Category: Communication Skills Training


Succession: For serious people you need serious planning 

When news broke of Rupert Murdoch’s decision to step down as chairman of both News Corp and Fox Corp, naming his eldest son Lachlan as successor, comparisons were inevitably drawn with fictional media mogul Logan Roy in the HBO drama Succession.

Brian Cox, the actor who brought Logan Roy to life in the series has since joked that Rupert Murdoch’s own succession plan had been inspired by watching too much of the TV drama. History doesn’t record, however, if Murdoch, like Logan Roy, despaired of his offspring’s leadership potential because they’re “not serious people”.

In real life, succession plans for senior executives should be a much more straightforward matter, but it is surprising how many companies are very poor at planning for a change of leadership.

The average business leader is also unlikely to be in their role for life. According to research from consultancy firm Korn Ferry, the average tenure of a CEO is only three to five years – and about 11% of newly appointed CEOs stay in the role for a year or less.

Succession planning

Clearly, succession planning is not something that can be put off, and plans need to be regularly updated to keep pace with a highly fluid labour market and an ongoing war for top talent.

Rather than a highly-charged power play, succession planning should be a continuous, transparent process – and not focused on just the top spot.

A pipeline of suitable internal candidates needs to be assessed and prepared to step into C-suite and C-minus-1 (or ‘V-suite’) roles, so that the entire management structure can be reset in the event of senior departures.

As executive search and advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates notes, organisations are nearly twice as likely to have “an informal, reactionary approach to succession planning than a formal, proactive one”. 

The company suggests starting with the following key focus areas for CEO succession:

  • Define what you need in a CEO
  • Assess the potential of internal candidates
  • Assess the readiness of your potential CEOs
  • Make CEO succession planning a constant for boards

But good leaders are made, not born, so potential candidates for top jobs also need to ready themselves for joining the C-suite.

Key to this is recognising that leadership is about people and, by implication, about communication. Good leaders need to have a black belt in communication – from one-to-one chats with colleagues, to board presentations, to that big conference speech.

An effective succession plan should also take into account that we are all individuals. The process of developing leadership potential shouldn’t be a conveyor belt of identikit candidates, it has to constantly evolve, to keep pace with the changing social, educational and career backgrounds of each cohort of candidates.

CEO Succession Planning

One skill that will never got out of fashion is the ability to communicate well – to listen closely when others are talking, to show you care about what they’re saying, and to share your vision, goals and strategy in a compelling way.

And in an ever-more complex and fragmented business world, today’s leaders also need the ability to think on their feet – to have some improvisational skills.

Leadership candidates therefore need to develop their communication skills, in order to clearly articulate their personal vision of leadership. That takes effort, but the best leaders are able to make it look easy because they’ve put already the effort in. 

To paraphrase Logan Roy: “You make your own reality. And once you’ve done it, everyone’s of the opinion it was all so obvious.”

To find out more about how to develop your own or your employees’ leadership potential and communication skills, look into an Executive Coaching course with Dynamic Presenting.

Conversation Skills Training

Dialogue Succeeds Where Monologue Fails

Posted on 26th February 2018 in Communication Skills Training, Emotional Intelligence

Have you encountered people who talk AT you rather than WITH you? It can be so boring and frustrating when people talk at us, sharing all of their thoughts and information without any consideration for us absorbing / digesting what they want to tell us….zzz. This can happen in our personal lives as well as in the workplace. It leaves us switching off, holding the phone away from our heads or rolling our eyes thinking ‘blah blah blah…!’

If you want to communicate something to another person it is important to consider the other person when talking. Nobody wants to hear a monologue!

In business today people expect to have their say and no longer accept top down only communication. We want to question, disagree and debate what is being discussed and ‘dialogue’ is essential if you want your employees / team members to feel valued.

It is essential to note that ‘dialogue’ isn’t the same as ‘negotiation’ or ‘discussion’. Both of these represent speaking where one person wins over the other one or convinces the other person to their way of thinking. A real dialogue is when hierarchy is put to the side and there is NO attempt by either party to gain any points. You’ve got to be prepared to put your opinions to the side and genuinely look at and listen to the opinions of others as if you are equal colleagues.

If you can get into respectful dialogue with your colleagues and team members you will see how much you can learn from them and their perspective. You will see how dialogue can boost morale and productivity overall. What you learn from the dialogue will most likely widen your perspective, helping you in your role and also totally boosting your relationship with them.

Want to learn something? Start a dialogue 🙂

Do you have emotional intelligence?

Do you have the emotional intelligence needed for leadership?

Posted on 13th December 2017 in Communication Skills Training, Emotional Intelligence

Are you able to control your temper no matter what problems you are facing? Are you easy to talk to? Do you have the total trust of your teams? Do you constantly make careful, informed decisions?

Emotional intelligence (also known as EI) is the ability to understand your emotions and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean and how these emotions can affect other people. This is an essential characteristic of a successful leader in today’s working world.

Self Assessment
Are you able to analyse your own abilities, emotions, strengths and weaknesses? Are you able to analyze how your actions affect other people? If you have the ability to look objectively at yourself and therefore improve yourself regularly you can increase your success rate in any part of your life.
Self Regulation
Can you calm yourself down when you’re stressed and angry and can you jolly yourself up when you are feeling low? If you have a sense of panic about you so will your teams. If you are calm and strong they will feel reassured and won’t panic. Do people respect you for being organised, calm with an assured ability to get things done effectively?
Empathy & Compassion
Empathy is more than being sympathetic to another person’s situation. Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions and experience of others. Are you able to truly put yourself in the position of others? Can you imagine what they are feeling and thinking? If you empathise with and truly feel compassion for other people then you can truly help them and they will in turn be able to help you as they will know they are supported by you.
Relationship Management
Our working life is more enjoyable when we have good working relationships with our colleagues and boss. For leaders this means building real rapport with your team members. Would your team consider you more of a ‘friendly senior colleague’ or a ‘boss’? In order to manifest an enjoyable workplace for everyone (which essentially leads to a more innovative and more productive workplace), It is essential that you can make strong, solid relationships with everyone you work with. Take the time to find something you have in common and make the effort to create rapport with EVERYONE you meet.
Effective Communication
Ineffective communication in the workplace leads to confusion, feelings of not being listened to and under-valued and is the beginning of anything that ends up in disaster. Are you a good communicator? By that we don’t mean speaking clearly and pronouncing each syllable correctly. Are you able to communicate with people so they instantly understand what you are saying to them? This could be verbally, through tone of voice, expression or physically through body language.

If you think you have a high score on the emotional intelligence richter scale, then congrats! If like many people you are good at some areas and not so strong in others all you need to do is become more aware. More aware of yourself, your actions and emotions. If you can see you’ve upset somebody, rather than feeling defensive, thinking they are idiots, ask yourself why they could be feeling that way. What could you have said / done or communicated that made them feel upset? Ask yourself what you could do differently next time to have a more successful outcome where they feel happy and you feel happy from the communication.
Culture of hierarchy in India

It pays to be aware of hierarchy in India

Posted on 8th December 2017 in Communication Skills Training, Leadership Development

India is a particularly interesting place as it has such a vast populous encompassing many different languages, religions, cultures and identities. There are many India’s within India! This makes it very hard to make a generalisation about a culture of this diversity.

What is noticeably different across Indian and East Asian culture is the importance of hierarchy. Indian businesses have a very hierarchical structure and everyone looks up to the person at the next level to make a decision. To the West this is a pretty old fashioned concept. We live in a business world where the CEO, leaders and managers alike need to influence their teams and do their best to work alongside them. As managers in England we are taught to coach our teams, ask open questions and include everyone’s ideas and opinions. Younger generations expect respect from their managers and most certainly wouldn’t respond well to being directly TOLD what to do.

In the West a person of a younger age could get hired for one of the most senior positions in a company based on his / her knowledge and experience and people in senior positions won’t show their superiority. This would never happen in India, unless at a very progressive international company. In India people expect senior people to be the older more experienced in years and they expect to be told what to do by their managers. If you tried to coach an answer out of them you wouldn’t get anywhere and you certainly wouldn’t get much done. It is a culture of working where the boss always knows better and the higher you are in an organisation the more you count. This respect of seniority stems from the family system in India where the elders are the most revered and respected.

What can be done to help build relationships when working in India?

  • Follow the saying ‘When in Rome do what the romans do’ so in this case when in India do what the Indians do
  • Be aware of the cultural diversity, be cautious about generalisations and take the time to develop relationships.
  • Pecking order matters – always address the more important / more senior members first.
  • Address older people with Sir or Ma’am Mr or Mrs.
  • Don’t hug or touch women in the workplace as this MIGHT make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Be prepared to follow the rules of the bureaucracy. Fill everything out correctly, Indian’s follow policy.
  • Small talk is big and take the time to be social with refreshments throughout meetings.
  • Don’t be offended when there are no explicit please or thank you’s, Indian’s will nod their head or smile to say thank you.
  • Create relationships. Meeting and phone calls are of more value than emails.

And remember that Indians are absolute masters of negotiation so do some prep work if going in to negotiate a price and terms.

There is an Indian Adage ‘It takes two hands to generate applause.’ This is especially true when we are talking about two cultures meeting. Both parties need to make adjustments to fit in and understand the other in order to create a truly successful business relationship

Communicating with facial expressions

How to use facial expressions to communicate with your audience.

We naturally use the muscles in our faces to express how we are feeling and have some thousands of unique expressions that we use every day. Very often we are not in control of our facial expressions as they happen extremely quickly, immediately in sync with how we feel or what we are thinking.

As a public speaker / business presenter you must be aware of your facial expressions as part of your non verbal communication techniques. They can seriously enhance what you are saying, change the way the audience feels about you and change the way you feel about a situation.

All of our facial expressions stem from one of the six basic human emotions:

  • Joy – (happiness) – symbolized by the mouth turning upwards and the eyelids closing
  • Surprise – symbolized by the eyebrows arching and the eyes opening wider
  • Sadness – symoblized by the lowering of the mouth corners, the eyebrows descending and the eyelids drooping
  • Anger – symbolized by eyebrows lowering, lips pressing firmly and eyes bulging
  • Disgust – symbolized by the upper lip raising, nose bridge wrinkling and cheeks raising
  • Fear – symbolized by the upper eyelids raising, eyes opening and the lisp stretching horizontally.

From these basic emotions we create our own adaptations and variations of these expressions which are all totally personal to us. From large expressions through to micro-expressions, our faces can communicate so much about how we feel. We are very good at noticing even the subtlest of communication in each other so it is very hard to hide how we are feeling.

If we can learn to take control of our expressions as well as learn to read them we can control the outcome of a situation better.

Learning to read micro-expressions to develop emotional intelligence

Being able to read micro-expressions is the key to heightened emotional awareness. Spotting micro-expressions will give you an edge in any social or business situation as well as helping you see these expressions in yourself. When you recognise these expressions in people it will enhance your empathy towards them and will help you to see the human side of them. You’ll then know the best way to respond to that person in order to make the situation as beneficial for both parties as possible. The key to noticing these micro-expressions is the ability to be truly present and focus on truly listening (with eyes and ears) to the person you are talking with. If you are focused you won’t miss a thing. If you’re distracted, looking at your phone, thinking of dinner plans for the evening, worried about what they are thinking about you, you’ll miss it all.

Learning to use facial expressions to enhance your story-telling

We all know how boring it is to listen to somebody talk with a monotone voice and a deadpan expression. Using facial expressions to tell stories and to explain things to colleagues enhances the experience for the other person. As the person speaking it is your job to entertain, inspire, encourage, warn or whatever the objective is of your speech / presentation. Raise your eyebrows as you deliver the great news that sales are up by 30%. Half close your eyes and look down as you tell the bad news that the company didn’t win the pitch. Look sad when you are telling somebody they are losing their job. Without the right expression you can give the wrong impression. If you do feel joyful making them redundant you need to put on a sorrowful face to make them feel as if you are truly sorry for the situation. Control your expressions to control the message.

Learning to use facial expressions to change the mood in the room

The brilliant thing about controlling your facial expressions is that you can control how you are feeling. Smile and you will feel happy. Frown and you will feel cross. Sneer and you will feel disgust. How often have you walked into a presentation or interview where the person opposite you or people in the audience are staring coldly, or frowning or looking hard at you? This inevitably makes us feel uncomfortable, unsure and more nervous. By smiling at them and by softening your face you can change how YOU feel. Watch as the person opposite you slowly but surely changes they way they look at you to be more friendly and warm, which will in turn make you feel at ease so you can wow them with your presentation.

By learning to control your facial expressions particularly in circumstances where you have the opportunity to prepare, you can totally control the situation to your benefit.

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

Communicating within cross-functional teams

Communicating within cross-functional teams

Very rarely is one person alone brilliant at many things. Most likely we have one thing that we possibly are brilliant at, a few things we are good at and the rest we wouldn’t offer our services for.

Businesses have always employed diverse groups of people with different skillsets to work as a team. Multiple brains are better than one or none of us is as smart as ALL of us, as the adage goes.

The problem with this team set up is that each person with her different skillset has a completely different idea / perspective / driver to the other and this can cause huge conflict in the workplace.

Retail is a great example of a fast evolving business segment where a diverse group of people work together on large scale projects. Not only does e-commerce mix with bricks and mortar retail, we now have conversation commerce and experiential digital products in store offering the customer exciting new brand experiences.

This means that a hugely diverse range of people, with different skills sets and ways of working are forced to work together. Their unique goal is to create one holistic and continuous brand experience across all touch points. Imagine meeting rooms with creative director, technical director, store development director, ecommerce director, head of social and so on…. all in one room with different priorities and different perspectives.

‘It needs to feel more sophisticated and the interaction needs to be more beautiful…’ Creative Director

‘It needs to function first and that’s the most important thing here, a bit of styling can be done at the end…’ Technical Director

‘Social media is the no.1 way we are communicating these days so I need the social media feed at the top so people can see it…’ Head of Social 

‘That’s not how I want to lay out the page…’ Creative Director 

The key to working in a diverse team is compromise and negotiation, however people just don’t like to compromise, especially when they have strong ideas and think they are right. Compromising and negotiating are important life skills. Without compromise it is very difficult to work together successfully and harmoniously. Don’t we all want a harmonious, relaxed working environment? 


A willingness to compromise is a sign of great conviction and shouldn’t be seen as weakness. All you’ve got to do is give a little to get something that you want in return. 

Can you remember a time when you didn’t want to compromise and this made things worse? Understanding each other’s perspectives is key and often our ego prevents us from seeing the merits of somebody else’s case. The best way to understand someone else’s point of view is by asking open-ended questions and by truly LISTENING to the answers. Of course we all feel a variety of emotions – frustration, anger etc – in the workplace. How we manage our emotions is the important part. Emotional discipline in other words.

  • Why do you feel like this?
  • How can we find a way that we are both happy with?
  • Can you explain your thinking a bit more?
  • What can I do to help you understand my perspective better?
  • How can we come to a solution which works for both of us?


An ability to negotiate means that you have more chance of getting what you want even if it’s not 100%. Negotiation is a collaboration where both parties are winners. 

  • Let people tell their side of the story
  • Create rapport with the person as people are easily influenced by people they like
  • Explain the downfalls if the other person doesn’t take your ideas on board
  • Think Win Win as the best outcome
  • Ask what you can do for the other person
  • Manage your own emotions

 If you are still not getting anywhere ask for a demonstration or visit their side of the office, build rapport and have a really open workshop together.

Diverse teams of specialists are put together to create brilliant outcomes. Try and make the process easier for yourself by learning the art of compromise and negotiation and get great results for everyone.

Read more about Communication Skills Training
Read our other blog posts discussing Communication Skills

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

defensive behaviour

Defensive Behaviour – Understanding Defensiveness…

Defensive behaviour in the workplace is tricky to manage, where a siege mentality becomes the operating system for some people. Defensiveness may at times be the most effective behaviour to exhibit and equally when it is our habitual, subconscious and reflexive way of dealing with challenges and surprises, it can lead to difficulties – we don’t take on other perspectives and ideas, we insist that we are being hard done by, we prevent ourselves from actively seeking out challenges, opportunities and ultimately it is our own growth that becomes stunted.

Common Defensive Behaviours

Masking – often displayed as sarcasm, where true thoughts/feelings are only shared piecemeal

Avoiding – avoiding dialogue about the pertinent issue(s)

Withdrawing – ejecting out of the conversation and perhaps physically leaving the space


To some extent we are hard wired for self protection and defensive behaviour is a natural consequence. And as assertiveness – viewed as the mid point between fight and flight – is a learnt position, we often revert towards either passive or aggressive tendencies when the pressure is on. It is a uniquely human phenomenon. Animals don’t do assertiveness..!

Resolving Conflict

Holding on to a defensive attitude is an exhausting task. And in not dealing with things directly can lead to behaviours that in turn affect the working relationship somewhat more indirectly and make things worse. So it becomes much harder to untangle various legacy issues and resolve the key underlying dispute. Everything becomes confused by this historical baggage. All mediation processes seek to untangle this

Addressing points of conflict with a constructive mindset leads to resolution and often to stronger relationships as trust is forged

Situational Perspectives

People who are more prone to defensive behaviour may perceive an attack in certain situations in which people with resilient and calm temperaments would perceive none. This brings in to play the notion of true empathy. Really being able to visualise the other person’s perspective… of course this is what actors do all day long in creating truthful characters from words on scripts. Understanding situational perspectives in other words.

How we innately or automatically recieve feedback or criticism plays a big part too – this is often embedded since our formative years in our dealings with parents, teachers and anyone who had a position of authority over us. We tend to make active choices to like, dislike, forgive etc. In so doing we adopt positions about other people and workplace issues.

“Resentment, like blame and regret is looking backwards”

Being closed-minded when challenged or given critical feedback detracts from learning and leadership. It is vital to consciously make space to improve self awareness, accept feedback from others, working through points of conflict with open, honest dialogue… This is how we learn, change our defensive behaviour and ultimately, grow.

Fear underpins it all. the first step away from fear is to register our automatic reactions and then mindfully make adjustments. It doesn’t take a lot of time to notice our typical responses but it takes a lot of time, conscious practice and nurturing to enable new fledgling habits to grow and supercede the old defensive ways.

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

role play effectively

Role Play – Learn How to Role Play Effectively

Role play exercises are commonly used as part of recruitment processes, assessment centres and leadership development programs, usually centering around a relevant yet fictional case study. The aim of using role play is generally to see how you manage people, behaviours and how effectively you communicate and engage with somebody else – be they a line manager, peer, direct report, potential customer…

Often as a candidate, you are told the character you will be role playing opposite, say the CEO of a prospective client firm, is actually a professional actor. In the case of development and leadership training programs, the actor may also facilitate the session and offer time outs where needed and provide feedback after the session. But more usually you will find that there are other observers, managers and facilitators in the room whose job is to observe and record everything that goes on in the role play meeting. This is especially the case where recruitment and assessment are concerned.

Having been the role player over 1000 times and also assessor, facilitator, program designer on countless occasions, I thought I would share some tips on how to role play effectively.

1. Effective Introduction

Do relax, smile, shake hands etc. or whatever you would do in a normal meeting. Do listen from the outset to the character you are meeting. How is their energy today? What kind of mood are they in? What is it that they need? Adopt an open, inquisitive perspective from the outset.

2. Rapport & Relationship

Building strong relationships is often cited as one of the most fundamental aspects of business. The first meeting with a prospective client or even regular catch up with a team member are all opportunities to strengthen that bond. So don’t focus solely on “the issue”, whatever that may be. Take an interest in the person sat opposite you – even if you think you know them well, who are they today, right at this moment? This is just as relevant if having a difficult conversation.

Many people in role play exercises simply offer a cursory greeting, pay no attention and then jump into what they think the case study wants them to achieve. That frankly is the difference between a leader and manager. The skill we look for in role play exercises is building rapport throughout the conversation, whilst staying on point re: whatever needs to be discussed. Too many people try “How was your flight?” then move straight into whatever they want.

3. Shared Agenda

If you have called the meeting, you will obviously have points to address and/or a message to deliver. That’s great. But do not forget to ask for the other person’s input. And crucially this should be done at the beginning of the meeting. Scribble down the salient points that you both want to cover. Too many times, I have seen people in situations where they fail to do this and launch into their own agenda, ignoring and alienating the needs of the other. It’s not rocket science so remember to take a moment to invite their perspective.

4. Listen & Pause

Listening effectively is really easy as you simply place all your focus on to the other person. Simple right? Why then do the majority of people in role play exercises fail to listen adequately? And I’m talking about senior partners in law firms and professional services as well as C-level directors..! It seems therefore that listening is a skill we can consciously develop. As actors we are screwed if we stop genuinely listening on stage. The trick is to park our inner monologue and focus on not only what is being said, but how it is being said.

Similarly don’t be afraid of pauses in the role play. A lengthy pause is often the moment the other person is really thinking hard about what you just said so allow them the space to think. Chances are that pause is where a change of thinking will actually occur so the last thing you want to do is break it.

5. Energy Matching

We do this unconsciously all the time. We see a friend who we had, until seeing them slumped at the bar, figured would be in their usual jocular mood. We instantly make an adjustment and decide to not go for the hi-five (or whatever). The trick is to do this consciously. So, you’re meeting a new client for the first time and have no idea what they are like. If you find they are chatty and personable, then mirror that relaxed energy. Conversely if they are brash and impatient, then cut to the quick. The point is to be able to flex your own style in the moment and to be aware of this – improvisation in other words.

6. Questioning

Learn the difference between open, closed, multiple and leading questions. So many people ask a series of closed and lengthy, ineffective multiple questions in trying to get to dialogue in role play. It’s really much easier than that. Ask a short, pithy open question when you need to unearth information or fully understand the other person’s perspective. Closed questions work for clarifying – “Was it red or black..?” And leading questions – “Well I really don’t think that they offer anything of value, wouldn’t you say?”

7. Agree Next Steps

When all perspectives have been shared and discussed, perhaps you’ve been able to negotiate where possible and reach agreed next steps. Do ensure that next steps have actually been mutually agreed upon by checking in with the other person. A common role play mistake is to assume buy-in and launch into “Well that’s all settled then…” mindset when actually things have not been agreed… because you didn’t listen…. because there was no trust or rapport…!!

What works well here is being crystal clear about ownership and who is tasked to do what, next. Lead by example and take ownership of relevant points that you need to in the role play.

8. Summarise & Close

Offering a summary of what has been discussed, any changes made and next steps agreed on allows everyone to take stock and helps to articulate what progress has been made over the last 30 minutes or whatever.

Role play can be strange and seem artificial with observers in the room, watching your every move. It can also illuminate habits, typical behaviour and communication approach. Invariably a role play with an experienced actor/trainer will result in very useful and relevant feedback which is priceless.

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

narcissist nightmare boss

How To Cope With Your Nightmare Boss

The Narcissist can often be found employed in a senior role – I was somewhat surprised to learn this as I figured authoritarian leadership had had its day. It’s difficult to say if this personality attribute has specifically helped them along the way to the top. We all possess some narcissism, indeed we all need an element of it in terms of being able to use and display a degree of agency in the world.

“It’s not easy being superior to everyone I know” – anon

What is a Narcissist?

An individual characterised by craving to be the centre of attention constantly, a very extreme form of self-centredness, having grandiose fantasies of one’s achievements and talents and consequently lacking care and concern for others. Like confidence or self esteem, we all need a dash of it, so we’re all somewhere on the spectrum. But a considerable excess results in behavioural challenges for everyone which is even more acute when the narcissist in question is your boss..!

Narcissists typically:

1. Score low on compassion
2. Are terrible listeners because it’s all about them and don’t you forget it.
3. Don’t take kindly to criticism
4. Believe it’s everyone else’s fault so are incapable of saying sorry, my bad, apologies…
5. Manipulate others in order to get whatever they want
You might be able to walk away from this person in your social life, but if the world of work has thrust this dynamic upon you and especially if you have a nightmare boss, then you’re going to have to find a way to cope. How?

How To Deal With a Narcissist Boss

1. Remember you’re not going to be best friends, (although narcissists can be very charming to get what they want) and that the narcissist’s behaviour affects everyone in their orbit – as a consequence nothing they do should not be taken personally

2. Avoid blaming the narcissist too directly for anything. If a workplace issue arises, use a simple open question to frame the problem eg. “So why didn’t we win the pitch?” “What was the main reason?” etc.

3. Use statements like “I feel…” or “When x happens, the impact on me is y…” By articulating the emotional impact on you of a workplace issue, the narcissist is immediately uncomfortable – they have a tendency to avoid opening up emotionally and feel uneasy when those around them do, which is probably connected to deep seated low self-esteem. But whatever you do, don’t point this out to them..!
4. After any work related challenge has been assessed, the narcissist may feel stuck in problem mode. The best way forward is to be positive and present solutions. If a range of potential solutions can be offerd up, so much the better. The narcissist can often get fixated on just the problem, only their place in the team or perhaps only one possible solution. So by offering up a range of possibilities you are gently nudging their inflexible mindset into considering other approaches.
5. Massage their ego whenever there isn’t a better option – dangerous as you further embed their sense of superiority but hey you’re not their therapist, you’re just trying to get through your working day.


Narcissists often lack empathy, focus on themselves, struggle with relationships and lack trust in others. A lack therefore of fundamental leadership skills. So as hard as it may be, spare a thought for your nightmare boss – surely it’s not easy being so emotionally disconnected? Your empathy and problem solving could win the day and ensure you don’t lose your head in dealing with it all.
Try this quick personality test to see how you score on the narcissist spectrum
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

choosing habits success

Habits – Choosing Successful Habits for Self Development…

 “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” Aristotle

Habits are certain embedded patterns of thought or action. Something we replay over and again automatically. They can be conscious or unconscious actions. Procrastination is a particular habit of mine. It took me ages to get my act together to write this blog post today..! 

The advertising industry has long understood how to introduce consumption of products to us via Inculcation – repeated messaging until our subconscious demands we buy anything and everything with Peppa Pig splattered on it – seriously, watch the trance kids go into anytime the famous pig is on TV and the consequent “must buy impulse” triggered when they see related merchandise. For my own part I have managed to make cycling, herbal tea and yoga regular habits. But I’ve also started cracking my knuckles and still get the odd chocolate bar in. Maybe every time we succeed in introducing a positive change we also get a corresponding negative habit to balance things out..?

Established Patterns

“Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into but hard to get out of” Anon

Changing or breaking any habit needs to begin with awareness and identifying these repeated patterns or routines that exist. This can be trickier than it sounds as our ego does its utmost to reject that smoking twenty cigarettes per day is actually an entrenched pattern resulting in self deluded commentary such as “Oh smoking? No that’s not a serious habit for me. Honestly I could give that up easily. No, I need to focus on my habit of never calling people back, it’s terrible.” These are deeply entrenched and defensive positions – it’s taken potentially hundreds, thousands of repetitions to establish the current habit – where we fear being exposed, losing our not so secret crutch and dread our world changing forever. Change however, is the only constant.

Going to the gym regularly, meditating for 15 minutes in the morning…. are all habits too. It’s just that they result in positive and societally approved change. Which is why we desire them but they take commitment and hard work so just one more pint and fag and I’ll catch you up on that hill run..promise..!

Charles Duhigg’s illuminating book How Habits Work cites the trigger, routine, reward loop which goes a bit like this:

1. Trigger that kicks things off

2. Routine ie. the habit/behaviour itself

3. Benefit received from the action/behaviour

Changing Behaviours

As this is the way in which habits bcome cemented within us, it is also the way to establish new behaviours. So if the sight of a Crunchie wrapper near a waste bin in the street means we have to get that sugar hit NOW as an immediate Pavlovian response is activated, then similarly we need to consciously introduce different visual triggers into our world – a bowl of cashews next to the fridge, satsumas next to the pc, gym kit ready and waiting next to the door etc. if we are to ever change our ways.

As is well documented sheer willpower alone doesn’t work for most of us. We are magnetically pulled back into our well practiced old behaviours unless we go out of our way to create systems that actively promote the new way of doing things. A self created advertising campaign aimed at just ourselves.

Coaching as a Solution

“All bad habits start slowly and gradually and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you” – Zig Zaglar

Working with a trusted coach can help to identify existing habits, clarify new goals, work out the road map to achieving those goals and crucially provide ongoing support and guidance. Is it any surprise then, that most successful people and many of those in positions of leadership use executive coaches to help them in reaching their goals? Not really.


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

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