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.

Presentation Training – A Key Component of Corporate Coaching

Presentation Training – A Key Component of Corporate Coaching

Having the skill to deliver good presentations is imperative to the role of a leader. But during our formative years we are hardly given any guidance on this skill and so giving a public presentation is most people’s nightmare. Presentation Training is a key component of our Corporate Coaching.

This blog is focused on 3 simple tips that can make your presentation impactful:

1. Appeal to the emotions of your audience:

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner

A lot of business presentations are filled with facts but are devoid of feeling. A good way to bring in feelings would be to use a story that highlights the key points of the facts. Most importantly, the story and the facts need to answer the question, “What is in it for me?” Only if the audience sees the relevance to their life will they stay engaged.

“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The ability of a presentation to persuade and convert the thinking of the audience is what deems it great. Persuasion is not possible without tapping into the feelings of the audience. It is not only the vibrant green color of the grass but also the aroma of the crisp blades and the feel of the grass on your bare feet that makes you say that is fresh. Your senses are what determine your feelings and emotion is triggered by a feeling. So if your presentation does not appeal to the senses of your audience your impact will be compromised.

2. Prepare the presentation from the perspective of your audience:

A concerned mother decided to take her young son for advice to a swamiji as he was consuming large amounts of sugar everyday. When she informed the swamiji of the problem, he asked her to bring the son a week later. She consented even though she was puzzled. When she returned a week later, she asked the swamiji the reason for the week’s delay. Swamiji replied, “I was eating sugar and I could not authentically give advice unless I stopped and lived the experience. This past week I have not touched sugar and I feel ready to meet your son.”

Experience your presentation from the audience’s perspective. Ensure that the presentation answers the questions that could potentially arise in the minds of the participants. The captain of a cricket team arranges the field to where the batsmen could potentially hit.

3. Preparation is the key:

“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.” – Wayne Burgraff

The only way to overcome your nervousness and to enhance your confidence thus capturing the attention of your audience is to prepare. Somers White puts it aptly when he says, “90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” The amount of preparation time predicates the outcome.

All this requires discipline and focus, which is the core component of our Business Coaching program.

Communication – A Leader’s Trump Card

ACommunication – A Leader’s Trump Card

Communication is an area that is identified for improvement in a substantial number of performance appraisals. It is a skill that is critical yet under-developed. That is why Communication Training, which is an integral part of Soft Skills Training, is a highly sought-after program by corporates today.

Stephen Covey, in his book The 8th Habit, describes a poll of 23,000 employees drawn from a number of companies and industries. He reports the poll’s findings:

1). Only 37% said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why

2). Only 1 in 5 was enthusiastic about their team’s and their organization’s goals

3). Only 1 in 5 said they had a clear “line of sight” between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals

4). Only 15% felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals

5). Only 20% fully trusted the organization they work for”

An often-asked question is, “What constitutes good communication?”. There are many schools of thought but I would like to focus on the three critical elements identified by Aristotle – ethos, pathos and logos. Even though Aristotle emphasized it thousands of years ago, it still stands true.

Ethos is essentially your authority on the topic of communication — it is the reason why people should believe what you’re saying. This is something you earn based on your prior, repetitive performances on the subject.

Pathos refers to the emotional connection you are able to make with the audience while you are communicating — essentially, people are able to answer the question, “What is in it for me?” People see the relevance of the subject in the context of their life. This is what made Martin Luther King and Gandhi outstanding orators; they made their speeches relevant to their audience and effectively tapped into their emotions. Taking personal interest in each of your team member’s development, being passionate about your organization’s progress and recognizing people for their efforts are ways in which to enhance the pathos. Of the three dimensions, pathos has the greatest impact on the perception of people rating the leader’s effectiveness as a communicator.

But all the authority and passion will not help you if you are not able to help the people understand your reasoning. Logos refers to the appealing to others’ sense of reason. People often mistake this to mean that you need to support everything you say with facts. This is only a small part; the bigger part is the ability to make explicit the connections that they derive from the data, which strongly supports the conclusions that are being made. Hence, strategic thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills are critical skills for today’s leaders. This enables them to express logical ideas in clear and compelling enough terms to influence outcomes.

The Communication Training conducted by MMM Training Solutions, a specialist in Soft Skills Training, focuses on all three elements. They have to be well balanced in order to increase your impact as a communicator.

“When we change the way we communicate, we change society.” – Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Should Presentation Training be a Key Component of Coaching?

“When we are dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie

Executive Coaching is a privilege that only senior management of companies are privy to. Hence their ability to impact people is a key focus area of the coaching. Presentations are an everyday activity for these people and their ability to create an impact during these presentations are critical. Hence Presentation Training is a key focus during Executive Coaching.

During the Presentation Training the attention is on three areas: Preparation, Design and Delivery.  Of these three areas, the one that is deemed most important by MMM is Preparation.

“The commander must decide how he will fight the battle before it begins. He must then decide who he will use the military effort at his disposal to force the battle to swing the way he wishes it to go; he must make the enemy dance to his tune from the beginning and not vice versa.” – Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

The success of a presentation is purely dependent on the extent of the preparation. This includes understanding the audience, defining the objectives with the stakeholders, planning the duration, practicing the presentation in front of a mirror and observing ones body language, preparing for the uncertainties and most of all being passionate and knowledgeable about the subject. Hence these are our focus areas during the Executive Coaching.

The success experienced by our coaches has provoked us to include in our leadership programs for middle management also. The effectiveness of the presentations of senior management has raised the bar in the organization. This together with the global nature of multi national companies has impelled us to augment our focus on enhancing presentations.

Is Communication Skills a part of Soft Skills Training?

“Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are — chaff and grain together — certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
― Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, A Life for a Life

Often we are asked how soft skills training impact a person’s life. This quote gives me an incredible way to describe it – communication skills helps to ‘pour it all out’ but soft skills training helps you to decipher what is worth keeping and what needs to be blown away. It is the deeper ability to sense what is not being said and to understand the wisdom in what is being said even if it does not agree with your senses. It is the ability to understand that there is a reality that is different from one’s own and that is still real to the other person.

“It’s okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by other people. That doesn’t give you the right to deny any sense they might make. Nor does it give you a right to accuse someone of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t like what they are saying. Learn to recognize good writing when you read it, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what is comfortable.” ― Ashly Lorenzana

Soft skills training helps you to understand that communication is not only about what is being said but it is also about that which is not being expressed. This comes through observing the body language and listening for feelings in the message. This enables you to comprehend both the tangible and the intangible. This is truly what creates effective two-way communication – the only way to develop good communication skills.

Etiquette is a Major Focus of Corporate Training

With the marketplace becoming global, business cannot be done effectively and seamlessly without an awareness of the cultures of your customers. Also, since a lot of transactions are conducted on the phone, telephone etiquette training is often requested in corporate training.

India has achieved its stardom through the out sourcing of customer service centers which provided technical support for its customers from all over the globe. Telephone and email were the contact channels to the customers. Hence Telephone Etiquette was very critical in providing excellent customer service. So telephone etiquette training became an important part of the corporate training programs.

Emotions ran high on these calls as expensive equipment is giving trouble. Also, the comprehension between the two parties was greatly impeded by the challenges in communication. The customer service representative often had to deal with anger and sarcasm but the core learning that we hope to imbibe is, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” – Eric Hoffer (1902 – 1983)

Our training taught the representatives numerous techniques to stay calm and ask the right questions – Open-ended questions that help to gather the information needed to troubleshoot and close-ended questions that allow you to get key information from the client. Active listening is advocated when the client is engaged and giving information without resistance and reflective listening when a client is angry, irate, uncooperative and condescending. Our mantra is, “One of the greatest victories you can gain over someone is to beat him at politeness.” – Josh Billings (1818 – 1885). We believe that the ability of the representative to maintain his/her composure is the ticket to an effective call. All the tools, techniques and methodologies that help us to attain this end is focused on in the training.

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain could not have put the benefits of corporate training more aptly. It is life changing and rejuvenating for both the business and the employees when the learning from the training is implemented in everyday life.

Presentation skills-A Vital Tool for Succeeding in Professional Life

Presentation training has become an integral part of personality development courses, these days.  Delivering presentations form a vital part of a business process and can never be deleted from the same. All kinds of professions require sharing knowledge and also keeping different teams well informed about the status of various kinds of projects that have been undertaken by the company or business house. The better a person is at giving presentations, the chances of their career enhancement increases dramatically. But, many people perform poorly while delivering a presentation because of the lack of skills and confidence that it requires. Mastering the art of delivering effective business presentation requires significant knowledge, guidance and practice. Presentation skills training helps to face and conquer all fears related to speaking in public and make you emerge as a confident speaker, who conveys ideas effectively and captivate the audience. Training programs that also provide individual coaching are the most effective as ongoing guidance is a critical component contributing to the success. So, if you want to swap from being an anxious speaker to a captivating speaker, then enrolling for a presentation training program will be imperative.

Telephone Etiquette in Problem Solving

You can not solve a problem with the same mind that created it ” by Albert Einstein.

Two issues that affect the problem solving capabilities of people are that they focus less on problem identification and more on problem solving and they do not think explore the problem from different angles.

There is a famous incident quoted by General Motors where a person who bought a GM car encountered a strange problem – every night he would go to buy ice cream from a nearby store and on the night he bought vanilla ice cream the car would stall. This seemed ludicrous but the company took him seriously and send an engineer who after days of observation identified a critical problem. Why only the vanilla flavor created this problem? – This was because the vanilla flavor sat in the front of the store and the time frame was the critical contributing factor. But the willingness of the engineer to listen and explore without a pre-determined mindset was what resolved the issue. These are important elements in problem solving.

MMM often conducts training for BPOs on telephone etiquette as part of the problem solving program because the agents solve customer issues through phone conversations. This can be frustrating for the agents, as they do not get to watch the reactions and body language of the customers. So good telephone etiquette with the capability of reading the tone of voice is important for customer satisfaction.

Two issues that affect the problem solving capabilities of people are that they focus less on problem identification and more on problem solving and they do not think explore the problem from different angles.

Communication – A Leadership Competency

Communication - A Leadership CompetencyIn today’s marketplace, one’s upward mobility is dependent on one’s ability to present one’s thoughts with clarity, alacrity and impact. In short, one’s presentation skills are a key factor in career growth.

The communication training and leadership training programs conducted by MMM Training Solutions lays great emphasis on enhancing one’s presentation skills. The ability to understand the needs of the audience is as important as the ability to present with power. What complicates this scenario is that presenting in front of an audience is a skill that does not come naturally to most people.

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops, until you stand up to speak in public.” – George Jessel

In our communication training, participants’ presentations are videotaped and live feedback is given to each person. For 3 months after the training program the trainer coaches each participant individually – either by reviewing videotaped presentations or being present at a time when the individual is delivering a presentation and giving real-time feedback. The results of this training have been phenomenal and we have done this program for top leaders all over the world.

The potent impact, in my opinion, is because the group training is followed up with individual coaching. Coaching works to enhance one’s confidence and overcome the fear of looking ridiculous in front of people. But as good as you are one thing is sure, presenting in front of an audience is a difficult art.

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfield

Making a Sustainable Change

With the emergence of BPOs in India, housewives got an opportunity to teach English and the simpler aspects of Customer Service. But with the boom of the Indian economy competitors for this space started to spring up all over the world. This demanded that the Indian taskforce has to be on a path of continuous improvement, which, in turn, mandated a higher level of capabilities in the trainers. Since this industry got a late start in India, accomplished trainers are still hard to come by. So we at MMM Training Solutions, being a soft skills training consultancy, pondered as to how we could contribute to this situation.

 

At this point, I saw the movie ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’. This film is about a fisheries expert who is recruited to help realize a sheikh’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the Yemen desert. The intent of the sheikh was to ensure that water was plentiful in the desert and that fly-fishing was a trade that the locals could benefit from. However, he did not consider the fact that the locals, for generations, had only lived in the desert. He also did not take their opinions or get them ready for the change. This venture was an exercise in futility as the locals sabotaged it.

 

Anytime a change is being initiated, three things need to happen:

  1. The people need to be informed and they need to see the wisdom in the change.
  2. Clear and systematic plan for the change needs to be laid out.
  3. People have to be taught the new ways of doing things.

 

Because of the competition in the marketplace, the first two items were already addressed. Hence, MMM Training Solutions decided that we would go to the root of the issue and increase the capabilities of the trainers. We decided to conduct Open House Train the Trainer Programs all over the country. We have already conducted two in Chennai and the accolades received spurred us to conduct the next one in Mumbai on Feb 22, 23 and 24.