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.

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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

The art of effective leadership

Did you ever see an engineer rushing?  No, I haven’t either, from the pits in a Formula one race to the construction of an astonishing multi level skyscraper.
Someone recalled a well-worn statement, yet nevertheless true, to a colleague earlier in the week.  You can choose how you behave or what thoughts will define your day, if you really want to.  He went on to say, it’s a bit like choosing what to wear in the morning.  It’s a cognitive choice, wallowing in whatever current upset or perceived disaster that may or may not be around the corner or just taking the day in hand, what comes with it and with an open heart. 
Uh oh  – I realize, I may have just left a few readers cold.  With an open heart, at work, in my professional environment, at a tough board meeting, in a challenging sales negotiation, on an oil rig, in the desert under fire.  Yes, is the short answer.  Having had the privilege to work with individuals that run oil rigs, race teams, engineers, those the boards of Fortune 100, FTSE 250 companies and decorated servicemen amongst others, I’ve observed first hand that the most effective leaders are very aware of their people ( and of course themselves) and have an ‘open heart’ and an ‘open mind’. 
So, what do I mean by this: –
Anyone who gets to a leadership position has not made it  (yet!).  It is only the beginning.  Being a leader doesn’t make you one, however by doing the things that great leaders do and influencing and encouraging your teams behaviour you’ll be 9/10’s of the way there. 
Effective leaders establish values, model behaviour, encourage, nurture and support, reward, are firm when necessary and give feedback. Great leaders will foster self-leadership in individuals, teams and the wider organization. 
One very good way of measuring a leader’s success is by measuring the success of his or her people.  A strong leader will facilitate the self-leadership in others.  After all, the first step is self-leadership and if there’s none of that, the leadership of others is going to be mighty difficult. 
Set the vision:-
·      Face reality  – how are your thoughts going to command today
·      Focus on the future
·      See change as an opportunity
Be who you are:-
·      Live & breathe your values, lead by example
·      Create a positive self-image and believe in it
·      Display integrity and openness to learning and discovery
Build capability:-
·      Build infrastructure
·      Leverage diversity
·      Leverage skills
·      Build teams
·      Enable change to happen
·      Allow people to think, challenge and experiment
Enable individuals:-
·      Believe in people especially when you don’t agree
·      Allow emotions and listen in the moment
·      Manage attention, pay attention
·      Share power and authority
·      Build collaborative relationships
And ……..enjoy!
And as for the rushing……we all have to sometimes, even engineers I’m reliably informed(but it’s rare?!)

When the going gets tough………

A well functioning team can be a powerful force for your company’s success. A team in disarray, on the other hand, can be a distraction, causing missed opportunities and creating liabilities for the organisation.

‘When the going gets tough; the tough get going’ – as those of us, of a certain age, will remember Billy Ocean singing out. It was a favourite of my first real business mentor, a senior exec at M&S, at the annual bash…….it’s stayed with me!

Never more so than in a challenging market is ‘the tough getting going’ important. But what does tough actually mean – for us as individuals, as teams, as boards? Tough can have negative connotations such as insensitivity or even aggression however to have mental rigour and be tough in action can surely only be a good thing?

In my role as an executive coach in the current climate, the attitude to risk, perhaps ‘fear of’ is a common theme in conversations. Making ‘tough’ decisions that impact on both business and the people within can have some difficult consequences. Not insurmountable but certainly requires some mental ‘toughness’.

Lately, I’ve been observing various teams and boards behaviour – working with some who are operating very effectively and successfully together and others, shall we say, on the journey towards. The teams that have found their level, have animated, heated debates and discussion and I observe many things going on around the board table that could be described as ‘tough’, amongst many other descriptors! However, where it works is when there is a sort of unwritten code of conduct/ ethics if you will, which is all about ‘how we behave towards each other’; respect, trust, candour to name a few and it doesn’t get personal. Thereby keeping the agenda for the board or team (and company) on track and therefore being much more likely to succeed.

At the end of last year, one of my clients recently said to me’ I’ve sanctioned something that maybe I shouldn’t have – it instinctively feels right and I believe in my team but I think I may have burnt my bridges with the board’. This was my clients’, first board appointment. ‘What have you sanctioned?’ I asked, intrigued…..

 

‘One of my team has proposed a new product that she thinks will enhance the company’s sales and profitability. It’s really interesting, doesn’t appear to be anything quite like it out there on the market and she’s great at what she does. If she says she can do it, I believe her. However, the first reaction I got from the board was quite dismissive. The CEO told me that not only would it never work but would also take four years of man-hours to even bring it to the testing stage. Then, it most likely won’t pass that phase.’

‘Not the most positive or open-minded response then.’ I replied.

‘Undeterred, I pleaded with the board to give us six months to prove the point. The board reluctantly went along and allowed me to give her a leave of absence from her regular job and devote her time solely to this new idea.’

Now fast forward a few months. The upshot of all of this is that he came back to the board within four months with a software project that was unique, exciting and eminently doable.

This lady on his team had succeeded well beyond the board’s expectations. The product is now being sold – and sold profitably. Additionally, it has made quite a positive difference in the company’s bottom line.

There’s a mental toughness! This guy risked losing his credibility and senior position (not to mention first board appointment) within the company; he got out of his comfort zone and intentionally put himself at risk; but most importantly, he thought differently, dared to be different, utterly believed in a member of his team and took a risk despite the consequences ‘if’ it failed.

Equally, the board, as a group, demonstrated some toughness, took a risk, backed him and the software developer and supported the decision. A tough call for those who weren’t sure and indeed those that were!

All boards and teams need at least one member who is some sort of a maverick. He or she should be an independent thinker and be willing to risk derision when introducing new ideas to the board. A person of this type is indispensable during these extremely competitive and trying times.

Strategic thinking, trust and collectively agreeing to something is not always an easy task. I know for sure that two members of the board patently disagreed with supporting this new idea however they collectively agreed and therefore as a board, they supported and encouraged the decision (outwardly anyway!). When the going gets tough for boards and teams, fresh thinking is essential. A team usually has nothing to lose when adding a new ‘mind’ to their members. The addition of a fresh vitality and robustness is rarely a bad thing.

For thought:-

 

Are you agreeing collectively and then standing by that decision even if you personally don’t agree?

What are your behaviours displaying to the rest of the organization? Do you collaborate, trust and commit as a group?

Do you trust your instincts?

Do you build consensus – finding the balance between active listening and active participation.

Can you cut to the core issue and identify how to move forward, how to bring discussions back to action?

Do you actively pursue outside relationships with board or team members?

Have you a mentor?

Treat team and board meetings as seriously as your job in terms of preparation, participation, and follow-through: do your homework, show up and contribute. The team meeting and/ or boardroom is the place for collaboration, not competition.

Competitive skills may very well have enabled you to get to your position of leadership, they’re less helpful when bringing a team or board together to achieve great things.

 

Are you getting going?

 

Have a great summer.

Kate Tojeiro works with boards and teams across a variety of businesses from FTSE 250 and Fortune 500 to small venture backed businesses. She is an Executive Coach and MD of X fusion.

 

‘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