According to research, most people fear public speaking more than death. So the last thing you’d want when you’re about to speak in public is to trip on stage.
This is the stuff of nightmares for many public speakers and possibly a calamity from which some might never recover. But my Page 1 Woman has turned stage tripping into an art-form, and her audiences love it. It takes a special kind of woman to pull this off, right?
Meet Deenita Pattni, international speaker, public speaker coach, mentor, award winning trainer and award winning International bestselling author. She’s Andy Harrington’s former operations manager and leader of his public speaking Ace Mentors. Jetting off to the Middle East, Far East and Australia to lead Andy’s team or co-deliver his Professional Speakers Academy are commitments she fulfills alongside running her own business. With that kind of resume, you’d expect her to have a tank full of confidence and self-belief. But not too long ago confidence was a trait that eluded her – although risk taking wasn’t.
Being diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 12, the care-free life as she knew it was replaced by restrictions and fear. ‘When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my first thought was "I won't be able to do this or that now." However, ten years later, it didn’t prevent her solo trip to start a new life in Toronto. When that didn’t work out, it didn’t prevent her from starting a career in a field she knew nothing about. Now, she’s a leader who brings fun, humanity, authenticity and vulnerability to the role.
But how exactly did the frightened 12 year old morph into this leader you’d want to follow? Read on and find out.
Describe what you do
Dee: I’m a trainer, mentor and professional speaker, a public speaker coach, author and director in my business Viamii Training Academy. My core business involves training business professionals and entrepreneurs to market themselves using LinkedIn. In addition, having worked in recruitment for seventeen years and overcome many challenges, I help recruiters change their thinking and unleash their potential. Starting my business was about wanting to help people overcome challenges and become successful.
The LinkedIn arm of my business developed about three years ago. I was really good at it although I didn’t see it as a business opportunity. Then somebody said, ‘You’re good. You should teach this stuff’. So I attended a LinkedIn event delivered by an approved LinkedIn trainer and was disappointed with what I received. Realising I could enhance their content and offer something better spurred me to launch my own business.
I am also closely involved in Andy Harrington’s training business including having been his Operations Manager for 18 months. Andy saw that communication was my thing and asked me to join the company and improve the business’ communication.
We first met in 2004 when I discovered personal development and learned all about mindset change. I stuck around because he taught me to implement speaking in my business and promote myself as an expert. I don't do this just for money; I want to reach many people because I give value and this provides a platform to do so.
Journalism was my first career. As a kid, I loved writing. At university, I did Media Studies and Communication and started working for a local newspaper. I then moved to Toronto and worked for a women's magazine called ‘Modern Women’, which eventually closed down due to the slow market. So I returned to the UK where the economy was better and spent six months looking for the right job. Then a friend suggested I apply for a recruitment job because I was really good with people. My first recruitment role was hiring journalists for clients. I enjoyed recruitment and learned from some great managers. It was so rewarding helping people get to where they wanted to go.
Recruitment is about serving people, like the personal development world and I love that. Being a sales role, when I started, I thought I was forcing people into something they didn't want. Luckily, I had a supportive manager who helped me change the meaning I attached to ‘sales’. And when I approached it from a place of what’s best for my clients, I realised selling meant serving. It soon became second nature.
However when clients said ‘no’, I'd still take it personally. That's when I looked into personal development; I studied Neuro- linguistic Programming, and eventually became an NLP trainer. It changed my whole mindset on helping and influencing others and myself. Seeing how this would also benefit my colleagues, I approached my manager and agreed that I could provide NLP training as part of my role. I was on my way.
What essential steps did you take to get to where you are today?
Dee: My essential steps were studying NLP and getting into personal development. In ‘Pay It Forward: Notes to My Younger Self’, which I co-authored, I wrote a chapter to the twelve-year-old me, having been diagnosed with diabetes. As a child, my world was turned upside down. I couldn't eat anything sugary and had to take injections twice a day. Although my parents were great, their fears influenced me. My mum would be scared if I slept over at a friend’s; ‘what if her blood sugar level drops?’ So, as a twelve-year-old I developed some limiting beliefs. But, actually, it's never stopped me from doing anything.
Personal development helped me understand that the things I’d kept telling myself weren’t true. But their function at the time was to protect me. But now I needed to get rid of them. My NLP training taught me how our minds work and how by asking the right questions you can change your perspective. Without NLP I wouldn't be where I am today.
What was the greatest challenge you faced?
Dee: One of my greatest challenges was my lack of confidence from a young age. I always thought I couldn't do things. So I had to get confident through small steps. At university I moved to live alone in my final year - one step. Going to Canada alone was another. So, these little steps gradually increased my confidence.
When I moved to Canada I wanted to make it work. So I had to find a job. And journalism wasn’t the easiest industry to break into especially for an Indian woman. After two years when I hadn't got to where I wanted to, I felt I'd failed, which was a huge challenge to get over. But surrounding myself with the right people, who were ahead of me and who I could learn from was helpful. My dad had a huge influence. He overcame a chronic disability, (that most people never beat), by sheer determination and willpower. And even though I was scared, like him, I was strong too.
After training in NLP, a big challenge was to let go of people that weren't serving me. Cultural obligations and guilt weren’t good to run my life on. And it wasn’t out of hatred or spite. Time is a rare commodity. So spending my time with the right people was important so with both friends and some family members it was, ‘You're great, but you're not my person.’
What's your greatest lightbulb moment?
Dee: My greatest lightbulb moment came in 2012. I had a great full-time job but I was doing public speaking and personal development and wanted to start my own business. But I was afraid. Then the company I worked for closed down; I realized that it doesn't matter how much you give to a company eventually the universe will return you to your right path.
So, a week before my 40th birthday, I decided to start my own business. Although I worried about paying the mortgage, opportunities came because I went and offered my services. One opportunity came from a woman who said, ‘I've been waiting for you to leave your job. I've got this great project for you.” And it was just like this ping moment; the signs were all there and I stepped into the limelight.
The LinkedIn side of the business came later, but as soon as that idea popped up, I realised I could add more to what’s already out there. It didn't take me long to run my first event. I learned that you've just got to go and let people know what you're doing. Don't be afraid of the competition. You've got your own perspective and value as a trainer.
What resource has been crucial to your success?
Dee: My dad is a massive big resource and role model. He’s a ‘tempted entrepreneur’ with an enduring entrepreneurial spirit. He would quit his job to try something new. When it didn’t work out he'd return to work doing anything, from driving buses to climbing BT poles. When he became ill, I saw what he wasn’t willing to accept, which really inspired me. If my dad, in middle-age, could beat a condition from which people died or never came out of a wheelchair, start working again, and start his own business, then I've got no excuse. He's a big reminder that it doesn't matter what challenges I face, it will never be as bad as those he’s faced.
What do you understand by leadership?
Dee: Leadership is in the name. So, that word ‘ship’ is really interesting because often leaders mistake the role for dictatorship. Good leaders lead by example. They inspire people to come on board their ship. Then they steer that ship and navigate through icebergs and learn. So, it's more than teaching others, it's also learning new routes, and altering things to make it work. It’s also about collaboration and using team members who have valuable skills.
I've had many leadership roles; both when employed and when coaching and crewing at Andy’s events. And when I make mistakes I reflect and raise my hand to them. As women leaders, we've got emotions and in tough times I sometimes cry. But being vulnerable is ok. As a self-leader and a leader of others, you don’t have all the answers, so it's important to ask for help when necessary.
What do you bring to leadership as a woman?
Dee: I bring fun and of course, I bring cultural power. I’m Indian, single, independent, and although I love my culture, I embrace other cultures equally too. It doesn't matter where you’re from, I’m intrigued by how you work. When you find what your team members are good at and can bring to the party, you’re valuing them and everyone benefits. So, as a woman I bring an open arms, flexible approach.
It’s not necessarily a male/female thing, but I believe women are more nurturing and men may sometimes feel they have to separate themselves from the team because they’re in charge. They bring that masculine energy – the authority, which I have to demonstrate in my roles too. But the other side is my fun and embracing side.
What are your top three tips for women who want to be leaders in their field?
Dee: First, fire off people’s desires rather than dictate your goals. You’ll get a team of people who’ll go the extra mile for you because they feel significant and valued. People are very different, and when you're giving instructions on how you're running a project, for example, it's important to hit people's individual desires in that project. It's finding what'll inspire them and get them engaged. Whereas if you're dictating your goals and stunting their feelings, because everything we do is state (emotionally) dependent, you'll get a team that are there for the sake of it andnd you’ll lose them.
When I lead the Power to Achieve team, they volunteer for three days working from 6:00 a.m. till midnight. And there are people who’ve been volunteering since 2009 when we started. So, when you lead, inspire people to be there, and show them they're adding value, they’ll stay with you long-term.
Second, you don’t have to become a man to be an amazing leader, or be aggressive and throw your authority around. Just be your female self. I get people to do things just by being my feminine self. Female energy doesn't make you weak. I hope women leaders reading this will realize that they can be powerful, impactful, and inspiring.
Also, don't turn into a gossip girl, who wants to be part of the pack. You've got to be able to hold your own. But you can either be a man, a bitch (and you don't want to be either), or you can be the authentic you.
Third, don’t be afraid of challenging the status quo. Even if it's been that way for centuries it doesn’t mean that you have to do it that same way. And challenge with a solution-focused mindset. Bring new ideas and better ways of doing things. Then state your case. That way you can become somebody with a big voice. But you have to shout about it and take credit for it. Don't let something amazing you do go hidden.
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