Category: Leadership Development

productivity tips

Productivity – Go Further, Faster Tips Part 2

Productivity remains an important facet of getting things done… Here are 10 more practical tips to help you get more done and to get it done better…

Meetings…

1. Have meetings where everyone is stood up – everyone stays awake, engages more and the meeting will be shorter with greater productivity

2. Never book a meeting for longer than say 60 mins max and stick to it. most meetings result in a lot of repetition, so save that time… meetings are time vampires. work gets done in the time available anyhow
3. Do it now. it’s never the right time to start a new project/idea, so just get on with it NOW or it will remain a dream – build it into your goals and then break it down into chunks. These chunks need to appear on your next daily to do list
4. Multi-tasking has never existed, it’s a fiction so stop pretending that you are any good at it. You may be good at flitting between different tasks at best. focusing on one thing at a time will get you further. Then as soon as that task is accomplished move to something else and repeat… This is the way to maximise productivity.

Goal Setting…

5. List long term and short term goals ie. things you want to achieve beyond the usual hum drum daily stuff. Now write your weekly or daily to do lists. Ask yourself if your daily/weekly lists are contributing to your goals. if not, how can you adapt them so that they are? Every to do list should have at least one inclusion of something that will get you nearer your goals.
6. Build an “interruptions window” into your day – it’s inevitable that unexpected issues will arise to knock us out of any well set rhythm. Try to group these interruptions on a separate list and deal with them in during a dedicated 30 mins “interruptions window” just after lunch.
7. Have more face to face conversations and telephone conversations than email. You hear the other person’s vocal tone, stengthen relationships in a way that email cannot and this way you don’t build up a stockpile of emails you have to write, read and then write again which feels like work. Often one real conversation can do the job of a 6 email tennis rally

Just Do It…

8. Just do it – acknowledge any resistance you may have towards certain tasks, situations and people. say to yourself “No, I really don’t want to do this because….” Then, do it anyway. The trick is to not delay and have a whole pointless debate in our heads.
9. Idling time is actually very valuable and a great source of creativity. Just be consciously aware of when you are idling and when you are getting stuff done. Strange to think of this as yielding productivity but don’t underestimate conscious idling time.
10. Clear out clutter – in your office, files etc. keep only that which is absolutely essential. this frees up physical and mental space. Just seeing heaps of old stuff sitting around strangely puts the brakes on progress and productivity.
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

productivity tips

Productivity – Go Further, Faster Tips Part 1

Productivity and maximising it are essential in a busy world with a multitude of tasks and constantly shifting priorities. Here are a few pointers to help you get more productive.

1. Plan out your list of things to do the night before – you’ll wake up feeling organized and knowing what you have to do

2. Jot down any creative ideas as soon as you wake up – your subconscious has been busy processing information overnight. Trust it. And remember that in order to have good ideas, you first need a lot of ideas
3. Take 3 full slow breaths, hold and then exhale slowly and fully whilst still lying in bed

Meditate

4. Meditate – for 10mins during the day. Sitting down, place your focus on a small object in front of you, close your eyes, breathe, pay attention to your breath as it comes into and out of your body. Allow the myriad of thoughts to criss cross and do what they will. Don’t try to control your thoughts, you can’t. Just acceptwhatever is going on within you and don’t judge it.
5. Hum quietly, imperceptibly as you walk around throughout your day – it keeps you in a good mood and we get more done when in a good mood
6. Delete frivolous apps on your phone – return your phone, tablet, laptop to being a functional device, not your primary source of entertainment tool. Similarily never watch the TV idly – record shows you
7. use the odd 10 minutes here and there to get something done as opposed to checking twitter – make that call or say hello to that new recruit you haven’t spoken to yet.
8. have a proper lunch – not just a rubbish sandwich in triangular plastic wrapping. get out, eat well, meet a friend, move around, have a change of scene

Have Effective Meetings

9. don’t have meetings for the sake of it – half of meetings in business are a pointless waste of time. replace with a quick conversation wherever possible
10. take meetings for a walk wherever possible – mediators often take a heated party in a dispute for a walk and it’s amazing how calming a walk can be. Also, when struggling with a problem and desperately looking for a solution, going for a walk can give a new perspective on the issue
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

Elevator pitch effectively

Elevator Pitch… How to Pitch Your Idea Effectively…

The elevator pitch strikes many of us as fairly hackneyed and cliched these days. Perhaps we still find it too salesy and pushy as a speculative approach to a potential investor or client who we’ve just bumped into and best left to Americans who generally don’t have the same fear. They, when compared to us Brits at least, can happily steam ahead with their elevator pitch whenever they want. Or so it seems.

There are various approaches to making a favourable impression within just a couple of minutes and that after all is the best you can hope for in a short space of time. So perhaps that should direct your thinking with respect to an elevator pitch.

3 Approaches to the Elevator Pitch

Some choose to give a mini, condensed presentation complete with introduction, middle and ending all within two minutes. A lot for the listener to take on board, can feel stilted and really what are the chances of them remembering all the information that you tried so keenly to cram in.

Others go straight to the heart of the issue knowing that time is pressing in the perfect elevator pitch. This has the advantage of stripping away that which is largely unnecessary given the context but unless very careful in the initial approach, you could come across as overly direct and robust.

Possibly a more effective approach is to establish a two way conversation. After all, dialogue succeeds where monologue fails. This approach favours beginning a natural conversation where you introduce yourself and give just the headline of your idea, project, whatever and then ask an open question and use whatever time there is, regardless of how little, to listen. Remember that it doesn’t need to be over the top flashy or a dramatic performance. Read your audience in the moment – how are they feeling right now? Tired or energised? Adapt your energy to match them and you’ll have a much better chance of being remembered for the right reasons.

Dialogue Succeeds where Monologue Fails…

Do this all in an unhurried manner. In other words aim to have the most effective beginning to a fuller conversation. Far easier for you to do and much better for the recipient. This way, if your idea or pitch was truly of interest, you’ll leave them wanting to know more – which is exactly what you want.

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

leader or manager which are you

Manager or Leader… Which One Are You…?

There has been a huge explosion in the number of people with manager somewhere in their job description in the post war period. Everyone’s a supposed manager these days. Arguably, many are under an illusion of importance. When vast swaths of middle management are removed from organisations, usually very little changes begging the question what did they ever do in the first place? But try removing those on the shop floor who actually make the widgets and see how immediately productivity is affected. Also, try to run a large company, football team or school choir without real leadership and notice how quickly the organisation loses its way and stops performing.

There are reams of studies given over to the differences between leadership and management. In brief the manager maintains where the leader develops, the manager administers where the leader innovates and the manager controls where the leader inspires.

Real Leadership

So, perhaps there are only a few positions of real leadership – probably you can only ever have so many cooks – therefore only a few chosen individuals out of the many who call themselves a manager, can ever hope to ascend to the position of a leader. So what are the traits that only those select few have beyond their peers?

The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager

Here’s an attempt at distinguishing the necessary traits between a leader and a manager:

Managers – reactive, controlling, prescriptive, maintaining the status quo, putting in the hours and graft, disciplining, running things, dealing with the nitty gritty, risk averse, authoritarian

Leaders – big picture, creative, inspirational, risk taking, strategic, unique, charismatic, proactive, breaks rules, gives credit.

Many people, possibly most, approach there managerial careers in a manner that means they won’t ever be considered as future leaders. Might be a good manager but leadership is made of rarer stuff it seems.

It almost seems that real leaders have more in common with artists than with hard headed corporate managers which neatly returns us to the notion that art and business have a lot to learn from each other yet.

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