Veritas Executive coaching Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:53:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 102942413 Is all the stuff really necessary? Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:51:51 +0000 In 2011, I joined 11 other people on a fundraising trek to Machu Picchu. A 15th-century Indian citadel, set high among the Andes Mountains, the experience combined, severe altitude sickness on the first night in Cusco, a late night ride in a “MASH” style ambulance to find a hospital, and some touching acts of generosity.

Overall, however, my time in Peru taught me that, when we get down to it, we just don’t need as much stuff as we think we do.

Landing in Cusco, excited for the upcoming adventure, our team was dismayed to discover that our kit had not arrived with us. Of course, while missing luggage can be frustrating at the best of times, it’s more so when you’ve spent weeks carefully planning what you need to hike at 7,970 feet above sea level!

If that wasn’t enough, on arriving in Cusco, I soon began to suffer from altitude sickness. While, typically, this infliction happens at elevations above 8,000 feet, the city of Cusco is located more than 11,000 feet above sea level. And, despite drinking coca leaf tea to try to acclimatise quickly, my symptoms soon took a turn for the worse. I had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro the year before and showed only minor symptoms, so you can imagine the panic of my fellow team mates when they realised I had altitude sickness before we’d even started the trek!

With blood running from my nose, a raging headache, vomiting and blurred vision, it became apparent that medical help was required. However, with our local guide having gone home for the night, I was wholly reliant on another member of our group to help me call for an ambulance. The vehicle that arrived was nothing short of a dilapidated army style jeep with a bed in the back and doors that swung open as we travelled through the backstreets of this ancient city in search of the local hospital.

After a fraught night spent with an oxygen mask, in a hospital that reminded me of the one in One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest, I was declared fit and well enough to make the journey to Machu Picchu. However, despite 11 kit bags finally arriving at the hotel, mine wasn’t one of them!

At this point, I was faced with the choice whether to carry on or give up. Not being one to back down from a challenge, with the help of my fellow travellers, who were willing to lend me things from their kits including a sleeping bag, meds and even knickers to help me continue, I decided to persevere. And I’m so glad I did. It was an amazing experience.

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Not only was my trip to Machu Picchu wonderful in terms of the Inca Trail itself, but it also taught me that, while not having the tools we think we need can be frightening, reducing the stuff-load can actually be liberating.

In life, and in business, organisation is a great thing. However, sometimes what we need is not more organisation, but less stuff that needs to be organised. With the majority of what we need for success already inside us.

We live in a world with an abundance of resources and tools at our fingertips. And this trend is likely to accelerate, with an ever-increasing amount of ‘solutions’ being tailored and pitched to specific business needs and functions. However, we all know the drama that arises when such tools fail, and we all proclaim we’re no longer able to do our jobs! Certainly there can’t be many businesses that have escaped the pandemonium that ensues during an internet failure!

Of course, I’m not suggesting that I would have been able to continue my journey to Machu Picchu without any supplies. In fact, I have no doubt that I was only able to do so due to the generosity of others. But the people who are truly successful in life, think less about what they need to accomplish their goals and more about what success looks like to them. Because otherwise, as the notorious Tyler Durden said “The things you own, end up owning you”.

And lesson to self, always take the minimum kit on adventures and pack the essentials in your day rucksack!

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Who moved my camel? Wed, 11 Nov 2015 08:33:16 +0000

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Maya Angelou

In the bestselling book “Who Moved my Cheese”, author Spencer Johnson takes an insightful look at what happens to people faced with unexpected and unwanted change. This amusing tale, which takes less than an hour to read, is designed to help us live our lives more successfully, no matter what might be lurking around the corner.

In 2014, I found out just how important it is to roll with the punches in a slightly less leisurely manner, when I was caught in a sandstorm while crossing the Sahara Desert. Less “who moved my cheese”, more “who moved my camel”!

The largest desert in the world, (almost the same size as the USA!), this hostile landscape hosts a harsh climate that can soar to temperatures of around 47°C. And, in one of the most challenging experiences of my life, while I may not have actually lost our camels, I certainly lost sight of them for a while!

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However, with the help of our expert Nomads, we quickly found refuge. These wonderful guides put us first at all times; so much so that they would only eat food left by our group after each meal. Loading and unloading our camels every day, they even carried a tray of a dozen eggs, unbroken, throughout our entire journey; eggs that they saved for a ceremonial, celebratory tagine at the end of our experience!

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What’s more, as well as helping us to make the most of our time in the Sahara, they also kept us safe, and I can’t praise them enough for looking after us  – body and spirit – during the storm.

However, what soon become apparent, was that not everybody managed to appreciate just how lucky we were. Sahara sandstorms can, of course, be deadly. An unpleasant – and often painful – fact of life for the people who live and work in the region, the howling winds can even strip paint from cars!

Nevertheless, despite our perilous situation, another ‘executive’ group appeared that seemed unwilling to adapt to the situation we all found ourselves in. A group that was clearly disgruntled at the impact the storm was having on their carefully planned schedule. In fact, this group seemed so resistant to change that, despite the hostile conditions, they insisted on being served high-tea in the middle of the sandstorm, simply because it was on their itinerary.

Of course, the ability to anticipate and adapt to change is something that many of us struggle with. But there’s no getting away from the fact that change happens, and, whether we are forced off agenda in the middle of the desert, or in today’s fast moving business environment, how we deal with this change can have a sizable impact on ourselves, and those around us.

While most people, understandably, tend to resent change – often because it leads to them questioning their own capabilities – executives, in particular, are under immense pressure to adapt to changing roles and challenges. And, importantly, they’re expected to get on board with these changes quickly to deliver results, despite an inherent desire to resist.

Ask yourself honestly, how well do you deal with deviations in your work and/or your personal life? Do you adapt and thrive, or do you dig your heels in and make life harder everyone?

The truth is, while change can be tough, not dealing with it is likely to make difficult situations even worse, jeopardising both relationships, and business outcomes.

So what’s the answer?

Well, as a starting point, I’d encourage all business leaders to look at themselves to discover blind-spots around beliefs and behaviours. Not only will this help them personally, but it will also empower them to lead the change in others.

One thing we can be sure of is that nothing stays the same, and, while we might not be able to prevent change from happening, we can transform ourselves to deal with it when it does.

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Can women be ‘feminine’, and still hold a position of power? Fri, 23 Oct 2015 09:12:05 +0000 Earlier this year, I facilitated a leadership event on behalf of the Rethink Recruitment Group, on Inspiring Female Leaders. Providing a forum for businesswomen to discuss their challenges, opportunities and experiences, the initial meeting asked whether women can be feminine and still hold a position of power?

But what does it mean to be feminine? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is:

Having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness:
“The snowdrops gave a feminine touch to the table.”

But is that really what it means to be a woman in the 21st Century? In the same year that we celebrate the long battle of the suffragettes with a movie dedicated their struggle – women who were passionate, determined, and strong – do we still think of women as delicate flowers?

I think that most of us would agree that women, by and large, tend to possess different personality traits to men. And, in the session we identified typical feminine traits to include flexibility, expressiveness, and reasonableness.

But are these the traits that get women to the top? Particularly when women are not thought to be as competitive as men.

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Only recently it was revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams received significantly less than their male co-stars in the blockbuster movie American Hustle. Interestingly, Lawrence cites the reason for this discrepancy as not wanting to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’ during contract negotiations. Having learned her lesson the hard way, the A-List star went on to say that:

“This is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way? … Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?

“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! F— that.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”

All over the world, women are still fighting for the right to be seen as fully human. To go to school, to get the necessary health care, to be paid fairly for their work. To be listened to and believed when they talk about the realities of their lives. And, even here in the West, with all the power and protections of the Equality Act, women are still not deemed to have the traits necessary to succeed in business.

Of course, it’s a double-edged sword. Many women who have moved ahead in business, have done so by all but ditching their more feminine traits. But even then, they can’t win. A woman who adopts a more masculine approach may get to the top, but you can guarantee that she’ll be judged and disliked for it along the way. On the other hand, women who behave in a feminine way – the way people expect them to behave – may be liked, but they risk not being seen or respected as leaders.

And it’s not just a question of the way we act. In 2010, a female banker sued her employer after she was fired for being “too sexy”. Indeed she alleges that her male bosses told her that they couldn’t concentrate on their work because her clothes were too distracting. When she pointed out a number of female colleagues with clothing more revealing than hers, her bosses allegedly blamed her figure for drawing too much attention.

So what is the answer?

Well, according to a Stanford University study, women who display masculine traits ― but who know when to turn these characteristics off ― get more promotions than their female or male peers. However, what’s true, for both men and women is that it’s difficult to maintain a position of power while pretending to be someone you’re not. To be successful, leaders of both genders need to be authentic.

So, can women be themselves and still work towards positions of power? The truth is that a great leader will possess a broad range of traits that can be associated with both genders. It is the understanding of these traits that truly helps us succeed professionally and personally.

There is, no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a leader, but the more you know about your personality type, your values, motivations, competencies, skills, and emotional intelligence the better. Not only is this knowledge important to your own career success, but it is fundamental to managing and motivating others. And that’s what makes a leader great.

The date of the next event  ‘The Power of the Voice’ is Thursday 12th November 2015.

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“Pole! Pole” Fri, 23 Oct 2015 09:04:30 +0000 We’ve all heard Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare. The story in which a slow-moving tortoise eventually triumphs over his overly-confident challenger. In 2010 I encountered my own version of the tale while climbing the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro.

One of the most emotionally challenging and physically strenuous things I have ever done, I joined an intrepid team of explorers in a five-day climb through the Whiskey route, a tough path to the top with steep trails and stunning scenery.

The challenge was organised on behalf of Shap Ltd, a local charity for the homeless, and the CEO of Shap, myself, my daughter Molly, and a few of the disadvantaged kids the charity had helped, decided to conquer the dormant volcanic mountain to raise funds for the charity.

For me, one of the most memorable parts of the torturous experience was the skill and professionalism of the wonderful porters, without who we simply wouldn’t have made it.

Getting us up and down the mountain, safely and (relatively) comfortably, these exceptional men carried all our kit, set up our camp, and literally kept us alive. They even managed to carry a makeshift toilet!


I genuinely can’t praise the porters high enough for the hundreds of little things they did for us. The joy that was found in a bowl of warm water and a bar of soap at the end of a hard day’s climb cannot be overestimated, even if it didn’t make that much difference to the level of dirt on our face and hands! What’s more, their can-do attitude, sense of humour and ability to celebrate every success never failed, even in the face of our most disgruntled complaints. A truly humbling example to us all.


Of course, one of the most dangerous parts of the Mount Kilimanjaro experience is battling with altitude sickness. Combining fatigue, stomach illness, and dizziness, if you think of the worse hangover you have ever had, and double it, you’re getting close to how a lack of oxygen at such heights can affect you!

However, despite the desire to get up and down as quickly as possible, the porters regularly made it clear that we needed to go ‘pole, pole’ (slowly, slowly) if we didn’t want to feel ‘poorly, poorly’.

Indeed, sick, filthy, and looking not unlike a zombie from the Walking Dead, our valiant gang soon found out just how valuable this advice was, when, on the fifth day, after climbing through the night, we found ourselves at the bleak, snow-capped summit.

With the sunrise all around us, we thought we’d finally made it, only to discover that to get to the famous Uhuru Peak, a few more steps would be needed.

While, by this point “pole pole” was the only way we could move, it was those that heeded this advice early on that found that extra resolve needed to be successful. And, to help our more competitive team members who had zoomed ahead earlier – and simply had nothing left to give – to reach the top.


This, of course, could be a lesson for business and life in general.

Wouldn’t taking the time to slow down and acclimatise every now and again help us all get a clearer idea of where we need to go? And, in our rush to get ahead, do we actually risk falling short of where we need to be?

While a competitive approach to business isn’t in itself a bad thing, being so blinded by the idea of coming first could overpower your entire operation and jeopardise your overall success.

In today’s business world, with instantaneous communication and ever evolving technology, speed and efficiency are operational requirements and agility and an entrepreneurial spirit help to spark creativity and drive business growth. However, where quality and effectiveness are sacrificed at the expense of speed, perhaps a new approach is required?

And it’s not just in our business lives that it’s good to stop and evaluate how we are doing. Taking the time to recharge the batteries on a personal level helps us all to come back refreshed and ready to succeed. As the iconic Ferris Buller said: “Life moves pretty fast sometimes. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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The benefits of executive coaching Wed, 19 Aug 2015 09:09:35 +0000 How can executive coaching help your business?

Executive coaching can deliver significant benefits to your business. Benefits such as increased ROI, improved employee satisfaction and retention, and enhanced wellbeing.

But you don’t have to take our word for it.

In our free report, you will find compelling evidence from some of the world’s leading experts, as to the benefits of executive coaching. And, to demonstrate that their research works in practice, we’ve asked some of our clients to share their thoughts on the positive impact coaching has had on their organisations and their employees.

Download our free report to find out more about the advantages executive coaching can bring to you, and your business.


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Winning at all costs? Mon, 08 Jun 2015 09:40:37 +0000 It feels good to win. Winning delivers a sense of accomplishment. A desire to win can drive us to reach, and exceed our goals, and, in a competitive business environment, winning can be seen as a reward for all our hard work.

But what about winning at all costs? When winning becomes more important than the people around you?

Last year, I took part in a four-day fundraising trek climbing Mount Toubkal, part of the Atlas Mountains in North Morocco. It was an arduous but thoroughly enjoyable experience, which combined breath-taking sunrises and stunning scenery, with a freak hailstorm and torrential rain, in a journey that would have put Indiana Jones through his paces!

Making the hike with a group of 12 friends and clients, for me, one of the most interesting parts of the whole experience was how the different personalities in the team adapted to the challenge. How, for some team members, being ‘first’ was more important than helping those that had become injured.PIC NO 6 MOUNT TOUBKAL

Indeed, having slipped on the way down, fracturing three ribs, I completed my journey successfully due to a lot of painkillers and the help of my less competitive team members to get me off the mountain! With no complaint or hesitation, these wonderful people supported me as, what should have been a five-hour hike turned into a 10-hour endurance test.

Just as intriguingly, once back at the village for a celebratory meal, our group automatically segmented into those who had stayed, and those driven to finishing first. The experience left me questioning: do our different personality types and behaviours unintentionally lead to collaboration or division? And, how does this translate into the business environment?

It seems that the highest point of North Africa is not that different to offices across the UK when it comes to leadership and team dynamics.

So, what type of person are you. In such a situation, would you stay back and help others, or would you have to win? And, what does this say about you, your style of leadership and your team dynamics?

There are, of course, many different leadership styles and, what works for your business and industry might not be what works for another. What’s more, a competitive attitude can result in heightened performance, and, a degree of (healthy) competition improves the standard for all of us. However, what I learned during my Mount Toubkal experience, is that in many cases, the sole driver for such behaviour is the individual themselves. That even without external goals and pressures, some people simply have an intrinsic need to ‘win’.

The truth is, where winning is your only objective, problems will arise. And, in a drive to achieve what you perceive as success, you could actually cause damage to those around you.

Against such conflict, shared working can become extremely difficult. And, if you think people need to ‘toughen-up’ it’s worth realising that the ‘winning at all costs’ approach not only jeopardises relationships, but can also have a negative impact on business outcomes. Where people feel that in order for someone to win, they, or someone else must lose, this can lead to a defensive attitude, and an unwillingness to buy into or support new ideas and initiatives. Not exactly conducive to a successful business environment!

So I challenge you to ask yourself this: is losing the hearts and minds of your employees and colleagues really worth the win?

Perhaps even more difficult for the more competitive amongst us to accept, is that failing can actually be good for us. Sometimes, to be successful we need to be innovative and take (educated) risks. And sometimes these risks will fail. However by learning from our mistakes and identifying what went wrong, we can apply this insight to build stronger individuals and a stronger business.The Aftermath

Ultimately, winning in business matters, but how we do this matters more. As such, I’d encourage business leaders to adopt a more collaborative approach. One that considers the needs of others. Not only will this help those around you to feel more valued, but it will also lead to increased business success.

I’d call that a win-win.

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