Archive: October, 2013

leadership lesson say less mean more

Leadership Lesson – Say Less, Mean More…

A leadership lesson can come in many shapes. In Al Pacino’s Looking For Richard, where Pacino examines the themes of Richard III, a passing comment from a theatre actor is “If we had learnt anything from Shakespeare, we would say less and mean more…” Simple and powerful advice for anyone, especially those in positions of leadership.

How many of us can say that we actively try to improve our ability to listen? Probably not many. Indeed from childhood onwards far more attention and importance is generally placed upon developing the ability to speak well.

By focusing our attention on the speaker, we naturally afford them and their ideas greater respect. In showing a greater respect for those who are speaking, we engender trust and others are then likely to be more open about their ideas and we stand to gain as a result. Nothing feels as good as being really listened to it would seem. Unsurprisingly, we are generally better in a first date or job interview as the newness of these situations energises our senses and we make a concerted effort to show the best of ourselves which includes good listening. Contrast this with a parental frustration with their non-listening children where the impotent command “Listen..!” usually yields nothing.

Active Listening

Active listening is particularly useful, where nodding your head, maintaining appropriate eye contact, giving small verbal signals(uh huh) and facial expressions all help to build a real dialogue without having to say anything in particular. Active listening entails not only hearing the words the other person says but also registering how they are saying it – volume, pace, tone, modulation, facial expression, posture, gesticulation.

Listening alone is pretty hard though as it is only natural to begin forming one’s own thoughts and opinions in response to what we have just heard and it’s not like we get a choice to switch off that inner monologue. Consequently the biggest challenge is to listen well until the other person has come to a halt, if they ever do. And then, if they spoke at length, as a well intentioned listener we then have to rewind the tape to revisit the salient moments in oder to base our next comment on as full an understanding as possible.

In The Moment…

Actors are trained to within an inch of their lives through rehearsals and performance to work moment to moment, placing all their attention outside of themselves and on to their acting partner in a scene, thus reacting within character to whatever external stimuli they are presented with.

Similarly great listening is the stuff of great leadership. Think of the senior people you admire within your organisation. How is their ability to listen? Do they use appropriate eye contact? Do they pause before their turn to speak? Do they use the language that you just did? Do they summarise and reflect back what you were saying before giving their perspective? If so, you are having a conversation with a great listener so make the most of it.

Listening effectively is a quiet (literally) means of building leadership credibility and also, in this noisy world which we inhabit, the most challenging. Yet it remains a seemingly simple and straightforward task.

“If we’d learnt anything from Shakespeare, we would say less and mean more.” High time many more of us put that into practice.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

nature of competition

The Nature of Competition…

Competition between rivals is at the heart of the exhilirating movie Rush. Focusing on the intense rivalry between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda in the run up to the 1976 Formula 1 World Championship. Could either have achieved what they did without the presence of the other pushing them on constantly?

Hunt and Lauda are clearly two very different men with two hugely differing attitudes to life. But both shared a passion to win races and so each drove (literally) the other on to success. Lauda shown to be meticulous, studious and obsessive in the extreme, Hunt a flamboyant, party-hard ladies man. Daniel Bruhl who plays the uber analytical Lauda is particularly impressive.

Respected Adversaries

Rush, a rare film that places the dynamic of intense competition at its heart, makes you wonder if Coca Cola would be the giant they are today without Pepsi snapping at their heels back in the 80’s. Whether Apple would have ever become the biggest company by way of market capitalisation, if Microsoft weren’t so complete in their domination. Or even if Manchester United could have dominated English football without their rivalries with Arsenal, Chelsea et al.

Rush – An Energetic Tour De Force of Cinema

Amongst the predictable bravado, machismo and blatant rivalry we see moments of extraordinary mutual respect and acknowledgment between Hunt and Lauda. Hunt dishes out a physical lesson to a journalist who mocks Lauda. Lauda reveals that it was Hunt’s race winning appearances on his hospital room television that served to intensify his absolute need to get better just so he could get back in a car and race again, after a near fatal crash leaves him severely burnt.

We eventually witness Hunt win the Championship by coming 3rd in the final race thus earning enough points to clinch the title. What’s really interesting is that he could not have done this without Lauda’s presence. Perhaps we owe our competitors a debt of gratitude for their ever motivating presence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKAr42gxjhM

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

learn until you die

Learn Until You Die – There’s Always Something New to Learn

Learn until you die – this was the mantra of a martial arts instructor I once trained under. There’s always something to learn. If there wasn’t you would be dead. A refusal to learn is a refusal to live. Setting limits for yourself stifles any chance of growth.

The least useful aphorism to take seriously is “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It’s a lie…!!

Typically many of us as undergraduates in our late teens and early twenties were primarily motivated by partying and experimenting in all its guises. Interesting to note the difference with mature students who return to study a masters or phd years later – they genuinely want to learn, that’s their key motivation.

Learn & Adapt… or Die

So it seems that maybe the will to learn is actually linked to longevity and the struggle to survive. Adapt or die is a harsh lesson for individuals and businesses alike. Just ask HMV, Blockbuster, Woolworths etc. They either didn’t adapt whatsoever or did not adapt quickly or effectively enough.

The Best Learning is Unlearning

Bruce Lee’s take on the spiritual teachings associated with martial arts was that all his training was part of a bigger journey of unlearning. That each kick and punch was aimed squarely at his own ego, slowly chipping away over time to eventually reveal some semblance of absolute truth.

Similarly, the artist who stands still is the artist who goes backwards. Getting curious, making changes, trying new things and so moving forwards despite inevitable obstacles are the way of survival and potentially the way of success. Which kind of explains the relentless success of Madonna – an average dancer and mediocre singer who has been nothing short of prolific. She has endured through a genius knowing of when and how to reinvent herself.

Now just imagine if Madonna with her wily business outlook could have been the CEO of HMV, Blockbuster, Woolworths etc….

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

management by hand grenade

Management by Hand Grenade

Management by hand grenade is how Paolo Di Canio’s leadership style as manager of footballing side Sunderland was described. And management by hand grenade is the style that has got him sacked. He often spoke about players lacking the right level of desire, that there were not enough leaders on the pitch and that he wanted more “nasty” players – a term he used frequently.

His managerial style was characterised as having a very much a me and them attitude. He was fond of dramatic statements and had a questionable history of falling out with players and footballing authorities wherever he went.

Autocratic Leadership

He favoured an autocratic leadership style and would routinely berate his players in post match press interviews – a surely divisive and dangerous tactic. Contrast this with the approach of truly accomplished man managers who get the genuine buy in of their team.

Di Canio’s focused on passion and making big statements both on and off the pitch – exactly as he was as a player in years gone by. Therefore he could often endear himself to a certain section of stakeholder – the fans, who may well be tired of overpaid, pampered players not putting in the performances that are expected of them.

Lack of Ownership & Personal Responsibility

Regards personal responsibility he never ever said “that’s my fault”, “i take full responsibility”, “i made a mistake”, “sorry”, “i need to change what i am doing” etc. In fact and crucially Di Canio continues to claim that he will not change his style.

Just a few games into the new season saw a player revolt which led immediately to his sacking from the job. His stand off with fans after the most recent defeat telling them to keep their chins up may in his mind have been an attempt to take responsibility but it played out very differently and looked to many like he was saying “what can I do, it’s those non-performing players you need to talk to.” A pretty obvious display of incongruent body language compared to the verbal message.

Reign of Fear, is no Reign at all

A reign of fear is no reign at all. Yes discipline is important, undoubtedly more so in a professional football club than in many organisations.

In short, man management these days requires more listening, probing through questioning, reflecting back, checking for understanding, taking personal responsibility, developing lastig relationships underscored with mutual trust. Alex Ferguson eventually realised this and stopped using his famous “hairdryer” tactic on players – he would loudly chastise under performing players at half time from a range of two inches until they were saturated with fear. In short, management by hand grenade just doesn’t work, influence or have much effect.

Adopting Coaching Approach

The idea of coaching or being supportive to players and staff would be alien to Di Canio.

Also, the blanket approach to man management went out a long time ago as the real art is about understanding each individual and motivating them appropriately. That’s the art of management – that flexibility, awareness and appreciating that all things change.

The lights have certainly gone out on management by hand grenade – public humiliation, denigrating the efforts of others and attempting to control through a reign of fear. And when autocratic management seems so out of place in the macho world of football you realise that times have truly changed.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

art over science

Art Over Science

Art over science – perhaps it is just possible that the arts can teach us as much as hard science..? The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI as it’s more commonly referred to is perhaps the most widely used of all psychological assessments. Now more than 50 years since it was first utilised it seems that its time may be up.

An MBTI test involves answering many multiple choice questions, the results of which fall into one of sixteen identifiable personality types. The test has been used by over 10,000 companies and countless governments and universities. It is estimated that at least 50 million people have undertaken the test at some point in their lives.

MBTI – Still Relevant..?

Like many personality models or behaviour models being peddled today MBTI grew out from psychological research. Whilst such models can certainly be useful indicators re: an individual’s personality style or behavioural tendencies, they remain just that: an indication and nothing more. There is a certain rigidity to defining people in such a pigeon holing manner which is surly questionable.

There are of course dozens of models on the market now all purporting to illuminate some previously hidden aspect of our natures. It rather seems that psychology sees itself as very important, serious stuff without which we could not possibly hope to understand ourselves.

Contrast this approach with themes presented in a non-didactic manner throughout great drama. The power of storytelling may outweigh any supposedly scientific approach to behavioural study. Is it possible that we could gain a greater insight into our behaviour through watching and closely observing fiction than we ever could through cold, robotic psychological testing..?

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

disagreements leadership obstacles

Disagreements – Overcoming Leadership Obstacles…

Disagreements, obstacles, challenges, difficult personalities, situations of conflict and ensuing crucial conversations are all inevitable in professional life.

What marks out true leadership is the ability to cope with these potentially stressful situations effectively whilst retaining a sense of clarity and calmness. In other words, HOW you deal with a given situation illuminates how effective a leader you are.

Fight or Flight

Often in situations of conflict we, out of a primal sense of fight or flight, adopt a combat mentality where we strive to “win” and so become entrenched in a particular position in disagreements. In doing so, listening without prejudice goes out the window and everything that is said or done by our “opponent” is a provocation to be anticipated, blocked, thwarted and defeated. Both parties move away from a safety zone where each can express themselves freely. Instead we either move towards violence by labelling, attacking and controlling behaviours or we move towards silence by avoiding, withdrawing and masking behaviours.

The art of skillful mediation in order to overcome these situations is to accept that at the heart of any conflict are emotions borne out of being human.

Authentic Leadership

A true leader can take time out, readjust and then re-establish a conversation by stating what they really want and why it matters. The heightened emotions may still be present – we claim to want passionate not ambivalent leaders after all – but somehow more focused on the desired outcome as opposed to the battle of wills and disagreements that took place earlier.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean having to come up with all the answers in a flash of genius. It could mean saying “I realise that I don’t fully understand how you see this problem.” That would likely move the conversation back into a safe zone where differing perspectives and stories can be shared. That is the beginning of understanding, the route to solving any disagreements and it is also the mark of a leader.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

curiosity in business

Curiosity in Business – Developing Instinct and Awareness…

Curiosity in business is essential. It has surely been a major impetus behind scientific discovery and the advancement of civilisation. Does that sound far fetched? Well surely it is our curiosity that drives us to play, to experiment, to innovate and to create. Without those basic actions we succeed in nothing.

Perhaps we are born with an abundance of wanting and needing to know, which slowly depreciates as we become more and more accustomed to our environment and to how things work. Indeed a lack of curiosity is often observed in those suffering from depression which suggests that curiosity is really a very fundamental part of our progressive selves.

Inquisitiveness sustains our interest and motivates us to inquire or explore and there is correlation between curiosity, creativity and intelligence.

Therefore, executives in the corporate world would do as well to look beyond business processes and let their creative curiosity loose. Any question beginning “What if…?” is the launch pad to collectively activate our healthy nosiness from.

Creativity and Innovation Mantras

The trouble in business is that everyone goes round asking for “creative” and “innovative” individuals and teams without really allowing those people the freedom to unleash their true talents. A bit like switching off the water supply and then demanding that you make me a cup of tea. The businesses that will excel over the next few years will be those whose people at all levels have been given space to question and probe without fear.

How many organisations today can honestly say that they consciously cultivate curiosity in their ranks? If we really want to become that much more creative and innovative, isn’t it time to take conscious steps to allow ideas to flourish..?

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication