The Need For Soft Skills Training in India

The Need For Soft Skills Training in India Having lived in three different parts of the world over a span of three decades now, I’ve heard the familiar notion – “Indian students are smart” or “Indian employees are hard working.” That’s always a great feeling if you just happen to be Indian! And its true too; Indian students are smart. And Indian employees are hard-working; maybe even a little too hard-working in my opinion. It is no surprise then that these individuals thrive in foreign countries and companies. But the Indian employee is not free of his troubles; he is woefully lacking one thing that businesses today deeply require –Behavioral skills training.

From the time the average Indian gets into higher levels of school, there is an intense focus on academic excellence. But despite this there is still a gap in the area of ‘soft skills’ that the Indian is not prepared for. But what are soft skills? Recruitment firms and companies that have hired Indians have said that while the Indians tend to be incredibly smart and qualified people, their rudimentary skills such as social, relational or behavioral skills are often badly lacking. Some of this can certainly be attributed to a culture where there is subservience to authority and blind obedience is preferred over independent thinking. This often leaves the average Indian in a rather awkward state of affairs despite being exceptionally qualified to be in the game. Indians often find themselves ill equipped in the areas of email/phone etiquette especially when interacting with their fellow colleagues and peers. This leaves a lot of frustration for company bosses who would simply like to hire a qualified candidate and get the job going instead of spending more money and time on training the employee on his workplace ethics and manners.

Indian educators have realized this and are now in the process of setting up special institutes called ‘finishing schools’ that help equip graduates with the rudimentary skills required to function effectively in the workplace. The ISIL (Indian School of Integrated Learning) and British firm, Speak First, are currently partnering in a joint venture as part of a two million dollar project to setup finishing schools in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore for the very purpose of further training potential employees on different types of soft skills.

Soft Skill Training programs are being setup all around the country to help equip the growing demographic of Indians to be better suited with the right skills to succeed in the workplace. For more information on how companies do this, please refer to the following link:

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2010-11-25/news/27580406_1_soft-skills-private-sector-skill-gap

Is There A Difference Between Leadership Development & Training?

Is There A Difference Between Leadership Development & Training? I’m no expert in English grammar but I do recognize synonyms when I see them. What are synonyms? Synonyms are words that share the same meanings with other words. We can usually identify these when we come across them. But a lot of times we don’t. Within business circles for example we equivocate between Training & Development. But there are some fundamental differences between them that leadership programs don’t always focus on. And I want to make the case that Leadership Development is better. Here is my argument:

Training by nature is finite in its scope because it looks forward only a limited span of time. Development on the other hand looks far ahead into the future sometimes going beyond he career of the person. It is infinite in nature. Another aspect of leadership skill is to operate even under conditions that are not optimal. In that context, Training gives you just enough to put one in a comfort zone to do a job. But development is designed to intentionally get a person out of their comfort zone and be equipped for extenuating circumstances.

Training people may equip them with a set of standard guidelines to help them operate in controlled environments. In other words it helps them within a ‘box’. Development on the other hand equips them for greater things by liberating them from accepted norms or standards that might stifle creativity or innovativeness. And lastly regardless of the leadership style required, Training tends to focus on the role that the candidate plays while development focuses on the person himself or herself. It aims to hone their intrinsic skills and abilities for the greater good of becoming better at who they are instead of better at what they do.

Leadership Training programs are designed to equip employees with the right tools and resources necessary to not only do their jobs but also thrive in challenging working conditions. For more info on how companies do this, please refer to the following like:

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2010-02-16/how-companies-develop-great-leadersbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

The Failed Yogi – Leadership Lessons from Baba Ramdev’s failed Crusade

Why did Baba Ramdev fail, when Anna Hazare was super successful, in his crusade against black money though both opted to follow the path of fasting so strongly advocated by the Mahatma?

The Failed Yogi – Leadership Lessons from Baba Ramdev’s failed CrusadeWhat went wrong – This is a case study on Leadership. Ramdev’s craving for popularity is not new – he has his own TV channel Aastha that broadcasts his yoga initiatives 24/7. Anna’s fast gave him hopes of achieving super stardom in social activism. He miscalculated the effect of riding on the back of the Anna Aura – and how!! He gave up his fast once the realization that his call had lost its fizz and that it was not too great to die a loser hit him. Here’s where he went badly off the mark:

1. He did not have facts on the table – Just a good intention to get black money back into the country won’t work in this dark complex world – how much? Where? Whose? He had only vague answers when quizzed by the media. Beyond a generic estimate he could not prove even one of his allegations.

2. Over Ambitious – A classic case of biting off more than one can chew- did he not know that he was taking on a one billion nation that topped most of the world rankings on corruption and black money laundering?? And he was hoping to fix centuries of misappropriation in one week of fasting?? Uh??

3. Super Simplistic – This is what happens when you simplify an issue – Black money is a tricky and complex issue – too tricky to put your fingers into – If it is complex arm yourself accordingly. Can’t after all catch a crocodile with a rat trap can you?

4. Misusing Core Competence – Face it Ramdev – you are good at Yoga and very good at teaching to others – but people do not go to a yoga teacher when they have a tooth ache! He was trying a tooth extraction with a degree (?) in ayurveda. Perhaps he should consider enrolling for a course in politics now.

5. Lack of Flexibility & Adaptability – The government bent backwards to accommodate him – The Ramlila grounds, water, tents, electricity, security – they were willing to co-operate even further. What was the point in fasting then??

6. Undemocratic – Call to arms?? Are we the Taliban? No self respecting democracy would have allowed him to go any further. He shot himself in the leg with this one.

7. Poor Emotional Intelligence – First he cries and then he talks of creating an army complete with arms and ammunition. Public display of poor emotional intelligence definitely contributed to the dent in his image and drop in public support. Nobody expects a Leader to be whacky!!

8. Misuse of the tool of protest – Anna used this tool and it worked – he’s a Gandhian – in thought and in action. His simplicity worked for the people but for this island owning yogi it failed miserably. People rejected the lack of congruence in thought, action and reality.

9. Skeleton in his Backyard – Was he hoping to take on the industry moguls, the policy makers, the law enforcement agencies, the politicians and the regular aam aadmi when his own backyard was full of junk?? Make sure you have no skeletons buried before you attempt to dig out others’.

Leadership training can help you understand your core competencies by doing a self-analysis. It can help you focus on the areas that you are equipped to handle. All of us have certain core competencies and strengths. A good leader is somebody who capitalizes on his strengths and works in that direction to make a success of things.

The Importance of Training the Trainer

Shortly after I joined my new job as a Quality Control supervisor, I found myself in the unflattering and precarious position of having to train the person (lets call him C) who had been the trainer for the last 3 years. Until then C ruled the department with absolute totalitarianism and he always had the last word. It so happened that my boss who hired me thought I had a better eye for detail and placed me in charge of making decisions that once was C’s to make. The interesting chain of command in the department also created a situation where C, who was in charge of production, was now subject to my discretionary judgment as the head of quality control! Moreover I had to train the trainer on how to run production to meet my standards. Needless to say this did not go well with him! The Importance of Training the Trainer

Sometimes as a trainer one can come to the conclusion, and rightly so, that his or her skills are good enough that it qualifies them to pass on their accumulated wisdom to the next in line being trained. But the key component here is not so much the actuality of the fact but the attitude of the heart. Can one become such an expert that they are beyond learning? Are they so good at what they do that they should not be teachable enough to be taught anything new? Is their accumulated skill so superior that they cannot humble themselves to accumulate some more? Being a trainer requires first the attitude of a perpetual student – always seeking to know more, learn more, improve and excel. It entails at the outset, the need to constantly keep refining, honing or sharpening one’s skills, constantly looking to adapt and minimize flaws in methodology along the way.

Companies around the world have used Train the Trainer  programs for some time now. Their main goal is to continue to invest in the improving or enhancing of their trainers to better equip them for a diverse range of training scenarios. For more information on how companies do this refer to this article:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2014/02/04/the-recovery-arrives-corporate-training-spend-skyrockets/

 

Captivating Traits of Great Leaders

Captivating Traits of Great LeadersWhat is Leadership? There seems to be something about great leadership that appeals to us, inspires us and draws us in. Sometimes it is charisma but more often it is something that is not superficial but intangible and yet so externally apparent. Across the centuries, the world has seen the rise and fall of leaders. Even notorious leaders like Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin had leadership qualities that they chose to abuse and use to their advantage instead of for the good of their people. This of course doesn’t make the leadership qualities in them intrinsically evil. They were used toward an evil purpose. Leadership traits like ‘courage’ and ‘determination’ are neutral because they can be exercised for morally good pursuits but also be abused in the pursuit of morally wrong endeavors. Traits like ‘truthfulness’ and ‘honesty’ are intrinsically good attributes that many leaders do possess.

In general most leadership skills, provided they are exercised within a legitimately good framework, bear good results. Leaders intuitively understand the responsibility they bear on their shoulders and feel a sense of duty toward those they are obligated to lead or serve. It may seem like an oxymoron to use the word ‘serve’ in the context of leadership but businesses today are beginning to understand the indomitable value of those leaders who make it their primary concern to serve those who follow them. This is leadership by example.

The most obvious avenue for leaders to shine is in relational areas. This would seem rather obvious to some but it can easily be overlooked in an age when social barriers are erected through media and technology in the name of getting connected. Leaders show people vision, trust, responsibility, honesty and conviction by their mere actions and words. That it must be genuine would be a no-brainer I would suppose. And yet in the most intuitive way, people sense these leadership skills and are captivated by them. Companies today understand the power of these incredible traits and constantly try to incorporate them into their Leadership Training Programs

The Difference between Leadership Training and Leadership Development

I read an article recently that said, according to the ASTD (American Society for Training & Development), the US spends over $170 billion dollars on leadership curriculums, specifically focusing on Leadership Training. However, the article went on to say, that the investment never really pays off in the real sense of actually creating leaders. These ‘leaders-to-be’ start off with great gusto and grandiose ambitions but quickly burn out when the going gets tough. I couldn’t help but smile sympathetically, not at the financial payoff (or lack thereof) of the program but the sheer misunderstanding of a fundamental concept – leaders are not trained, they are developed.

The first question that tends to come up now is if this is really a matter of semantics. Are we just playing word games? Are we just being equivocal about the way we use terms? The honest truth in response to the above-mentioned questions is “NO”. There are foundational differences between Leadership Training and Leadership Development. And it is these differences that we’re going to focus on in this blog:

  • Training is objective while Development is subjective

Training generally tends to adhere to a preconceived set of ideas, rules and systems that were created based on past experiences and administered within controlled environments. Development on the other hand is custom-made for the individual based on his or her individual traits in preparation for future and possibly unforeseeable circumstances.

  • Training is ‘system oriented’ while Development is ‘people oriented’

Training tends to focus on methodology, system and manuals. It generally adheres to fixed standards and operates within a rigid framework of repetitive efficiency. Development on the other hand focuses on the people involved and works with the aspects of individual character and personality to develop maximum potential.

  • Training aims to ‘indoctrinate’ while Development looks to ‘educate’

Training generally looks to the immediate application of specific methodologies. It is transactional in nature and focuses on maintaining a certain performance trajectory. Development however focuses more on the future adaptation of the individual being developed and looks to educating the employee for maximum efficiency through potential.

Modern Leadership Training Programs however have discovered the subtleties between training and development and try to bridge the gap with a more comprehensive approach to grooming an employee with leadership potential.

Leadership Is All About Handling Adversities

Life is full of problems but what really matters is how we react to those problems. We have various options – to become hard and miserable or react positively to the various situations that life throws at us. Then, “What is leadership?” Leadership is all about handling life’s difficulties with courage and forbearance. Business leadership is being able to handle organisational problems with the right attitude.

“Giving people self confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do because then they will act.” – Jack Welch

Recently I read a thought-provoking story about a young woman who learnt a revolutionary lesson from a simple demonstration from her father. She was once complaining to her father that her life was full of problems and that she did not know how to handle them. Her father, who was a chef, listened to her patiently. He did not say a word to her but took her to the kitchen. There he took out some eggs, some potatoes and some coffee beans. He immersed them in separate bowls of boiling water. After a short while he asked her to touch all the three ingredients and share her observations. She noticed that the potatoes had become really soft, the eggs had become hard and the coffee had a rich aroma to it!

The potato, eggs and coffee beans had all faced the same problem– that of the boiling water. However, each one responded to the adversity differently. The potato went in hard but came out soft and weak, the egg was frail when it went in and emerged from the water harder than before. However, the ground coffee beans were different! After they were exposed to the boiling water, they created something positive about the experience – fresh, delicious coffee!

“Which one are you?”, asked the chef. ”Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

A leader should be like a coffee seed. When he faces problems he should see this as an opportunity to transform.

In life problems are only 10%, 90% is about how you handle these problems. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business environment, one should be able to develop leadership skills that enable one to adapt to uncertainties. Leadership qualities that help one to make predictable the unpredictable are critical in the 21st century.

Leadership training programs that help to develop the blind area and the unknown areas of the Johari Window are the programs that one should attend. It enables one to develop the untapped potential that helps to traverse unchartered territory.

Benefits of Team Building Training in Corporate World

In a genre where businesses are led not only through competitive wars, but by cooperative approaches as well, companies are digging out ways for building the team to bring about unity among members. Here are some reasons why corporate companies in today’s world are resorting to team building exercises like fun-filled games and team vacations from time to time.

Motivation and Building Rapport: Team building activities and training trigger feelings of motivation when members of a team feel motivated to do more after succeeding in a particular task as a team. Motivation from other members of a team also helps individual members gain confidence in themselves. Participating in such fun-filling activities as a team helps build rapport among team members.
Develop Problem Solving skills: Team building exercises involve problem solving whereby all members of a team gather to solve an issue together. Such techniques are geared towards developing a sense of unity and responsibility for facing troubled situations or issues together.
Increase in Productivity: As is known, a task done by a number of individuals together is accomplished quicker than when it is worked upon by one person. By working as a team, members can make optimum use of resources, incorporate their own creativity, improve on the flaws and accomplish the tasks much faster.
Stress Busters: Team building activities act as stress busters to members who find great satisfaction and relief in participating in something other than their regular course of work.
Improves Communication: Team building activities develop a better communication system within your team, thus helping leaders convey messages without much hassle. Activities like train-the-trainer help identify good trainers within teams and thus do away with the need for recruiting personnel from outside the organization.
Team building training programs at MMM Training Solutions help in self-assessment of members helping them contribute as a team. Want to be a part of MMMTS? Visit us at mmmts.com

The Four Essentials of Excellent Customer Service Training

As I was creating a customer service training program, I was reminded of an interaction that I recently had with a customer relations person and decided to reflect on the learning.

The Four Essentials of Excellent Customer Service Training I walked into a Microsoft flagship store, to check out the new  Lumia 950. As I entered the store, it felt as if I was at the right place to make the decision. I looked out for somebody to help me in the decision. After waiting for a minute, I saw a lady emerging from the other end of the store. Upon noticing me she bellowed out, “What do you want?” Without waiting for me to answer, she went to the end of the store and sat on a stool behind a counter. Since she was not expressing any desire to help me, I walked around and looked at the products on display. As I did not see Lumia 950, I asked the lady if she had a demo handset for Lumia 950. “No sir, we don’t.” pat came the reply.  I asked her, if the handset was in stock. “Sir, if we don’t have the dummy with us, how do you expect us to have the handset in stock. For every handset that we have in stock, we have the demos available as well.” she said, as if, it was something every customer should have known. Undeterred by her attitude, I enquired when they would get fresh stock. “There is a possibility, that we might get it tomorrow. You can come in and check.” was the reply to my question.

Being a soft skills trainer who conducts a plethora of programs on enhancing customer service, I took some time to ponder about why this transaction left me so angry and frustrated. Reactively I had even decided that I was not going to another Microsoft phone.

As I replayed in my mind the kind of customer focus interaction that would have left me desiring to wait to buy the Lumia 950 from the same store, the below listed ways to improve customer satisfaction surfaced:

  1. Empathy:
    • I would have liked the customer service rep to walk up to me and express interest in what I was looking for.
    • I would have liked the rep to apologize for the lack of availability of the product I was looking for.
  2. Managing Customer Expectations
    • I would have liked the rep to understand what I was looking for and suggest alternatives, as Lumia 950 was not available.
    • I would have liked the rep to tell me that she will call me back once the product was available.
  3. Going that extra mile
    • I think the rep should have taken my number and volunteered to call me as soon as the product arrived.
    • I think the rep should have found out if the product was available at their other locations.
  4. Listening
    • I would have expected her understood my expectations and suggested alternatives.
    • I would have expected her to confirm her understanding of what I shared.

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Customer service is all about managing customer expectations and relationship building. My experience helped to drive this central theme in the Customer Service Training program and the participants experienced tangible benefits in their interactions.

Executive Coaching is a Privilege

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own hometown.” – Luke 4:24

Let me explain the reason why this verse from the Bible has left an indelible mark on my life.

Executive Coaching is a PrivilegeJesus performed the least number of miracles in his own hometown. When he conducted meetings and the lame were healed, the blind saw, the deaf heard and the dead rose. The audience marveled at His abilities and did not doubt that He was the Son of God and that He is ‘extra-ordinary’. Then someone said, “Is he not the carpenter’s son?” Upon hearing this, they swiftly lowered Him from the extra-ordinary to the ordinary! The wonder turned to skepticism and the belief turned to doubt thereby hindering the manifestation of the miracles.

We are leadership coaches who are endowed with the responsibility to see the extra-ordinary in the ordinary and to see the super-natural in the natural. But so often we hold people imprisoned to the picture we have drawn of them and we are unable to lure them to the realm of possibilities.

I wonder if the Wright brothers would have created a functional airplane or if Edison would have persisted till the bulb emitted light if they had relied on the leading of such leadership coaches? The ability of a coach to look at a new day as a fresh canvas filled with opportunities and disconnected from the pictures of yesterday is what enables the coachees to connect to the infinite! The executive coaches that have the rare and uncanny ability for painting a fresh depiction in each encounter are the ones that enable the manifestation of the super-natural from the natural and the extra-ordinary from the ordinary.

“Visionaries see the “impossible” as the inevitable.” – Robin Sharma

Hence I say, “Executive Coaching is a privilege!”