Maximise Your Potential

Amrit Sandhar

The Power of Passion…

I was asked to come and present to a large organisation. The session was going to be a full day involving lots of concentration, facilitation and it was important key messages were understood.

As life happens to us all, my Uncle passed away the night before I was due to hold the session. I went with my father to be with my Uncle’s family in London the night before the session, and we stayed as late as we could. I had no time to cancel the presentation the next day, and there would have been little point as no matter how much we were suffering, my Uncle had gone. The next day was going to be a long day, three presentations altogether, and I had very little sleep due to the devastating news we had received the night before.

I have always had a passion for helping people, from as far back as I can remember. The reason why I became a Pharmacist, was because of my desire to help people. The reason why I love Employee Engagement so much is due to my desire to help people. Engagement excites me, engages me, and really brings me to life, because we can truly make a positive difference to peoples’ lives. So here I was, ready to present to a group of people, and I had no idea how much interest they had in a subject I love. As I presented, I began to forget the lack of sleep I had had, and the reasons why. The colleagues I was presenting to, seemed to love employee engagement as much as I do. They were asking questions and they were involved. Their energy kept my energy going. That group of people, with their love for their colleagues and trying to understand how they could make their lives better, gave me the power to carry through over four hours of presentations. It was an amazing day, with some wonderful people who taught me something about the power of passion.

I have carried out many presentations and none under the conditions I faced that day. Yet, I realised that passion really can make us ‘forget’, our hardships. Passion can make us work through the night, none stop, for something we believe in. People will work through days without a break, inventing, creating, evoking. This inner strength comes to life when we do things we are passionate about. When was the last time you worked on something or created something, driven my nothing more than passion?

When did you last feel the power of passion in your work?

Leave a comment »

What happened to wisdom?

The first management book I ever read was ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. It was a book I was told to go and read after attending my first leadership conference. A senior manager stood up on stage and held the book in his hands. I was young and wanted the answers to being the best I could be. Like Charlie who had found the last ‘Golden ticket’ for entry into Willie Wonkers’ chocolate factory, I went home that evening and bought the book and read it cover to cover. This would contain all the answers…

30 years later, I have read so many books and so many research papers about the key skills that make great leaders. Whilst many of them contain similar themes, there seems to be something significant missing…

What makes a great leader? This question has led to the writing of hundreds, if not thousands of books, across the world. Why? Well, the appetite for this knowledge seems to know no limits. We need leaders who can carry us forward in these uncertain times. And these times are certainly uncertain! Brands we grew up with have vanished. Trust in leaders is at an all time low within business , politics and the financial sector, despite the existence of robust ethics policies, that never existed decades ago.

Throughout history, we have examples from every civilisation and every time period, of leaders who achieved extraordinary things, such as Aristotle, Plato, Alexander the Great, Gandhi and Mother Theresa, to name just a few. When Mother Theresa left this world, on the 5th Sept 1997, India had a population of 990 million, yet across the world, we had all heard of this extraordinary human being, despite the lack of social media. Did she possess the skills that are written about in thousands of books of what makes great leadership? Whilst she could have been described as possessing empathy, caring, integrity and honesty, there was something else that she possessed. Wisdom. Wisdom is something that is attained through experience and thoughtfulness, through reflective practice. You will not see wisdom stated in any competency framework in business. You will not see wisdom as a requirement written down anywhere in corporate life. Yet the possession of wisdom in this uncertain time, is probably what is required now more than ever.

In my view, wisdom is a key component of true leadership. This means living in complete alignment to what you believe, and that belief has to have positive benefits to the wider world. True leadership must be about having a need to learn from each experience, to make sense of the world around you and to develop others. We need leaders who can impart their knowledge and share their experience with us; leaders that can teach us how to also make sense of the world.

How then do we go about creating wise leaders? Reflection. We spend so much time ‘doing’, as a measure of our value in this world, at the expense of ‘thinking’. Learning environments have the greatest possibilities of creating wise leaders. Taking time to reflect on what happened, what worked, what didn’t, but more importantly, why. This knowledge can help for the future and in more ways than might seem obvious at first.

Whilst what I may describe may seem impractical, one has to ask, what sort of world could we create, if our focus was on creating wise leaders, who could make a positive impact upon the people they lead and the world in which we live? Wouldn’t you want to work for a wise leader???

Leave a comment »

Never give up…

When I was young, I always felt I was destined for great things. As I grew older, the cynicism of life took over, the childhood dreams evaporated and the struggle for becoming financially independent began. I was fortunate in choosing a career path where I was guaranteed a job as soon as I left university. Throughout my working life, there was always something niggling away at me, like a splinter that just would not come out. I changed careers, leaving the wonderful world of Pharmacy behind with wonderful memories of all the great people I’d worked with and all the wonderful patients I’d met in my life.

Having spent a number of years now in another field and experienced more of life, things are beginning to make more sense. I believe we are all destined for greatness in our lives. For some that might be for them to become painters, others might pursue volunteer work and for some it might mean freeing themselves to be the people they really want to be, rather than living the lives others had destined for them. My niggling that has become a constant companion has made itself known. My childhood dreams have come flooding back and it seems that I managed to take a detour from my destiny, but somehow I find myself back on the path that I managed to deviate from, without any awareness of my departure.

Steve Jobs, in his now infamous speech to graduates at Stamford University, shared his upbringing and how fate had twists and turns laid out in his life, and what seemed like a string of haphazard steps, with the experience of life, he could finally look back and connect the dots to realise, everything turned out the way it was meant to, everything was connected. We have just celebrated a brand new year. 2015, is our chance to reconnect with the child inside and dig deep, to reconnect with the dream that once smoldered in our hearts as kids. The chances are, you are probably on a path, not too far from one that you would like to pursue. And if you have ventured a little further, the chances are that finding your way back will be easier than you think. 2015 can be the year we decide to follow our dreams, and despite what may seem like the intentions of people around us, to keep us from taking the path awaiting us, we must never give up. Although I have only just rediscovered the excitement of a long lost dream, the feeling it’s given me has made me realise that dreams never truly leave us, and that we should never give up on them…

Leave a comment »

Who dares wins…

“What if?” What if it all goes wrong? What if I lose everything? What if people laugh at me? We make ourselves helpless, paralysed by fear and end up living an unfulfilled life. I’ve just finished watching the film ‘Who Dares Wins’, the moto of the SAS, after not seeing the film for many years. A great film that reminds you of the great work carried out by the armed services.

Who dares wins…think about this statement for a second…think about it, have you ever seen ordinary people doing extraordinary things? Have you seen an average looking guy who had the guts to approach the best looking girl and suddenly they are happily dating? Have you ever seen an ‘ordinary’ person set up a business anyone could have, and go on to make a success of it? Do you know anyone who had the conviction to follow their dreams and are now living a fulfilled life? As human beings, our survival instincts are set to look out for danger, to keep us alive. These survival instincts can go into overdrive and if we allow them to, they can prevent us from doing the very things that could unlock our potential, that could allow us to follow our passion, that could allow us to live a happy life.

Fear is a powerful emotion. Marketing thrives on creating fear and then providing solutions to alleviate it. It is said that human beings are born with two fears….falling and loud noises, everything else we learn. We learn to fear trying something different, we learn to fear deviating from a well-trodden path, we learn to fear realising our dreams…but Who Dares Wins…it always makes me think of an old Atari racing car game. Did you ever notice that when you were chasing the car in front, you always overtook it, yet whenever you were in the lead, your focus inevitably went to the rear view mirror and sure enough, you would get overtaken. Susan Jeffers in her book ‘Fear the fear and do it anyway’ shares the principle that feeling the fear, is part of being human. That doesn’t mean that this is a sign to stop. Focus on the fear and that’s what will happen. Focus on our dreams and fear can become excitement. So, just as the SAS dare to win…is realising your dream, your potential, your fulfilled life, worth daring to act for? Who Dares Wins…

Leave a comment »

To be of service…

My mother recently had a total knee replacement. She is in her 70s and was worried about staying in hospital for a number of days and worried about how the operation might go. When we arrived, there was a nurse to greet her and made her feel very comfortable. She was shown to her bed and the nurse went through all the paperwork in a methodical but patient manner. The healthcare ‘machine’ kicked in and each stage of the process was initiated from another visit by a nurse, a visit by the Physiotherapist, a visit by the aftercare team, a visit by the Anaethetist and then a visit by the surgeon. There was a full day of total or partial knee replacements that day. My mother was offered tea and looked after impeccably. You might think this was a private hospital…yet this was the National Health Service (NHS).

When my mother was ready to leave the hospital a few days later, my mother called the nurses over and with a tear in her eye, she tried to express her gratitude to these people who only a few days before, were complete strangers. What had forged such a bond between these people? At home, my mother explained how these nurses had cared for her, and how they had done it with such pleasure. They washed her legs, rubbed cream in when they saw the skin was dry, they brought food to her and came to chat with her. The nurses shared with me, how they were going to miss my mother.

The NHS is sometimes in the headlines for poor service. We only ever hear of the exceptions. Everyday, there are people like my mother, going in for operations, being cared for and looked after. Thousands of people who are served and looked after, who walk away with tears in their eyes, full of gratitude, the silent majority, who know the value of those who serve.

What makes someone go out of their way and serve others in this manner? There is scientific evidence that as human beings, we gain as much pleasure in giving, as we do in receiving. We witness this every year, whether it is Christmas presents, birthday presents or any other event in between. When we have really thought about what someone would really like, the pleasure in watching them open their present is matched to the pleasure of the recipient opening it. This human trait, drives us to join voluntary organisations, charities and do work for the greater good, to help our communities. In the work environment, these nurses, Drs and healthcare professionals up and down the country, gain pleasure from helping others, to support others and to serve others. The very best hotels all over the world are full of people gaining pleasure in serving.

Servant leadership is a concept that has been around for many years. We assume the service comes from the ‘ground’ teams…but just imagine for a second…what would our world of work look like if organisations around the world, were made up of senior leadership teams, that were there to serve the teams they support…to be truly servant leadership organisations…what sort of world would we create then???

Leave a comment »

Is your workplace ready for diversity?

There is a huge push for diversity in the workplace. It is well established that the greater the diversity, the broader the thinking and the better the results. When the workplace can mirror the make up of customers, they can better relate to their needs and wants. Many companies have taken great strides to introduce females to the workplace and into more senior positions. The next phase of diversity is focusing on the ethnic groups within the UK. But there is something that should be considered…

The reason we want diversity is to challenge our current thinking. Yet, what sort of culture do you have right now? How accepting is it of challenge and diverse views and thoughts? Before we go off and and start creating a more diverse workforce, if we currently have difficulties accepting fresh thinking and innovation, then there may be little hope that a diverse workforce will have any impact. Bringing in a more diverse workforce will not change the level of acceptance of more diverse views.

The other challenge we will have is culture. Take the eastern culture. I have been brought up with two cultures, but can relate very closely to my upbringing of the east. In the eastern culture, teachers are revered. Why? Because they possess wisdom. Wisdom is a greatness that is bestowed upon the few, for the many. There is an assumption that leaders in senior positions in organisations, have great wisdom, which is why they are in the positions they are in. Just like teachers and religious or spiritual leaders, they have reached a level of wisdom that the rest of us can learn hugely from. You can see the issue already. What if leaders then do not live up to this expectation? Just like the way the Psychological contract can be broken by leaders not upholding their end of the employee-employer contract, the same is true of not living up to the expectations of certain cultures. Yet this can be even more damaging. If senior leaders exhibit behaviours that are far from ideal, then resentment can grow as leaders can quickly be branded as ‘imposters’.

Diversity is not about gender, race or upbringing, but more about how accepting we are of diverse thinking. Unless our current workplace is ready to be challenged on current thinking, then we face a battle that the diversity agenda may not solve immediately. We should have workplace environments that facilitate diversity of thinking, that accept and encourage challenge and innovation. We also need to review our current culture, to fully appreciate whether it is it ready to accept diversity. This is much bigger than ticking boxes. This will involve a change in mindset and diversity of thinking, which will be necessary a long time before we embark upon recruiting a diverse workforce. Ultimately, we will need to start thinking differently…..before we start recruiting differently.

Leave a comment »

The power of conviction…

When was the last time you reviewed the things that are most important to you in your life? Could you articulate the things you believe and that drive you to do what you do? What is your mission in life? What difference are you here to make?

It is no accident that every organisation these days has a mission statement, with values that underpin it, focusing on a clear purpose. The corporate world has tried to apply how human beings work, to a corporate entity. We are able to overcome seemingly impossible challenges, by the power of belief, and we all know that the strength of the belief drives the strength of the action that follows.

Politics will always be an important part of the corporate world. It is a part of human nature that we cannot escape. Yet, the power of conviction should not be frowned upon or looked at as a naive quality to have. The lack of conviction to a particular path means your position can change depending upon various factors at the time. To have conviction and follow through makes you stand apart and let’s look at human history for a moment. Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Mahtma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela all had strong convictions about the way life should be and they dedicated their lives for these, and gave their lives for these. They too could have changed their positions depending upon the circumstances. But being right, is being right, irrespective of timing. There is no such thing about being right at the wrong time, when you are driven by the powerful force of your beliefs. When you are driven by a purpose, the power of this overwhelms anything else.

When you can realise your own mission in life, your own purpose in life and understand the beliefs that have shaped you and drive you, life can become an effortless journey. Why? Because you will find that living in congruence with who you really are, can open doors and bring supporters flocking to you that you could not have imaged happening before. A level of ease develops within you and we all know people who we have met that are so at peace with who they are. They have clarity of what they are here to achieve. They are driving for a greater purpose, to aid society as a whole.

So, take some time out, lock yourself away and understand what it is that you are here to achieve. What is your purpose in life? What are the beliefs that have shaped how you behave with others, and how you expect others to behave with you? Once you are clear, then just follow your convictions to live a more meaningful life and you too may be surprised by the opportunities that present themselves to make life more effortless and your goals more achievable…

Leave a comment »

Never sell yourself short…

Did you ever imagine to find yourself where you are now? Are you working in an environment that is not aligned to your values and beliefs? Do you find yourself patiently queuing whilst everyone else is jumping ahead? Are you frustrated with the injustice going on around you and no one speaks out? Every day, we sell ourselves short, whether its through enduring service at a restaurant that is unpleasant, to accepting behaviours at work, day in day out, that you could never have imagined you would have tolerated.

Why oh why do we become so accepting of this pain and suffering? Is change so awful that it is better to suffer in pain than to do something about it? Did we ever dream as children that we would become so worn down that we would accept such injustices?

I remember as a child, thinking I was really special, different, and that I was here for a greater purpose. As I grew older, that feeling wore away and before I knew it, I had been assimilated and was working hard to fit in and conform. I am convinced that we all had those feelings when we were young. Yet as we go through life, they are dampened down until eventually, they whither and die.

Last weekend, I went to see the film, ’12 Years a Slave’. I had no idea how powerful a film that was going to be. At the end, the whole of the auditorium was full of people crying, full of people in pain. How could human beings cause so much pain and suffering to one another? The slave trade like the holocausts and countless injustices all over the world, demonstrated how a collection of people, through torture and pain, could be worn down to feel so helpless and powerless that they accepted the intolerable practices of a few, on the many.

After the film, I couldn’t help but wonder whether in life, whilst the horrific injustices are no longer present, have we exchanged the cotton farms for the working conditions in corporate life? Have we exchanged torture and pain through physical harm, to office politics causing mental harm to each other? That hope that we felt as children, for a better world, is still within us all. Many thousands of people all over the world, gave their lives that we may live in a free world. The hopelessness you may feel, may be just that, a perception that needs testing. Just like the baby elephant tied to a stump. As they grow older, they assume the same stump will stop them getting away, so they don’t even try.

We must never sell ourselves short. Everyone deserves the right to better their life. Everyone deserves the right to dignity and we are all equal. If you are dissatisfied with any part of your life, the question is, what are you going to do about it? For we are not helpless and we must never accept that ‘this is our lot’. The best of humanity comes out when we need it most, and human history is scattered with people like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and countless others. They were born just like us. They decided that we were worth more and did something about it. May we never see the injustices that the generations before us endured. I cannot begin to imagine how they coped. To honour our past, we must ensure we make the most of our present. We must make sure we never sell ourselves short and make the most of this wonderful life, together…

Leave a comment »

Can 2014 be a better year?

So Christmas is over, having overindulged on extravagant meals and snacking in between.  And like so many people, the following day, I was out there trying to find as much fruit as possible, to correct the balance my body was yearning for. Since Christmas, I have been on the green tea, fruit smoothies and as much fruit and water as I can take. My body was yearning for nutrients and I had to respond.

Various experts have told us that it takes approximately 30 days to form a habit. We have so many aspects of ourselves that we torture ourselves for, whether it’s our weight, our lack of organisation, the inability to quit smoking, the inability to persevere at something and the list goes on. Yet 30 days goes by so quickly. Reflecting back on the year, I cannot understand where the year has gone – all 365 days. What did I achieve? Did I do everything I wanted? Was I a good father, husband, son? How could I have been better? Could I have organsied myself better so I had more time at home? Did I look after myself enough so I had the energy to make the most of the weekends with my wife and kids?

2013 is now at an end and we look forward to 2014, filled with hopes and dreams for a better year. What would make 2014 a better year? Maybe 2013 was a fantastic year. I must admit, I’ve learnt more in 2013 than any other year than I can remember. But it’s not winning the lottery or getting that fantastic job, which may or may not happen, that would make 2014 a better year. It’s the simple things that would make a real difference to our lives. The new habits, which if we could give enough focus to achieve, would have a massive impact on improving our lives.

So what stops us? We all know what gets measured gets done. What if you focused on getting more organised? What would you need to do? Plan each day, with achievable tasks, and then complete them. This done for 30 days would put us in a better place to deliver many other things. Improving our health would require us to eat healthier everyday for 30 days combined with regular visits to the gym throughout this period. Yet many of us, within the first two weeks, give up and go back to the self torture. For those of you who have seen the film ‘Run fat boy, run’ this reminds me of the scene where Simon Pegg when running the marathon, is faced with a wall which he must breakthrough. The wall was a psychological one but a wall just the same. Great film if you haven’t seen it.

So much has happened in 2013, both good and bad, which is essential in life. Life is made up of the yin and yang. We will have missed many opportunities to develop ourselves throughout the year with new habits. Whatever your New years’ resolutions, start by marking the days off on a calendar, for everyday you achieve your goal and see if you can get to the 30 days mark. Just as Simon Pegg was faced with a wall (in this case our 30 day mark), you too might find yourself breaking through and finding the rest of the journey far easier after this point.

I will not be giving up my new lifestyle and I too am marking the days of my healthier approach. Let’s make this a happier and healthier new year by doing what we have been holding back from for so long….by achieving the simple things that will make the biggest difference….

Leave a comment »

Who am I doing all this for?

I am over in the States, visiting my 97 year old Grandfather. It’s hard to see this once, mountain of a man, an ex-soldier, who was full of life and love, be finally overcome by the frailty of his body. Staying with family allows you to see how others live. The pace with which they earn and create for the future, seeing their priorities and how they go about achieving them. Whilst watching tv yesterday, a news report came up about how in the U.S. 16% of people hated their jobs. The figure was 12% for the U.K.

This morning I got up and heard the shocking news that someone who was well respected in the field I worked in, passed away through cancer. He was young and liked by everyone who met him. These few days, seeing the frailty of the human body as we age, hearing that so many people hate their jobs, and knowing that life is not eternal, can focus the mind to question what really is important and who am I doing all this for?

We all know and have the intelligence to understand that we have a finite time on earth. Knowing this does not mean we should walk about smothered in morbid thoughts. But, if you were told, your time on this earth was to be shortened to a few years, would that change anything? In this current climate, many people have to work to survive and to ensure their families have shelter and food. Once we’ve achieved this, then what are we trying to achieve? To ensure the next generation are ‘set-up’? To have a bigger house? To maintain a lifestyle that we have created? To provide for our own future? Seeing my family here, I was in awe of the measured approach to life. There was no keeping up with the Jones’s, or a yearning for the latest gadgets. Their homes are full of joy and love. Families eating meals together, talking together and sharing together. This might sound like the ‘Waltons’, but when you see how life could be, no latest fashion or gadget would replace the joy I’ve seen amongst these families.

I will walk away from this visit, looking at my life through a new lens. I need to understand what am I doing in my life and to question, that if I was given the news that my time is now to be cut short, would I continue to do what I do, or would I change my life? We cannot and should not walk away from our responsibilities. That’s what being a responsible adult is all about. Within this, what would you change that would make you feel that when your time came, could you look back and smile, saying I had a great life…whilst doing everything I needed to do….?

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: