Today we welcome Caterina Kostoula, an executive coach and founder of The Leaderpath, a leadership coaching company. She has previously worked as a Global Business Leader at Google and has coached leaders and teams from Google, Amazon, Vodafone, Workable, and several startups. 

Caterina’s best-selling book “Hold Successful Meetings” covers how to get a group of people together to achieve a common purpose by using meetings as the window to leadership. 

During today’s show, we discussed why she wanted to work for Google, how she discovered her passion for coaching, her 4D Framework, her journey to becoming an author, and what led to sabbaticals being a part of her life plan. 

The title of this episode could have been how to live a purpose-driven life with intention. I encourage every human working today, in any capacity, to tune into this episode for some valuable insights!

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full Episode:

  1. How Caterina discovered her passion for coaching. 
  2. What the 4D Framework on How to Hold Successful Meetings is.
  3. How the power of visualization helped Caterina land the job at Google. 

Episode Highlights

Who is Caterina Kostoula

  • Caterina holds an MBA and an MSc in Executive Coaching.
  • She is an executive coach and the founder of The Leaderpath, a leadership coaching company.
  • Creator of a unique 4D Framework on How to Hold Successful Meetings.
  • She worked as a Global Business Leader at Google from 2009 to 2018.
  • Her bestseller book “Hold Successful Meetings” was published by Penguin in April 2021. 

Where it all started

  • Caterina started in advertising. 
  • She is originally from Greece and moved to Spain, France, and Singapore to do her MBA.
  • It was 2009, and the economy had crashed. After her MBA, she was jobless and moved back to Greece, where she started job hunting.

Discovering Google as her ideal employer

  • When Google came to present at her campus when she was doing her MBA, Caterina did not think that Google was for her. 
  • She thought that you had to be a techie to work there, and she was never techie. 
  • She wanted to go into media once she graduated. It was only upon further research into how media was evolving. She realized that Google was the company she wanted to work for.
  • At the time, they had the award for the best workplace in the world, which attracted her.

Clarifying what she wanted

  • Caterina focussed and clarified what she wanted. She wanted to move to London and work for Google.
  • She kept applying for jobs and, five months later, got a call from Google where she ended up joining Google London in a global role in 2009.
  • She visualized herself working for Google and made it happen.
  • She ended up working for Google from 2009 to 2018 as a Global Business Leader.

Her experience of working for Google

  • Google is an employer that cares about its employees and has a culture of empowerment.
  • What they get right is that they give their people autonomy. And this works well because, as an employee, you’re clear on what they’re trying to achieve.
  • Caterina wasn’t even 30 years old when she could go into meetings with clients that were investing a billion dollars into Google and do so without a VP by her side. 

Falling in love with coaching

  • When at Google, Caterina attended training on coaching and fell in love with it.
  • Once she discovered what coaching was, that she could help people by not giving advice but instead helping them think through things differently and come up with solutions themselves, she was blown away by the concept.
  • She then went on to coach internally at Google.

Preparing to take the leap

  • Taking the leap is a big decision and an emotional process. Caterina says that you have to allow time.
  • You start with interest and curiosity, then the more competence you build, it allows you to grow in confidence.
  • She was coaching internally at Google and also coached externally on a pro bono basis.
  • She blogged for a year and discovered that she wasn’t blogging about advertising but leadership and personal development. 
  • During this internal process, things started to become more evident.

Existentialism helped her gain clarity

  • During Caterina’s second maternity leave, she took a six-month sabbatical in Thailand.
  • Getting herself out of her current environment to a tropical island helped her see a different world.
  • Another pivotal moment happened when she was studying existential coaching, and there was a question that resonated with her.
  • What would you do if you had one year to live? As she reflected on this, she knew she wouldn’t want to spend it as an employee.

 Taking the leap

  • After her maternity leave, Caterina Kostoula went back to Google and thought she would still work for a few months while saving up.
  • She had a few external paying clients at this point, but the side hustle almost broke her.
  • Her turning point was a speech from another coach that said that something might seem impossible because you cannot predict the ideas and opportunities that will come your way once you decide to start moving in the right direction.
  • The speech helped her have faith, and three months later, she left Google.

An emotional goodbye to Google

  • Caterina wrote an article on LinkedIn which was an emotional goodbye and thank you to Google after eight wonderful years. It was an honest and vulnerable piece of writing.
  • The article went crazy and got 50,000 views, and all of a sudden, she was inundated with coaching requests.
  • Making the decision she made was a signal that she believed in her coaching so much that she left Google. It showed her confidence.
  • She ended up attracting a completely different set of clients, those that wanted to become intrapreneurs.

Why meetings are ineffective

  • Many meetings are ineffective because they do not achieve their objective.
  • They can leave one feeling miserable, bored, frustrated, anxious, and too many meetings can be exhausting.
  • Because you are not doing deep work during the day, you are prone to working after hours, leading to burnout.
  • A 20-minute meeting is not just 20 minutes. It’s absorbing 20 minutes from each person sitting in the meeting. While it may be more convenient for a leader to do this, it is not a productive use of people’s time.

The 4D Framework

  • There are four key steps or outcomes when pursuing a meeting.
  • Define a problem or goal, develop ideas, decide and do.
  • The good thing about the 4D Framework is that it can leverage everyone’s brainpower.

The theory of the maker’s schedule

  • If you’re a maker or creator such as an author or developer, anything that requires deep and critical thinking, you operate in half-day intervals.
  • If someone puts a 20-minute meeting in your schedule, you don’t lose just 20 minutes or half an hour, and you lose half the day.
  • It breaks your thought process, and you lose productivity.
  • It is therefore essential that meetings are valuable and value-creating.

The biggest challenges with leadership today

  • Post pandemic, Caterina sees that many teams are burnt out and are not necessarily ready to shift to remote working.
  • Teams are exhausted and feeling a great deal of disconnection. There’s a craving for human connection.
  • When moving to remote working, extra attention needs to be paid to building relationships, and not focussing on this leads to conflict arising in teams and a lack of clarity.

Caterina Kostoula’s journey as an author

  • Her journey as an author has similarities to how she joined Google. She had a clear vision, visualized it, and made it happen.
  • She had been blogging for a few years and always wanted to write a book.
  • Caterina is a firm believer in vision boards, and in the summer of 2019, she committed and decided that this year, she would write a book. 

Time blocking

  • Caterina had to be intentional about her schedule due to the pandemic, as she had to homeschool the kids. It ended up being a blessing in disguise.
  • She shifted her sleep and went to bed with the kids at nine so that she could wake up and write her book from six to nine every morning.
  • She still has this time blocked in her schedule and uses it for writing or self-care.

Sabbaticals are a part of the life plan.

  • It started with a date with her husband where they asked the question, what would we do if we won the lottery? This question removed all barriers and limitations.
  • The dream for both of them was to spend some time on a tropical island.
  • Caterina watched a TED talk that spoke about the theory of whether you retired five years later and interspersed sabbaticals throughout your career rather than waiting for retirement. This blew her mind.
  • Caterina and her family have now made it their life plan to take a sabbatical every seven years.

The power of visualization

  • There is something around the vision that helps you to identify opportunities and jump on them.
  • There is work that goes into manifesting the things you want. Caterina visualized working for Google, becoming a full-time executive coach, visualized writing a book and getting it published by Penguin. She envisioned sabbaticals as part of her life’s plan.
  • There is a clear vision and the ability to welcome opportunities that arise with clear intention because you’ve visualized them and can recognize them when they come along.

How does Caterina want to be remembered?

  • She always wants to operate from a place of love. Love for her friends and family, love for the craft, and love for her clients.

3 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

13:05 – “I tell them, it’s hard to jump from a plane if you cannot see the land under you.” 

23:45 – “The key four outcomes to pursuing the meeting all start with a D conveniently, and their steps in the process. So they defined a problem or a goal, develop ideas, decide and do.”

25:11 – “Our meetings are convenient for the leader, let’s be clear here, if I have to give an update, it will take me longer to write a long email, I could do a 20-minute meeting, but I am absorbing 20 minutes of eight people, or ten people or 100 people.”

About Caterina Kostoula 

Caterina Kostoula coaches leaders and teams for impact and fulfillment. By using meetings as the window to leadership, Caterina’s book “Hold Successful Meetings” covers how to get a group of people together to achieve a common purpose.

She says that meetings allow us to bring people together to inspire each other, solve problems and make a difference. Yet, we all spend too much time in dull, frustrating meetings where little is achieved and even less is followed up afterward.

Her unique 4D Framework will:

  • Equip you to hold fewer, more purposeful meetings.
  • Create a creative and inclusive environment.
  • Leave participants inspired and ready to take action.

Whether virtual or in-person, people will leave your meetings inspired by the value you created together and ready to make an impact.

Connect with Caterina Kostoula 

Website 
Linkedin 
Instagram 
Facebook
Twitter 

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Thanks for listening,
Darrell