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!

Image

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.

Image

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.

Advertisements

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

 

Clarity, feedback, football ….and the lure of a V8.

‘Epic! But what was your Mum doing there?’ exclaimed a friend of my daughter’s in barely disguised shock.  ‘She knows nothing about football!’

And so it was, a few weeks backs, I was pinching myself at the UK launch of a long-awaited supercar surrounded by those at the very heart, one might say, of football, past and present and from sport, and the motor industry.  Whilst I perhaps didn’t fully appreciate this until after some stealthy googling, I was indeed in the company of greats; players, managers, coaches, fans and the inimitable Jose Mourinho himself, the new UK ambassador for Jaguar. Image

Having a discussion with the former CEO of a Premier League football club was in itself fascinating and an honour, and a conversation ensued about leadership.  That much discussed topic of leadership in sport and leadership in business. He was telling me about a football coach whose particular modus operandi was of two guiding principles; clarity & feedback. Clarity; what are our goals and aims for the next match and the season, and feedback: in the moment and definitely on the same day.
I’ll be surprised if anyone reading this doesn’t fully agree to being clear and giving clarity and focus at all times, especially when in a position of leadership.  Most recognise the power of feedback and that it works exceptionally well both in sport and business. However, only a minority of companies do this really well, where feedback is a genuine part of their culture and the results speak for themselves in the business, and on the bottom line.

Feedback is often the once a year review (incidentally that’s not feedback),  or it is feared , clumsy and ill-delivered, especially if it’s a difficult message.

With a modicum of practice, feedback can be one of the easiest, least complex and potentially game changing (forgive the pun) tools in your kit as a leader or indeed friend, partner, colleague or team mate.  In this world of complexity, changing markets and an ever-developing customer and consumer, something easy and that works, is surely a good thing.

Feedback at best is clear, honest and specific. It is also frequent.  The aforementioned CEO asked his coach why he always gave his players feedback on the bus on the way back from a game, even if it was difficult. His response, I like to start each day on a high and if that means challenging feedback at the end of the day that the action occurs, so be it.

‘Tis currently the season for company results and if this isn’t a good time for greater clarity and feedback to either grow and learn, or improve and vitalise performance, I don’t know when is.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions, as Ken Blanchard once said, and in the world of football I can see testament to that and perhaps the bridge between leadership in sport and business is closer than we think.

The V8, the stunning F-type R Coupe, metaphorically spoke for itself.  Jose Mourinho, very much his own man, said “I know what I like and I know what I don’t. I like this.”

Image

Enough said. Clear as day.

And if you’d like a little help with clarity for 2014, you know where we are. If, on the other hand it’s football advice you’re after, I know a man who can!

See you soon.

Warmest regards,

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…..

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

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?
 

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?!)