Skype and candidly told everyone what was happening and what needed to be achieved in order to turn the company around. He also told them how much he believed in them. He shared a document weekly that quite clearly stated how much money the company had, or didn’t have, too!

Six months later, with a few new deals and an investor on the horizon, things were looking better. He now lives in Boston, MA and the company thrives, they still fondly remember the engine room, as it was called, over a shop on Oxford Street in London when the company nearly went to the wall.

Image

When the going gets tough or even when it doesn’t, do you know what your strengths are? And do you practice for whatever it is that you want to achieve daily?

As Yogi Berra eloquently put it: In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is….. Successful people practice….. a lot.

And of course, if you’d like some support and assistance through the tough ‘stuff’, you know where we are.
My warmest wishes,
Kate

Kate Tojeiro is Managing Director and Executive Performance Coach at X fusion.

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

 

Board rash.

Board rash I discovered, can develop as a result of friction between one’s torso and a surfboard due to sand adhering to the wax, this is easily remedied by wearing a rash-vest. Unlike, I couldn’t help musing, the friction and tension I had observed developing during a board meeting the week before.  The feeling of discomfort however was probably similar.

For the first time this summer, I tried surfing, it has always been something of a wistful desire. Sitting on a board waiting for a wave and then feeling the slight swell of the ocean, paddling hard, becoming aware of the bubbles of water at your feet, the surface of the water ahead of you changing to peculiar flat swirls with almost a stalling motion signifying the moment to get up. Then up, the adrenalin rush, the feeling of being literally on the water at the behest of nature is just breath-taking…..

surfer_cornwall
That moment was, in truth, the odd nanosecond amongst hours in the sea, falling off more times than I can recall and many times realizing the moment had passed. Much ingested seawater later, I can just about ride a (little) wave.

A delegate appeared in the break at a recent workshop and said ‘leading’s hardest when people are upset or emotionally charged, the rest of the time it’s ‘relatively easy’, right? ‘Well, yes’, I said ‘a leader that notices what’s going on and takes action especially during tough times will stand out significantly from those that notice what’s going on but don’t actually do anything.” ‘No quick fix then, okay, thanks’, he said and went off for a coffee looking thoughtful.

Metaphorically speaking, we can either take action and go for that wave even if the net result is more seawater and another plunge into the sea, or we can watch the moment go by, observe from the sidelines and wash up on the beach. Alternatively we can act and get stuck in, the experience is richer and the more accomplished we become. Awareness develops and that’s better for everyone!

In 1969, two young men Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer set up RipCurl.  The culture and ethos today is still all about the surfer and the sea although there is of course now a mighty successful commercial element too. It is a great case study of noticing what’s required, getting stuck in and doing something about it – be it product or a changing market. The people who run the company were and still are the test pilots. And even today on a clear day with a brisk wind running straight from the land, you’ll be pushed to find anyone in the RipCurl offices  – hurrah for that!

Billabong, the embattled global surf brand, in contrast, has perhaps not taken action where it may have and has just announced losses of almost $860million.

take_action_ii
An inspiring adventurer and explorer I know oft lives by the adage ‘better to die on the adventure than to die waiting for it’, he has achieved much, is a brilliant motivator and has made many things possible both for himself and those around him. This adage may be a little extreme for some of us, however if taking action makes the difference, I reckon it’s worth the risk. As TS Eliot put it ’only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go’.

Have a fabulous autumn and if you need a little assistance in how far you can go, you know where we are.

My warmest wishes,

Kate

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.