Working in 22 countries has left one of our lovely humans David Rigby with a wealth of wisdom and numerous stories to help him share his knowledge. As an international keynote speaker, training, consultant, and executive coach, David has found out how to leverage the soft skills he has learned through radio presentation, stand-up comedy, and clowning to capture the minds of his audience and deliver his message engagingly. He contends that you don’t have to be an expert to teach, and people can go far by asking lots of questions and knowing when to take, “No,” for an answer and when to persist.
Read on to find out more about the soft skills David advises that will ensure personal development and satisfaction and friendships.
GLEAC: Who do you have to thank for a decision that you made that got you where you are today?
DAVID: Roger Crane was a director of James Martin Associates for whom I worked. I was in Rome with him when I got an offer from what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers. Though they wanted me to stay, he said I should take it as it would look better on my CV, and the prestige of having worked for them certainly made a difference.
GLEAC: If a future version of yourself had to thank you for something you are doing right now that will contribute to your future, what would it be for?
DAVID: I think my future self would thank me for the training I have done in the past. When I was working in Abu Dhabi, I discovered that I wasn’t fast enough in responding to challenges and resolved to improve my spontaneity. Back in the UK, I did several things to improve. I was invited to be a guest on a radio show, loved it, and got invited to train on how to host, produce, and edit and I acquired other radio skills. I eventually hosted my own show. It was life and so there was no time to contemplate what to do next, just to react very quickly. I learned how to do this. I also worked at stand-up comedy which requires you to be physically present and perform without a script and other cues. This is where I learned the confidence to know I could do it. Clowning was another type of training that helped me to lose inhibitions about performing on stage and to dare to do things that are not normally used in formal presentations to illustrate points. All this training and experience enabled me to be confident and to illustrate by dance (and I am no dancer) to 100 professional speakers during my presentation on “Diversity and Inclusion illustrated by Dance” at the Professional Speakers Association in Spain, Barcelona last November.
GLEAC: What is your superpower soft skill (it can be one or a few)? How do you use it in your job in your sector?
DAVID: I think I have finally learned to be charming! I have learned to tell of my experience by telling stories. Listing off facts is often boring; “I did this, then I did this…” is tedious. People listen to you because you listen to them, and you can put your conversation in context. Demanding can get you nowhere but asking nicely for advice can achieve miracles. Learning to notice and observe good things like new hairstyles and commenting about them can improve relationships
GLEAC: In 5 years from now, who do you want to become? Describe in detail;-)
DAVID: At my age, I will probably be well retired, but this won’t be the end of my progress. It will be another phase of it. I have gradually shifted from technical skills to soft skills. It has been a long journey. Painfully shy for years, I have learned not to be. I am now enjoying the challenges of placing other people in work rather than doing it myself. And I do this by knowing and developing my associates and of course many other people. I focus more on helping others. I am also enjoying developing my speaking and foreign language skills, so I will be far from bored.
GLEAC: If the 80-year-old version of you had to give advice to the 8-year-old version of you, what would he say you need to change/buck up on right now?
DAVID: Take more risks and take them confidently! If you always stick within your comfort zone then instead of getting 20 years of experience, you get one year’s experience 20 times. A cat can look at a king. You are no worse off if you approach authority or high-level people, and they say no than if you never asked. I also can say from experience that you don’t need to be an expert to teach. In fact, it’s often the case that experts can’t teach well as they don’t understand why their subject is difficult. It’s better to work with your audience, discover the topic, and learn together. I gained a lot by moving to new towns and countries, learning new skills and changing my profession regardless of imposter syndrome. When I was a child, “knowing your place” was key, so moving from “What happens if it goes wrong?” to ” Look what can happen if it goes right” was a major step in life. All of my best moves have happened later in life, but it’s better to take these steps later than not at all
GLEAC: Are there any soft skills you need to work on to better yourself?
DAVID: Ultimately I need to find opportunities in Spain. I need to network locally and that includes getting better at the Spanish language and culture. This would undoubtedly make life more fulfilling and enjoyable.
GLEAC: What is one thing you learned on your professional journey that you would like to share with the world?
DAVID: I wish people were aware that of how to give the impression of being an expert when you are not and balancing that with the power of being able to say that you don’t know (and maybe will find out!) “Fake it before you make it” is a useful expression. You can teach topics to others provided you engage them in the discovery process – and that way you can become an expert. I usually find something in my distant memory to illustrate a point. No one can know everything. Saying so gives others confidence that you do know about the other things you talk about
GLEAC: Every career has its pros and cons. What are the good and bad aspects of your career?
DAVID: I have acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge based on experience and not by reading about it, and I can use that to great effect. I have gained this knowledge both from what I know but also by who I know. I can contact these friends for advice. I also enjoy being able to contact colleagues and having really interesting conversations on challenging topics. The travel has been interesting. Having worked in 22 countries, I am confident to go into any restaurant and be able to order because I know the food and what it should authentically taste like. I have also learned to cook foreign food because I know what it should be like (and that includes British too!) I have also learned how to behave interculturally and not be scared of getting it wrong (which I do). On the downside, it is a lot of effort to maintain friendships across so many places, though I do it well. The challenge is to have close friends to help you in an emergency and where you don’t have to put on a show
GLEAC: Work in your sector can get rigorous. How do you keep up the mojo?
DAVID: They say that you are the average of the five people you communicate the most with. I find with the circles I am in I am constantly upping my game. Spending a lot of time with the Professional Speakers Association in Spain is really upping my game. And that group can ultimately be traced back to GLEAC! So it’s an exciting thing to be doing and be inspired by the members and the learning club I belong to. I also recognize that I can get very tired and so I just stop working (which I am able to do as I am my own boss!)
GLEAC: What are you most proud of so far on your journey?
DAVID: So far I am proud of my ability to identify and persist with the people who have helped with my journey (and I think you know who I am talking about). I know that there are times when I have to take “No” for an answer, and there are times when I haven’t, and I have persisted, and through these moments I have found some of my best friends. Being Taurus, I can be over direct which is bad, and at the same time, I can be stubborn and determined which is good. Relationships that are mutually beneficial are the best. Platitudes and being polite are not.
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