Graphics Made Easy, Music, How to Have a Good Day, Mindfulness and Learning from Teaching with Penny Pullan of Making Projects Work Ltd.
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Using Graphics to Simplify: “I found that by using very simple graphics, it helped me to understand the complexity. It also helps my client understand what’s going on. I use visuals, and I use pictures to understand the incredibly tricky and complicated situations that my clients are in, and the sort of complex elements that they’re working with?
Then it turns out that it has some really powerful other things as well. It really helps people to remember the different aspects. When I draw things out, it helps me to remember, and it helps the people that I’ve drawn that out in front of remember what it is that I’ve drawn. It sort of sticks. You don’t have to concentrate and think really hard to put something into memory as you would need to do with a long list of words. Pictures just pop back into the brain. That’s really powerful.
The other thing I find just going back to virtual leadership is that, if you do drawings when you work with people virtually, they actually find them incredibly engaging and they stay on the line. They can add in their own drawings as well even better. That’s something really powerful because it’s virtual groups and virtual teams, one of the hardest things is to keep people interested and engaged.
I actually, a few years ago, set up a side site called graphicsmadeeasy.co.uk which gives three months’ worth of once a week tutorials. Just simple stuff that you can use for a business.”
How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb – “I met Caroline at the end of last year and found out about her book. She is an ex-McKinsey consultant who ran their remarkable leadership programme, or at least was very involved in it, and during that time tapped into research around what is it that makes people really incredibly effective. “
“There’s a book that I read years ago by Benjamin Zander which is around the time that I was thinking about setting up my own company. Absolutely transformational – It’s The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander.”
“In fact I do use music in my workshops. There’s a very good little book called Choosing and Using Music in Training”.
“I quite like musical theatre. I’d sing along to Les Mis. I’m not really massively into anything else.”
“Music is a very powerful hook. If you know something, it will hook you back into the emotions that you felt the last time, or perhaps the first time that you heard it, which isn’t always the emotion that would be most productive at the time.”
“The Shawshank Redemption is probably my favourite.”
On playing the violin as an adult – “I realised that when you’re learning something that complicated and you have to think about all the different elements, the music, how you’re making the sound, what your left hand is doing, what your right hand is doing, no tension anywhere. There’s just so much to think about. The business stuff that tends to go right around my head all the time has no place. It gets pushed away and my brain is completely occupied by this.”
Comment from Jo “I was reading an article about learning things including musical instruments the other day. It was saying how important it is to learn instruments that you haven’t played before as well because you need to have multidimensional learning going on for it to be really, really valuable.”
Standing Desks – comment from Jo – “I was really lucky to be at a conference and exhibition and got chatting to somebody from a company called Ergotron. They have very cool contraptions that you put on top of your desk. I don’t think they call them contraptions! I was describing my homemade stand up desk made of a book shelf, some books, and lots of bits of wood, and how Heath Robinson that was. It’s interesting. You think that even if you’ve made it easy which is what I did – I had two power supplies and two screens and everything – you think that there’s not a barrier, but I found out there was a barrier. Actually now, I stand the majority of the time, which is really interesting.
Exercise and Mindfulness – “I like, especially this time of year, walking in the woods. I’m lucky to live in the middle of the country away from a big city, so within 5 minutes I can be in beautiful woods; ancient oak trees, bluebells carpeting the floor and so on, very lovely, de-stressing. It doesn’t feel like running on the treadmill or anything, but it is brisk walk round the woods.
Learning from Teaching – “I learn so much when I run my own courses.”
When it all goes wrong – “Tomorrow is another day” and “What can I do differently tomorrow?”
On feeling sad – “if I’m feeling really sad about something, I will go and play laments on my violin. All the feeling will pour out and then I feel a lot better afterwards.”
To Contact Penny
@PennyPullan on Twitter
“If you type Penny Pullan into Google, I pop up all over the place because I do seem to have a fairly unique name which is quite a good thing in internet days. I’d be very happy to speak to anyone.”
“My book ‘Virtual Leadership’ – I hope will make a real difference to people who can’t be with all the other people that they’re working with at the same time. Available on Amazon or via www.koganpage.com with coupon for 20% off VLF20”
NB We said this podcast was being published after the book but it’s turned out to be the other way round!
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Jo Dodds: Today I'm interviewing Penny Pullan of Making Projects Work and author of the soon to be published book ‘Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Getting the Best Out of Virtual Work and Virtual Teams’. Welcome Penny, thanks for joining me.
Penny Pullan: Thanks very much Jo for asking.
Jo Dodds: Great to have you here. Well start by telling us a bit more about what you do, who you are, and where you do it?
Penny Pullan: Okay. I'm speaking to you from the attic room that is my office in the Market Town of Loughborough which is slap bang in the middle of England. I've been doing this, running my own company for 9-1/2 years now having escaped from the corporate world in about the beginning of 2007. Inside the corporate world, I've been an internal consultant for a big company. I sort of transitioned into doing that externally. The people that I worked with typically are in big multinational companies and they're grappling with having to do tricky projects. Now your listeners might think, "What does she mean tricky projects?" Well, here's how I explain tricky projects. They tend to have four elements which is the bit that I help people with.
One aspect is that they're really risky. You have to be able to work with uncertainty and things that might upset your objectives. The second thing is that they often have ambiguous and often changing requirements to what the project needs to do. That's a simple thing to understand such as lot of work around and asking business analysis. The third thing is often that people who ought to be involved in the project, who would probably far rather run screaming down the corridor in the opposite direction than actually come along, show up, and do stuff for the project. Jo, it sounds like you might had something like that in the past maybe.
Jo Dodds: Possibly
Penny Pullan: Absolutely. The fourth one and the one that we'll probably touch on a little bit more this time, is a way you are doing projects that you don't have everybody together in the same office. That the people who you rely on to get the project work done are distributed. They could be all over the country. They could be all over the world. That the first things brought together what I call tricky projects, and there are lot of people grappling with them. Typically when people work with me, and that could be maybe coming in to do a course, or their company, or perhaps individual mentoring. I work with quite a lot of contractors who are working in that sort of environment in my finding outside as group.
When they work with me, they find all sorts of things come up and typically lots of Cs. Commitment to projects by all these people who the project leader doesn't have any authority over, but they need to get people to do things. These people become committed. There's a lot of good communication. People collaborating work together. There's another that doesn't fit the Cs which is actually people have fun and enjoy doing the project which tends to lead to better outcomes, and better learning for people involved as well. That's what I do.
Jo Dodds: Lovely, and you tending to work with people like you who are working from home. Or do they generally work within organisations in offices with other people.
Penny Pullan: Most of the people that I work with are working in companies, in offices, but the people that they actually work with themselves may be all over the place. What I'm finding is that although people are often employed by large corporates, they are actually spending quite a bit of time working from home as well. There's somebody I was interviewing for my book, who was talking about how he'd been working virtually for many years. He normally works from the dining room table at home, although he's not an official virtual worker. Funny enough, the day I was interviewing him, he couldn't work on the dining room table because his wife was having some friends around for lunch so he had to move off somewhere else. I thought, "Oh, I wonder, how does that change your environment, your productivity if you have such really what should be quite a temporary working environment?" He's been doing it for years and years.
Jo Dodds: Yes. Have you always had your own office at home whilst you've been working from home?
Penny Pullan: Yes, I have. Actually it's wonderful. It's on the top floor. When I leave work, I shut my computer down. I shut the door and I go downstairs. Once I'm downstairs, I'm in the home environment. We've got all the bedrooms and so on, on that floor. At the top floor it is just offices. That really suits me. I'm so lucky to have that because I think if I did have to work say on the dining room table, for me particularly I would just never stop because it is fun. I love what I do. People tell me it makes the difference to their confidence and their ability to do some really tricky stuff.
Jo Dodds: Yes. Tell me a bit more about how your day starts and now you've described the office at the top of the house. I'm imagining that you do the morning routine stuff with your children, and then disappear at the stairs. Is that true? How do you make that all fit together?
Penny Pullan: It does. I'm quite lucky now to have teenagers. Just think about that. I wonder how many people would say that?
Jo Dodds: I was going to say it, the word lucky and teenagers.
Penny Pullan: Yeah, lovely teenagers. They actually get themselves up and then they go out of the doors about 20 past 8 on their own. Actually I think if I couldn’t get out of bed, they would still be gone by 20 past 8 with everything they needed. I suppose some days so, it would be instead of, "Mom, can I have some money for something?" Other than that, yeah, so that's all much smoother than it was than when they were much smaller. Then I saunter up to my room and kept going. Of course now with everything being so mobile, I can if I want to sit down and do some things on my phone before breakfast while I'm waiting for my porridge to cook or whatever it might be. I'm thinking actually it would probably be best to I didn't do that.
Jo Dodds: Yeah.
Penny Pullan: I should ask you about productive morning routines!
Jo Dodds: It's interesting. There's something I'm focusing on quite a lot at the moment and mine has changed considerably because I have sort of followed along with the things at the Miracle Morning and the people that talk about getting up at 5:00 in the morning. When I say, "I followed along," I've read about it. I haven't actually got up.
Penny Pullan: I read about it. I thought you’ve got to be joking!
Jo Dodds: Because I'm a bit of a night owl. Getting up early really doesn't suit me. I did actually try a 6/6:30 thing for a few weeks, but it really doesn't work with our sort of family routine. What I have started today is block out my diary in the morning so that I don't generally have any calls until after lunch.
Penny Pullan: Interesting.
Jo Dodds: So that I can have a routine, or I can be very flexible. I can work on that sort of important stuff for my business before I get sort of booked down in other things. That's interesting.
Penny Pullan: That's interesting Jo because I wonder if you're more of an introvert than I am because for me if I do that, what happens is that I get sort of sucked into a set where I don't actually do very much. For me as an extrovert, if I have some interaction with somebody early on in the day, then that sort of sets me up for the day. It gives me some energy to get going. So I suppose the real thing is actually, we're all a little bit different and we need to know what works for us.
Jo Dodds: Absolutely, because as you say that some people would hear the word introvert and know me, and think that would be ridiculous. Actually, that is a lot of how I am in my perfect world. My office is actually being here on my own and not talking to anybody which amazes lots of people. As you say it, so for me not speaking to people and doing my own thing and having routines and structure, internally if you like really suits me; but it doesn't suit a lot of people as you say.
Penny Pullan: I've been a little bit like that actually. I've had to flex my inner introvert with really in there and hidden away. When I was writing my book because this is my third book. It's the very first one I've written on my own. I did interview a lot of lovely people for case studies, but it's only my name on the cover page. The first book I wrote jointly with Ruth Murray-Webster. The second book, I actually was asked to write myself and then invited 27 other people to write it with me which was lovely. We had a wonderful launch party. It was just brilliant because we had most people there. Unfortunately not everybody could be, they are somewhere in the US or Australia, but it was brilliant and it was great. Maybe it's a bit much.
I then swung back to the other end of the pendulum which is writing on my own. I think as an introvert, that's probably not where I'm going to be in the future. When you're writing a book, you want to make it the best you possibly can, so you pour your heart and soul into it. That's kept me going. As an introvert on my own, it's not my best state to put it that way.
Jo Dodds: What I'd say as an introvert or self-professed introvert, I like to spend that time on my own and work on my own. You're saying the opposite. What sort of impact has that had to just be working on your own to do the book?
Penny Pullan: I think it's may be not introvert in terms of the sort of that dictionary definition. It's more sort of the Jungian definition. It's getting a bit heavy isn't it? It's where your energy comes from. I think to you Jo, your energy, you replenish on your own or with small groups. Whereas, I go to a big group as a workshop all day, and I'm in 7th heaven. I'm all buzzy, and I've got loads of energy. Whereas I know other people who do that for a day, and they just have to hide somewhere to recover.
For me, it's been making sure that I am doing things with other people, obviously spending time with my family, doing some pieces of work that take me out with others. Obviously, using the time I have outside of work where I do things that involved other people as well. By just being, it's made me even more aware that my best place is normally doing things with others. I think best thinking things through talking things throughout loud with others who are interested as well.
Jo Dodds: Yeah. I think that-
Penny Pullan: I think I've diverged into doing lots of case studies and interviews, and chatting to make sure that I could check ideas and things with others.
Jo Dodds: Yeah. I think the key there is knowing yourself, isn't it? Sort of trying and testing things, and working out what does make you feel energised, and what doesn't. Then doing more of whichever works best and that sort of things. It's sort of the key. You talked about the end of the day and having the advantage of shutting the office door. Do you have any particular sort of routines in the evening to make that happen? Then after that to sort of take you into the evening in the right sort of frame of mind if you like?
Penny Pullan: I don't know if you can call it a routine, but teenagers get really hungry. If you're not around to provide food the appropriate time is they come and bang on your door. They start coming in and sort of miming of dying of starvation and stuff. Yeah, they drag me out in requiring food. Something besides, I don't know. I'm into my just past my 4-year mark, is I'm actually learning to play the violin. As somebody who runs their own business, it's been incredibly useful because ... I don't know if you’ve ever played the violin? I have the inkling that you might have for a short while.
Jo Dodds: I did. I got to Grade 6 when I was at school.
Penny Pullan: Woah, you’re way beyond me then. Because I've been doing with for 4 years now. I started mainly because I love music and I thought it'd be fun to be able to play along with my kids who, one of them is learning about ... She's on the go. She's about 4 instruments at the moment, anyway. I thought of learning the violin with her, but I realised that when you're learning something that complicated and you have to think about all the different elements, the music, how you're making the stand, what your left hand is doing, what your right hand is doing, no tension anywhere. There's just so much to think about. That always the business stuff that tends to go right around my head all the time has no place. It gets pushed away and my brain is completely occupied by this.
Now I find because I am at stage where I'm playing some absolutely incredible music. I do. I get completely taken away from all the business. It almost seems to sort of settle while I'm away doing something different. I normally do that for an hour often quite late at night.
Jo Dodds: I was reading an article about sort of learning things including musical instruments the other day. It was saying how important it is to sort of learn instruments that you haven't played before as well because-
Penny Pullan: Yes.
Jo Dodds: ... I play the bassoon still and the recorder and I sometimes play those. As you say they give you something to focus on, but because I can play reasonably well, unless I push myself to a really complicated piece, it's probably not as effective from what you're just talking about. According to this article that you sort of almost need to have multidimensional learning going on for it to be really, really valuable.
Penny Pullan: Yes. That's certainly multidimensional learning going on when I'm trying to operate the bow and have my fingers going fast enough. I'm doing the Bach double concerto at the moment and it's amazing music. Oh boy, do you have to be accurate. Anyway, so there we are.
Jo Dodds: Do you do that every night just to be clear? Just to make me feel bad about my bassoon practice about once a week.
Penny Pullan: I should do, but I'm learning. You see, I'm progressing.
Jo Dodds: Yeah.
Penny Pullan: I'm still moving. I'll probably in the years' time, I'll be at the stage you got to in your violin.
Jo Dodds: Yes, for real. Lovely, well you're putting me to shame. I have to get the bassoon out more often.
Penny Pullan: I don't want to put anyone to shame, but it was an interest that I have for a long time. Then just finding it so incredibly great in clearing my mind from all these other stuff.
Jo Dodds: Let's change the subject a bit and talk about getting stuff done. I know when we talked before about sort of setting up the interview. You were saying that maybe you might not be the sort of the poster child for getting things done. I absolutely disagree because I've known you a long time. Everything I see or do is you're getting stuff done, and you're always doing lots of good stuff. Most people don't write a book, never mind three books so I'll disagree with you a bit on the productivity thing. How do you get stuff done? How do you manage yourself in that way?
Penny Pullan: I know that I can do some things incredibly fast, and sometimes I am incredibly fast and I surprise myself. Then other times, I sort of get to the end of the day and I think, "What happened?" I think I've achieved absolutely nothing. As we're speaking, I was thinking, "Gosh! If this is a podcast which is highlighting the most productive people and what they do, then Jo I’d better bow out." I suppose I'm doing stuff that I love doing because I do run my own company. Obviously, I need to fit in with the needs of my clients. I’ve found this tricky projects and all the aspects around it. It does really make a difference. That's really what drives, that you're thinking about the other people that will be affected.
I hate to sort of anybody being stuck in a big corporate, whether they're an employee or a contractor having to do a huge project and thinking, "I'm not good enough. I can't do this. It's really just a nightmare and stress city" Just knowing that what I do does change people from that to be people who are actually enjoying making a difference, and making a bigger, and bigger difference as they develop. I think its effect on other people.
Jo Dodds: Getting the stuff done, how do you do that? Do you use particular tools? The one that comes up a lot at the moment is pen and paper. I always think it's going to ...
Penny Pullan: Yes. Actually, what I do an awful lot is I'm also a very visual person. I’ve doodled since I was very tiny. I attended engineering myself to PhD level. The thing that I learned as an engineer is you get these very complex tricky problems, and that the way that you solve them is by drawing them out with a pen and paper. Then once you've done that as an engineer, you can write down the math and solve it. Actually I think really what I do is I use visuals, and I use pictures to understand the incredibly tricky and complicated situations that my clients are in, and the sort of complex elements that they're working with?
Jo Dodds: Yeah.
Penny Pullan: I found that by using very simple graphics, and also I need to say it helped me to understand the complexity. It also helps my client understand what's going on. Then it turns out that it has some really powerful other things as well. It really helps people to remember the different aspects. When I draw things out, it helps me to remember, and it helps the people that I've drawn that out in front of remember what it is that I've drawn. It sort of sticks. You don't have to concentrate and think really hard to put something into memory as you would need to do with a long list of words. Pictures just pop back into the brain. That's really powerful. The other thing I find just going back to virtual leadership is that, if you do drawings when you work with people virtually, they actually find them incredibly engaging and they stay on the line. They can add in their own drawings as well even better. That's something really powerful because it's virtual groups and virtual teams, one of the hardest things is to keep people interested and engaged.
Jo Dodds: It's interesting. You are on of those people who will just always pick up a pen to describe anything, won't you? It's interesting. It's never been something that I've done. You go to meetings with people and they’ll talk about something. They get a note for that. They start writing down what you're saying. I always look at that and think, "Why are you writing it down?" Because that's just my way of doing it. I have been in some meetings with you and having had a meeting with you online a couple of days ago. You actually were sketching out with images, as you said, what we were saying as we were going along.
Penny Pullan: Yes.
Jo Dodds: It was really helpful.
Penny Pullan: That was to make sure it's clear for me, but then it shows you that I've understood what you've got. Actually, you had a taster of how visuals really do clarify things. I've had so many people saying to me, "Penny, how did you do visuals” that I actually a few years go set up a side site called graphicsmadeeasy.co.uk which gives three months' worth of once a week tutorials. Just simple stuff that you can use for a business.
Jo Dodds: Yes.
Penny Pullan: Maybe that might be helpful for somebody and it's free.
Jo Dodds: Definitely. It definitely would be in the show notes. Okay. Let's move on a bit then. You've told a bit about your music and your violin for relaxing at the end of the day. How else do you first relax and also ... Oh, I'm going to cough. How do you keep yourself healthy?
Penny Pullan: A bit like the productivity, I do seem to be quite lucky just being pretty healthy despite the fact that, even though I have a standing desk in my office, I do tend to get stuck in my sitting desk. I need to create some sort of routine to get up out of my sitting down desk. I know that's not a great thing. We don’t have to be perfectly healthy to come on your show which is brilliant. The things that I really do enjoy-
Jo Dodds: Your standing desk, have you got two separate desks?
Penny Pullan: I have two separate desks.
Jo Dodds: Yes. Does that mean that you have to move a laptop from one to the other?
Penny Pullan: I do. I have two power supplies though and I have Wi-Fi. There's really no excuse.
Jo Dodds: You see, but I can tell you. I used to have that very set up myself.
Penny Pullan: How?
Jo Dodds: I would use it quite a lot and I would often start standing so that sort of gave me more incentive. It was a bit of a palaver. I would get stuck doing sort of one or the other. Then, I was really lucky to be at a conference and exhibition a few weeks ago, and got chatting to somebody from a company called Ergotron. They have very cool contraptions that you put on top of your desk. I don't think they call them contraptions. They raise and lower, and they have a stand on top, and all that sort of the same stuff. I was describing my homemade stand up desk made of a book shelf, some books, and lots of bits of wood, and how sort of Heath Robinson that was. He clearly saw an opportunity as he was the sales manager and had some opportunities to get people to try their contraptions. They-
Penny Pullan: Especially bloggers and so on.
Jo Dodds: Yes. They basically gave me one to use, and try, and talk about. Here I am talking about it because aside from the fact that that's what happened, and they've not put any pressure on me to actually say anything about it. I absolutely love it. To be honest, I hardly sit down now. I sit down to keep my knees from hurting. Other than that, it's much more comfortable for me now to stand even though I don't have to faff around. I literally just pull the clips and lift if up, and pull the clips and lift it down. It's not even lifting. It's just sort of dropping it down. It's interesting. You think that even if you've made it easy which is what I did. I had two power supplies and two screens and everything. You think that there's not a barrier, but I found out there was a barrier. Actually now, I stand the majority at that time which is really interesting. I think it's such a good thing to do. I've done a lot of research about how they say that now sitting is the new smoking.
Penny Pullan: Yes, absolutely. I do have a rather super-duper lovely big space for drawing with pens on clean space on my standing desk. That does draw me over there sometimes and I want to really write things down on pen and paper because it's a nice empty beautiful space.
Jo Dodds: All you need to do is attach your tablet to it that you do your drawing on as well. Then you'll have no excuse for sitting down.
Penny Pullan: Absolutely. Yes. You ask me what I like other things especially this time of year walking in the woods. I'm lucky to live in the middle of the country away from big city, so within 5 minutes I can be in beautiful woods; ancient oak trees, bluebells carpeting the floor and so on, very lovely, de-stressing. It doesn't feel like running on the treadmill or anything, but it is brisk walk round the woods.
Jo Dodds: I've been looking out at the sunny day all day today with Little Doddsy off sick from school, wishing I was walking around out there. It looks really nice.
Penny Pullan: It's snowing and hailing where I am.
Jo Dodds: Oh no. Yeah, we have had that this week. It's really sunny. It's very windy but very sunny at the moment.
Penny Pullan: Okay.
Jo Dodds: What about learning and improving yourself. I know from having known you for a while that you are constantly looking at what you can do differently and better. That's the perception that I have. How do you do that? What do you do?
Penny Pullan: Absolutely. I read books voraciously. Probably a lot of what goes into my own books. I have long, long reference sections and further readings because I pull together all sorts of ideas from different areas. I love doing that. I also do some online courses with people, and I am probably a day a month or so going off to something either conference, or something where I'm learning face-to-face with people. That works. I am reaching out with people who are interested in things. Obviously, this is just extra thing coming in again. It might be online learning when you've got hours or days’ worth of video to watch on my own in my office. I get slightly restless but will do it if I know it's a good thing where it's actually learning with others. And I learn so much when I run my own courses.
Jo Dodds: Yes, a little bit-
Penny Pullan: I'm sure [crosstalk 00:26:24]
Jo Dodds: Yeah. I was going to say albeit unintentionally, I suppose, it's not the right word, but until you start doing, you don't realise what you do learn. That you need to teach to learn. I suppose, it would automatically follow that even if you're teaching things that you know about, you will still be learning actually as you do that stuff. You said you read voraciously, me too. What sort of books do you read? What books do you recommend?
Penny Pullan: I tend to read lots of non-fiction books which are around the edge of stuff that I'm interested in. One good one that's come out very recently is How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb. I met Caroline at the end of last year and find out about her book. She is an ex-McKinsey consultant who ran their remarkable leadership programme, or was very involved in it. During that time tapped into research around what is it that makes people really incredibly effective. She's probably a good person for you to have in your podcast.
Jo Dodds: Yeah, definitely.
Penny Pullan: That's a good one way. You can read through all the different things, all the different aspects of life and find out what's the latest research on that. There's some quite surprising things that come up out of that which is good. Going back to one that's a bit older, there's a book that I read years ago by Benjamin Zander which is around the time that I was thinking about setting up my own company. Absolutely transformational, and I can't remember the name of it which is not very good. Oh boy, it's got a yellow fly cover and it's all about change, and not being ... It's The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander.
Jo Dodds: Ah, that's the one.
Penny Pullan: It's an amazing book. Yes. The Art of Possibility when I read it, I was in a big corporate and thinking, "Do I take redundancy or do I move to where they want me to move to?" It was very good.
Jo Dodds: Lovely. What about other forms of entertainment like films and music? You've already talked about the classical music. Do you partake of films, and concerts, and the like?
Penny Pullan: In fact my older teenager, my older teenage daughter Kathleen is a complete film buff. Despite the fact I keep reminding her that DVDs are likely not to really exist as a format for very long, of course she's not been through the changes I've been through it my life. She's now insisting of buying every DVD of any film that she likes or that anybody recommends to her. She's about to go through Doctor Zhivago I think this weekend. She's got a massive collection and we often watch things together. The Shawshank Redemption is probably my favourite.
Jo Dodds: Me too.
Penny Pullan: Not as in relaxing but very powerful.
Jo Dodds: Yeah. What about music? Do you do something other than classical or just the classical which I also love?
Penny Pullan: I quite like musical theatre. I'd sing along to Les Mis. I'm not really massively into anything else.
Jo Dodds: Tell me, do you listen to music while you work because I always have this conversation with people. I have to listen to music that doesn't have words that I don't know particularly well. Otherwise, I even sing along even if there are no words to it.
Penny Pullan: Yes, absolutely. I don't normally. I’ve got all the setup that I could. In fact I do use music in my workshops. There's a very good little book called ‘using music in training’, or something like that. I actually explain this how the different types of music impact on the brain. For example, if I'm trying to do something very creative or getting groups to do something very creative, I would tend to play them completely unknown world music that they won’t have come across before, because as you say music is a very powerful hook. If you know something, it will hook you back into the emotions that you felt the last time, or perhaps the first time that you heard it which isn't always the emotion that would be most productive at the time.
Jo Dodds: Yeah, that is true. Okay, so what about if things don't go right? What about if you have one of those days where it’s just gone a bit wrong. What do you do? How do you deal with that?
Penny Pullan: Tomorrow is another day.
Jo Dodds: Yeah. What can I do differently tomorrow?
Penny Pullan: Yeah. That's life really. I think when I was 20, I would beaten myself up about it and thought. What a waste and blaming myself. There are lots of it. There's no point doing that, yeah.
Jo Dodds: I think that sort of tends to be my view on it, and maybe a bit of wine and chocolate.
Penny Pullan: Yeah, that sounds good too. Again if I'm feeling really sad about something, I will go and play laments on my violin. All the feeling will pour out and then I feel a lot better afterwards.
Jo Dodds: Yeah, lovely. What about a day when you end the day knowing that you've had the chance to live more and I mean do the stuff that you want to do rather than the stuff you really have to do or should do. What will you have done?
Penny Pullan: Probably I would have made a difference to an individual. I'm realising, I thought when I start out this company 9-1/2 years ago that it would make a big difference to companies and it would change them. And it does. The difference is person by person. A day where I can, in fact today I've just had a message from somebody who I've been able to connect with some other people who need a really inspiring conference speaker. They're for diversity and I recommended somebody that I've mentored. In fact while we are doing this, probably shouldn’t have done it but I did receive a text saying, "Wow! Just looking back over the years. Thank you so much Penny for what you've done for me. I'm short of words."
Jo Dodds: Oh, wow!
Penny Pullan: If I stop there even if I don't finish this conversation, I think, "Yeah. That's what I'm here to do. That's why I'm on it. That's my purpose on earth if you like."
Jo Dodds: Yeah. That was very nice. I like that. Wow! What an introspective moment there. That's really the end of the interview. It's been I think quite we've gone deep in some areas which I always like with our interviews. I like the ones where we share lots of tools, and apps, and things as well. But I think some of us sort of psychological stuff is really, really interesting and helpful for people as well. How can people found out more about you and connect with you?
Penny Pullan: I'm on Twitter @PennyPullan. Now just remember, I'm a funny sort of Pullan. My husband's family comes from Yorkshire. Penny is P-E-N-N-Y and Pullan is P-U-L-L-A-N.
Jo Dodds: Yeah.
Penny Pullan: There are lots of other Pullans out there that spell it differently, but I'm P-U-L-L-A-N. In fact, if you type Penny Pullan into Google, I pop up all over the place because I do seem to have a fairly unique name which is quite a good thing in internet days. I'd be very happy to speak to anyone. My book ‘Virtual Leadership’, we haven't really talked about that very much, but this is my latest thing. I hope will make a real difference to people who can't be with all the other people that they're working with at the same time. I know you've been aiming at people working from home. I hope that this will have lots of things for them as well. You might think leadership is all about leading teams. Actually anyone who's doing things virtually, does need to be able to lead others, and connect with them, and engage with them. And I’ve poured in my experience.
I started off working virtually when the 9/11 tragedy happened really because I've meant to be flying to New York two days later to launch a massive global programme face-to-face with everybody. We had to suddenly do it all virtually. Thank goodness, I took to it and have been working virtually ever since. Anything from that, it might help anybody else. I'm happy to chat with people online, chat on Twitter, email. Type Penny Pullan into Google and I'll pop up, do get in touch. That will be great.
Jo Dodds: Yeah, lovely. I'm sort of pleased that you've made the point about the leadership piece being for lots of people. As you say, I think it can be misread as being people who manage teams in the more sort of traditional specific way that you think of, when actually leadership as a concept is nothing to do with-
Penny Pullan: Yeah.
Jo Dodds: In fact really it's about an individual taking the lead in some way for something with somebody or some people. It doesn't necessarily need a team, does it?
Penny Pullan: Jo, you're a leader. You're very much a leader. You don't sit in a corner office with a large number of people who report into you, but I think you're probably more of a leader by stepping up and doing this podcast, and doing a lot of the work that you do than many, many people in corner offices, and many people listening to this. You’re leaders more than those people sitting in corner offices.
Jo Dodds: Yeah.
Penny Pullan: You're changing the world.
Jo Dodds: Absolutely, even if your office does happen to be in the corner of your house.
Penny Pullan: Or the corner of an attic room overlooking with snow outside or whatever it might be.
Jo Dodds: Exactly. Thank you Penny. I've really, really enjoyed this, speaking to you today. Thanks for joining me.
Penny Pullan: It's been lovely. Thank you so much Jo. The book is available even though this is coming out just before it's published. Look on Amazon.