Going from setback to comeback with Sara Tate

What do some of the world’s most famous artists and creators do to be at their best?

What can we learn from the way trees grow? And what does it have to do with stepping out of your comfort zone?

What does it mean to be led by the questions?

This is such a fantastic conversation – bursting with energy!

Today I chat with my old friend Sara Tate. She and her co-author Anna Vogt are launching their fantastic book The Rebuilders in June. And it’s all about going from setback to come back in business and beyond.

I know Sara from my BBH days (and before that as well I think). She’s an Organisational and Brand Strategist and formerly the CEO of the agency TBWA London. She was voted Best Leader in Marketing by Women in Marketing Awards and won Campaign’s Female Frontier Award. She’s an accredited Executive Coach and she co-hosts The Rebuilders podcast.

We talk about the definition of failure. The beginners mind. And the power of space.

Sara talks through the tools and life skills that she and Anna have developed over the years. We talk about setbacks. And what Sara has learned from the process of writing the book and where she is now.

There are some incredible learning here.

So grab your favourite beverage. Or throw on those running shoes and here is an inspiring chat with Sara.

Please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

To check out The Rebuilders and ideally get yourself a copy check click here: https://tinyurl.com/2p9desyj

To check out The Rebuilders podcast click here: https://tinyurl.com/54bthj95

And you can find Sara Tate here on Twitter https://twitter.com/saraktate and here on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/saraktate/

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:00:58:02
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed. For anyone that has followed TIE for any length of time, you’ll know that we are all about taking people from can to do. We create the space for people to find their unique power to make meaningful change. And we do this by disrupting comfort zones, helping people discover what they are capable of doing, and specifically the nature of their unique power.

00:00:58:21 – 00:01:26:14
Philippa White
So you can imagine how excited I was to talk to my old friend Sarah Tate today. Sarah and her coauthor, Anna Voight, are launching their fantastic book, The Re Builders, in June. And it’s all about going from setback to comeback in business and beyond. This chat was bursting with energy. Talk about a connection of minds. Now I know Sarah from my BBH days and I think before that as well.

00:01:27:00 – 00:02:00:03
Philippa White
And she’s an organizational and brand strategist, formerly the CEO of the agency, TBWA London. She was voted best leader in marketing by the Women in Marketing Awards, and she won campaign’s female frontier Award. She’s an accredited executive coach, and she co-hosts Three Builders podcast. And we cover off a lot on this conversation. Comfort Zones, Failure tools to create more human centered organizations and everything in between.

00:02:00:18 – 00:02:16:14
Philippa White
Sarah has a wicked sense of humor, so I promise you’ll be smiling all the way through. So throw on those running shoes or grab a cup of tea and hear Sarah. Sarah, it is so great to have you with us today. Thank you so much for joining us.

00:02:17:07 – 00:02:20:05
Sara Tate
Oh, it’s such a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for having me on.

00:02:20:10 – 00:02:35:10
Philippa White
I know. I’ve just it’s so great when you rekindle friendships. We’ve known each other from so long ago. And with your book coming out and seeing this movement on LinkedIn. It’s just so great to rekindle our conversation. So, yeah, I’m thrilled to have you.

00:02:36:04 – 00:02:44:02
Sara Tate
It is so nice to be able to do on opposite sides of the world as well. Like go to Brazil and I won’t be able to see you face to face. This is so nice having a chat, basically.

00:02:44:03 – 00:02:48:01
Philippa White
I know. Absolutely. So to that point, where are you? Tell us where you’re sitting right now.

00:02:48:13 – 00:03:03:01
Sara Tate
So I’m sitting in my quaint sunny kitchen in London. It’s quite a nice day and I’m keeping an eye out because we have seven foxes, fox cubs living under our shed. They come out during the day and kind of run around. So I sort of keep my eyes on in case I can catch them. I’m in North London.

00:03:03:09 – 00:03:08:02
Philippa White
That’s very London, isn’t it, with the foxes. I’m sure the kids love having little cubs.

00:03:08:08 – 00:03:14:19
Sara Tate
They do. I mean, they’ve probably all got mange and vermin, the foxes, all the kids. But they really look cute sometimes.

00:03:15:05 – 00:03:35:16
Philippa White
So, Sarah, we’ve got a lot to cover up today. I am so excited for this conversation for so many reasons because I read your book. There are so many overlaps with Ty and I just I feel like this could be a long conversation and we need to keep it to 40 minutes, which is going to be hard. But before we get into all of that stuff, perhaps you can just tell us about you and yeah, why you wrote the rebuild.

00:03:36:02 – 00:04:04:09
Sara Tate
So I am a dyslexic English student who ended up in advertising somehow, and I worked as a strategist in advertising for a long time, which was really about understanding people and what makes people tick and what motivates them. And then eventually I moved into running the running of agencies and that made me explore what makes people tick in the work place, you know, in a work context.

00:04:04:10 – 00:04:28:17
Sara Tate
The book came about for two reasons really. One was that I was at the time working at an agency called TBWA in London, and I’d gone in as part of a turnaround team in 2017. And it had been it was still is a wonderful brand, but the London business had been in a slightly trickier period of time for a few years.

00:04:28:17 – 00:04:48:07
Sara Tate
And so we’d gone into breathing life back into it and financially turned it around and we’d had a couple of really good years. I had two partners, Ana, who I wrote the book Korea and Andy Jacks as my credit partner. And we were living, I guess, the notion of taking something and kind of bringing it back to its past.

00:04:48:08 – 00:05:09:03
Sara Tate
So rather than going off and doing a shiny start up, we thought about it like a startup, but it was something that was established and and then at the same time, what happened was we’re chugging along. It got to 29 saying it was all great without a good couple of years. And then March 2020 happened and we were in a global pandemic.

00:05:09:13 – 00:05:31:15
Sara Tate
And we realized after a couple of years of kind of it being on the off and riding high, suddenly, like everyone else, we were trying to run a business blind to what was happening and what was coming down the line, etc.. And I’m really pleased to say that at the end of 21, middle of 22, with the business is still in a very great place.

00:05:32:03 – 00:05:56:19
Sara Tate
But at the time we were, you know, very much sort of struggling and Anna and I also started a podcast for reasons that we now look back on and feel that what on earth were we doing? But we were just interested in the notion of problem solving. And we both had two kids each who are like under five and their husbands are working.

00:05:56:19 – 00:06:16:06
Sara Tate
We were homeschooling and, you know, disinfecting our lessons in the bath and doing all those other things that people were doing and slowly going slightly mad. And we just decided to start a podcast which tells you how bad it was that starting the podcast we thought would keep us saner than what was happening at the time. And so we thought we would.

00:06:16:07 – 00:06:47:02
Sara Tate
We wanted to explore stories of turning things around, like putting things back on track, and that is essentially how the rebuild is started. That’s where it came from. And it was partly because of what we were going through at work. But also we’ve become quite interested in the things, the tools and experiences that we drew on to go to rebuild the agency and then to kind of keep it on the rails for another two years were not there was some professional tools, but mainly they were lives, skills.

00:06:47:02 – 00:07:09:07
Sara Tate
You know, there were things that we learned just our own resourcefulness or not, as the case might be, that that we’ve learned through all types of things and break ups and having babies and things like that. And we became interested in the fact that these two things are quite combined. And so we started interviewing people who weren’t business people, partly because it would get boring interview like business turnarounds.

00:07:09:07 – 00:07:29:04
Sara Tate
We just interviewed people who’d overcome something in their life to rebuild and aspects of their life or work. And we talked to Lucy Walker, who had overcome alcoholism and started this amazing community called the Sober Easters. So we talked to Chris Watkins is a film director who had gone to prison for an A because of the tax avoidance scheme.

00:07:29:16 – 00:07:50:16
Sara Tate
So he thought it was a legitimate scheme and it turned out to be illegal and he went to jail and these amazing stories, which made us feel, I don’t know, gave us a bit of succor, I guess, going through this sort of weird time. And then we just got more and more down the rabbit hole of, you know, what’s going on, like what are the skills that people are drawing on and are there any learnings that come out of that?

00:07:51:01 – 00:07:59:05
Sara Tate
And, you know, as good strategists, we kept going and kept going and interviewing more and more people. And then in the end, we had a book that’s extraordinary.

00:07:59:05 – 00:08:02:19
Philippa White
So that podcast came before the book?

00:08:02:23 – 00:08:11:20
Sara Tate
Yes, it did. I did, which is starting. Yeah. The first series of the podcast came out Mid-Pandemic. We started recording, I think, in April.

00:08:11:20 – 00:08:18:03
Philippa White
That’s so interesting. It’s such a smart thing to do because like you say, there’s so many learnings. How did you find the people?

00:08:18:04 – 00:08:37:19
Sara Tate
We just we often looked in magazines and magazines. We see like an amazing story of someone who that’s how we found Chris Watkins. Has you’ve been to jail and then come out and he’d written a book about it and you’d often get these great human interest stories. We would just contact people and say we’d love, you know, we wouldn’t just be like, We’re just two girls and all that sort of thing.

00:08:37:19 – 00:08:53:00
Sara Tate
A podcast. We’d say, Hello, it’s you professional over taking a podcast. Would you like to come on? And lots of them did. And that was how it started. And then it sort of built momentum. And then once we got the book deal, we were then able to go and interview lots and lots more, more people for that.

00:08:53:02 – 00:09:17:19
Philippa White
Well, the book is phenomenal. I was very lucky to get a preview. It’s called The Builders, as you know, as I mentioned and as you’ve mentioned, you know, while reading the book found so many overlaps with Ty and we’re all about taking people from can to do right. So we do this by giving people the space to realize their potential, and we do this by disrupting people’s comfort zones.

00:09:19:05 – 00:09:36:17
Philippa White
Now, you talk about the more we encounter setbacks, the better we get at encountering them. And that discomfort isn’t just a stimulus for growth, but also for strength. And you give a view to, for example, in the book about the tree.

00:09:36:22 – 00:10:01:20
Sara Tate
Yeah. So the tree example, this is a story that my publisher publisher put us onto and we were like, Oh, that’s great. So there was a Biosphere Protocol Biosphere two in the US. If you don’t know about it, just go and look it up as the whole project is insane. And there’s all these dramatic political infighting stories around this, like a community that went to try and live in a bi fed Geo Dome and grow everything themselves.

00:10:01:20 – 00:10:18:24
Sara Tate
So that’s a whole nother side. They were also interested to see if they could create this sort of climate, this closed climate. And they were really excited to find out that the trees that they grew in there grew much higher, grew much taller, much quicker than trees outside the Biosphere Dome because they were like, Great, it’s going to be brilliant for crop growing.

00:10:19:07 – 00:10:49:24
Sara Tate
I think if I go to live on Mars, I think they were just experimenting to see if you could create a sort of closed system. But they were less thrilled to find out that once they before they reached maturation, they fell over like they just couldn’t. They never reach the full height. And when they examined the roots and what remained of the tree, what they realized is because they didn’t have any external forces, any wind, anything buffeting them, they grew really, really tall, but they didn’t develop this thing called stress wood, which is a key component for strong growth.

00:10:49:24 – 00:11:07:03
Sara Tate
And so without that stress wood, they just couldn’t support themselves in the long term. Human beings are little bit like that in the sense that if we remain permanently in our comfort zone, we do lose touch a bit with how we manage when we when we go outside. I talked to quite a few therapists and medical professionals in the book.

00:11:07:03 – 00:11:28:21
Sara Tate
And actually, I’m not this is not a book for people who have anxiety necessarily. I don’t have a prescription for that, but they do talk about that for people with mild anxiety. One thing the therapists often encourage them to do is take small steps into their stretch side to try small discomforts, to get used to that feeling and to build their confidence bit by bit.

00:11:28:21 – 00:11:47:04
Sara Tate
And for those they know, for people who don’t have anxiety, I think the same is true. The other reason we wrote the book is trials and tribulations like setbacks are unavoidable. Like it doesn’t matter how rich you are and how lucky you think you are, it comes to everyone you know. There will always be stuff that goes wrong, that doesn’t go right.

00:11:47:04 – 00:12:09:20
Sara Tate
It sets you back. And learning to overcome those things from a really young age allows you to do more and more and avoiding them or suppressing it in some way. You don’t develop stressed words that you need to be able to to kind of overcome things or setbacks are a component of strong growth in a way, just the same way as stress.

00:12:09:21 – 00:12:11:04
Sara Tate
What is for the trees?

00:12:11:04 – 00:12:35:08
Philippa White
Yeah, I love that. It’s interesting for our listeners, both Sarah and I worked at BBH and Jim Carroll is one of our mentors and I just had a podcast with him as well, and we were reflecting on Tai and why Tai is so important. And he said, We’re all going to be challenged, everyone’s going to be challenged. And in our jobs, we’re so used to driving a train along a track, but we have to learn how to lay railway.

00:12:35:08 – 00:12:59:18
Philippa White
And that’s hard. And like when problems come up, you know, we’re all going to be challenged. We’re all going to have to sort of change tack in some way, whatever that is. But it’s hard to do that if you haven’t had that practice and you need to learn how to lay railway. And that’s what Tai does, is we provide people with that space to kind of grow into it, to challenge themselves, to test themselves, to step out of that hierarchy, to then be able to leave railway.

00:12:59:18 – 00:13:00:09
Philippa White
And I thought, yeah.

00:13:00:13 – 00:13:00:22
Sara Tate
So.

00:13:00:23 – 00:13:04:06
Philippa White
The laying railway example I thought was such a nice way of looking at there.

00:13:04:06 – 00:13:32:01
Sara Tate
Was a term coined in, I think the late seventies to talk about the global economic situation, which is a term about a climate. Yes, based on sound, volatile, uncertain and complex and ambiguous, which literally makes me come out in hives. And so all the things that you don’t want, but it’s used, you will hear that term more and more because although it was designed 30 years ago to talk about a particular thing, we live in an almost constant food climate.

00:13:32:13 – 00:14:04:11
Sara Tate
So economically, globally with climate change, but also in our own lives, things change. So much, so rapidly at a pace that it didn’t previously, and therefore learning to somehow be, if not okay, then manage through ambiguity and uncertainty. And volatility is a is a real strength. It’s a real set of tools to have in your toolkit. So that’s you’re laying the railway tracks for me and, you know, through this, but we never kind of our ambition.

00:14:04:11 – 00:14:19:04
Sara Tate
And it isn’t to say, hey, don’t worry, Africa has got a silver lining. You know, out of out of every failure comes something good, because you know what it doesn’t like. We talk to people in this book who have you know, we talk to undertakers and funeral directors and a lot of loss and grief and life is very, very sad.

00:14:19:05 – 00:14:38:10
Sara Tate
But there’s not a silver lining to the ambition of the book is to go to get through that box, to learn how to recover from them is a brilliant set of skills to develop. Because when they come at you and they well, every time they come, you’re a little bit closer to thinking, you know, I’ve got this. Yeah.

00:14:38:14 – 00:14:57:15
Philippa White
And what’s great for our listeners, the book is full of tools. Every chapter you read it and that’s really interesting. And then they give you a tool. But like you can try this at home, it’s really good. Now one of our mentors as well, we have another mentor. We have many actually, but is Sir John Hegarty also BBH.

00:14:57:15 – 00:15:16:05
Philippa White
And he talks about doing interesting things and interesting things will happen to you. It’s almost our North Star because there’s a lot of things that we talk about, you know, be constantly curious to be constantly inspired, push through boundaries, to unlock potential. I mean, expand your personal circle. So there’s a few sort of things to kind of hang your head on throughout the TIE experience.

00:15:16:05 – 00:15:33:07
Philippa White
But under this umbrella, John hangs a few things. And one of them, as I mentioned, is because we are curious to be constantly inspired. And in the book you say curiosity will get you further and knowledge. And I just wonder, can you explain this more? Because I think it’s beautiful.

00:15:33:07 – 00:15:56:18
Sara Tate
Yeah. So this insight or it occurred to us, I’m not saying anything that’s never been taught by anyone before, but it occurred to us when the first person we ever interviewed was a guy called Jason themselves, who used to work. BBH actually then went on to relaunch the Face magazine and we interviewed him and he was so chipper.

00:15:56:18 – 00:16:14:07
Sara Tate
I mean, you know, we were sort of falling and falling to bits and he was working. His wife was working. They have two small children. He was running the face magazine. I mean, not a great time to be running a publication predicated on cultural events and cultural happenings when there’s a pandemic going on like nothing was the cure.

00:16:14:22 – 00:16:35:04
Sara Tate
And yeah, he was sort of, I don’t know, he seemed fine and we would really try to understand why he was so fine. And he talks about he said it was saying, I love uncertainty and my attitude is not to be led by the answers, but to be led by the questions. And I actually get quite excited about not having a plan and having some good questions.

00:16:35:04 – 00:16:51:13
Sara Tate
And I was like, I mean, that sounds amazing. I’d love to be that person where we don’t get into it more. Actually, it was it was something that he had an outlook he acquired through his life, you know, through big things happening to him. Like he got he got married. He got divorced quite early on and he’s gone on to be remarried.

00:16:51:13 – 00:17:11:14
Sara Tate
So he’d sort of been through enough, I think, in life that he’d got to the stage where he was like, I can be okay with uncertainty and also not only be okay with it, but see that maybe I could get some energy from it. Yeah. So we started exploring LA in general. No one likes uncertainty, like our brains are just not wired for it.

00:17:11:14 – 00:17:35:02
Sara Tate
And there’s lots of reasons we go into in the book neurological reasons, but then there is a group of people who actually quite like uncertainty and seek it out with that sense of curiosity. And that’s artists. And you often find, if you look at quotes from authors with David Bowie is a classic one. The Hole of Alice in Wonderland is basically just about getting lost and not knowing what’s happening and going through the rabbit hole.

00:17:35:10 – 00:18:05:23
Sara Tate
A sort of quote that really crystallized it from the the amazing honesty space in Perry, where he was saying, I think I’m addicted to periods of doubt and low confidence, because if you see everything, if you’re sure that everything you’re going to do is going to be good, I’m like, what’s the point is, is that a see it as a sign of I’m teetering on the edge of something new and we suddenly realized that what those artists were doing was deliberately getting themselves into states of not knowing in order to be curious about what would arise.

00:18:06:07 – 00:18:15:20
Sara Tate
I was like, Wow, that’s amazing. I know. And like, I definitely I know I’m not that yet. Right? Although I do like to think what was overvalue do I mean. Well, I.

00:18:16:04 – 00:18:25:23
Philippa White
Know that about David Bowie like reading that in the book. Yeah. No, that that’s what he made. David Bowie fans would of course, be like, Are you crazy? Of course that was this whole thing. Okay. You know, I didn’t know that, but.

00:18:25:23 – 00:18:52:15
Sara Tate
Yeah, it sort of makes sense. And so that’s where the curiosity comes from, this idea that in a period of not knowing if you can be curious, you can allow something to emerge, allow something new to emerge, allow something unexpected to emerge, allow something, dare I say, better to emerge from the kind of ashes of whatever pile of steaming who you might be trying to emerge from yourself.

00:18:53:07 – 00:19:11:01
Sara Tate
And that mind’s of curiosity again, that the Buddhist have a term for it. They call it beginner’s mind. The best of us have all the good stuff already because they figured it out where they sort of say in the experts mind options a few, but in the beginner’s mind there are many, you know, like I’m for it. That’s not exactly exactly right.

00:19:11:01 – 00:19:32:13
Sara Tate
But the idea of expertize and knowing closes things down. A curiosity is like children. Curiosity opens things up again. So trying when you feel uncertain to be curious and when you feel fearful to try a little bit to be curious and it’s difficult and to try and leave expectations behind and see what else can come out.

00:19:32:13 – 00:19:58:08
Philippa White
Yeah, you know, again, another podcast that I had with a friend of mine who’s the head of Impact and Community at Patagonia, and I was talking to her about what makes a human centric organization in your mind. And she said, Honestly, it’s asking questions. It’s not it’s asking questions. It’s understanding not only people at your company and understanding, asking questions, but it’s also asking questions of people in the communities that you’re working.

00:19:58:08 – 00:20:25:14
Philippa White
It’s understanding and it’s so interesting because with so many of our type projects as well, what comes out is the power of active listening and the power of asking questions and really listening to the answers. And then that’s when you start to unlock and open a world of opportunity, because actually it’s very easy. The more expert you become, the more siloed you become, the more entrenched in your beliefs that you don’t have any doubt.

00:20:25:14 – 00:20:43:02
Philippa White
And you sort of think that you know everything. But actually, if you have that doubt and you open yourself up and you start to ask questions and get out of the way a little bit and see if there are people who have answers. That’s actually when so many other solutions start to rise. And I think that’s where changes start to happen.

00:20:43:09 – 00:20:51:01
Sara Tate
It’s a really great solution space to create that space for new things to arise. It’s also a massive stress reliever on oneself.

00:20:51:05 – 00:20:52:03
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:20:52:03 – 00:21:07:21
Sara Tate
To be able to get into a position where you can say, I don’t know, actually, I don’t know the answer yet. And you know, we’ve all worked for people, very senior people, some of whom give off the I know everything vibe and that tends to make them and not everyone feel good and that people can give a fit.

00:21:07:22 – 00:21:36:14
Sara Tate
It’s okay, let’s figure this out. Five And you know, you can instinctively know which you’d be more comfortable with. I’m a big advocate of coaching. Yeah. And I train to be a coach last year and coaching is all about good, you know, good questioning. And I started doing it when I was working at TBWA and people would bring me things and, you know, every day I was confronted with 10,000 things I didn’t know, particularly during the pandemic, like we were, where people would bring me stuff.

00:21:36:14 – 00:21:51:03
Sara Tate
We were still in the office, they’d get me in the corner, they’d have a look in their eye, and they’d approach me and they’d go, How’s it is this thing? And I would post these up. You know, my first year or so I’m going to seize up and think I don’t know the solution to this this specific production problem.

00:21:51:15 – 00:22:11:11
Sara Tate
And, and over time, I work with the coach and I would just breathe and I just go, okay, tell me what you think. Yeah. So I think yeah. And so they didn’t feel like, oh, Sarah’s got all the answers and she’s going to judge me badly. But also a truth was I didn’t know. And it’s much better to just work with them to get to a solution.

00:22:11:19 – 00:22:24:06
Sara Tate
And it gives space for someone to be resourceful. Yeah. And to go, okay, let’s, I don’t know, let’s take this seriously. Yeah. So if you can, you know, also relieves a huge pressure from oneself to be that expert. Yeah, really.

00:22:24:06 – 00:22:31:02
Philippa White
Interesting. Now, something else that I got super excited about in your book, there are certain parts of the book like, Oh really?

00:22:31:23 – 00:22:39:23
Sara Tate
I love your excitement because I’m literally the only person who’s read it. Because you’re the only person I think for you, coffee?

00:22:39:23 – 00:22:59:09
Philippa White
Well, I’m sure everyone else is going to have the same the same response was that actually you said, I didn’t think I need to get the book because I’d like to actually it’s a great reference material I need to. It’s coming out in June. So yeah, I get it in June. But you talk about, you know, about how people move from setback to comeback, which is obviously what your book’s actually all about.

00:22:59:14 – 00:23:20:00
Philippa White
You talk about the importance of framing not only success, but also attitudes to failure. And that to me is a is a kicker. You know, over the years, it’s interesting. I had an intro session recently with one of, you know, a big bank. And I had, you know, a whole lot of people from the company wanting to understand more about the experience and getting involved.

00:23:20:13 – 00:23:38:06
Philippa White
And the head of risk asked What happens if a project fails? And I get that quite a bit, actually. A lot of people say, you know, oh my gosh, you know, you put people from the private sector with organizations in other parts of the world. I mean, that’s you’re setting yourself up for failure. You know, like what happens if this fails?

00:23:38:06 – 00:23:57:14
Philippa White
And I love that question because I always then respond by saying, but what is failure? You know, it is an interesting question to ask because when I then say, you know, we’ve we haven’t had a project that’s failed and no one really believes me, then I say, okay, has anyone run away from the experience? No. Is anyone you know, has everyone learned from the experience?

00:23:57:14 – 00:24:04:23
Philippa White
Yes. Has it been hard and many times involved tears? Yes. Has the result been different from the expectations?

00:24:05:12 – 00:24:07:11
Sara Tate
Yes.

00:24:07:11 – 00:24:27:06
Philippa White
Yeah. Right. Yeah. Has everyone benefited totally from just going through all those movements? 100%. Right. And so I feel like if you’re willing to do things differently and you’re willing to kind of keep your mind open, then the result is not going to be a failure. As long as everybody involved feels listened to as everyone. Everyone feels like they’ve been part of that solution.

00:24:27:06 – 00:24:39:18
Philippa White
For me, that’s all that matters. And so you talk about role modeling failures and the importance of making that more commonplace. And yes, I just wonder, you know, what does that look like and how can you bring that to life?

00:24:39:24 – 00:25:02:03
Sara Tate
Yeah, that the funny thing is, me and I, we discuss it all the time because some people try and turn the book into neat summarizes like learnings from failure. We’re like, well, first of all, there aren’t always learnings or we don’t want people to feel they need to like there’s nothing worse than going through something really bad and having the added pressure of going, What’s the learning opportunity?

00:25:02:07 – 00:25:14:07
Sara Tate
What’s the learning opportunity? What am I going to take out that sometimes you just need to like be like, Oh God, that if all started and then years later it’s like, you know, there’s a there’s a saying comedy is tragedy plus time.

00:25:14:07 – 00:25:15:02
Philippa White
Yeah, I love that.

00:25:15:02 – 00:25:32:07
Sara Tate
Like at the time, you know, no one can tell you this is great. But, you know, 20 years later, the story of me getting killed on by a bird in my first ever client meeting. In the meeting. That’s a whole other story now. It’s like a great comedy gold story. Yeah. So we talk about role modeling failure in different ways.

00:25:32:07 – 00:25:49:22
Sara Tate
I think they come in all different shapes and sizes. We talk in the book, one thing is around don’t always write them into a narrative. Like sometimes failures are just a failure. Sometimes something just didn’t go right. And we can be tempted. Sometimes to write them into a narrative story of like, I failed at that. I will fail again.

00:25:49:22 – 00:26:13:01
Sara Tate
I’m not good at this thing. And we cite in the book a sports psychologist called Jamil Qureshi, who works with loads of pro golfers and things. And he always says in sport in particular, failure is inevitable. It’s not part of a narrative of whether you’re going to succeed or not. So he kind of says failure is the payment for success paid in full in advance.

00:26:13:01 – 00:26:31:06
Sara Tate
So he talks about working with a golfer who wants to win the open and say three is time. And if you wins the wins around, you know, he’ll say, do you think winning that round affects your ability to to win the open three time and the answer is of course, no, it doesn’t. Of course it doesn’t. Like you’ve got to fail loads and loads and loads of times in order to get better at something, for example.

00:26:31:14 – 00:26:58:13
Sara Tate
So individual failures in themselves are not always not always a massive thing. And we can sort of immortalize them a little bit as the thing that I fail like, so role modeling them in different ways. Sometimes it’s just something that went wrong and you pass through it. But learning as bosses or parents or carers or elders or whoever or, you know, just friends, family members learning to share failure and demonstrate and to be open about the fact that something is failed is really important.

00:26:58:14 – 00:27:20:10
Sara Tate
We have a chapter in there where we talk to three different people in the world of education and child psychology about you know, the role of failure in children and how important it is to allow them to fail in order to build resilience. And this amazing moment you guys can Google has cooked up some are in Baker and she says as adults, you should just model failure all the time.

00:27:20:16 – 00:27:39:15
Sara Tate
So she talks about goal setting with kids and then and thanks children like I didn’t give an interview or I didn’t I it all died, you know, depending on how old they are because they just need to see that it’s very normal for things to follow a wiggly line. It’s not always up and it’s not always down. And this is sort of the premise of the whole book.

00:27:39:15 – 00:27:57:16
Sara Tate
It’s kind of up and down and round and round from the minute you go on until the minute you say, oh, the other end, you know. And so just making it part of the norm, part of everyday life. We also discovered there’s a school in Wimbledon, an all girls school, and the headmistress created a failure week there because.

00:27:57:16 – 00:28:18:19
Sara Tate
Yeah so she and she said because girls her her reason was girls are don’t like to fail because they feel it will indicate to them that they’re not good things and so it sort of contracts what they’re willing to do that girls in particular. And so she created a week where they all tried something new that they wouldn’t probably would be very good at because they never done it before.

00:28:18:19 – 00:28:33:20
Sara Tate
And the teachers told famous stories. The parents came in and told failure stories just to indicate that like failure is just the thing that happens. Failing is not an indicator that you’re not good at something or you’re not going to be good at it in the future. You’re not going to go on and do great stuff. It’s just a failure sometimes.

00:28:34:01 – 00:28:55:18
Philippa White
That’s great. That’s really great. Now, we talked about a little bit just now about human centric organizations. And, you know, there’s different ways that people create more human centered places to work. You talk about psychological safety being a key ingredient for business and teams to be able to improve, innovate and progress. And I really liked that. I thought that that was really interesting.

00:28:55:18 – 00:29:21:07
Philippa White
Again, it comes down to having open conversations and being transparent and providing that place for people to be able to talk openly and not feel judged. And the tools like those examples that you gave in the book were amazing. The Airbnb one, the one that I think you invented or the one that you had Rosebud saw, and maybe you can just talk about that and what that.

00:29:21:07 – 00:29:28:11
Philippa White
Yeah, because I think so many people who you run a department, if you run a company, these are so important I think.

00:29:28:12 – 00:29:49:09
Sara Tate
Yeah. So I struggle, I think to speak really directly. I’m very British. I kind of sugarcoat everything with a million layers. And Anna is German American, and she’s way more direct than me. And I would observe that when we were working, she’s very polite, but direct. So I would think, Oh God, I wish I could sort of be a little speak my mind a little bit more clearly.

00:29:49:09 – 00:30:07:00
Sara Tate
The idea of we find it difficult to have certain types of open, honest conversations and doing like in as low as nice research into the fact that you do need to be able to speak honestly and truthfully. If anyone’s interested in psychological safety, then Amy Edmondson is the guru. You can read pretty much anything by Professor Amy Edmondson, and she’s brilliant.

00:30:07:05 – 00:30:33:19
Sara Tate
I found some research from the UK Violence and Intervention Prevention Center, which is really about mediating in challenging relationships and situations that spiral into violence. And they talk about the need to speak assertively and you think assertively sounds like, Oh, you know, being rude, but assertively they talk about as actually individuals clearly saying their opinions and feelings, firmly advocating for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others.

00:30:33:19 – 00:30:55:17
Sara Tate
You need to be able to speak and for others to listen in a respectful way, for anything good to happen, really. And it can be difficult. And particularly in a corporate environment or work environment, everyone sort of minds the P’s and Q’s. And so there are tools to encourage what’s a normal size, being able to speak more openly.

00:30:55:23 – 00:31:12:03
Sara Tate
And I count all of this with this is I do mean respectfully as well. This isn’t about being one of those people that goes well. I just speak my mind and then is really rude to people in the office. It’s not about that. It’s about sharing respectfully. So there’s an Airbnb. We had one called Vomit Dead Fish Elephant.

00:31:12:03 – 00:31:32:12
Sara Tate
Yeah. And it was just a little sort of get, I mean, a kind of joke in a way. That vomit was like, just get it out something. You’ve just got to get out. Dead fish is something that’s hung in around the smelly that people aren’t bringing up. An elephant is something that’s here that no was mentioning. That is clearly a massive issue.

00:31:32:13 – 00:31:50:07
Sara Tate
I’m just having a bit of a jokey way of talking about it. I can just say I feel as a dead fish in this room from on what is allows. It gives people a forum and a structure for raising things. The one that I had the use and I’ve even used it around my dining table with my kids, which my husband likes to see for now is Rosebud.

00:31:50:07 – 00:32:06:09
Sara Tate
Thorn So I guess, you know, you can do a round of it. I first came across it by long story being at the dinner with those people I didn’t know worked and and the woman said, let’s do a round of Rosebud phone. I thought, That’s awful. And actually it was amazing. They all knew each other. I didn’t know them.

00:32:06:09 – 00:32:30:17
Sara Tate
But by the time he got round to me, I was like, I’m ready to share anything. Roses. Roses. Like a thing that’s going really well, but is the thing that you’re really excited about. The Thorn is something which is, you know, a worry or a bother. And the woman who Sean Callahan, who did the the rose in the bud were working things and the Thorn was she was really worried about a friend who a colleague of theirs.

00:32:30:17 – 00:32:46:17
Sara Tate
He was really ill. She was really heartfelt when she spoke about it. And she just set a tone for everyone to be really candid and to share. And by that we did it was a dinner of like 30 of us. By the end of it, I just thought, this is just so much more comfortable with these people. I just feel like I know them better.

00:32:46:17 – 00:33:03:08
Sara Tate
I feel I’ve been able to have a moment of honesty with them. It’s a model that as a leader, the start of a gathering or a meeting or working relationship in a respectful way is really those tools are really powerful, particularly for people like me, who just, you know, find it a bit tricky.

00:33:04:02 – 00:33:04:16
Philippa White
Okay.

00:33:04:18 – 00:33:06:09
Sara Tate
So say if something is on my mind.

00:33:06:15 – 00:33:18:09
Philippa White
Sarah, we are coming to the end of the podcast. I told you I could keep going on forever. But, you know, before we do wrap up, I’m super interested to know, you know, what learnings have you taken from the book?

00:33:18:10 – 00:33:39:13
Sara Tate
My big learning is I’m in a big, messy middle, which, you know, you’ll know for the book that the whole thing around transitions and going from one place to the other. I decided in Sept and last year just before that actually that I was going to leave my job as a CEO. We had the book deal and I was getting to a point in my career where I thought what am I going to do for the next 20 years?

00:33:39:13 – 00:33:58:03
Sara Tate
And I don’t think I can do this and I want to know what that is. And I realized that I for the first time, I felt that I was able to close something without immediately opening another door and to go through that kind of curious phase in between, it is quite you know, I wake up at night going, Oh my God, but it’s been amazing.

00:33:58:03 – 00:34:33:01
Sara Tate
So I’m that’s what I’ve learned from it. I’m in my curious phase. So I’ve been it’s been seven months now. And in that period of time, I’ve, I’ve read the book, I’m doing a new series of podcast. I coach some CEOs and C-suite people. I also do some consultancy projects on organizational culture. And as the months have gone on, I’m sort of landing in the space that I that I want to be in, that I want to work in, which is working as an organizational strategist, which is using my old strategic skills and my love of people to help companies with their vision, with their mission, and to create a working environment where people feel

00:34:33:03 – 00:34:56:07
Sara Tate
they are sort of respected and where they can bring their best. And I wouldn’t have been able to to sort of explore that path and get to that place if I just lapsed from one thing into another. But I think this process allowed me to go. One needs to take time. If you’re going to do a transition, you need to take the time to explore and be curious and try out some things and, you know, not seek to find the answers too quickly.

00:34:56:07 – 00:35:02:21
Sara Tate
So it’s a big midlife rebuild in a way for me, and the book has taught me to take my time over it.

00:35:03:01 – 00:35:12:08
Philippa White
That’s exciting. Yeah, it’s exciting. And if people are interested to find out more about what you’re doing and, you know, if you could help them, how can they reach you?

00:35:12:18 – 00:35:19:08
Sara Tate
You can find on LinkedIn, Sarah’s or on Twitter, Sarah, Katie and I’ll send you some links and you can put them in the show.

00:35:19:09 – 00:35:24:21
Philippa White
I think it’s great. Is there anything else that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked you?

00:35:24:23 – 00:35:43:11
Sara Tate
I just think what you’re doing with Ty is amazing it’s so interesting because I I’ve known about the Ty project for a really long period of time, but only now as I’ve got older and that I’m myself getting more comfortable with being outside my comfort zone. Yeah, that I realize what an amazing show it is to do that, you know.

00:35:43:17 – 00:36:06:03
Sara Tate
So rather than have to go through 45 years of various crises is that it just coming then Ty then I would have figured it out much sooner, but no, but in all seriousness, I just think it is an amazing thing to do and it is all about teaching people the skills and resilience and resourcefulness and really realizing that you can overcome more than you think in situations that are far outside your comfort zone.

00:36:06:03 – 00:36:08:16
Sara Tate
So, yeah. John Brennan, thank you.

00:36:08:23 – 00:36:18:03
Philippa White
So kind of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Well, it has been amazing. I look forward to another conversation. Hopefully not in the next 20 years, but I think that’s been how long it’s been since we’ve spoken. But anyway, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been amazing, super inspirational.

00:36:23:15 – 00:36:25:21
Sara Tate
Thank you so much.

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