Category: Emotional Intelligence

creativity learn improvise

Creativity – Learn to Improvise and Boost Your Creativity…

Creativity and true innovation are often cited as fundamental for any organisation wishing to grow and evolve. But just how do you get “creative?”

A lot of creative expression requires the will to break form and take risks. However, most corporate cultures are so control-minded that any true creativity is stifled from the outset. This then requires companies and leaders to take a very large step back to assess how they think and operate on a macro level and to make massive changes in order to dismantle existing cultures and nurture environments where creativity can actually take place. If creativity is essential for business, then most businesses need to change dramatically and soon.

Conscious and Subconscious Mind…

Much of creativity is about suppressing the conscious mind, thus allowing the subconcious mind to play and express thus resulting in new ways of looking at things and fresh perspectives. In other words it’s about turning off the critical, analytical brain. Not that the ability to critically assess and analyse isn’t valuable, just that in our world and especially in business those skills have been favoured over creativity for too long. What is needed is a happy balance.

Improvisation

Improvisation in the theatrical sense unleashes creativity of the participants yet has rules and structure, like any game, and so is not quite the creative free for all that many may think of it as. However, in improvisation rules aren’t rules as such, they’re more like guidelines. Those new to improvising often get caught up focusing on the supposed rules whereas if a freer, fearless, go with it attitude is adopted then then creativity is allowed. And that’s the key thing – to ALLOW creativity to bubble up, because believe it or not we are all creative beasts. It’s just that some of us have put more layers of stuff between us and that creativity than others.

Theatre and Actor-Led Games

How then, do you improvise? Well there are many actor led games that can be adapted from the world of theatre and the rehearsal room for the benefit of organisations. Most games are simple and can be played by anyone. These games can be entertaining and unifying. The more you are prepared to put your ego aside, the more you open up and the more creative you become.
“There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”
Keith Johnstone, Improvisation Guru
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

mindfulness emotionally aware

Mindfulness… How to Be More Emotionally Aware…

Mindfulness seems to be a buzzword of the moment. But putting its “zeitgeistness” to one side, what actually is mindfulness and how can it benefit us?

Amongst an array of definitions, the following is perhaps useful:

“Mindfulness is paying attention to and acknowledging thoughts and emotions as they arise and as they dissipate, thereby savouring the present moment and allowing all else to just be.”

Being In The Moment

Mindfulness is about allowing whatever is taking place within us to take place and to accept that this is happening without judgment and without any internal conversation with ourselves about it. Thereby we live in the only moment that has ever existed, the present moment. To practice conscious awareness is another way of articulating this. Mindfulness is naturally a composite of practices such as meditation, yoga and the martial arts where an inner focus on the breath is fundamental. Thoughts cannot be controlled directly so there’s no point in trying. Equally all thought and emotion is valid and allowable because you are experiencing them.

How To Practice Mindfulness…

So, how does one do it? A simple way to begin is to take 10 minutes first thing in the morning to meditate. Avoid the phone, email, TV, newspaper etc for just a little while. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor, ensure you have quiet around you, place your gaze on a point about one foot in front of you on the floor, smile a little smile and breathe. Now close your eyes and focus on your breathing, allowing all other thoughts, whatever they may be, to come and go like traffic at a roundabout. After a few minutes focus on every sound you can hear around you – breathing, other sounds in the room, the house and then exterior sounds like traffic, passing airplanes etc. Allow your ears to hear these sounds and then let them pass. After 10 minutes, very gradually open your eyes and then slowly get up and begin your day. Congratulations, you’ve just consciously spent very high quality time with yourself and this will act as an anchor throughout your day.
If possible, build a small 5 minute window to do the same as above to help reconnect with that inner peace – especially useful when undergoing stressful times. Many theatre directors will begin a run through in rehearsals with a minute or two of absolute silence before beginning the run, to calm group anxiety. Simple and effective, it seems that often all we have to do is to get out of our own way.
To put in harder leadership terms, conscious awareness or mindfulness refreshes our thought cycle leading to creative thinking and better decision making. We are more prone to listen well to others and practice active listening.

The Benefits of Mindfulness…

1. Enhances productivity, creativity and innovation
2. Fosters a culture of meaningful communication
3. Reduces tension within individuals and within relationships
4. Nurtures the increasingly vital skills of flexibility, adaptability and improvisation
5. Enables us to better manage challenges, pressure and stress
Ask yourself, just how mindful are you? How mindful could you be? Now, are you ready to make the adjustments to gain the benefits?
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

Communication Skills Training

Leadership – 5 Vital Lessons from Actors…

Leadership is tough. Actors by nature, training and practice have to be incredible communicators in rehearsal, on stage and on set. Empathy, perceptiveness and emotional agility are vital skills for any performer – it would be impossible to fathom a Shakespearean monologue otherwise.

Whilst actors could certainly learn a lot from the discipline, organisation and decision making abilities of those in the corporate world, business leaders could also gain valuable insight from the agility of performers.

1. Make Choices & Take Risks

The odds are so stacked against any one actor making a success that by their choice of profession alone, they are extreme risk takers. Also the most magnetic performances require daring, sometimes dangerous choices to be made in terms of character and action. Risk nothing and you will only deliver a mediocre, cliched performance which is easily forgotten. Anyone remember Blockbuster Video..? “The talent is in the choices you make” – Robert De Niro.

2. Improvise

Few can improvise and roll with the punches as well as stage actors. The ability to take on new information quickly (new characters, relationships, scenes, scripts) and roll with the punches has enormous relevance for robotic, process obsessed managers. “Accept and build” is the improviser’s mantra. Accept everything, deny nothing. Since change is inevitable, managers need to understand that everything changes and roll with that fluidly instead of clinging on to old ways of doing things.

3. Understand Behaviour & Empathise

No matter what amazing innovation technology will bring us tomorrow, a true understanding of people’s behaviour, nuances and emotions will always mark out real leaders from middle managers. In fact this should be no hardship or task but borne of a natural curiosity. The skill of feeling a character’s joy and pain are part of the actor’s job description. The leader, if she is to understand an organisation and inspire them must first of all understand them and what moves them.

 4. Build Relationships

Actors regularly have to create close, trusting relationships with their colleagues very quickly – imagine barely knowing somebody yet charged with portraying a loving relationship of say twenty years within a couple of hours of knowing each other. With just four weeks rehearsal before curtain up, there simply isn’t time to take your time. Jump to it, throw yourself in. This of course, takes courage – the courage to surrender ego and trust others.

5. Perform

The presentation, pitch, speech, difficult conversation etc are all moments of theatre and nothing quite expedites a leadership journey like performing with verve in those situations. Foster the storyteller within you and actively seek out every opportunity to showcase these 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

Leadership Development Clients

Emotional Agility… Great Leaders Nurture This…

Emotional agility is a tremendous asset in understanding and influencing others. Great leaders should have the ability to manage their thoughts and feelings. We all have a river of endless thought and emotion flowing through us – there is simply no moment ever, where we find ourselves not having a thought or experiencing an emotion. Managing this flow or nurturing emotional agility is a key attribute of successful leaders.

This never ending inner monologue is composed of all the fundamental emotions, their various deriviatives and a huge menu of contrary thoughts. It took millions of years to create this sophisticated computer system and all these signals are there to support the will to survive – to anticipate issues in advance, adjust in a nano beat our action to suit changing circumstance and ultimately to avoid danger.

Can We Control Our Thoughts & Feelings?

Yet it is impossible to truly control these thoughts and emotions regardless of what many psychologists, kung fu masters or even method actors would possibly have us believe. If we could control our emotions, well we would have nailed it – we would know happiness or euphoria all day, every day. Depression, anxiety and stress would be things of the past and giant pharma conglomerates would have nothing to sell that anyone would want or need.

We don’t fundamentally change who we are in the workplace – some may alter their external behaviour more than others but this repackaging aside, we largely remain ourselves with the same thoughts, emotions, values, actions, reactions, preferences… and so on. In fact with tough deadlines, ambition, competition, limited resources etc all very evident, the workplace is for many a far more pressurised environment where one’s behaviours, based on thought and emotion, become very obvious.

Self-Awareness & Acknowledging Emotions

Picture a manager in an office who routinely becomes angry and screams and belittles his team when a piece of seemingly inadequate work is submitted. Repeated anger when faced with certain trigger points has embedded this behaviour to the point of reflex. This manager could become far more effective, for himself and others, if he could acknowledge the thoughts and emotions that occur, recognise patterns of embedded behaviour, make a conscious decision to accept those thoughts and emotions and then make a conscious decision to behave differently. A clear case of a manager who utterly lacks emotional agility.

Self awareness needs time and space to develop and our manager desperately needs to make that time and space. Only from quiet can come introspection and awareness of the self – the reason there are so many closed eyes exercises in yoga is to take focus deep within oneself. And to some extent he needs to realise that he is stuck in a pattern of behaviour himself. 360 degree feedbacks are well and good but our manager needs to have that realisation for himself if he is ever to willingly make changes.

Pausing, Re-Labelling, Reframing…

Then he needs to be willing to take a giant pause the next time a trigger point takes him to his routine expression of immediate anger. Pause literally for a minute or two and focus on the thoughts and feelings that he is experiencing. It is vital to acknowledge that these thoughts and feelings are taking place. This acknowledging is the basis of mindfulness or meditation and the start point to consciously develop emotional agility.

Equally vital is that he re-labels the thought “my stupid team have screwed up again..” into “I’m having the thought that my stupid team have screwed up again..” Simple but very necessary in creating a little distance between the thought and emotion on one side and the reaction on the other. This re-labelling will allow him to see that these thoughts and emotions are transient. He then needs to accept that they occurred and that he experienced them without any sense of judgement of himself or the team.

Nurture Emotional Agility…

Have the thought, acknowledge that you had the thought, accept the thought and then let the thought leave as freely as it arrived. In doing so our manager would now be able to make a choice in how he behaves, reacts and expresses himself, a choice which hitherto was not available. That is the stuff of emotional agility and of real leadership.

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

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

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

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

empathy leadership awareness

Empathy – Towards Empathic Leadership

What is empathy? If you think it’s lightweight, airy fairy, post-modern self-help delusion, then check out this short animation from Jeremy Rifkin and the Royal Society of Arts. Could just be that we are all soft-wired for empathy and that it evolved as more of a pragmatic behaviour. If we embrace this notion, there could be a multitude of ramifications for how we live and work.

http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate/animate/rsa-animate-the-empathic-civilisation

Survival of the most Empathic

Empathy is the lubrication that maintains strong relationships and allows us to build trust with others both personally and professionally. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and seeing something as the other guy does are invaluable survival techniques. When a child sees an adult obviously in a state of upset, it’s common for the child to offer their favourite toy to that adult in a bid to cheer them up. Often this seemingly selfless action surprises us.

But perhaps deep within our collective unconscious, this ability or skill is as fundamental as any form of communication. Perhaps in ensuring all members of the tribe are healthy and happy, our ancestors ensured the overall tribe and therefore the “selfish” or individualistic survival needs of every member were met. In other words, by using empathy we look after the collective and in doing so increase our personal survival.

Empathy for Leaders

Actors are truly aware of how to use and display their empathy. In approaching a role, the actor has to use her own experience and memory of events and emotions to connect with a character in a play. To really get a handle on how the character talks, walks, acts and feels, the actor has to stretch herself and explore human behaviour as fully as possible.

What learning then could be transposed for today’s business leaders? Many of whom are focused on the bottom line, share price, their own stock options, their personal profile… As opposed to really understanding the wants, needs, motivations and emotions of the people who are the organisation.

It’s a well worn cliche that “our people are greatest assets” or words to that effect. If you’re a business leader, isn’t it time you carved out time to understand your greatest assets..?

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