Keep your edge

I asked my youngest daughter (age 6) last evening what she was up to, she had a snail in one hand and a windfall pear in the other. “I’m being a being” she responded. “Fantastic”, I replied and off she skipped.
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It reminded me of a CEO that I work with who is actively encouraging everyone in his organisation to do nothing or just be, for 5 minutes every day. ‘Simple’, I hear you say, well yes, but surprisingly hard to actually effect. The way we live, work and play today is all about doing. He is leading the way and finding it hard. What he espouses to his team and organization is just being; watching, listening, observing, looking, tasting, touching, even smelling ( the roses or the coffee!) . Indulging those senses, letting the mind wander and then bringing it back to the here and now.

‘Just being’ is a form of mindfulness, becoming more present and in the here and now.

The interesting upside of just ‘being’ for a moment or two is that you will ultimately become more productive and likely less stressed. This is because the brain gets to a place called homeostasis – calm yet alert and energetic and we have greater access to our knowledge and experience. Stanford professors have proven that mindfulness does indeed have the ability to rewire the brain, it has a positive impact upon health as well as productivity. Happiness is a by-product too!

Now, far from being a soft touch, you can be mindfully cross or even mindfully angry but what it will potentially enable is a more conscious and thoughtful response to whichever anger prompting event or action has (or hasn’t) occurred.

Try it;
If possible find a nice space for you, inside or outside
Focus on your breathing, the in and out of your breath, your mind will wander, let it, and then bring it back to the present and the in and out of your breath.
Indulge your senses: What can you see? What can you hear? What can you feel? What can you taste? What can you smell?
Enjoy.
Businesses from Apple, Google, General Mills and Chase to the NHS, that have embraced mindfulness are experiencing increases in productivity, absenteeism plummeting and noticeable business improvement.

This weekend I was honoured to jetty marshall at the Mapple 35+ European Waterski Championships. I couldn’t help but notice in the moments before the competitors allocated slot, they would just be, admittedly with nerves, face in the sun (or the wind or rain), some mentally practicing and visualizing but very much in the moment and the present here and now. As they left the jetty, the concentration and focus kicked in when it mattered the most.
The late Andy Mapple OBE, one of the greatest water-skiers of our time, was known for saying ‘ leave nothing on the dock’. When those world-class skiers left the dock (jetty) nothing was left behind and they absolutely had their edge – literally – when they needed it.

Are you allowing yourself to ‘just be’ for a few moments each day so that when the time comes and you need your clarity, focus and edge – it’s all there, poised and ready?

We are, after all, human beings!

If you would like to speak with us about Executive Coaching, nurturing and developing your people or introducing mindfulness to your organization, do contact us for a preliminary session.

Be bold and have a fabulous Autumn.

My warmest wishes,

Kate

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

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Kate Tojeiro is an executive coach and facilitator to senior executives and teams at some of the world’s largest global organisations and some of the most cutting edge start-ups. She is a regular on BBC radio and a voice in the media.
Find her at http://www.the-x-fusion.co.uk

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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.

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…..

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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.

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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

What’s your passion?

This weekend I felt very privileged to attend The Goodwood Revival meeting in West Sussex.  A veritable hotbed of exquisite historic cars, aeroplanes, fashion, music and memorabilia of a bygone era, not the mention the superb motor racing for which the event has an unrivalled reputation.
I believe it was Fangio, the Argentinean Formula One racing driver of formidable achievement who said, “You need great passion, because everything you do with great pleasure, you do well”.
From a spotless original 1965 Ford Transit, The Shelby Cup, a tribute to Dan Gurney to a grid value of c £300,000,000 worth of historic race Ferrari’s  – the magic and sparkle one could almost hold.   Now for those of you who are not particularly interested in things ‘petrol-head’, this is not the purpose of the post.

 

It was the passion and unbridled enjoyment that was palpable. Not only for the cars, the planes, the history, the racing, the clothes (that’s another post entirely) the atmosphere at this event was inspiring and extremely pleasurable. I met people from all walks of life, had conversations with more strangers in a day than I’ve done for ages and met one or two celebrities to boot. The passion of individuals for their cars, racing, the era, the clothes or just to enjoy a day at Goodwood House, was incredible.

 

I don’t think there was one vehicle, plane or person there that wasn’t immaculately turned out, well maybe one or two, but you get my point.

 

It may be the legacy of the success of the Olympics, the sheer passion and attention to detail for this event by Lord March and his team, or the sunny day that made the difference.  However, living in challenging times, with volatile markets and economies, if finding our passion for what we care about makes such a big difference; to us, our friends and families, our companies, motor-racing events, then surely that’s the way to go.

 

As Disraeli said “ Man (or woman) is only truly great when he acts from his passions”.

 

 
What’s yours?
 

Are you living or working to Gold Standards?

What a phenomenal achievement; 65 Team GB Olympic medalists, an uplifting and inspiring fortnight and a certain ‘joie de vivre’ around the capital city.  What a lot to celebrate!
Andrew Hunt, CEO of the British Olympic Association has been talking widely about the magic that the immense collaboration and support of our amazing sports men and women has enabled in terms of success and medals.  Yes, they are incredible athletes in their own right however as so many have attested and in some instances in a very moving way, it was also about the team around them.
Be it in sports or in business, it is very well documented that teamwork, collaboration and cohesiveness really does pay dividends and that feeling of being part of a community or something bigger than oneself is part of being human.
Last week I had a meeting in Westminster followed by one near Green Park in London and I decided to walk, as it was a nice day.  Now, this was right in the middle of the Olympic fortnight and my route took me past Buckingham Palace – it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea and might make me late.  It didn’t. It was also a most palpable and memorable experience, there were hoards and hoards of people (they were changing the guard too) but the atmosphere was electric.  There was an immense feeling of camaraderie, support, happiness perhaps and just an enjoyment of being part of something very big and very special.
I met one of the Games Makers (the volunteers who gave up their time to work at the Olympics for free) yesterday and he very humbly said, it was one of the most amazing experiences of his life.  He has traveled the world and sat on the boards of some of the world’s most illustrious companies, so he’s had some experience in his life.
The focus and dedication of the sportsmen and women is just extraordinary, and as many of them have said ‘ if you really want something’ you can. The Team GB women’s hockey players who won bronze medals have talked widely about their pact and commitment to each other some years ago in 2009 to train and live their lives at gold standards.  That’s just what they did and made some monumental sacrifices along the way. They defined their goals, refined along the way and now have the medals to prove it. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.
Great success and achievement comes from hard work, focus, teamwork, tracking progress and celebrating the small stuff and the big stuff along the way. 
So, if gold is what you’re seeking in any area of your life  – are you living or working to gold standards?
Or perhaps we could all take a leaf out of Eric Idle’s book (Olympic closing ceremony) and ‘always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo, de doo de doo.’ Not a bad place to start.