Welcome to the FIE Podcast. We're really excited to present the first of our Student Global Leadership podcast series.
As many of you may already know, FIE hosts the Student Global Leadership Conference, or SGLC, every spring in conjunction with our Leadership London program with the goal of inspiring students and giving them the tools to become effective global leaders now and in their future endeavors.
This year the conference took a slightly different turn due to COVID-19 as we pivoted online, but as a result, we had our highest turnout ever. With the incredibly appropriate theme of “Leadership for Change in an Uncertain World” as guidance, this year’s speakers and keynotes had a lot of thoughts and insights, so we’re excited to make things even more accessible by continuing to share the conference highlights through this podcast.
We’re going to kick off this series the same way we kicked off the conference, with a keynote from Dr. Cath Bishop. Dr. Bishop is an Olympian, former diplomat, and business coach. Cath now works as a business consultant, leadership coach, and author, and teaches on Executive Education programs at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University and is a Visiting Professor at Surrey Business School.
If you’re as inspired as we are and want to dive even deeper into this way of thinking then be sure to pick up Cath’s first book ‘The Long Win: the search for a better way to succeed’, which just came out this past October. It can be found on Amazon, and we’ll link it in our show notes. If you still need more, Dr. Bishop has also done a successful Tedx Talk that we’ll link for you. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first of our leadership podcast series, and can’t wait to introduce you to another great speaker next time.
Hello everyone & welcome to the FIE Podcast. I’m Victor, the Academic Special Projects Officer at FIE and I’m really excited to present the first of our Student Global Leadership podcast series. As many of you may already know, FIE hosts the Student Global Leadership Conference, or SGLC, every spring in conjunction with our Leadership London program with the goal of inspiring students and giving them the tools to become effective global leaders now and in their future endeavours.
This year the conference took a slightly different turn due to covid-19 as we pivoted online, but as a result we had our highest turnout ever. With the incredibly appropriate theme of “Leadership for Change in an Uncertain World” as guidance, this year’s speakers and keynotes had a lot of thoughts and insights, so we’re excited to make things even more accessible by continuing to share the conference highlights through this podcast series. We’re going to kick off this the same way we kicked off the conference, with a keynote from Dr. Cath Bishop.
Dr Bishop is an Olympian, former diplomat and business coach. Cath now works as a business consultant, leadership coach and author, and teaches on Executive Education programmes at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University and is a Visiting Professor at Surrey Business School. So without further ado, here is Cath’s thought-provoking and inspiring keynote speech.
I have always been fascinated by one question, what is it that makes us successful or not? What are the key criteria for success? And what does success really look like? I've thought about these questions throughout my life throughout different careers. First of all, as a school girl growing up, of course, and then going to university and then my career as an International Olympic Rower, then as a diplomat, working in lots of different contexts on political negotiations work. And now in my work as a business consultant, supporting the development of leaders across organisations, teaching at business schools, and writing about this topic in my recent book called The long win. And I want to talk to you today about what the long win means to me what it might mean to you, and why we need to redefine success on our own terms, in order to support ourselves to perform to the highest level possible. When you look around, we see winning everywhere. It's in the films, it's in the marketing receipts in the advertising, it's on book covers, everything is sold to us as if perpetually we're in some game to be winners. But when you look around, you have to question Who are the people who are really successful than and what criteria Am I using? for that? I question the things that I always assumed were what success was about. As I've gone through each of my careers in sport, I thought, How can it be anything other than medals? That's so easy in sport, it's about who crosses the line first. But when I saw that people who crossed the line first often felt unfulfilled, sometimes even depressed, I thought, Wow, how can winning? How can that be a picture of success, it seems that winning isn't always working well, even for those who win, let alone others who are discarded, who finished lower down. I also realised that my own obsession and pursuit of medals wasn't helping me to win them, it wasn't helping me to get faster to improve my performance. So I started to think again, about what success in sport might look like. When I worked in a very different world, as a diplomat working for the British Foreign Office, involved in a lot of political negotiation situations. Again, I thought, Okay, this time, I need to rely on being really smart, really bright and clever, and draw my academic background. But actually, once you get inside a negotiating room, it's not who's the smartest, it's who's able to connect and influence and build relationships, and understand the mood of the room and explore what's possible, collaboratively with others, despite all sorts of hurdles, and challenges getting in the way. And in my work now, in organisations, helping teams to become high performing teams helping leaders to become better leaders. Again, people think there's a formula, people were expecting some kind of answer or magic bullet. Actually, I help in all of those situations, I help people to go on a journey of exploration of finding out for themselves and defining for themselves, what success looks like, and how they can start to build that with the people around them. When success becomes defined very narrowly, then it often holds us back from the very thing that we want to achieve. If it's defined in a way that's short term, it's about the next metric winning the next race getting the next exam, then that often limits us to invest in things that have a longer lasting value. If it's defined as just a moment in time getting a result winning a medal crossing the line first. And that moment isn't connected to something that lasts longer. Again, that tends to be an example of winning, where we don't feel very fulfilled afterwards. And if it's something that others impose on us something that others tell us we should be doing, then that, again, is often something that doesn't give us a sense of meaning of over the longer term. That's what the long one is starting to do. It's starting to help us to think about success in a much broader way. And over a longer time perspective. Some of the examples that I've seen in education, in sport in business and politics have shown me that the winning and the way we define success can actually hold us back. In education, we see pupils going off to the best exam results coming out with armfuls of a grades. And yet often, there's still so much still, that they need to learn to be a successful leader in a time where there's so much uncertainty. We need people who are resilient and creative and innovative. Then we need other things than just passing exams, and others who've been discarded along the way who haven't achieved in the narrow exam system that we set up. They can feel like failures when they have so much to offer. rethinking the purpose of education the why the how much we can get out of it for ourselves to drive Our own learning opens up a new world of continuous learning that doesn't stop at school. In the sports world, there are any number of athletes who now have told us that their issues, mental health struggles, or lack of fulfilment when they've won. The English rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson has talked a lot recently about his challenges his mental health challenges and how he thought that each time he won, it would make everything okay, so he went in search of the next cap, the next title or the next trophy, even winning the World Cup.
But in his own words, the joy never came. Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic champion cyclist, so that when she won in Beijing, it was an anti climax. And she didn't feel like celebrating Mark Spitz back in 1972, the legendary swimmer, who won seven gold medals never settled after that, because he was never able to accept that he would, that those medals didn't bring everlasting happiness, he struggled to create a life for himself. The list goes on and on. These aren't great examples of success, and yet they all won. This isn't a picture of success that I'd want to inspire other with others with. And I think sport can achieve so much more than just a moment of inspiration that inspiration can last longer if we connect it to the things that matter if we connect it to our communities, to the wider world, the wider society around us, then sport can really inspire us all to lead healthy, active lives. There are of course, other sides, when people will do all sorts of things in the pursuit of winning in sport. People like Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, in Tokyo are examples of when athletes have been willing to cheat to dope in order to win. And again, when they do that the cost is huge, not just the personal cost of them. But actually the much longer term reputational costs of their sport to the teams they're part of. And to the next generation, we lose the opportunity to inspire the next generation to want to push the boundaries further when we do it in that way. So we need to look at success, the good and the bad, in order to start to reshape what success looks like for us, and those around us in the future. If we look in the business world, we can see many examples. In a similar vein, we see burnt out leaders, we see people like the leaders of the banks in the financial crisis, who were always driving for more profit for more takeovers, and yet saw a global financial crisis happen. Fred Goodwin, the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, was always chasing the next deal, a bigger deal, another acquisition. And in the end, he presided over the largest largest corporate bailout by the government in history. That's not success. And yet he defined himself as someone who was a winner through and through. That's not what winning should mean, or should look like. And it's time for us to think about how it might look slightly different from that. In politics, we also see the narrow narrative of winning elections being better than the opposition. And yet the issues that we are faced with in the 21st century of climate change of immigration, of inequality, these are all issues that require us to work collaboratively. No one party has the answer to them all. No one scientist or no one genius can solve them all. We need to pool our ideas, and think about how we can solve them in a much more collaborative fashion.
This thinking for me started way back in my rowing career, I went to three Olympic Games and the early years of my experiences as an athlete, I was trying to work out what was required for me to win. around me, I saw people talking about who's got the will to win, and who are the people who are the winners through and through and, and the things that I observed and things that I was encouraged to do were to be really miserable if you lost because winners hate to lose. But all the time I was miserable and thrashing around if I lost a race, I was stopping myself from learning and looking at the answers that came from that last race that would help me to get faster next time. I was thinking about how I was wouldn't settle for anything other than winning how I would drive myself all the time. And I was told Don't be happy until you reach the top step of the podium. But if we're not happy along the way, then we are setting ourselves up for potentially a huge crash. Because there's no guarantee any of us will get to the top step whether it's in sport, or business or education. Winning depends on a lot of external factors outside of our control. in sport. It depends on our competitors on referees or umpires, whether the event is even happening or not in 2020 and 2021. What we need to think about is our best performance and how we keep developing that. And that's what helped me in the end in my third Olympic games where there was a shift in thinking came through sports psychology, sports psychology separate out concepts of performance, and results. Now we still want the results, we still want to win. Of course we do. There's nothing wrong with wanting to do our best and see how good we can be. But we need to pursue that within a much broader framework within which that pursuit of winning sets. And this psychology gets us to think about our own performance. To let go of the result, we want a really good one. But to maximise that, we have to think about what we can control, we have to think about our daily performance gains that we can make, and to think about performance in a really broad way. Now, if we think about what that end day might look like at the Olympics, it's a beautiful sunny day, we're in a Laker game faster than the rest of the world. How do I relate that to today, a bit of a cold, chilly day in the spring of 2021. But I'm not getting faster than the rest of the world. And nobody's watching, and I'm not on a nice sunny lake. And yet, I need to maximise success today, I want today to be a good day. So we started to find for ourselves what success meant on a daily basis, not dependent on results. It's about how we turn up. It's about our mindset, how we're thinking, how we're behaving, and the impact that has on ourselves and those around us. And it's about our relationships, the things that we can do to support others to develop and challenge each others as well. It's about how we sleep, how we recover how we eat. All of these are key to performance, now might be able to get away with not maximising those for a few days, it might not show my next race. But if I want to achieve my potential, and reach a peak performance, I need to invest in all of those things, not just the easily measurable things of both speed and how many weights I've lifted in the gym, but also all the things that affect my performance. So we start to take a bigger picture of success that includes the visible and invisible aspects of how we can improve our performance each day. It's about incremental gains, comparing myself to myself yesterday to today, and looking to explore and experiment and constantly see what can be done better. In elite sport, we don't try to be world class at winning, we try to be world class at improving, because that's what optimises our chances to win. It keeps us focused on the things we can control. It gives us some resilience, because we're always learning regardless of results, we might win a race, we might lose a race. But in either case, we need to find a way to go faster next time, I might be the rest of the world in one race. But I still need to find ways to go faster. In the next one I might come last. I still need to find ways to go faster. So we have a constancy here of resilience that is just I'm always learning. We don't go on a roller coaster of high when you run at a massive crash when you lose.
Do you know what we're just always learning what we can do better? And every race we think about, well, what went well? What do I need to improve? And what am I going to do differently. And we do that regardless of results as well. Because if I want to race, I've done lots of things well, but they'll still be things I can improve. And I need to think about one or two things I'm going to try and do differently. If I lost a race, I still did things well, I must capture those things, it'd be crazy to throw them away just because the result wasn't good, then there are other things that didn't work that I need to improve. And I need to think about what one or two things I might try to do differently next time. This regular reviewing and learning mindset is a key part of long wind thinking that enables us to overtime to optimise our results. But also make sure that each day is a day where we make progress. We're always learning something even in the most adverse of situations, even when there are lots of setbacks. We're still learning. So these are the things that started to emerge in my final Olympiad. When I was training as an Olympic Rower, I started to see things differently and to on a daily basis, make sure that I was making gains. Now when I came back to have a third, a third go and the Olympics hadn't come seventh and ninth, the psychologist asked me a question. And he said, What are the things that you're going to gain? If you don't win a medal? And I thought I couldn't you can't ask that. How can anyone think about not winning a medal? Does that mean I'm not serious if we asked that question, but he gave me permission to think about what else am I gaining from this experience. And there are a lot of things that I was gaining that would help me with whatever comes after my sporting career. I was gaining experience in managing pressure, understanding myself performing when it really mattered under huge pressure and working with others building teamwork and relationships, collaborating at a really intense level that would always be useful and whatever I went on to do afterwards. All of these things that he gave enabled me to give a value to meant that I started to put reshape them, I invested in them further, I develop them further. And they're all performance ingredients too. So they all helped me to improve my performance. This isn't about choosing one or the other winning or not, it's about winning in a different way. That means we don't just optimise a result, we also optimise all the other things that come with a result. And that lasts beyond the result. When athletes stand on the top of a podium, and feel depressed, that moment, in time crossing a line has become disconnected with the rest of their lives, we need to help them to connect those moments with what comes before and after saving all of our lives, whether it's exams, promotions, bonuses, all of these different marker points that are milestones in themselves, they're fine. But we need to think about what lasts beyond those moments, because that's where success and a much more sustainable, enjoyable, fulfilling way exists. This last period of my last few years as an Olympic Rower really helped me to start to think differently. I started to focus and invest, and my mindset, my behaviours, my relationships, and the whole experience changed for me, it matters, the experience we have on the way to achieving the things we're driving for. There's no point winning them, if we've made no decent relationships along the way and destroyed them. That in itself will detract from the result that we get. It's the same in so many different aspects. So the first part of lat long and thinking is to start clarifying what matters. The long wind consists of clarity, constant learning, and connection. I'm going to talk a little bit about each of those clarifying what matters over in a broader set of criteria, not just short term metrics, not just externally measured things, but things that are of value to each of us. Things that have lasting value, that sense of purpose, and their sense of things that matter to each of us. One of the first questions I like to ask in order to help us clarify what matters is to think about what is it that gets you up in the morning?
What are the things you look forward to in the day? What are the things that energise you, about the day ahead of you, not just the alarm clock gets you up in the morning, and, and maybe the need for a drink of coffee? What are those internal drivers, those things that make the day meaningful. If you could connect with those, then you will create much more energies, those happen in the day and you'll seek opportunities for those to happen more, they in themselves start to form a daily success metric for you that goes beyond just a task list. All too often I see people driven by a list of tasks to do. There's no end to that task list. It's never done. What matters is often the quality of how we've gone about some of the things they're not just ticking them off, but thinking about stuff that energises you in the morning. Often it's around, connecting with others doing something new learning something new, challenging, contributing to something that matters. These are the things we need to review. At the end of the day, have I had a successful day, not just how many things that I do, how many emails that I answer? Who did I connect with and build a deeper relationship with today? And in an interaction that I had? What are the things that I've learned from today that I take forward with me? Well, how did I try something new today in order to grow and explore a little bit more of what I'm capable of? clarifying what matters starts with ourselves, understanding those drivers, those values, our identity beyond any single job, or activity that we do to develop that as we go? Once we understand more about ourselves, we can start to clarify what we want to contribute to around ourselves. What's that purpose? What's the difference we want to make? What's the change that we want to see? And how can we contribute to that? That's a really key part of giving ourselves some deeper motivation around purpose, not motivation. That's just about external things. extrinsic motivation is quite active, quite a shallow level, just chasing exam grades, just chasing, you know, external markers, winning a race. They're lovely things, they're helpful things, but in themselves, they don't have a lot of meaning unless they are part of something bigger, that we want to contribute to start to define purpose. We don't always have 100% clarity on that. That's fine. But we should always be clarifying what are the things that are really important to me this week? What are the things that I want to spend my time and that helps us to prioritise in a world where we can be busy doing so many different things. Let's make sure we're doing things, spending our time on things that have most meaning for us. It's clarifying what's brought meaning into our lives to now and what will give meaning to what we do in the future. I always like people to think about clarifying the experience they want to have in what they're doing and experience that they want. To create for those around you, again, it's not just you want to win a medal or not in sport, what's the experience you want to have on the way to trying to win that medal? And what's the experience you want to create for others who are part of this journey with you, in trying to win that medal, then we start to build something that takes account of the human experience along the way, because that's what we carry afterwards. I've won a few medals, I don't carry those around. But I do carry the experience of what I went through along the way. That's what I carry every day that that feels me. And that feel feeds part of how I react and respond to things. So the first see if the long when is clarity. The second C is constant learning, and that's already come up. It's a part of the clarifying process to be constantly learning, how can we improve? How can we explore each day? How can we act in a way and think in a way that means we're open to new ideas? Do we bring a growth mindset to what we do? Are we looking and seeking out feedback? And are we reflecting and reviewing on a regular basis about how we can improve, try something new, learn from people around us, and be open to new ideas. It's so important in this complex, uncertain world that we face, that we are new, that we are open to new ideas and able to keep learning as we go. It's the only way none of us have all the answers doesn't matter how senior we are, or inexperienced we are answers and ideas can come from any part of the organisation any part of the schools that are in any part of the universities that we're in. So we need to be open to spotting those in hearing voices, particularly those that don't chime with us make sure we are listening to different perspectives to the to the way we see the world. Often this is called a mastery mindset. It's that sense that we are just all the time looking to improve, to learn to grow. And there is no end point here. We're not just trying to prove that we're the best at something we're not just trying to be number one, we're just accepting that there's always more we can learn. It's always more that we can grow and know in a different way. And as well as knowledge learning, there's a lot we can learn in how we are and how we think and mindset, our attitudes, our beliefs, our behaviours and the impact they have on those around us our habits and rituals and routines, and the relationships and how important they are to be learning about how we can create more meaningful relationships connect with others on a level that will last beyond what the immediate transaction might be that we want to get. And that takes us on to this third theme of connection. In the long wind connection is everything we cannot succeed on our own. There's almost nothing in the world where we could describe success as being achievable, just by being isolated on our own. So let's put people let's put connections at the front of what we do. Let's make sure it's part of how we prioritise the way we spend our time how we invest each day in others, and learning from them supporting and challenging. Resilience is a team sport is a great quote I read recently over the last year, the pandemic has shown us how challenging it can be if we are cut off from others. Connection is vital. We need to find ways to reach out and connect with others. When I was working as a diplomat, this was the set at the heart of what we did. diplomacy is all about building partnerships, relationships, connections, alliances with others, often across all sorts of barriers. We would always need to get inside that negotiating room and build connections connect with people across political, linguistic, historic, cultural, all sorts of barriers. Before I went on my first posting to the beautiful capital city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I had a meeting with a very wise and eminent ambassador. I thought that he might give me some insights into history and geopolitics. But he talked about the importance of connecting with other people. He said, you will have all sorts of people that you will have the opportunity to get to know who will give you the best insights into this beautiful country, its people and its culture, its politics and its history. You want to be ready and open to learn from them. It doesn't matter how important they might seem in society, they can all give you really valuable insights. And he gave me three tips for how to connect with people. So the first thing is find out who they are beyond the job title. It doesn't matter if they're a prime minister, or a senior diplomat, an ambassador or a taxi driver. They will all have incredible expertise and experience and backgrounds that you want to learn from. So the first thing is find out who they are beyond the job title so often in organisations today We have these generic titles of chief executive and CFO and account manager. All of these things that find out who people are beyond behind their titles. There's something that I've always taken with me as great advice. And his second tip, in order to do that, listen more than we speak. Listening is our most powerful tool of connecting with others, of making sense of the world around us and of learning. Listen, listen again, listen again, listen for what's said, and what's not said. The first thing that people say will always be on the surface level. So stay listening, the longer you genuinely listen to them, the deeper they will go, the more they will share with you, the more value they will give you, and the deeper the trust can start to be built. So find out who people are beyond the job title, listen more than you speak, and then build on what you have in common. Find what you have in common and keep building on it. And he said, sometimes it will be really difficult. And it'll be so obvious what you don't have in common. But his advice was stay focused on the things that you do, because those are the areas where you can start to create something new, where together, you can start to co create something that has never existed before bringing two different perspectives to a particular issue or problem or challenge. That's where you start to create something of new and lasting value. those principles absolutely stood by me for every challenging political negotiation that I experienced, they're still really important for anyone that I come across, and whatever personal or professional work that I'm doing. Connecting is so important for all of us. It's what gives meaning to a lot of the things that we're doing in life. So let's put those first again, let's not let that tasklist dominate our investment in people and in relationships and connections. Let's make sure that our picture of success places people at the heart of it. The long win offers us a way to define success, to last on our own terms in a way that relates to all of the things within our control, to draw on developing our mindset, behaviours, relationships, and as we go to be constantly clarifying what matters, learning at every opportunity every day, and building connections with others so that we can all explore together at potential. I wish you all the best of luck in finding out defining clarifying your long win and pursuing it with all those around you. Thank you very much.
Wow, what a great message and a great way to get people thinking about leadership. Thank you so much Dr. Bishop. If you’re as inspired as I am and want to dive even deeper into this way of thinking then be sure to pick up Cath’s first book ‘The Long Win: the search for a better way to succeed’. It can be found on Amazon, and we’ll link it in our show notes. If you still need more, Dr. Bishop has also done a successful Tedx Talk that we’ll link for you as well. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first of our leadership podcast series, and can’t wait to introduce you to another great speaker next time.