About Process Facilitation

Go Forth and Multiply the Good!

What is it?

Let’s say you were born with the gift of knowing how to drive but had never driven on the streets. Then the traffic policemen, who guide you, through the mean streets of Metro Manila with all their support systems and rules are ‘facilitating’ your process of you reaching from where you are to where you want to go.

Let’s say you are a lawyer and there are two different companies who want to pool in their strengths, resources and their value propositions as a single entity and you are helping them merge then you are ‘facilitating’ them through well-tested processes and processes you are competent in.

Or the best example is, say you are a couple who are pregnant with a new life forming between you two and then there is this kindly midwife who is there to set up things,  calm nerves, offer advice,  guide you through childbirth and then help breathe out a brand new and beautiful life into your world, this world. She then is your ‘process facilitator.’

All of the above three professions and thousands of others similar to the these three have a certain set of rules to follow, practices to perform and capabilities to master in their chosen field of facilitating. And they all generate synergies, resolve challenges and create fruitful results.

The threads that run commonly among professional facilitators are that they have no personal objectives in the world that they are helping bring about; they have no stake in the outcomes that are created. They are mostly external observers, guides and encouragers who help build the support system for you to go from where you are to where you want to go.

What are the essential qualities of a great facilitator?

One, a very high sense of spatial awareness loaded with kindness and compassion for fellow human beings because all process facilitation impacts the wellness and well-being of mankind.

Two, a desire to help others bring forth newness, progress, productivity, life and/or whatever good they desire to bring forth. There necessarily need not be any personal agenda for the facilitator in bringing about the intentions and objectives of their clients. Yes, ‘clients’ is a safe word to use because professional facilitators, often, need to be compensated for their efforts. They can bear not being compensated if what they are facilitating are their own advocacies.

Three, virtuoso facilitators need to be very good at their own game and they need to have all the little and big skill sets required of them to be useful and excellent at what they do.

Across the world there are individuals and organizations who help professionalize all sorts of facilitation practices and interventions in the industry. One of the biggest and the most respected organization is known as the International Association of Facilitators Worldwide and proudly for us, here in the Philippines, there is a brand new, national, chapter that has sprung forth called the International Association of Facilitators, Philippines, Inc.

In the last three years this group has held, more than twenty, extremely low-cost but high-impact learning sessions serving the needs of teachers, trainers, coaches, consultants, lawyers, social workers and even powerful business leaders. Their intention and vision is support, nurture, guide all sorts of conversations, across the seven thousand islands, which are generative, positive and life-giving. Their services and advocacy include not just learning and development but also community and country development. It may help organizations of all sorts to tap into the fountains of compassion and competencies that flow through this global professional body.

Come to think of it, if you envision synergistic growth or giving life to another entity would you not want an experienced, objective and a kindly midwife to help you guide you through the process? Well, okay not really a mid-wife “mid-wife” from days gone by but a well-trained, correctly certified medical professional.

Yes?

Okay, in that case let’s go forth and multiply the good. Let’s go from where we are to where we want to go with the help and guidance of a professional facilitator.

 

Raju Mandhyan

www.mandhyan.com

Faith and Humility in Leadership

,

A few months ago by a bunch of professionals and then a few days ago by a bunch of human resource practitioners, I was asked, “What makes any professional move from being good to great?”

The answers to such a question usually are ‘experience, character, courage, persistence, passion etc.’ My quick and candid response to the first time it was asked of me was ‘Faith and Humility.’  First their jaws dropped instantaneously and, as I began to defend my thesis their eyes kinda’ glazed over. But people generally being nice as they usually are, especially here in the Philippines, they all smiled and nodded their approval. In my gut, I knew that I hadn’t sold my idea well enough. But the second time the same scenario occurred, I got several ’Whoas’ and ‘Awesomes’ to my defense of ‘Faith and Humility’ to move from being good to great.

Now, the why and the how of faith and humility in business and life:

First when I say faith, I mean trust and acceptance mixed with some loyalty. Second, I mean faith in oneself, faith in your perspectives and faith in your deeper intentions. And, by saying this I am also not excluding your faith in any structured form of religion. The neuropsychological benefits of all kinds of faith are amazingly similar.

The faith I am talking about is not surrendering of reason and logic and neither the blind acceptance of reason and logic.  I am talking about the power of goodness hammered into us, into humanity which constantly yanks us towards our higher self.  Yes, the synonyms can be trust and confidence in self. Yet, the faith I am referring to hails and applauds a much larger system, intelligence and consciousness.

A business leader that carries this special chip on his shoulder doesn’t just increase the chances of his own success but also inspires the growth and evolution of others around him.  A quick story that comes to my mind is that of salesman from a small town was out beating the streets of New York seeking work for a small graphic-designing business. Three days of being turned away and offered no work his morale took a plunge. He began to lose ‘faith’ in himself and in the system. At the end of the third day, his wife who also worked in the business said to him on the phone, “Honey, I just made it big in our small town lotto this afternoon, so worry not about bringing home any business. We are rich!”  The next morning, back on the streets of New York, very strangely, business did not just pick up for him but it began to pour in. Back at home on Friday night with a load of work in his bag as he hugged his wife, she told him that she really hadn’t won any lotto and she’d just said that to cheer him up.

I admit that her approach may not have been all too right but it did act like a placebo to attitude delivered positive results. His faith in himself, in the system and the world had jacked up and so did his business.

My way to reach such a state is that before every important interaction, I step away from the hustle and bustle of life, find a quiet place and pause. In that moment, I ask myself: Do you have faith in yourself? Have you done all the homework that needs to have been done? Will your agenda create value for others? Do you care for the people you are going to deal with? Are your objectives more selfless than selfish? Do you have faith in the system and in the world?

When I get a ‘yes’ as an answer to all of them, I open the door and step in and miracles happen.  That is my way to faith. That is my first step I take when I do not have a glimpse of the whole staircase.

Now for the ‘why and how of humility’ for moving from good to greatness in life and at work:

One of the best explanations of it was probably a quote on the walls of my daughter’s school, Colegio San Agustin, in the Philippines. I cannot remember the exact words but the gist of it was that the moment your mind highlights for you, or even others, that you are being humble then all humility flies out of the window.  If and when you say you are being humble, you are not.

Yes, the moment you make a claim towards it then it fizzles and turns into the monstrosity of overconfidence, pride and arrogance.

Thus, humility needs to be exercised quietly and with strength towards the very same reasons from which you gather and accumulate your faith. So, not just before, during and even after of all interactions and interventions the questions I ask of myself in quiet moments are: Are you even-minded and true about you and your achievements? Do you have quiet confidence in the homework you have done and are you ready for it to not serve you? Are you prepared to be rejected, turned down and left out? Are you open to the possibilities of failure? Will you be able to accept that however selfless your ideas and intentions are they may still be regarded as self-serving by others?

These questions serve me well in failure and success. I am not claiming that I always succeed at practicing these habits. I am not claiming that these practices will guarantee growth and will catapult us into everlasting greatness. I am saying that in my observations and study of leaders these habits are a huge part of their natural traits. Some of my favorite teachers, consultants and leaders of faith straddle these two paths of faith and humility to move from being good to becoming great.

Raju Mandhyan

P.S. Catch me at Dubai, HR Summit in November

 

Authenticity and Influence in Sales

, ,

The other day at a business gathering someone asked me, “Raju, what, according to you, has changed in sales and selling over the decades?” Slightly offended by the inclusion of the word decades in the question I quickly brushed it aside by saying “nothing has changed” and moved on. Late at night, I lay wondering and thinking about my experiments and experiences in selling.

At my first honorary job with my father, which was to run errands and try selling for his small school-bag making business, I’d sell nothing at every interaction. I’d walk into his customer’s shops and stand against the wall; tongue-tied praying the shop-owner would leap out from behind his glass counter and beg me to send him school bags. That never happened. I sold zilch. Dad lost hair worrying about my future as a business person.

At my second job, after making it as an engineer, I was assigned to sales. Sales in the engineering company I worked for meant filling up a large wad of papers with numbers, descriptions and a covering letter called proposals. There were templates to follow, listed prices to tally up but there was barely any people to people interaction. The wheeling, dealing and the closing was done by those big-bellied guys called bosses.

At my third job selling futures in pork-bellies, orange juice, barley, copper and gold my then ‘balikbayan’ boss Ricky Ho saw me suffer at selling and called me aside and said, “Hey Raju, recognize this, people sell for two reasons: one to get rid of something and two to make a profit. What do you want to’ do?” I owned nothing and thus nothing had to be gotten rid of, so I supposed I’d had to make a profit. After that epiphanous moment I learned to sell.  The need to survive taught me how to make cold calls, how to qualify, analyze, integrate, pitch, offer, present, solve, offset objections, sooth, meander, negotiate, upsell, cross-sell, resell, negotiate, close, re-open, serve with maximum subtlety and suaveness.

Thus, decades ago, uh-oh, there is that word decades again. Decades ago, or before the turn of the century, the “ABC” selling was, as Alec Baldwin screamed in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross, was to “Always Be Closing.” But as the previous century began to wind up entered the ‘internet of things,’ and Alibaba, and explosions of access to all avenues of humongous information. The days of just selling to get rid of something or make a profit out of something began to slowly and steadily began to be replaced by terms like relationship selling, consultative selling, solution selling, ethical sales, selling to serve, selling to solve, selling to not just create value but to co-create value. Sales and selling had merged into resolving needs and serving customer desires. No, it really had moved beyond finding solutions and serving needs. The seller and the buyer had to tear down walls of privacy and secrets between themselves. It wasn’t just one against another but both, together, towards a faster, better and a cheaper world.

Individuals and companies which did not adapt to this reset got covered in cobwebs and then in white sheets. Rest in peace names like Kodak, IBM, Mattel, Tower Records, Sears, etc.

Yet there was a certain element of truth to my response of “nothing” to the question, “Raju, what, according to you, has changed in sales and selling over the decades?”

Yes, the sales environment has changed. Yes, the rules of the game in the marketplace are different. Yes, the tools of the trade are niftier and swifter. Yes, even the attitude has taken a turn and is still transforming for the better. What hasn’t changed is that every transaction whether it is to get rid of something, to make profit out of something or to serve a need and find mutually beneficial solutions is that all of them require trust. Trust, raw and unadulterated trust.

The oldest profession in the world requires a certain element of trust. The used car salesman, no matter how sleazy, requires to become worthy of trust. Ricky Ho my former boss, needed to earn a lot of trust to sell bellies of pork upon which all his big time investors never laid eyes upon. The guy who sells Boeing airplanes to the airlines of all nations needs to acquire trust and so does every other sales and service professional that sits behind a monitor and hacks away at a keyboard to sell unseen products to unmet customers.

The why and the how of earning trust from one to another hasn’t changed and might never change till the end of time.

The prelude into earning trust is authenticity. Here, not just the salesperson but every person and every leader needs not just have an attitude but believe and act out of a hutzpah made out of originality, honesty, openness, courage and vulnerability. A person with that kind of a hutzpah stands out because he stands up and steps in the right direction consistently. He now becomes trustworthy. To earn trust he needs to blend consistency with competence and compassion for the customer, for the stake-holders. Overtime such a leader becomes a champion at earning trust.

The obvious postlude to trust is that your people, your followers, your partners, customers gently and surely move in the right directions that you and them take together. That is influence.

In the coming decades and eons all that we see and hear as innovation, may innovate further, but the backbone of all growth and positive change in sales or any service will always be authentic influence.

Raju Mandhyan

Author, Coach and Trainer

www.mandhyan.com         Unleashing Inherent Excellence!

http://twitter.com/RajuMandhyan

Three Essentials to Authenticity

,

Talk about being authentic and, often you will hear this one: “We are in such a hurry to grow up, and then we long for our lost childhood. We make ourselves ill earning money, and then spend all our money on getting well again. We think so much about the future that we neglect the present, and thus experience neither the present nor the future. We live as if we were never going to die, and die as if we had never lived.” By Paulo Coelho

Most all our lives, we desperately struggle to find ourselves. We strive to live, and live out our lives exactly the way we want to but end up creating and living in contradictions. It is not that in the deepest of our hearts we do not know what we want. We do, but adapting and adjusting to a demanding world we let our true selves get corroded, get covered with gunk. Yet from deep within there is that being, that energy and that soul that yearns to fly, to go and grab a fistful of the sky and claim it as how own. 

In the history of mankind there have been a few who have flown so high and so purely in the skies of their own choosing. And, there are almost all of us who for scores of times in our lives have dug a window through that corrosion and that gunk that surrounds and made our presence felt. We have, at times, lived out our dreams and desires loudly and boldly. The question that arises is how do increase the frequency of these liberating moments and sustain them so that at the end of our days we can feel that, hey, I am ready to die because I have lived a full, fruitful and an authentic life. Inspired by an interview, I conducted of Dr. Peter Senge a few years ago, it struck me living an authentic life at work and in society when we:

Step Up: In all circumstances, especially the most challenging ones our options eventually get boiled down to just two. Should we take the well-treaded and safe path or should we step up and take the road less travelled. The roads less travelled, or the right decisions that will make us stand apart and away from others  are always packed with risk but the person who steps up to the calling of his inner voice, scales up the mountains of authenticity. Yes, it takes courage to be authentic. Yes, it takes gumption to stand up, speak up and move towards what your heart, mind and soul tell you are the right things to say and do.

Step In: Daniel Goleman in his book, Focus, talks about how a bunch of preachers-to-be on the road to take up tests in compassion and kindness totally ignore a homeless person on the street asking for help. In their case, it was probably about lack of awareness but often in life, we prefer to stay away from trouble that doesn’t belong to us. In a highly interconnected world most everything does, in a way, belong to us. The other day, someone sent me a video of some folks torching the tongue of street dog. The thought in my mind was why would someone take a video of that and not stop the carnage? Or, when we see others dumping toxic waste and plastic into our rivers why don’t we step in. Stepping in into murky situations, if our conscience calls for it, is the authentic thing to do.

Stand Tall: Dr. Peter Senge in that interview, available on you tube, claims that the eye cannot see the eye. We don’t ever know what the objective reality is because our perceptions, our lenses towards the world are tinted with our biases, our own agendas. Some of these, surely, are unconscious but a large number of those stains on our glasses are of our own making and the cleaner our windows are to the world the better we see it and the taller and prouder we can walk. Coming from clarity and approaching situations conscientiously will allow us to be ourselves, walk and stand tall in a volatile, uncertain, changing and an ambiguous world.  Said once my favorite childhood author, George Bernard Shaw, “Best keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you see the world.”

Authenticity is not just honesty, it is not just being frank and outspoken but being authentic is being true to you inner calling moment after moment. It is about stepping up to challenges, stepping into situations where the right thing needs to be done and also keeping your values and your visions clean.

We live in a world that is constantly changing. We do not have to be the change because every breath we take, every though we think, every word we utter and every action that we take creates change. We do not need to apply force neither do we need to use undue power. We just live out our life with authenticity and gentle influence.

Raju Mandhyan

Author, Coach and Trainer

www.mandhyan.com         Unleashing Inherent Excellence!

http://twitter.com/RajuMandhyan

http://www.mandhyan.com/insights/

http://www.youtube.com/user/RajuMandhyan

 

 

The Subtleties of Authentic Influence©

, ,

TODAY, I complete and count nearly twenty-one years since I entered the world of public and then professional speaking. Within the first year of being part of a very elite group of professionals at the Executive Toastmasters Club of Makati, the club appointed me president.

Surely I’d had some experience in leading teams, building businesses and even being the chief honcho of other business-oriented organizations but I’d never had the experience of being at the helm of a team made of people coming from different walks of life. A group made from diverse backgrounds, and with no material stakes and agenda in the organization except the fact that it was a self-learning volunteer group.

For groups such as this, the leader really has very little assigned power at his disposal and is needed to still drive, succeed, and make the organization flourish.

Towards this end, I thankfully, consider myself to have been blessed to have an amazing mentor and coach in the form of the group’s former president, one Mr. Horacio S. Sese. Nicknamed Rexy, as many people in the Philippines are, he used to hailed as “Sexy Rexy.”

Rexy used to have this amazing way of making me think, visualize, verbalize, and then act and follow through with what was needed, what was productive, and everything that moved the team forward. A team that was loosely gelled, tender, and had haphazard stakes in doing so. I must also add to this that whatever Rexy guided me into doing was also always ethical and in service of others, something bigger than myself.

Though it has been over twenty years since then, here are a few subtleties about Rexy, about Authentic Influence,  and his styles which led me to perform better and grow:

Reputation. In my first few interactions with him, I picked up cues that Rexy knew what he was talking about and doing. Much more important than my own assessment of him almost everyone spoke well of him and looked up at him. This kind of presence and reputation isn’t and wasn’t downloadable from any source but it had been built over the years brick by brick and inch by inch. It was rock solid, dependable, and his reputation always walked into the room way before the person behind it did.

Respect. I was and still am twenty years younger than him. I was and still might be twenty years greener than him in many areas of life and in a world where power is wielded hierarchically; Rexy never let these differences show. For him, in reality, they did not exist and he treated me and all with others with massive courtesy and respect with every little word and every little micro-gesture. He never spoke at me. He did not highlight my lack of experience and know-how. He never disturbed my time without first seeking my permission.

Rapport. You can already guess by the fact that he allowed young and old to address him as “Sexy Rexy,” that he was also a fun and easy-going guy. There was barely any hot air in his hairy head. He had this uncanny ability to meet people in their own way, at their own level and use lightness and respect to win their trust and rapport rapidly. Regardless of how unique, urgent or ambiguous the tasks at hand were, Rexy made it a point to acknowledge and care for the person behind the task, namely me.

Research. This probably is not the precise word for the point I am trying to make but it fits into the theme and the scheme of things. Every time there was work to be done or little tasks that were probably behind time, Rexy’s conversations would start with exploring the background of the tasks at hand. After that he’d explore my thoughts and feelings about the work at hand. Gently, then he used to check if I had the resources and the support. Towards closing the conversation he’d get confirmations in such a way that would make me feel as if I were the lead and as if all the ideas were of my generation and which, in fact, was usually true. In our conversations, his open-minded, exploring way of guidance had me bursting with ideas and intentions to flourish. He never ever delegated. I owned and was accountable for all that I put out.

Request. Now just in case, wherever he had a need and not that I remember him having any, his mode, his demeanor was, always, as if he were making a request. I didn’t know how he did that. I don’t know where and how he acquired such a skill set but it was and still is mind-blowing. Over the years I have tried to imbibe that behavior and that demeanor and I am not sure if I have it. It is is a powerful competency and shall always remain on my wish list of things I want to be. I want to be like Rexy the Sexy.

In a world, today, that has exploded into the virtual domain where people live half their lives stuck to their smartphones and laptops; where social and business interactions thrive in the digital space these five subtleties of Authentic Influence can and will always rule all forms of dealings and interactions.

Your abilities to authentically influence the marketplace and your stakeholders will depend on your reputation, respect for them, rapport with them; your abilities to research their needs and turn your own needs into humble requests will make you social and business leaders who innovate and influence authentically.

On Saturday, the 18th of August, at 9:00AM Philippines, I am running a no fee webinar, please drop by and pick up or add a few things to the subject of Authentic Influence. Here’s the link for signing up:  Authentic Influence© by Raju Mandhyan

 

 

 

Inner Sun

Exposing Yourself through Public Speaking

I masticated a bit over the title of this article but came to a conclusion that, that is what I mean and that is what I have to say. One of the cardinal rules to succeed in public speaking is to say what you mean, and mean what you say. 

May years ago, when I wrote my first ever book on public speaking, the HeART of Public Speaking, I placed on the cover an expensively purchased picture of a man speaking from behind a lectern to a highly engaged, happily laughing audience. The beauty of the picture wasn’t just in the fact that the audience looked extremely engaged, it was in the boldness of the fact that the speaker’s rear silhouette was butt-naked. I had my artist drape a gentle, heart-shaped shawl around the speaker and then the cover went ahead and said exactly what I had laid out inside the book. I loved it and so do those who still own that edition.

To succeed, to shine and scintillate at public speaking, one must do exactly that – expose your true self and then wrap yourself and your presentation with love.

How, you ask?

Well, you might have heard the saying that people would rather be in the coffin than do a eulogy. People fear public speaking more than they fear death. What we really fear is being exposed to scores of eyes that may not just see into us but that they may also see us through our charades. Our true selves might sometimes be timid, pretentious or arrogant. Or, worse scenario, people fear speaking up in the presence of large audiences because our agendas are unethical, and we say what we do not mean and mean what we are not saying. With scores of eyes watching our every move, every micro-gesture, every bead of sweat we can be called out for what we really are and what our true intentions might be. That is the fear.

This, of course, may not be everyone’s reason but the question remains the same – how do we expose our own true selves and yet be covered by a protective heart? Here are certain tips that I have picked up from failing, sweating and dying then coming alive a thousand times when in front of a large group of people.

First, recognize and live out ‘common humanity. Tell yourself that the people out there are people just like you. Some smart and some not so smart, just like yourself. Tell yourself that they, too, have doubts, fears, anxieties, challenges and aspirations in life just as you do. Tell yourself that they are here to hear you no matter how profound or ordinary your spiel for them may be.

Second, generate loving, agape, feeling towards them. Though love resides in the hearts the activation of the desire to offer kindness, compassion and love is a function of the prefrontal cortex. You consciously tell yourself to be kind and loving, then the forty odd million neurons residing in your heart go to work creating love for your audience. When that happens, you radiate kindness, and kindness begets kindness. Sure, there is a chance that there may be one or two thick-skinned, bitter lemon of a person in the room who will continue giving you the heebie-jeebies. Just go on without them, they will eventually turn into sweet lemonade.

Third, according to international speaker par excellence, Scott Friedman, be authentic. What does that mean? It means expose your true self. You don’t have to talk like your college professor or like Chris Rock. Just be yourself. Let your flaws, your stutters, your accent be seen, felt or heard. Let your heart lead you and speak from the heart. If there is something you don’t know or are not sure, say exactly that, “I don’t know that, and I am not sure about that.” That’s okay. You are neither Solomon nor Google.

Fourth, also according to Scott Friedman, be vulnerable. Yes, you do not wear a tight blue suit with a red cape. You were not born on planet Krypton. You can bleed, and you can hurt. Expose all those sides of you that can bleed and hurt. Most people in the audience will relate to you, offer compassion and a much kinder ear if you pretend not to be a flawless, man of steel. Should the thick-skinned, bitter lemon hurl a rotten egg at you, say “Ouch!” and then right away forgive her for she knows not what she does. She knows not that you are human too. Keep doing the right thing and keep creating value with your words.

Fifth,  is to become good at being light and funny as a speaker. Laughter is the shortest distance between two hearts, and humor is the vehicle that will drive you there. Some people are naturally funny, and others can get there through practice at public speaking. ‘Neuro-plasticity’, you know! The more you do something, the more you become that – in this case, funny. Just make sure to make yourself the butt of all your jokes otherwise, the thick-skinned, bitter lemon will stare you down to your death. Or, better still take up lessons from ‘the HeART of HUMOR.’

There!

Of course there is a lot more to public speaking. There is this fact that speaking in public is about, as I have already said, creating good value. It is about inspiring people, and about leading them to a new and a better place in their lives. You can do it. Yes, you can because the brilliance and wish to shine is in all of us. It is in all of us to help, love and cherish all those that surround us but, first, we need to have the gumption to expose ourselves, our true selves.

I never let many copies of my first book, first edition, circulate in the marketplace because I was afraid. I was afraid that the cover was too brash, and it would scare away the conservatives. The thing is even though I’d written all about being brave, about being kind, authentic and open; I wasn’t brave, I was still a newbie to expressing myself courageously. Yes!

To wrap up, let me caution you away from that saying where public speaking gurus will tell you that to overcome your fear, you should imagine all your audience butt-naked. That, to me, is utter nonsense. Baloney! It is bound to scare the bananas out of you and sink you into the ground. It is best to, not just imagine, but be in your spiritual birthday suit when speaking in public. It is best to expose yourself as you are, bare your soul and your audiences will lift you up into the heavens. Have fun!

Check out my books, blogs and videos on Amazon/Raju Mandhyan.

 

 

Have You Ever Wrestled with Humor?

I bet you have more than once struggled and wrestled with humor.

You know it is important. You know as a trainer, speaker or a business leader it breaks ice, increases engagement and many a times earns you trust. Yet, at times it can pin you down and have you tapping on the floor to surrender and give up.

I know this. I have been there. There are times I’ve had the crowds rolling on the floor with laughter and then there are times that I have wanted to lie down on the floor and die.

Humor and pain like comedy and tragedy have subtle similarities. At the root level, these are both essentially the same. A person who has suffered great pain and tragedy in life also has the ability to transcend from it and convert it to comedy.

If you look through the history of those who have made the world laugh, you will note that they did, indeed, suffer great sorrow and pain before discovering laughter.

The bard, Shakespeare, created immortal masterpieces of drama but lived a personal life wrought in longing and loneliness. His every work is a constant dance between the tragic and the comic.

Charlie Chaplin, the lovable champ, grew up in a world surrounded by poverty and Dickensian angst; almost all of his movies depict scenes of glee and sadness sublimely mixed and exaggerated for theatrical effect.

The legendary Doctor Patch Adams, who proved to the world that, indeed, laughter is the best medicine, lived a life of hardship and struggle, until and even after he acquired a medical degree. His patients loved his clowning and humor because they knew that behind the facade, he deeply understood, felt and also shared their pain.

Now, as a business leader, when it comes to generating laughter if you have been to where I have and want to be more careful and funny at the same time here are some humble tips from my book, the HeART of HUMOR;

  • Know your pain, understand your pain and then recognize the human in you and let go of the pain through laughter and play. Transcend it.
  • Know the possible pains of your audiences and, gently, help them see a different and a lighter perspective of life. Do not play down their suffering but poke fun at your own and they will heal and laugh.
  • Have love and compassion for your audiences and your people. Love will lighten your spirits and hold you in a joyful state. Your audience will read and mirror your attitude and behavior. Laughter and lightness will become a natural by product.
  • Stay rooted to the ground by choosing your stories and words with care and caution. The world has becoming increasingly sensitive and demands political correctness. Stay away from making fun of caste, color and creed. Stay away from gender-related humor. If there is anyone that you need to make fun of then make fun of yourself. If you fail at being funny then they will laugh at your attempts and you will have still accomplished your goal.
  • Humor is about timing and absolute precision. The same joke that was great at meeting one may be a total flop at meeting two. The best humor is situational, quick and clean.

Lastly, yes, do try all your stuff at home. Good and funny stories after a few rounds of practice mature and ripen over time. You do notice that the previous tip, somehow, contradicts this tip. When you are able to strike a balance between then you can call yourself a professional humor wrestler.

So those are a few insights and tips on wrestling with humor. If you’d like to get some coaching into being funny then come join me for a session of “the HeART of HUMOR,” in Singapore on the 26th of April, 2018.

Together, we will peel apart the wraps of humor in speaking. We will dig deep into the sciences behind stand-up comedy; we will look into improvisation, stage acting, and storytelling and then practice methods that will become more than relevant to generating laughter, engagement and rapport in business scenarios.

Remember, when you wrestle with humor and lose, you still win because the joke is on you.

Click here to learn more and sign up. The HeART of HUMOR Workshop

Enjoy!

 

The Link Between Laughter and Tears

“Humor and pain, like comedy and tragedy, have subtle similarities. At the basic level, they are essentially the same. A person who has suffered great pain and tragedy in life also has the ability to transcend it and convert it into comedy. If you look at the history of those who have made the world laugh, you will note that they did, indeed, suffer great sorrow and pain before discovering laughter. Shakespeare created immortal masterpieces of literature but lived a personal life wrought with longing and loneliness. His every work is a constant dance between the tragic and the comic. The legendary Doctor Patch Adams, who proved to the world that, indeed, laughter is the best medicine, lived a life of hardship and struggle. His patients loved his humor because they knew that behind the façade, he understood and deeply shared their pain.

InSights on InSights

InSights on InSights

A few years ago, NBC held a prime time talent contest called Last Comic Standing, where Dat Phan, a young Vietnamese-American became the champion and attained instant stardom. Today, he lives his dream of making a living while making others laugh. As a kid, he and his mother lived on the streets of San Diego and slept on bus stop benches. Growing up, he worked as a waiter, a busboy, and a doorman at a casino and a comedy club. Phan is not hampered by his past experiences. His hardships have become an integral part of his humor, as has his upbringing in a poor cross-cultural family. “I do whatever it takes to do stand-up,” Phan said in an interview. “There is an abundance of material in struggling and poverty and trying to make it. There is so much humor in that, it’s unlimited. You have to be able to see it. You have to be very creative. In the beginning, I didn’t do real well, I bombed dozens of times. Something sick inside told me to keep on trying because I had nothing to lose. I kept exposing myself to different audiences. I kept bombing and failing and being disappointed until I got just one laugh. And that laugh gave me encouragement to continue and pursue a career and a skill that makes others happy. The pain of my past has been my driving force and I believe that no matter how hopeless it seems there is always something to look forward to. In life, you can get to the next level if you’re willing to give up everything and give everything you have in your heart to make it!” says Dat Phan.

Kahlil Gibran rightly said: “The selfsame source from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.” Very often when we are laughing uncontrollably, we find tears streaming down our faces. And, quite as often, after we’ve expressed our pain through crying, we find ourselves laughing joyfully. Both laughing and crying provide cathartic cleansing. Our facial expressions also mirror this kinship. That’s why, at times, it’s hard to determine if one is crying or laughing. Somewhere in the depths of our souls and somewhere in the recesses of our limbic brains, laughing and crying are separated by a very thin line, just as comedy and tragedy are.”

When speakers, trainers and other facilitators play hopscotch over this fine line that divides comedy and tragedy using personal anecdotes and situational humor they create rapid rapport with their audiences and transfer new learning deeply and powerfully.

To make being funny a part of your skill sets, come look me up in April in Singapore, I am running a one-day workshop where you will not just know the science behind humor but you master a few techniques to consistently employ humor in most all of your interactions.

 

 

 

Compassion – A Leadership Competency

GROWING up in India, I went to a Zoroastrian School. It was a good school and as with most schools, it had all kinds of teachers. Some were nice and some not so nice. Some were passionate about their work and some regarded their work as just a job.

Of all the teachers, teacher D. N. Irani stands out in my memory – he was tall and lanky, with very little fat on his body. He wore his salt-and-pepper hair closely cropped and was always clean shaven. He was about the size and shape of Clint Eastwood, as Clint Eastwood looked in his 50s. In a light blue short-sleeved, bush shirt with khaki chinos and soft brown leather sandals he seemed to serenely glide from classroom to classroom.

In this school with its reputation of toughness, D.N. Irani walked tall and spoke slowly but always carried a big chunk of subtle influence. The boys would part in the hallways to let him pass, like Moses’ Red Sea, although nothing in his attitude or behavior demanded such from the boys.

Whenever other teachers or even the school head master was faced with a hooligan crowd in class they would always send for D.N. Irani to come and restore peace. And D.N. Irani never failed at quieting down a class simply by turning up quietly and planting himself in front of us like a mountain at peace. In the middle of all storms his mere presence would, somehow, make everyone see the bright and beautiful side life at school.

After seconds of gently staring us down, all he’d say is “You boys ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Go back to your studies; it is for your own good!” And, we’d all go back to work for weeks until the monkeys within us would get restless again.

For decades I used to wonder what it was about D.N Irani that had such impact on hooligans like us.

Today, as a leadership trainer and a coach, I have come to the conclusion that we responded the way we did to him because in the marrows of our bones we knew that he really and truly cared for us. We knew that he wanted us to grow, to become better and discover our own worthiness as human beings. We also knew that he felt and shared the growing pains in kids at school and that the shenanigans we played were just a cover up, a distraction to soothe our angst.

Beyond being visionaries, strategic thinkers, and excellent at execution leaders need to have deep compassion for people they work. Compassion — that ability to see, hear, sense, understand and want to help out others with their concerns, challenges and even pain is that energy binds and ignites every other leadership competency.

Research studies in 2012, by Olga Klimecki and Tania Singer of the Max Planck Institute, Germany concluded that compassion and compassion training increases pro-social behavior and strengthens resilience amongst leaders.

Three ways to enhance and strengthen compassion abilities within us are:

• Be mindful all the time: That is keep your senses of observation, hearing and sensing perked up towards others, towards the surrounding and in the moment. Obviously this requires that we lessen our own urges to talk, consistently being doing things and grab at life mindlessly.

• Recognize common humanity: That is when in the presence of those that we interact with, we bring forth onto our minds the fact that they are just like us in many ways and we too, maybe, in many ways be just like them. I believe it is referred to as “kapwa tao,” in the Philippines.

• Stretch out to be of service: Not that we can always help others out of their dilemma but efforts, mental or physical, do bring up some results for others and, more importantly, also nourish our own natural needs to care.

Sometimes people may think that being compassionate is being nice yet there is a fine difference. In being nice one does kind things that provide relief without really sensing what others may be going through. Like a child helping out a homeless person. While compassion comes wrapped in feeling how they feel and wanting and making mental and physical efforts to help others out of their situation for good.

Besides the studies by Dr. Tania Singer and Olga Klimecki on Empathy and Compassion, Dr. Thupten Jinpa of Stanford another researcher on compassion claims that “having compassion frees us from fearing… it turns our attention outwards, expanding our perspective, making our problems part of something bigger than us, that we are all in together.”

The amazing thing is that it is a learnable skill. The path to it is not long but the way is slightly deep. You cannot just walk there; you have to take a leap.


(This piece has been inspired by the book, the HeART of the Close and is a feature on Business World.)

Inner Sun

A Minute to Arrive, A Minute to Leave

A FEW YEARS AGO, I’d taken up three speaking assignments in one day. The first was in Antipolo, a location 25 kilometers north from Makati City where I operate from in the Philippines. The second speaking assignment was in Makati City and the third, late in the afternoon, was at a convention center in Pasay City which was about 10 kilometers from Makati City.

I had calculated the speaking and the travel time well for all three engagements and also did make it to each one of them in time. But, I must confess that my speaking performance in each one of them wasn’t of the quality that I’d like to fondly remember. Getting from one venue and event to another had my nerves so frayed that on stage it was more about overcoming the wobbly knees from driving than from the fact that I was on stage. Though I don’t want to remember the day, I am sharing the story in hope of purging it from my system and preventing others from such mistakes.

I don’t quite know what it is about us humans and humanity itself that wants us to pack our hours and minutes with so much to do.

From the moment we wake up we get hooked to our smart phones, our tablets and every other thingamajig that we think will help us get productive. We also sign up for meetings, get-togethers, lunches, workouts and late night online sessions to fill our days. All these activities are frantically weaved in with reading news, posting, liking, sharing and commenting on every little beep on the blooming internet. We call it living it out loud in the Volatile, Uncertain, Changing and Ambiguous world.

In this messy scramble of commitments and appointments we claim that we can make it because we are of the 21st century and we are multi-tasking, multi-talented, omnipresent creatures lurching into future. No, we are not!

Research in neurosciences will tell you that we are on and off between tasks. That means we do one thing, we stop and then we do another. We do not do many things at the same time. We stop, we start, we start, we stop and eventually end up burned at both ends. Research by the Mindful Leadership Institute in 2010 showed that barely 2% of business leaders succeed at this, 47% are, usually, in a state of chaotic, mind-wandering and 70% confessed to constantly tuning out from the tasks at hand.

The answer lies in what a professor, unknown to me, at the Ateneo de Manila University makes his students practice when they enter his classroom. He invites them to sit down, be still and then just be silent for one whole minute. His claim, as I have heard my son share the story, is that when we move from one venue, one event to another we must let our minds catch up with our body.

My “mind” enter my body? That is exactly what I hadn’t done on that day when I’d zoomed from one speaking engagement to another and then to another. I was a maniac driver on the road and a zombie pontificating on stage.

Today, I practice a habit called “one minute to arrive.” Get up in the morning and take a minute to arrive and appreciate the day outside. Sit at breakfast, take a minute to arrive, smell the food and appreciate the company. Enter the car and take one minute to arrive and be amazed at the wonders of technology. Enter a business meeting and spend a whole minute to take note of the place, the people and the potential in the room. Connect everything to an inner quietness, a greater awareness, and curiosity for what is and what else may unfold. Some people call this grounding while others call it quiet time. Regardless of what it is called, the beauty lies in the fact that it increases our calm, our clarity and our abilities to become creative and productive.

The same practice can also be applied to leaving a room or a meeting. One can just sit up after all the talk is over and let all the little and big conversations come together in our heads then let them find their way into our deeper memory. Call this “a minute to leave” and has similarities to a respectful “paalam” in the Philippines.

The beauty behind this practice is that our forefathers knew of it and, thus, created words and rituals to remind us of it. Another truth behind this practice is that science is quickly catching up on its mental, emotional and performance benefits. Practice it for a day and it will impact you. Practice it for a few weeks and it will become a good habit. Hang on to the good habit and it will become a trait of being present in the here and now. Think of it gently, “a minute to paalam.”


This article was featured on Business World