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Success tip: Learn to laugh at yourself

Doing so humanises you, and makes you more effective at working with other people.


Posted 5 January 2021

Most occupations require a blend of two distinct abilities:

The blend obviously varies from occupation to occupation, and also varies depending upon your level within that occupation. There are some careers which require no people skills, such as trading shares for your own account, but they are relatively rare.

Each of us starts life with a different mix of individual skills and people skills.

In my own case, from an early age I had strong intellectual capabilities but my people skills were very weak. By the time I retired, my fellow partners at PwC and staff who reported to me considered that I was “Good with people.”

The fact that my people skills were slow to develop, and required conscious study and practice to improve, helps me to advise others about them.

One common failing in many ambitious people is denial that they have the human frailties that others do. Often they are unable to appreciate the funny side of their personal foibles and mannerisms. That can hurt their career progression.

Being able to laugh at yourself, and not take yourself too seriously, is a great asset when you have to lead a team of people.

Example 1

As an illustration, about 25 years ago about a dozen people from the PwC tax practice had a social club outing at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Manchester. I was the only partner present, so all of the other PwC people there were junior to me.

To our surprise, partway through the dinner, there was a performance by a belly dancer. After her own performance, she wanted to teach our people how to belly dance. My colleagues insisted that I be the guinea pig.

Instead of saying no, I recognised that it was my duty as the only partner present to look ridiculous by learning to belly dance. Wearing my suit and tie (minus the jacket) I went on to the dance floor to be taught how to move my hips and hold my arms as a trainee belly dancer!

One of the PwC team had a video camera with them, but the battery was flat. This preceded the days of modern mobile phones, so nobody else was able to video the performance either. Otherwise, the video would probably have circulated widely within PwC, although I would not have minded.

The key point was to demonstrate that I did not take myself too seriously.

Example 2

My fellow Co-Chair at the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, Cllr Heather Fletcher, has a background in amateur theatricals and is also done a training course for stand-up comics. As a result, she has some skill at identifying people’s mannerisms and then caricaturing them.

She recently asked if she could demonstrate her caricature of me and I readily assented. Since this was during a Zoom meeting, I recorded the performance, and you can watch it below. Readers who know me personally will recognise the characteristics that Heather has amplified.

Video: "Heather Fletcher caricatures Mohammed Amin"

Heather also writes poetry and wrote a poem to celebrate my 70th birthday, which again does not hold back regarding some of my foibles. I am happy to share it below.


M is for MIND; his mind is certainly very bright

O is for OPINIONS, his are strong and very forthright

H is for HEATHER, the name of his Muslim Jewish Forum Co Chair

A is for ARGUMENTS which he likes to win both fair and square!

M is for MATHEMATICS which he studied at Cambridge University

M is for MAPS which he reads on holiday with great clarity

E is for EDUCATION which he values above all

D is for DIVERSITY and interfaith work which is his call

A is for his ACCOUNTANCY profession in which he specialised in matters pertaining to tax

M is for his MARRIAGE to the lovely Tahara who has lots of patience which he sometimes lacks!

I is for INTERVIEWS on the Radio which he views as key

N is for NOTABLE, he is very well known and has received an M.B.E.

Add these letters together and then we can clearly see
They spell out the name of our friend who has just turned SEVENTY

He certainly doesn’t look his age as he has very few wrinkles and he is certainly lean

HAPPY 70TH BIRTHDAY with good health and happiness to our dear friend, MOHAMMED AMIN

Cllr Heather D. Fletcher © 2020


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