Three Steps to a great Performance Dialogue

Three Steps to a great Performance Dialogue

In general people tend to think that it is the person in the performance review ‘hot seat’ that has a lot on his or her mind since an entire year’s worth of work is going to be scrutinized and judged in a few minutes. But this is far from the truth. The manager who has to conduct the performance review of the employee also carries a significant weight on his shoulders. In an employee performance review situation, the review manager acts as the representative emissary of the company. He bears the burden of proving to the company that the employee being reviewed can be considered reliable, further invested in or even retained with the company. This can be a daunting task depending on various factors. However there are several things a review manager can do to have an efficient Performance Dialogue:

  1. Department/Company Expectations – Understanding exactly what is expected of this employee’s job and role is probably the best place to start in a conventional performance review. Beginning with this basic in mind will help gauge if the employee is doing justice to the role he or she was appointed for. Sometimes the actual performance of an employee may vary drastically from the credentials of his or her resume upon which their hiring was based. If there is such a gap, it is the review manager’s job to ensure it continues to shrink.
  2. Potential for Investment – The review manager also has the task of scrutinizing the employee’s capabilities with additional responsibilities. In today’s competitive market, industries want to reap the maximum benefit from the smallest ‘penny’ invested. And this ideology bleeds down all the way to the lowest employee on the totem pole. If the employee cannot do a little more than the job he was appointed for, he is too expensive to keep.
  3. Minimizing Deficiencies – The hardest part of a performance review, even for the manager facilitating it, is scrutinizing the employee’s job performance for flaws or deficiencies. Even the smallest errors on the job can cost companies in the long run if not immediately. And so the name of the game then is ‘damage control’. Identifying the problems, coming up with a solution and making ways to execute it flawlessly is what this stage is all about.

 Performance Appraisal Training is an important endeavour that every company must judiciously look into for the careful gauging and analysis of their health through reviewing their individual employees’ performances. Companies of all caliber, including Fortune 500 companies understand the significance of adapting to make this happen: Make Performance Appraisals Change Friendly

For more information on conducting efficient performance appraisals, refer to these articles:

  1. Performance Appraisals that Works!
  2. Proactive Performance Analysis

How Presentation Skills can be like a Movie Screenplay?

How Presentation Skills can be like a Movie Screenplay?
The need to effectively communicate one’s thoughts and ideas is the ideological ‘parent’ of modern Presentation Skills and its accompanied training. With the evolution of technology and faster pace of businesses today, it is vital for companies to refine their training skills to keep up with dynamics of modern corporate culture.

Everybody loves movies. It is that universally acclaimed format of entertainment that has no barriers of race, caste, sex or age. This is because movies essentially tell stories, fictional or non-fictional. And everybody loves stories. Often it is thought that a movie director’s most important role is deciding who plays what, how the sequence of a scene should play out and what actors should be doing to get into the character. But there is more to movie making than that. Often a significant component of films that often goes unappreciated is screenplay. It is not just about ‘what’ happens on screen but ‘how it looks’ when it happens. A good example of this is the 2002 horror film, ‘The Ring’, where throughout the movie the director used a ‘greenish’ lens filter to create a gloomy and surreal mood to the movie. Add to that a somber soundtrack and the watcher is caught up in the mood of the movie. Screenplays are presentation skills at its best.

Presentation skills are an art that can be learnt and/or developed. And when done well, it adds mood, essence and even personality to whatever is being presented. But it’s not all about arbitrariness. There is also a science to it and it can be done systematically and with a certain methodology. Some tips to remember when giving a presentation are:

  1. Setting the stage – Presenting the current ‘landscape’ is a good way to begin. This sets up the listener to zero in on the pros, cons and changes that might be suggested as they show up.
  2. Projecting the Vision – Next would be the actual projection or ‘vision’ of the project wherein the presenter might suggest a change or a course of action that might bring about improvements, savings or benefits depending on what the project is.
  3. Suggesting Action Plans – The final stage would be the actual process of execution or implementation of the ideas, whether it involves specific roles by individuals or departments or by any other means. Presenting the ‘game plan’ for how to go about achieving the vision is a solid way to finish the presentation. 

Of course these presentation skills may vary depending on the company, service or product. But the principles of methodology still remain. Companies though diverse still hold to tried and tested methods that have worked for decades.

Presentation Skills Training  is a crucial component to corporate vision and communication and is vital to the healthy functioning of any systemized organization or structure.

For more information on Presentation Skills Training, refer to these articles:




Getting the Right People On-board

The word “interview” makes many jittery. Often, it conjures up images of grim-faced adults in paneled rooms waiting to extract information to be used in favor of, or against those they interview.
Allow me to carry you through this scenario. An automobile showroom had placed an ad in the papers seeking applications from candidates to work for them. Peter, an ambitious young man, saw the ad and responded to it immediately. His excitement was unbridled when he was given an appointment to meet with the manager of the showroom the next day. Peter entered the portals of the showroom with dreams of a blazing future. His impressive presence caused the salesman in the showroom to mistake him for a potential customer. They went through the rigmarole of trying to impress him and it took a while before they realized that he had come to their showroom hoping to be hired. In a fraction of a second their expressions changed, attitudes transformed and there was a flurry of exasperated activity before an interview was finally made possible.

It was clear that Peter’s interviewer was ill prepared for the interview. He had not studied Peter’s resume and the questions were not targeted to assess his capability in the area of automobile sales. The interview did not last longer than 10 minutes. The manager was impressed with Peter’s presence and communication capabilities and offered immediately offered him the position. However, Peter turned it down, as he was discouraged with the lack of professionalism he had encountered. The showroom lost an excellent candidate because of the lack of readiness of the interviewer.

Every well-meaning interviewer has to know how to interview efficiently in order to identify the ideal candidate for the task at hand. This can actually be equivalent to scrambling for the ‘proverbial needle’ in a human pile. That is why interviewing skills for managers are very important.

Preparation is key to developing good interviewing skills and techniques. 

There are 3 critical steps involved in preparation:

  • Ensure that you match the candidates competencies with the competencies required for the position
  • Ensure that you create questions that will help you to elicit the information about these competencies
  • Ensure that you sell the position to the candidate by mentioning, subtly, the prospects that this opportunity has to offer

Judging by the number of programs that MMM Training Solutions conducts in Interviewing Skills Training for Managers, we can say that the efficacy is desired by corporates. The training focuses on writing relevant Job Descriptions, developing the skills needed to prepare for the interview and asking powerful questions to gain a deeper understanding of the skills and potential in the candidate

The Obstacle Course of Life

Legend has it that once a really naïve young man went to visit Socrates and pledged to never leave until he knew everything Socrates knew. The story goes that he approached Socrates and said, “Great teacher, I want to know everything you know by the end of today. I don’t have much time and have things I need to get done tomorrow. So you have until sun-down tonight to teach me every nugget of wisdom you have ever acquired.” Socrates held the man’s gaze for a while and quietly beckoned him to follow him. After walking through the forest for a while they came upon a river. Socrates walked right up to the riverbank, knelt down and beckoned the young man. A little perplexed, the young man went over and sat beside the great teacher. Socrates then told him to peer closely into the river. The young men lowered his head down until his face was about a foot from the surface of the water. Socrates told him to get closer to the water. And the young man’s face got within six inches. He told the young man to get even closer and finally when the young man’s nose was within an inch of the streaming cold water, Socrates caught him by the hair and pushed his head under the water and held it there. For nearly 15 seconds the young man thrashed about wildly unable to get free from the firm grip of the great teacher. Finally he was let free and the young man, now blinking and gasping for breath asked why Socrates would do such a thing to which the great teacher replied, “The day you desperately seek Knowledge the way you just sought air to breath, that day you will learn everything you could ever learn!”

Sometimes a lifetime worth of lessons can only be learnt through the twists, turns, challenges, and obstacles of life. While certain traits like planning, organizing and scheduling can be taught in a controlled environment, other intangible and more valuable qualities like leadership, character, perseverance and courage can only be learnt through the life experiences that one goes through over a period of time. It is precisely these qualities that Outbound Training seeks to train people in by simulating experiences in an unpredictable and uncontrolled outdoor environment. They can immensely help foster the following:

  • Situational leadership rises to the surfaces. The old adage, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ is proven true. Outbound Training environments create the necessity of having to step up and take charge to cohesively lead the rest.
  • Teamwork and collaboration is crucial, as certain situations will entail impossible scenarios for anyone to overcome by himself or herself. This helps develop social skills and camaraderie.
  • Working together in such an environment also helps with communication, efficient management of resources and trouble-shooting skills. To do so requires every member of the team to be on the ‘same page’ with a united vision instead of trying to accomplish things as a lone maverick.

Outbound Training is a valuable tool that companies use these days to help cultivate such invaluable traits in their employees that can never be learnt in the safe and cozy environment of a blue-collar office. These unconventional and ‘out of the box’ methods have proven to work time and again and companies have begun to realize and adopt it comprehensively to keep the edge ahead of their competitors in a rapidly evolving and cutthroat corporate climate.

For more info on Outbound Training, refer to this link:

How to Resolve Work Issues Through Outbound Training

Presentations that Tease

I’ve always enjoyed watching movie trailers. Sometimes the trailer in itself can be like a mini-movie. From the fade in, you begin to get set up and given a glimpse into the story, everything seems to be going well and then, with a crescendo of the music and a fade out, everything changes and you find yourself getting sucked into what you think is the plot and just when you think you have it figured out, the teaser ends and you’re left hanging, mentally panting with excitement for the movie to come out. Trailers are designed to do exactly that. And its all in the presentation skill put into its making.

Most presentation experts say that if you don’t have your audience within the first 3 minutes you’ve already lost them. And in a digital age of social media and Internet enabled devices, where information can be accessed and shared within seconds, the attention span of the average person only keeps shrinking. This can be a daunting thought when it is ‘you’ walking into a room to give a presentation. You know you have only seconds to make a good impression and minutes to make your point. What in heaven’s name is one going to say that will grab the audience’s attention! Well there are a few tricks to presentation skills that can come in handy when you find yourself on the spot. Here are some:

  1. Provocative start – Within print media, it is probably newspapers and magazines that have mastered the art of grabbing your attention with a provocative title in bold. Even if you realized that the article was not worth the paper it was printed on, the tactic still worked because it got you to read the headline! This is a strategy that can be used with presentations too. Starting with a slide or an opening line that is shocking, provocative or unbelievable will usually get your listener’s attention. Unpredictability can be the best bait.
  2. Humor – Nothing relaxes a crowd of listeners more than a well-timed joke or humorous story. Sociologists and psychologists have proven this time and again. Slipping in a good dose of the smiles or giggles usually help to lighten the mood in the room, let the guards slip down a bit and break any apprehensive ice that might have been there to start with. Moreover it simply changes the way the audience looks at you and that can make a big difference.
  3. Rhetorical questions – Most people don’t need to process much when they’re listening to a statement. But neuroscientists have proven that when a question is asked, a whole new part of the cerebral cortex lights up because the brain is pondering over the validity of the question and possible decision it needs to come to regarding the situation ( refer: The Neuroscience of Decision Making). This happens even when an answer is not expected of the person questioned. Philosophers have known this for millennia. Well-placed rhetorical questions can engage the listener and make him or her ‘own’ the sentiments or thoughts being provoked.

Presentation Skills Training  can be one of the most valuable tools that can be given to someone that will equip him or her for success in many avenues of their professional lives. Here is a link to another resource on Presentation Skills : The Zen of powerful Presentation Skills


The Amazing Race & Outbound Training

While most TV shows are created for the sole purpose of entertainment there are a few that actually (probably inadvertently) give the viewers a few life lessons to ponder or reflect over. Shows like ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Amazing Race’ are good examples of outbound training to glean such lessons from. I’ve followed the Amazing Race for a few seasons now and I’ve always been quite moved by the transformative power that it has on the people involved. Participants generally pair up as couple teams and are provided with detailed instructions on what the mission is, where they need to go, how they can get there and exactly what they’re supposed to obtain before they can move to the next level. But this isn’t your average backyard treasure hunt; it is a race against the clock from one part of the world to another. And the goal is simple – the first team to get to the finish line, having completed all the required parameters, wins.

If you haven’t watched the show, first impressions are that it sounds fun. But the participants soon come to realize that the rigors of planning your journey, organizing travel logistics, travel delays and unexpected setbacks happen more often than not, hampering their plans. But there are critical things happening just beneath the surface. Participants’ characters are tested in the process – their patience, values, communication skills and perseverance are pushed to the breaking point. They begin to see their partners in new light, some times positive and other times not. In the end, it is those who keep these weaknesses in check, harness their deficiencies to drive them and work together as a team that come out victorious. Almost every show I’ve seen ends with the winners and losers introspectively discussing how much they had learnt from the competition, how much it challenged them and changed them, but really on a deeper level, showed to themselves who they really were. Everybody came out being transformed by the experience. In many ways this is precisely what Outbound Training is designed to achieve. Lets look at this using a ‘sailing’ analogy: –

1)   Comfort Zone – Probably the first most important thing outbound training does is to move the person out of his/her comfort zone and into new unchartered territory. The familiarity of the shores gives way to the vast expanse of unknown waters. And while this can be unnerving at first, it is vitally crucial to learning new life lessons.

2)   Setbacks develop innovation – The second important lesson outbound training develops is by forcing the individual to dig deeper within themselves to come up with creative ways in dealing with new and unfamiliar problems. Most people do fine as long as the sailing is smooth. But when the winds get faster and the waves bigger, the situation calls for making bold but tough decisions to avoid being capsized. This will test one’s courage but also their perseverance and conviction.

3)   A transformed perspective – People will often tell you that it was the hardest and most challenging times in their lives that made them stronger or more determined. Having survived the storm, although battered and beaten, one arrives at home shores with a deep appreciation and healthy respect for open waters. The only difference is that now they’re stronger and wiser. And it took the unfamiliarity, the storm and the survival to become stronger and wiser.

Some of the most successful people even in the corporate world are the ones who were willing to leave behind the familiar, venture into the unknown, take risks and come out better for it. Sometimes it is the challenges of new environments and adventures that will develop leadership, character and courage in an individual. And often it is those traits that will serve as a ‘sail’, ‘rudder’ and ‘anchor’ to make it through the storms of work or life. In that context it is crucial for companies and corporations to invest in Outbound Training for their employees to learn life lessons that a cubicle or work desk may never teach them.

For more info on Out Bound training refer to this resource:

The Genesis of Outbound Training

Interviewing with comfort

I remember my first interview as clear as it was yesterday. I was called in on a Friday morning. So I was really looking forward to doing this well and getting it behind me so I could make some weekend plans. I remember being asked to wait in the sitting area until I was called in. It turned out that I happened to be sitting right next to the very room I was going to be interviewed in. I could hear everything going on inside. There were a couple of voices, discussing the previous night’s cricket game rather animatedly. There was loud laughing and the group genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. Then I heard the laughter die down and a voice (who I could only assume was the boss) asked if everyone was ready to do the interview. After some low mumbles the door opened and one of them stepped out and beckoned me inside. I got up and followed him, thinking to myself that this should probably go well given that they seemed to be in a really good mood. After all they were just laughing their heads off just a few seconds ago, right? WRONG. I stepped inside to what felt like a completely different planet.

They were all seated in leather chairs, in a semi-circle, behind a big mahogany desk with glasses of cold water on it. Right opposite them was one solitary plastic chair (for me) and nothing to drink beside it, might I add. It was a ‘power-setup’. The faces were solemn and you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. Were these the same men I heard losing their guts a few minutes ago? Was I in the right building? Wait, did I really need this job? The next 40 minutes would rank as one of the top five most nerve-racking moments of my life. It didn’t feel like an interview but more like an interrogation. I could have sworn I felt like security was going to walk in and put handcuffs on me! Not one of them broke a smile and the only time they maintained eye contact with me was when I was asked a question. It didn’t matter that I had the experience. It didn’t matter why I thought I was fit for the job. It didn’t matter what my five year plans were. The intangible yet powerful vibe coming from behind the desk was that I needed to prove myself to them. The problem though was that I felt like I didn’t have a chance! There was no way around this ‘stonewall’. I remembered breathing a sigh of relief and feeling my shoulders and jaw relax when I stepped out to head home. Talk about terrible interviewing skills!

In the aftermath, many questions came to mind – why the animosity? Was it necessary to display that level of power tripping? Were they trying to intimidate me to gauge my mental tenacity? I didn’t know. And maybe I would not have felt that way if I hadn’t heard them laughing away before the interview. In any case I did get the job. And 5 years later found myself in a manager’s position within the same company. I remembered waiting to interview my first candidate, thinking through how to refine my interviewing skills. I remembered my own experience. And I decided things would be different:

  • Respect – I was going to treat this candidate with the respect he deserved and would give him the chance to make his case with me instead of survive my case for him.
  • Genuine Interest – I was genuinely interested in his skill sets and what he had to offer. I wasn’t going to treat him like he was guilty until proven innocent. 
  • Appropriate Representation – I understood the significance of being, at least in that moment, the ‘face’ of the company to him. And I wanted to make sure that I represented the values of the company in the way I conducted myself with him.

And finally, there was no reason to show him who was ‘boss’. After all I wasn’t his boss YET. I realized that proper interviewing skills go a long ways in being able to accurately gauge a person’s competence for the job. Treating a person with dignity, acknowledging their skills and realizing their potential for the company is more important than making them cower in the hot seat. Some companies do this well. And others still have a long ways to go when it comes to professionalism and courtesy. Interviewing skills training for managers is one of the most significant areas of training that a company can invest in when it comes to human resources.

Read our blog  ‘Good Interviews Leave Great Impressions About the Organisation‘ which deals with 4 common mistakes that even seasoned interviewers struggle with.

Enhance Listening – A Catalyst For Relationships – With Outbound Training

Outbound Training

Managing a heterogeneous group in a training program is usually a challenge. But the complexity of the challenge proliferates manifold in corporate outbound training programs if frontline executives have to share space with their super-boss for team activities. Though I have come across few super-bosses who take this opportunity to empower subordinates with great long-term benefits during outbound training workshops programs, most of the super-bosses have left adverse effects on the team morale.

Unfortunately for the executives, the presence of the super-boss constraints their creativity, restricts communication and sets the tone for a low energy session. The Super-boss on the other hand, with the pressures of having to compete with subordinates become vociferous with his/her ideas and thrusts them on to the team.

I had to come down very hard on a Super –boss recently while doing an out bound training program for an automobile giant. This was a one-day out bound program for a heterogeneous group of 72 employees. Right at the start of the program the group was divided into 6 teams to compete against each other over 8 different activities. The team that garnered the highest points stood to win a gift hamper. Barring few members the rest of the group were super-excited. After completing 4 activities the scores were pretty even except for the team that had the super-boss. In the points standing they were way behind the fifth placed team.

My co-facilitators noticed that in each of the activity that preceded, the super-boss found his way to get the team to implement his ideas. The team members, disappointed with the super-bosses’ lack of confidence in their ideas, went about the activities with very little fervour and conviction.  The super–boss was getting frustrated with his team. He was so riled that he ended up making nasty statements about the team.

So, on the fifth activity I pulled out the super-boss from his team telling him that it was unfair for just one team to get the benefit of his brilliance and gave him the responsibility of overseeing all six teams to keep a check on adherence to rules of the activities that followed. As expected, relieved of tyranny the de-moralized team made a remarkably improved showing. In fact they won 3 of the 4 activities that followed and managed to second place in the overall point standing at the end of the last activity.

During the final de-brief, realizing the folly of not listening to other’s ideas, the super-boss made a memorable 2-minute speech, talking about the importance of team communication and trust. His speech did not get a standing ovation but left the participants pondering. And I must admit I can never be hundred percent sure if all of the 72 employees took away relevant outbound learning from the outbound training but the super-boss sure did!