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.

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…..

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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

‘Caught or Taught’

Caught or taught?
I was at my daughter’s school this week for parents’ evening and one of her teacher’s stands out as being exceptionally good at what he does. Undoubtedly a very good teacher i.e. the ‘taught’ bit however it also occurred to me that the way he speaks and behaves is ‘caught’ perhaps by the kids too.
He has a certain way about him when the children are getting a bit wayward shall we say (some might say challenging) however I don’t think I have once heard him raise his voice or shout at the children. This hasn’t been reported back either and it often does – stories about the ‘shouty’ teachers as they’re affectionately dubbed! There is certainly a sort of ‘inspiring mood’ in the room when he is teaching.
It got me thinking about a group I worked with last year who have a rather challenging boss, abrasive, somewhat insensitive and inconsistent to boot. Whilst this boss is remote, it occurred to me that some of these behaviours were being ‘caught’ even though the team in question, were focusing on ‘upping their game’ and behaving much more effectively as a team. Some of the behaviours we came across were around territories, responsibility and accountability, blame games – a number of which I believe were being ‘caught’ from on high.
Their development as a team and as individuals came from unpicking some of these less successful behaviours and finding a mechanism both as a group and as individuals that would help them stay true to their purpose. They have also identified the ‘taught’ and the ‘caught’ – not that we identified it as such at the time.
As a leader what are you teaching and what are people catching from you? It will be your brilliance as well as those little behaviours or habits that don’t serve us so well?
Question:-
As a leader what did you teach someone today?
As a leader what did your people ‘catch’ from you? Inspiration, eloquence, calm under pressure or something altogether different?

Business Performance Coaches

Steve Driver is MD of Spirit Circuits, a Hampshire-based manufacturer of printed circuit boards. Three years ago the company was in trouble. ‘There was no real harmony among the board of directors. They were going in different ways because there was no overall direction,’ he admits.

The situation was especially bleak as Driver had spearheaded a management buy-out of a division of his former company that he had, in turn, put into liquidation. Seven months later, ‘the new company had the old behaviour’ and was ‘haemorrhaging cash’.

It was Driver’s accountant who suggested he contact a business coaching organisation. He attended a presentation by Shirlaws and liked what he heard. He says: ‘When I put it to the board that I wanted to use a coach, it was deemed an unnecessary expense at a time when we were losing money. But I absolutely believed it was the way forward for the company. I am the MD and the major shareholder, so when I told the board what I wanted the answer had to be “yes”.

‘Two people objected, so they were removed before the company could go forward or else it would have been a dead programme.’

Mike Wheatley, CEO at Envisional, a Cambridge-based internet security specialist, also experienced a lukewarm response when announcing he wanted to introduce a performance consultant. ‘People are very cynical. They like to joke that bringing in a mentor is pink and fluffy,’ he says, noting that the mentor he used soon illuminated faults in the team. ‘We have got rid of people. That is not the object of this, it is a side effect.’

Leadership Styles

Kate Tojeiro established and runs the business coaching outfit Xfusion. Working with organisations of all sizes, she focuses on areas such as leadership styles and building effective communication techniques.

In practice, she says, this may mean going into an office one day a month to facilitate group and individual coaching sessions – perhaps using a business tool like psychometric testing or organising day trips – to understand whether the leaders in an organisation are geared towards the same goals.

For an MD or chief executive, the objectivity provided by a good consultant can be invaluable. Spirit Circuits’ Driver says that after bringing in a mentor, the board were forced to ask questions like:

    • Who’s leading this company?

 

  • Who’s giving direction?

 

 

  • Who’s looking after finance?

 

 

  • Who’s generating sales?

 

Eventually, the company shifted its business model from concentrating purely on production to providing a good service.

According to Driver, there has been a 25 per cent growth in turnover and a 35 per cent uplift in profit. ‘We’ve gone from being a loss-making business to a very profitable one in the space of 18 months to two years,’ he says.

As for the length of time you use a mentor, Driver notes that after about a year of coaching he recently put a stop to it. ‘We were using it too much as a sounding board as opposed to a coach. It was turning into a management meeting and we weren’t yielding anything from it.’

That, however, isn’t the end of the sessions. ‘It’s more of a sabbatical,’ says Driver. ‘We’ll revisit it in six months and take it to another level.’

By Marc Barber