Aim low and strive for consistency. Cut yourself some slack and be willing to be bad at something until you start getting some repetition, and refine your method or approach over time. Perfectionism kills more progress than just about anything, so kick it to the curb if you can.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewingKatherine Hosie.
Katherine Hosie, M.Sc. is one of only three coaches in the United States qualified to offer her clients master’s-level evidence-based coaching psychology from the University of Sydney, which leads the world in this arena. She partners with successful leaders in reinjecting meaning, authenticity, and sustainability into how they lead their organizations, including learning complex adaptive leadership approaches required for our changing world.
Katherine has been coaching full-time since 2003 and has well over 10,000 hours of experience working with leaders across a multitude of industries. Born in Australia and based in San Francisco, CA, she holds a Master of Applied Science, Coaching Psychology from the University of Sydney and a Bachelor of Adult Education from the University of Technology Sydney.
She specializes in leadership coaching with referred private clients. A lifelong learner, she combines cutting-edge, evidence-based coaching with a humanistic approach to adult development.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Sure. I now live in San Francisco but grew up in a remote area of Australia. My mother was from the city and my father was pure country, and I’ve always had a strong appreciation for both ways of life. My mother demonstrated to me that there was a world outside where I was from, and my father got heavily into personal development during my late teens, so he became a key influencer in my life as well. By the time I discovered coaching in my 30s, I’d already read so widely on the topic of personal development that moving into learning formal coaching approaches and skills felt great and like an extension of the thinking I’d developed earlier in life.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My first coach was who inspired me to pursue coaching as a career. He was the first coach I’d ever worked with and within about one year of us working together he was starting to share his thinking with me and ask for my input on the coaching approaches he was developing. He recognized that I’d done a lot of my work on myself and told me directly, several times, “You should train to be a coach as well.” I loved the idea and as soon as I started my original training he told me, “You know you’re my protégé.” His belief in me got me started and I’ve always been grateful to him for that.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, my mentor Richard was a phenomenal influence in my life several years into my coaching career. I asked him to mentor me at the end of our very first meeting as his frankness and insight astonished me. So much of the interior structure of my coaching comes from him and I reflect on what he taught me almost every day. He gave me a vocabulary to name what I’m seeing and quickly diagnose the main areas of a leader’s development.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
One useful mistake that comes to mind is a coaching engagement I had many years ago with a CEO and their primary investor. The investor had hired me to develop their CEO, so I asked him to be a primary stakeholder that I could gather feedback from throughout the coaching process, which at the time included monthly check-ins so he could understand what the CEO and I were working on, and suggest any adjustments that may need to be made. This process was transparent to everyone involved. The investor insisted he didn’t need to be a part of that due to his regular communication with the CEO. About three months later I got a heated call from him telling me we needed to adjust what we were working on. We regrouped and he then became a formal stakeholder. I learned that I knew what was needed for the engagement to be successful from the start and should have pushed harder for that, rather than allowing someone to be invested in the results but not invested in the process. These days I dig in harder when I see what needs to happen for a successful outcome, and also give more context on why it’s needed and what will happen as a consequence if it doesn’t. I’m the expert on what I’m doing and this requires holding the line at times.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Get serious about your formal coaching education and never stop deepening your craft. The world is full of coaches, but finding coaches that are properly trained is an ongoing challenge. It’s like building a house; don’t take shortcuts. If you do things properly your career will last. And don’t try to fool yourself that reading books about a whole bunch of things constitutes a coaching education because it doesn’t. Let your additional learning be a supplement to your formal coaching-specific foundation. Also, surround yourself with the best in your field as they will challenge and inspire you at the same time.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“Quiet Leadership” by David Rock made a significant impact on my coaching many years ago. It helped me understand, in a very unambiguous way, that my role was to get my clients to do all of the heavy mental lifting in our coaching sessions. I read it early in my coaching career when I’d found myself mistakenly believing that I needed to contribute a lot of my thinking to the coaching conversations, which is not actually coaching. After reading that book I found myself deconstructing everything I’d been doing prior and completely rebuilding my coaching philosophy and approach. What a lot of people don’t realize is that true, pure coaching is like dancing the tango; it looks easy from the outside but requires so much restraint on the part of the coach. Part of my role this last several years has included interviewing and selecting coaches to work within organizations, which includes having them coach me, and I am always acutely aware of the degree to which coaches are actually coaching and using me, the client, as the resource, versus coaches that are not.
Also, the grace and wisdom of Carl Rogers’ writing is always at the center of what I’ve read and hold dear.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
My father told me years ago, “Life is like a dance. If it’s difficult you’re doing it wrong.” What he meant by that was there is a flow to life when we are aligned with what we care about, and to pay attention to timing and readiness. If something is stuck, there’s a reason for that, and rather than pushing through that stuck-ness, instead investigate what it is that’s not working for you and redesign things around your values, personality, environment, and needs. I’m a big believer in designing structures that effortlessly support us getting done what we need to get done, as opposed to grinding things out, which is never sustainable or attractive. Whenever I see someone just pushing through life, and getting an ego hit from that, I know that it can’t last and that there is always a better way, and that they will be ready for it eventually.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m working on my own differentiation, which includes my ability to sit in conflict and discomfort and be comfortable with that. My intention is that this will help me lean more deeply into the uncomfortable areas of my clients’ lives and development and hold that steady space for them, so that they can also feel safe in looking at the things they don’t want to look at or address.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” I have definitely found this to be true.
A component part of my Master’s degree in Evidence-Based Coaching Psychology was the study of Peak Performance, which of course included studying how elite athletes consistently perform at such high levels. The key is less about Performance Goals (e.g. how well they did), or Outcome Goals (e.g. what medal they won), but instead Process Goals, those mundane daily things they did again and again and again to build strength and stamina. Breaking their big goals down into these daily habits allows them to stay focused, prevents overwhelm, and keeps them honest with themselves, as a core part of creating good habits includes visually tracking whether you did them or not.
We’re sold this idea that one courageous act or flying leap leads to success. It makes for better entertainment. However, it’s those little things you do day after day after day, when no one is paying attention, that will create your life, for example, the appreciation you show your team or your spouse, the times you slow down to listen to your kids, the accountability you demonstrate each time you meet a deadline, the degree to which you hold your team to their commitments, the times you tell the truth when a lie feels easier. These things all add up. Your habits are what make you or unmake you.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
In terms of my education I have had some hardcore education habits over the years that included reading hundreds of evidence-based journal articles night after night after night, which was really hard but gave me a very thick foundation of coaching psychology to draw from. I’m back in the habit of completing a book per week, which has always given me a lot of joy.
In my early 20’s I learned the acronym, DWYSYWD, which stands for Do What You Say You Will Do, so I’ve always made a point of that. If I tell someone I will do something it will always get done, even if it takes longer than I’d like. This has made me trustworthy to not only others, but more importantly myself. I trust myself. That matters.
Another key habit of mine is that I take off one week every quarter, as well as every Friday. This foundational habit prevents burnout and keeps me loving my work. Also, I do not work on weekends. Ever. I’ve learned the importance of recovery in peak performance and someone that knows me well says I’ve taken self-care to a whole new level, which was something I needed to teach myself.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
- Don’t try to stop a bad habit, but instead find a new habit to replace it. Nature abhors a vacuum.
- Make it simple to start, and so clear you can throw a metaphoric rock at it. Making it a simple habit gives you an easier on-ramp that you can build from.
- Aim low and strive for consistency. Cut yourself some slack and be willing to be bad at something until you start getting some repetition, and refine your method or approach over time. Perfectionism kills more progress than just about anything, so kick it to the curb if you can.
- Track your progress visually, using your phone, or even a calendar on your fridge. It keeps you honest and it also feels good to track that you’ve done something and see your consistent wins starting to add up.
- Reward yourself when you’ve done the new thing, even if it’s something corny like an air punch and an exclamation of, “I’m awesome!” We’re all kids deep down and recognition matters, even from yourself.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
Yes, three good habits for Wellness could include: ten minutes meditation each morning, plenty of sleep, and drinking a jug of water each day.
Meditation: I’ve found that ten minutes of meditation at the same time each day, ideally before you start doing anything else, makes a real difference over time. I can see the difference in my clients when they start this practice in that they become calmer, more focused, and more courageous in what they say and do. A lot of people like to start by using Headspace or another app like that. More than ten minutes a day seems to bring them undone though as it becomes more of a challenge for them to be consistent, so I recommend ten minutes as the normal daily maximum. Also, give yourself permission to do it really badly to start.
Sleep: I recommend using a tracking app to measure the quality of your sleep so you can’t be lying to yourself about how well you’re doing. One that I like is Sleep Cycle, but there are plenty of other options. Insufficient sleep impacts your thinking, your weight, your willpower, your mood, your relationships, so if you’re serious about your wellness it doesn’t really make sense to ignore it.
Water: dehydration is related to anxiety, depression, weight retention, increased appetite, your ability to think, amongst other things. I like to fill a large jug of water that holds everything I want to drink that day (about eight glasses) so I can easily track how I’m doing without having to remind myself to drink all the time. All that’s then required is to finish my jug by the end of the day. I know it’s hard to drink a lot of water in winter, so even finding natural flavors for your water, e.g. Stur, can help, and don’t count the water you put in coffee and tea towards your daily quota as that’s just self-deception.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Yes, get really clear on what you’re doing from the start: the what, when, why, and how.
- Track your progress closely, particularly at the start. If a habit isn’t working for you, don’t judge yourself but instead get curious. What needs adjusting…? Adjust and try again until it starts to work.
- Focus on where you’re doing well and making progress. It’s so easy to hold yourself to an impossible standard but that’s not useful when starting a new habit. Be supportive and build yourself up a bit, you winner you.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
Learning: Whatever your specialization is, there’s always more to learn. I remember reading in Tara Westover’s book “Educated” that the biggest thing she learned from her education was to be willing to read things she did not yet understand. I’m paraphrasing, but there’s so much beauty in that. To what degree are you willing to learn beyond where you’re currently at, rather than sticking with what you know? I know you’re busy but getting a daily or weekly habit around learning will pay dividends, even if that means freeing up three hours on a Saturday while you pay someone else to take care of life’s business for you.
The Peer Group Solution: Choose your peer group wisely and expand it. I’ve found that so much of our success in life comes from relationships, so making time to deepen your existing bonds, asking for suggestions and introductions, and putting time aside for this will improve your life and your career. I made a habit several years ago of committing one lunch per week to deepening an existing peer relationship or developing a new one. As an introvert this was not intuitive, but a decision that I made and stuck to. I’ve seen other leaders commit to one dinner out per month as a new normal, with one person at a time, or a colleague and new introduction if that felt more comfortable and expansive.
The “One New Habit” Habit: You can create a new habit of having one new habit per month. This is something I’ve been doing for a long time. I keep a list of habits I want to develop and on the first of every month I choose a new one to start. For leaders it can be something like demonstrating more gratitude to their leaders and team, or it may be committing one full day a month to planning, or starting to raise capital many months in advance rather than delaying it, as so many do.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Diarize them, setting them as recurring reminders in your calendar or having your assistant keep you on the hook about them
- Set yourself up so that they are easy to carry out, for example, my “one new habit” habit is easy as I keep a list of possible habits handy at all times (under “New Habits” in Evernote), so it’s a three-minute exercise to select the next one. You want to set yourself up in these ways so that starting things is easy.
- Delegate them, for example, you may ask your assistant or team member to be responsible for your network building, finding and introducing people you probably need to know to you and setting up those times to meet. Make whatever you can a “no-brainer.”
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
- Keep your phone in a drawer or in another room. As a bare minimum, keep it face down when you’re working.
- Turn off all alerts on your computer. Yes, it can be done. I only ever receive email when I click for it. If you need any convincing read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. That’s where I learned about attentional residue and the 20 minutes or so that it takes to get your brain back to the level of focus it was at before being interrupted.
- Schedule full days rather than just hours if you want to get any serious progress made on something. Your knowledge that you have nowhere else to be that day will free up your mind and attention enormously. There’s a classic article on this called “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” by Paul Graham that so many of my clients already know.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
They’re all pretty self-explanatory and simple. The important thing is to make things what I call “the new normal” so you’re not having to rethink it all the time. For example, if you want leave your phone in another room when focusing on a task, have a special place where you always leave it and always mute it. I’m a big believer in the “don’t make me think” approach. Or create a recurring day when you focus on projects alone, e.g. every second Friday. I had one client that used to call them his “John Offsites,” as that’s what they were. It’s easier to do something 100% of the time than 90% of the time, as your decision is made and you don’t need to waste any more energy on that.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
- Yes, look back on your past experiences to discover your flow environment and the factors that helped create it. Did you have a clear outcome of what you wanted to achieve or not? Were you alone in your office or a board room? Were you listening to a certain kind of music? Were you uninterrupted for several hours, away on a weekend retreat you’d given yourself, or on a long-haul flight where you could finally disconnect and think? I was speaking to a CEO last week that said he was tempted to get on a long flight just so he could disconnect and go deep with mapping out his new vision for the organization.
- What other factors were present? Were these days when you had no other meetings or appointments? Had you told others to give you space to think, and did they respect your request? Were you alone or with one or two others? Who were those people? What were the qualities they possessed?
- Your past experiences of flow will tell you everything you need to know about how to achieve it for yourself. Some of the work I do with leaders includes helping them to discover and create their own best “thinking environment” and / or “learning environment.” This will definitely help.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My mentor once told me, “Cleverness Separates but Wisdom Unites.” I’m always looking for whether the leaders I’m working with are promoting cleverness or wisdom through the choices they make and what they condone and reward. I consistently believe that the best solutions are those that bring us together in constructive ways, rather than separate us from others or have us competing. Having people stop to ask themselves “Am I being clever here, or am I being wise?” would be something I’d like to inspire. Cleverness comes from insecurity, but wisdom is secure in itself and not threatened.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
That’s easy. Barack Obama and/or Pete Buttigieg. I steer away from politics in my work and my clients have a breadth of political leanings, but the eloquence, clarity, and courage with which these men think and speak is something that inspires me.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me here:
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.