Elite performance and leadership coach Floyd Woodrow believes adults can learn a lot from children. Children have fantastic dreams and big ideas about what they want to be when they grow up, he says, but our over-academically oriented education system often knocks the stuffing out of both.
By the time many children become adults, their aspirational worlds have shrunk and they end settling for jobs that pay the bills but leave them with a nagging feeling that there should be more to life.
Woodrow is not naive enough to think that everyone will love their job. However, he believes that those drifting from day to day under a constant cloud of discontent are never going to feel at ease unless they challenge themselves to reach their full potential – whatever that looks like.
“At a particular point you may need a job, any job, and it’s easy to get drawn into the wrong one. But don’t lose sight of what your passions really are and let yourself get hooked into a lifestyle that is not going to fulfil you,” he says.
Our purpose should be challenging and should be one that is worth achieving
“Success is achieved through strategy. Failure is not an accident. We sometimes assume that success is bestowed upon the lucky few. The truth is it is much less about luck or chance and more about hard work and dedication – knowing what we want, how to get there and having the courage and determination to make it happen.
“We should be able to answer the question of why we are doing what we’re doing to anyone who asks. Our purpose can be personal, professional or social. If it can encapsulate all three, we really will have a life worth living.”
For those disenchanted with their working lives, which is a sizeable group according to successive surveys about abysmal rates of employee engagement, Woodrow advocates taking time to listen to what one’s inner self is saying about what it wants while ignoring self-doubt and the whisperings of those who say you’re too old to change, or you can’t do this or that.
“In my experience, if someone really wants to do something and they make the effort then 99 per cent of the time they will get close to it,” he says.
To help people identify what truly fires them up, Woodrow has developed a self-help programme he says works with everyone from five-year olds up to the toughest corporate types. He’s also written a book about it called The Warrior, the Strategist and You – How to Find Your Purpose and Release Your Potential, which has just been published by Elliott & Thompson.
Woodrow’s template is based around four elements that constitute a compass for life. The starting point is to find one’s “super North star” which he describes as the essence of who we are and our purpose. It’s the driving force that energises us and draws us forward and we should be passionate about realising it.
“Our purpose should be challenging and should be one that is worth achieving,” Woodrow says. “We should make sure that we are aiming high enough, that we are pushing ourselves to achieve, and that we are reaching our full potential. If we set ourselves easy goals, we’ll never truly excel and discover exactly how much we are capable of.”
The south point of Woodrow’s compass is strategy or mapping out a life/work plan and building a structure to make it happen. East refers to the values and behaviours that underpin who we are while west is the part of us related to strength of character and the willingness to fight for what we want. Successfully getting to where we want to go (in Woodrow parlance to the super north star) means keeping the compass points balanced, committing to one’s personal roadmap and continually pushing the boundaries.
After nearly three decades in the military, latterly as the head of the SAS counterterrorism wing, Woodrow knows a thing or two about leadership and having his boundaries pushed, having been given significant responsibilities while still in his teens.
“I had a very rich and varied career that involved doing numerous different and challenging jobs,” he says. “I travelled widely, and I learned languages and how to fly. I worked as a paramedic, was involved in fighting and peacekeeping, and led training and development programmes. Over time, I developed a plethora of skills I hadn’t realised were so valuable until I stepped into the corporate world. Since leaving the military, I have gone into business, become a fintech entrepreneur and a leadership and performance coach to banks, governments, police forces, emergency services, sports teams and even schoolchildren.
“I’m passionate about the importance of lifelong learning and development and leadership is a major part, because you have to lead yourself to start with. Even more importantly, I’ve never seen anybody get to the top of their profession without a team. You’ve got to be able to create a vision and know how to take people with you.”
Woodrow says there’s a perception that it’s all about directive leadership in the military and, while in some situations that’s true, he believes there is no such thing as a leader in any field who has all the skills. “In the military, leaders need to gather information and knowledge from others and listen to them in order to make the right decisions. Exactly the same applies if you want a well-functioning business.”