Business leaders say it’s lonely at the top, but leading GB yachtsman Alex Thomson really does know what it takes to get to the top all on his own.  Alex begins his fifth Vendee Globe round-the-world solo race on Sunday and Sladen Consulting’s Ken Way has been helping him prepare for the gruelling three month, 40,000 km race.

Just Alex, the boat, and the sea. And the benefit of Ken’s one-on-one mental coaching. Learn more about Ken’s work with Alex here.

Directors, VPs and business leaders are increasingly turning to specialist coaches to help them prepare for the challenges and responsibilities of increasingly powerful jobs.  They need expert input to assist with handling sensitive personnel issues; with getting the most out of their colleagues and themselves; with creating a single team from disparate personalities to achieve a major corporate goal.

Business leaders often talk about it being lonely at the top.  But they’re never really 100% alone. Never really facing a crisis – a real crisis – fully and totally on their own.

And then there is Alex Thomson. Who? Mr Thomson is the UK’s premier yachtsman, and he begins his fifth Vendee Globe round-the-world solo race on Sunday.

For the uninitiated, the Vendee Globe is widely-accepted as the most gruelling, physically and mentally-torturous sporting event in the world. Three months-plus of battling 60 ft waves, days spent plumbing deep loneliness, and weeks of strenuous management of a boat that resembles (and moves like) a ballistic missile on water. Covering over 40,000 km, the VG redefines the word ‘gruelling’ and is the epitome of genuine life-affirming and life-threatening challenges anyone could face.

All this is achieved completely and utterly alone as a solo round-the-world sailor.  No colleagues to swap stories with over a nightcap.  No team to help lift the heavy load.  No sharing of little victories or dissecting daily defeats by the water cooler.

Just Alex, the boat, and the sea. And the long-term and detailed benefit of years of Ken Way’s one-on-one mental coaching. Ken Way is a key associate with UK-based global management coaching team Sladen Consulting. His background in sports psychology has equipped him with some of the most intuitive and in-demand coaching techniques available.

Applying Management Techniques to a Three Month Solo Sea Battle

Alex Thomson is seen as one of the favourites for the VG 2020. He came second in 2016, thanks to a damaged boat, but still managed to break the world record for distance travelled in 24-hours (537 nautical miles at an average speed of 22.4 knots).  He’s a high achiever, like many Sladen clients. In 1999 he became the youngest skipper ever to win a round-the-world yacht race. 

When the Vendee Globe 2020 begins (Sunday 8 November) Alex will take with him a set of bespoke management techniques similar to those applied to top business leaders on a daily basis.  But taken to the nth degree.  Very few corporate VPs are subjected to training where they enter a state of deep relaxation only to be woken 20 minutes later by a 110-decibel alarm signalling a potentially life-threatening problem.  And then taught to relax again to snatch a few desperate minutes of sleep before they’re woken for another vital action.

“On the surface, our corporate clients seem worlds away from Alex’s reality,” says Ken, “but, in truth, the principles are the same.  For top sportspeople and business leaders alike, the need is for discipline and quick-thinking, for negotiating and channelling ambition. 

“As in many fraught, strategic business situations, we’re dealing with the whole gamut of human emotions, from anxiety to euphoria; from fear to boredom; and from despondency and fatigue to some form of ecstasy.”

Ken has worked with Sladen Consulting for a few years now and has the track record of a man who is only called on by the best in their field – and it often is an actual field.  Remember the Leicester City team that shocked the football world by winning the 2016 Premier League at odds of 500-1? Ken helped build their confidence and team ethos.  RAF pilots needing to hone their performance? Ken is there for them, too.  A global bank needing to unite offices around the world to work as one?  Ken’s your man.

Distilling Vital Management Techniques into a 90 Minute Skill Bite

Ken is a key player, too, when it comes to Sladen Consulting delivering its Skill Bites sessions – 90 minutes of distilled and easily-digested motivational and inspiring management technique as favoured by major corporations across the business world.

Ken’s specialisms are Skill Bites focussing on self-motivation and making responsibility count.  Both of which translate directly into his work alongside Alex Thomson.

“My relationship with Alex is really special,” says Ken.  “This is the fourth VG I’ve helped him prepare for and we meet more and more regularly in the lead-up to all his major races.  But the VG is the big one.”

Many of the specific techniques that Ken works on with Alex remain a tightly-guarded secret. Techniques which may, hopefully, contribute to Alex Thomson being crowned winner of the 2020 Vendee Globe.  For the businesspeople with whom Ken and the Sladen team work, the challenge may not be quite as gruelling or lonely, but it is often equally as critical in terms of achieving an important goal and raising performance standards.

“Part of my job is to give Alex mental exercises that enable him to flatten out the highs and lows so he can concentrate on the vital task in hand – and as this is the Vendee Globe, there is always a task in hand!

“As in business, people have to manage the situation and manage their emotions. Excitement has to be enjoyed but also controlled because the next challenge is around the corner and there is no time for complacency. 

“In some ways, racing yachts is similar to managing many of the businesses I have worked in – lots of emotion and a double-dose of energy” explains Ken.  “But the Vendee Globe takes it all to the max!”

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