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

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When the going gets tough……

When the going gets tough ….
My eldest daughter was recently somewhat embarrassed to hear that I love “When the going gets tough…” by Billy Ocean and the occasional power ballad! It wasn’t just the admission, it was that I happened to air this guilty pleasure while being interviewed on the radio.

She then went on to say, musing a little, ‘It’s cool to say what you like though’. And that, was that.

I couldn’t help but ponder later: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ is something of a mantra for the best leaders out there. Their words, of course, might be very different. The fine line between successful leaders and less successful one’s, is nearly always evident when the going gets tough. The same can be said of great sportsmen and women who, under great physical and mental stress make things look effortless. But you know for sure that a massive amount of hard work, energy and effort has gone into honing that ability, even if it’s on a foundation of natural skill. They practice daily!

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For many of the banks, the going appears to be getting even tougher, and the proposed PFIZER takeover of Astra Zeneca is proving challenging for many, at industry, city and even government level.

‘Getting going’ when it’s hard, navigating a path through uncertainty, challenge and difficulty, means taking into consideration all those involved around you. I recently discovered through a fascinating discussion with a neuroscientist, that through rigorous research it is understood that ‘successful people’ do indeed have a very high level of self-awareness and that of others.

Whilst dealing with complex technical scenarios, compliance, product issues, markets, the press et al, they are also very aware of the impact a challenge is having on the individuals involved. And they subsequently take the actions and interventions needed to make it easier for them. Sometimes, just admitting that it’s tough goes a very long way too.

Some years ago, I was at a company meeting with the CEO of a tech company that was six months from running out of cash. They were only just making payroll each month. The CEO got the team together every single morning, in person/ via teleconference call/ Skype and candidly told everyone what was happening and what needed to be achieved in order to turn the company around. He also told them how much he believed in them. He shared a document weekly that quite clearly stated how much money the company had, or didn’t have, too!

Six months later, with a few new deals and an investor on the horizon, things were looking better. He now lives in Boston, MA and the company thrives, they still fondly remember the engine room, as it was called, over a shop on Oxford Street in London when the company nearly went to the wall.

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When the going gets tough or even when it doesn’t, do you know what your strengths are? And do you practice for whatever it is that you want to achieve daily?

As Yogi Berra eloquently put it: In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is….. Successful people practice….. a lot.

And of course, if you’d like some support and assistance through the tough ‘stuff’, you know where we are.
My warmest wishes,
Kate

Kate Tojeiro is Managing Director and Executive Performance Coach at X fusion.

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

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.  

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?
 

‘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