Focus and Open Awareness – the battle of the left and the right brain

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”


Albert Einstein[/quote]

Albert Einstein’s above statement may in fact be more fitting in today’s society than ever before. Due to the excessively high volume of information we process on a day to day basis, it is important to recognise the balance between the information quality and quantity. In neurological terms, the left side of the brain is analytical and detail-oriented and it produces the continuous brain chatter, jumping from one thought to another, where the right brain thinks intuitively and holistically, and learns through the senses. However, we tend to live in a left-brained world and utilising our intuitive minds is commonly neglected as it is seen as a distraction to our rational thoughts – waste of our practical brainpower.

Image result for intuitive brainOur brains are at a constant go and the flow of serendipitous and novel thoughts and insights is – often deliberately – avoided, for we are told that the ultimate key to success is to focus; focusing your mind, focusing your thoughts and keeping your eye on the target. One of the scientific reasons behind the left- brain taking over our thoughts is the fact that it not only rationalises, but also justifies whereas the right-side responds to any negative consequences or feedback with intuition rather than justification. So in order to protect ourselves, we rationalise and justify our behaviour. But when we are over-utilising our left-brain, intensely focused on the facts, how are we able to simultaneously remain curious and creative? Although remaining focused can of course bring us success, this focus can also be counter-productive in many ways; shaping into a narrow-minded approach, a ‘tunnel vision’, and in result we are losing awareness of what is happening around us. So the question is: how can we find a degree of balance for our thoughts and ideas, fluctuating somewhere between a state of unimaginativeness and a scatterbrain?

Internationally renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman introduced a term open awareness, meaning a form of attentiveness and a source of creativity, characterised by being utterly receptive of whatever floats into one’s mind. This allows our minds to be open to imagination and open to surprise. However, achieving the state of open awareness is not necessarily a simple or speedy process. When you think about it, for many of us it can be a somewhat uncommon experience in our modern society to be in complete solitude, in the company of nobody else but ourselves. This is to not only be alone in our thoughts but also digitally away from everyone else – no gadgets, no smartphones, no alerts or messages. This is the type of solitude and awareness that can allow our minds to wander.

Neurological studies suggest that half of our thoughts are in fact daydreams – drifting thoughts that switch from personal problems to unresolved dilemmas. However, this is often when novel connections are made and creative insight happens. All of us can relate to a time when the problem we should have been focusing our thoughts on can seem too intimidating or challenging to consciously process or think about, and then, out of the blue, we experience an ‘a-ha’ moment in the midst of our wondering thoughts. Our minds have unconsciously, or unthinkingly, done the thinking for us.

In addition to generating new ideas, Goleman suggests that other benefits for this mind-wandering are self-reflection and the navigation of social situations. Whilst self-reflection increases our awareness of ourselves, the reflection of social situations increases our awareness of others.  However, perhaps crucially, another benefit is simply giving the brain a restoring break. Our brain can be like an overworked muscle if we stay intensely focused for too long — it gets tired when we push to the point of cognitive exhaustion. But taking a break can help regain focus and make you more productive. We all need time and space to reflect and let our thoughts run free and letting the mind wander is important for attention restoration. For an effective restoration that will truly revive your brainpower, we should avoid the kind of activity that puts a demand on our attention. Such activities as meditation or walking through a park or a forest, or generally being part of the nature can trigger bottom-up attention in our brain and thus giving the higher level – top-down – circuits a break, which effects in general improvement in one’s cognition. By increasing the right-brain we increase not only our awareness of the differences of the left and the right brain, but also the balance and productivity of our thoughts and actions.

In conclusion, we must remember that not all information is necessarily power and sometimes we may need to take a break. We need to go beyond the facts and tap into our right brain; letting the open awareness of our intuition and imagination take over the excessive flow of information to reach our ‘a-ha’ –moment.

Mindful Meetings

Meetings are often seen either a good opportunity to catch up with colleagues, or a time-consuming interruption to the working day as opposed to productive pockets of time for all involved. They mostly seem to be viewed in a similar light to fire drills, a necessary evil, but undeniably a significant drain on company time and resources. The main problem is often that they lack any clear structure or objectives. Certain guidelines can help establish best practice when it comes to meetings, for organisers and attendees alike.

Don’t engage in “death by PowerPoint”. If a meeting is going to consist of a staff member reading a set of slides aloud, then simply circulate the slide set and/ or any other relevant material to all those who will be attending the meeting. If the meeting is still necessary, decide what the agenda is and work from there – not from a deck of slides that others are perfectly capable of reading in their own time.

Time is money, if a meeting is attended by eight people and lasts for one hour, this represents one working day in terms of company time. Similarly a meeting with 6 people that starts 10 minutes late represents an hour of company time lost. Keep this in mind when organising meetings and ensure that they start on time for maximum efficiency in terms of use of company time. The same goes for finishing on time, don’t let a meeting run over, stay within the timelines as much as possible.

Finish a meeting early if nothing is being accomplished, or indeed if the objectives have been accomplished. Don’t let it drag out to the allocated time simply because it has been scheduled for a certain period. Also, try to keep it within an hour, an hour and a half maximum to ensure that people remain focused and engaged.

Be the most present person at the meeting by paying attention to what is happening there and then. Put aside your phone – if a meeting is important enough to attend, it should be important enough to receive your undivided attention. Multi-tasking is a myth, if you are splitting your attention in two directions, you are not giving either your full attention and as such will miss elements of each. Show you are engaged by asking questions and engaging in the discussion.

Do sum up what has been discussed and agreed at the end of the meeting. It can also be helpful to create a memo outlining these points and circulate it to all attendees, ensuring clarity on what has been agreed upon and making people accountable for what they have agreed to do.

If you have to leave a meeting early, make sure the speaker/organiser is aware in advance and do so with as little disruption to others as possible.

Finally, consider whether a meeting is in fact required or, whether a group email to all the relevant people would suffice? Equally, a lot of time and effort can be saved by having a meeting as opposed to a lengthy email discussion on a subject. Consider what the objective of the meeting is and establish how this would be best achieved.

Six Top Tips for Managing Workplace Stress – from the Sunday Business Post 9th October 2016

Workplace stress can be challenging to manage. But learning how to deal with it is vital, both in terms of how you feel about your work and how you are perceived by others. It is important to learn how to manage it in order to maintain your own health as well as protecting your personal brand.

Deep breaths – simply taking the time to focus on your breathing can be helpful in managing stress, breathing in through your nose to the count of five and breathing out through your mouth, also to a count of five can help alleviate feelings of stress.

Practice saying no. every time you say yes to a request, you are effectively saying no to something else. Your time is a valuable resource – treat it as such. It’s important that you are in control of your schedule and tasks – to an extent of course. Don’t feel as though you have to volunteer or agree to everything that comes up. Take control of your time and use it to work towards your objectives and your team’s objectives.

Organisation – plan ahead – but expect changes. Organisation is key to managing stress in the workplace. By planning ahead and thinking about what could go wrong, you give yourself the opportunity to put measures in place to deal with such events, should they occur. Not only will this reduce your stress over worrying about what could happen, it will also help alleviate stress if it does happen.

Get out – if you usually eat a rushed lunch over your desk, take the time to get out – even if it’s only for 20 minutes of fresh air. The combination of fresh air and exercise will help relax you and clear your mind for the latter part of the day – helping avoid that 3pm slump. An additional benefit to exercise is that it can help you sleep. Adequate amounts of sleep are crucial for dealing with stress and unfortunately stress can have a negative impact on sleep quality, so use exercise to help you get your required amount of sleep in order to reduce those stress levels.

Ask for help – don’t be afraid to delegate – many people find themselves under stress in work because they are trying to do everything themselves, either because they don’t want to burden others or because they think that they are the only ones capable of completing certain tasks properly. By delegating to others, you will not only relieve your own stress, but you will be giving someone else the opportunity to learn. Furthermore, this display of trust will help build your working relationships, which in itself can lead to a reduction in stress.

Finally, take a break! How long has it been since your last holiday? No matter what your job, you should be able to find time to take a break. Taking a holiday not only allows you to recharge your batteries, it can also increase your levels of creativity. If possible take a complete break from work, but if this isn’t possible and you need to put in some work time while away, then do it – just try and keep it to a certain time of the day as opposed to being on call 24-7.

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Four Things You Probably Didn’t Know About High Potential Employees – Forbes Oct 19th 2016

We’ve been making telling our clients these points for over a decade!



Making the most of your One-On-Ones

One-on-one meetings are a great way of keeping up with employees and team members, but how best to make the most out of this time? When schedules become busier, it can be easy to let these slip by the way side or only make a token effort to invest in them. Here are some tips for making your one-on-ones more collaborative and productive.

While email and phone calls may at times be more convenient, nothing can substitute a face-to-face meeting. Not only do they help build rapport but they show the individual that you value them enough to carve proper time out of your schedule and focus solely on them

  • Timing – book regular meetings, show up on time and don’t cancel!


  • Prepare – know what you want to discuss going into the meeting. If you don’t have time to discuss this with your employee before the meeting, ask him or her to jot down a couple of bullet points and you can do the same, giving the meeting a focus and helping to keep it on track. If you want to talk to them about their professional development, let them know ahead of time to give them time to prepare


  • Be flexible about the agenda – while you may have tentatively outlined what you are going to cover during the meeting, things change and your colleague may have something more pressing to discuss than they thought when creating the agenda


  • Use open-ended questions – these are helpful for getting the conversation going and for getting a more complete, thought out answer


  • Be present – focus on your colleague and make sure you are actively listening to what they are saying, not just ticking off a box on your to do list. Turn off any digital distractions


  • Being the meeting by sharing a win – if possible, this will create a positive vibe for the meeting. Similarly, try to end the meeting on a positive note by thanking them for their time, their work, their ideas, whatever seems appropriate. This of course only works if it is genuine, but it goes a long way towards building good working relationships


Adapted from Harvard Business Review (August 2016)

Emotional Intelligence – What You Need To Know

What is emotional intelligence? The Ultimate Guide

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills:

1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others.
2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving.
3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

In his best-selling book ‘’Emotional Intelligence’’, psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman indicates that there are five domains of emotional intelligence. These are:

1. Knowing one’s emotions.
2. Managing [one’s] emotions.
3. Motivating oneself.
4. Recognising emotions in others.
5. Handling relationships.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is critically important for every facet of our life – whether it’s personally or professionally. Here are some of the reasons why it is so essential:

Mental Well-Being

Emotional intelligence affects our outlook on life and our attitude. It can also help avoid mood swings and depression as well as easing anxiety. Therefore having a high level of emotional intelligence directly relates to an optimistic attitude and positive outlook on life.

Physical Health

Taking care of your body has a profound effect on our overall well-being. Having an awareness of how we handle stress allows us to maintain good general and good emotional health.


Understanding and managing your emotions allows you effectively communicate your feelings in a constructive way. By relating to and understanding the feelings, needs and responses of those we care, we are able to have stronger, more fulfilling relationships.

Conflict Resolution

It is easier avoid or to resolve any conflicts if you are able to recognise people’s emotions and empathise with their outlook. Emotionally intelligent people are also more adept at negotiating because they are able to understand the desires and needs of other people. Simply put, if you can perceive and understand what people want, it is easier to give it to them.


Relating to others in a positive way, understanding their motivations and building strong, solid bonds with co-workers ultimately allows those with higher emotional intelligence to be stronger leaders. Effective leaders are able to distinguish what the needs and wants of their people are. This allows for needs to be met in a way that inspires workplace satisfaction and efficiency. Emotionally clever leaders can build strong groups within the workplace – using the emotional diversity of each team member to strengthen the team as a whole.


Emotionally savvy people have reduced procrastination levels, improved concentration levels and increased self-belief. Emotional intelligence allows us to have a more resilient outlook by being able to easily overcome setbacks. It also allows us to form stronger networks of support. The ability to delay your sense of fulfilment and see the long-term unswervingly affects your ability to succeed.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important At Work?

Emotional Intelligence at Work: The Benefits

It’s really important that you’re emotionally intelligent at work. The ability to manage oneself directly impacts your work relationships and your overall performance. Some of the benefits of having a high EQ include:

1 Collaborate effectually with co-workers.
2 Effectively manage challenging situations.
3 Remain calm under pressure.
4 Successfully manage other people when negotiating.
5 Express themselves in a clear manner.
6 Gain respect from others.
7 Learn from relationships.
8 Positively influence other people.
9 Entice other people to help them out.
10 Recognise their emotional reactions to people and/or situations.
11 Motivate themselves to get things done.
12 Better organisational communication.
13 Manage themselves efficiently when negotiating.
14 Manage your stress levels.
15 Know how to be positive, even during problematic situations.

How Can a Lack of Emotional Intelligence Affect Your Career?

Low emotional intelligence can affect your career

There are many ways having low emotional intelligence can affect your career. These include:

• In the professional world, you should always aim for a ‘’win-win situation’’.
• If you only care about your own agenda, you might be perceived as being selfish.

• Insensitive people are often perceived to be uncaring.
• Their colleagues are less likely to offer help or want to work with them.
• People who are insensitive are less likely to be promoted.
• Also, insensitive people generally do not make good leaders.

• Typically arrogant people believe that they ‘’know it all’’ and are unwilling to learn from others.
• Being unteachable is an extremely negative trait in the eyes of an employer.

• Although being open with your emotions is good, lashing out in anger can derail your whole career.
• Aggressive and volatile people can upset team members, cause dysfunction in group projects which can ultimately lead to failed tasks and initiatives.

• It’s difficult for an inflexible person (in both their thoughts and approach) to be a team player.
• By believing that your way is the only way you may alienate yourself in today’s professional environment.

Hiring Emotionally Intelligent Staff

Hiring emotionally intelligent people

Emotionally aware staff will be able to assimilate into the workplace with greater ease than those who are simply competent at their job. An emotionally intelligent staff enables them to work together for maximum efficiency. This can only lead to success for the company. Therefore during the interview process, employers will look for some of the below listed traits when determining who they should hire.


An emotionally intelligent person that has empathy will always have compassion as well as an understanding of human nature. This allows that person to connect with other people on an emotional level. Being able to empathise allows a person to be of great service and reply genuinely to others’ concerns.

People Skills

Emotionally intelligent people are able to trust quickly and build rapport with their co-workers. They generally enjoy other people and have the respect of others around them while also avoiding backstabbing and power struggles.


If you have a healthy sense of self-awareness, you can understand your own strengths and weaknesses. In addition to this, you can also see how your actions affect others. If you are self-aware, you are usually better at handling and learning from constructive criticism as opposed to someone who is not.


Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They are not motivated simply by a title or money. They are typically optimistic and strong when they encounter disappointment and are driven by an inner ambition.


Having a high EQ allows you to maturely reveal your emotions while also being able to exercise restraint when it is needed. Instead of squashing your feelings, you can express them with restraint and control.

How Emotionally Aware Are You?

How emotionally aware are you?

Understanding the relationship you have with your emotions is central to building your emotional intelligence. A group of researchers recently put together five central questions that can help determine your connection to your emotions:

1. Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision making?
2. Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
3. Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your chest, stomach or throat?
4. Do you experience individual feelings and emotions, such as fear, anger, joy, sadness, each of which is evident in subtle facial expressions?
5. Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your attention and that of others?


To learn more about how you can build your emotional intelligence please see more here

Malala Yousafzai

At the tender age of 18, Malala is a dynamic leader – she has already inspired millions of people all over the world. Malala continued to campaign for free education for children worldwide, regardless of the danger she was in by the opposing Taliban. She has become an international symbol of activism’s triumph over animosity. Malala’s catapult into fame has allowed young people to have a voice among world education leaders. The future is bright for Malala Yousafzai. Let’s have a look at her inspiring journey so far!

Malala Yousafzai-infographic

How to be an Excellent Public Speaker – Infographic

Whether we like it or not we can’t avoid public speaking. Studies show that after death and spiders, speaking in public is what people fear the most. Luckily, with some practice and confidence, you can give a winning presentation people will remember for all the right reasons. Let’s take a look at this infographic we created that offers tips and advice on how to be an effective public speaker.

how to Be an excellent public speaker-infographic

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The Introvert Leader

There has been a significant amount of research in the recent years exploring the dynamics between introverts and extroverts in the workplace. Firstly, it is to be noted that these are not two fixed points on a graph – people can have various degrees of extroversion and introversion. However, although the divide between these two concepts is not straightforward by any means, there are some general factors and insights that can increase one’s understanding about individual differences when it comes to intro- and extroversion. Instead of labelling the behaviour with extremes, the key is learning how to recognise, respect and value the talents and perspectives of others. In addition to exploring the dynamics within a team, there has also been discussion whether an introvert can be a proficient leader, particularly in an extrovert dominated environment.

The Introvert Leader

It is often an assumption that introversion is related to being shy or being antisocial in some way. However, it is in fact primarily about how one responds to stimulation, including social stimulation, which operates at the level of the nervous system. Therefore, it is not merely a preference as introverts typically dislike noise, interruptions, and big group settings. They tend to prefer quiet solitude, to have time to think before speaking or acting, and to build relationships and trust one-on-one. Introverts generally recharge with reflection, and focus deeply on work, but for extroverts, being around other people in fact gives them energy. So can an introvert be a leader?

A lot of us can recognise within ourselves to some extent whether we are energised by external or internal stimuli. For leadership, it is important to increase one’s own awareness in terms of behavioural responses and find ways to make the demands of one’s job work for them, whether they consider themselves an introvert or extrovert.  Crucially, introvert leaders should acknowledge the importance of being comfortable sharing enough of themselves to make interpersonal connections, the foundation for building trust among subordinates.  By adapting to the environment and building connections one would show others not only that they are not self-absorbed, but importantly, that they have the self-confidence to command respect. Being an introvert in extrovert dominated environment is therefore not about ‘faking it’, but adapting to the world and people around you.

Research in this area has concluded that extroverted leaders — who are likely to be comfortable expressing themselves and voicing their opinions — work well with their subordinates when the members of their team are more passive and dutiful followers looking for guidance. Extroverts bring the vision, assertiveness, energy, and networks necessary to give them direction. However, in a more dynamic environment where everyone is eager to express their ideas, extrovert leaders are more likely to feel threatened and even clash with their subordinates. In contrary, workplaces with confident, self-starting workers, introverted leaders tend to feel more at ease.

Introvert leaders can also excel in leading innovative projects, as they are not hindered by routine and generally possess strong critical thinking abilities. They have an ability to focus and concentrate for long periods of time and tackle an issue until they’ve figured out a solution.

18smhbx1pvip8jpgIntrovert leaders can be very effective when teaming up with people who complement them, helping them translate their ideas and voice them into the organisation. They are likely to listen, and be receptive to good ideas which can further increase the potential of their whole team. Introvert will take in information thoughtfully — and they are mentally capable of holding off from responding immediately. This can be crucial in conflict situations and miscommunication.

So we can conclude that various factors in one’s personality can bring important aspects on board in leadership behaviour and team dynamics. Furthermore, a great leader is self-aware and willing and able to adapt and modify their behaviour as needed to lead others as well as turning diversity into success. It is therefore about finding their own niche in being a leader who is maximising the full potential of themselves and others.