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This year my blog will be dedicated to interviewing leaders and subject matter experts to help promote healthier work-life balance. With any luck this will enable us to create better relationships, productivity and performance. I am convinced that this is an idea that needs to reverberate from the top and therefore will devote this year focusing on just that…with a little help from my friends!

This month, I have been lucky enough to interview Richard Gerver who has been described as one of the most inspirational leaders of his generation. The three core principles that underpin Gerver's philosophy are communication, empowerment and impact.

Here he shares some of his thoughts about leadership, communication, empowerment and impact. I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did!

How did you get to where you are today?
I left school at 18, as I wanted to be an actor. All the advice I got was that it was hard and that you must go to drama school. I worked as an estate agent, and in advertising. Then I decided I should go back to college. I enrolled for writing, performance and communication studies with the aim of going into theatre but I fell in love with a girl two years ahead of me and she was studying to be a teacher, and that’s how I got into teaching.

Tell us about your teaching post
I was promoted very quickly. At 31 I was offered a Headship for a school that they were going to close down. The whole school was going through an upheaval. After 18 months under my leadership this “failing school” won an UNESCO award.

What did you learn about Leadership?
That it is instinctive and it’s about an emotional connection, interaction.
As an effective leader you have to climb inside people’s brains and find out what make them tick.

Describe a difficult challenge in your life
Home life for me was pretty stressful and I had got used to change very early on and did not find it scary. I think the whole situation made me understand people and myself better. So when I became a Head these qualities really helped me understand how to help people accommodate change and get the best out of them. At the end of the day people want meaning in their professional life and as a leader you have a responsibility to support them.

In your opinion why are people finding it hard to balance work and life?
I think in the past when we saw sci-fi films we all believed that technology would save us time but it’s not always the case. These are complex times and change is happening faster and faster than people can handle.

People feel disempowered, we make a mistake of feeling constantly guilty that we are not working hard enough, or not trying our best. People are under enormous pressure to perform at a high level and when they make mistakes they are made to feel guilty. But all the evidence shows us that we can't physically work 20 hours a day. Some companies are actively encouraging downtime on the premises, for example Google and Apple. They have realized when you have downtime you can come up with different ideas.

Could you share some of your strategies that we could use to keep more balanced?
Don’t spend every hour or everyday working, spend time reflecting. I give myself the license to think, to reflect. You can only be creative and have new experiences if your mind is open. Corporations are like highly specialized school systems with a Taylorism approach; this approach still exists and yet is no longer relevant, viable nor appropriate to our global context.

You talk about communicating with more compassion and more empathy, how can we practice that in the work place?
I was asked to coach a professional cricket club in England. My first question was, as they had to function as a team, how well did they know each other? It is very important to invest the time and the energy into getting to know your colleagues and co-workers.

Could you share the best piece of advice you were ever given?
“Trust your instincts” Ken Robinson told me that and he was right.

What's the next challenge for us?
The pace of change is greater than ever. We all face new challenges every day in our jobs and in our personal lives. Those who can handle change are the most fulfilled. Those who fear change will find it hardest to thrive.

What's next for you?
I’ve got no idea but I can’t wait to find out!

“As we get older we close our eyes when we see bright light and we close everything down...children do the opposite. We should take a lesson from them and be aware, awake and open.”

Gerver developed his organisational philosophy of living, learning and laughing during his time as Head Teacher. By 2003, Gerver was working with Tony Blair's Government as an advisor on education policy. In 2006, his work was celebrated at The UNESCO World Arts Education Conference in Lisbon, Portugal and in the same year he was invited to Shanghai to speak about education transformation to members of the Chinese Government.

His passion, expertise, narrative style and humour mean that his presentations are in huge demand and inspire audiences wherever he travels. You can find out more about Richard at www.richardgerver.com

His brilliant book Change: Learn to Love It, Learn to Lead is available to order on Amazon
(Sir Kenneth Robinson is an English author, speaker, and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education, and arts bodies.)


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Sunita has a passion for helping individuals, teams and companies to maximize their potential. With over 20 years experience both in the UK & Switzerland, she created Walk The Talk, with the sole aim, to help professionals improve their Business Communication Skills. She is of Indian origin but was born and raised in Britain before she moved to Geneva in 1991. She has a Psychology background, (specializing in Occupational Psychology) and a Post Graduate in the Development and Training of Adults from the University of Surrey. Furthermore, she recently completed a Masters of Advanced Studies in "Gestion des RH et des Carrières," (Specialising in Career Management and Coaching), at the Universities of Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchatel & Fribourg. 

Having successfully worked and operated in different cultures and languages, Sunita's strength lies in her ability to totally empathize with her clients and help them to perform their best.