Meet UAE's first 'Charisma Coach', Danish Sheikh
Danish Sheikh is the first charisma coach in India and the UAE, and he's more than just about making the perfect first impression.
Charisma can be learnt," insists Danish Sheikh. "Just as you learn any skill, like driving." Sheikh positions himself as India and the UAE's first Charisma Coach. "As far as I know, and according to Google's knowledge, I'm the only one," he laughs.
Soft-spoken but emphatic in every word, displaying a firm body language but with a ready smile, Danish recently opened his start-up in Dubai - Danish Sheikh International FZE - offering both individual and corporate training in charisma. How does he define charisma though? "As a Charisma Coach, I define charisma as 'an ability to trigger strong positive emotions in people, which in turn enable you to better connect, inspire and lead.'
"Charisma is what allows you to command a room, draw others to you and convince people of your ideas. Charismatic people are perceived as both likeable and powerful; an irresistible combination that opens endless doors of opportunities to them. Charisma is a set of behaviours that can be learned, practised and mastered. With right guidance and enough practice, anybody can become remarkably charismatic," Danish states.
Most importantly, charisma coaching is different from image coaching or personality development.
His story is the proverbial shy-boy-turns-confident and discovers his life's calling sort of tale. Born and raised in Indore in India - he's now based out of Mumbai - and being the typical introverted, underachieving boy at school, Danish made his "breakthrough" in his mid-teens, after chancing upon Dale Carnegie's all-time popular social guide How To Win Friends and Influence People. It influenced him enough to go all out and improve his engagement quotient with people. "Carnegie's classic really opened my vision and changed my life," Danish says.
To cut a long story short, he worked as a tourist guide in his teens in Indore, working up the confidence to speak to at least one stranger a day, a habit he keeps up even today. At just 18, just on an impulse, he attended an interview for the post of a language editor at Webdunia.com, an IT and media company in Indore and cleared it, beating out much qualified and experienced candidates. At 21, he joined Lionbridge Inc. as the youngest Global Project Manager in the firms's history. At 22, he was hired by Yahoo! India, where he worked as the youngest International Product Manager for Yahoo! Mail, and Yahoo! Messenger.
"These experiences were my breakthrough. It showed me that being a people's person has great, tangible benefits, and it changed my personality for the better. From then on, I downloaded every available material I could on self-help and personality development, and worked constantly on my presentation skills, not just gaining armchair knowledge."
Danish's last job was in training and communications (at Nielsen in Mumbai, where he was also their youngest associate director, and that's where he realised that charisma was a trait that can be mastered, perfected, and fine-tuned, and it also dawned that all his past experience was very relevant to this realisation, and the new one that this was what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
So a year and a half ago, Danish had his website made, and got his first clients through recommendations from friends. Since then, he has trained senior company executives, vice presidents, entrepreneurs and even beauty queens and Bollywood actors! "I use both research-based practices for my training, and then add my own approach to it. Which is why I've also avoided going for a formal certification process, though I might get one later," he says. His branching out to the UAE happened due to the increasing queries and demand from potential clients, and he talks about the great market potential here. "The reasons for wanting to be more charismatic and the core understanding of the concept is the same among people in the UAE, but I often see a demand for training based on the cultural aspects and local business environment here."
Top 7 Tips To improve your Charisma Quotient:
1. Speak expressively like JASON SILVA: All charismatic people speak expressively. Period. They speak with enthusiasm, which triggers an emotional response inside you. The energy in your voice engages other people. Genuinely feel the emotion, that you want others to feel, yourself first.
2. Be an active listener like BILL CLINTON: When you speak to Bill Clinton, you have his undivided attention, even if you speak to him for a moment. Charismatic people make others feel special. Give all your attention to the person you're interacting with.
3. Smile more like TOM CRUISE: We have heard it time and again, yet few people really make smiling a part of their interactions with others. But smile genuinely. A fake smile can actually trigger a foe signal in the minds of people. You can't fake a genuine smile. Practice feeling positive emotions.
4. Make eye contact like DALAI LAMA: Eye contact not just conveys confidence and power, but it helps us to connect with others. People use it to determine our honesty and trustworthiness. Also, it's annoying when you are talking to somebody with roving eyes.
5. Take up space like STEVE JOBS: Steve Jobs strolled all over the stage while speaking to his audiences. He never stood at one spot. Claim space with your body by comfortably relaxing and spreading your arms and legs. It projects power/value. Caution: Don't push it too far!
6. Be aware like OPRAH WINFREY: Charismatic people are very good at picking up on social cues and other people's body language. They adapt to any person or social situation seamlessly. One minute they may appear powerful and authorative, and turn into the most emphathetic person the next.
7. Avoid making barriers, like TONY ROBBINS: We're aware that crossing our arms and having a closed body language is no good in a social setting. Avoid holding on to props like pens, phones, and mics during presentations. Having empty, open palms that people can see helps build trust and connection
Not surprisingly, Danish has faced a lot of skepticism about what he does. But after his portfolio of high profile clients, he says it's gotten easier. "Now, clients come prepared to meet me; they're aware of what I do. After building up my brand, and coaching high net worth individuals, I will eventually take this to the mass market." A book is in the works as well.
Part of the criticism - and concerns - he hears is that coaching someone to be more charismatic might mean they're being taught to put on a "fake" front. "I often get that from clients, who tell me they want to be themselves in front of other people, not put out an image. What I tell them is that they're going to be the same person, and retain their core personality and values, but their body language and responses to people around them are going to be honed. Eventually, it becomes part of a person's innate behaviour. It's like the 'lab coat' experiment, where half the subjects who wore white lab coats performed better at their task than those who did not. You become what you 'put on'."
Which points to his dual coaching methodology - Outside-In, and Inside-Out. The Outside-In approach focuses on enhancing outward personality traits like your business image, body language, energy level, voice pitch, tonality, verbal message and authenticity, which in turn helps project a charismatic aura. The Inside-Out approach takes you through a series of thoughtfully designed social exercises that challenges your inner confidence, pushes you beyond your beliefs and literally allows you to re-write your inner reality. Naturally, this approach requires more commitment and discipline.
Charisma is more a necessity than an add-on trait in these modern, competitive times, asserts the coach. "Remember when everyone talked about IQ (intelligence quotient) back in the day? Then the emphasis turned to EQ (emotional quotient); eventually, people will truly fathom the importance of CQ as well! Even companies like Apple and Google hire charisma coaches for their staff; it's only a matter of time before it becomes an important part of our work culture.