The Cognitas team



Our strength comes from our unusual combination of skills

Dr Laura Watkins


Laura has been researching and working in the field of personal and organisational performance for over 20 years. Her early neuroscience research looked at how the brain makes complex decisions and manages change. She then spent six years at McKinsey & Co as a strategy and organisation consultant, and co-founded McKinsey & Co's leadership practice in Europe. She co-founded The Cognitas Group in 2008 in order to help leaders thrive, perform, and build powerful organisations.

Client work

Laura works as a partner to CEOs and other senior executives to drive the change they are seeking in their teams and organisations. She brings transparency and structure to help teams get aligned on what they are trying to achieve and address roadblocks. She provides support and encouragement to help clients have honest conversations and repair trust. She gets into the mechanics of how individual leaders, teams and organisations operate day-to-day, to make sure that people are using their time well and making decisions productively. She is the lead faculty and programme director for several long-running leadership programmes for senior executives. Laura is known for being determined to help her clients get the result they seek and for challenging with a smile. Her clients say she “brings something special to every meeting, particularly in how she engages with very senior people” and “has a great capacity to bring structure out of confusion”.

Laura has worked all over the world, with dozens of multi-national teams and organisations. She works in English and French.

Background and other interests

Laura has a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from Cambridge and an MA in Physiology and Psychology from Oxford. She’s a voracious learner and has trained in many individual and group development techniques.

She is passionate about education and career access for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Until recently she was Chair of Governors at Haverstock School in North London and she has worked with many other education organisations.

In her spare time, Laura loves running, hiking, winter sports, flying trapeze and learning languages (currently Italian). She’s writing a novel on the side, and works for a few weeks each winter as a ski teacher for the Swiss Ski School.

Shani Ospina

Shani Ospina


Shani is an executive coach and leadership advisor with over fifteen years' experience in working with dozens of organisations, leaders, executives and entrepreneurs. She believes that in order to execute effectively and get the results they want, leaders need a clear sense of purpose and vision, pragmatic tools to implement it, and the self-awareness to evaluate and adjust their impact.

Client work

Shani combines business expertise with a natural ability to unearth and demystify mindset patterns and relationship dynamics to help leaders create the impact they want. With her firm challenge and coaching, leaders learn to anticipate and respond effectively to the complex and evolving challenges they face. Shani has coached and advised individual leaders and leadership teams in blue chip companies, family-owned businesses and startups alike. She has also designed and delivered several large scale leadership programmes for some of the world’s most respected brands.

Her clients value her ability to “get to the heart of the problem and understand underlying motivations and dynamics”. At the same time, she “allows analytical people to open the door to their emotions” and challenges clients with “very honest feedback” delivered with “power and grace, compassion, kindness and strength”.

Shani works with clients across five continents and in multiple languages including English, Italian, Spanish, French and German.

Background and other interests

Shani brings a unique blend of skills and talent acquired as a consultant at McKinsey & Co, as an investor and portfolio manager in private equity, and through extensive training and experience as a coach. As a result, she understands both the commercial realities and the human dynamics of organisations.

Shani holds a B.A. (Summa cum Laude) in Economics, Geography and International Studies from the University of Miami, an MSc (with Distinction) in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and a Certificate in Corporate Finance from the London Business School. She has been training as a coach for over a decade, including in ontological and somatic coaching and uses various other coaching and psychometric techniques and tools.

Shani currently spends as much of her spare time as possible with her two young children hoping to pass on her love of outdoor sports, nature and music to them. She is also enjoying introducing her children to adventure travel and continuing her goal of visiting most countries in the world over the next few decades.


Here is an introduction to some of our key team members.

Marci Adler

Marci is highly experienced in working with senior leaders to create sustainable change and build their signature leadership style. She has a strong foundation in business, having worked in global marketing communication companies and in board level executive search for blue chip companies. She has coached numerous senior individuals and teams, often in the context of wider organisational change programmes. She works across sectors and geographies. She has an MBA from the Wharton School, is an accredited ICF coach and has extensive coaching and leadership credentials. Marci loves people and builds strong relationships that form a basis for deep personal and team change.

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Viji Annamalai

Viji has nearly 20 years of experience working in strategy and leadership advisory across a variety of business issues including: strategy development; operational improvement; organizational effectiveness and transformation; talent assessment and development; and training. She has worked across the US, Asia, and Europe advising CEOs and senior executives at Fortune 500 companies, alternative investment firms, and family- and private equity-owned businesses. She began her career as a management consultant at Bain & Company, working across a variety of industries including consumer products, retail, healthcare, and financial services. More recently, Viji worked at ghSMART on organization and leadership assessment and development. Viji holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Rice University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Her warmth and empathy combined with acute business insights make her an invaluable partner to clients.

Vanessa Dietzel

Vanessa Dietzel

Vanessa has over ten years' experience of working with senior executives and all layers of management on a wide range of business issues, including strategy development, organisation design, operational improvement, leadership effectiveness and implementing change programmes. She is highly skilled at helping senior leaders improve their effectiveness at how they lead, both as individuals and groups, and also coaches individuals in achieving their professional and personal goals. She started her career in consulting with The Boston Consulting Group in London and Sydney, where she served clients across multiple industries. Vanessa graduated with a BSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics. She is a qualified therapist, yoga teacher and mindfulness practitioner and has trained in various personal and group development techniques including Systemic Constellations. She is fluent in German, English and French. Vanessa is warm, empathetic and organised, and puts clients through their paces with a great sense of fun and partnership.


Caty Everett

Caty Everett develops extraordinary leaders and high-performing teams. With over 20 years of experience, she specialises in executive coaching, high performing teams, leadership training and facilitation services. She works with dynamic and fast-growth companies across diverse industries including technology, retail, finance, biotech, media, and hospitality. She previously built and ran an internal consulting team at Google. Caty has a B.A. in Psychology from Harvard and a M.A. in Social Psychology and Organisational Behaviour from Columbia University, and has worked at both the Harvard and Columbia Business Schools to research and teach coursework on group dynamics and leadership effectiveness. Caty’s empathy and keen insight enables her clients to challenge pre-existing assumptions and move forward with fresh perspective and motivation.


Lynn Harris

Lynn's business background is in the Financial Services Industry where she successfully created and ran a large sales division for Lloyds Bank in the UK, becoming one of their top sales executives. She has around 20 years' experience in supporting senior executives to be outstanding leaders and helping them create high performing and healthy teams. She works with organisations internationally and leads her own coaching practice based in Montreal, Canada. Lynn holds a Master of Arts in Organizational Development and various qualifications in advanced facilitation, consulting skills, behavioural skills training, structural consulting and psychometric testing. She is also the published author of Unwritten Rules: What Women Need To Know About Leading In Today’s Organizations. Lynn brings a powerful blend of challenge, clarity, warmth and humour to help her clients grow and perform to their best.

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Jana Klimecki

Jana brings deep experience in supporting organisational cultural transformations that help clients identify and shift towards their own version of a ‘winning’ culture. To do this, she works in partnership with leadership teams, boards and senior executives to create alignment on direction and develop the organisational, team and individual capabilities required to execute. Jana has worked extensively across sectors with a particularly deep focus on financial services and private equity firms and their portfolio businesses. She works across the UK and Europe and has also led engagements in the US, Middle East and South Africa. Jana is a trained individual and team coach and accredited in a range of psychometric tools. She holds an MSc in Organizational Pschyology from the London School of Economics and speaks fluent English and German


Kate King

Kate is the go-to partner for leaders looking to accelerate their own, their team or the business’ performance.  Practical, experienced and challenging, Kate enables individuals and teams to change purposefully. With a strong background in consumer facing and luxury businesses over the past 20+ years, Kate has supported a number of organisational turnaround, merger and culture change projects, including being part of the team which led the transformation of Selfridges. Kate has an MSc in People and Organisational Development, is a trained team coach and a qualified coach supervisor. Kate splits her time between London and her country house in France, where she indulges her passions for gardening and interior design.  She loves keeping fit, and mountain hiking, and spent time recently coaching in a women’s empowerment project in Tanzania before climbing Kilimanjaro.

Hector Macdonald

Hector is a strategy and communications consultant with extensive experience in the Health, Pharmaceuticals, Agrochemicals, Telecoms and Financial Services industries. He is also a bestselling author and publishing entrepreneur. Following an African upbringing and a first class biology degree from Oxford University, Hector began his career at Gemini Consulting. He was awarded a Dean's List MBA at INSEAD. He is one of the world’s leading practitioners of storytelling in business. His smart questions, valuable structure and rich insights help clients build clarity and alignment and communicate powerfully.


Louise Macdonald

Louise is a seasoned leadership and organisation development professional with solid practical business experience as an entrepreneur and in a large variety of corporate settings. She has worked at senior executive levels in client organisations to bring about strategic change, influence organisational culture and develop strong leadership. She is known for her ability to make the link between personal aspirations, team relationships, organisational culture and business realities. She holds a degree in Industrial Relations and a diploma in Adult Education, and studied Organisational Learning and the Action Science methodology with the late Chris Argyris, professor emeritus at Harvard University. Louise is based in Montreal, Canada, and speaks fluent English and French as well as conversational Spanish. Louise combines an infectious warmth with insights about what makes people tick and how to drive change.

Jeremy Sweeney

Jeremy Sweeney

Jeremy specialises in helping clients to succeed in challenging conditions, such as those that are changing, sensitive or with high stakes. He is a trained individual and team coach with a deep background in organisational psychology, psychotherapy and somatic coaching. He has lived in the UK, France, Bahrain, Kenya, Germany and the Caribbean, and works in North and South America, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  Previously, Jeremy co-founded a multi-million pound top 3 lobbying and strategic communications consultancy, was a special forces trained soldier, combat medic, ski guide, yacht crew and army scholar sponsored by the Parachute Regiment. Jeremy builds strong relationships with his clients and works hard to help them question, change and grow.


Liz Rochester

Liz is a learning and performance improvement specialist with over 25 years’ experience driving large- scale cultural change, leadership, management and organisational development programmes. Liz is a highly skilled team coach with particular expertise in people development, cultural change, mindsets, behaviour change, leadership, sales, service and team development. She has held senior positions in both consulting roles and industry. A business graduate, Liz has a Master diploma in Systemic Team Coaching, is a PCC qualified coach and supervisor, is trained in using psychometrics and is currently the Programme Director of the ICF accredited Team Accelerator Coaching Programme. In her spare time, Liz has three teenage daughters and keeps sane and fit through Pilates, meditation and walking with the family dog Hector. Fluent in Spanish, Liz is currently enhancing her skills as an embodiment coach and facilitator.

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Deborah Thomas

Deborah Thomas is an executive coach with some 20 years' coaching experience in demanding business contexts. She loves to help talented people build on strengths, deepen self-awareness, and realise their full potential, and has completed over 3,500 hours’ coaching, and designed and delivered leadership development programmes, for individuals and teams in blue chip companies, professional services firms and third sector organisations.  Deborah brings to her work an understanding of individual and organisational dynamics drawn from wide-ranging business experience in 19 years at McKinsey & Co. She complements this with deep coaching expertise, having first trained as a coach in the early 1990s. She also trained in humanistic psychotherapy, gaining an RSA certificate in counselling skills. Clients appreciate the combination of her warm and supportive style with her intellectual rigour and incisiveness.

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Dr Lisa Thomas

Lisa Thomas is an experienced business consultant, trainer and executive coach. She has direct experience managing businesses at Board Level, as well as working with organisations as a consultant, in private, government and non-profit sectors. Lisa started life as a zoologist, with an MA and PhD from the University of Cambridge. She spent a number of years at McKinsey & Co. as a strategy consultant. She is a Visiting Fellow at the New College of the Humanities and is also a qualified Master Practitioner in NLP. Lisa brings a first-rate ability to analyse situations and structure solutions, and is a strong and empathetic partner to her clients.


Howard Ting

Howard Ting helps senior executives and teams thrive. This includes delivering leadership programmes, clarifying and aligning on strategy, helping clients create a healthy and productive culture, and coaching senior executives. He has worked across a wide variety of for-profit and non-profit sectors and supported clients globally, including Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. Earlier in his career, Howard worked in Accenture's Strategy practice in San Francisco advising large global clients on corporate strategy. Howard earned a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.B.A. from Stanford Graduate School of Business. He speaks fluent English and Mandarin. Howard is warm, supportive and fun, but he’s also relentless in persisting for change.


Lynn Woods Strang

Lynn Woods Strang helps public, private and third sector organisations solve complex business issues, deliver major change programmes and communicate effectively to stakeholders using a creative and collaborative approach. She has nearly twenty years' experience working with public, private and third sector organisations on a wide range of business issues, as both in-house and external support. Her move into consulting began with three years at Bain and Company and was followed by two years of strategy and M&A at LexisNexis. Lynn has a BA in Economics from the University of Victoria (British Columbia) and an MBA from London Business School, and speaks fluent Portuguese, working French and basic Spanish. Lynn is laser-sharp, very commercially insightful and uses her boundless positive energy to get things done and motivate others to get results.