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?

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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???

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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…

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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???

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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…

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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….?

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With breakdown you get breakthrough…

In our hectic lives, many of us are juggling being the best at work, being parents and partners, as well as feeling ‘connected’ with the rest of society to fulfill our innate feelings that we must be here for a higher purpose. Food is eaten on the go, feeding our children is a military operation that needs them to ‘chuck it down’ them, so we can get on with the more important things like getting them to school. Ask many people whether they feel they are getting enough sleep and the answer will be a unanimous ‘NO!’.

It was my son’s birthday yesterday, and I was working. It took my over 4 hours getting home because of an accident on the motorway. How did I make this up to him? I spent money on more toys!? I’m sure on a superficial level, my son was pleased. But deep down, he didn’t need any more toys. My guilt had driven me to do the only thing I felt I could.

When will this running around end? I sat up this morning and heard the wind chimes I had bought recently, tinkling away in the garden. They seemed to ‘ground’ me. I felt I was finally ‘here’, in the present. So much of our lives are spent worrying about the past or worrying about ‘what will be’ in the future. This thought of finally being ‘grounded’, reminded me of Mindfulness, and a training course I had attended a few weeks ago. The joy and satisfaction of the here and now is so often lost.

Things will not always go the way we want them to. Sometimes things will just keep going ‘wrong’. ‘Grounding’ ourselves in the present can take us away from the ‘what will be’ phase, to the present and a more calm and relaxed state. In this state, answers to our problems will come and what was breakdown, will very quickly become breakthrough and a new solution will bring the hope and clarity you were after….

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No pain no gain…

We’ve heard this phrase so often when exercising the body. The thought of going to the gym, can become such an effort. Once you’ve been, you feel invigorated and glad you made the effort. The same is true of our minds. I attended a course a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those courses where you don’t know what to expect and I was cynical of what I would get out of it. Well, this course turned out to be the best course I have ever been on. My brain was hurting, trying to comprehend the information that was being shared. It was exhilarating and painful all at the same time. The three days of the course was a roller coaster of a journey for my mind, and challenged my thinking in so may ways.

I couldn’t remember the last time my brain had hurt in this way. I couldn’t remember from all the years in management, the last time I was challenged to review the foundations of my thoughts. When was the last time you faced such a challenge where your brain actually hurt? Are you playing too safe? If you cannot remember the last time you were challenged, it’s worth considering what you can do to put your mind through some pain. Our greatest challenge these days is a lack of time meaning we don’t always get time to plan or think in advance. As hard as our working lives may be, we rarely walk away feeling mentally challenged where we feel the joy and pain of the challenge. Just as going to the gym, it hurts initially. And just like going to the gym, we feel the exhilaration after the challenge.

What can you do to really challenge your thinking? How can you break down the barriers of your conventional thoughts? When you put up puzzles in canteens, you find people naturally want to solve them. We are problem solving machines, for no reason other than to solve problems. There are so many puzzles around us that need solving. Challenge your mind and feel the pain….because it’s true, until you feel the pain, there really is no gain…

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What are you fearing?

Stress in the workplace is now the new norm. You look around the office and those who are not stressed stick out a mile. They are the ‘odd’ ones. What is stress exactly? How or why do we get it? What are we doing to ourselves?

Fear of what might happen, is the underlying driver for our stress. When we are up against a deadline, we are stressed. Why? Because of the consequences. Now, let’s just think about that. The consequences….What might happen? What might happen if you miss the deadline? What might happen if you share your opinions because you know the path being taken is wrong? What indeed might happen???

So, you could get told off. “Don’t do it again!”. You could be reprimanded more severely, resulting in a note on your unblemished record. What else might happen? You could lose your job. You might have to start again.

My wife was recently taken into hospital in an emergency. Guess what was on my mind….yes! I was planning to catch up on loads of my work and now we were in hospital in A&E, with my wife in severe pain…..but what of all the work??? Life has a way of correcting the balance. It might take a little time for us to acknowledge but we all do eventually. By the end of the weekend, the last thing on my mind was my work. Was my wife well? Everything I do is for her and my family, my parents and my children. The reason I work is for them, not in spite of them! When you are in hospital, you become more aware of the flippant remark that is heard across many offices, but rarely thought through enough. ‘No one died’. If you are in an office environment, could people die? As dedicated as we all might be….no one will die, even if we miss a deadline!

Fear at work needs to be placed into context. Whatever we might be fearing, no one will die. Early this year, I found myself in a place where a complete stranger asked me to help, as a man had collapsed and he had stopped breathing. I gave him mouth to mouth and CPR whilst the paramedics arrived. I did not want him to die. I tried so hard, no appraisal awaiting me, no one assessing my performance, just me and this stranger that had to live. 25 minutes and with everything I had in my body, I didn’t give up. The man died.

When you are at work, do your best, enjoy the journey. The ups and downs are what give life it’s flavour. But remember, in work, no one will die. Once you realise that, you will liberate yourself to truly do your best. When you live life without fear of anything, other than the realisation of death, you will realise life is so much more than we make it. One day, we will all die and the thought of that may fill you with dread. That is reality. Knowing that one truth, what are you going to do to make the most of your life today? How good could you make work? What if you shared your ideas and thoughts? What if no one dies and you produce the best work ever and go home to live your life the way you always wanted to…what if???

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The pursuit of happiness…

How happy are you? What is happiness? Think back on your life and remember a time when you were last truly happy. Did you know at that moment that you were happy? Is happiness something that you can experience in the moment, or only when you look back on your life?

We are working harder than ever. We have ever increasing costs and demands to keep up with the latest of everything, whether it’s clothing, gadgets or the best super foods. We want our children to be the best they can be, so we spend vast sums of money so that they can have the best advantage in life. In amongst all of this, we have to continue to demonstrate the value we add at work to ensure we do not fall behind and somehow put ourselves at risk. We eat food on the go, and the family unit is a 24 hour operation with various members of the family, living like strangers, renting rooms in a house. Cooking separately, if at all, sitting separately and hardly seeing each other. Thank goodness for social media!

What are we doing this all for? I used to laugh every time I drove down the M40 at the junction of the M25, just outside London. There was a sign on the side of the motorway, someone had painted stating ‘why do I do this every day?’. It did make me think!

What do we truly value? Are we living in accordance with our beliefs? True happiness may be, being content, being detached from wants. I remember when I had just qualified as a pharmacist. I was in London. I had much less money than I have now and I had no mortgage, no debts and no ties. I was at my happiest. As we go through life, we seem to add more and more shackles and then wonder why we are not enjoying life.

So ask yourself, what shackles do I have in my life? Is it the mortgage? Car loans? A yearning for a bigger house? An addiction to the latest gadgets? Now ask yourself, What could I do to free myself of these. Create a plan, so you know, by when, you will be free. In the meantime, you cannot add more.

True happiness, is contentment in life. This is not the same for everyone. How will you know you have got there? When there is no yearning for materialism, when your life is a demonstration of your values and beliefs. This is the best education we could give our children. For they may have the best foundation, but they will end up living the life the same way we have, unless we teach them the true meaning of contentment, for that is the pursuit of true happiness….

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