4 Effective Ways To Manage Your Time

We’ve all done it plenty of times in our lives. The complaints usually all sound the same – “If only there was more than 24 hours in a day”, “Where did all the time go?”, “Why does time fly when you’re trying to get something done” and the endless list continues. What is it about time that is so elusive? Why does it always seem like it moves slowly just when we want it to fly and flies when we want it to move slowly? It almost seems like it has a mind of its own! But we’re the ones with the minds.

Time Management Training programs are especially crucial for companies where every man-hour made or lost is directly proportional to money made or lost. The more efficiently a company manages it’s time through resources, systems or personnel, the more cost effectively the company operates by saving on time wasted. Hence it is one of our key programs for Managerial Training and Leadership Training.

Time Management, it turns out, is not really one of the unsolved mysteries of the Earth or rocket science that is beyond our comprehension. It takes some organizing and some discipline, the two key ‘ingredients’ to successfully manage your time. Lets look at how those aspects interplay with each other:

Goal Setting

This is the first step to begin with. To-Do lists are generally not very efficient because they only keep getting longer and after a while can get overwhelming. It is also important to set not only the ‘type’ of goals to achieve but the ‘number’ of goals that need to be done as well. Setting a goal of 5 things to do in an hour maybe more efficient than 20 things to do in the same hour. The more realistic the goals, the more achievable they are. ‘How does one manage time more effectively’  is a great article that gives you many simple, yet effective, techniques.

Prioritising

This goes hand in hand with goal setting. Some people attempt to just get ‘chunks’ of work done without prioritizing them according to importance. Consequently sometimes these are the very same people who just never seem to have time to do the things that actually matter. Prioritizing the goals that need to be achieved is the best way to maximize the efficiency of the limited time available.

Scheduling

Next it is important to actually put these priorities down on a schedule or calendar. Especially within a business context, there are often numerous tasks that may sometimes require our attention at the same time and having our priorities scheduled will help in allocating them into available slots through the workday.

Discipline

This is the rivet that holds every other piece of the time management structure together. If this isn’t managed, everything else mentioned above falls flat on its face. Once the system of goal setting, prioritizing and scheduling is setup, it takes a lot of hard work through diligence and discipline to keep the system running smoothly. This is often the area where most people falter. If discipline is maintained within our time management skills, we will discover rather quickly that time need not be our foe but can actually be our friend.

Here is a fun, albeit effective, way to manage one’s time.

 

Creativity and Appetite for Risk – Is Jeff Bezos a fool or a leader?

As I read about the octocopter drones in the newspaper yesterday morning, I thought I was watching a science fiction movie in my dream. After pinching myself to reality, I raced to the Internet and watched Jeff Bezos of Amazon being interviewed on 60 minutes.

I was entranced by the octocopter but even more mesmerized by Jeff Bezos who has the courage to take such a huge risk. Bezos stated that the time between receiving the request from the customer and delivering the product to the customer is shortening everyday and if the innovations are not targeted in this area, the business dies. In his quest to keep his business fresh and listening to the voice of the customer, he has revealed that Amazon has invested in the research and development of the octocopter which is a GPRS driven electrical device that will deliver packages (of maximum weight of 5 pounds) within a 10-mile radius in a window of 30 minutes. The description of ‘fast’ needs to be rewritten in the dictionary!

“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”― Albert Einstein

As a leadership trainer, people who push the limit and are willing to take the fall always fascinate me. Managers who are conservative and cautious are becoming obsolete in today’s market. The ability to explore unexplored paths and make imagination a reality are core competencies of a leader today. In the 19th century, business encouraged people to be risk-averse but today people have to risk-hungry. Situations that are risky are seen as an opportunity for creative thinking and growth.

Corporates that focus on leadership development should be asking themselves some key questions – Are we encouraging creativity, innovation and risk-taking in our people? Are we rewarding these qualities and is it a part of performance management? Are we talking about these qualities only for the top management or are we creating this environment for people as soon as they join the company?

The leadership programs conducted by MMM Training Solutions focuses on the core competencies of a leader that are essential for success in the 21st century. Some of the distinguishing features of our program are – duration of 3 to 6 months, combination of individual coaching and group training and individual assignments that help the participants to put the learning into practice.

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.

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. Rediff.com 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!

Interviewing Skills Training is the Master Key to Move from Good to Great

To become a great company is the dream of many good companies. This movement is possible only if you have employees with, both, excellent skills as well as attitude. The first and the most crucial step in the movement towards this direction is to have excellent interviewing skills so that your company picks out the best talent possible. It’s just like mining for gold; finding an ounce of gold you need to move tons of things that are not gold.

Companies who have understood this are spending a lot of time and money in training their people in the cutting edge techniques of conducting effective interviews. They know that the lack of interviewing skills will lead to attrition and all the issues related to it.

Successful interviewing is not a hit-or-miss phenomena but something that has a concrete framework, a certain steps, and a certain way of doing things that yield you the same results, if done properly, time and time again.

The key focus areas in Interviewing Skills training are:

  • Identifying the core competencies needed for the job
  • Writing a Job Description that captures these competencies
  • Scanning the candidate to ensure that they possess these competencies

This blog is going to focus on two key skills that are needed to scan the candidate’s competencies:

  1. Listening Intently
  2. Framing apt questions

1. Listening Intently:

“I don’t talk a lot when I interview. My job is to get out of the way.” – Anna Deavere Smith

When you commit to listening more than talking, it gives you the ability to understand the candidate at a deeper level. It allows you to stay in the present and observe keenly the interviewee’s body language and communication; thus understanding the authenticity of the responses. It also reinforces to the interviewee that you are genuinely interested and creates an environment conducive for an honest exchange.

2. Framing apt questions:

“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.” – Robert Half

Asking open-ended questions gives the candidate the room to give innovative and unusual answers. Questions then give the interviewer the opportunity to explore this unfamiliar space to a deeper level and thus understand the feasibility of relating the core competencies needed for the job to the expressed capabilities. Well-framed and well-timed questions create an environment of powerful communication giving both the interviewer and the interviewee the ability to connect untapped abilities to known competencies.

As the global market is changing so rapidly, job responsibilities are also being impacted by continuous innovative technology. So it is important to update Job Descriptions and core competencies needed for the positions. Equally important is for the team to undergo interviewing skills training at least once in 6 months. This training should be of an experiential nature where they conduct simulations of interviews and are given immediate feedback by the trainer. Key stakeholders should be invited to be on a panel that also assists the trainer in giving organization specific feedback. We, at MMM Training Solutions, have had immense success in using this format for interviewing skills training. Organizations for whom we have conducted this training have documented immediate impact.

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Etiquette Training – An Important Program for Multi-nationals

Etiquette Training – An Important Program for Multi-nationals

In the yesteryears etiquette was governed by the culture of a country. Etiquette emanated from the desired and accepted practices of that particular culture. So, in India, eating with your fingers in a restaurant was not frowned upon; arranged marriage was the norm and not the exception. But with the world getting smaller and more connected and business becoming global, the need to establish accepted global practices has become the need of the hour. Hence, all multi-national companies are conducting Etiquette Training that focuses on global etiquette. This covers telephone etiquette, meeting etiquette, email etiquette and conversational etiquette. What is acceptable in one culture is often not viewed in the same manner by another culture. The discrepancy creates confusion and broken relationships resulting in loss of trust.

The Etiquette Training focuses on the most important practices but cannot cover all aspects of dealing with various cultures. So our advice is – “The real test of good manners is to be able to put up with bad manners pleasantly.” ― Kahlil Gibran. We encourage people to be open minded and tolerant when dealing with the unfamiliar as observation is only way to understand differences.

“Manners are the ability to put someone else at their ease…by turning any answer into another question.” ― Tina Brown

People are very understanding when you question them about something that is novel to you, provided you come from a standpoint of learning and not judging.

Telephone Etiquette also gets a lot of attention in this training, as virtual teams are the order of the day. So much of communication is conducted over the telephone with members of a team sitting in different parts of the world. Not only does the culture interfere but the language and accents contribute to the confusion. Hence it is very important to follow protocols that will reduce the misunderstanding and enhance the comprehension.

From my perspective, here are some important aspects of creating a good impression in a telephone conversation:

  • People on the other side of the phone are making mental impressions from the word ‘Hello’. So have good energy in your voice and be excited about answering the phone rather than feeling that it is an intrusion.
  • When there are numerous people in the conference call, ensure that each person states his/her name when they speak.
  • Be mindful to ensure that when one person is speaking that others do not interrupt.
  • Appoint a timekeeper who aligns time with the agenda and that time is diligently imposed. This will ensure that people get to speak and the agenda is met in the allocated time.
  • The person who is the moderator should also ensure that one person does not talk excessively. When this happens the moderator should respectfully ask him/her to allow others to talk.
  • Most importantly, ensure that each time there is a conference call, the moderator takes a couple of minutes and sets up some agreements that will ensure a productive call – like respecting time, staying on the topic, not to have conversations when someone is speaking etc.