At The Speakers’ Gym we always shoot for the transformational in our work with businesses wherever we’re called in to help. And taking the leap of faith to be vulnerable enough to show up as ourselves and truly be seen at work probably has the biggest transformative potential of all for businesses.
It’s just not always easy to get people to see this.
We spend an awful lot of time doing and not enough time being. I speak about this at length in my previous piece on “the business of happiness” and looking within. We’re not comfortable enough with who we are.
Neither do our environments truly permit us to be comfortable just being ourselves. It’s too often fraught with risk and judgement.
Most of our environments place a heavy pressure on us to conform to something – a way of looking, sounding and behaving – whether that’s in a working or social context.
And some people might fit quite neatly into these categories or social constructs – let’s call them the “suits” that we wear. But for most people, even the “suit” that they fit into best is a little ill-fitting and doesn’t show them at their best. For many people, there’s no size that fits their shape at all.
So, they just spend life feeling really flipping uncomfortable and unable to operate at their best.
But why are we trying to fit into suits?
Why aren’t we all embracing the freedom of being naked? The freedom to just be.
To be clear, I don’t want us all to walk around actually naked. Just metaphorically.
The opening up of the conversation and reality around gender fluidity and breaking down the binary definition of gender identity is a huge step in the right direction.
Gender has always sat right at the core of our identity from birth and our roles, or restrictive suits are laid out for us. From the get go, we’re potentially brought up to fit into something rather than just be – Brave. Naked.
Rather reductive and restrictive definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman. This or that.
We miss out on the glorious idiosyncrasies that surface from people just being themselves.
Now, I’ll use myself as an example – in the spirit of bravery and nakedness. Not because I think that my “story” is anything extraordinary or in any way shape or form compares to the struggles that many face. It really doesn’t and hasn’t been a struggle. I’ve had it easy.
Throughout my life, I’ve been, more or less, assumed to be a gay man. It’s never bothered me in the slightest, but I’m not. And it’s interesting. It comes from a desire or need to place people. To put them in their suits.
Regarding gender, I identify as a man. However, I naturally display behaviours that many would traditionally classify as not what they understand to be manly – even effeminate. ( I know, what does that even mean? The more that we break these classifications down, the better) When seeing these behaviours, I’m guessing the thought process for people has always been, “ah, effeminate man = gay man.” Again, very problematic, inaccurate, reductive, offensive and unhelpful – and probably largely unconscious and not intentionally malicious. But the need to classify and “suit up” is interesting.
I’ve never been too much of a conformist. But now, more than ever, I try to be strict about just allowing myself to be – fully. Neither projecting or pulling back. Effortless. Relaxed. Naked. Not worrying about my suit. It would be remiss of me not to point out that as a white, middle class, hetero-sexual man, I’m incredibly privileged for this to come quite easily.
But being ourselves is so important. The fact that I even have a piece to write here, is a shame.
I’ll say it again. The more fully that we all understand, embrace and celebrate our truest selves and each other, the happier we’ll all be. And if we’re talking business and productivity and you’re worried about this “whacky” spirit of non-conformism and people being themselves, don’t be.
Conforming is energy wasted. Not conforming should be energy saved.
Fitting in is effort. Being ourselves should be effortless.
I’m well aware that, historically, this hasn’t and still isn’t the case – on so many levels. People the world over have had to fight and continue to fight for the right to be themselves and to receive equal treatment legally, economically and socially. In no way has or is this fight effortless.
I’m also very aware that my insistence on being myself is fraught with far less risk and judgement and costs less than it has done and still does for many people. As I said, I’m a white, middle class, hetero-sexual man and society tends to make it a lot easier for people like me.
Simply being ourselves, whatever that looks like, should be the most natural, easy, effortless thing in the world. The fact that it isn’t, is a travesty.
So this business of “being ourselves” takes a commitment from everyone.
It requires us all to stop judging, hating or whatever-ing – all of which restrict everyone’s freedom to just be. Ourselves.
The more that we leave ourselves alone, stop self-filtering to suit certain environments and allow ourselves to flow, the more at ease and happy we’ll be.
The energy we’ll save on trying to project some inauthentic idea of ourselves or pull back from showing who we really are can instead be spent on being brilliant. Again, coming back to that word, being. And surely businesses want all of their staff to be brilliant. Aside from that being quite a nice thing, you’ll get a lot more out of them.
So, no. Being ourselves is not a “nice to have.” It’s essential.
We’ve exerted far too much effort conforming, fitting in or hiding who we really are – not even knowing who we really are. We’ve worn ill-fitting suits for too long and squeezing into them has left us tense, contorted, uncomfortable and confused.
It’s time to get undressed and walk free.
It’s time for businesses the world over to be intentional, vigilant and energetic in supporting this de-robing.
The Speakers’ Gym is like the iPhone. You don’t realise you need it until you have it, and then you can’t live without it.
Magda Gonzalez, Group CFO, Monex Europe
It was completely practical and the open-forum feedback was so valuable. You created a safe environment for everyone to learn. Thank you!
Nicola Koronka, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Missive
I was recommended by a friend who works in the same sector to contact The Speakers’ Gym to help me with my presentation delivery skills and I have not been disappointed with the results. Chris and Jonny work with you to provide bespoke training for your goals and needs. They are highly professional and make you feel at ease from the first minute the first session begins. I would highly recommend them to those who have a role which involves public speaking!
Julia Peake,Technical Development Manager, Sanlam
It has challenged both my thinking and approach and I will be sure to keep The Speakers’ Gym ‘fireworks’ readily available on my desk to refer to when not only presenting but also when needed through everyday management.
Liz Paradine – Chief Operations Manager - 7iM
Transact first engaged with The Speaker Gym late in 2018 where Chris & Jonny made a concerted effort to get under the skin of our business and understand how they could best help us hone our presentational and empathetic skills. The resulting sessions were hugely helpful giving my team plenty of opportunity to practice and also benefit from a great deal of feedback, not just from Chris & Jonny but by including the rest of the Transact team in the feedback and group learning too. I would highly recommend The Speakers Gym
Glen Sweet, Head of Sales, Transact
Working with The Speakers’ Gym has been fantastic. We knew what we wanted to say and who we wanted to speak to, so all we needed was technique. Or so we thought. Chris and Jonny helped us to understand the key elements of communication, through a structured process. We now think about communication in a completely different way. There’s a line they gave us that now resonates in my head, every time I write or talk to someone about what we do. We feel we’ve met two great guys and they’ve become an important part of us, our story and how we tell it to others.
Thomas Skinner, Founder, Barnaby Cecil Financial Planning
The impact of The Speakers’ Gym™ at Mako can only be described as transformational. Over a three month period, they helped transition a group of individuals into a highly collaborative and consultative leadership team. Chris and Jonny have a unique ability to connect individuals with their true purpose, driving them towards self-reflection and ultimately growth. Overall the entire experience of working with them has been a pleasure and I am deeply grateful for their impact. They more than surpassed my expectations and I look forward to working with them again in the future!
Trystan Morgan-Schauer, CEO, Mako
We engaged The Speakers’ Gym to provide us with clarity and direction in the look, feel and messaging of the Worldmaker brand in preparation for our official launch. From start to finish, the process has been truly collaborative. They worked with the expertise and experience in our team to create branding that truly represents who we are and what we represent, whilst moving us into a more modern, expressive space – which was our desire. We know that we’re in great hands with The Speakers’ Gym. We’ll certainly be continuing to work with them
Mollie Marti, CEO, Worldmaker International
They first took the time to understand our brief and delivered the programme incorporating our culture and brand throughout. They were thought provoking and their unique techniques very well received.
Mairi Cameron, Learning Manager, Nucleus Financial
The Speakers’ Gym gave me the skills and confidence to be my normal self whilst speaking and facilitating. They took the anxiety out of public speaking and gave me practical tools to prepare for and manage public engagements. They also helped me to engage more meaningfully with my clients, for which I am thankful. Highly recommend them.
Matthew Marais, Director, Vertus Capital
I found the sessions to be a revelation, and I wish I had known some of the techniques sooner. It has completely changed my mindset and focused me in on the needs of the audience. With that, the ability to achieve those aspirations has come more naturally. There is always room for improvement, and I will definitely be revisiting The Speakers’ Gym for a refresher from time to time.
Kelly Devlin, Wealth Management Consultant - St. James’s Place Wealth Management