On Creating Genuine Impact At Work

“There are two wolves, 
 and they are always fighting. 
 One is darkness and despair, 
 the other light and hope. 
 Which one wins? 
 The one you feed.” 
 
-Cherokee Legend

I’ve always been obsessed with creativity, imagination and spark. I was a rascal at school, full of curiosity and an unquenchable thirst for adventure. Nothing whatsoever could stop me in my drive to achieve absolutely anything I wanted. I dreamed high-voltage ideas and was permanently poised to ignite them.

Then I “grew up”.

Higher education and beyond were a more solemn affair. Like most, I was pushed to hyper focus on results and being “correct”. Child-like curiosity, daring and discovery were no longer welcome in a world where only test results mattered and fitting-in was now the suffocating norm. I became anxious, hyper-vigilant and afraid of failure as I tried to cut myself to fit the pre-prescribed academic cloth. I tried to please; my parents, teachers, friends. And when I quickly realised this would never get me what I needed — I went AWOL …from school, from dreams, from life.
 
But not anymore.
 
Having worked with countless individuals, both privately and in groups, I know now that I’m not alone in this experience. Perhaps most people have not endured suffocation to the same extremes, but I still witness first-hand how many of us have been conditioned out of our authentic voice in favour of conformity. We hold back, mute our expression and firmly sit on our creative responses for fear of disapproval. We may not even be conscious of this terrible self-imposed tyranny. It’s common for us to think the problem is “out there” when all we’ve really done is internalised a harsh judgment system that bullies us into being a certain way rather than becoming who we are.

We’ve been taught to feed the wrong wolf; to focus on mediocrity, darkness and calamity.

To truly develop an exciting winning presence, in both business and in life, you have to start feeding the right wolf; the wolf that encourages you to act, speak, challenge and dare — when all other voices scream “but what if you fail? What if you get it “wrong”? And what will people think? 
 
We always have a choice.
 
We can choose possibility as we ignite our inner spark and do the very thing that scares us. We can seize the stage, create a new idea and assertively challenge a status quo. We can think crazy big and know our ideas count so we keep going no matter what. And we create impact because our convictions are so luminous that we shine a light on all those with whom we connect.
 
The alternative is to choose passivity as we hold ourselves back, speak in monotone, never question, dull our edges and squash our burgeoning ideas. We may not even know what we want to say because we rarely give ourselves the opportunity to clarify our own feelings and thoughts. So we come to business conversations, or indeed any conversation that matters, with a broken sense of self not realising how much potential, presence and impact we already have.
 
It’s simple, yet incredibly tough to choose aliveness in a world that seems set on keeping you down.

Of course, the moment you dare is the moment all the critics pipe up incensed at your audacity. These could be internal voices or external voices. Regardless of who says what, if we listen — if we let them shame us into being small — we lose.

But what if we stop feeding them? As challenging as it is, we have to feed them no attention whatsoever, not even a shred of our precious time, and leave them flailing in the background as we keep moving forward to a possibility they themselves dare not imagine.

As Oscar Wilde puts it:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”

It takes enormous courage and strength to reach for your impact. You’ll need a fighting spirit. And you have to take it on — whatever “it” is. No matter your background or disadvantage, you have to reconnect to your inner fire. And, as you let your ideas clash and collide, you’ll come alive.
 
So feed the right wolf. Become luminous in a sea of mediocrity. Grow something truly special; be it a business, new project, collaboration or even mini kingdom! We alone take responsibility for our journey and have to root out anything inside that keeps derailing our adventure. So we find strong mentors and positive friends who believe in our growth and we also help others up along the way. And most crucially, we banish the corrosive acidity of resentment as we stop listening to all the negativity and instead build build build….. because taking risks is so much more fulfilling than living the same reality day-in-day-out like some dystopian nightmare.
 
In a world full of absurdity, one without any inherent meaning, we have an incredible freedom — if we notice it. We are free to find and become our most exciting, dynamic self and to make meaning in whatever tiny corner of the world we chose to carve it.
 
Something so simple as the determined belief in a brilliant future and then taking the steps to make it happen — that’s true impact.


6 Ways to Strengthen Your Leadership Voice.

Recently I was asked to facilitate leadership workshops for senior teams in two of London’s largest advertising agencies. These are agencies with a long legacy, an outstanding reputation and massive global reach. To say the pressure on their future leaders is intense is an understatement!

The focus for each workshop was the same: How can each individual sharpen and toughen up their leadership voice as they start to assume more responsibility within their organisation? And, most importantly, how can each leader become more inspiring, visionary and strong in a fast-paced, ever-shifting landscape with as many differing personalities as there are conflicting agendas?

These are difficult questions: and there are no easy answers. However, closely facilitating a challenging conversation around these themes is both important and necessary.

Each workshop begins with a frank discussion about what currently works, and also what stands in the way of our leadership success. We shine a light on our personal blind-spots and give and receive constructive feedback to accelerate our growth. The process is often electric as people slough off facades, dare to speak directly and raise points of urgency. For many it can be the first real workplace conversation for some time, and this fosters a strong sense of togetherness, openness and egalitarianism that is often missing.

At heart, though, the work is about developing team edge. We learn to play shoulder to shoulder with greater skill, acumen and competitive advantage so that we win more battles than we lose on the corporate battlefield.

6 Insights to Power up your Leadership Voice…

1. Bias.

We all have it. It is the personal filter through which we view our complicated world and is based on our upbringing, experiences and interpretations that don’t often withstand rational analysis. However, if we fail to challenge our strongly held assumptions, we create the very divisions we abhor. And, sadly, the result is a polarised “them and us” attitude that fuels militancy of opinion and passive aggression in the workplace. If left unchecked, our environment becomes toxic with little room for openness, exploration and discovery — all of which are essential attributes for both personal leadership and corporate growth.

The Solution?

Question your assumptions, particularly your most strongly held beliefs. When we stop blaming other people’s behaviour for our lack of power, we have to take the necessary responsibility to change. And, in doing so, we move from a powerless victim state to a stronger sovereign state. This doesn’t deny injustice in the workplace, but instead means asking yourself the more powerful question: What are you going to do about it?.

When we channel our anger constructively, we assert clearer boundaries, strengthen our resolve and rally others behind the values of integrity and respect. Leaders operating from this position can more powerfully navigate the tough business conversations that bring progress.

2. Listening.

Few do it, or are even able to when pushed, and many instead prefer to speak over others to win peer recognition. Silence can feel like death or is so incredibly uncomfortable that such people will keep looking for opportunities to voice their fixed opinions. Discussions feel one-sided and closed because if leaders lack strength and can’t effectively govern the space between people, the balance tips unfairly towards the more dominant and denies airtime to the more timid and sensitive. And, ultimately we lose contact with large swathes of people who could contribute positively.

The Solution?

Develop rabbit ears, paying close attention to the non-verbal communication of your teams. If the power is out of balance, be assertive and ensure that interpersonal boundaries are respected. The benefits of this type of leadership are huge! As the more reticent learn to speak up and the dominant learn to listen (rather than wait for their turn to speak), we all realise that, despite the discomfort of breaking habits, we can now pay attention to what is actually going on. And, with this improved awareness, we acquire valuable information that would otherwise be missed, information that is often fundamental to a team’s success.

3. Emotional Intelligence.

This is the ability to read emotions, both in one’s self and in others, and then to use this data to effectively steer the whole team towards a shared goal. This level of emotional sensitivity is woefully lacking in most workplaces. Instead, what we often get are leaders struggling to be honest with themselves, let alone their teams, and it’s little wonder that unspoken resentments constantly brew below the surface. Goals are often missed and morale sinks as staff turnover inevitably accelerates.

The Solution?

Develop your sensitivity by paying attention to what you feel. Then, use your own feelings as data to powerfully intuit and detect what’s really happening under the surface. You can then use this information to bring out the best in everyone. Emotional intelligence isn’t about pouring out our emotions in a bid to be “authentic” and real: it’s about being emotionally attuned and reading the temperature in the room. And, most importantly, it’s about developing the wisdom to know when to strike and when to refrain, given the constraints of the commercial world.

4. Political Correctness.

The larger the firm, the more complex it becomes to navigate everyone’s diverse opinions, emotions and behaviour. What results is often a rigid political correctness in a misguided attempt to create group cohesion amidst the chaos. Yet, political correctness is an anathema to creativity, innovation and edge. When we can’t share our unique ideas for fear of recrimination from the more militant voices in the room, we lose our spontaneity and ability to engage in critical discourse. We can put out as many colourful bean bags as we like and keep scrawling our motivational quotes on whiteboards, yet without honesty and openness, corporations become sterile, tense and humourless places. A leader that buys into this ethos lacks any real power as most of their precious energy is wasted on pleasing the masses.

The Solution?

Develop a healthy dose of assertiveness, and get some backbone to say what you think and challenge group think. When said with respect, we ought to be able to express our unique viewpoints — especially if they go against the grain. No one person or group holds a monopoly on truth; this is about open discourse and critical thinking. Standing up to political correctness is absolutely imperative in encouraging your teams to show up fully, contribute different ideas and actually get excited! A strong leader will facilitate a space where all ideas are encouraged and openly critiqued without resorting to shame. This is true diversity.

5. Passivity.

Many leaders weaken their presence by over-apologising or subtly dismissing what they have to say. The problem with excessive apology is that we signal our sense of unworthiness to others and actively give them permission to devalue our needs. There’s a clear payoff; we get to stay small and gain only pity and sympathy, rather than risking disapproval for stepping up. On some level we think we don’t deserve equal respect. But we are wrong.

The Solution?

Take your worth seriously. Know that you deserve respect and space. And notice that whenever you dismiss your worth through yet another apology, the only person putting you down is you. The idea that we must somehow grovel for respect is abhorrent and puts us in a vulnerable position where we become open to exploitation. So, pay attention to this habit and redirect your finite energy into strengthening your voice rather than devaluing it. The less we apologise for ourselves, the more direct we become with our teams and the more respect we gain.

6. Aggression.

The flip side of passivity is aggression. There are those who use coercion, threat and hostility in an attempt to gain dominance and authority. Such people misguidedly believe they get better results by beating others with a proverbial stick. However, all this behaviour really achieves is the destruction of creativity, morale and respect. The more subservient among us, especially those keen to win approval, will keep running on the hamster wheel to keep their managers happy — but at what cost? Anxiety, burn out and secret dissent.

The Solution?

Become a positive role model in the workplace. Lead through powerful example by encouraging, rather than crushing, the potential in others. Never resort to blame, shame or attack just because someone is not acting how you think they should. There is zero strength in that approach. Instead, model confidence, respect and sensitivity so that you inspire your teams to step up rather than wallow in weakness. Because, when we care for our teams, we bring out the best in everyone. This doesn’t mean we cant challenge others, question consensus and say what needs to be said. Instead, it means we always use kindness when we say it. 

****************

Developing our leadership voice is challenging work. It demands that we look within, root out our own barriers to communication and get really honest with ourselves. It means we individuate from the pack and relinquish our need for constant approval. And, most importantly, it means we focus on what really matters: people. If, above all else, you care about the grandest of pursuits — the development of our fellow humans — you’ll become a fine leader indeed.


TechStars Demo Day - What I learned from directing the CEO’s in their Pitches

TechStars demo day is always an exciting experience.

Not just for the ten brilliant tech founders who each pitched their business to an auditorium filled with big investors & VIP’s.

But also for the large audience that had gathered so early in the morning.


This was The Royal Institute in Mayfair, a space that rivals any West End Theatre. It’s an impressive stage, with the audience gathered on all sides, and can be daunting to anyone who has never taken on such expanse – and especially if English isn’t even your mother tongue!

Yet in spite of the obstacles, each and every CEO owned it. They took the stage, looked the audience in the eye, revealed their voice and showed genuine leadership in action. It was thrilling and alive.

Having worked with TechStars both in Berlin and now in London, I have learned that the number one factor that makes a winning pitch is - brace yourself - some genuine feeling. Not the BS razzmatazz, but some authentic delivery. I know .. strange!
 
 
Our strength does not lie in presenting a slick, polished, shiny self. Our strength lies in our shared vulnerability. 


We cannot pitch our business ideas to an audience through the straightjacket of perfection. We’ll sound monotone and flat. It’s as if our humanity has been parked whilst we deliver our polished pitches … and then we resume “normal human behaviour” once we step off the stage. It’s an epidemic that breeds lifeless, fake and disingenuous pitches and presentations across all business - not just in tech. And it’s my mission to ensure leaders cut through the pretence to speak up with their real, most powerful selves.

Leadership and a winning presence is simply about acknowledging our fragility on stage and stepping up anyway. As my brilliant acting coach used to always tell me - invent nothing, deny nothing. Show up. Aim high. Try.
 
 
People often ask me …
 
“Amy how do I bring more of MYSELF to my pitch?
 
Hmmmm

The irony is that whenever ANYONE asks me that question, they’re already bringing their full self to the moment between us.  I observe them smiling slightly, with a little nervousness showing through their facial expression as their passion comes through their voice. I see their hunger and a little of their inner story.
 


And my answer is always this…
 


“You’re doing it right now. Here you are. No technique needed. No BS pretence. Bring this part of yourself to your “performance”. Stay in this imperfect messiness and speak up anyway trusting that your message has value and needs no frills.”
 


That’s authenticity. Nothing to prove. No smoke and mirrors. Just truth, one breath at a time.


 
Having taken on some super tough roles, both in my real life and in theatre, I’ve learned that to create great work, we must fight for what matters to us. We have to dare to commit through blood, sweat and tears and regardless of what anyone thinks. We must know what we want, face the setbacks head-on, fail … and then fail some more… What stands in the way becomes the way. Embrace the difficulty and never loose sight of the prize.


The day you stop daring is the day you let your inner demons win. The day you loose sight of your purpose is the day your spirit crumples. And the day you hold yourself back for fear of disapproval is the day you loose.
 
 
So dare. That is all.
 

- Amy Tez

Rise Up : How Your Body Language Can Accelerate Your Business Success

Our body language is crucial to successful communication and yet it is one of the most overlooked components of business strategy.  We focus on our business plans, our marketing drives and our spreadsheets, but we never stop to think about what our facial expression or posture is communicating or what our physical gestures might be saying about us. The fact is, no matter how impressive our words are, if our body language is unconsciously sending out a negative message, we will more than likely lose the client, the deal and the opportunity.


Having spent countless consulting hours observing human behaviour, it is safe to say that our body language is magnificently complex, rich and highly worth developing. By connecting to your much forgotten body, you’ll be in touch with an enormous well of power that most people deny. So start paying attention.  Learn to trust in your body’s natural intelligence rather than forcing it into a contrived expression that reeks of weakness. This is first and foremost about developing self-respect so you become a rare person of high value - rather than merely pretending to be one.


What is Body Language?

Let’s define exactly what I mean by body language. It is every single expression of your physical body apart from the words you use – though these are important too. It includes your breathing, posture, facial movements, gestures, voice, quality of eye contact and so much more than that. Your mind-set also plays a part in how your body language expresses itself. A fearful mind-set prone to apologetic or aggressive thinking often straitjackets your physiology. You literally shrink when you think badly of yourself. Emotions too, though felt within the body, always show up physically in how you move, stand, walk and talk. In fact, your emotions can be the deciding factor in how someone treats you. The body will never lie and you may think you are concealing how you feel, but the body broadcasts the truth for all to see.

 

Let’s consider for a moment a person who slumps, fidgets nervously, speaks in a flat tone and evades eye contact. Perhaps they’re facial expression is inscrutably frozen and their physical movements are closed and feeble. Psychologically, they may not feel up to the job and will refuse to acknowledge their potential in case they, heaven forbid, make a “mistake”. Their body language leaks fear and hardly breeds our faith in their capability to lead or inspire.

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Now imagine a person who moves in a more open manner, making relaxed eye contact and at times smiling warmly. Let’s assume they stand tall with their shoulders back and chest open, and there’s a sense of ease to their movements.  Gone are the subconscious micro-expressions that signify insecurity. This person confidently takes up their space. In fact, their entire demeanour demonstrates the courage and strength necessary for leadership and we tend to feel safer in their competent presence.

 

Obviously, body language is much more nuanced than these two extremes and people can come across in a whole myriad of ways. And thankfully there is always scope for development and many practical ways to grow into a more convincing being. This skill has never been more pressing given the increasingly chaotic pace of business life along with people’s ever decreasing attention spans. We absolutely must start attending to the power of all our non-verbal communication if we are to create any impact at all.

 

The Power of Your Voice.

One of the most direct routes to empowering your communication is through the quality of your voice. Your personal voice is hugely important in the workplace and can literally make or break your success. The pitch, timbre, volume and cadence of your voice, the speed with which you speak, and even the way you modulate pitch and loudness, are all influential factors in how convincing you are, and how people judge your character. Being able to lower your voice at just the right moment is an art form, as any decent actor will tell you, and not only enhances your credibility, but lends you an air of intelligence. And by allowing your voice to dance in the danger of the unpredictable moment, you’ll snap the even the most tired audiences out of their corporate slumber. You’ll sound real in a world saturated with the contrived.

 

The difference between voice quality is very apparent in theatre. Two different actors will play Hamlet, but the one who convinces will be the one whose voice is most resonant, powerful, expressive and rich. The same for business leaders: we prefer to listen to those who are more engaging as opposed to those who are monotone and flat. Aggressive voices that lack any sensitive undertone tend to push us away whilst softer voices that lack harder edges tend to imply weakness. Voices that fear disapproval attract the very thing they fear and a flimsy voice with no emotion at all will simply not be heard. It is only the voice that is strong, fearless, liberated and real that wins.  We must fill our voices with our range and depth if we are to be taken seriously, if indeed we are to take ourselves seriously when we speak.

 

The Power of Intuitive Listening.

But excellent speaking skills only represent one half of leadership expression. You must also attend to your listening skills.  If we cannot listen to our peers, we will miss the hugely valuable information they are often silently transmitting. And it is precisely this information that informs our best response and shows us exactly how to motivate, lead and inspire.

 

A good listener is however incredibly rare. Most of us are too preoccupied to truly see another. We are driven by ingrained assumptions, unthinking bias and mindless thoughts that deny us the ability to clearly observe the person before us. But when we do, a remarkable thing happens; we start to notice not only what a person is saying, but can more accurately decode what they don't say. Once you are trained and know what to look for, it becomes relatively easy to determine whether someone is feeling calm or anxious, trusting or suspicious, angry or evasive, or even whether a smile is truly felt—or born from insincerity. You’ll also know if someone is positive or whether they harbour malevolent intentions towards you simply by witnessing what their body is saying. With these highly specific observations, you are much more likely to attune to another person, and either create the secure bonds crucial to a successful working life  – or power apart.

 

The Necessity for Emotional Intelligence.

This level of listening develops our emotional intelligence; the intuition to ascertain the reality of a situation. When emotional intelligence is lacking, we can misinterpret the intentions of our peers, invent unfounded bias and fail to decipher what really makes them tick. Whole teams descend into unspoken resentments and strife when team leaders refuse to pay attention and facilitate the difficult yet meaningful conversations that foster connection. We can of course attempt to gather this information about our teams through unproven “personality tests” that proliferate most organisations still today. But their results will be, as ever, inconsistent, inaccurate and totally meaningless. And no amount of unscientific personality testing will ever beat the superior powers that emotional intelligence gives you.

 

Please note: while body language offers more accurate insights into the emotional state of someone else, it cannot tell you why the person is exhibiting that emotion. Yet many of us make unsubstantiated snap judgements - and we tend to assume the worst. Consider a high-pressured business meeting where you really hope to leave a good impression.  If you anxiously read into the reactions of another person’s face rather than simply observe their reactions, you can end up provoking a host of unwanted internal responses such as self-doubt and insecurity. If enough stress is produced, you trigger your pre-limbic neural defence mechanism that sets you up for fight, flight or freeze. Your brain literally prepares you for attack and you forget you’re just in a simple meeting.  Unless you can calm yourself down fast, your performance spirals.

 

We have to nip this neurological chain reaction in the bud. Firstly, we must remember that we cannot ever accurately know what another person is thinking  - so why worry? And secondly, when we realise the other person, like most humans, is probably more preoccupied with their own performance to even notice ours too closely, the pressure subsides.  We calm the nervous system and come back to reality. However, let us assume the worst; that the other person is unfairly judging us and it’s plain to see. The only appropriate response in this situation is to realise that their reaction speaks volumes about their proclivity to negativity and has no bearing on our self-worth. The ignorance and stupidity of others is no good reason for you to start whacking yourself with an internal stick.


Why Assertive Body Language Wins

Emotional intelligence naturally leads to assertive expression; the skill to direct all our emotions in a constructive manner. However, one emotion that is hard for many people to manage is anger. Most of us do not even know how to express it healthily in our personal lives, let alone at work. Yet, it is the unusual person who can positively direct their anger, set boundaries and stand firmly behind their convictions, who is strong. They command respect because they respect themselves and their body language communicates solidity. It won’t even matter how they are standing, moving or sitting; their inner resolve emanates a consolidated physical presence that cannot be exploited. If you cannot access your anger, you won’t be able to assert your boundaries. You’ll be walked over, taken advantage of, and worse, left behind. Others will put you down because you let them. And your resentment will build, which, if unexpressed, evolves into bitterness and defeat. We cannot control others - that’s a fools game. The only sensible solution in this complex world of ours is to focus on changing ourselves and learning to become mentally strong. Intention is power and with that your body language falls graciously into place.

 

Treat Yourself like Someone You Are Proud Of.

Sadly, we often treat ourselves with much disrespect. We cruelly put ourselves down and shame ourselves into submission.  We tell ourselves that we are no good, not worthy of success, and worse,  we discredit our achievements. After all, who do we think we are?  Get back in your little box you pathetic worm. What results? People clamouring to look strong on the outside when the reality is they feel the exact opposite. No wonder many of us report feeling like frauds at work, as if one day we will be mysteriously “found out” to be un-deserving of our position. This tragic feeling has been conveniently named “The Imposter Syndrome” as though it were an illness we have caught. Make no mistake; it is simply our natural human response to a part of our own psyche that is hell-bent on bullying us into a sense of inadequacy. The enemy is, and has always been, within.

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When we try to hide our authenticity, we actually become contrived, compliant and weak. Not only that, when we don’t speak our truth, our subtle micro-expressions, tone of voice and physical ticks will give us away in any case. The body never lies. And it is these subtle expressions that reveal our inner world no matter how hard we try to conceal it. This self-repression can start the moment we decide to speak. We shallow breathe, brace our chests, lock our knees and sometimes set our facial expression so tightly that no warmth can escape. Some of us look as if our jaws have been super-glued together. By the time we open our mouths to form words, we've already sunk the ship.

 

What to do? Start by treating yourself as though you are someone you are incredibly proud of. Stand tall, relax your chest and let yourself breathe deeply without trying to change your natural presence. If you notice any constrictions in your body, invite yourself to let them go. Psychologically, you’ll be turning to face your fears rather than habitually running. You’ll own the moment rather than be governed by it. And you’ll start to trust your body and feelings rather than constantly trying to manipulate them to appease the bully within. Your nervous system will thank you for it. And in this relaxed alertness, your body language will spring back to creative life.

 

Final Thoughts...

Our body language can emanate huge psychological power - if we let it. This is not about being better than anyone else. This work is about becoming your most integrated, congruent and convincing self. So it’s time to take a deep diaphragmatic breath, honour your needs and say something you actually mean. Most don’t have the guts. Take a seat at the table; don’t wait for it to be offered – you may be waiting a long time. And worse, complaining about it. By becoming less compliant, you’ll reach an edgier, emboldened and more genuine you. Your body will vibrate with an incredible luminosity no matter what is happening around you, and there can be no greater body language than that. In a world saturated with the cold, hard and dim of spirit, you’ll shine.

 

 

 

MEETING THE 11TH PRESIDENT OF TURKEY AND INSIGHTS ON PUBLIC SPEAKING WITH NO PREP!

(That's me addressing my Inner Critic!)

 

 

MEETING THE 11TH PRESIDENT OF TURKEY AND INSIGHTS ON PUBLIC SPEAKING WITH NO PREP!

Having set up my business just under 11 months ago, I have come amazingly far.
 
In that time, I've gone from running £10 meet-up groups in a dilapidated church hall on Exmouth Market to hosting Leadership and Pitching workshops for global corporate players in London, New York, San Francisco and Brussels.
 
A few weeks ago, I was in the EU training delegates to pitch their businesses to investors, and most recently, I hosted a conference to over 1000 delegates in Istanbul, where I got to introduce the 11th President of Turkey, firmly shaking his hand and giving him a little wink ofcourse!
 
I mention this not to gloat, but to highlight that I practice exactly what I teach. Think big, no half measures and always go for it!
 
I didn’t used to be this way....
 
I’ve played small for much of my life and felt highly depressed about my unrealised potential, finally hitting rock bottom in May 2017.  My relationship ended, I was heartbroken and generally felt pretty useless. I had little money, a job I hated and limited self-belief; I thought I was a failure.
 
Luckily, my beloved younger sister picked me up and took me to Istanbul to cheer me up.
 
Sitting in our hotel room one evening, she looked at me and said with absolute directness: 

"Come on Amy, just launch a bloody website and start your own business!".

I’d been talking about doing just that for three years; however,  I'd never done anything about it.  In fact, I had always found a myriad of ways and reasons to stall myself. Classic fear-based procrastination.
 
So, my wise sister ordered a couple of strong tequila cocktails, and we both worked till the early hours; she on her investment stuff, whilst I wrote copy for this new scary wonderful website.
 
By early morning, I’d finished my first ever webpage.  I took the plunge and hit launch!.
 
Now, that might sound easy enough. All I’m doing is pressing a button, right?
 
But it wasn’t easy. It had taken me years to get to the point where I trusted myself enough to put myself out there in what felt like a major way.
 
Pressing launch was a BIG deal. We drank another tequila cocktail to celebrate.
 
And, to my complete surprise, from that point on, my business grew exceptionally fast. Not because I know any special business tricks, or because I have some secret marketing sauce. You see, I’ve never listened to the so-called gurus or experts, and I barely use social media or self-publicise as, I’m actually quite introverted.
 
Instead, I believe my success to date is wholly the result of my renewed sense of conviction, spurred on - of course - by my sister that evening in a Turkish hotel. Sometimes, we don’t realise our own strength until someone who cares about and understands us reminds us of our potential. And, when that happened, it dawned on me that if I could haul myself up off the floor through some of the toughest moments in my life, then there’s no reason why I can’t make my business project a great success. Resilience is my middle name.  Think huge, act quick and commit 100 per cent!
 
And, most importantly, care... Always care about the quality of your attention.
 
That's my secret sauce.
 
Like most people, I have an inner critic that accuses me of not being good enough. However, I’ve also developed another much louder, brighter, sassier voice that looks the inner critic squarely in the eye and says:  'Sit the f*** down and shut the f*** up!. I’m in charge now, bitch!.
 
And that feels good.
 
What I've learned is that our personal and business success is directly connected to the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves.  The more you believe in and trust yourself, the greater the risk you dare to take. And, with courage on your side and the inner critic firmly relegated to the naughty step, you’re free to dream really big and act even bigger without fear of recriminations or personal attack. After years of living in fear of my own “good” opinion - as well as the opinion of others -  what a joy it is to no longer care. I can’t quite describe the freedom and sense of empowerment. And to think, I spent years hiding myself and even crying whenever I got asked to speak up.  I used to feel such shame.
 
The less we care for the judgements of our inner critic, the better our results - and this goes for all areas of our life. In fact, there is no limit to how far we can go: the possibilities are endless - and it's exciting.
 
That’s not to say I always get things perfect or right.  Far from it. I’m actually quite a messy, often conflicted human despite my outwardly “together” appearance. However, if I waited until I was supposedly perfect before I committed to any dream or action, I would still be sitting in my pokey bedroom mindlessly looking through Facebook feeds wondering why I exist.  Instead, I’m now hosting one of the biggest conferences in Turkey and introducing their 11thPresident - and I don't even speak Turkish and can barely pronounce his name!.
 
Lets be frank: I made a few “mistakes” that weekend. I got words wrong, walked into a wall and said a naughty word on live TV!  What was even worse was that I got pushed onto the stage at the last minute in front of a thousand people and told to speak for half an hour  “to make sure no one leaves before the president arrives!”
 
What?!? Really?!?

Yes really, and I had no speech prepared! So, imagine the pressure....
 
But, as I myself have done over the past year, I walked directly towards my fear, stood centre-stage, looked my audience in the eye and smiled... And, as I always instruct my students, I stood tall, owned my space and took a very deep soothing breath. Only then, when I felt the power of my own presence, did I start talking  - or ad-libbing to be accurate!
 
What did I really have to loose?  It’s always only ever a personal conversation; albeit one on a bigger stage and to a larger audience. And, most importantly, I enjoyed myself, I involved my audience and I let them matter.
 
Also, no one in the audience cared about my mistakes. Why? Because I  didn’t care about my mistakes. They’re not a problem to me. In fact, I welcomed every slight error with a warm smile and a mischievous glint. Because I know that if I am at ease, my audience is at ease. Lightness of touch and a sense of humour is ALWAYS infectious.
 
What I do care about is human connection, well above seeking personal perfection. Because, that’s all that ever matters. That’s how I win. That’s how we all win. And that’s how I managed to connect with such a large audience for 30 minutes whilst making an entire speech up as I went along. I greeted my audience with warmth and made them feel important. Because they are.

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  - Theodore Roosevelt.
 

So what’s key when it comes to public speaking, presentations or general presence in business?
 

The answer is YOU!
 
You just have to be you. Find out who you are by taking risks and learning the resilience that comes with each daring experience. Let go of the struggle. It doesn’t have to be so hard. All you need do is simply TRY. Step out of your comfort zone and let yourself create, and with compassion, allow yourself to make mistakes. What’s so wrong with imperfection anyway? Share your humanity, and people will love you for it. Because it gives the rest of us permission to do the same.

THE POWER OF LISTENING TO ROCKET YOUR LEADERSHIP

It’s popular these days to want to become a better leader. Ambitious business executives are becoming increasingly aware of the enormous benefits of strong leadership skills. You influence more, win more trust and engage meaningfully with all those that matter.

However, a common mistake made by most business leaders is their focus on the talking aspect of communication. They tend to want to impress others with their dazzling communication skills.  

What they forget to do is simply listen.

Truly great leaders are not just dynamic and strategic; they are also intuitive listeners. They know that the best way to gain wisdom is not by talking incessantly, but by listening to themselves and others on a much deeper level. Such rare individuals are unusually adept at reading between the lines and also have an unusual ability to understand what is NOT being said. They can walk into any room, read the energy and apply the best practice to re-engage even the most unenthused members of a team.

No matter how articulate you are, if your engagement isn’t advancing your vision, developing your team, or otherwise adding value to your stakeholders, then it could be that your ability to listen needs fine-tuning.

Time to stop talking as much and instead create some space to listen. And, as you start listening powerfully, watch your team morale, performance and, ultimately, your business grow.

 

Learn to:

1. Engage: Good communications are two-way. Don’t speak at or to someone – speak WITH them. Don’t monologue, dialogue.

 

2. Understand: Listen to understand so you can attune better to what others think, feel and genuinely want to communicate. Develop a sympathetic desire to see the other person’s point of view.

 

3. Pause:  Embrace the silence in any conversation so that you not only signal strength, but become strong. In the pause, you can resist unhelpful outside pressure and better evaluate your responses.

 

4. Attention: Pay attention to the non-verbal communication of others. Hear with your eyes as well as your ears. Learn to read people accurately behind the words they use so you can choose a stronger response.

 

5. Opportunity:  Every conversation, no matter how difficult, has within it a story and potential opportunity for growth – but, only if you listen for it.

 

6. Challenge: Learn to embrace and welcome dissent. Listen to those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you and develop you. Because being defensive only raises barriers. Even the most seemingly negative people may have something to teach us. And those we perceive to be our biggest enemy can actually become our strongest ally; but only if we look for common ground.

 

7. Empathy:  Create an atmosphere of belonging, connection and warmth at work. Build people up, never crush them. We are all vulnerable, even the most hardened. Learn to speak to the humanity in others so that you create respect, loyalty and a workplace that everyone loves to be a part of.

*************

Great talkers are a dime a dozen but great listeners are a rare commodity. Listening genuinely and intently to another person is one of the highest compliments you can pay them. So, learn to become a truly great leader who knows the value of listening.

The Art of Charisma in Business

The business world is moving faster than ever before with innovation and continual change now the accepted norm. To keep up with this ever-shifting and complex landscape, it is imperative that business leaders, entrepreneurs and all forward-thinking change-makers learn to communicate much more powerfully. If leaders are to have any hope of standing out in a noisy world where so many compete for attention, they must learn to relate to others with conviction and passionate authenticity. These are the essential ingredients of charisma, without which leaders will struggle to leave any lasting legacy.

Genuine charisma is tough work. Few people take the time to sculpt charisma’s underlying conviction, resilience and depth: hence charisma’s elusive nature in our current age. In fact, much of what masquerades as charisma is often seductive yet hollow charm.

If you hope to be at the top and if you want to influence your clients, customers, staff members and colleagues, you must develop charisma and empathy as part of your leadership strategy.

So, let’s look at how we can begin to grow our personal magnetism. Far from being a magical and inexplicable trait, charisma can be broken down into a set of concrete, largely nonverbal behaviours that can be learned, practiced, and made natural.

Here are some of the ways:

1. Listen Openly to Your Team

Charismatic business leaders are magnetic because they listen empathetically to their teams and colleagues, regardless if they like or dislike what they are hearing. If you can stay calm and show equanimity regardless if the news is to your personal taste or not, then you have the markings of a truly charismatic leader.

When managing a team, it is your responsibility to approach your employees and ask them how they are doing. Do not wait for employees to come to you with praise or complaints. People don’t always feel confident about approaching a manager or leader to express their feelings. So, it’s up to you as a leader worth your salt to check in with them regularly. A happy team is a coherent team.

Don’t keep your team at arm’s length. If you put up a defensive wall, you cannot expect others to trust you. Paranoia breeds paranoia. Genuine charisma is rooted in trust. You need to be able to tolerate dissent without being triggered into emotional reactivity. Otherwise, you may as well surround yourself with sycophants and rule through fear. This is not the basis for charisma, but is instead the basis for tyranny and negativity.

2. Know Your Customers and Clients

It is also crucial to check in consistently with your clients and customers — even those who might not have good things to say. When you ask your customers for their input and listen to their feedback, you can adjust your product or service accordingly. You also show people that your business serves them — and isn’t just about you.

A charismatic leader makes a great impression on their clients and customers by learning about their individual tastes and preferences. It isn’t possible to cater to all, and some people will always be disappointed no matter what. However, when interaction feels more personal, customers will be drawn to your brand not just for its product, but also for its people. You won’t get it right all the time, but the empathetic touch will forge lasting bonds that are priceless.

3. Listen More Talk Less

As a business leader, it’s important that you don’t just feel empathy, but that you show it. Empathy results from an action you take.

You increase your empathy by making listening, rather than speaking, the focal point of your interactions. As a leader, you must often be the one to start the conversation. But you must also be the one to do most of the listening once the conversation is underway.

A good way to prioritise listening is to ask people about their feelings and opinions before you talk about your own. This is something you can do, not only with customers, but also with your staff and colleagues. And the most inspiring leaders listen to understand as opposed to listening simply to reply: they do not need to hear the sound of their own voices.

If your team feels unheard, they will feel invisible. Work becomes intensely lonely and productivity inevitably suffers. Any leader in such a scenario will rarely leave a favourable impression.

Charisma is imperative. Listen to your teams. Give each and every team member the respect they deserve. It does not mean you always have to agree. But it does mean you have to make everyone feel as important as you are deemed to be. People inherently want to do well. And for this to happen, they need to feel acknowledged. It is up to you as the leader to ensure this.

4. Be Purposeful Even When You Don’t Know

Another part of what makes people charismatic is their level of clarity and conviction. A confident business leader communicates their ideas clearly and succinctly. If your explanations drift on for hours, you will come across as vague. People will assume you either don’t know what you’re doing or, much worse, have something to hide.

Likewise, it’s important to have the confidence to admit when you simply “don’t know”. A leader is human and can’t know the answer to everything. There is great humility and emotional intelligence in the admission that we do not know right now. People appreciate such honesty and will be more inclined to have faith in your leadership, as long as you commit to finding a solution.

Even more powerful is a leader who can admit when they have made an error in judgement. As long as you are determined to find a positive way forward, this is all that matters. Such authenticity is rare in a world where so many hide behind bravado and facades to cover up their flaws. A humble leader is a charismatic leader.

5. Develop Your Substance

Leadership without empathy is narcissism. Those who are all charm without substance come across as arrogant, self-centred, and disingenuous.

Grandiose, actively self-promoting, skilled orators definitely have vision and also an ability to attract and inspire the weakest in the work community.

This is the worst kind of leader. Their true aim is not to unite people but to divide and conquer. They deliberately split consensus and often take great pride in being both loved and hated at the same time. Such leaders do not leave a lasting positive legacy. They are inherently weak, and as much as they would like to influence, they will always fail long-term.

To be a truly brilliant leader, the aim is to be confident, not arrogant. A great leader needs to be more concerned with contributing to their employees’ lives rather than gaining validation, admiration and an army of mindless followers. Ironically, the less we chase validation, the more validation we receive simply as a by-product of our generous endeavours.

A charismatic leader thus uses their power responsibly. They have been gifted a position of great prestige and know they must use their power wisely and magnanimously.

I will close with a key point. If you remember anything from this article, remember this; that true charisma belongs to the one who does not ever follow but forges his or her own path through the mystery of this one life, always staying open and hungry to learn from their own unique mistakes, helped along by a generous dose of humour in an ever unfolding journey to their truest self.

9 Tips for Women Leaders to Convey Executive Presence.

Much of how women (and men) are perceived as leaders is tied absolutely to the way they communicate. In a male-dominated environment, particularly at senior management level, it is imperative that women learn to speak up and demand their place at the table. Without killer communication skills, women will fail to distinguish themselves.

Enter Executive Presence….

Ifyou are a woman and want to be a leader, executive presence is crucial as it is the only thing that will drive you forward.

But what is it exactly?

People often refer to executive presence as charisma or the X-factor, or they sometimes refer to historical greats who are famed for attracting popularity through their presence alone. However, none of this is helpful.

So, how do we begin to embody charisma when it’s such a vague term and could mean different things to different people?

Executive presence is an art, like negotiation skills or acting. It’s fundamentally about developing your own original voice. It’s an art because it is deeply personal and must be refined and mastered over time through experimentation, failure and repeated execution.

 

9 Practical Tools to Increase Executive Presence:

1. Embrace Your Unique Value.

Nail your mind-set. Do not go into meetings doubting your own value. Prepare in advance; develop your own unique perspective based on your individual, hard-won experiences. Then walk in knowing you are an asset to be treasured. Without you, this company would suffer a great loss. Know that.

2. Be Self-Aware.

Nail your body language. A killer pitch can be destroyed by lousy non-verbal communication. Don’t slouch. Don’t wave your arms about like you are drowning at sea. Stand upright and poised. Breathe deep, slow and regular. Look people in the eye and genuinely engage. And be calm and purposeful with your hand gestures. All of this engenders trust. You look like you can handle anything. And you can.

3. Think Before You Speak.

Most people waffle on without a thought for whether they make sense or are saying anything truly useful. So, cut out the preamble and meandering piffle. Consider your ultimate objectives and choose your words carefully to meet your needs. Don’t hurry to deliver the message. Take your time, be deliberate, and say much less than you think you need to.

4. Breathe.

Take deep breaths, deep into your belly, both before and during your presentation. This will relax you, increase your poise and calm the jumpy mind. Also sigh before you enter any high-pressure scenario. It works, as a deep, gut-felt sigh gives you permission to let go of any pent-up tensions that may have built up. When you sigh away tension, you release both physical and emotional repression, even if just for a moment. And, as you let go, your mind clears, your body relaxes and you become more relatable.

5. Use the Power of Silence.

Silence is an incredibly powerful tool and should never be underestimated. However, most of us feel awkward in a silence and are thus compelled to fill it. When you dare to pause, it puts you more in charge because suddenly you’re not the one making so much effort to drive a conversation forward. By taking a more detached role, you give the impression of authority.

A well-chosen pause also allows the listener to digest your message. At the same time, you give yourself the opportunity to assess your listeners’ behaviour. When you do that, you can tailor your words and actions accordingly and you became a class negotiator.

6. Meaningfully Engage with your Audience.

Powerful communication is far more than one-sided delivery. You need to relate and engage with others. You need to make the audience feel like they matter to you. And you do this by asking questions, gathering feedback, listening to what your audience says, reading their verbal and non-verbal cues and discerning what response to choose in light of these complex factors. When you do that, you become a rare leader.

7. Assert Boundaries.

Know where to draw the line. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to assert boundaries and refuse to people-please. Not everyone will like you but you will be OK with that. To a degree, you have to stop caring what others think, as no one gets anywhere in life wasting time on other people’s negative or destructive criticism. However, stay open to constructive feedback: just shut out all the rest.

8. Employ Wit.

Never forget your sense of humour. I’ve often heard women say they are afraid to be playful at senior level in case they won’t be taken seriously. Yet this can backfire, as people who take themselves too seriously are ironically taken less seriously by their peers. A study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humour.

Your sense of humour is a reflection of your wit and intelligence. If you feel you don’t have wit, it’s a skill that can be learned just like any other. Humour is also important to diffuse tension, as well-placed humour will be appreciated and respected.

9. Dress the Part.

I don’t believe in prescribed uniforms. Wear what makes you feel good. It doesn’t matter whether you decide to power-dress or wear a hoodie with glitter boots. Because, all that matters is that you wear what you wear with the utmost pride and confidence. It’s how you wear something, not what you wear, that is important; so, own it.

In the corporate world, there are obvious limits. You can’t wear an elephant suit to work as much as it would please you. Nevertheless, you can always find a way, no matter how small, to assert your individuality through your choice of dress. Be creative and imaginative.

 

The winning thread that runs through each of these tools is YOU.

Your originality sits at the core of your ability to communicate authentically and powerfully. So, continually nurture and refine yourself, your voice and your inner strength.

Executive presence is inherently a developmental process of daily emotional weight-lifting, a process of becoming your real self when it is easier and more tempting to run with the herd and jump on the bandwagon of mediocrity.

As Jungian psychologist James Hollis states,

“We are not here to fit in, to be well-balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, clunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.”