If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.

Sitting in my office as I look out at a snowy scene, we’re variously trudging, finding a way through or grinding to a halt as we cope with the ‘Beast from the East’ as it has been dubbed. Resilient as the UK is, we’re not so good in extremes of weather.

The joy of snow is however unmistakable, whatever the practical implications. Leaving fresh tracks in the snow is magical and a powerful analogy for life.  Whether a new role, product, process or something that is utterly uncharted in your business or indeed the world, making new tracks is as special as it is sometimes scary. Forging a new path or following your passion can be challenging and hard, but it can also be uplifting and satisfying,  as we invariably discover hidden depths to our being.

Earlier this month, I was privileged to interview Billy Ward, global motorcycle adventurer and journalist.  The conversation was about how he forged his own path, how travel and adventure broadens and widens our perspective, and that the tricky obstacles often turn out to be the greatest catalysts to change and growth.


I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

And if you need some help or inspiration with finding your new path, you know where we are.

As Ralph Marston said ‘There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them.’

My warmest wishes,



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.  

Risk is the currency of progress…..

Last week I attended a business breakfast and when everyone was asked “what would you tell your younger self when you started out in your career or business?”, the resounding response was “just get out there and do it”.
So, risk  – and that intangible fine line between taking the plunge compared with convincing yourself not to do something.
Being a bit of a Jason Statham fan (we all have our guilty pleasures…), I was watching The Mechanic the other night and one quote which stuck in mind was “good judgment comes from experience and experience from bad judgment”.
And it’s these bad judgments or negative experiences that prevent so many of us from ‘just getting out there and doing it’ – whatever the ‘it’ is for you. It seems to be the standout trait that we hear about time again that separates the achievers from the also-rans; the ability to take the hits, adapt and evolve stronger.
When I wrote my last newsletter, Dakar Team GB had just set out on one of the greatest challenges known to man (in my humble opinion anyway). They’re all back safe and sound – a stupendous achievement, especially for Toby Younger who had entered the Dakar for the first time and finished, got a medal.
What an inspiration. He took the risks that others wouldn’t – not only life and limb but also that slightly more indefinable element around mindset and getting out there and going for it, come what may.
Extraordinary things can happen when we take the risk, embrace the mindset and become alert to the potentially life changing opportunities that may lie ahead.
There are no guarantees of success. But things will most definitely ‘happen’ and the world will look a little different.
So, if risk is the currency of progress, what will you spend yours on today? From working with boards and senior leaders of Fortune 500 companies, through to some of the most innovative and creative SMEs, I’ve seen first hand that risk taking pays off; new territories, products, people, ideas, experiences, luck… profits.
On a more ephemeral note, another quote from the movie – “listen to your heart, it may be homesick for somewhere you’ve never been”.
Be it a new role, product, business or speaking opportunity, the New Year always brings with it a yearning in all of us for change, progress, new experiences and new ideas – the leap of faith (listening to your heart) that takes us on a journey we never knew was out there for us (to be homesick for).
Can you get that new business, position, adventure or board seat you might crave if you don’t take a risk? Perhaps.
But what would happen if you did take that leap?

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.