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

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.

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

Is abandoning ship a cop out?

On watching some of the exciting Cowes week action, one couldn’t help observe that it is a sport that is well supported by the financial services industry. Barclays has long been a sponsor of sailing and for a number of years the Global Challenge round the world yacht race.  
Now, I’m no round the world racer however I do sail and know for sure that the captain of a ship will do absolutely anything within his or her power to save their vessel and the lives of the crew and passengers within (for the moment we shall park the captain of the ill-fated Concordia, he was a rarity for sure).  
The banking industry being such a key sponsor and supporter of all things ocean, the abandoning ship tactic of Bob Diamond when the proverbial storm hit, loomed in large and stark contrast to the typical characteristics and values of a captain, be it of a 20ft vessel or larger. Admittedly many people have been baying for the resignation and there were multi-faceted reasons for and against.  However, it is a pitiful current day trait that when trouble appears, and it invariably does at one point or another in even the most robust of organisations, the current standard practice of those at the top; politicians, chief execs… is to abandon ship.  
Now, it may be me but that doesn’t show a great deal of resilience, commitment or grit.  If I may indulge the sailing analogy a little further, if a storm hits, you split your mainsail, take on water, lose your rudder, crash your vessel into a pontoon or whichever, the chances of the captain jumping overboard are exceedingly unlikely.  Not to mention if aforementioned captain does abandon ship in challenging seas, the likelihood of him or her spending the rest of their days with the mermaids is quite possible.    
Being captain of a vessel, cruising yacht through to enormous ocean going cargo ship requires immense skill, expertise and talent, notwithstanding the ability to deal effectively in a crisis.  A captain will do utterly all that is necessary to save vessel and all lives on board. Salvaging law another debate entirely. Being at sea in a storm in challenging circumstances is not for the faint-hearted and if I may use a hackneyed expression it does separate the men from the boys (women from the girls). A challenging situation, risk, potential loss, collateral and/ or physical damage requires analytical skills, short term risk assessment, decision making skills, confidence, communication and strategic planning, to mention just a few.  On a vessel in a storm this will all happen in minutes, they’ll be a process and a plan of action to get out of said troubled water.  Now, these skills are hardly a rarity in business, they’re constantly trained for, studied for and gained through experience and endeavour.  Bob Diamond, for one, would have all (and still does) of these skills in abundance. 
Surely, if we’re really going to change our banking culture, Bob Diamond with his undoubted capabilities would have been the best man for the job.  Whilst he may not have been directly responsible, the buck most certainly stopped with him.  As the master of a ship, captains are in that position not for the high days and watching the dolphins but actually when a crisis hits; manmade, natural or otherwise, it is their responsibility to get it sorted using all the aforementioned skills.  If we are nationally to develop those phenomenal skills of dealing effectively in a crisis, and demonstrate resilience, grit and commitment to the next generation then perhaps the first step is to shift this characteristic of quitting at the top when it gets tough (really tough).  
After all, as a nation, we used to be globally renowned for it.  

‘Bee’ aware…….

Whilst my office is in a small busy town, this morning a huge bumblebee has been bumping on the window with tenacity.There is a large vase of startlingly yellow daffodils on the windowsill and they have all just come out.I think that must be what he (or she) is after!

I’ve been thinking about bees this week following a fascinating program that documented why bees ‘CAN’ fly. Their body shape, lack of aerodynamics and little wings have been baffling scientists for years because at face value- it appears an impossibility that they be able to fly at all!With the recent rapid development in sophisticated photographic technology it is now possible to ‘see’ that bees in fact flap their wings forwards and backwards, as opposed to up and down, which means that by a clever little manouevre of their wings the bee thereby creates lift on both strokes. Hence, it’s ability to fly.

And that I’m afraid is about the limit of my apiology, so why the observation?

I observed to one of my clients recently that people see, hear or sense what we put out there for them to see, hear or sense.“That’s nonsense” he confidently commented back.“People observe us but what they observe might be different to the ‘real’ us”, he said.“True”, I ventured sensing an interesting conversation in the making.“Mostly, though people see what we put out for them to see”.

Generally speaking if we are to achieve what we set out to and be successful in whatever that is- sometimes we need to ensure that our body language or non-verbal communication is in check.I.e. if we project confidence- others will identify with it, if we are unhappy and hunched people will identify with it, if we are anxious or nervous- there’s a pattern forming………

“OK – give me an example” he said.

“A client who runs a very successful PR agency was having a somewhat ‘thin’ period a few years back.

She had a pitch meeting to go to- knew that she was one of four agencies participating in the beauty parade; two were large global agencies, one a medium sized UK based agency and her small boutique consultancy.

She decided that if she had any chance at getting this contract- she was going to have to use everything she had.Best outfit, hair & nails looking good– and of course her pitch!She knew that she had the talent, credentials and ability to do the project however felt very much like the minnow against the whales. She believed that if she was self-assured, confident and demonstrated the pride she has in what she does in the meeting she’d be in with a chance.So, how does self-assured, confident and a sense of pride ‘look’ and ‘feel’ for you, I asked.Well……..she responded, shoulders back for a start, breathing deeply, not fidgeting and being myself. She is erudite, capable, funny and charming.When did you last feel like that I ventured.When I delivered a talk at an Industry Conference two years ago (two years ago! I exclaimed – that’s another story) – we talked some more about this, the talk, the audience participation, the questions – the pleasant ones and the difficult.My client now had a reference point and through discussing it had also had a mini-rehearsal. (Little piece of neuro-science- when we recall an event and think it through, good or bad, we reinforce the neural pathways in our brains which therefore make it more likely for us to repeat the behaviour again – a bit like practicing a golf swing or a tennis serve).

After the meeting, she returned to her office and her PA was the first person she saw when she walked in.“How did it go?” she said.“I got it!” she replied. “Wow- did they tell you today”. “No, I just know I got it!”

A week later, the call came to say she had got it! She did get the business, a huge global contract and it was the first of many, many more after that lean period.

When I asked her about the meeting, I could see the confidence, self-assuredness and relaxed demeanour shining through.

So, when inwardly we are thinking that something is an impossibility what are the little ‘wing manoeuvre’s that we have to employ to make a difference?

Can you think of a time when the characteristics that you want to display were shining through to complement your skills and talents.Whilst many people profess not to care what others think – said client above included – we are, like it or not, creatures who want and need to fit into a social universe. Humans are psychologically suited to interdependence.

The ability to intuit how people see us is what enables us to truly and authentically connect to others and experience the deep satisfaction that comes with those ties. With that comes the ability to understand others better be a better leader.

The bottom line: It comes down to what you think about yourself

Your ideas about what others think of you hinge on your self-concept—your own beliefs about who you are. We filter the cues that we get from other people through our own self-concept.As a baby scans his mother’s face he absorbs clues to who he is; as adults we continue to search for our reflections in others’ eyes. People rely on others’ impressions to nurture their views about themselves, says William Swann, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin. His research reveals that people with negative self-concepts goad others to evaluate them harshly, especially if they suspect the person likes them—they would rather be right than be admired.

So, you get what you give?

The top line: You probably do know what people think of you

You can choose whether this is working for you or not or more importantly whether you want to do something about it or not.

There is another benefit to doing this and taking pride in what we do and demonstrating it or to put it another way: demonstrating excellence in all we do. There is something infectious and contagious about excellence and confidence. The more one produces it, the more others want to produce. You may have heard the Biblical reference, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

It is true. Often the more we observe some one we admire, the more motivated we become- not always but more often that not.

So, for the next few days try being mindful of what you are projecting with regards to how others see you.Are you confident, self-assured, calm, anxious, worried, uninterested.If you’re not sure – ask around, trusted colleagues, friends, family or your executive coach/ mentor.

How did I come across? – ask for x 3 characteristics.

Then ask yourself- was that how you wished to come across?If so, fantastic! If not, what could you do to change that.

‘Have a springy week!’ was the sign off in an email I received earlier this week which made me smile and I speculated if it was a typo.

Either way it did put a spring in my step and a client later in the day commented that I seemed bright and breezy? What came first I wondered?

Have a great spring and should you be interested in working with an executive coach/ mentor to identify your ‘wing manoeuvres’ – you know where I am!

My warmest regards,

Kate