Sachin Tendulkar – The Epitome of Self-Leadership

While the world bids adieu to one of the greatest stars of world cricket, it is hard to stay away from the emotion of it all. I grew up watching Sachin Tendulkar. I enjoyed watching him play. However, to us, he represented something more than a talented cricketer- he represented ‘hope’. When he was at the crease, anything was possible – a valuable leadership lesson. A leader needs to make his team believe, that no matter what the odds, every challenge is an opportunity. A leader needs to be able to shift limiting mindsets.

A friend of mine who had watched Sachin at a cricket camp when recovering from a ‘tennis elbow’ injury, remarked at how focused he was in doing the exercises that the physiotherapist had recommended. He would perform the same exercise for hours on end just to ensure he recovered faster. At that time the doctors were unclear if he could recover from this severe injury. However, Sachin did not focus on the opinion of the doctors but focused on his ‘knowing’ that he would recover. His undying courage and positive belief  turned his ‘knowing’ into reality.

Sachin constantly strived for excellence as was seen by the hours of practice and his ability to never resting on his past laurels – a leadership lesson that Sachin has effectively taught us. This unique capability is something that I constantly talk about in our sessions on effective leadership skills training

As I watched his final innings it was not his stroke-play that caught my attention (although it was as good as ever), it was a moment at the end of the first day of his 200th test match. He was not out at the end of the day and as he was returning to the pavilion, he paused and waited for his batting partner (a much more junior cricketer) and walked back with him. Although, the whole world had its eyes on him, he showed respect for his fellow cricketer – a strong character trait of Sachin Tendulkar, the sportsman. Sachin Tendulkar’s heartfelt final speech in which he paid his respects to his family, friends, supporters and well-wishers showed how much he valued the people ‘behind the scenes’ who enabled his success. His message to his teammates was about valuing the opportunity of playing for the country and respecting the game.

As he paid his respects to the cricket pitch and walked back leaving his footprints in the sands of time, his messages to the world are an age-old formula that form the essentials of leadership skills and self-leadership that we, at MMM Training Solutions , believe in – Respect your fellow-men, strive for excellence and always, always – ‘believe’.

Handling Difficult Conversations – A Leadership Essential

Handling Difficult Conversations – A Leadership Essential“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Recently I conducted training on Performance Dialogues for the leadership team of a world-renowned pharmaceutical company. As good communication is a critical contributor to performance, one of key areas that we focus on in this leadership training for middle and senior managers is on the skills of Handling Difficult Conversations.

The theme for one of the role-plays was a manager giving feedback to a team member about his ‘not-upto-the-mark’ performance. The team member played the role of a defiant team member. Within minutes they forgot that it was role-play and played out a real life situation. The manager resorted to the style of coercion that he was used to and the team member displayed anger and frustration about not being heard. Resolution did not seem to be option. Hence the role-play was discontinued and feedback was given. Once the participants owned the feedback, they were given the skills that were needed to handle the situation better.

Below is the list of the skills that were focused on:

  • Inquire – ask open-ended questions and be curious to know more about the situation from the other person’s perspective
  • Summarize – listen intently and ensure that you summarize at frequent intervals which helps to clarify the message and allow the other person to know that you are listening
  • Advocate – when voicing your point of view ensure that you do not state it as a definite but rather as a suggestion for which you are getting the other person’s thoughts

The role-play was then rerun. The trainer was actively involved in the role-play to ensure that the three skills of Inquiry, Summarizing and Advocacy were being used effectively. The participants showed dramatic improvement.

Below are the highlights of the comments from the observers and the participants in the role-play:

  • “The manager was genuinely interested in knowing about the details of the from the employee’s perspective.”
  • “When suggestions are offered without the mandate that it has to be followed, it gives the listener the freedom of choosing to use it or discard it. This amplifies the buy-in.”
  • “Recapping the conversation helped to clarify misunderstanding at an early stage which enhanced the efficacy of the message.”
  • The team member, “I felt that my point of view and my well-being was important to my manager. This made me want to contribute more.”

“A beautiful thing happens when we start paying attention to each other. It is by participating more in your relationship that you breathe life into it.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

We, at MMM Training Solutions, conduct training on ‘Handling Difficult Conversations’ which is an integral part of any leadership development program. Please contact us if you would like more details on this program.

Handling Critical Situations Productively – A Leadership Essential

Handling Critical Situations Productively – A Leadership EssentialHandling critical situations is a leader’s responsibility. Critical situations are what are usually referred to as ‘stressful situations’. So one of the key areas of the development of a leader is to learn how to handle stress productively or else their capabilities as a leader will be greatly tested.

“You cannot run at full throttle when applying your mindset to all of the different things running through your head. Focusing is the key to manifesting your desires.” – Stephen Richards

Stress usually in the result of lack of time or competence. But of these two I think that time is most important as we can enhance our competence if we have the time. So let us look at some ways in which we can create more time in our day thus increasing our ability to enhance our stress management.

As with any change in our habits, we need to first shift mindsets or beliefs. Below are three common mindsets that come in our way of being more effective with our time;

  1. “Productivity is directly proportional to the amount of effort we put in.”
  2. “I am the only one who can do it right.”
  3. “This problem is urgent and needs to be attended right away.”

“The essence of self-discipline is to do the important thing rather than the urgent thing.” ― Barry Werner

Here are some effective ways to create more space in your day:

  1. Commit to leaving an hour early from work everyday and vehemently deny yourself the permission to carry work home on the weekends.
  2. Organize your paperwork in three piles:
    • Pile A: Contain items that are of indubitable importance and require your personal attention. Do not have more than 3 items in this category.
    • Pile B: Items that are important but do not need your immediate attention. From this pile sort out the ones that you can delegate. This could contribute to not only your time management but also to the learning of your subordinates.
    • Pile C: In this category are items that could contribute to your knowledge base or passion. Books, newspapers, magazines, TV programs etc. Ensure that you allocate time for this and diligently not allow spill over as this is the category that could make you stray.
  3. Ensure that you throw away everything that not important or urgent. Use the question asked by the legendary Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., ex. President and CEO of General Motors: “What is the worst that can happen if I throw this out?” to help you decide which ones you need to discard.
  4. Allocate half a day a week towards time to introspect. A new and fresh environment could give you the space to break out of the routines and tickle your innovation.

“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” ― Tony Morgan

 Stress and TimeManagement Training is a part of our leadership development programs because of the immense impact it has on productivity. Contact us to know more about our leadership programs.

Courage – A Leadership Essential

‘I’ve had my ups and downs,’ he says. ‘My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds. That’s what made me what I am today. Now I stand here before you. What you see is a body crafted to perfection.  A pair of legs engineered to defy the laws of physics and a mindset to master the most epic of splits.’Jean-Claude Van Damme

Volvo released a commercial ‘The Epic Split’  on Nov 14th, 2013, in which Jean Claude does an amazing feat – does a split between two Volvo trucks. The commercial brings out the precision of the Volvo trucks with perfect clarity. But to me, as an Executive Coach, what was even more fascinating is the feat done by Jean Claude.

As I studied about his life, the two values that he embraced from age 11 were Consistency and Courage. At the age of 11, his father took Jean Claude for martial arts lessons because he was physically weak. At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976-1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in matches.The application and dedication to the sport has contributed significantly to an enviable Hollywood film career for him.

Jean-Claude  has struggled with substance abuse and mental illness for a significant period in his life. He had reached a point when he had strong suicidal tendencies. 1997 was a turning point in his life when started to pull things back to normalcy in his life.

As I read about Jean Claude’s life, I was impressed with the way he kept his singular focus on martial arts through his difficult times. This focus gave him the ability to deal with the other circumstances.

As leaders, do you have a purpose, which gives you direction in your life? “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” Rudder is the smallest part of a ship without which a ship is directionless. It takes courage to have a purpose and even more courage to hold on to this purpose through challenging times by consistently altering our mindsets. May we have more leaders like Jean-Claude!

Shifting Limiting Mindsets – A Leadership Essential

Shifting Limiting Mindsets – A Leadership Essential

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”  – Mary Engelbreit

At the age of 26 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating and progressive neurological disorder. By age 42 I had to use a wheelchair. The first few years of my life in a wheelchair were an absolute misery. I felt less than other people; I felt that I could not compete in the real world; I felt that my life had come to an end. I was bitter, angry and resentful. I was exhausted and sick.There was nothing that could help me to see the brighter side of life. I saw the wheelchair as a curse.

One significant day in my life, I was having a conversation with my father. I cried to him about the way my life had changed and wept about my stagnancy. My father was a quiet man of very few words. He did not have many motivational conversations with people as he always saw facts and not possibilities. But on this day he saw the possibility that changed my life; he said, “If President Roosevelt could rule America for 12 years in a wheelchair, what is stopping you?” I am not sure that it was earth shattering when he said it but as the days went by it permeated every cell in my being and I went from being in bed for 22 hours in a day to where I am today – traveling the world by myself in a wheelchair doing the work I love. I am an Executive Coach and a Leadership Trainer. I started MMM Training Solutions from my bed 8 years ago and today we have an enviable client list.

The wheelchair I once saw as a curse I now started to see as a blessing. Nothing had changed except my thinking. I moved from a Victim Mindset to a Creator Mindset.

There are two primary mindsets that we can all identify with – the first one is the Victim Mindset where a person with this mindset constantly feels victimized by his circumstances, his work pressures, his boss, his family – just about everyone and everything in his life. The victim mentality sucks the life out of innovative energy and has an excuse for every situation. Victims are addicted to complaining. They spread negative energy and want others to take on the same victim mentality that they are attached to.

The second one is the Creator Mindset where the mind is constantly looking for possibilities and has a single-minded devotion, diligence and dedication to what it wants to achieve.  Such people are energized by challenges as they welcome the learning that they get from it.

The fundamental difference between these two types of mindsets is on where the person places their attention & focus:

  • For victims the focus is on what they don’t want. People who see themselves as victims feel victimized by everything – the economy, the pollution, lack of time, an illness in the family, a bad childhood…the list just goes on and on and on. Such people rarely rise to new heights in their organization. Most successful leaders have looked into the mirror, recognized a victim mindset, taken steps to shift theirs to a creator mindset and have gone on reach dizzying heights in their personal and professional lives.
  • Creators place their focus on what they do want. They ask the questions – “What outcome do I want? How do I get there?” Their goals, targets and purposes are crystal clear. They do not leave this to memory but they write it in significant places, they talk to significant people about it and plan their life around it. This helps them to push through all the vicissitudes of life with their eye on the goal. This is the only mindset of leaders.

 “Limitations can only be true as long as we believe them. Believe in yourself instead. Amazing things will happen.” Doe Zantamata

Leadership Training and Development – What is it about?

Leadership Training and Development – What is it about?

Recently I was running a leadership development program for a group of branch managers of a public sector bank. Repeated requests to turn off or put their cell phones on silent fell on deaf ears. As the session progressed one the issues that quite a few participants voiced was that it was hard to handle generation Y. They said that the new generation had very little respect for the seniors. At this point I asked the participants this question, “I have asked you many times to put your mobile phones on silent and you have not respected my wishes. Is it possible to get the respect of others when you are not doing the same?” There was pregnant silence.

What is leadership training and development about? It is about choosing to live the life that others desire to follow. It is about being authentic and creating the desire in others to live in this authenticity. It is about embracing a life of values and these values being displayed in the smallest of your actions. Is this easy to do? Of course not! But living the life of a warrior is difficult but the life of a coward is decidedly easier. A life of mediocrity is simpler than a life of excellence. What are you choosing? What are you doing to stay on this path of continuous improvement?

Problem Solving Training, Communication Training and Team Building Training– these are buzz words in developing leaders in the training industry. But my point of view is that unless one decides to embark on a path of self-awareness and continuous development none of these trainings will have the desired effect.

Michelangelo who sculpted ‘David’ – a 17 foot robust statue sculpted out of one block of marble with only a chisel and a hammer – had this to say when he was asked how he was able to make such a perfect piece, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

As managers, you are the sculptors who have to see the David in each one of your team members. You have to see their inherent potential, which even they are not aware of and awaken it to be productive. How can you carry this colossal responsibility if you do not live your life authentically?

Hence, I would like to conclude this blog by hoping that you have seen the wisdom in making a decision to be the leader that your people would desire to emulate. Personal development is the focus of the Leadership Training programs that are conducted by MMM Training Solutions.

Essentials for Effective Communication

Essential for Effective Communication

Watson Wyatt, a leading worldwide human consulting firm, did a study to understand the impact of effective communication in companies. The study was done over a five-year period (mid-2004 to mid-2009) and the study shows that shareholders got a 47% higher return from companies that communicate effectively.

“Effective communication helps engage employees, and that has positive implications for productivity and the bottom line,” said Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt.

This survey found that companies scoring high on communication parameters, are good in 3 areas – courage to continuously address employee concerns, innovatively adjust employment deals to match market conditions and measure progress with stringent discipline.

Courage, Innovation, Discipline – Watson Wyatt has identified these, in the study, to be essentials for efficient communication. Let us look at how these values are relevant to communication.

  • Courage: Watson Wyatt defines it as “telling it like it is.”

“Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

We often try to shield people from bad news. This creates a layer of deception and hampers trust. The best way to build trust and relationships is to state the facts without diluting it. As many studies have found out, the top most reason why people leave their jobs is not because of dissatisfaction with their pay but because of their relationship with their bosses. Bad news hurts at first but it is the reality and facing these situations in a healthy fashion is what creates maturity.

  • Innovation: Creating a favorable environment for people to be innovative is the responsibility of an organization.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
― Peter F. Drucker

Organizations need to be comfortable suspending what they are used to and foray into unknown territories, thus encouraging their employees to do the same. Innovation should not be restricted to products but should extend to every aspect of the business. Continuously communicating in the abstract space of possibilities to employees sets a precedent of a mindset of innovation.

  • Discipline: Wyatt stresses the importance of the need to set directions, take stock of the movement on a regular basis and, most importantly, communicating all this to the employees on a regular basis. This will serve as the rudder on a ship – providing direction and causing the employees to adjust course. With the fast changing marketplace the need to have heightened awareness is very high. Email blasts from the CEO, town hall meetings, blogs and video messages from key people on significant topics relevant to the employees can all serve to enhance the comfort level of the employees, as they will, at all times, know the performance of the organization.

As an engine is to a train, so is communication to an organization. The power and efficiency of an engine dictates the direction of the train. Hence, the emphasis paid to communication should play a significant role in any organization.

Today most organizations provide communication training to help their leaders and managers communicate with employees. However, only 3 out of 10 companies are training managers to deal openly with resistance to change. In the same Watson Wyatt study it was identified that highly effective communicators are more than 3 times as likely to handle resistance to change openly than the least effective communicators.

We at MMM Training Solutions provide customized communication training to all levels of management. Our ability to target the issues specific to each organization contributes greatly to the success of our program.

The Genesis of Outbound Training


Two years ago as I was designing an Outbound training program, I became curious about the evolution of this extraordinary learning format. As I researched, I learned that Dr. Kurt Hahnfounded ‘Outward Bound’ in 1941. During World War II, Hahn used the tumultuous waters of the North Sea to provide young sailors with the exposure and skills necessary to survive at sea.Thus getting them ready to handle the vicissitudes of war.

The success of this exercise birthed the ‘Outward Bound’ methodology. ‘Outward Bound’ is a nautical term that indicates a ship’s departure from the certainties of the harbor. Interesting term as the only certainty of an unpredictable journey in a volatile sea is left behind in the harbor. In the Outbound training format, the office is comparable to the harbor and the unbridled outdoors is comparable to the sea.

The secret of success of learning through experiences lay in the unique selection and combination of the principles that Hahn believed in and, most importantly, Hahn’s charismatic energy and persuasive ability to put his ideas into action.

Below are some of the key principles of Kurt Hahn’s experiential learning:

Education is about the development of intellect as well as character:
– Hahn believed that the purpose of education should be twofold: the development of both knowledge as well as character. He felt that the concept of experiential learning in nature would provide the experiences to enhance self-esteem, discover untapped innate abilities, and develop a sense of responsibility toward others.

• “Your disability is your opportunity”:
– At the age of 18, Hahn suffered severe sunstroke for which he had a long recuperation period and left a degree of permanent disability that Hahn nurtured for the rest of his life. Hisadage “your disability is your opportunity” became the foundation for his thoughts on experiential learning. Hahn felt that when you are faced with challenges and you are in the depths of despair, at that time you have a great opportunity to either give up or make a decision to grow.

Strengthening physical abilities help people make moral choices:
– Hahn believed that each child is born with innate spiritual powers and the ability to make correct judgments about moral issues. However, in the progression through adolescence, the child loses these abilities because of the ‘diseased society’ and the compulsions of adolescence.Hahn trusted in helping students to strengthen their biological physical abilities, which will help them to overcome natural physical weaknesses. Hence his belief in exposing people to nature that naturally provides the opportunities for each person’s growth.

One phrase Hahn used to sum up his philosophy was, “There is more in You than You think” (plus est en vous).

Having understood the passion and purpose behind Hahn’s thoughts, we at MMM Training Solutions pay him homage through each one of our outbound training programs. Each activity is carefully designed to include the three principles of Hahn and the objective is simply to help an individual discover their inherent capability to handle all the vagaries of life.

Understanding Empathy: Lessons from Cyclone Phailin

“My shop has been badly damaged in the showers and the wind, but I had promised my customers I would serve them food from today itself. Hence, I have opened my shop,” stated Rahul Kant, an entrepreneur, one day after Cyclone Phailin. Rahul runs a south Indian eatery on the beach in Gopalpur, which was the epicenter of the cyclone.

I was amazed to hear about the attitude and commitment of this man who wanted to open his shop a day after a major cyclone had struck.

As a training consultant, I am always asked the question, “Can you provide a training program on ‘Fostering Ownership’?” Sounds easy on the surface, however, we all know that one training program is not enough to do so. Ownership and Accountability are what we term assoft skills, which, put simply, are the skills paramount for effectual interpersonal relationships.

Where does ownership come from? I keep looking at the statement made by Rahul Kant and I ask myself the question – “What within him is driving him to overlook his safety and focus on the needs of others and open his store to provide food for his community?” I think the answer is empathy, a soft skill that is a key part of Emotional Intelligence. Empathy helped him to prioritize the ‘need of his community’. Empathy enabled him to take ownership for the recovery of his people.

I believe the key to fostering ownership is giving people a cause to believe in. One that is bigger than themselves, and connecting it to how they play a role in contributing to that cause i.e. the ‘bigger picture’. This clearly explains why enhancing soft skills is a major focus of leadership programs today. The ability of a leader to see the bigger clarity and lead his/her people there is imperative to the success of an organization.

The cyclone Phailin that hit Orissa in India brought out some wonderful examples of people suspending their personal agendas and working together to contribute to the ‘bigger picture’. The Hindustan Times reported that 30,000 electricity workers in state of Andhra Pradesh, who had been on a strike to protest the division of the state (the Telengana issue), came back to work to deal with the emergency situation. also reported that Hindu and Muslim communities in Orissa joined together in offering prayers for the safety of the people of the state.

There is nothing better to bind people together than a common goal. The disaster prevention efforts for Cyclone Phailin have been termed a success because everyone saw the ‘bigger picture’ and took ownership to make a contribution in the roles that they could play. I believe the key in corporate business is the same. People need to see the ‘bigger picture’. That is why in leadership training programs today, leaders are encouraged to answer these questions:

• What is the ‘bigger picture’ that our organisation is contributing towards?
• How do we enable employees to understand the ‘bigger picture’ and their contribution towards it?
• How do we connect their ‘inner picture’ to the ‘bigger picture’ of our organisation?

Cyclone Phailin has left a lot of devastation in its wake but it has also given us the opportunity to witness the goodness and courage in people like Rahul Kant. I am proud to be an Indian!